The Gentleman Knave


Round 3: Design a villain

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Congrats on making it to the next round!


Pleased to see this one advance; my favourite submissions are ones that make me think, "I could absolutely use that!" -- and this one did it.

Neil Spicer wrote:
The hit points look off to me. Should be (10 x 4.5) + 30 = 75 hp by my count. Or, as Paizo's starting to do now with classed NPCs without racial Hit Dice, perhaps it would be 10 + (9 x 4.5) + 30 = 80 hp. Either way, I don't see it as 78 hp. So, something's off.

Perhaps I've misunderstood, but shouldn't it be 8 + (9 x 4.5) + 30 = 78 hp? (8 for max. first d8, 9 remaining d8s @ 4.5 average roll, 10 levels @ +3 Con.)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Timothy Pederick wrote:
Perhaps I've misunderstood, but shouldn't it be 8 + (9 x 4.5) + 30 = 78 hp? (8 for max. first d8, 9 remaining d8s @ 4.5 average roll, 10 levels @ +3 Con.)

I believe you're right! That's where I was having trouble getting them to match up. A single-classed villain with no racial Hit Dice can be statted up just like a PC when it comes to hit points now...which is a step Paizo recently started allowing. So 78 hp should be spot-on with full hp at 1st level, 4.5 x 9 levels after that, plus 10 for Con modifier, plus 10 for Toughness, plus 10 for favored class. Thanks, Timothy!

RPG Superstar 2011 aka Ignotus

So, I dithered about posting to this thread, mostly because work + my round 4 entry were killing me, but also because it seemed like most of the issues that came up have been addressed. I enjoyed reading the analysis and criticism (not sure how that major magic prereq slipped by me...).

If there's interest, I can expand a bit on the Knave's motivations/backstory and the thought process behind them.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

I'd be interested, Sam. I've enjoyed seeing the "full" entries for some of the other villains, though there's no rush if you've got other things on your plate still.

RPG Superstar 2011 aka Ignotus

I set myself a design goal when working on the Gentleman Knave: no madness, no evil rituals. Both of those are awesome, of course, but for this I decided to make a bad guy with plots and motivations grounded in pride, greed, revenge, lust, or politics. Space concerns caused me to simplify the Knave's motives to anger over lost ancestral lands leading to betrayal. I think his character is coherent with just that, but originally there was a more widespread element to his anger at Taldor.

Here's the long version of the Knave's backstory and motives: he was descended from Taldan nobles who were given to Qadira as hostages at the end of the last war. Hostage exchange was pretty common in medieval societies; the Venarys would have been essentially members of the Qadiran court, and treated with dignity and respect (although as their lives were hostage to the treaty). While Acton's family was stuck in Qadira, the patriarch of their family died back in Taldor, and the lands they should have inherited were taken by distant relatives and greedy neighbors. Because of this, even when Acton's family could have returned to Taldor under the terms of the treaty, they remained in Qadira and settled there; Acton might even have a little Qadiran blood in him, though not enough for his features to betray his Taldan good looks.

So Acton's family assimilated pretty happily into Qadiran nobility, but Acton didn't. Instead, as he grew up, he idealized Taldor, it's knights and chivalry, etc, and constantly compared Qadira unfavorably to Taldor. As soon as he reached the age of majority, Acton left Qadira to attend Taldan university. Actually being in Taldor shattered his illusions. The culture he imagined as chivalrous and honorable was instead corrupt, materialistic, hedonist, and decadent. He thought the Taldan nobles would welcome him as a lost brother, but instead they treated him as somewhere between a dangerous foreigner and an ignorant bumpkin. When he tried to bring suit against the people who had illegally taken his lands, he was nearly bankrupted by corrupt magistrates. He then attempted to get himself heard directly by the Grand Prince, but this was no more successful. His admiration for Taldan virtue curdled into hatred of its hypocrisy. Humiliated, Acton returned to Qadira and made contacts with those elements of the Qadiran nobility - the cult of the dawnflower, brash young officers, the Satrap himself - eager to teach Taldor a lesson it could never forget. Then he returned to Taldor and began his campaign as the Knave.

In this expanded version, Acton's personal anger at Taldor is coupled with a philosophical disgust with Taldan society like the islamist philosopher Sayyid Qutb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayyed_Qutb)'s critique of America, written after he studied in America for two years in 1948-1950. Acton's motives aren't inherently bad, and one could imagine a heroic reformer character inspired by similar events. That's part of why I made him chaotic neutral. What makes Acton (and Qutb) villainous is that he doesn't care if people get hurt because of his actions, and because he wants to subject a whole nation of mostly innocent people to collective punishment for slighting him and failing to live up to his expectations. Now that Taldor is his enemy, nobles who really are virtuous defenders of order have become stumbling blocks for the Knave to remove by any means necessary. The Knave is friendly with the peasants he works with and even likes them, but in the end it's no skin off his nose if they're killed by their lord as a result of his actions, or if the Qadiran army burns their fields and enslaves them.


Doesn't make much difference with voting being done, but I felt like giving my own views anyway.

I really like this one. I especially enjoyed how you made him a villain without making him evil. It's good to have there be a bit more complexity to villains than that and for the paladin in the party to be confused when the blackguard doesn't light up like a Christmas tree, and the Gentleman Knave delivers on those counts.

Stat wise, he's a well put together character. Very heavy on the dexterity, but it fits in with his image. The backstory was fun, though I have some difficulty imagining Qadira conquering Taldor. Given the Knave's plan, it could certainly happen (I suspect the Qadirans aren't paying him nearly enough, even though as things are he'd probably do it for free). My only real problem with it is the question of why the Qadirans would even want Taldor, but then it's been a while since I looked at a map of Golarion or my copy of the campaign setting.

While it already has, I would have voted to see this move on to the next round, and am pleased to see that it did so.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 aka The Leaping Gnome

I really like the back story you wrote up, Sam. This was one of my favorite entries. I admit, at first I thought the Knave was a copy of the Gentleman Adventurer from Girl Genius (Phil and Kaja Foglio's webcomic), but there is enough here that makes the Knave his own man that I don't feel that way anymore (maybe it was mostly just the name).

I like that you tried something a bit different with the Knave. I know it's tough to create a villain that breaks the mold but is still assuredly a villain and not just a mook or a serial killer.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

I have one suggestion on the Knave because of the one thing that bothers me, his callous disregard for innocent lives. That's a harsh view to have. Especially if he grew idolizing Taldorian views of chivalry. To give that up and be like, "Oh, it's ok if innocents die" is difficult for me as presented so far to buy. But, I think it's an easy fix. What in his background makes him so arrogant that the lives of what he considers lesser people, i.e. peasants, worthless? I think of King Henry VIII as presented in the "Tudors." He believes he is a good and just king, but because of his status, he has always been lead to believe whatever he does is just and right. For the Knave to be so willing to let innocents die and still remain CN, I think part of his upbringing should be about being treated as so high above everyone else that those lower than him are meaningless. That level of arrogance I think will make him be more truly a villain without being evil. He doesn't rationally go out and kill peasants, but he's been brought up to see them only as fodder to serve his own end. That's something that falls in a gray area and PCs will have an initial hard time detecting.

RPG Superstar 2011 aka Ignotus

John Bennett wrote:
I have one suggestion on the Knave because of the one thing that bothers me, his callous disregard for innocent lives.

Your comment reminds me of a line in "A Song of Ice and Fire" along the lines of "when nobles play the game of thrones, the peasants always suffer." The fact that bad things will happen to the small folk when war is declared for whatever personal reasons motivate it in aSoFI never occurs to any of the nobles, not even the good guys. It's just the lot of commoners to be ground up in the grand designs of their rulers in this sort of society. I imagine most aristocrats in Taldor and Qadira take this for granted, and probably most peasants too. War can be a grand adventure, until you're in it.

The Knave suffers a lot more cognitive dissonance than regular aristocrats because he actually lives amongst the lower classes and deals with them. I imagine he rationalizes what he's doing to them with a combination of aristocratic callousness towards peasants and a feeling that the peasants will be better off in the long run under Qadiran rule than under their present Taldan masters, even if some suffer along the way.

There's also an active/passive element to this. The Knave doesn't typically hurt people himself if he can avoid it; instead, he sets up situations where people will hurt each other. He doesn't consider it his fault if other people act in violent or rash ways, even if they were provoked and are acting how he expected. I think that this way of dividing up moral responsibility is quintessentially CN.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

Sam Zeitlin wrote:
John Bennett wrote:
I have one suggestion on the Knave because of the one thing that bothers me, his callous disregard for innocent lives.

Your comment reminds me of a line in "A Song of Ice and Fire" along the lines of "when nobles play the game of thrones, the peasants always suffer." The fact that bad things will happen to the small folk when war is declared for whatever personal reasons motivate it in aSoFI never occurs to any of the nobles, not even the good guys. It's just the lot of commoners to be ground up in the grand designs of their rulers in this sort of society. I imagine most aristocrats in Taldor and Qadira take this for granted, and probably most peasants too. War can be a grand adventure, until you're in it.

The Knave suffers a lot more cognitive dissonance than regular aristocrats because he actually lives amongst the lower classes and deals with them. I imagine he rationalizes what he's doing to them with a combination of aristocratic callousness towards peasants and a feeling that the peasants will be better off in the long run under Qadiran rule than under their present Taldan masters, even if some suffer along the way.

There's also an active/passive element to this. The Knave doesn't typically hurt people himself if he can avoid it; instead, he sets up situations where people will hurt each other. He doesn't consider it his fault if other people act in violent or rash ways, even if they were provoked and are acting how he expected. I think that this way of dividing up moral responsibility is quintessentially CN.

I agree with you, being a Martin fan myself. And I know what you're getting at. My suggestion is to help GMs run the Knave. Basically, what you said about the Knave in your second to last paragraph helps explain why he is the way he is. Include that in your description and he's golden. Like King Henry VIII, he thinks he knows what's best and he's willing to pursue that goal, ultimately for selfish reasons, no matter if the little man gets hurt.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

Just thinking of ASoIaF, I think the Starks know what their actions cause, it's the rest of the "good guys" that don't. Also, with Martin, are there any good guys? Now that I think of it, the Gentleman Knave could be like that dude, the "Lightning Lord." Beric Dondarion or something, it's been awhile...

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