Sunday, April 19, 2015

Who are the Imperial Watchers?

The Empire is large. The Empire is powerful. But the Empire does not own the world, and it does not control everything. There are things beyond its borders that could threaten the Empire and its people. And so, in his wisdom, the Emperor has decreed that some of his most courageous and brightest citizens will be sent out into the wider world to seek out and analyze new monsters, natural/magical phenomena, and people of great intrinsic power, and if necessary, dispose of them preemptively. These brave souls are culled from the finest schools, steeped in trivia, and tested for magical ability, and above all, loyalty. Those who pass the rigorous tests are declared dead and their names are changed to protect their identities, and exiled to serve the needs of the Empire beyond its borders. To this end, they receive a complement of gear and means to contact a handler within the Agency of Foreign Intelligence. It is rumored that 20% of the knowledge contained in the great libraries, gathered anonymously and collected under pseudonyms, was in fact sent directly by the Watchers.

Imperial Watchers often ally themselves with other adventurers early in their careers, and may or may not reveal their cause and profession, but absolutely never reveal their birth names. Should they ever return to Imperial lands as part of some quest, they take care to avoid their home settlements and often disguise themselves with whatever means are available just in case.

A player who plays a viskanya investigator native to the Empire has the option of taking Imperial Watcher as a special background. At first level, an Imperial Watcher must take the Oathbound faith trait, the Without a Past social trait, and the Courageous combat trait. You must also take the Oppressive Expectations drawback. They often take the Subtle Appearance racial trait, but this is not necessary.
At first level, you gain Survival as a class skill. You also gain the Track ability. You also gain a +2 bonus on diplomacy checks made to gather information. Remove Perform from your class skills.
At 4th level, you can make use of some of your survival training and can make a DC 15 survival check once per day that takes 8 hours to complete. If this check succeeds, you can find and ingest vitamins and minerals that increase the toxicity of your bodily fluids without presenting any danger to you. 8 hours after completing the check, the ingested materials metabolize and you gain a racial bonus to the DC of your poison equal to half your level. This bonus lasts for 24 hours. In urban areas, you can use diplomacy to gather information instead of survival to find the right ingredients, but the check still takes 8 hours to complete. From this level on, you have one fewer slots for the highest level you can cast.
At 8th level, when an Imperial Watcher fails a knowledge check to identify a creature's strengths or weaknesses, he adds a +1 morale bonus to attacks and damage against that creature as (s)he seeks out  weak points in its defenses. On a successful check (s)he learns one more quality than normal, as though the knowledge check had been 5 points higher.
At 12th level, a Watcher has a heightened awareness for large-scale threats, and gains a +4 competence bonus on spellcraft checks to identify dangerous magical phenomena or impending disasters, and a +4 competence bonus on survival checks to identify dangerous natural phenomena or impending disasters.
At 16th level, an Imperial Watcher can reroll any knowledge check once per day per knowledge skill. This reroll can be made up to a minute after the initial check failed.
At 20th level, the Imperial Watcher has surpassed the experience of all existing Watchers. It is unknown what (s)he may gain from this pinnacle of power.

These abilities, as with all special backgrounds, require dedication. An Imperial Watcher must always seek out new threats and assets to the Empire, and learn as much as possible about them before reporting all information back to his or her handler. A Watcher must regularly send reports via magical or mundane means, and if prevented from doing to on time must reestablish contact as soon as possible. A Watcher must remain loyal to the Empire at all times, whether overtly or covertly, as the situation dictates, defaulting to covertly in uncertainty. A Watcher must keep a detailed record of their findings when encountering anything unfamiliar. Failing to uphold these duties will result in the Empire refusing to send any form of aid or information, and in the event of treason, an expensive bounty will be placed on their head.

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