Lord Varys is one of most feared men in Westeros, not because of his raw physical might or political power, but because he is one of the greatest spymasters in the kingdom. His little birds sing, and as a result he knows what happens in the far off wastes of the world just as he knows what happens in the bowels of the supposedly safe Red Keep. While no one trusts the treacherous eunuch, Varys might be one of the only characters in A Song of Ice and Fire who is legitimately concerned for the well-being of the kingdom, in addition to saving his own skin from being threshed by the blades of the Iron Throne. This guide should offer a solid starting point for those interested in bringing the spymaster to their Pathfinder game.
For those who would prefer a more active kind of eunuch, The Unsullied may be more to your liking. If you'd like to see additional character conversions, including The Avengers as well as other members of the Game of Thrones cast, check out the Character Conversions page on Improved Initiative.
Begin at The Beginning
Stats and Traits
Varys is a man with a unique past, and it has marked him out even in the terrible world of A Song of Ice and Fire. However, his past has given him a unique set of skills that few others can match. Like most other members of the cast, Varys is a human, with no special, inhuman attributes or powers. A man who uses his words more than his hands, Varys should have charisma as his primary attribute, with Intelligence close behind. Dexterity will likely be his third highest stat, with the bottom three put in whatever order you feel will be most useful to your interpretation of the concept. Remember, this is just one interpretation, and you need to make a character you will be happy with.
As far as traits go, there are a number of them that will be ideal for Varys. Friends in Low Places (gathering information takes 1d2 hours instead of 1d4 hours in impoverished areas, and the attitude of any destitute or impoverished NPC you interact with starts one step closer to helpful) is an ideal trait or a spymaster who needs to have eyes and ears among the common folk. Alternatively, Friends in High Places (+1 trait bonus on Diplomacy and Intimidate, which becomes a +2 when dealing with government officials) is another trait you may find useful. Sadly, since they're both social traits, you can only have one of them.
Other useful traits include Altruistic Diplomat (+2 trait bonus to Diplomacy, and Diplomacy is always a class skill for you), and Reactionary (+2 trait bonus to your initiative). After all, if you're going to have a trait, you should get a bonus you're going to use regularly.
A Man of Many Talents
Class and Skills
Varys is a man of many talents. He's a master of disguise, trained by theater performers from across the sea. He speaks several languages, has an intimate knowledge of history and world events, and his network of informants is vast. He's familiar with poisons, and not shy about getting his hands dirty when the need arises.
Lord Varys is, in short, a rogue. Not just any rogue, though, because the Spy variant (Advanced Player's Guide 135) fits him perfectly. The archetype loses trapfinding and trap sense, but gains Skilled Liar and Poison Use, allowing your version of the Spider to tell lies smoothly and seamlessly, in addition to never risking poisoning himself while using a weapon. Powerful abilities, when used properly. Especially if they're combined with rogue talents like master of disguise, fast stealth, and others which enhance your ability to go unnoticed.
As to Varys's skills, there are a lot to choose from. Diplomacy is paramount, along with Bluff, Stealth, Disguise, Sleight of Hand, Acrobatics, and probably Escape Artist and Sense Motive. Perception is always a necessary skill, and Varys has never been afraid to drop veiled threats in the form of a particularly nasty Intimidate check.
Also, for those who want to add a touch of the phantom thief to Varys, the Master Spy prestige class is an option. While the class's ability to evade magical detections of alignment and falsehoods is useful, it isn't something that traditionally crops up in Pathfinder adventures. It's also outside the realm of Varys's portrayal in books and TV, but that's because he's only had a few interactions with magic users throughout his life. They've never ended well, for those of you who have seen that episode.
The Tools of The Trade
Feats and Items
Varys is not a combat-central character. In fact, he is most useful when kept far away from the battlefield, and allowed to work in the background. Failing that, he's a character who works best in an ambush capacity, throwing enemies off guard with deadly toxins, or striking when others are at a true disadvantage. As such, feats are not as big a part of his character. With that said, here are some entries you may find useful.
- Skill Focus (Core Rulebook 134): This feat adds a +3 to any skill, which becomes a +6 when you have 10 or more ranks in it. This is useful for skills like Craft (Alchemy) if you're making your own alchemical items, as well as for Diplomacy or Stealth, depending on which skill you'll use most. Even Disguise can turn you into the man of 1,000 faces.
- Sap Adept and Sap Master (Ultimate Combat 116): These feats do bonus non-lethal sneak attack damage with a bludgeoning weapon, and double your non-lethal sneak attack damage with a bludgeoning weapon respectively. Useful for taking foes alive, and can be devastating when combined with Enforcer (Advanced Player's Guide 159) and Bludgeoner (Ultimate Combat 90).
- Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot (Core Rulebook 131): Add a +1 to ranged attacks within 30 feet, and ignore the -4 for firing into melee. Varys doesn't fight fair, and Tyrion isn't the only one who can put a crossbow to deadly effect when needs be.
Varys is, for the most part, a skill-based character. However, in combat he can still be a thorn in enemy's sides. Strategic use of alchemical items, like the ones found in The Best Alchemical Items For Your Pathfinder Party, are ideal for Varys. For those who took Use Magic Device as a skill, wands and scrolls can also provide strategic bonuses to your allies, and debuffs to your enemies. Poisons, particularly contact and injury poisons, force enemies to make saving throws, and sooner or later an enemy will roll a 1 on the die.
As to Varys's more regular equipment, a disguise kit is a necessity. So are hidden daggers, a few trusty vials of terrible poison, and perhaps the most potent weapon of all, a bribe. Lannisters aren't the only ones who pay their debts, after all.
The last element of this character conversion is the story. Who is your image of Lord Varys? Are you going to be the eunuch who was cut by a magic user and offered as sacrifice? Will you instead be a low-born commoner who has bribed and threatened his way to a position of power? Perhaps you're a noble-born man or woman who plays the game of thrones, and plays it with skill and panache?
Whatever you pick, remember, you can use as much or as little of the initial character as you desire.