The Vulture Knights

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The Vulture Knights

Born out of the madness and corruption of Daris III, the Vulture Knights today serve as the secret police of the Empire. The soldiers of the Vulture are not glamorous; much of their work can never come to light. They are not heroic because many of their actions are cruel. Instead they are feared and hated, for their arrival signifies death.

Origins

Daris III was a corrupt and evil man. Refusing to be turned into a puppet Emperor like his father Daris turned to any option he could to regain control of the court from the politicians and generals that ruled it in all but name. Appeals to the people went unheard for the Daris line was unpopular, born out of a Bastard Knight and untrusted even these many years later. The God’s failed to answer his prayers… but something else did.

They say that the first victim of the Ten Year Plague was Daris II, but that’s not true. The first victim of the plague was the soul of his son. Literally transformed by his demonic pact into a living epidemic, Daris spared those he favored and slew the rest with a horrible disease that left the victim vomiting blood and destroyed his internal organs in a matter of hours.

Assuming his throne Daris ruled an empire in Panic. Among his many decrees that followed his assent was the creation of a Secret Police, those he named “Vultors” (From the Elven word for Hounds). It was their duty to go among the dying and uncover any plots and conspiracies that would threaten his rule. The Vultors were very good at their job and several would be hero’s vanished into the night, while priests and scholars who would have been able to identify the source of the disease were kept busy dealing with an endless stream of afflicted innocents.

Ten years later the Emperor’s champion would slay the Plague Emperor and then himself, the Daris line would be finished and a new Gwideo line established. As for the secret police, they had grown powerful off the suffering of the dying, and the people had taken to calling them Vultures.

Evolution

The secret police were too useful to disband, and they knew too many secrets to alienate, so the Gwideo line continued their use. Unwilling to allow the corruption of the office to continue the Reagent placed men and women the Emperor could trust in control of the police with strict orders to keep the Vultures as a information gathering device, not a cruel dark hand.

These men and women lasted a very short time.
One of Gwideon VII’s first actions upon assuming his throne was to place his cousin Daris IV in control of the Vultors. He assumed that placing his cousin in control of a powerful organization might contain his ambition. It failed to do so and Daris attempted a coup. The coup failed due to the actions of an unknown agent. Gwideon was merciful. When Daris attempted another coup it was revealed who the traitor to his first attack had been… his own daughter Mercadi. Gwideon was not merciful to his cousin this time… but he refused to strip the family of their rights in recognition of Mercadi’s loyalty. Instead he made her his Secret Champion and told her to reform the Volturs into something worthy of the empire.

The Lady Mercadi transformed the Volturs from corrupt spies and leg breakers into a devoted order of knights. She instituted policies that promised fairness and investigation within the order. She enforced laws, imparted order, and forced her men to swear vows not only to her, but to the empire and each other. And it worked.

Thus began the tradition of the Daris family and the Vulture Knights. Loyal to the emperor unto death, the leaders of the Daris family are the leaders of his secret police. In exchange for their lives and the lives of their children the heirs of Daris serve. Desperate to undo the damage done to their family’s name, desperate to prove their own loyalty, and constantly at war with a secret deep within their blood that pushes them towards damnation.

Symbols

The Vulture Knights have no public symbols; the people who they protect or serve know who they are by reputation and deed. Within the order Knights are marked by brands and scars on their bodies, marks that can’t be replicated without great suffering.

Due to the fact that they often work with the Dark Sisters some Knights adopt Cloaked Lady symbolism. Tattoo’s around the eyes, eye motif’s and facial coverings are common with these knights. Despite the actions they perform, many Vulture Knights are devoted followers of both the Platinum Lord and the Cloaked Lady.

The only relics of the Vulture Knights are black feathered cloaks that they use during their initiation rituals.

Organization

Vulture Knights are part of a strict hierarchy. At the top is the Emperor’s Secret (this the title, shortened so that one does not confuse it with the Emperor’s Champion). The Secret is always a member of the Daris family who is bred specifically for the role, usually from birth. Ineffective Secrets are rare, and Traitorous ones are non-existent.

Below the Secret are 5 Boss’s, these are the most talented thinkers, educators, and planners in the organization. Field agents aren’t wasted on leadership positions, and family blood has no say on who has these 5 positions. The responsibilities of the Boss’s are to organize long standing operations, watch over field commanders, report to the Secret, and teach new members what it takes to be a Vulture Knight mentally and morally.

Below the Bosses are any number of Field Commanders. Field commanders are experienced Field Agents and are the ones primarily in charge of day to day operations. They gather information, work with their field agents, and train agents physically for the job of being a Vulture Knight.

Below them are Field Agents, active members who are primarily dedicated to completing missions that are given to them by their commanders. (Note: Many field agents are higher CR than their leaders due to the fact that they are constantly in the line of fire. It takes brains and loyalty to advance in the Vulture Knights, not raw power.)

The lowest rank is that of an Informer. Informer’s are the hundreds of men and women in the cities of Otep whose job is to watch and observe, but never to take action. These men and women are patriots and loyal to the empire, but would never reveal their actions for fear of being ostracized.

Powers and Responsibilities

Vulture Knights are not demon hunting exorcists. That is what the Cloaked Ladies are for, though the two will work together when they are granted the opportunity. That does not mean that they are not prepared for Mobb infiltration, but most Vulture Knights do not have the means or abilities to destroy a demon or a sufficiently powerful cultist.

Vulture Knights are responsible for mundane and physical threats to the peace and security of the empire, and specifically the health of the Imperial family. When dealing with the first the Knights have no more rights or authority than the imperial watch (Many Knights are part of the Imperial Watch). When dealing with the second the Knights have unlimited power to fulfill their orders.

It should be noted the Vulture Knights have another duty, one that is secret and only known to those who are a part of the organization or the Imperial family. It is the duty of the Vulture Knights to perform the greatest crime of the empire should it be required, Regicide. Should the Emperor or his family ever be proven to consort with demons or ally itself with a force that wishes to harm the empire it is the duty of the Vulture’s to kill the guilty parties whether they be Emperor, Empress, or Imperial Heir.

Game Mechanics

Ok well that once again is the fluff bits.

Obviously if you played in the big Otep game you know who the last Emperor’s Secret was. Below are some new feats, recommended equipment and prestige classes, as well as some secret information on the Vulture Knights.

Classes: The Majority of Vulture Knights are warriors and experts, for while the Vulture Knights are effective they are not an elite order like the Cloaked Sisters or the Knightly Orders of Elora. Multi-classed Fighters with levels in Rogue, Scout, Knight, or Ranger are common among the higher echelons. Arcane and Divine casters are less represented in the order, but respected for their rarity. Psion’s, Lurks and Soulknives are recruited when available for their skills in espionage and information gathering.

Races: Any loyal member of the Empire can be recruited to join the Vulture Knights if they have the right disposition. Uncommon races, including elves, are usually saved for special missions where their talents will lie best… or sent to watch their own people. Tiefling’s are watched closely for signs of corruption, this intense scrutiny combined with the education provided by the order often turns these demon-tainted creatures into zealous, albeit paranoid, agents. There are rumors of Tiefling Agents sent to infiltrate the Mobb, members of the order so loyal that they risk their sanity and souls to provide their beloved empire with an early warning system.

Alignment: Any non-chaotic. The Vulture Knights thrive on order and training, they follow a strict hierarchy. There is no room for chaotic free thinkers or rebels within their ranks. There are exceptions, men and women with a chaotic bent are sometimes recruited for specific missions… or because they’re abilities are rare enough to warrant their inclusion in the order.

Special Requirements: You must be a member of the empire to become a vulture knight. All other oaths of allegiance must be foresworn, including The Rights of the Free (the birthright of any member of the Free Nations).

Recommend Prestige Classes:

Shadow Striker: The references to Pelor can be removed. This prestige class remains limited to the good aligned. Additionally the skill requirements are changes to “Knowledge Religion: 2 Ranks or Knowledge Nobility and Royalty: 2 Ranks”.

Grey Guard: There are a number of Paladins who have joined the order, and they put well being of the empire before their own honor.

Avenging Executioner: Men and women who have lost everything to the Mobb often look for a way to gain vengeance, and the Vulture Knights offer this. The Cloaked Sisters will sometimes direct these angry souls to the Knights when their own methods can not bring the person peace.

Malconvoker: Malconvoker’s are not officially sanctioned by the Vulture Knights. That having been said there are a few rare conjurer’s, priest, and others who wish to harness the power of evil… and direct it against the Mobb. These souls are kept on the closest watch… for they often damn themselves in the process of accomplishing the order’s goals.

New Feats:

Stick to the Shadows (Allegiance)
Requirements: Base reflex save +2
Benefit: Add Hide and Move Silently to your class skill list. You gain a +1 competence bonus when using these skills. You gain an additional skill point at each level that can be assigned to either of these skills.

Bad Reputation (Allegiance)
Requirements: Vulture Knight
Benefits: You gain a +3 reputation bonus on Intimidate checks to make your target friendly. You may use your strength score instead of your charisma score for Intimidate checks.

Carrion Knight (Allegiance, Tactical)
Requirements: Vulture Knight, Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack +1d6, Base Attack Bonus +4
Benefits: You gain access to the following maneuvers

Don’t turn your back on me!: When you successfully perform an Attack of Opportunity you may add your sneak attack to the damage, even if the target would not normally fulfill the requirements for sneak attack.
No time for subtlety: On a one for one basis you may give up +1d6 sneak attack to gain +1 to hit on your next attack. This is an immediate action that can be performed an unlimited number of times per turn.
Better safe than sorry: When an opponent uses bluff in combat they provoke an attack of opportunity from you. This attack can be taken with a ranged weapon if you have one ready.

For the Empire (Allegiance)
Requirements: Vulture Knight, Level 6
Benefit: You may re-roll any save with a +2 bonus if failing that will save would cause you to compromise the safety of the Empire, you may only use this re-roll once per save. This ability can not be used for selfish reasons, only in circumstances where the empire is danger or you would be forced to betray it.

Examples: A succubus charming you into betraying state secrets, a poison that would wound you while you struggle to deliver a message detailing an invasion, dying from massive damage when protecting the Emperor. Saving the life of the individual Knight, even an important one, is not enough to fulfill the requirements of this feat.

Special: If you willingly betray your oath to protect the empire you loose access to this ability permanently. It can not be regained by any means.

My Life for the Empire (Allegiance)
Requirements: Vulture Knight, Level 6, For the Empire
Benefit: You gain one of the following abilities for one round. Activating this feat is an immediate action.
Evasion
Damage Reduction 5/-
Your weapons ignore alignment based Damage Reduction
If reduced below 0 hit points you are not knocked unconscious.
You gain True Seeing as the spell.
Use of this feat causes 10 points of damage per ability attained. This damage can not be healed by magic, only natural rest.
Special: If the use of this feat would kill the Vulture Knight, they do not die until the end of the following round.

My Soul for the Empire (Allegiance)
Requirements: Vulture Knight, Level 6, For the Empire, My Life for the Empire
Benefit: You gain a “Floating Feat”. The bonus feat is not assigned when you take this feat, instead it is chosen when used. You must meet all requirements of the feat to gain its abilities, except for Base Attack Bonus. The feat is reset each day. Any time you use one of the feats from “My Soul for the Empire” you gain a negative level that lasts for 12 hours. Feats that have a blanket bonus only cause the wielder to accrue one negative level.

Example: Jean-Marc is cornered by a horde of Demon Cultists. Unable to run, and aware that he will soon be overcome if he doesn’t take action, he activates “My Soul for the Empire” and gains access to the Great Cleave feat (He already has Cleave) and wades into the cultists. He kills one and cleaves to the second, his secondary strike kills the second. He uses great cleave to gain an additional attack and drops a third, great cleave activates again and he kills a fourth. He gains two negative levels at the end of his turn for the two uses of Great Cleave.

The Next Emperor’s Secret

The last Emperor’s Secret, Jean-Marc Daris, was slain during the battle at the great arena defending the Emperor. His sister, Jean-Marie is the most qualified for the position, but has blatantly refused the post. The following are three people who are contending for the position of Emperor’s secret.
Celesta Daris- Aasimar Paladin/Grey Guard- One of the few Aasimar born to the Daris line, Celesta is a paragon of loyalty in the realm of the Vulture Knights. She is known for her ability to complete any mission, often putting aside her own code in order to do so… yet she never fails to repent for these actions. She is supported by many members of her family who want the position of Secret to become more respectable and open.

Danlar Daris- Human Fighter/Bard- Danlar is a planner and field leader. He lost his right arm during an early mission in the field, a wound that would have retired many others. Instead he has adapted and not only learned to fight with a single blade, but has modified his distinctive set of panpipes to be used one handed. He stands as a symbol of the determination of the order, capable of overcoming any odds.

Jack Spades- Tiefling Knight- Jack Spades was Jean-Marc’s squire, a position which allowed Jack to learn many of his masters deepest secrets. On mission when his lord was killed Jack has returned to Whiteport determined to preserve Jean-Marc’s vision. As such he has received a large amount of support from the Vulture Knights, to the point where the Daris clan may have to appoint someone outside of their own bloodline to lead.

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