Portrait of a Villain: Tyrant King


Tyrant King ill. by Crystal Frasier
Tyrant King ill. by Crystal Frasier

Acario Macellarius IX

These people survive because I have gifted them with law and order.  They who usurped this very throne upon which now I sit from my family a century ago had allowed the decadence benevolence to deteriorate my kingdom.  The borders shrank as invaders carved up the countryside unchallenged while the aristocracy grew fat and lazy on the taxes that never made it to the royal coffers.

The people should hail me as a hero for executing those noble thieves and reclaiming the lands that belonged to my ancestors.  But instead they hate me and speak of revolution behind closed doors.  Well, they shall repay me with sweat and blood as I forge a new empire!  Devils be damned…

Background

It has been twenty years since Acario Macellarius IX emerged from familial exile leading his infernal host against the descendents of usurpers.  It is now the thirteenth year of his sovereignty, having restored the throne to its rightful heirs.

Acario is the last of a lineage of an exiled king, Acario Macellarius VI, overthrown and banished by the aristocracy of his kingdom.  When exiled, the Macellarius family managed to leave with much of the kingdom’s wealth which bought them a barony in the neighboring kingdom where they sought refuge.  Many members of the family looked to infernal pacts to increase their power and influence.

Slowly, the Macellarius family expanded their influence and power within borders of their new home, eventually staging a nearly bloodless coup as the Macellarius IX had risen to be a prominent general in that kingdom’s army.  However, the Macellarius family had not forgotten about their ancestral home.

During their exile, the Macellarius family had maintained close relationships with sympathetic nobles as well as infiltrating the court and army with their agents.  When Macellarius IX marched upon the capital of his ancestral home, almost half of the nobles had been turned or neutralized along with the army.  However, there was a long and bloody succession war fought against the remaining units still loyal to the king pretender as well as the remnants of the losers of the coup from his home in exile.

Acario Macellarius is cruel and revels in power, ruling his burgeoning empire with the proverbial iron fist.  He was born and bred to be the Macellarius that returned the family to their place as the rulers of their ancestral kingdom.  He was corrupted as a youth by the infernal teachings of his mother, but quickly showed an aptitude in battle, becoming the youngest general of his home in exile’s history.

Motivations & Goals

Acario is consumed with expanding his dominion.  He has already conquered two kingdoms and is preparing to launch a new campaign against the realm on his southern border.  But before he continues his conquest, he is overseeing the construction of his new seat of power, a mighty fortress that perched on a cliff overlooking the fields his ancestral home.

Acario was raised to believe it to be his destiny to become the emperor of the known world and sees himself as a benefactor, bringing law to the lawless.  Acario has re-written the law to conform to his vision and has ensured that his laws have been posted in the taverns and common areas throughout his kingdom, as it is in fact the law to do so, regardless to the reality that very few people are literate.  He ensures the law is enforced through a large constabulary.

To keep the peasants happy, and therefore reduce the chances of revolution, Acario has established weekly tournaments and games to distract his people from their miserable lives.  Some of these games are brutal gladiatorial contests between prisoners and slaves.  It was during one of these weekly events that Acario met the woman who he has decided to make his queen.

The Macellarius family is disgusted at his interest in this woman, Erin, who is a commoner from one of the outlying villages, thinking she is below his station.  His family has encourages Acario to marry a noble and take Erin as a mistress, but he will not hear of it.  Acario has courted Erin for a little over a month now, and she has developed feelings for him as well; they plan to wed by next summer.

Organization

Acario Macellarius IX possesses the crowns of two kingdoms, but has gutted their original infrastructure and established his own.  After wiping out much of the old aristocracy, he divided his lands into duchies and appointed trusted family and associates as dukes to govern their operations.  These dukes are supported by a small bureaucracy of officials including tax collectors, magistrates, and advisors.

Acario also maintains a large and well trained standing army which has garrisons located strategically throughout his burgeoning empire.  To maintain civil peace, Acario has also created a constabulary chosen from the most ambitious locals.

The army that marches with Macellarius IX strikes fear into the hearts of his enemy because of his hellish royal guard unit known as The Possessed.  The Possessed are men who have voluntarily (or otherwise) allowed the spirit of devils to warp their mind and body.  The ritual to create The Possessed was acquired through a pact with a devil, for which he still owes his first-born son.

Acario also established a network of spies to watch his trusted dukes as well as root out troublesome antagonists and revolutionaries.  The spy network is called the Steel Web by those aware of its existence due to the fact that no one can escape it once caught.  The Steel Web has usually have members on the local constabulary to assist it in apprehending suspects.

Hooks

Young men and women have been forced into slavery in outlying villages to participate in the weekly games sponsored by a particularly malevolent duke. The PCs must stop the slavers as well as fight in the gladiatorial event to win the slaves’ freedom.

The PCs have been asked to join the constabulary to help keep the peace (and help the Steel Web keep an eye on them). The PCs uncover a cabal of warlocks performing ghastly experiments on pregnant women. If the PCs defeat the cabal, they recover a royal charter to perform the deeds signed by the king.

The Steel Web has deemed the PCs a threat to sovereignty and has dispatched a unit of The Possessed to hunt them down. If the PCs are successful at defeating a Possessed, the devil within him makes a deal to trade information for his freedom. If the PCs barter, they discover that Acario plans to perform a ritual on his innocent queen that will transform their first-born into an avatar of a powerful devil.

The PCs have been recruited by a resistance movement to overthrow Acario. Their first task is to infiltrate an outlying fortress, neutralize the night watch, and raise the portcullis to allow the revolutionaries to storm the fortress with minimal casualties.

The PCs are sent on a secret diplomatic mission to obtain an alliance between the resistance and the realm to the south. Unfortunately, the Steel Web has caught wind is attempting to frame the PCs for an assassination.

The resistance has finally taken the battle to Acario and the PCs must face the tyrant on the field of battle. But Acario is not just a man any longer, he given his mortal shell over to his infernal master and the PCs must defeat him before the devil fully materializes on this world.

Statblock

I have created several statblocks for Acario Macellarius IX, spanning the three 4e Tiers: Heroic, Paragon, and Epic.  Due the length and complexity, I don’t want to overwhelm this article, so instead I will release the statblocks throughout the week.  I am also working on a 3.5/Pathfinder statblock.

Just to give a taste of how I built Acario, he is based upon the Avenger PC class multiclassed with Warlock and wields the executioner’s axe.  Acario definitely shares powers from those classes but I have also created three original powers that are unique to him.  Check back later this week to see his statblocks.

Villainous Thoughts

First I want to give a huge shout-out to Crystal Frasier who created the fantastic illustration accompanying this article.  Many thanks for providing me the art!  Please go check out more of her work at her website, Clockwork Amazon, as well as her illustrated Mutants & Masterminds campaign setting, Emerald City Guard, over at Atomic Think Tank.  I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate it!

It is very difficult to create a villain that is at once system/setting generic while actually providing enough detail to use the character in a game.  This is my first hard attempt at doing so and I think I came pretty close to my mark, but still feel I could improve.

If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to sound off in the comments section.  Also, be sure to check out my partners in villainy:

At-Will – The Song of Flame: Savis Rayn

The Core Mechanic – Portraits of a Villain: Sir Mordred

Exchange of Realities – Villain Spotlight: Zora Aldebar

Listening to: Meshuggah – Chaosphere – Neurotica

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