Korvosan Hellknights


Curse of the Crimson Throne

Sovereign Court

I wasn't sure exactly where to post this, but since the majority of my questions concern the upcoming Crimson Throne campaign I will be running, I thought this as good a place as any.

From the guide to Korvosa, I know how many soldiers are in the Korvosan Guard (700) and was able to infer how many Sable Company Marines there were (300), but I wanted to get an accurate number of how many Hellknights there were operating in Korvosa and its holdings. I would like to know this as a DM so I can portray them properly. I absolutely LOVE these guys, and want to get it right.

As a side question, how does this number compare with the number of Hellknights operating in Magnimar and the rest of Varisia?

I'd also like advice on how to portray their activity in Korvosa. As I began studying the Korvosa guide and extracted what info I could from it on the subject, I inferred a few ideas. They struck me as something akin to a mercenary SWAT team that also worked some of the more dangerous patrols and ruthless investigations. Their relations with most organizations, especially nobility and royalty, are poor, though they seem to have a good, or at least working, relationship with the Korvosan guard.

I am curious, however, as to how often they are used, and as they are a mercenary organization which only operates in the city as long as its paid, what most limits their use in the city: their cost, their numbers, their poor relations with the city's ruling caste, or some combination of the three?

Another question: Do the Hellknights in Citadel Vraid only take money and do work for Korvosa, or do they accept money for policing/enforcing/investigating work from other authorities or individuals? Does Korvosa have to pay some kind of retaining fee to DeVri to keep him, for example, from sending a group to do investigation work for Ilsurian? Or is the cost of their services high enough to prohibit any but wealthy governments like Magnimar or Korvosa from using their services?


The Hellknights are said to be very loyal to Cheliax, so it would make sense that they would only agree to work for Chelaxians. Queen Domina had to work hard to convince them to come to Varisia in the first place, so it would seem odd if they were willing to work for anyone not associated with Cheliax.


Quote:

I'd also like advice on how to portray their activity in Korvosa. As I began studying the Korvosa guide and extracted what info I could from it on the subject, I inferred a few ideas. They struck me as something akin to a mercenary SWAT team that also worked some of the more dangerous patrols and ruthless investigations. Their relations with most organizations, especially nobility and royalty, are poor, though they seem to have a good, or at least working, relationship with the Korvosan guard.

Per the guide to Korvosa, "In theory, the Hellknights of Citadel Vraid are allied with Korvosa and frequently act as shock troops when the Korvosan Guard feels outmatched or doesn’t want to risk its own soldiers. Truthfully, the Order of the Nail serves only itself and remains on Korvosa’s “side” as long as the city pays it." This leads me to believe that they probably have a bad relationship with the Korvosan guard. Think about about how you would feel when mercenaries come into your city and do what they want.

Per Pathfinder 7 "In a desperate attempt to regain control, Queen Ileosa
invites the Order of the Nail into the city, paying the Hellknights in royal gold for their mercenary services. Yet the Hellknights are a greatsword brandished in a tavern brawl, and their brutal crackdowns restore order only by drowning chaos in blood, to say nothing of the fact that they bow to their own code and ignore the queen’s commands whenever they interpret the law to be at odds." This leads me to infer that they do what they think within their Lawful Neutral/Lawful Evil leaning code of conduct. If they are riding down the street and see arsenists, they run them down. If some innocents get in the way, that is the way of things. In my campaign, most Korvosan's probably don't like them and after this will probably hate them. Disgruntled dock workers suddenly confronted by armored nights would probably disband and go home, but I see the nights forcing a conflict just to satisfy their own lust for battle and their twisted sense of justice. Remember, in their minds the dock workers are guilty of sedition and treason, which is punishable by death. Plus it would teach others not to start trouble if they are made an example of.

Of course these are just my thoughts, you can play them how you want if you want the "Hellnights" to seem more just and upright.

Sovereign Court

Terok the Sly wrote:
Quote:
This leads me to infer that they do what they think within their Lawful Neutral/Lawful Evil leaning code of conduct.

This brings up an interesting question, and one I forgot to ask, which is just what code of laws do Hellknights follow?

I'm not asking for a writ of Hellknight commands, what I'm curious about is does the Hellknight devotion to Law and Order dictate a set of laws separate from the laws of the area they are enforcing, and if so do these sets of laws conflict with each other, and what happens when they do?

For example, Korvosan laws dictate fines and imprisonment for burglary, could the Hellknights code dictates (and I'm not saying it does) that such a crime is punishable by death, does the Hellknight slay the burglar on the spot or haul him in for due process?

Which brings me to another question: do Hellknights bother with due process? They see themselves above morality, of course, but do they see themselves above the law they follow, whether it's their law or the law of the land they are paid to operate in? If they apprehend a suspected murderer, for example, which is punishable by death by Korvosan law, do they haul him in for trial or do they pass judgment on him themselves and slay the suspected murderer, assuming a warrant is proof of guilt?

I should have clarified I'm mostly looking for opinions here. I know each group will run these guys differently, and I'd like to hear different takes on them. I'd like to get an official voice on things, of course.

That said, I have another question for everyone that I forgot to mention: how do you think the Hellknights maintain their numbers (whatever those numbers are). They've been around for a few decades now, and considering their tendency towards violence losses are inevitable. Do they openly recruit? If so, from where? Do they get reinforcements from Cheliax, or do they pull from particularly harsh members of the Korvosan Guard?

Personally I like to think they take raw recruits and train them, likely at Citadel Vraid since no place is mentioned in Korvosa. I imagine the dropout and fatality rate would be considerably high (likely the latter higher than the former). I don't believe there just a whole lot of Hellknights in Korvosa, or all of Varisia for that matter, but they are extremely well trained. The fact that the normal patrolling Hellknight is a 4th level fighter gives credence to that, and I imagine the troops they send to "civilize" the wilderness are considerably higher level.

Of course, I'm looking for other views on this, so feel free to add your own.


The Korvosan Guard is the normal watch which means they are mainly there to keep order and maintain the peace. They are willing to let heavies in the vice district alone provided they pay their taxes and prevent bloodshed. They are mainly NPC warriors of low level not highly trained and perhaps not highly motivated. In addition, the Guard is beholden to the city's nobility and other power brokers. They aren't going to bust into someplace controlled by the Arkonas for example.

The Hellknights however, are directly responsible to the monarchy. They don't come from Korvosa so they owe no loyalties to anyone else other than King Eodred or Queen Ileosa. The Hellknights are there to see that the monarch's wishes are carried out in situations where the Korvosan Guard wouldn't do so. Bureucrats know how to make sure things are not done. They'd do things laxadaisically, or orders somehow not get issued. Hellknights simply get it done though. They don't care that warehouse is really an Arkona front. If the Queen wants it raided, it gets raided. Someone maligns the King? Maybe the Guard doesn't think such a thing is worthy of action. But Eodred sends in the Hellknights to bring the guy out of the pub and thrown into the dungeon.

I'd present the Korvosan Guard as a force for peace in the city, even if peace means some amount of crime and whatnot goes unpunished or univestigated. They do provide order though, so murderers and such do get pursued. And they make sure public places are orderly. But they don't ask questions and don't go after people. Many accept payoffs and other "honest graft."

Hellknights, though, do go after people irregardless. They don't take payoffs. They also may not be concerned about collateral damage either.

I don't see that the Guards or Hellknights obey different laws or are allowed to do things the other can't do. I see the difference is that the Guard sees themselves serving the city. Hellknights only serve the monarch because that's who pays them. As an alien presence, they don't let fuzzy things like "tradition" or "custom" or "precedent" or "political matters" dissuade them.

I also see the Hellknights as being an effective way for certain people to get things done that could not otherwise be done. Blame will always go to the Hellknights, not necessarily to the unknown person who gave the order (I see various people who have the ear of the monarch ask for the Hellknights to do this or that.)


The Black Fox wrote:


The Hellknights however, are directly responsible to the monarchy.

I'd present the Korvosan Guard as a force for peace in the city. Hellknights only serve the monarch because that's who pays them.

During my party, I present the Korvosan guard as the "cops" in the city, working with the compagny of Sable but are afraid of Hellknights, because of their methods. But for that moment they don't know who lead them some they don't know where they are lived (citadel Vraid), they know that it 's the last answer when problems are too important for Korvosan gards. Next friday, I'll tell thme about the citadell and the fact taht they obey to the person who pay for their intervention, so it lets me the possibility to make my PC thinking that the Hellknights would be able to be paid by other people than the Queen (for exemple House Arkona, because I present them like a not very clear and honnest house, who seems to work against the queen, with Verik, Devargo_in my party_) so....

Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Hey, just some real quick answers (since it's late and I'm sleepy)

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


From the guide to Korvosa, I know how many soldiers are in the Korvosan Guard (700) and was able to infer how many Sable Company Marines there were (300), but I wanted to get an accurate number of how many Hellknights there were operating in Korvosa and its holdings. I would like to know this as a DM so I can portray them properly. I absolutely LOVE these guys, and want to get it right.

Ooooh. I really don't want to nail this down to an exact number (because we'll never keep it straight). Aside from the commanders and signifers, there are probably less then 50 honest to god Hellknights at Citadel Vraid, with probably another 30 or so questing throughout Varisia. There are probably double, even triple that number of armigers (Hellknight foot soldiers and squires). Again, rough numbers here.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:
As a side question, how does this number compare with the number of Hellknights operating in Magnimar and the rest of Varisia?

There's probably less then a dozen in Magnimar.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


I'd also like advice on how to portray their activity in Korvosa.

The Pathfinder's Journal in PF#6 does a great job of this, showing off one Hellknight as a lone hard-ass man hunter.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


As I began studying the Korvosa guide and extracted what info I could from it on the subject, I inferred a few ideas. They struck me as something akin to a mercenary SWAT team that also worked some of the more dangerous patrols and ruthless investigations.

Also not a bad interpretation.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


Their relations with most organizations, especially nobility and royalty, are poor, though they seem to have a good, or at least working, relationship with the Korvosan guard.

Ever read Judge Dread? It's kind of like that, though a bit more antagonistic. The guard likely resent and fear the Hellknights. I mean, they're great at what they're doing, but they also show the guard up since they are so hardcore. At the same time, the guard works to guard the people and keep them safe. Hellknights are less concerned with that. They are devoted to ORDER, and if that means cutting down a gang of rioters, so be it.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


I am curious, however, as to how often they are used, and as they are a mercenary organization which only operates in the city as long as its paid, what most limits their use in the city: their cost, their numbers, their poor relations with the city's ruling caste, or some combination of the three?

Not cheep, and they only work for legal rulers, governing bodies, or guard leaders. And probably no more than twenty or thirty Hellknights would ever be in the city at one time even during the worst days of Korvosa's riots. So kind of both. There's not many to hire, and even if there were, Lictor Divri is stingy with what he deems worth of his men's time.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


Another question: Do the Hellknights in Citadel Vraid only take money and do work for Korvosa, or do they accept money for policing/enforcing/investigating work from other authorities or individuals? Does Korvosa have to pay some kind of retaining fee to DeVri to keep him, for example, from sending a group to do investigation work for Ilsurian? Or is the cost of their services high enough to prohibit any but wealthy governments like Magnimar or Korvosa from using their services?

The Hellknights are autonomous and hold no particular loyalty to anyone in Varisia. Again, they'll only work for the most lawful bodies in a region, this typically means governments. Hiring whole groups of Hellknights involves negotiations with the leaders of an order. An individual questing Hellknight, however, might be able to be retained by a smaller community. At the same time, sometimes Hellknights just show up and do their thing. They're like adventurers: sometimes you have to pay them, sometimes they just show up and kill the dragon. It's all up to the individual's sense of Justice.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


This brings up an interesting question, and one I forgot to ask, which is just what code of laws do Hellknights follow?

Their own. Hellknights in general have their own sizable libraries of what determines lawfulness and orderly conduct, but at the same time part of their training molds them into warriors akin to wandering judges, and Order is something individuals know when they see it. Although all Orders of Hellknights have basically the same idea of what Law is, it likely varies slightly from order to order. In fact (as you'll hear more about in the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting) each order has its own specialties and interests and most often work toward meting out a particular brand of justice. This is not in exclusion to others, but they have favorite sorts of crime or disorderliness they seek out. The Order of the Nail, for example, seeks to stamp out savagry and general lawlessness (hense why they get on so poorly with the Shoanti).

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


I'm not asking for a writ of Hellknight commands, what I'm curious about is does the Hellknight devotion to Law and Order dictate a set of laws separate from the laws of the area they are enforcing, and if so do these sets of laws conflict with each other, and what happens when they do?

Often, yes. But it's like bring a judge in to mediate an argument between siblings. Where a parent might dole out a slap on the wrist and make a misbehaving child apologize, a judge might sentence a culprit to fines, imprisonment, or worse. Calling in the Hellknights is almost always a matter of "bringing a broadsword to a bar fight."

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


For example, Korvosan laws dictate fines and imprisonment for burglary, could the Hellknights code dictates (and I'm not saying it does) that such a crime is punishable by death, does the Hellknight slay the burglar on the spot or haul him in for due process?

For minor infractions, when they're hunting particular individuals, or when they've been hired by a government for a specific reason, Hellknights are likely to turn over those they capture to local law enforcement. When someone has gone off the deep end, though--a drunk beating his wife in the street, a crime boss, a dealer selling deadly drugs--Hellknights reserve and often employ rights of summary judgment. If acting upon the terms of a contract, though, they obey the agreed upon stipulations to the letter.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


Which brings me to another question: do Hellknights bother with due process? They see themselves above morality, of course, but do they see themselves above the law they follow, whether it's their law or the law of the land they are paid to operate in? If they apprehend a suspected murderer, for example, which is punishable by death by Korvosan law, do they haul him in for trial or do they pass judgment on him themselves and slay the suspected murderer, assuming a warrant is proof of guilt?

Think of Hellknights as warrior judges. They are the law. They are Judge Dread. If someone has clearly broken a law that warrants death by local law or by the individual Hellkinght's understanding of his order's code, then death. If they catch someone stealing, the punishment is more dependent on the Hellknight--one mgiht capture the crook and turn him over, while another with a stricter vision of law might cut off the law breaker's hand right there. There are Hellknights of all the lawful alignments with interpretations and acts of judgment distinguishing between the good ,the neutral, and the evil.

It should also be noted--as this has never been discussed anywhere--the Hellknights do have a strict process of internal oversight. Members of an order police their own, and any Hellknight can call challenge the decisions of a Hellknight of equal or lesser rank. A lax punishment is just as likely to be questioned as an extreme one. The action in question is then brought before a higher ranking Hellknight or a body of peers and discussed, much like a court case. There is then a ruling. Hellknights rarely question each other, though, in part because their intense training removes most pettiness and ingrains similar senses of Order in most Hellknights, and because there's probably some penalty associated with calling a peer's decisions into question and then having the "jury" side with the accused.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:
I'd like to get an official voice on things, of course.

Kent. This is God, Kent.

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:


That said, I have another question for everyone that I forgot to mention: how do you think the Hellknights maintain their numbers (whatever those numbers are). They've been around for a few decades now, and considering their tendency towards violence losses are inevitable. Do they openly recruit? If so, from where? Do they get reinforcements from Cheliax, or do they pull from particularly harsh members of the Korvosan Guard?

Personally I like to think they take raw recruits and train...

I agree. In a land with monsters, brigands, dark magic, barbarians, etc etc, the appeal of a group willing to bring law and order to the madness seems pretty appealing. In Cheliax, being a Hellknight is probably tantamount to joining the Marines in the U.S.. Its optional, of course, but if you really want to be the best of the best, or you don't have anywhere else to go, there are those who can give your life direction and help you make the world their version of a better place.

And with that quick answer, I'm headed to bed. Pardon for my brevity and if you have any more questions I'll try to hit them up tomorrow-day.

Sovereign Court

Wow. All that Hellknight goodness made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I truly appreciate the quick feedback, all that's EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thank you so much!

You know, this is what I love about this company, and why I'll happily buy up any product you guys produce. I can stand before my gaming group tomorrow (technically today, I guess), hold up an issue of Pathfinder and tell them I was able to get feedback from not only a helpful community of players, but also the Managing Editor, the guy who helped produce the damned product, with ideas on how to make your guys' game better.

You just can't beat that.

All right, enough gushing. It's late here too. If I think of anything I'll post it soon enough. This current stuff is amazing, though.

Thanks again!


F. Wesley Schneider wrote:


Ever read Judge Dread? ...

Great image! (btw It's Dredd- I know, sleepy)

So do they ride intelligent bonded mounts called "Lawmasters" and wield weapons called "Lawgivers"?

great feat choice for a Hellknight -like a Sable Rider only they get an axiomatic intelligent heavy warhorse called a Lawmaster.

Contributor

ReApErMaN8691 wrote:

Wow. All that Hellknight goodness made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I truly appreciate the quick feedback, all that's EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thank you so much!

You know, this is what I love about this company, and why I'll happily buy up any product you guys produce. I can stand before my gaming group tomorrow (technically today, I guess), hold up an issue of Pathfinder and tell them I was able to get feedback from not only a helpful community of players, but also the Managing Editor, the guy who helped produce the damned product, with ideas on how to make your guys' game better.

Hey! No problem man! The Hellknights are my babies and I'm sure we'll do a book on them eventually. Until then, though, feel free to just shoot us any questions you've got!

Sovereign Court

Here's another question, though it's one I'm not sure if you'd be willing or able to answer. Not willing because you may be saving it or continuing to work on it, or not able because it's not been decided on yet.

But regardless, what can be said about the local Hellknight Lictor, Severs DiVri? Personality, appearance, background--I'd be happy to get any of it. Hell, I'd be happy to hear how he got the infamous nickname "Boneclaw". I'd like to know this because I think he'd be an extremely interesting character to have interact with the PCs, especially near end-game which I assume (though you'd know better than I) will involve some amount of crazy down Korvosa way.

I can also dream that the final issue of the Crimson Throne has some art of our elusive Lictor, or even just some more Hellknight coolness--but I won't hold my breath.

Thanks again!


F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
Hey! No problem man! The Hellknights are my babies and I'm sure we'll do a book on them eventually. Until then, though, feel free to just shoot us any questions you've got!

Going back to the RotR player's guide, it looks like paladins can become Hellknights, although from subsequent information a Hellknight paladin would be rare.

Why would a paladin join the Hellknights? They don't seem be compatible. How would a Hellknight paladin act? Do they tend to be loners in order to avoid working with Hellknights whose actions tend to be less-than good?

Contributor

Mandor wrote:
Going back to the RotR player's guide, it looks like paladins can become Hellknights, although from subsequent information a Hellknight paladin would be rare.

They totally can and yes they probably would be. The Hellknights are a LN group with some LE tendencies, but, at their core, they're still LN. There are members of all the lawful alignments among their ranks, so, technically, that means a paladin could join up. On frontiers and places in complete anarchy, I can see the goals of Hellknights and paladins--especially those of LN gods like Abadar--meshing quite well. In more civilized lands, though, paladins probably take a more warm-fuzzy approach to crusading and saving princesses, where Hellkinghts have more totalitarian interests.

Mandor wrote:
Why would a paladin join the Hellknights? They don't seem be compatible. How would a Hellknight paladin act? Do they tend to be loners in order to avoid working with Hellknights whose actions tend to be less-than good?

Largely, these are questions regarding your interpretation of alignment. Can a paladin or other LG character be a part of a group that involves itself with devils? Sure, if the circumstances are right. Is a paladin likely to be happy in such an organization? Probably not for too long--I don't see many paladins making it to the upper tiers of the group--but could they get in and do well? Totally. Though you're right, I don't think they're the norm.

As for all the rest of the questions, I have no idea. I haven't played a pally Hellknight yet. Make the character and see how it goes!


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

How does one leave the Hellknights? Is resignation just allowed? We know that a bunch of Hellknights become Grey Maidens, so clearly it's possible. Presumably they can just hand in their armour and walk, but if there's something special I'd love to work it in. (One of the PCs has been trying to court a Hellknight who will soon be applying to become a Grey Maiden.)


I'd doubt that Hellknight members are in it for life. That is something reserved for holy orders or radical political groups. It seems to me that a member can either a) retire once they're too old to keep at it, b) honorably discharged after serving their "tour", c) dishonorable discharge for those who were negligent or failed to uphold the standards of the Hellknights, and d) execution for proven traitors or gross failure of duty.

RETIREMENT: If people make their career the Hellknights and serve for many years, they leave with a nice parting gift (a golden nail?), a nice farewell party by the local Hellknights and a fine speech by the commanding officer, a good pension, and perhaps he is asked for occasional consultation if the younger Hellknights need advice.

HONORABLE DISCHARGE: As a quasi-military order, I would hold that members sign up for a predetermined amount of time that can be renewed. If at the end of their service, they decide to leave for any reason (and sometimes it might benefit the Hellknights if they leave, for example a son of a nobleman who has inherited his title and lands and could help them politically in the future) they are given their discharge papers, backpay, and any mementos or souveneirs they've inherited. There is probably a very formal, but brief discharge ritual. And his buddies may take him out to celebrate his leaving.

DISHONORABLE DISCHARGE: This can be fun. Ceremonially break their weapon, read out a humiliating list of offenses, have him run the gauntlet getting hit on, and brand the offender with a physical or arcane mark that is both painful and an obvious mark of whatever crime was committed so all would know.

EXECUTION: No one likes traitors, or those who failed their duty so bad that death is the punishment. Make it painful and make it public. Whipping, torture, disembowlment, and leave the body as a reminder to others in a very public place.

As for the specific scenario of a female Hellknight leaving to join the Gray Maidens, you have options. One is that the member leaves honorably. Maybe their term is up over the course of the first few adventures, and Queen Ileosa knows this. Or maybe the Queen can "buy" out the contracts of individual members. It could be tied into the Hellknights deciding to leave the city. Either the end of the term of their contract coincided with the end of term of their members, or early termination by the Hellknights allowed the Queen to "buy" discharged members who wanted to stay in the city. In any case, I'd make it fairly routine if you want it to happen.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
The Black Fox wrote:
In any case, I'd make it fairly routine if you want it to happen.

The AP specifically states that it happens, so I just worked it into the background. I like your ideas, and I'm going to run with the queen being allowed to buy out their terms as a side effect of the Hellknights abandoning her.

Thanks!

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