Varian Jeggare - Deckmaster

Friday, November 8, 2019

Keith and Shannon have been talking about the new character designs in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Core Set, so I thought I would do some blogs about the characters from the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path. In particular, today I’m going to consider Varian Jeggare, everyone’s favorite faithful Chelaxian Wizard dedicated to Asmodeus.

Illustration of Varian Jeggare, a half-elf with long hair pulled back and wearing a fine long coat, holds a book in one hand while swinging a sword high overhead for Pathfinder.

Book, blade, and bon vivant? Checks out.

Those of you who are familiar with Varian, whether from the Pathfinder Society, the Pathfinder Tales Character Deck, Keith’s previous blog post about that deck, or from any of Dave Gross’s novels featuring Varian, will recognize that I might have, ahem, stretched the truth a bit in that last paragraph. If that sounds interesting to you, I can enthusiastically recommend any of those sources for more detail. For now, I’m going to dig a bit deeper into the design of Varian as a PACG character.

When the time came for us to put together a set of characters for Curse, we knew that we’d want to play up the connection between the characters and the city of Korvosa itself, so Varian went on the list early. In addition to being a cool and familiar character that hadn’t yet appeared in an Adventure Path, he’s a graduate of the Acadamae in Korvosa and he’s a noble with interesting connections to Cheliax, Asmodeus, and Desna. The early drafts of his character wanted to establish him as a wizard (mostly… more on that later), a bit of a fencer, and a well-connected man-about-town.

Front face of the Varian character card showing skills for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Back face of the Varian character card showing the Deck List for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

Dashing, debonair, and potentially dangerous? Checks out.

Varian’s hardly a hulking, brutish sort (if that’s your thing, check his cohort Radovan), so we didn’t want him to rely on Strength, but we still wanted him to be capable in Melee. We were planning on pushing him toward Finesse-style weapons, so we counted on being able to give him a skill to help. This ended up as Acrobatics: Dexterity and Sword proficiency, which helps keep him true to Dave Gross’s original concept without too much card-text overhead. This approach also made him a good potential fit for—avoiding spoilers here—an option that comes up during the AP. As a “gentleman of means and connections,” we gave him a power that adds a bonus to efforts (his or others) wherever he could reasonably call on civilized aid. This melded nicely with the new traits we’d added to locations. So Varian can call for help in Urban locations, where his name, rank, manners, money, and/or general confidence can be put to use. Naturally enough, this makes Varian want to spend his time in those locations.

Since Varian is a wizard, he has a strong Arcane skill, but with his particular take on wizardry, we wanted him to feel distinct from Ezren or Darago during play. Since the Core Set was moving away from “if you have the Arcane skill” toward proficiency as the method to determine whether or not spells were used as if prepared from a book or as one-shot scrolls, we could simply give him proficiency with Arcane to keep the spells after using them. To create the “riffle scrolls” effect (see Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Magic for more details) that allows Varian to avoid the debilitating nausea that besets him when casting spells, we gave him an unusual power: Unlike Seoni who automatically succeeds at recharging Arcane spells, or Ezren who is very likely to succeed, Varian automatically fails. This gets those boons into his discard pile where his next character power lets him pull them to the bottom of his deck.

Finally, we come to Varian’s fourth character power, one that requires a feat. This power lets him draw some cards and then recharge the same number of cards, so he stays at the same number of cards in hand, but he gets to choose which he keeps and which he stores away for later. All by itself, this filtering power is useful on both ends: it can help you get a key card that’s hiding in your deck, and it can also let you save cards that are good but not yet needed, or not safe sitting in your hand. This power is a bit more mechanical than some others; to me, it generally represents Varian’s resourcefulness, and it also combines with his riffle scrolls power to help him manage which spells he wants now versus which spells he wants later. This gets us to the not-so-secret direction that I wanted for Varian: deck control. It would take too long to explain, so I’ll try to sum up. You see, it’s all Paizo’s fault. To be more specific: it’s PaizoCon’s fault.

Late in the wee hours one PaizoCon night, Keith and I were watching and playing an early Core playtest. Who did which has been lost to sleeplessness, but what’s important here is that someone was playing an Arcane caster, and they were playing it by counting their deck.

Since the early days of PACG, we’ve seen people dedicate a lot of attention to managing their deck. While most Divine casters tend to heal themselves to victory—hi, Paul!—other early characters like Valeros and Sajan also get in on the recharging game, especially when combined with a little judicious deck thinning.

Deck thinning, for those who don’t already know, is the process of specifically (and, hopefully, carefully) removing cards from your deck so that it’s more likely to produce the cards you really want. Valeros can thin his deck to his favorite weapons (or those most appropriate to the current scenario) and then make repeated use of his power to recharge them. If Sajan can get rid of his items and allies, then his deck is focused down to a big pile o’ blessings, which he can recharge for big hits. The downside of this approach is the danger. In addition to the utility of the specific cards you give up, you also have to sacrifice your “hit point buffer” to get there. For example, when Rise the Runelords Sajan’s deck is thinned down to his 10 blessings, he’s very strong at combat checks, but if he’s forced to discard 4 of them to damage, suddenly those boons he “got out of the way” would be very helpful to have around.

Even people who don’t push things quite so far can derive fun and benefit from managing what cards they recharge and when. This sort of deck manipulation is especially common among characters like Ezren and Seoni who cast a lot of spells, and usually get to recharge them. What I saw that night/morning at PaizoCon was someone who wasn’t just thinning their deck; they were working to set it up, ordering and recharging cards to the bottom to try to plan their future draws, setting themselves up to be ready for the future, for other people’s turns and their own. While this sort of play isn’t for everyone, both that player and the rest of the table seemed to be enjoying themselves. I always enjoy watching people really get into the game, whether it be the story, characters, theme, mechanics, or anything else. With Varian, I was trying to build a character for this sort of player. For the person who shuffles their deck, draws their starting hand, and then proceeds to exert order over the chaos of the game, choosing what to recharge, when, and in what order. For the person that knows when they want to be healed, and especially when they don’t want to be healed, because they know when the card they want is coming up, and they don’t want you messing with their order. I’ll say it again: it’s not for everyone, but in the right hands, it’s a beautiful thing.

Cohort Card of a sneering Radovan Virholt, personal bodyguard of Varian, showing Powers for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

Sarcastic, stealthy, and sometimes savage? Checks out.

As Varian well knows, it’s always good to have friends. Also: companions, suitors, contacts, servants, agents, employees, and factotums. In this case, Varian has his personal “bodyguard” Radovan Virholt, and he’s quite lucky to do so. Radovan will stick around Varian to protect him from harm, and while he’s around, the two of them can be quite effective at solving “problems,” including problems you might not expect to be solved by a gentleman fencer. When Radovan does have to temporarily deal with a dangerous situation, Varian’s ability to draw and recharge will help get Radovan back by Varian’s side.

Role card of Varian, Acadamae Graduate, showing Powers for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

The school clubs are both better and worse than you’d expect.

When Varian gains a role card, one option is to lean into his studies as an Acadamae Graduate. This lets him get even more benefit “around town” from his contacts that are interested in the Arcane arts. He can also filter cards to the top or bottom of his deck for even more control. Finally, his time at the Acadamae lets him call on his studies of magic and the Harrow, both to get out of unusual situations (using Arcane instead of another skill), and also to dig deep for a crucial spell in a moment of need.

Role card of Varian, Scion of Cheliax, showing Powers for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

“Pick your poison” isn’t always meant so literally.

Varian’s other option in Curse of the Crimson Throne leans into his political, diplomatic, and noble connections, as well as his fencing studies *cough* spoilers avoided *cough*. Always one to make friends and (try to) influence people, Varian can now make even greater use of his allies, both their inherent abilities and for “favors.” He can also get flashy with his rapier (or, I suppose, other, less gentlemanly weapons) to good effect. One of the powers represents some lessons that we think he might have picked up from his friend Radovan (I’ll bet you can guess which one!), or perhaps just the influence of his officious dedication to his official religion. Finally, neither last (on his role card) nor least (for my not-so-secret intentions), his “resourcefulness” ability can be extended to a large degree, especially late in the Adventure Path. Put another way, even if “deckmaster” isn’t your thing, I’ll bet you can find ways to enjoy drawing essentially a second full hand at the start of each turn, then putting a fistful of cards back for later, and in the order you think you might want them.

For those of you who might be looking to try out Varian for the first time, we’ve put together a set of deck suggestions for Varian using cards from the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path.

  • Weapon: Scimitar
  • Spells: Acid Burst, False Life, Infernal Healing, 2 others
  • Item: Spellbook, 2 others
  • Ally: Acadamae Student, 2 others
  • Blessing: any 3

That’s it for now; I hope you enjoyed this look behind the curtain at Varian. If you’d like more or less of this sort of thing, please do let us know in the comments. Thanks!

Chad Brown
Adventure Card Game Lead Developer

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Tags: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
Silver Crusade

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He really is one of my favorite characters from Golarion, I can't wait to dig deep into my copy of the ACG and the Chrimson Throne AP as soon as I have some time.... and it is really tough to avoid spoilers.

I can absolutely recommend the various audiobooks that feature the Varian and Radovan^^


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Quote:
In addition to being a cool and familiar character that hadn’t yet appeared in an Adventure Path [..]

Varian may not have been a playable character in an adventure path before now, but he's definitely been in one! He and Radovan feature prominently in Season of the Righteous Adventure 3, which is one of my favourites precisely because of their presence!


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Have you guys read any of the novels? Varian is a devotee of Desna, not Asmodeus, and Radovan is consistently described as small and overly charming/seductive, not hulking and brutish.


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Voss wrote:
Have you guys read any of the novels? Varian is a devotee of Desna, not Asmodeus, and Radovan is consistently described as small and overly charming/seductive, not hulking and brutish.

Also the Pathfinder Web Tales, back when those used to come out (I miss those . . .).


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Great blog! Thanks for the developer insight. I enjoy Varian for Radovan alone. Still trying to work out how I want to play him - I am leaning towards focus on stabbing and using support spells instead of arcane attacks

Grand Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber
MorkXII wrote:
Quote:
In addition to being a cool and familiar character that hadn’t yet appeared in an Adventure Path [..]
Varian may not have been a playable character in an adventure path before now, but he's definitely been in one! He and Radovan feature prominently in Season of the Righteous Adventure 3, which is one of my favourites precisely because of their presence!

Technically the PFS 'Seasons' are not an 'Adventure Path', as the boxes are AP's and organized play is 'scenarios'. It's nitpicky I know, but he WAS right there.

Grand Lodge

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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber
Voss wrote:
Have you guys read any of the novels? Varian is a devotee of Desna, not Asmodeus, and Radovan is consistently described as small and overly charming/seductive, not hulking and brutish.

There IS a comment about some stretching in the first paragraph - when in Cheliax, one at least pretends in 'polite' society to have some 'Hail, Ming' going on towards Asmodeus, and earlier on in his career he put /some/ effort into being on the right side of politics, even if he comes to veer away later on (in more notated portions of his career). I can't as much in defense of Radovan, but the /art/ I've always seen of him doesn't live up to charming/seductive, and honestly, his own descriptions in the novels led me to think his charm was more intimidate based, along with his effect on those ladies who like 'bad boys', and not actually seductive even if he convinces himself he's a charmer. :)


Farrindor wrote:
Technically the PFS 'Seasons' are not an 'Adventure Path', as the boxes are AP's and organized play is 'scenarios'. It's nitpicky I know, but he WAS right there.

Each of the Guild Seasons 0-5 is in their own Adventure Path and has an Adventure Path card. For example, the AP card for Season 5 is named "Season of Tapestry's Tides" and the award lets you add a Loot card to the deck box of one your other characters. (I don't own any of the post-Core Set PDFs, but I assume they have exactly the same types of entries as the Core Set and Crimson Throne story books have just like their older counterparts match their base sets.)

Setting rules terms aside, "adventure path" is what the Paizo folks call their long-form story products in whatever form. I usually say "campaign" for both the RPG and Card Game when talking about them even if I do mean the books or boxes and not just the games being played.

ObTopic: I'm glad that excessive min-maxing, card counting, deck thinning, and all those sorts of things are not that necessary to be successful at this game. I gave up on obsessing with that long ago. :)

Lone Shark Games

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Voss wrote:
Have you guys read any of the novels? Varian is a devotee of Desna, not Asmodeus, and Radovan is consistently described as small and overly charming/seductive, not hulking and brutish.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I've read an awful lot of them, yep.

Asmodeus:
As mentioned, when in Cheliax, one acts like a devotee to Asmodeus. As Chad says: "will recognize that I might have, ahem, stretched the truth a bit in that last paragraph"

Radovan:
Just add Fire. Then he - or at least Norge - can be hulking and brutish.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Aside, that sword looks more like a katana than a jian.

And while I don't play the ACG, I'm glad to see 'the boys' in more content. Where's Arnie?


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Matthew Morris wrote:
Where's Arnie?

In the Pathfinder Tales character deck

.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

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Longshot11 wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:
Where's Arnie?

In the Pathfinder Tales character deck

.

Good. Even if Master of Devils permanently gave him Dug's voice in my head, I love the furball.

Lone Shark Games

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Matthew Morris wrote:
Aside, that sword looks more like a katana than a jian.

Didn't make the art, just grabbed an available one that wasn't already used :)

Quote:
And while I don't play the ACG, I'm glad to see 'the boys' in more content. Where's Arnie?

In the blog I linked, or this link, you can see Arnisant with art.


I'll admit I didn't really look at any of the CT characters, and just picked Valeros 'cause he's the fighter, but this guy looks real cool, with the deck manipulation.

I'm going to have to play through everything again using this guy, and take an actual pass through on the other characters.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

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Keith Richmond wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:
Aside, that sword looks more like a katana than a jian.

Didn't make the art, just grabbed an available one that wasn't already used :)

Quote:
And while I don't play the ACG, I'm glad to see 'the boys' in more content. Where's Arnie?
In the blog I linked, or this link, you can see Arnisant with art.

Thank you. Now we just need minis of the three.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Matthew Morris wrote:
Keith Richmond wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:
Aside, that sword looks more like a katana than a jian.

Didn't make the art, just grabbed an available one that wasn't already used :)

Quote:
And while I don't play the ACG, I'm glad to see 'the boys' in more content. Where's Arnie?
In the blog I linked, or this link, you can see Arnisant with art.
Thank you. Now we just need minis of the three.

I think this guy was supposed to be Varian, but unfortunately this mini was sold out a long time ago.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
David knott 242 wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:
Keith Richmond wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:
Aside, that sword looks more like a katana than a jian.

Didn't make the art, just grabbed an available one that wasn't already used :)

Quote:
And while I don't play the ACG, I'm glad to see 'the boys' in more content. Where's Arnie?
In the blog I linked, or this link, you can see Arnisant with art.
Thank you. Now we just need minis of the three.

I think this guy was supposed to be Varian, but unfortunately this mini was sold out a long time ago.

No, that art has shown up elsewhere (I wanna say one of the Codexes but not sure).


No that's Radillo (also in the NPC Codex but unnamed)


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That is good news then -- you haven't missed the Varian mini that you wanted. (But it would have been a decent approximation if you had grabbed it.)


I like these particular characters. I do wish that there would be more novels based on them.


I can't speak to playing the Crimson Throne version of Varian in organized play, but I used Varian in a normal CotCT campaign and found him to be a powerhouse. A bit too good, I'd say. Of the 3 characters used (Hakon, Quinn, Varian), he was the most OP.

He can block damage (Radovan), handle barriers (Radovan again), and use his best cards every other turn - and sometimes every turn - as he cycles his deck like a madman (which helps get Radovan back if shuffled in). Throw in a Staff of Minor/Greater healing, and he's a beast.

His only drawback is that he's easier to play in person than online. I wouldn't want to deal with his constant deck cycling in the Paizo forums, as it would be a time sink to constantly draw/recharge cards - without some kind of specialized spreadsheet support, at least.

Another possible drawback is that - like certain other spellcasters (e.g., Nyctessa) - Varian has a weapon slot that he doesn't necessarily need. After AD1 or AD2, I never had Varian use a weapon; it was always cycled away.

Though you could build Varian such that he's more weapon-focused, which might be an interesting option. Not with Quinn in the party, however, as they'd be fighting over the same finesse weapons.

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