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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default What makes a good butler?

    Butlers, they come to town.

    From Bertie Wooster's Jeeves, to Batman's Alfred, to Integra Hellsing's Walter, butlers have proven themselves time and time again to be totally awesome. Although they may appear to be mere servants at first, the butler always proves himself a valuable trove of useful information, good advice, and a helping hand just when you needed it most. They are like sidekicks, but elevated to superhero levels of influence and importance.

    But, while trying to design a chatelaine wizened changeling for nWoD, and while trying to stat out a gnomish butler in D&D, I have found myself wondering what it is exactly that makes those awesome butlers so awesome. There are elements of their attitude to be certain, there is a certain way a butler comports himself, a certain degree of butleriness that must be maintained at all costs. What about quantifiable abilties then?

    I am interested not only in what you think or know to make a good butler in terms of their carriage and mein, but also in the abilities that such a character should possess.

    -Should a butler have a modicum of skill in all areas of normal importance?
    -Does an extremely high degree of skill in one area grant an advantage?
    -Should social skills take a priority? What about the skills known for being ignored by classic heroes? What about highly situational skills?
    -If a butler has special abilities, which types of abilities are the most butleresque?
    -In combat, should a butler find something unusual, like trident and net? a style known for it's popularity in high society, like rapier and dagger, or western boxing? something completely different?

    All these questions and more I ask. All to find out what makes a good butler?
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Wit. The idea that the butler is not just a servant but a trusted, wise-cracking advisor who sometimes knows entirely too much. Did you ever watch The Nanny? If you did, it was just because of the butler (he was the only part of that show worth watching).
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lordsmoothe View Post
    what makes a good butler?
    Proficiency with piano wire, and the ability to garrotte people who need a good killing.

    Also, a sense of 'high fashion'. But mostly the piano wire thing.
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Butlers should have ranks in LOTs of skills. They express ability in whatever they need to do, somehow. I also like the idea of butler's using exotic forms of combat, though naturally they don't really fight. A butler with a scimitar = awesome.

    I know that Alfred was good with batman's stuff, so maybe a good butler should have some abilities of their masters?
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    I will say that first, an etymology problem exists: Butlers serve households, a personal trusted servant, like most of the examples, would instead be a valet. But I'm as willing to handwave that away as quickly as the next person (heck, I have a character named Jeeves in my sig line).

    As far as the profession of buttling goes, the primary talent necessary for a good butler is a solid, diverse, but adaptable knowledge of what constitutes the 'proper' thing in any given situation: how to dress as to make the best impression, how a house should be decorated, what fork one should use, and so on. This could be it's own skill, but I like to think of it as a sort of abstract knowledge in the same vein as a bard's special repository of folklore.

    The weaponry of a butler must, above all things, be elegant. Alfred used a shotgun, but it was a classic side-by-side double barreled hunting affair, the sort with which one might shoot grouse on a blustery autumn day. Many butlers would find unarmed combat useful, but it would always be either highly fanciful fisticuffs or a deadly eastern martial art learned in some mysterious history. Rapiers are also a good choice, as is piano wire for a more modern butler.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Above all, what the butler needs is the ability to coordinate and arrange the little things. As witness Beeker, in Robert Asprin's Phule novels--he coordinates his employer's meetings and similar affairs; takes care of the paperwork (among other things, he knows the tax laws inside, outside and upside down); keeps an eye on where his employer is (to the extent of slipping locating devices onto the boss's uniforms); calmly points out flaws in plans and makes suggestions that are almost invariably right; makes sure his employer eats and sleeps at the proper times....

    Essentially, the ideal you're going for is an image of preternatural attunement to the employer's needs, wishes, and business--a sort of apparent limited omniscience, if you will, along with a willingness and readiness to be a secondary source of common sense.
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Max ranks in Knowledge (nobility), Knowledge (local), and Knowledge (Snobbery). Good charisma --the butler is traditionally the head of the serving staff and a position of some prestige, therefore a leader. Wisdom, Intelligence, etc etc. He's got style, he's got flair, he was there, that's how he became the nanny!

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Well, if you've got a butler, it's totally gotta be a paladin. Because it just really works, you know?

    They only have 2+int skills though, which is bad. A good butler has loads of skills.

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Yeah, a high int rogue, I'd say.

    ...or a Tiger Claw swordsage.

    As for good butlers, I'd like to nominate Alfred, Death's butler, from the Discworld novels. My other favorite, though he's not exactly typical, is Butler, from the Artemis Fowl novels. (the first and, to an extent, the second. After that they were all really bad.)

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    How's this?

    Just add a giant machinegun stored in hammerspace and you're golden.
    Last edited by OzymandiasVolt; 2007-09-23 at 02:13 AM.
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    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    I think the Akashic class from AE makes for the best super-butler.
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  12. - Top - End - #12
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zincorium View Post
    I will say that first, an etymology problem exists: Butlers serve households, a personal trusted servant, like most of the examples, would instead be a valet. But I'm as willing to handwave that away as quickly as the next person (heck, I have a character named Jeeves in my sig line).
    Well, if you want to be really pedantic, most people conflate a butler with a majordomo (although the butler usually does fill this role in small households); technically, a butler just sees to the wine cellar and its contents.


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  13. - Top - End - #13
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Quote Originally Posted by Turcano View Post
    Well, if you want to be really pedantic, most people conflate a butler with a majordomo (although the butler usually does fill this role in small households); technically, a butler just sees to the wine cellar and its contents.
    I would like to take note here that words evolve with people. At one time, a butler would only be seen as the man who sees to the wine cellar, but over time, the general populace sees a butler as the head of the household staff. Thus, through it's usage, that becomes it's new definition.
    If you wanted to be that pedantic, you'd say the those goons following you aren't Henchmen of the evil queen, since they aren't attending horses (As that was the original definition of a henchman was.)

    Anyway, onto the subject. Butlers.
    -A butler should have high Knowlegde (Local) and (Nobility) Have an High Charisma and a high Int.
    -They live to serve, they should never reveal their true feelings or selves unless in near death situations. And especially not to their "charge"
    -A House butler shouldn't leave the houses grounds, and a person butler should never leave the side of their charge unless directly ordered to, and even then be under high protest.
    - A really good butler understands their charge more than their charge's do themselves. That way they can poke and prod their charge to do the things they know is right. THis also leads to giving the right comment at the right time.
    - A person butler should be akin to a body gaurd, being trained in many weapon styles. While a house butler should know how to operate both a melee and long ranged weapon.
    -That's all I can think of.



    Heck, I have no idea why anyone would want to be a butler, they seem to have such hard lives. I hope they are payed REALLY well.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    a bullet proof tea tray, now which PS2 game is that from
    Last edited by CrazedGoblin; 2007-09-23 at 10:34 AM.
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  15. - Top - End - #15
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    A butler, in terms of what you see in literature, is a Bard.

    --Bardic Knowledge

    --6+INT skills

    --Good with weaponry when they must be

    --Encouraging in speech ("Oh, good show, sir!" = Perform: Oratory)

    --Generally dabble in everything.

    Alternatively, for less of a Jeeves and more of a Bunter (see Peter Wimsey) try Bardic Knack + Jack Of All Trades.
    Last edited by tsuyoshikentsu; 2007-09-23 at 04:44 AM.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Colossus in the Playground
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Quote Originally Posted by ocato View Post
    Max ranks in Knowledge (nobility), Knowledge (local), and Knowledge (Snobbery). Good charisma --the butler is traditionally the head of the serving staff and a position of some prestige, therefore a leader. Wisdom, Intelligence, etc etc.
    Huh. I was gonna suggest that Charisma wouldn't really matter, but I forgot about the Head of the Staff thing. Reasonable Intelligence and great Wisdom, certainly. High Dex, too (don't drop the crystal Miss Davies). Those knowledges, too. Some thoughts:
    Sleight of Hand (No "I will take these cotton buds from your hand... and place them in my pocket" for him!)
    Hide
    Move Silently
    Spot ("this silverware is tarnished!")
    Appraise if they're responsible for household purchases
    Bluff ("I'm terribly sorry, Sir is not in")
    Listen
    Sense Motive
    Diplomacy
    Use rope? Ionno, I just imagine it'd be handy.

    Weapons: Possibly some small crossbow or somesuch, unarmed, improvised (the ol' "vase over the back of the head" trick), sap or improvised equivalent, rapier (kept in the walking stick or umbrella, of course), candlestick (or anything else in Cluedo).

    Other abilities:
    Hide in Plain Sight
    Possibly Sneak Attack
    Some sort of prescience.

    Soo... really, they can't be much other than a rogue.
    Last edited by Serpentine; 2007-09-23 at 05:11 AM.

  17. - Top - End - #17
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    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    I think Akashic works better than bard, honestly, since it doesn't have the whole 'spells' thing to worry about. I don't really see even fantasy butlers doing the 'magic' thing.
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  18. - Top - End - #18
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Quote Originally Posted by Skjaldbakka View Post
    I don't really see even fantasy butlers doing the 'magic' thing.
    I suspect that's just because you haven't seen a butler doing the 'magic' thing.

    Byt yeah, you're right. How useful can a Prestidigitation really be? (To say nothing of Mending, Light, Alarm or Unseen Servant.)

  19. - Top - End - #19
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Alright, this will probably go in the Homebrew section(or I hereby grant permission for it to be adapted there), but here's a hackjob for the Butler Prestige Class. Both Prestige and Class.
    =========
    Butler
    Hit die
    d8

    Requirements
    To qualify to become a butler, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.

    Skills
    Knowledge(Local) 6 ranks, Knowledge(Nobility and Royalty) 8 ranks, Hide 8 ranks, Move Silently 8 ranks, Sleight of Hand 6 ranks.

    Special
    Must designate a "Master", of at least 1 HD higher. Must also possess Craft(Basketweaving). Nah, I kid about that last one.

    Class Skills
    The butlerís class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Appraise (Int), Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge(Local) (Int), Knowledge(Nobility and Royalty) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Open Lock (Dex), Ride (Dex), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), Use Rope (Dex).
    Skill Points at Each Level

    8 + Int modifier.

    Table: The Butler
    Lvl BAB Ft Rf Wl Special
    1st +0 +0 +2 +0 Special Charge, Jack of All Trades
    2nd +1 +0 +3 +0 Mending, Prestidigitation
    3rd +2 +1 +3 +1 Animate Rope, Unseen Servant
    4th +3 +1 +4 +1 Make Whole, Warp Wood
    5th +3 +1 +4 +1 Animate Objects, Vision

    Class Features

    All of the following are Class Features of the butler prestige class.

    Weapon and Armor Proficiency
    Butlers are proficient with the club, dagger, dart, rapier, longbow (normal and composite), longsword, quarterstaff, short sword and whip. Butlers are proficient with light armor but not with shields. He is also proficient with ropes animated by his Animate Rope ability(see below)

    Special Charge(Ex)
    At first level, a butler must designate someone as his special charge. This character must be at least 1 HD higher than the Butler, or possess more than twice the butler's wealth by level. While he has a special charge, he receives the following benefits: Additional +2 to attacks when flanking enemies with his special charge(on top of any other bonuses for flanking). Additional +2 when using the Aid Another action with his special charge, or vice versa. +1 morale bonus to attacks. +1 bonus to Initiative. These benefits are retained as long as the special charge is not killed or destroyed, or up till 24 hours later if he is.

    Jack of All Trades(Ex)
    A 1st level butler gets Jack of All Trades as a Bonus Feat.

    Mending(Sp)
    A 2nd level butler gets Mending as a spell-like ability once per day per class level. This is used to help with general maintenance around the household.

    Prestidigitation(Sp)
    A 2nd level butler gets Prestidigitation as a spell-like ability once per day per class level. This is sometimes used to maintain his uniform, as well as move small objects for cleaning.

    Animate Rope(Sp)
    A 3rd level butler gets Animate Rope as a spell-like ability 3 times a day. This functions as the spell, except for the following changes: Duration is Concentration+5 rounds. Directing the rope each round is a free action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. He may instead opt to wield the rope after animating it. Treat the rope as a whip except that it deals bludgeoning damage and can threaten opponents within reach.

    Unseen Servant(Sp)
    A 3rd level butler gets Unseen Servant as a spell-like ability. He may use this ability once per day for each class level. This is mainly used to shift objects larger than Prestidigitation can manage. He may also use it in conjunction with itself or Prestidigitation in order to move larger objects.

    Make Whole(Sp)
    A 4th level butler gets Make Whole as a spell-like ability usable 3 times a day. This is mainly used to repair objects beyond the ability of Mending.

    Warp Wood(Sp)
    A 4th level butler gets Warp Wood as a spell-like ability usable 3 times a day. This is mainly used to repair wooden objects beyond the ability of Mending and Make Whole.

    Animate Objects(Sp)
    A 5th level butler can use Animate Objects as a spell-like ability 3 times a day. This functions as the spell, except that the duration is 2 rounds per level. His caster level for this ability is equal to his character level.

    Vision(Sp)
    At 5th level, a butler may use Vision as a spell-like ability once a day. However, the vision must relate in some way to his special charge.

    Unless otherwise stated, all spell-like abilities function as though cast by a caster at a level equal to twice the butler's class levels.
    ====

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    I personally see a butler as being more of a profession than a class.

    Also, on requirements on being the hero's butler:
    Butler must be capable of beating the living s*** out of any riff-raff that comes near The Lair.
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    Colossus in the Playground
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    I'm telling you AKK, they need Hide in Plain Sight. A butler should never be seen, but should be right there the moment you need him.

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    The best butler would be a cross between Alfred, Jeeves, an Igor, and the assasin from the Fifth Elephant (yes, he wasn't a butler, but he still works)
    Thus, would probably have mediocre BAB, good will and reflex saves, 8 skill points per level with numerous skills, some form of shadow jump or hide in plain sight, usable only in his designated household, and maybe a d6 hit die.

    On a more flexible level, a butler would have high mental stats, especially wisdom and intelligence, decent dexterity, average strength (a real butler would take weapon finesse), and low constitution.
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    So, like a rogue?

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    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    I had a butler in my campaign(for the bbeg) who was a level 3 expert,2 Rogue. He focused on social skills, hid his alignment, and distracted the PC's with continuous talking, yelling, and general distraction while the PC's barged in and started searching (they had a warrant). The bad guy escaped. The butler took all the money he could, along with a scroll of sending, and he'd ran away, contacted the bbeg, and they are plotting revenge on the PC's.

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    HalflingRangerGuy

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    A good butler should be an idiotic imp with 25 levels of artificer who cannot attack in any way and will flee (but not to far) if being attacked.He also have a homebrew ability called Thebutler that makes him invulnerable to all attacks and spells.
    Last edited by kme; 2007-09-23 at 10:20 AM.

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Quote Originally Posted by kme View Post
    A good butler should be an idiotic imp with 25 levels of artificer who cannot attack in any way and will flee (but not to far) if being attacked.
    Hey, be nice to Caspenar. He's the one who makes all your +6 weapons.
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Quote Originally Posted by CrazedGoblin View Post
    a bullet proof tea tray, now which PS2 game is that from
    Hey! I was going to suggest a tea tray of deflection!

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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Ah, but Jeeves wan't a butler. He was a valet, a gentleman's gentleman. A slightly different thing. A butler is restricted to the household, while a valet is expected to travel everywhere with his gentleman.

    The version of Jeeves that a lot of people are familiar with now is the one played by Stephen Fry in the English TV series Jeeves & Wooster. That version is slightly different than the one in the book series, mainly due to inspired casting. Stephen Fry is a burly 6'4", towering over all the other actors in the series, and has an obviously broken nose that has healed crooked. In addition to his obvious intelligence, this Jeeves looks like if anyone dares to get physical, he will simply grind the nitwit to powder. An excelent trait for a valet.

    Another excelent valet is Lugg, from the Campion series. Lugg is a former burgler and safecracker who was caught by Campion (a private detective), and 'reformed'.

    The best literary valets are the exact opposite (and compliment) of their employers. Lugg is common, coarse, and very, very practical while Campion is elegant, sophisticated, and tends to theatrics. Jeeves is intelligent, Wooster is daft as a brush. So on and so forth. The valet is able to do the things, and go places, that the employer can't.

    So, whatever your character is, your valet should be something complimentary and quite different. The rough warlord will have a smooth-talking bard valet, the pious priest will have a 'reformed' criminal valet, the sophisticated swashbuckling sorcerer will have a former boxer/streetfighter valet, and so on.
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    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    I played a bard actress in 2nd ed. Forgotten Realms that made a bet with the head of the Waterdeep Musician's Guild to open up an acting division if she could convince someone for a year that she was her role. She volunteered herself as an old butler for a fairly powerful fighter in the party. He was looking for some respect and sort of scooped her up after a small interview. She did a lot of maintenance of the household and arranged for travel and purchasing of supplies and such. Very proper butler.

    At one point, some new guy was trying to join the party and opened up with a fireball in the Master's Tavern/Inn. After, dealing with the fire, I suggested he have a shave and a hot bath to make a proper impression. Then I "accidently" slit his throat while shaving him and then "helped" him wash out the wound by dunking him in the hot bathwater. He drowned/bled out... then I had to hide his corpse for a while. Which sucked because the DM started to run the Time of Troubles or something and the dead started to rise as zombies. So I had to keep a zombie hidden.

    Eventually, the very advanced party, with essentially a bunch of much lower level PC hirelings decided to go on a mission someplace dangerous... WAY TOO dangerous, and Master did not heed my warnings. To save him, when we reached a town and I was sent to get supplies, I took all the horses and wagons and all the equipment and sold it all and ran off with the money. Some of the lower level hirelings were begging me to get them stuff, giving me cash and stuff and I couldn't bring myself to rob them. That character was surrounded by the mists and dragged off to Ravenloft for that stunt.

    Good times...

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Bristol, UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What makes a good butler?

    Being a long-suffering Elder God*.



    *There's a Malazan Book of the Fallen joke in there for anyone who's read them.
    Wushu Open Reloaded
    Actual Play: The Shadow of the Sun (Acrozatarim's WFRP campaign) as Pawel Hals and Mass: the Effecting - Transcendence as Russell Ortiz.
    Now running: Tyche's Favourites, a historical ACKS campaign set around Massalia 300BC.
    In Sanity We Trust Productions - our podcasting site where you can hear our dulcet tones, updated almost every week.

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