Friday, August 26, 2016

The Calistrian Dom

Sacred prostitutes have served the church of Calistria for centuries. While the goddess herself is depicted as an exemplar of elven beauty and grace, the church knows that attraction is in the eye of the beholder. Many of the church's servants would be considered homely, or downright ugly, by some. To others, the dark, deviant, or otherwise monstrous is what gets their blood bubbling. Which is why, in the private chambers behind the altars to the Savored Sting, it is far from uncommon to hear the crack of a whip just before a mewl of pleasure.

That's ten hail Mary's. This is Mary.
How would such an unusual profession make someone an ideal party member? Well, since you asked...

The Mechanics

Before we get into the hairy issues that can come with the character's story, let's start with the mechanics. Your two background traits should be Calistrian Prostitute (which gives you a +1 bonus on Sense Motive and Diplomacy, making one of them a class skill), and a trait that gives you a bonus to Intimidate. Bully, Viking Blood, and others are an option, and each can give you a unique twist on the basic concept of, "The Hand Who Holds The Whip."

Next, we're going to move onto class. Bard is ideal, since they get the whip as a starting weapon, they benefit from a high Charisma score, they have a huge list of skills including Diplomacy, Sense Motive, Bluff, and Intimidate, and many of their spells can play right into the flavor of this idea. From Charm Person, to Dominate Person, and with spells like Animate Rope, Enthrall, and Hideous Laughter available (yes, tickle torture is a thing for some people), you have a pretty good arsenal at your disposal.

Also, while we're on the subject, you should stop in and take a look at 5 Tips For Playing Better Bards.

Don't knock it till you try it.
The question you really need to ask yourself, when it comes to your character, is what's your focus? Because if you're going to focus more on your magic, you'll probably want feats like Spell Focus, Greater Spell Focus, Combat Casting, and the like. A focus on enchantment would likely serve you well. If you would rather focus on using your whip, then you might want to take feats like Whip Mastery, Improved Trip, Improved Disarm, and on in like vein. It's hard to kill someone with a whip, even a scorpion whip if you go that route, but you can force your enemies to fight under seriously negative circumstances, giving you a big bonus. Especially if you pair your attacks with something like Dazzling Display in order to demoralize all enemies within 30 feet.

For more on using Intimidate in combat, you might want to read through How To Weaponize Your Intimidate Check in Pathfinder. It's got some good advice you could apply to this concept.

Playing The Fluff

Despite the existence of sex and sexuality in the world of Golarion, not every table is going to rejoice at what they may view as a sexualized character concept. Even if you subvert the normal stereotype by playing your Calistrian Dom as a male instead of the more usual (and often lambasted) Dominatrix, you may still have some players who are uncomfortable with it. As any good Dom should do, gauge the table, and don't make anyone uncomfortable who doesn't want to be that way.

Some cuffs don't have padding specifically for that reason.
Flavor-wise, it's important not to get hung up on the fact that your character is a sacred prostitute. That's part of who they are, and likely a big part as it takes up a whole background trait, but it shouldn't be the entirety of your character. Nor should it be played out like a crass, offensive stereotype. We're trying to play an unusual character here, and we've all seen this done poorly too many times to count.

If you want to make it subtle, then you need to look for opportunities to work it into your performance. For example, if you have hostages that need interrogated, ask for some time alone with them. Make the appropriate checks, and work out a scene with your DM to see what sort of information you get. All the rest of the party hears is the whip crack, the rattle of chains, and other accouterments, but when the "session" is over your captives seem perfectly unharmed. Perhaps a little wrung out, and definitely sweating, but otherwise fine. Also, they've told you everything they know. They might even be your friends by that point, or on the way to considering changing churches.

You could give other, subtle clues to your character's true calling, without blatantly pushing it in the table's face. For example, you have an intense knowledge of rope and knots, and you refuse to carry hemp rope. Maybe you even acquired some fine, spider-silk rope as a gift, and you show off how soft and smooth it is against the skin, while still being hard as steel. Perhaps you know a great deal about leather, manacles, and about caring for wounds. Individually, these areas of know-how aren't suspicious, but when you put them all together, it can lead people down a subtle train of deduction until they discover your ecclesiastical training.

Most importantly, though, remember that this concept is not a free pass to go around demanding other players act a certain way. It doesn't work that way in real life, either. The Dom's job is to get under someone's skin, into their heads, and to play their emotions and psychology like a fine instrument, until that person dances to his tune with no more than a plucked string.

Of course, "Kneel," will always be a viable command for Dominate Person.

That's all for this installment of Unusual Character Concepts. Hopefully this one gave you something to chew over, whether you're a player, or a dungeon master.

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  1. I've been wanting to make a character like this, and your post has given me a great place to start. I'm thinking of using Oracle or even a Cleric archetype (Evangelist, maybe?) to better represent the character's connection to the Divine.

  2. What advice would you give someone playing an Arshean dancer? I suspect there'd be a lot of similarities (i.e., bard as an ideal class), but major differences as well (an emphasis on physical beauty and freedom instead of trickery and vengeance).

    There's also still the potential for stereotyping, since Arsheans are often trans.

    So how would you suggest playing an Arshean?

    1. I am totally unfamiliar with this term. As such, I can't really offer any insight without some kind of primer as to what an Arshean is, and where I would find lore about them.