Council of Thieves - Collins 2013
Races and Classes
Cheliax is primarily a country of humans, but other humanoids of any type can be found in Westcrown and the other large cities. Unlike most of Golarion, Cheliax is also noted for an unusually large tiefling population, and as such, this fiend-blooded race is included. Check with your GM for permission to play a tiefling character before you start, though, as tieflings are slightly more powerful than the base races.
Thrown into chaos after the death of the god Aroden, Cheliax found a new spiritual guide to help tame the resulting lawlessness and destruction—Asmodeus. Dominated today by the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune, Cheliax is a land of inflexible order, like a rigid steel blade tempered in the fires of Hell. It is a land where nobility and virtue take second place to a ruthlessly imposed harmony. It is a place where talks of past glories are only whispered in the dark, where heroic ambitions are kept to oneself, and where normal people strive to blend into the safe anonymity of the crowd. It is here, in the country’s former capital of Westcrown, that the Council of Thieves Adventure Path takes shape.
Westcrown and other large Chelish cities do a brisk business in recovered relics and salvaged goods from abandoned noble estates, and dwarven traders often frequent Cheliax because of these rare items. Most Chelish cities have ruined areas where entire estates collapsed due to neglect and abandonment; many dwarven adventurers enjoy spelunking in these “urban ruins.” Some dwarves come to Cheliax as emissaries from their homelands, here to do business with wealthy houses. Rumor holds that in some dwarven communities, mining operations have provoked skirmishes with fiends who live under the earth. Dwarven emissaries may be in Cheliax seeking better methods for fighting these fiends—or they might seek out such techniques for their own personal benefit.
The Barrowood, just north of Westcrown, holds a small elven settlement. In the last few decades, some elves have drifted from the woods. A few left the country altogether, while others settled in small communities within Westcrown and other Chelish cities. Elven communities tend to be insular and mistrustful of humans and tieflings entering their districts; humanoids of other types are met with less hostility. In particular, elves are greatly suspicious of human nobility in Cheliax, for it is here that the devotion (be it legitimate or lip-service) to Asmodeus and diabolism are most common. As a result, elves in Cheliax are more likely to be found dwelling among the poorer folk rather than amid the higher classes.
Gnomes with a flair for summoning magic sometimes gravitate to Cheliax in the hopes of learning ways to summon and bind powerful devils. Gnome wizards sometimes garner sponsorship from noble houses, but later may find it difficult to extricate themselves from such agreements. Most prefer to hire out their services on a case-by-case basis and use their fee to finance expeditions into abandoned estates that might hold ancient texts. Gnomes in an advanced state of bleaching, in search for the most extravagant experiences available, might come to Cheliax to flirt with the danger of diabolists and treachery. Such work is easy to come by, but hard to forget. Those that do so come away revitalized, but their experiences color them in some way, with soot-black hair, flame-tinted eyes, or extra-long nails.
Decadent noble houses require many servants to keep the estate running. Halflings in Cheliax—as elsewhere—are favored as slaves due to their stamina and their amenable natures. Even better, at half the size they take up half the room when it comes to providing housing. Over the years, many halfling slaves have found themselves abandoned when their employers died or fled the country, and halflings in Westcrown and other large cities are often descended from these freed slaves. Halflings are ubiquitous in Chelish cities, and some make good use of their ability to go unnoticed. A halfling servant may secretly act as a spy for another house or for a guild, secret organization, or even an adventuring party. Halflings are part of many different city affairs, from housekeeping in noble estates to scribing in courthouses, and when information is needed, one usually finds a halfling in the know.
Westcrown has something of a reputation in Cheliax as being a place where society’s leftovers live, and as a result, half-elves often find themselves drawn to the city. Most arrive from other lands and settle in Westcrown for personal reasons, but enjoy the fact that little is made of their mixed heritage—tieflings take the brunt of the racism normally reserved for half-elves here. In fact, Tieflings with minor fiendish features sometimes attempt to pass themselves off as half-elves. Unfortunately for both races, this tactic is well known and often leads to innate mistrust of half-elves. Half-elves may even be required to prove they are what they appear to be before entering certain areas.
Half-orcs can live a comfortable existence in a city like Westcrown. The presence of tieflings and diabolists makes half-orcs seem less of a threat, even pedestrian. The countless political games in progress often require hired muscle, and noble estates are always hiring more guards. Some half-orcs take offense at being taken for mere thugs, but many find security in such jobs. Some half-orcs find it so comfortable in the cosmopolitan streets of Westcrown or Egorian that they make permanent homes there. Others plan to stay in Cheliax only as long as it remains profitable and then move on to grander adventures elsewhere.
Most of Cheliax’s citizens are humans, and most humans belong to some sort of noble line. Those that don’t tend to act as if they do—in reality, the House of Thrune officially recognizes some 250 noble families. Many more claim nobility or pretend to relate to one of the legitimate houses. Lineage and standing are currencies almost as valuable as gold in some circles. Ethnic Chelaxians amount to around three-quarters of the human population in Cheliax. Azlanti and Taldans make up most other humans in the country. Many ethnic Chelaxians claim a bloodline descended from Old Azlant, and some even portray themselves as genuine Azlanti (no one has ever been able to prove pure Azlanti heritage, though). Taldans get along well with Chelish nobility, finding it easy to enter and make an impression in high society. Taldan women are notorious trend-setters in Chelish society, always on the cusp of the latest fashion and ready to fiercely admonish those who fail to follow their lead. Taldan men have caused many troubles for Chelish noble houses over the years with their interest in attractive, young noble ladies. Traders from more distant lands are common, as are visitors on a particular mission. Cheliax’s ability to produce magic items and masterwork weapons draws traders from many different areas. Criminals on the run sometimes see Cheliax as an easy place to live a shady life but underestimate the rigid order of Chelish guilds.
Tieflings enjoy an unusual status in Cheliax, though perhaps “enjoy” is the wrong word. Chelish diabolists view tieflings as subordinate to humans. Tieflings are seen as lesser beings, born of human fallibility or devilish trickery. Noble houses hide tiefling heirs away, ashamed of their very existence, or reluctantly allow them some control over the family business (usually if there is no other reliable heir available). Because of this tarnished history, most tieflings in Cheliax carry around hatred and resentment in their hearts. Some strive for greatness as a way to prove their worth and show up those who failed to appreciate their talents. Others embrace their heritage and become fiends in mortal form, running illegal operations, thieving, murdering, or worse. Most fall somewhere between these extremes, struggling to find their path among the shadowed streets.
While some classes are more strongly represented in Cheliax, all 11 standard character classes exist and thrive within the complicated country. Cheliax was once a mighty empire, spanning many modern nations, but though Cheliax’s borders have receded, its cosmopolitan history allows for many different types of heroes.
A few barbarians make their way to Cheliax. On occasion, an exiled Shoanti or a few lone survivors from a massacred tribe settle in Cheliax. At other times, a barbarian might be an exotic slave recently released from his duties and made a free man or woman. Such individuals tend to be haunted by some past tragedy, sullen loners who seek out dangerous work and decadent distractions. Half-orc barbarians who could not find a place in their home tribes also appear in Cheliax. Grunt work—as bodyguards, enforcers, gladiators, thugs—is available for barbarians who wish to find jobs in Westcrown or other major cities. Employers are reluctant to trust barbarians with important guard work, though, due to their frenzied and chaotic fighting style; in a lawful country like Cheliax, barbarians make most people nervous.
Bards enjoy great popularity in the plush drawing rooms of the noble houses. A certain flair for the dark and twisted serves bards well in Cheliax; many in the upper-class enjoy a tale of horror more than a simple love story, and muddled morals can make it difficult to agree on what constitutes a happy ending. Acrobats, jugglers, and musicians are always in high demand for parties and ceremonies. Historians, too, are drawn to Cheliax. Yet it is the actor who typically achieves the greatest fame in Westcrown itself; a bard who makes sure to take skill ranks in Perform (act) has a significant advantage over others in the city of Westcrown. The country holds such a rich and disturbing history, full of tragedy and lost information, that it seems a veritable treasure trove to those interested in the past. Bards with a strong knowledge of genealogy and blood histories find much work in tracing family lines, but they must beware of uncovering the wrong information.
Although the nobility of Cheliax openly pays lip service to Asmodeus, the majority of the nation’s people are little different from those found in other lands—only more oppressed and guarded about their actual faith. With the same hopes and goals as their neighbors, Chelish folk find appeal in the same deities as other common folk, though many do so under the burning eye of Asmodeus’s faithful. Thus, adherents of any faith might be found
in Cheliax, though they tend to keep their convictions subtle in the face of rampant diabolism. Clerics of all religions practice in the country, though the numbers of non-lawful deities are significantly fewer, usually being little more than traveling priests. Westcrown was once an epicenter of Aroden worship, but in the century since his death actual worshipers of this dead god have all but vanished, even if his shrines still stand. In most cases, clerics of Iomedae have taken up the mantel of honoring Aroden’s legacy. Small temples to Erastil, Abadar, and in particular to Iomedae do exist in Westcrown, the former mostly in rural communities, the others in larger cities. Where Iomedae’s faith exists, it tends to emphasize her aspects of rulership and justice over honor and fairness. This may be the influence of the rigid noble hierarchy in Cheliax, or the power of the infernal faiths of the aristocracy, or it may be a survival mechanism; to preach too openly on goodness and fair play in the streets of Westcrown could mean trouble for the church. Clerics and worshipers of all other gods exist in Cheliax, but most keep their activities hidden, or at least private. No worship is outright forbidden in Cheliax, but going against tradition can draw unwanted attention. The exception to this is the church of Shelyn. Her followers openly maintain shrines and conduct colorful, beautiful ceremonies in public (usually involving acrobats and musicians). For the darkness pervasive throughout Cheliax, even the decadent nobles can’t resist the appeal and entertainments of the goddess of beauty.
In rural areas of Cheliax, druids often assist settlements with agricultural pursuits, animal husbandry, and weather-related issues. Villagers may not recognize the wise old hermit or hedge witch as a druid, but their services are generally welcome, if not fully understood. Yet even in cities like Westcrown, druids are not unknown. As a port city, druids with particular focus on water and weather are often sought out for advice or aid. Druids who help control some of Westcrown’s problems with pests like rats, ravens, and other animals, and who serve to ease the clash between civilization and nature, are always welcome in Cheliax. The sight of a druid walking the streets of Westcrown with an animal companion at her side is not uncommon—most Wiscrani druids have badger, bird, dog, horse, pony, or wolf companions, but in such a city where exotic delights are much sought after as distractions from daily life, stranger companions like apes or dinosaurs or snakes are not unheard of. In cities, some druids assist the church of Shelyn in creating urban parks and gardens for all to enjoy. Others are simply loners looking for ways to stop the encroachment of urban centers on the surrounding wildlife, or methods to introduce more wild elements into cities. The influence of diabolism and shadow magic in large cities can sometimes warp local wildlife, and some druids go to great lengths to uncover the sources of this corruption and end them.
Fighters rarely lack employment opportunity in any area of Golarion. In Chelish cities, fighters are always in demand as bodyguards, estate guards, captains of private security details, and muscle for hire. Many noble houses hire fighters as personal trainers for their heirs. City guards, of course, are always looking for trained fighters. A fighter’s adaptability and experience make him an asset to Chelish nobility. Trustworthy fighters may be granted particularly important missions, such as guarding valuable magic items, family treasures, or noble heirs. Such work carries a risk, however; should a fighter triumph in his mission, he must be on guard for employers who would rather kill their hireling than leave sensitive information in his grasp.
Many Chelaxians see the benefit of expertise in unarmed combat. Most political dealings and secret conclaves ban weapons, so monks are exceptionally valuable to locals. Noble houses consider it prudent to arm their heirs with the ability to defend themselves, even weaponless. A monk forced to abandon his order for any number of reasons can often find work as a trainer in Cheliax.
Paladins face many of the same challenges clerics do in Cheliax. Worshipers of Asmodeus openly walk the streets, protected by the sadistic but nonetheless legitimate House of Thrune. A paladin in Cheliax, particularly a major city such as Westcrown or Egorian, must take care to rein in her righteous impulses and work with the existing law rather than attempting to barge through it. A wellintentioned strike against evil could result in brutal government-sanctioned retaliation, and an imprisoned paladin combats evil far less effectively than a free one. Yet for all the corruption of the country’s rulers, there are many more evils to face within the country, and a paladin might work great deeds in the eyes of Cheliax’s people by combating subtler and potentially even more destructive evils. Paladins of Abadar, Iomedae, and Shelyn most often find their way to Cheliax, their devotion to order typically being well satisfied within the rigid society even as they crusade to make the land a better place for its people.
Rangers find many reasons to wander Cheliax. Many twisted beasts not seen elsewhere exist in the empire of devils, fascinating to rangers who seek to hunt or tame particularly rare species. Rangers with a particular bent toward tracking and destroying creatures often find employ even in major cities, as even after centuries of rule the country holds many wildernesses. Thugs and brigands of every stripe cause havoc throughout the country, and a ranger adept at hunting humanoids can be an asset to city guards and noble houses alike. In the ancient and often ruined streets of Chelish cities, restless spirits can linger, guarding the treasure living adventurers now seek. Of course, in a country ruled by diabolists, rangers with a penchant for hunting the fiend-blooded prove extremely valuable—and extremely dangerous. A ranger’s best choices for favored enemies in Council of Thieves are (listed alphabetically): humanoid (human), outsider (lawful), outsider (evil), outsider (native), undead. Good secondary choices include aberration, animal, construct, fey, humanoid (giant), magical beast, and monstrous humanoid. Opportunities to fight all monster types occur in the Adventure Path, but the ones listed above are most common. A ranger’s best choice for favored terrains are urban and underground. Good secondary choices include forest, mountain/hills, swamp, or water. Other favored terrain choices are poor slections for the Council of Thieves Adventure Path.
Despite its devious denizens and dark reputation, Cheliax has a strong love for law and order. Their bond with devils and innate desire for control influences Chelaxians to conduct their affairs with a certain respect for legality. Even those nobles most committed to maintaining an orderly and controlled city, though, can always find use for a skilled rogue. The strict laws and watchful guards of Chelish cities create a fascinating dichotomy, ending most upstart gangs and lawless ventures before they begin, while practically encouraging the efforts of subtler and more organized criminal ventures. Both Egorian and Westcrown have fertile rumor mills concerning pervasive criminal organizations, though the rulers of both cities deny the existence of such. Noble houses also make frequent use of spies and infiltrators. Thieves are rarely used to steal items or money from rival houses—doing so is viewed as tasteless and vulgar. Assassination, however, is a respected and time-honored tradition among the nobility, and assassins, kidnappers, and spies rarely have trouble finding work in Cheliax. A rogue (or, indeed, any character with a large amount of skills) would do well to consider spending skill ranks on the following skill choices in particular for Council of Thieves: Bluff, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Disguise, Knowledge (all), Linguistics, Perception, Perform (act), Sense Motive, Spellcraft, Stealth, and Use Magic Device.
The lawful orders of Hellknights are very much a part of Westcrown. The closest Hellknight fortress, Citadel Rivad, houses the oldest of the Hellknight orders—the Order of the Rack. During the Adventure Path, the Order of the Rack may take on a relatively adversarial role, and a PC who wants to become a Hellknight should not associate himself with this order. The Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting provides more information about other Hellknight orders, and Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #27 will contain extensive information about these orders, including a prestige class that characters can aspire to take. In particular, the Order of the Scourge is an excellent choice for a PC Helllknight, as this order is (among other things) quite keen on opposing organized crime. Although details of that prestige class are not presented here, the requirements your character needs to fulfill before taking the 15-level Hellknight prestige class are as follows: Base Attack Bonus: +5 / Weapon Proficiency: You must be proficient with all martial weapons. / Armor Proficiency: You must be proficient with heavy armor. / Alignment: Any lawful. / Special: You must defeat a devil as part of a special ceremony witnessed by another Hellknight. More details on this ritual are presented in Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #27, but this information is not necessary for you to worry about too much during character creation or your first few levels of experience.
It comes as no surprise that most sorcerers native to Cheliax trace their unusual powers to infernal ancestry. Tieflings often manifest sorcerous powers thanks to their muddied bloodline; sorcerers in general are thus viewed with some suspicion thanks to their cultural association with tieflings. Sorcerers are also seen as chaotic and uncontrolled compared to disciplined wizards, and thus garner more suspicion from the orderly populace. Upon occasion, sorcerers from outside of Cheliax, ones who believe their powers come from an infernal bloodline, come to Chelish cities in search of their heritage. These seekers believe the truth of their family line lies buried in a crumbling estate or inked into a history book in some noble library. Uncovering the information can take months, even years—if the information even exists at all. While most Chelish sorcerers have an infernal bloodline, all bloodlines are represented to some degree in Westcrown. Abyssal is perhaps the rarest, though.
Wizards are respected as scholars and disciplined students of the arcane. Wizards who specialize in summoning and binding fiends are, of course, common in Cheliax and their services are often sought after. Wizards from other lands who wish to learn about summoning find no better place to do so than Cheliax. Many wizards apprentice to noble houses, exchanging their services for sponsorship and access to ancient libraries. Some find this alliance contains hidden prices, however, and spend a long time performing tasks for their sponsors to pay off their debt. Solitary wizards without interest in working for a sponsor find ample opportunity to set up laboratories for themselves in the various ruined areas of Westcrown and other cities. Wizards beholden to a particular fascination for necromancy and shadow magic find it easy to research such subjects in the ancient, crumbling towers of the cities. Wizards (and sorcerers) who gain familiars should consider focusing on those that give bonuses to the skills listed under “Rogue” above, making cats, hawks, owls, and vipers excellent choices. Rats, toads, and weasels are also popular choices in Westcrown. In addition, the sewers of Westcrown are infested with strange, gelatinous vermin called torbles, or “ooze bugs.”