Skull and Shackles
Languages: Common, Varisian
Favored Regions: Lands of the Linnorm Kings, Lastwall, Nidal, Nirmathas, Numeria, Ustalav, Varisia
Favored Religions: Abadar, Calistria, Cayden Cailean, Desna, Erastil, Gozreh, Norgorber, Sarenrae, Shelyn, Urgathoa
Female Names: Alika, Alinza, Anca, Bordana, Carmelizzia, Ilinica, Iolana, Luminita, Mirelinda, Narcizia, Nicinniana, Piousa, Zeldana, Zriorica
Male Names: Alezandaru, Andrezi, Dortlin, Eugeni, Henric, Ionacu, Iozif, Kazallin, Marduzi, Silvui, Skender, Tiberiu, Viorec, Zandu, Zstelian
Appearance: Varisians have dusky skin and large, expressive eyes that are often of strange colors, such as violet or gold. Their hair color ranges widely, from platinum to blond to deep reds to brown to black—very few hair colors are considered unusual among Varisians. They tend to be a lithe and long-limbed folk, and men often have trouble growing facial hair, making the patchy or stringy beards and mustaches of Sczarni thugs a well-known look.
Many Varisians are wanderers and nomads, traveling in caravans and stopping only to put on exotic shows or to swindle and seduce locals. Yet just as many Varisians settle down and form small towns or, in the case of Ustalav, whole nations. They can be found everywhere there is a tale to learn, fortune to tell, or song to sing, but are most common in the lands north and west of Lake Encarthan, though they hold the lowlands of Varisia as their ancestral home. They have a dual reputation as exotic performers and dangerous thieves, and while many other races and cultures admire the Varisians, none fully trust them.
Varisians wear flowing, beautifully embroidered garments of red, green, blue, and purple, often adorned with strings of coins and tiny bells. Some derisively refer to Varisians as “magpies.” Tales of Varisian thieves running elaborate confidence games in cities, or methodically picking the pockets of all the patrons in a tavern in just a few minutes, add to this unflattering image. The Sczarni are the most notorious of Varisian thieves, and are the reason for much of the Varisians’ reputation for criminal activity. The Sczarni are less nomadic than many of their kin, and tend to settle down for months or years to run their operations.
Varisian fortune-tellers are famous across the land. Before the death of Aroden, Varisian seers, known as harrowers, could trace the path of a subject’s life into the near future and beyond. After Aroden’s death, their gift was severely damaged; now harrowers can see only a short distance into a murky, distorted future.
Music and dance are a significant part of Varisian culture. Most Varisians can play at least one instrument, but many can play two or three. Varisians have a song for every occasion, grand and mundane, even for tasks such as washing the dishes or building a fire. The moves that form the foundation of their dances are carefully structured and practiced until they become innate; in this way, Varisian dancers can improvise in the middle of performances while still keeping their style recognizable.
Scarves are strongly associated with Varisian culture as well. Varisian women in particular wear scarves in a myriad of colors with all outfits, and often attach superstitious beliefs to the color and material of their scarves. For instance, most Varisian women wear flowing red and pink scarves when trying to catch a man’s eye, or heavy purple scarves when telling fortunes). Varisian men also wear scarves to match their outfits, though they tend to be shorter and less elaborate than women’s scarves. Varisians have also designed scarves with hidden blades sewn into them to use as weapons.
Varisians are devoted to their families, and clans are incredibly close-knit. While caravans will stop to trade in towns, and some Varisians even settle in cities, clans always view non-members as outsiders. Fellow Varisians are given more consideration than other races and classes, but the clan receives unquestioned loyalty and support. This is not to say that Varisians never leave their clan. Some quarrel with family members and strike out on their own. Others, in the grip of the wanderlust that strikes most Varisians at some point in their life, desire more freedom than even a traveling clan can provide. Many Varisians are fascinated by ancient ruins, particularly those with a connection to Desna, and will travel hundreds of miles to investigate mere rumors of such ruins.
Many Varisians feel a special connection to Desna, and treat dreams with reverence. Varisian adventurers often pester their companions to recall their dreams upon waking, and then spend inordinate amounts of time recording and attempting to analyze those dreams. Their art often features butterflies and other symbols of Desna’s faith. While Varisians do not generally build temples, they often maintain shrines along well-traveled roads, stopping to perform any needed repairs, put out fresh flowers, and repaint fading symbols on the shrines whenever they pass by.