Cato Vespasian has been accused of many things, but being a family man has never been one of them. Scion to the House Vespasian, he inherited his house’s poor financial standing on his father’s death. Concealing his family’s debts became his burden. His mother had a reputation as a seeress, and after her husband passed her grip on sanity began a downward spiral that resulted in her death by poison, officially ruled a suicide. To keep up the fiscal facade of his house he turned to the seedier side of things, borrowing money from the Abbruzzese family at rates he would never be able to pay back. Cato was able to quickly build a network of business dealing that was increasingly profitable, but it wasn’t quickly enough. When Alessandro Abbruzzese informed him that the debts were due and threatened to take everything Cato possessed including his family’s honor, Cato neared the breaking point. But he didn’t break, instead he explored the ins and outs of Florence’s criminal society and a silent coup resulted in Cato taking Alessandro’s life and assets. Cato used the funds from his criminal organization to rebuild his family’s wealth and standing. He found he relished the darker side of the city, the adrenaline rush that came with skirting the law.
To the public he was the perfect noble. Wealthy, with a wide portfolio of investments; beneficent, with a wide range of charitable giving and patronage to the arts; and manipulative, with enough of a web of intrigue to keep tongues wagging and other houses at arms length.
Vittoria Giordano, his wife by an arranged marriage, died shortly after birthing a son, Nyklos. Cato took very little interest in his son, providing the finest education and the strictest of governesses. Publicly it was spoken about how much he loved his wife and how her death nearly ruined him, that he didn’t even have a mistress. The truth is his affection was a sham and he had no time for mistresses. His business dealings, both sunlit and dark, was his only passion.
Nyklos was a constant disappointment to Cato, although he showed some promise as an artist, it was more a dalliance with art than any real passion. As Nyklos matured, Cato found fewer and fewer reasons to keep him around, the child simply had no interest in the business side of nobility. When word reached him that Nyklos had locked himself in his art studio, Cato resolved to end things. He waited three days before forcing his way into the studio, expecting to find his son dead, or to arrange said death if it was not forthcoming. Instead, he found a masterpiece of sorts. Looking at perhaps the world’s first abstract painting he got a flash of insight, deep in his bones he knew how his meeting with the Vatican’s representatives would proceed that afternoon. In the riot of color he saw the Vatican’s stance and arguments clearly. He realized his son had somehow created a wonderous and eminently useful item. He immediately had the painting removed to his bedchambers, and for the first time since Nyklos was born, showed some concern for his son’s wellbeing.
Since then, Cato has used the magnificent painting’s powers of precognition to expand his business dealings into his own little empire. He still thrills with each new shift he causes above and below board and has set his sights on the Medici family as his only equal. To succeed in bringing them down might finally satisfy his hunger for more. As for his son, he tests him in a variety of ways to explore Nyklos’ full potential, covering his manipulation with a semblance of compassion.

For Cato I gave the Alien Artifact flaw, the powers of the painting are affecting his mind and using it drains him of some life energy.

Cato is more of a GM character, and when I created Nyklos Cato seemed a fitting addition. He’s made at 6th level, I wanted to show that higher level characters can be broadly skilled and as viable as their more specialized brethren. As a GM I would use Cato as the foil for much of the underground dealings of the campaign, the painting would make a fine mcguffin. Again, though inspired by the Gran Meccanismo game, he could work in any setting which could contain a person of wealth and power on both sides of the law.

Cato Vespasian