About Varys of Kaer Maga
The free city of Kaer Maga is a place where anyone can reinvent themselves, provided they don’t piss someone off enough to warrant a knife in their back (or deadly sigil in their favorite book). It’s also an fascinating place to grow up if you have the slightest bit of interest in magic. Between the rumors of ancient Thassilonian artifacts hidden beneath the city, the frightening and grotesque arcana of the bloatmages, and the prevalence of undead residents walking the city streets alongside their living counterparts, there were an endless number of opportunities to seek out magical mentors. Young Varys happened to have two such mentors as parents: Suthevan Gyves, the silver-haired half-elf leader of the Arcanist’s Circle, and Suthevan’s protégé and former lover, Luciana Ardoc, a daughter from the notoriously patriarchal and insular wizarding family that ruled the Bis district.
Luciana Ardoc, despite having more magical inclination than most of her male relatives, was denied a seat at the table of her powerful family. She left for one of rival magical guilds in the city, where she met Suthevan. Whether it was rebellion, love, or accident, Luciana gave birth to a son with the same silver hair that graced her paramour’s head. She named him Varys, echoing the name of their mutual homeland.
Neither parent gave Varys their last name upon birth. As the couple were unmarried, inheriting the father’s family name seemed overly reliant on the same misogyny that had caused Luciana to leave her brethren in the first place. But neither did she burden him with the Ardoc name, useful though it could be upon coming of age. Instead, he was just Varys.
If he wanted to choose another name later, then he could. Names—true names—were important, after all. Or so his parents told him. Despite being a bastard, if he showed even a fraction of the magical talent of either parent, then the Ardoc family would probably take him in with open arms, if he wanted such a life. Gyves, however, was a name that carried little weight outside his father’s reputation. And Suthevan was the only Gyves in the city, so it’s not like there was some other clan to belong to.
For better or worse, Varys never showed the slightest propensity for magic. He was a good student and knew more about the history and theoretical use of powerful magical items than many of the city’s most talented artificers, but he couldn’t manage to cast the simplest cantrips despite years of study. Some in the Arcanist’s Circle membership jokingly wanted to use Varys to disprove the bloatmages’ sickening refrain that magic was in the blood. But the jokes hurt. Varys was trying after all!
But there was only so much time that Varys could stay under the tutelage of the Arcanist’s Circle without being able to cast spells, even with supportive parents. The only thing tying him to Kaer Maga was family, and even that left him feeling aimless. So he planned to leave the City of Strangers and seek his fortune elsewhere in the world.
Before he left, his father gave him a bag of miscellaneous arcana. Holy and unholy symbols of several gods, broken shards of colored glass carved with runes, inexpensive jewelry and beads, an arrowhead wrapped in hair, coiling shells abandoned by their former inhabitants, ancient coins from long-dead empires, gears from broken clockwork mechanisms, and even a bit of a fossilized ooze. Varys didn’t want to appear ungrateful, but he did initially assume he was being given a bag of rubbish to take to the garbage heap on his way out of the city. His father assured him that this parting gift was not meant to be discarded. Instead, he told him what he knew of his own family line.
Suthevan Gyves had grown up in Kaer Maga, but existing records for his own family only went back about three generations. Before then, he only had what stories his parents passed on. His parents claimed that one of their distant ancestors was a great elven warrior who defended the nations of Avistan from both the undead horrors of the Whispering Tyrant and the hordes of bloodthirsty orcs in the Holds of Belkzen. These trinkets and baubles were supposedly all that Suthevan had left to point to clues of his ancestor, this silver-haired warrior from another age.
But that wasn’t all. Suthevan told Varys that he believed that this ancestor might still be alive—long-lived as elves were—and living deep in the Holds of Belkzen. Even if he wasn’t alive, there was an even more compelling reason for Varys to travel to such dangerous territory. It was said that those lands were filled with the magical artifacts that had captured Varys’ attention his whole life. Instead of delving into the long-plundered ruins of Old Thassilon, perhaps Varys could make a name for himself by recovering items of legend from old battlefields.
And so Varys set out for the Holds of Belkzen with a bag of pseudo-magical trinkets, his mother’s rapier, and a dream of carving out his own destiny in the mountains east of his homeland.
Varys will begin his adventuring life as a swashbuckler with the inspired blade and noble fencer archetypes. From there, hopefully in response to the events of the AP, he will discover that his trinkets are in fact magical and progress as an Antiquarian Investigator: an arcane spellcaster drawing power from his esoteric collection of charms. I intend to take the Orator feat, probably around either third or fifth level, to be able to serve as a good Face. He’ll be flexible enough to act as a jack of all trades, with trapfinding (and springing), a library of esoteric knowledge, a bunch of fun arcane spells that he can share out of the gate, and some reasonable striking power. How he grows, as either a competent generalist or a deadly specialist, will depend on the development of the campaign and the rest of the party.
There is one elf mentioned in the player’s guide, and that’s Silvermane. Whether Silvermane is Varys’ great, great, great (etc.) grandfather, or whether that’s just a red herring to motivate him to visit Trunau, it seemed like a fun angle to have this young half-elf come looking for someone with a deep, magical reputation. The search for powerful magic is ultimately what drives Varys, whether he knows how to use it or not. And he desperately wants to learn how to use it.
Appearance and Personality:
Varys is a handsome, young half-elf with pointed ears, violet eyes, and long silver hair. Despite inheriting his long-distant ancestors’ keen sense of vision, he regularly wears reading glasses while poring over tomes and scrolls. He wears a fine rapier at his side. The blade has seen its fair share of combat over the years, and though it’s point is still as sharp as ever, there are gouges in the metal that obscure the insignias that would otherwise show that it once belonged to to the Ardoc family of Kaer Maga. Outside of a chain shirt purchased to help him survive on the long journey into the Holdes of Belkzen, Varys wears well-tailored clothing, form-fitting but breathable and flexible to ensure ease of movement. He favors a tunic of green and white, which makes him feel more at home with his elven parentage, but he has many colors in his wardrobe: a luxury he decided to afford himself on his journey.
At any given moment, the head of a small, flying squirrel peaks out from one of Varys’ sleeves. This is his pet, Willow, an exotic luxury purchased in one of Kaer Maga’s more interesting markets. Varys wonders if Willow might one day serve as his familiar.
Varys ultimately looks and acts the part of a scholar who has spent more time with his nose in books than around people with whom he can interact normally. He isn’t shy, or even necessarily awkward. In fact, he’s rather well-spoken, but just…can be difficult to be around. He gets caught on a subject and rambles, says things that often get taken the wrong way, and tends to lack a polite filter. He can also easily be overwhelmed, at which point he shuts down. But he has learned to adapt, and usually knows when he is bothering someone and how to change his behavior.
Half-Elf Inspired Blade/Noble Fencer (Swashbuckler) 1 / Antiquarian Investigator 1
N Medium humanoid (elf, human)
Init +4; Senses low-light vision, darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +7 (+1 to locate traps)
Feats: Deft Maneuvers, Fencing Grace, Skill Focus (Linguistics), Weapon Focus (light blades)
Inspired Panache (Ex): More than just a lightly armored warrior, a swashbuckler is a daring combatant. She fights with panache: a fluctuating measure of a swashbuckler’s ability to perform amazing actions in combat. Each day, an inspired blade gains a number of panache points equal to her Charisma modifier (minimum 1) and Intelligence modifier (minimum 1), instead of just her Charisma modifier. Her panache goes up or down throughout the day, but usually cannot go higher than her Charisma modifier (minimum 1), though feats and magic items can affect this maximum. A swashbuckler spends panache to accomplish deeds (see below), and regains panache in the following ways. Unlike other swashbucklers, an inspired blade gains no panache from a killing blow. She gains panache only from scoring a critical hit with a rapier. This ability alters the panache class feature.
Critical Hit with a Light or One-Handed Piercing Melee Weapon: Each time the swashbuckler confirms a critical hit with a light or one-handed piercing melee weapon, she regains 1 panache point. Confirming a critical hit on a helpless or unaware creature or a creature that has fewer Hit Dice than half the swashbuckler’s character level doesn’t restore panache.
Deeds: Swashbucklers spend panache points to accomplish deeds. Most deeds grant the swashbuckler a momentary bonus or effect, but some provide longer lasting effects. Some deeds remain in effect while the swashbuckler has at least 1 panache point, but do not require expending panache to be maintained. A swashbuckler can only perform deeds of her level or lower. Unless otherwise noted, a deed can be performed multiple successive times, as long as the swashbuckler has or spends the required number of panache points to perform the deed.
Derring-Do (Ex): At 1st level, a swashbuckler can spend 1 panache point when she makes an Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, Fly, Ride, or Swim check to roll 1d6 and add the result to the check. She can do this after she makes the check but before the result is revealed. If the result of the d6 roll is a natural 6, she rolls another 1d6 and adds it to the check. She can continue to do this as long as she rolls natural 6s, up to a number of times equal to her Dexterity modifier (minimum 1).
Social Panache (Ex): At 1st level, a noble fencer can spend 1 panache point when he attempts a Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Sense Motive check to roll 1d6 and add the result to the check. He can do this after he rolls the check but before the result is revealed. If the result of the d6 roll is a natural 6, he rolls another 1d6 and adds it to the check. He can continue to do this as long as he rolls natural 6s, up to a number of times equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1).
Just before a verbal duel, a noble fencer can spend up to 4 panache points. For each point he spends, he selects a tactic for which he has chosen Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Sense Motive as an associated skill and gains an edge he can only use with that tactic.
Opportune Parry and Riposte (Ex): At 1st level, when an opponent makes a melee attack against the swashbuckler, she can spend 1 panache point and expend a use of an attack of opportunity to attempt to parry that attack. The swashbuckler makes an attack roll as if she were making an attack of opportunity; for each size category the attacking creature is larger than the swashbuckler, the swashbuckler takes a –2 penalty on this roll. If her result is greater than the attacking creature’s result, the creature’s attack automatically misses. The swashbuckler must declare the use of this ability after the creature’s attack is announced, but before its attack roll is made. Upon performing a successful parry and if she has at least 1 panache point, the swashbuckler can as an immediate action make an attack against the creature whose attack she parried, provided that creature is within her reach. This deed's cost cannot be reduced by any ability or effect that reduces the number of panache points a deed costs.
Inspired Finesse (Ex): At 1st level, an inspired blade gains
Deft Maneuvers (Combat): You are skilled in a variety of dextrous combat maneuvers. Benefit: You do not provoke an attack of opportunity when performing a trip or disarm combat maneuver. In addition, you receive a +2 bonus on checks with trip and disarm combat maneuvers, and you can make a Bluff check to feint in combat as a move action. You also receive a +2 bonus to your Combat Maneuver Defense whenever an opponent tries to trip or disarm you.
Relic Magic (Su): Antiquarians emulate Arustun, founder of the Jistka Imperium, by exploring and recording the remnants of lost civilizations. Rather than using extracts, an antiquarian carries a collection of holy and unholy symbols, charms, and trinkets. Though an antiquarian may never know who or what grants him his power, he can produce magical effects all the same. Relic magic functions as the alchemy class feature, except as noted below.
An antiquarian begins play with a collection of religious trinkets that functions as his formula book and weighs 2 pounds total, with each trinket functioning as a formula. Adding new trinkets has the same cost and time requirement as adding formulae to a formula book. An antiquarian can study a wizard’s spellbook or alchemist’s formula book to learn formulae, but an antiquarian’s trinket collection is too esoteric for anyone except another antiquarian to learn spells from. An antiquarian prepares spells by meditating and charging relics with supernatural power, which has the same requirements and limitations as preparing extracts. However, instead of creating extracts, an antiquarian casts spells as though he were an arcane spellcaster, which means he can affect other creatures with his spells. An antiquarian does not suffer from arcane spell failure.
An antiquarian doesn’t gain a competence bonus on Craft (alchemy) checks to create alchemical items, and he cannot identify potions with that skill. Furthermore, he cannot select alchemist discoveries as investigator talents. This alters alchemy.
Inspiration (Ex): An investigator is beyond knowledgeable and skilled—he also possesses keen powers of observation and deduction that far surpass the abilities of others. An investigator typically uses these powers to aid in their investigations, but can also use these f lashes of inspiration in other situations.
An investigator has the ability to augment skill checks and ability checks through his brilliant inspiration. The investigator has an inspiration pool equal to 1/2 his investigator level + his Intelligence modifier (minimum 1). An investigator’s inspiration pool refreshes each day, typically after he gets a restful night’s sleep. As a free action, he can expend one use of inspiration from his pool to add 1d6 to the result of that check, including any on which he takes 10 or 20. This choice is made after the check is rolled and before the results are revealed. An investigator can only use inspiration once per check or roll. The investigator can use inspiration on any Knowledge, Linguistics, or Spellcraft skill checks without expending a use of inspiration, provided he’s trained in the skill.
Inspiration can also be used on attack rolls and saving throws, at the cost of expending two uses of inspiration each time from the investigator’s pool. In the case of saving throws, using inspiration is an immediate action rather than a free action.
Trapfinding: An investigator adds 1/2 his level to Perception skill checks made to locate traps and to Disable Device checks (minimum 1). An investigator can use Disable Device to disarm magical traps.
Half-Elf Race Traits
Artifact Hunter: You’ve always had an interest in magic, but you’re fascinated with those legendary magic items known as artifacts. You’ve spent years researching these mythical relics and committed the stories and legends about them to memory, making you something of an expert on the subject. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Spellcraft checks to identify the properties of magic items and a +1 trait bonus on Use Magic Device checks, and one of these skills (your choice) becomes a class skill for you. In addition, whenever you first encounter an artifact, there is a 50% chance (+1% per level) that you recognize the artifact and know its name, origin, and something of that artifact’s powers, abilities, or dangers. Exactly how much knowledge you possess is left to the GM’s discretion.
Pragmatic Activator: While some figure out how to use magical devices with stubborn resolve, your approach is more pragmatic. You may use your Intelligence modifier when making Use Magic Device checks instead of your Charisma modifier.