Friday, September 23, 2016

Gaspar Dell'Amore, The Black Rose of Edme

Normally when I put together an Unusual Character Concepts article, that's really all it is; a concept. Sometimes it's a fun mechanical trick, like the Rage cycling in The Barbarian Samurai, and other times it's literally just character flavor, like in The Paladin in Name Only. This week, though, I thought I'd do something a little different. Instead of keeping things general, I'm going to lay out a specific character I created, and take you through my process. If you guys like it, then I may do a few more features like this in the future. If not, then I'll go back to my more generalized style.

And now, Gaspar Dell'Amore, The Black Rose of Edme

A Story of Love, in Rivers of Blood

Before the revolution in Galt, Edme was a city of learning and art. After the Final Blades were deployed, the only mediums people seemed to work in were pain, and blood. Henri Dell'Amore had been a student at the arcane college when the revolution swept the streets, and he had taken to the steps and soap boxes with the same zeal as anyone else who wanted their voices heard. While he shouted loud and long, Henri's message was one of understanding, and peace. One that said political divides could be healed. He spent years on the street corners and taverns, shouting himself hoarse even as Razor Jenni added to her long list of conquests. It was not a message many listened to, but there was at least one woman drawn to his passion. Faline Edenmere, who became his wife. It wasn't until after she'd worn her wedding veil that she revealed another mask she wore. A gray mask that hid her identity while she carried out her awful, bloody duties.

Nothing to lose your head over, of course.
Henri was hurt, but he also knew someone had to keep the peace in the city. So they learned, they loved, and enjoyed what protection her gray garments and his limited magic provided. In time they had a son. A son born with a strange birthmark on the back of his left hand. A black rose that seemed to grow from the confluence of his veins.

They named their son Gaspar, after one of the great heroes of Galt. The boy grew up listening to his father preach peace, and absorbing every lesson he could. His mother reminded him that peace was very well, but that it was better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war. One of the only jokes the two of them shared, and that she admonished him never to tell his father.

Of course, bad things come to all men who crow too loudly, and too often. Henri had made enemies, and when the petty came to power, they demanded Henri's blood to slake Jenni's thirst. Faline tried to stop it, and for her efforts they went to the final blade together. Their son, barely grown from boyhood, watched as the blade came down, and his parents' heads rolled down the gutter, plopping into the stained, sopping baskets.

The Battle of The Black Rose

Gaspar was alone, one more orphan on the streets of Edme. He took shelter in abandoned classrooms, and quickly learned which corners and alleys had been claimed by beggars, thieves, and footpads. He begged for what he could, and stole when no one would give. His feet were faster than his hands, but it meant he could rarely stay in one place for long.

He found himself outside the courtyard where Razor Jenni stood, and in the sidewalk grew a black rose. It bloomed thick and full, despite all the filth and blood that coated the gutters. He crouched there, staring at it, smiling for the first time almost since his parents had died.

All good things must be paid for in blood.
Gaspar was so lost in his contemplation of the flower, that he didn't hear the snicker of the gaggle of street boys until they were nearly on him. They were older, and bigger, and thought it was the funniest thing how the little orphan boy was crying over a flower. One of them went to step on it, and Gaspar stood in front of him. The boy hit him, but Gaspar spit blood in the boy's eye. When he swung again, Gaspar ducked, and brought a knee right into his crotch.

One of them he could have taken, but there were too many. Gaspar clawed and bit, kicked and punched, but in time all he could do was lay on the ground, curled around the rose to keep it safe. The blows stopped falling, in time, and one of the band stood over Gaspar. He was tall, with the beginnings of a beard, and a cast-off nobleman's coat. He had two teeth missing, but he held out a hand to help him to his feet.

"You got stone, kid," he said. "Get up and walk, or stay down and bleed. What's it gonna be?"

A Two-Fisted Firebrand

Red Tom was the boy's name, and he took care of his own. The Firebrands, as they called themselves, were few in number, but they held whatever they took. Tom took Gaspar under his wing, and showed the boy another face of the city. Showed him how the stone palisades were just crumbling wilderness, and the people in it either those you fought, or those you fought for. The Firebrands were in the protection business, and woe be to anyone who did they or theirs harm.

Wednesday's children are full of woe, and they're all to happy to share.
The boys grew into manhood, and their reach broadened as they grew. Those who lived on their turf saw them as their boys, and were more than happy for them to be around. Gaspar, in particular, became something of a neighborhood favorite. With his crooked nose and sunken knuckles, anyone who started trouble around him often lived to regret it. Typically with a limp to remind them to stay out of his neighborhood.

As he grew, though, Gaspar heard the voice of the Rose. He heard her preachers in the alleys, and found secret meetings of her faithful. Milani's rose petals seemed to float in the gutters, promising there would be an end to the red rivers. He devoted himself to her, in his way, and to the half-remembered lessons he learned from his parents. He loves his city, and his country, but it will take more than a stiff overhand right to bring down the corruption, and to tear down the final blades. Which is why, rain or shine, he always stands near the stairs, and looks the latest condemned in the eye before they go up to lie on Jenni's bed.

"Tell Faline and Henri their son is still alive. Tell them Gaspar is here, and that one day he's going to break this blade," he says to them, before their souls are added to Razor Jenni's reddened steel.

The Bones of A Heavy Hitter

So what does Gaspar look like? Well, aside from being a broad-shouldered, blunt-faced man in an armored coat with a black rose in the button hole, Gaspar has a rather nasty combination of abilities.

His basis is warpriest, dedicated to Milani. His human feat went to Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike), and his 1st level feat went to Improved Unarmed Strike, so that his damage will always reflect his faith, rather than the 1d4 a fist usually does. He also has Two-Weapon Fighting, for those times when one blow doesn't send the right message. His background traits are Birthmark, for the black rose on his hand, and Magical Knack. His father, despite being only a student, had managed to rescue his teacher's familiar, and the creature often stood guard over Gaspar as a child, teaching him about magic and its elements.

After his first level, Gaspar takes two levels of rogue, for the sneak attack, better saves, and increased skill points. It also makes for a lovely combination with the Liberation domain power a warpriest of Milani can take.

What makes Gaspar truly dangerous, though, is the Boar Style feats. These allow him to deal a kind of rending damage when he hits with two or more unarmed strikes, it allows him to deal bleed damage, and it lets him use Intimidate to demoralize wounded enemies. When combined with a feat like Enforcer, that could have some truly nasty repercussions. In addition to, potentially, doing 5d6 of damage, plus bonus damage from his Strength modifier, in a single round at level 3. Assuming he hits with both fists, and gets his sneak attack in on the target.

So, that's Gaspar, a character that I currently have ready and available to bring to a Pathfinder Society game, and who has already put his fists to work on an adventure or two. What do you think? Should I do more character studies like this? Let me know, and if you'd like to support Improved Initiative, don't hesitate to go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron. Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, why not start today?


  1. I quite liked it. I never would have thought of the classes you picked either, but they fit really well.

  2. Really dig this. A short story and a character concept wrapped up in a nice little bundle.
    Great concept and delivery.

    1. Glad you enjoyed, David! It's my hope that, even when I change up the formula, readers still find something fun on my page.

  3. As it happens my players are on their way to Galt right now, so this character comes at the perfect time. Would you give him more levels in Rogue or focus on Warpriest? My party is level 10, so I'd like to advance him up a little more.

    1. I currently have Gaspar as a Pathfinder Society character. Ideally, he'd have a 2-level dip in rogue for the Evasion and Sneak Attack, but a 4-level dip for Uncanny Dodge, and a Rogue Talent wouldn't go amiss. The rest Warpriest with Liberation and Protection domains.

  4. Do more of these, they are really interesting!

  5. My only complaint is that all this is Pathfinder rather than 5E, haha. But, I started in Pathfinder, so it's not that hard to translate for me.

    Loved the character study, with the story first, and mechanical translation next. Makes it very easy to follow. I do hope more follow, or I'd be happy to submit some of my own, if you are OK with 5E builds.