Introducing the Year of the Risen Rune Monday, April 30, 2012I took a break from the Gen Con push today to write this blog post, and my mind started to wander. I thought a bit about days gone by and how last year at this time we were under just as much pressure trying to get Ultimate Combat off to the presses in time. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Anyway, I also thought to myself, Self, what sort of blog were you writing this time last year? ... Aha! myself answered. I...
Introducing the Year of the Risen Rune
Monday, April 30, 2012
I took a break from the Gen Con push today to write this blog post, and my mind started to wander. I thought a bit about days gone by and how last year at this time we were under just as much pressure trying to get Ultimate Combat off to the presses in time. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Anyway, I also thought to myself, "Self, what sort of blog were you writing this time last year?"
"Aha!" myself answered. "I can do a search and find out!"
Now, those of you who've been following our Monday Pathfinder Society blog posts for a while likely remember this time in spring 2011, when we had a very lengthy series of posts covering "The Future of Pathfinder Society Organized Play." In fact, that series was when we started doing weekly posts and claimed Monday as our own special day of the week. So I checked back to Part VII of that series from May 2. And lo and behold, that was when we announced the title of the current season, the Year of the Ruby Phoenix.
"Self, you should do the same thing for Season 4 in your blog post for Monday," I said. And it seemed a reasonable suggestion, so I agreed.
Season 4 of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign will be entitled Year of the Risen Rune. The focus of the season is going to be the Pathfinder Society's burgeoning lodge in the Varisian city of Magnimar—the focal point of the forthcoming Shattered Star Adventure Path, which also debuts at Gen Con 2012. While that Adventure Path won't be sanctioned for Pathfinder Society credit and won't use the faction system we have in the organized play campaign, there will be a lot of overlap between the Adventure Path and the Pathfinder Society campaign. So whatever campaign you play, you'll have lots of options for exploring the untamed frontier region of Varisia and the ancient Thassilonian ruins located there.
We'll have a lot more information about both the Shattered Star Adventure Path and the Year of the Risen Rune in the coming months, but until we get closer to the launch of these exciting adventures, check out the venture-captain who Pathfinder players of all ilks are likely to get to know very well—Sheila Heidmarch—and the Pathfinder Society season's shiny new logo.
Sheila Heidmarch Illustration by Kieran Yanner
The Year of the Risen Rune and the Shattered Star Adventure Path both launch at Gen Con 2012 this August!
Pathfinder Battles Preview: Big Bads (Vol. 1) Friday, April 27, 2012I'm pleased to report that all but one of the miniatures in the Rise of the Runelords set have been approved (we're still tinkering with a final paint scheme on that last one to get it right), and we stand on the precipice of an important deadline. WizKids is about to order all of the paint for this set, so that the production run can begin in earnest. That means Rise of the Runelords miniatures will soon be spooling their...
Pathfinder Battles Preview: Big Bads (Vol. 1)
Friday, April 27, 2012
I'm pleased to report that all but one of the miniatures in the Rise of the Runelords set have been approved (we're still tinkering with a final paint scheme on that last one to get it right), and we stand on the precipice of an important deadline. WizKids is about to order all of the paint for this set, so that the production run can begin in earnest. That means Rise of the Runelords miniatures will soon be spooling their way down the factory line, which means the set's August release is now visible on the horizon.
Last week, we posted images of the set's packaging to paizo.com, and it took an astute reader all of 11 minutes to realize that the packaging constituted a stealth preview of a previously unseen miniature, and revealed one of the big secrets of the Rise of the Runelords set.
As many of you know, we had to remove three Huge miniatures from the original set mix in order to keep production costs under control. Since I'd revealed the set included a Huge White Dragon in the very first raft of spoilers I leaked about the set here in this blog, and since we'd already revealed three Huge miniatures (the Treachery Demon, Lamia Harridan, and Storm Giant), many folks reasonably concluded that the fourth unrevealed Huge must be the aforementioned White Dragon.
Alas, as the packaging preview revealed, the Huge White Dragon will NOT be in the Rise of the Runelords set after all, as it was one of the three Huge miniatures we had to cut for cost reasons. The decision had nothing to do with the quality of the sculpt (which is EXCELLENT), but more to do with its versatility outside the Rise of the Runelords set. For we have every intention of releasing the White Dragon in an upcoming release, possibly sooner rather than later.
But some minis in this set are designed specifically for use with the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path to the degree that moving them to another set simply isn't an option. The actual fourth Huge figure in the set is one such miniature. I give you, the Karzoug Statue:
Here we have the treacherous Karzoug, Runelord of Greed, the biggest of the big bads of the Rise of the Runelords campaign, come to life as a giant animated statue. When I say “giant,” I'm not kidding. The Karzoug Statue is the tallest and largest of the four Huge miniatures in the set, cutting an imposing figure appropriate for its role in one of the key climactic encounters of the entire Adventure Path. He's so big we actually had to change the Huge Booster packaging after we'd finished it just so he could actually fit in the box.
WizKids's sculptors and painters have done a fantastic job with this miniature, making it look like it is actually made of stone, with little cracks and weathering that add realism to this imposing figure. It looks a bit simple in the tiny photograph, but the detail on this giant miniature is amazing. Karzoug Statues generally come one per Huge case, making it a rare figure.
Next up we have Lamatar Bayden, a one-time commander of [SPOILER!] who saw better days as a hopeless romantic. Now, his command is lost, his romance is shattered, and he's trapped in the form of a hideous ice wight. Accordingly, WizKids sculpted this miniature in clear plastic. Lamatar's sharp icicle fingers and crown are completely clear, granting the rare miniature a (wait for it) chilling effect.
Lastly today we have one of the coolest miniatures in the set, The Mithral Mage! This remnant from the ancient empire of the Runelords has shiny mithral skin, which makes killing him a real pain late in the Rise of the Runelords campaign. The detailed paint steps on The Mithral Mage's costume really steal the show, here, and his dynamic pose perfectly suits his arrogant and imposing personality. He's a rare miniature, and one of the major villains of the last third of the campaign.
Looking over this blog, I'm reminded what a deadly and awesome campaign the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path really is. I'm thrilled to get a chance to create a set of miniatures specifically to support the campaign, and I'm pleased that the 65-figure size of the set allows us the chance to include a few cool campaign-specific miniatures like the ones previewed in this blog.
Next week I think I'll jump back to monsters, and show off a few minis no one has even guessed are in the set, yet!
Paizo Publishing’s 10th Anniversary Retrospective—Year 2 (2004)—The Worst of Times
Paizo Publishing’s 10th Anniversary Retrospective—Year 2 (2004) The Worst of Times Thursday, April 26th, 2012 This blog entry is the third in a series of blogs commemorating Paizo's 10th anniversary. ... Click here to read the first installment.As 2004 opened, there was a cloud hanging over Paizo. The reality that Star Wars Insider and the Star Wars Fan Club were going away in a few short months really hit home. Star Wars accounted for more than half of Paizo's revenue, and supporting...
As 2004 opened, there was a cloud hanging over Paizo. The reality that Star Wars Insider and the Star Wars Fan Club were going away in a few short months really hit home. Star Wars accounted for more than half of Paizo's revenue, and supporting the company purely on income from Dragon and Dungeon wasn't going to work. I personally had two options. The easiest would be to shut down the company. As I mentioned in my first anniversary blog, it takes a long time to get paid for magazine sales, and while that makes starting up a magazine very difficult, it also means that if you stop publishing, money keeps coming in for almost a year. It would have taken a while, but eventually, we'd have been able to recoup most of the money that Vic and I had invested in Paizo.
The other, much more daunting option was to try to replace that lost revenue. Subscription and advertising revenue would dry up immediately, of course, and that would hurt a lot, but we would still be receiving big Star Wars Insider newsstand checks for almost a year after our final issue went out in April. That gave us some time to ramp up new business to replace the lost income. We had already launched Undefeated in 2003, and were hopeful that it would start to pick up some of the slack. The other arrow in our quiver was the venerable Amazing Stories magazine, which had been included in the license along with Dragon and Dungeon when we took over Wizards of the Coast's magazine business. Amazing Stories launched in 1926 as the world's first magazine dedicated to science fiction. TSR had acquired it in 1982 and published it for 13 years, putting it on hiatus just a couple of years before Wizards acquired TSR. Wizards almost immediately brought Amazing back, publishing it for about 3 years before resting it themselves in 2000. We decided to try to make it work yet again, with the staff from Star Wars Insider mostly moving directly to Amazing and Dave Gross becoming the magazine's 16th Editor-in-Chief.
This time, we had a slightly different plan. Amazing Stories had always focused almost entirely on prose fiction, with short stories making up the bulk of each issue. We wanted to continue running great original fiction, but we also wanted to cover the rest of sci-fi/fantasy genre: movies, TV shows, comics, video games, etc. We were hoping that we could make a magazine that appealed to fans of science fiction and fantasy, and that the expanded media coverage would make the magazine appealing to a larger advertising base.
Michonne Bourriague and Amy Allen pose with members of the 501st Legion at the Star Wars Fan Club Dinner With the Stars.
But before we relaunched Amazing, we needed to finish up our run on Star Wars Insider and the Official Star Wars Fan Club, and we didn't take that job any less seriously while our time was running out. In February, we held the first and only Fan Club Dinner with the Stars here in Seattle to coincide with Emerald City Comicon. Our guests were Michonne Bourriague (Aurra Sing in The Phantom Menace), and Amy Allen (Aayla Secura in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, which hadn't yet been released). In addition to dinner with the guests, attendees received a stash of Star Wars merchandise supplied by Paizo and Lucasfilm, and a special autographed souvenir photo ticket created just for the event (we still have a few of those for sale here on paizo.com).
Paizo's final issue of Star Wars Insider in April revealed Episode III villain General Grievous, who had previously only been seen in animated form. And as my reign as President of the Official Star Wars Fan Club concluded, I got a chance to go down to San Francisco and dig around in the Star Wars product archives, which was a real thrill for Vic and me as collectors.
With the loss of Star Wars, Dragon became king at Paizo, boasting both the largest number of subscribers as well as the best newsstand sales. Dragon #315 was the first issue ever published which had support for every D&D campaign setting—19 of them—from Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk to Red Steel and Hollow World. Dragon #319, coupled with its sister publication Dungeon #110, gave 3.5 DMs everything they might need to set a campaign in the world of Dark Sun. Dragon #320 celebrated the 30th anniversary of D&D with one of my favorite pieces of cover artwork ever!
Lisa Stevens at the Paizo booth sporting the Warduke T-shirt made for theDungeon relaunch and Erik Mona showing off the T-shirt designed for the relaunch of Dragon.
The biggest news for Dragon that year came at Gen Con, in the form of a relaunch that began with Dragon #323. We had heard from our readers that our issues were often too hit-or-miss for them—with narrow themes such as Dark Sun or ninjas, there was always some portion of the audience that wouldn't find it useful. And if a large enough group skipped a particular issue, we'd lose money on it. So our new goal was to provide something for everyone with every issue. Since many of Dragon's readers were players, we started the Class Acts section, which would include a short article for each of the core classes. We also put more consideration into balancing the types of articles that made up each issue to ensure that we didn't leave anyone out. For the most part, this seemed to really work, and Dragon's sales started to improve.
With the continuation of the Adventure Path concept we'd launched the previous year, things were also looking up for Dungeon. 2004 ended up being one of the most important years for the magazine, and its success eventually heralded Erik Mona's rise from Editor-in-Chief to Publisher and James Jacobs' rise from Associate Editor to Creative Director.
Dungeon #111 introduced the first-ever adventure for Eberron, and the following month saw Dungeon's most ambitious issue ever: Erik and James worked with Gary Gygax and Robert J. Kuntz to revise and expand Kuntz's famous Maure Castle superdungeon. This issue also marked the first and only time that Dungeon had just one massive adventure packed between the covers.
The Undefeated cheerleaders and the temporary tattoos from Gen Con 2004.
At Gen Con, Dungeon also had a relaunch with issue #114, with even bigger changes than we'd made in Dragon. First off, Polyhedron went away as the companion offering to each Dungeon issue. This was significant to Erik especially, as he had come up through the ranks as Polyhedron's Editor-in-Chief, and the magazine held an important place in his heart. But readers were making it clear to us that Polyhedron was a very divisive feature, and if we wanted to give Dungeon a chance to catch up to its more successful brother, Polyhedron had to go.
We also moved Dungeon to a format that featured one low-level, one mid-level, and one high-level adventure in each issue. This gave DMs a treasure trove of adventure content that ensured there was something that could fit their campaigns no matter what levels they were currently playing. In addition to the three adventures, Dungeon would now feature new campaign content in each issue. Dungeon #114 revisited the Isle of Dread and saw the start of Monte Cook's "Dungeoncraft" and Wil Wheaton's "Wil Save" columns. It also featured the very popular "Mad God's Key," the first published work by Jason Bulmahn. The end of 2004 saw the final adventure in the Shackled City Adventure Path and the start of the well-received three-part Greyhawk Istvin series.
Undefeated magazine grew a little bit, finding new subscribers and appearing in a few more mass-market outlets. However, we were still having trouble getting the traction that we really needed in our key market: hobby game stores. At Gen Con, we had Paizo's most controversial promotion ever: the Undefeated cheerleaders, who applied Undefeated temporary tattoos to con-goers arms. It definitely helped drive traffic to the Paizo booth, even if not everyone was happy about us having "booth babes."
Spider-Man adorns the first Paizo issue of Amazing Stories.
Amazing Stories launched in September, though we offered a sneak peek at Gen Con in August. The first issue showed off Amazing's new look with a Spider-Man movie cover. It also had my favorite thing we published in Amazing Stories: Dave Gross had devised a column called "1,000 Words," where we would provide a writer with a picture, and they would write a story using—you guessed it—1,000 words. Harlan Ellison—er, sorry... "Harlan Ellison®"—was pegged to write the first installment, but due to a miscommunication, he wrote only 100 words. When we pointed out the problem, Harlan befuddled us again by turning in... another 100 words. Desperately, we reached out to Neil Gaiman, who saved the day by writing a hilarious 800-word introduction to Harlan's 200-word story. I couldn't stop laughing!
At the end of August, Paizo moved into new offices on Richards Road in Bellevue. Located just a few blocks away from our first office space, it finally gave us room to give everybody a desk—and most importantly, we actually had warehouse space, and no longer had to stack back issues in the hallways (something that had caused many frowns from the fire inspector).
The biggest change we made at Paizo, though, was largely hidden behind the scenes until late in the year. Webmaster Rob Head added programmer Gary Teter to our web team, and the two of them spent months building an infrastructure that would completely transform paizo.com. Our original website had really been little more than a portal to sign up for magazine subscriptions and a place to post news releases. In August, we rolled out a new paizo.com complete with messageboards, which quickly become home to an incredible community. And in November, we launched our e-commerce store selling not just Paizo's own products, but for the first time offering thousands of gaming items from hundreds of gaming companies. Our first day's sales, on November 24, 2004, weren't earth shattering—in fact, we only did $1,124.56 in total sales the first week! (Trivia: the first non-Paizo product sold through the site was White Wolf's World of Darkness: Antagonists hardcover.) Though it started slow, eventually the paizo.com community and our web store would become two of the most important things that keep Paizo running.
The Paizo office on Richards Road and a peek through the front door, where David Neri answers calls at the new office. To the right, Prepress Manager Kelly O'Brien shows off our high-end Creo Veris machine, used to create color proofs for each page of our magazines.
We'd also had a few big staffing changes at Paizo. After Mary Franklin left the company to join Lucasfilm—where she still is today—Jeff Alvarez, who had started only the previous year as a Customer Service Representative, was made Director of Operations. Keith Strohm was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in August, and in October, Erik Mona was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of both Dragon and Dungeon, a well-deserved change of title for all of his hard work on Dungeon and Polyhedron that year.
The entire Paizo staff had worked their butts off in 2004, but at the end of the year, I was faced with a very tough choice. Even with the launch of Amazing Stories and the growth of Dragon, Dungeon, and Undefeated, Paizo wasn't even coming close to making up the lost revenue from Star Wars Insider. We had finally located the flaws in Johnny Wilson's "Three-Legged Stool" model of the magazine business (detailed in the "Debunking the Three-Legged Stool" section below). Our cash reserves were depleted, and I had actually started to put some of my retirement money into the company to make ends meet—something I had promised myself that I would never do. The stress on me personally was the highest that I have ever borne in my 25 years in the industry. I now knew what they meant when they said that Conan ruled over Hyboria with a heavy brow. There was one particular moment that will forever be etched into my brain: It was a Friday in early December, and Vic and I were driving home from the office late in the evening. It had been a particularly hard day, with money being tight and a bunch of bills going unpaid. I had been agonizing over spreadsheets with sobering names like 2005Hardline.xls, 2005BudgetcutUndft.xls, 2005NoAmazing.xls, 2005BudgetSmallSalaries.xls, 2005Budgetcutpeople.xls, and 2005Armeggedon.xls.
You have to understand, the people at Paizo are my friends. And with just a few keystrokes on a spreadsheet, I was potentially destroying lives, or at least changing their trajectories forever. The stress took over while driving home and I had to pull over to the side of the road and started bawling. I knew in my heart that I needed to make some drastic changes to give the company a chance to survive. I needed to cut Amazing Stories and Undefeated and all of their staffs to give Paizo a chance. But at that moment, sitting on the side of the road, I just wanted all of it to end. I turned to Vic and said, "I am done. I can't do this anymore. Let's just close it all down. I don't care about the money anymore. I just don't want to feel like this each day. I am not strong enough to carry this burden." If I had been alone, I might just have ended Paizo on that day; I was that low. But Vic picked me up, got me talking about the good things we had at Paizo. Got me thinking about how this wasn't the end, just a very large bump in the road.
But it still was a very hard time for me. The first thing I did was lay myself off. There was no way that I was going to draw a paycheck if I had to lay off a bunch of my colleagues. I would work for free and not get paid again until Paizo was on better footing. Then, on December 16, I had to do something that I promised myself I would never do: I had to lay off a bunch of people. All told, six people lost their jobs that day.
At the end of the day, Paizo was a lot leaner and focused. For now, we were the Dragon and Dungeon magazine company. But laying off six people wasn't magically going to put us on the path to prosperity. There was a LOT of hard work to be done in 2005. We needed to start building the foundations of an entirely new company.
Employees who started in 2004 (in order of hiring date):
Jenny Bendel, Director of Marketing
Gary Teter, Software Developer
Ole Sorensen, Graphic Designer
Sarah Robinson, Graphic Designer
Mike Schley, Graphic Designer
Jeff Berkwits, Editor-in-Chief, Amazing Stories
Jason Bulmahn, Associate Editor
Employees who left in 2004 (in order of their end date):
*laid off as part of the cancellation of Amazing Stories and Undefeated
Debunking the Three-Legged Stool
In our first anniversary blog, we mentioned Johnny's Wilson's "three-legged stool" model for magazine publishing, which dictates that successful magazines need to garner revenue from three streams: newsstand sales, subscriptions, and advertising.
Unfortunately, 2004 was the year that we discovered the major flaw in Johnny's model.
We knew that Undefeated was never going to attract a ton of subscribers; instead, we hoped to make most of our money on that title by selling to the hobby gaming market which—unlike sales to newsstands—couldn't be returned and was generally finalized within 90 days. We planned to bolster that solid, predictable income with advertising revenue from game publishers.
Amazing Stories took the opposite tack. We didn't expect much at all in the way of hobby sales, but we hoped to maintain a decent newsstand presence, and, over time, build a small-but-loyal subscriber base like we enjoyed with Dragon and Dungeon. We hoped to attract advertising from book and comic publishers and TV and movie producers.
Best of all, we had a shortcut that would give Amazing an immediate newsstand presence. Newsstands effectively have standing monthly orders for magazines. They may adjust that order from month to month, but once they start buying from you, they generally keep buying from you. The surprising part is that these standing orders aren't done by magazine title, but by something called a bipad. Once you have a bipad, you can actually replace one magazine with another, and the standing order will essentially transfer to the new title. And our distributor told us that we'd be able to use the Star Wars Insider bipad to launch Amazing Stories, so we wouldn't have to spend time and money to convince newsstands to pick up the new magazine—it would be automatic.
In our last blog, we explained that it took over a year to get final newsstand sales figures for a particular issue, so it wasn't until early 2004 that we had full data on even our first few all-Paizo issues of Dragon, Dungeon, and Star Wars Insider. Accountant Dave Erickson and I spent a couple of months poring through that data, and we finally emerged with a spreadsheet that let us predict sales data for recent issues with a fairly high degree of accuracy. Which meant the real analysis could begin.
By the end of 2004, we finally had enough data to prove that magazines don't actually make money from newsstand sales. It turns out that almost all of the costs associated with newsstand distribution increase in direct proportion to the number of copies you distribute; there are almost no economies of scale to be had. Therefore, increasing the number of copies you distribute doesn't increase your margin at all. The only way to increase the potential profit on newsstand sales is to increase the magazine's sell-through—that's the percentage of magazines that you've actually sold to customers once all the returns have been finalized. But it turns out it's virtually impossible to improve sell-through in any long-term way.
Unlike hobby stores, newsstands get to return any magazines they don't sell. This means that there's no risk associated with them ordering too many copies. In fact, retailers deliberately order more than they expect to sell, for a couple of good reasons. The most obvious is that they can't sell magazines they don't have, so ordering more than they think they'll need ensures that they'll have copies to sell in case sales are better than expected. Less obvious is the fact that it's easy for customers to overlook a small stack of magazines on the stand. On a shelf with dozens of different titles, a single copy of a particular magazine can literally get lost in the crowd; it's harder to overlook a stack of four or five copies. So retailers don't just want an extra copy or two on hand‚ they want an extra stack or two. So, no matter how many copies you sell in a month, retailers will order more the next month, assuring that if your sales continue to be strong, your sell-through percentage will stay pretty much the same. And if the next issue proves to be less successful, then they'll just return more copies, decreasing your sell-through, and the fees associated with the extra printing and the extra returns will likely wipe out any extra revenue you may have earned from the previous issue doing so well.
What is good sell-through, anyway? Anything above 30% was considered pretty good in the industry. Our best-ever issues were in the neighborhood of 40%. That means that 60% of the issues we printed were destroyed unsold. A bad issue would have sell-through in the 10% range. So not only were we sometimes paying to print almost nine times as many copies as we actually sold, but we were also paying to have all those copies trucked around the country, put out on newsstands, removed from newsstands a month later, and then destroyed. Along with, of course, a fee to the distributor for tracking all of that activity for us.
At this point, you may be wondering how all of those other magazines on the newsstand survive if none of them make any money. The answer is that those magazines make their money almost solely from advertising. (Open up a popular newsstand magazine and look at the masthead—that's magazine lingo for the credits page—and you'll usually find that the advertising sales staff vastly outnumbers the editorial staff.) These magazines are willing to lose piles of money on newsstand distribution in order to get people to buy them. The reason is that the more readers they have—whether profitable or not—the more they can charge advertisers to reach those readers. (This also explains why they often have low, low cover prices that don't even cover the cost of printing, or subscription rates that don't even cover the cost of postage, much less printing and editorial costs.)
But specialty magazines like Dragon and Dungeon can't bring in the same kinds of ads that those magazines can. They're not going to pull high-revenue ads for cars, cigarettes, or designer watches. At best, we might get ads for video games or high-profile fantasy novels‚ and those only because of Dragon and Dungeon's strong position in those markets, the result of decades of history. Amazing Stories and Undefeated didn't have that going for them.
Generating ad revenue is a difficult business. Advertisers want to know that the money they're spending on advertising results in increased sales. But it's usually very hard for advertisers to determine whether their ads are bringing them customers. From the publisher's side, we could provide estimates of the number of people that were potentially reading the ad, and we could talk about the prestige of being in the magazine. We could even tell them how some distributors would only carry RPG products that were being advertised in Dragon. But we couldn't tell them how much of a return they'd get on their investment. And as the internet became a more viable—and more measurable—means of spreading the word and selling products, magazine ad sales became harder and harder to do.
Worse still, even when we did manage decent ad sales, actually getting paid was a difficult prospect. Leaf through a bunch of old Dragon magazines, and you'll find loads of ads from game publishers and game stores that aren't in business anymore. In many cases, those folks were already in trouble when their ads were in print, and paying us was among the least of their worries. Now, look at some of those full-page ads from big companies... would it surprise you to learn that many of them didn't bother paying us either? The only recourse we had to keep people paying was that we wouldn't run more of their ads until their accounts were paid up—but if companies decided they didn't really need to advertise with us, we were just out of luck. Eventually, we required advertisers to secure ad placements with credit cards, and that helped eliminate most of the deadbeats—but it also reduced the number of people willing to place ads with us. Couple that with the start of a recession, where advertising is among the first things to drop from a company's budget, and you have a very difficult business indeed.
Now recall that our intent for Amazing Stories was to make its money on the newsstand and from advertising, and that we had the benefit of the Star Wars Insider bipad to launch Amazing. Well, shortly before launch, we learned that we had been misinformed about the bipad. We'd have been able to use the bipad if Insider had ceased publication, but because it was simply going to another publisher, the bipad had to go with it. That left us needing to spend months upon months and thousands upon thousands of dollars to build up an unprofitable newsstand presence from scratch, just so we could get circulation numbers high enough to begin the daunting task of trying to attract advertisers that might want to pay us. We hadn't yet realized it, but before our first issue even hit the stands, the world's oldest sci-fi magazine's days were once again numbered.
So what about Undefeated, with its non-returnable hobby sales revenue? We mentioned last month that if we could just get every game store in the country to buy two copies, we'd be set. (And frankly, we probably could have gotten by with just one copy per store.) But what we hadn't considered was the low value proposition for hobby distributors. Hobby distributors make a percentage of the retail price of everything they sell to their retailers. They have a limited amount of time each month in direct contact with each retailer, though, and if they have the choice between spending five minutes trying to get them to buy an $80 trading card game display box or trying to get them to buy an $8 magazine, well, the game makes them 10 times the money. After 10 issues, we realized that we weren't going to get around that fact, and coupled with the lack of ad revenue, we had to pull the plug on Undefeated.
Working with creative people in a high-stress environment such as magazine publishing can lead to crazy and fun times. In 2004, a meme started with photos of employees slapping Advertising Director Rob Stewart. Of course, it was all choreographed. As time went on, the phony slaps became more and more animated. Here are a number of pictures of folks doing "The Slap" on Rob.
From Left to Right: Amanda Titus, David Neri, Erik Mona, Keith Strohm, Sarah Robinson, and Sean Glenn.
Lisa Stevens CEO
The Bulmahn Cometh
2004 was a crazy year for me. I was working for an architectural firm in Milwaukee while moonlighting with the RPGA as one of the Living Greyhawk campaign directors. My duties included writing, editing, and approving adventures, so I decided to try to get published in Dungeon, sending them an adventure that was tied into Living Greyhawk. Erik and James liked the idea and published "Mad God's Key" in Dungeon #114.
I had always wanted to work in the game industry, and with a publishing credit under my belt and a few years’ experience working with Wizards, I decided to shoot for the moon and applied for a job in Wizards of the Coast's R&D department. I was incredibly surprised when I made it all the way to the end of the process, and in July, Wizards flew me out to Seattle for a face-to-face interview. I knew the job at Wizards was a long shot, so it came as no real surprise when they eventually offered the job to someone else.
But while I was in town for the Wizards interview, I also paid a visit to Paizo, where Erik hastily put me to work combing through the slush pile. As it turns out, while Wizards was interviewing me, they were also interviewing Dragon editor Matt Sernett for a different position, and when they hired Matt a few months later, that left Paizo with a job opening. Erik dropped me an email to let me know that Paizo was hiring, and just two weeks later, after a few quick calls and an interview, I was driving out to Seattle. My first day of work was October 11.
The whole time was rather surreal. I was incredibly excited to be working on Dragon, a magazine I had been reading since I was a kid, but I didn't know much about how magazines were put together. It was a steep learning curve, but I had plenty of time in my life for work. I was living in a tiny place with rented furniture until my belongings back in Milwaukee could be packed up and shipped out to join me. I didn't know anyone other than my coworkers, so I didn't have too many distractions. That said, I nearly quit and drove back to Milwaukee just a few weeks later.
Everything had seemed to be going fine. I was finally getting a handle on how the job worked when Erik came back into the editorial pit and closed the door—and nobody ever closed that door. He explained to everyone that Paizo was laying off a number of employees and putting Undefeated and Amazing Stories on permanent hiatus. I was shocked. I was worried that I had joined a company that was in danger, and I'd left behind a good stable job to do it. Later that afternoon, I pulled Erik aside and asked him if I should plan to move back to Milwaukee. After all, my old lease wasn't even up, and I was pretty sure I could get my old job back. He reassured me that Dragon and Dungeon were doing great and that I had nothing to worry about, but it took me a few more weeks to come to believe that. Looking back, sticking with Paizo was the best decision I've ever made.
Hell or High Water—Chapter One: Death, Debt, Doubt
Hell or High Waterby Ari Marmell ... Chapter One: Death, Debt, DoubtThe first of the charau-ka died before he knew he was in danger. ... The huntress had tracked the apes and the traitor from the kraal of the Imjaka, through towering boles and curtains of hanging vines; across mattresses of leaves and fungi-infested soils that greedily retained the prints of passersby. Those who had hunted alongside her had long since turned back, unwilling to press so far from home. ... But she would not...
Hell or High Water
by Ari Marmell
Chapter One: Death, Debt, Doubt
The first of the charau-ka died before he knew he was in danger.
The huntress had tracked the apes and the traitor from the kraal of the Imjaka, through towering boles and curtains of hanging vines; across mattresses of leaves and fungi-infested soils that greedily retained the prints of passersby. Those who had hunted alongside her had long since turned back, unwilling to press so far from home.
But she would not turn back. The traitor Okamsi had been her friend; that made the tribe's vengeance her responsibility.
When she caught up to the baboon-faced, musk-and-feces-perfumed ape-things, they had halted beneath a thick canopy of branches, apparently arguing in their hooting, grunting language. They numbered three, which worried the huntress—not because she feared such odds, but because they had numbered five, plus Okamsi, when they'd first set out.
So where had the others gone?
She watched, wary of some snare or deception, but eventually the argument came to an end. The trio of charau-ka prepared to set out once more, and still no sign of the missing.
Time, then, to put her doubts aside.
Spears hissed through the canopy, shredding clusters of leaves. The first, a light and springy thing with a broad head of iron, sank into the back of the first ape-man, followed almost instantly by the second. Spears three and four were in the air, seeking fresh targets, before the perforated charau-ka had crumpled to the loam.
Hooting and screeching, the remaining simian warriors leapt aside, allowing the missiles to sink harmlessly into the earth. Hauling thick, knotted cudgels from the leather harnesses that were their only garb, they spun to face their unseen attacker. One slammed his club to the earth, shrieking in challenge. The other leapt for the branches, dangling by one hand and one prehensile foot, sniffing at the air.
Fleet as the jaguar, agile as the gibbon, the huntress leapt from the cover of the trees. She was a lithe, wiry figure, her skin darker and richer than the fertile soils on which she stood, marred only by the faded scars of an old burn spread unevenly across her left shoulder and her neck. Other than the white of her eyes and teeth, the only brighter hue in either her garb or her complexion came from a lion-skin kilt, partially slit so as not to impede her steps. From a belt of cowhide hung her quiver of throwing spears, and a pair of empty sheaths.
In each hand she held the former occupants of those sheaths: her faithful mambeles, wicked crescents of iron, almost like sickles with extra blades protruding at all angles.
She was taller than the charau-ka, but she had seen the strength and ferocity of the foul creatures before and knew better than to be fooled by their size. For an endless instant, human and charau-ka locked burning, unblinking eyes. Then they were coming at her. Their shrieks grew higher until they were a fire in the ears, and they crossed the intervening distance—whether afoot or swinging from the heavy branches—with a speed that astonished even the experienced Imjaka huntress.
Astonished—but not dismayed.
The huntress let fly, sending a mambele whistling through the air as she dove. Leaves and mushrooms crunched, the latter emitting a pungent and unhealthy smell as she rolled on one shoulder, passing just beneath the reach of the tree-borne charau-ka's bludgeon.
Her second enemy, though still roaring his fury, had jerked to a halt at the impact of the many-pointed weapon. It protruded from his chest—not deep enough to reach anything vital, but agonizing enough.
The forward tumble brought her back to her feet—or rather, to her knees, ending in a crouch before her diminutive foe. She yanked the mambele from his chest, twisting to widen the wound. That second jolt of pain, in turn, bought her enough time to bring her arms—and her blades—together across his throat.
"Ameyanda fears no man or beast, but only a fool ventures into the Sodden Lands."
Both mambeles, one already blooded, the other pristine, dug through simian fur and flesh. First a gout of the charau-ka's blood spattered across the earth, followed by his weapon—and then the charau-ka itself.
Hanging now by his feet, the surviving simian hurled a pair of stones, produced from spirits-knew-where. The huntress knocked the first aside with a desperate backhand, iron blade sparking on the jagged rock, but she'd no way to avoid the second. All she could do was rise from her crouch so that she took the stone against leather-warded chest rather than unprotected head.
Dyed the crimson-brown of drying blood, the jerkin was boiled and hardened to turn aside spears and arrows, yet she felt her flesh bruise, her rib shuddering but thankfully not cracking with the impact.
She needed to close, fast. Fortunately, the damn monkey's acrobatics and elevation didn't give him nearly the advantage he anticipated.
Again the mambele flew, followed swiftly by the second. The charau-ka swung aside on one foot, allowing both blades to sink harmlessly into the wood; but then, she'd known full well that he would.
In the brief seconds of his dodge, the huntress broke into a run and leapt. Hands calloused by a life in the wilds of the Mwangi Expanse closed around the rough bark. Even as the charau-ka spun back her way, she swung forward, wrapping her calves around the creature's torso just below his arms. A sharp twist of the waist was enough to shake the bough and, more significantly, yank the ape-man from his perch to land headfirst on the jungle floor.
It wasn't much of a fall, not nearly enough to kill. No, it was the woman landing on him even as he bounded upright, both mambeles once more in her hands and angled sharply downward, that did the trick.
Silence, then, save for the huntress's sharp breaths. Still alert for the missing charau-ka, she carefully cleaned her blades on the creature's hairy hide before sheathing them. She then made her way to the spears, jutting from soil or flesh, retrieving those that might be reused, salvaging the iron tips from those that could not.
"If you seek the human, you will not find him."
She spun to face the thick screen of foliage from which the voice had come. It had an odd sound to it: raspy, slightly mangled, as though spoken by someone unaccustomed to the regional dialect.
Or, she realized when the figure stepped into the open, by a mouth that was never meant to pronounce the words.
He stood perhaps a head taller than she. Scales the murky green of stagnant swamp water faded gradually into a sallow tan across his throat and chest. A crest of similarly colored spines ran from atop his head to the base of his tail. He wore only an open vest and loincloth of some mammalian hide, but his eyes gleamed with cunning and the black talons of one hand were wrapped around a feather-and-bone-bedecked spear.
It was only as she completed her fleeting inspection that she realized she had no way of knowing if "he" was in fact male. She'd just assumed, perhaps due to the voice.
Her own hands lingered near the mambeles, but if the newcomer was hostile, he could have struck from concealment. Warily, she straightened and ran a hand over the prickly stubble that was the only hair atop her scalp. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"I have watched these charau-ka since before midday. They met earlier with one of the great speaking gorillas of Usaro. A wizard, surely, for it disappeared soon after, taking two of the charau-ka and a human with it. They may be anywhere now, perhaps even Usaro itself. As you clearly track them, I assume it is the human you seek?"
She growled something she hoped, afterward, the reptile wouldn't be able to translate. "Yes, damn it. It is."
The lizardman nodded, though whether the gesture meant the same thing coming from him as it would from her, she was unsure.
"I am Ameyanda," she said, remembering at least a sliver of etiquette while the bulk of her attention was focused on figuring out what she was supposed to do now. "Of the Imjaka."
"Seyusth, of Haa-Ok. And I know you already, Ameyanda of Imjaka."
"Grandmother Sun's blessings on—what? You know me?"
"I know you, yes. I am, in fact, seeking you, not those." He gestured with an empty hand toward the apish corpses.
"Why?" Her own hand edged again toward her weapons.
"I seek one of my clan, my..." He paused, blinking languidly, perhaps trying to recall the proper word, or to explain a concept that didn't translate. "‘Cousin,' is the nearest term in your language. You will help me retrieve him."
"Is that so? Seyusth, not only have I my own hunt to—"
"You cannot find your missing human any time soon. You have no means of tracking him."
"Not only have I my own hunt," she repeated through a cage of clenched teeth, "but why, by all the gods, would I involve myself in yours?"
"Because, Ameyanda of the Imjaka, you owe me your life."
A pause; a blink; a breath.
"Oh. You're that lizardman."
Ameyanda had no difficulty remembering. She still dreamed about it.
She felt the crunch of twigs and fungi beneath her feet, saw the trees and fronds whipping by to either side, heard her own desperate gasps echoed in the panting of Mbamsi and Entandwi. She gagged as the ominous musk—not quite reptile and not quite avian, but distilled from the worst of both—seeped malevolently into those breaths, as if taunting. And she heard the cracking and snapping, hissing and spitting, as the pack closed far, far too rapidly from behind. They were smaller than most of the predatory thunder-lizards of the Mwangi, those raptors, but they were large enough, fierce enough, and horrifyingly cunning enough to take down prey far stronger than the three Imjaka youths. They'd already lost Xabadzi to the raptors' initial ambush.
Ameyanda and her friends would follow him soon enough.
Or they would have, had the grasses themselves not come to the rescue. Wiggling like serpents, they intertwined with the pounding talons of the raptors. Yanked to a halt, some so swiftly that they toppled, the thunder-lizards began to slash and chew at the suddenly hostile flora.
They might, perhaps, have gnawed themselves free soon enough, but the trio's fortune had not yet run out. From a sky largely bereft of clouds, the lightning cracked. When the first of the raptors was seared, shrieking in pain, the others redoubled their efforts. By the time the third had suffered the same agonizing fate, the rest wanted nothing more than to be elsewhere. Finally ripping themselves free, the surviving members of pack scattered, their prey forgotten.
For a moment, as Ameyanda had turned, wide-eyed, toward Mbamsi and Entandwi, she caught a glimpse of one of the mysterious lizardfolk, deep in the jungle's shadows. Ameyanda knew little about magic, then, but she knew that what she'd witnessed had in no way been natural. Tentatively, she raised a hand in greeting.
Her reptilian savior had solemnly returned the gesture before vanishing into the trees.
Ameyanda dragged her mind across the intervening half-decade and back to the figure she'd never thought to see again.
"I owe you," she admitted, her voice low. "And the Imjaka repay our debts."
"Good," was all Seyusth offered in reply.
Stifling a sigh, the huntress went to retrieve the woven satchel of supplies that she'd left in the hollow of a winding tree root before engaging the charau-ka. "You could explain yourself, at least," she suggested sourly. "Why come to me? Could the other Haa-Ok not—?"
"My people have no desire to assist me. Our journey may take us into the territories of the Terwa Lords."
"And those are who?"
"The..." Again, Seyusth seemed briefly at a loss. "What is your term for my kind?"
"Your...? Oh. Ah, ‘lizardfolk.'"
His snout twitched as though he'd just swallowed something that had decided to bite back. "Yes. The ‘lizardfolk' of the western swamps are not like Haa-Ok, or our neighboring tribes. They are fiercer. More bloodthirsty."
Ameyanda hefted the satchel over her shoulder. "We've had trouble with lizardfolk raids now and then. Them?"
"Most probably. The Terwa Lords—those who rule the swamp tribes—seek expansion and conquest. They have attempted, at times, to annex even tribes far into the Mwangi, either through promise or threat. The former emptier than the latter, I think."
"They're your enemies," she said. "And your tribesmen—uh, tribeslizards?—will not risk invading their lands over one missing person."
"You understand precisely. I attempted to locate Issisk—the missing one—myself, but my knowledge of the region proved insufficient. It cost me an entire moon of wasted effort."
Ameyanda was frowning, tapping a hand idly against her quiver. "I'm a skilled warrior," she said without braggadocio, "and I've seen your power... shaman?"
"As accurate a term as any."
"But I don't believe the two of us can fight an entire nation, Seyusth."
"You misunderstand. While we may pass through their territories, the Terwa do not have Issisk. If he lives, he is in the hands of the swamp's savage humans."
The satchel fell back to the soil with a dull thump. "You mean the scavenger gangs," she hissed, a fair imitation of a reptile herself. "When you say ‘the western swamps'... You mean to take us into the Sodden Lands."
"If that is what you call the storm-drowned territories beyond the jungle's edge," the lizardman told her, "then yes."
Coming Next Week: A journey into hurricane-wracked wastelands in Chapter Two of "Hell or High Water."
Ari Marmell is an author and game designer, and has written extensively for Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, World of Darkness, and more. His novels include the independent dark fantasy novels The Conqueror's Shadow and The Warlord's Legacy, the young adult fantasy Thief's Covenant, and the morbidly humorous The Goblin Corps, among others. For more information, see his website at mouseferatu.com.
Versatility is a Human Virtue Tuesday, April 24, 2012 ... Illustration by Eric BraddockWhen planning out Advanced Race Guide we knew that humans were going to give us some trouble. What do you give the race that has the cleanest slate and the most open-ended bonus options? We sat down and had to ask what makes humans... well, human. ... We came up with a short list of human virtues. One of the strongest human virtues on the list was versatility. Humans are downright tenacious in their ability...
Versatility is a Human Virtue
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Illustration by Eric Braddock
When planning out Advanced Race Guide we knew that humans were going to give us some trouble. What do you give the race that has the cleanest slate and the most open-ended bonus options? We sat down and had to ask what makes humans... well, human.
We came up with a short list of human virtues. One of the strongest human virtues on the list was versatility. Humans are downright tenacious in their ability to adapt and thrive. Few human cultures are tied to the ancient traditions and stubborn cultural and martial forms of other races. Even humans in well-established cultures have a dramatic tendency to delve deep into their experience and intrinsic gumption to not only survive but also thrive when the chips are down. The following group of human racial feats was designed to emulate human’s intrinsic versatility.
Critical Versatility (Combat)
An open mind and combat training grant versatility to your critical hits. Prerequisites: Fighter level 11th, human. Benefit: Once per day, you can spend 1 hour practicing maneuvers to gain one single critical feat that you meet the prerequisites for. You gain the benefits of the chosen critical feat until you choose to practice a different critical feat.
Your progress gains extra versatility. Prerequisites: Int 13, human. Benefit: When you gain a level in a favored class, you gain both +1 hit point and +1 skill rank instead of choosing either one or the other benefit or you can choose an alternate class reward.
Martial Mastery (Combat)
You broaden your study of weapons to encompass multiple similar weapons. Prerequisites: Martial Versatility, fighter level 16th, human. Benefit: Each combat feat you have that applies to a specific weapon (e.g., Weapon Focus) can be used with all weapons in the same weapon group (Ultimate Combat 45).
Martial Versatility (Combat)
You further broaden your study of weapons to encompass multiple similar weapons. Prerequisites: Fighter level 4th, human. Benefit: Choose one combat feat you know that applies to a specific weapon (e.g., Weapon Focus). You can use that feat with any weapon within the same weapon group. Special: You may take this feat more than once. Each time it applies to a different feat.
Next week we will start delving into the next chapter of the book with a look at an old favorite.
Remembering Season 2 and the Assignment of New Venture-Captains
Remembering Season 2 and the Assignment of New Venture-Captains Monday, April 23, 2012 ... Illustration by Ryan PortilloOne of my top goals from day one has been to see a facelift to the Pathfinder Society home page, and the creation of various sub-pages that will link to it. Though I can’t provide much details of what the final results will look like yet, I can say that one of the areas it will include is a section on the history of Pathfinder Society Organized Play. ... It is important that...
Remembering Season 2 and the Assignment of New Venture-Captains
One of my top goals from day one has been to see a facelift to the Pathfinder Society home page, and the creation of various sub-pages that will link to it. Though I can’t provide much details of what the final results will look like yet, I can say that one of the areas it will include is a section on the history of Pathfinder Society Organized Play.
It is important that new players can join the Society at any time and look back at what has happened in regard to the storyline from previous seasons. At the same time, veteran players will be able reflect back on what happened during a season they participated in. This is especially true as we move forward with the revamp of faction missions and season-long faction goals having lasting effects on future storylines, the viability of the factions’ existences, and rewards that characters in certain factions can earn. The first goal to accomplish this was a recap of Season Two, Year of the Shadow Lodge.
I met with Wolfgang Baur at Neon Con last November to discuss how we could get more Pathfinder, specifically Pathfinder Society, into Kobold Quarterly. When I pitched the idea of a Season Two recap in the spring issue, KQ #21, he seemed excited. I reached out to Nicholas Gray, a very devoted player I knew from my days in Atlanta, and he agreed to write up a summation that included the major plot points from the scenarios that revolved around the Shadow Lodge insurgency. Once the summer issue of Kobold Quarterly is released, and the new Pathfinder Society home page goes live, this article will also appear on the history section. A big thank you goes out to both Wolfgang and Nick for making the idea become a reality. You will also be able to find a recap of Season 3, Year of the Ruby Phoenix, shortly after Gen Con on the same page.
Switching focus from the history of Pathfinder Society to the future, in the past 4 to 6 weeks, I have assigned six new Venture-Captains to the Society to help grow PFS in their regions. Some were announced on the messageboards. Others have recently been assigned. Regardless, I wanted to write a few words to make sure they receive the recognition and thanks they deserve for stepping up and taking the reigns of PFS in their regions.
The two newest Venture-Captains to be assigned are James Engle in Cleveland, Ohio and James Hebert in New Orleans, LA.
James Engle will not only will be focusing his efforts on the Cleveland area, but he will also be helping coordinate the growth of Pathfinder Society in Canton and Akron as well. He advised me during his interview process that he would help out Toledo if there were a need.
James Hebert will expand outside of New Orleans and reach out to Lafayette and Lake Charles to the west, and Biloxi, Mississippi to the east. He also advised a trip to Baton Rouge may not be out of the question if there were interested stores or players looking to set establish games as well. Although it nearly killed me to put a Saints fan into a Venture-Captain position, I have faith that James can rise above the normal expectations of Saints fans and do a good job with Pathfinder Society. ;-)
We also added Michael McNerney in Columbus, Ohio, Karim Majeri in Paris, France, and Daniel Luckett in Western Michigan. Finally, we promoted Venture-Lieutenant Clint Blome to full Venture-Captain status of the Omaha, Nebraska region.
You have my thanks, and I’m sure the appreciation of your local players, for all of your efforts in coordinating Pathfinder Society.
Mike Brock Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator
Pathfinder Battles Preview: Behold the Black Arrows!
Pathfinder Battles Preview: Behold the Black Arrows! Friday, April 20, 2012I'm on the road this week, so today's preview will be short and sweet. ... In recent weeks, we've showed off a lot of monsters and villains from the Rise of the Runelords set of Pathfinder Battles prepainted miniatures. This week, I'd like to show off a trio of key NPCs that might prove to be enemies OR allies in the course of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path, the notorious Black Arrows rangers! ... I'm really...
Pathfinder Battles Preview: Behold the Black Arrows!
Friday, April 20, 2012
I'm on the road this week, so today's preview will be short and sweet.
I'm really pleased with how awesome these minis turned out. Best of all, they make for great player character minis, and perfect stand-ins for whatever kind of warrior-types you might need in your campaigning beyond the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path.
First up we have Jakardros Sovark, an uncommon human ranger who happens to be the stepfather of Shalelu Andosana, Varisia's famed elf ranger protector. Jakardros lost an eye somewhere along the way, but I assure you that hasn't hurt his skill with the bow and arrow!
Next up is Vale Temros, an uncommon human ranger/fighter with two axes and a whole lot of hurt to unleash on his enemies! I'm thrilled with how well Vale turned out, and in-hand I think he's one of the best miniatures in the set. I'd certainly love to put him on my table as either a PC or NPC!
Last up we have Kaven Windstrike, an uncommon ranger/rogue who might not turn out to be quite as helpful as his Black Arrow fellows. Unfortunately, Kaven's sword snapped off before we could grab a good photo of him (the paint masters are made of a much more brittle plastic than the final figures), so you'll have to use your imagination to see his supremely awesome sword. (Ok, it's pretty much just a normal sword, but as long as we're imagining...).
Pirate Familiars Thursday, April 19, 2012 ... Illustration by Typer WalpoleAvast there, ye scurvy swabs! This week sees the release of Pathfinder Adventure Path #55: The Wormwood Mutiny, which includes, among other things, four new familiars for you swashbuckling spellcasters out there. But pirates stole into our computers during the dead of night and made off with some valuable loot—the bonuses these familiars grant their masters! Fortunately, we tracked down the villainous knaves on the...
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Illustration by Typer Walpole
Avast there, ye scurvy swabs! This week sees the release of Pathfinder Adventure Path #55: The Wormwood Mutiny, which includes, among other things, four new familiars for you swashbuckling spellcasters out there. But pirates stole into our computers during the dead of night and made off with some valuable loot—the bonuses these familiars grant their masters! Fortunately, we tracked down the villainous knaves on the open seas and recovered our lost cargo—and took a few extra bits o’ plunder for ourselves.
So without further ado, here’s the rules for the pirate familiars presented in The Wormwood Mutiny, with a few other pirate familiars thrown in for good measure!
Other Piratical Familiars
Trained animals are extremely popular among pirates, serving as pets, ships’ mascots, and company on lengthy voyages. Pirate spellcasters prove no different than their shipmates in their interest in pets, and find having exotic familiars wins them bragging rights and a degree of status. Creatures like blue-ringed octopuses, goats, hawks, rats, lizards, king crabs, monkeys, rats, scarlet spiders, snapping turtles, vipers, and weasels all serve as existing examples of potential pirate familiars that appear in either the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary or Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Magic. Additionally, the statistics for many existent familiars might be used to represent more exotic, piratical familiars. The following table presents a variety of such exotic familiars, statistics that can be used to represent them, and the benefits of having them as familiars (which, in some cases, vary from the familiar creatures whose statistics they share).
Mother Bearsby Wendy N. Wagner ... Chapter Three: Fires by DayJendara followed Tam's light, feeling the cave's blackness like velvet pressing against her skin, her nostrils. She wanted to run outside before the cave smothered her. But she couldn't stop thinking of that horrible wail. It wasn't Kran—he could make a few sounds, but none so loud or carrying. She reminded herself of that fact again and again. ... It still made her skin crawl. ... Remember, Tam called over his shoulder. Keep...
by Wendy N. Wagner
Chapter Three: Fires by Day
Jendara followed Tam's light, feeling the cave's blackness like velvet pressing against her skin, her nostrils. She wanted to run outside before the cave smothered her. But she couldn't stop thinking of that horrible wail. It wasn't Kran—he could make a few sounds, but none so loud or carrying. She reminded herself of that fact again and again.
It still made her skin crawl.
"Remember," Tam called over his shoulder. "Keep an eye on the person ahead of you. The floor of these places isn't always—"
His voice cut off in a scream and his light disappeared.
Jendara darted forward. "Tam!"
"Jendara, stop!" Vorrin shouted.
She froze. By the glow of her lantern, she could see the sudden drop Tam hadn't. The tunnel opened into great mouthing darkness that her lantern barely began to light. "Are you all right?"
"My arm's caught." Tam grunted. "Caught bad."
Vorrin knelt beside her. "I can wrap a rope around this bit of stalagmite, lower you down. Be some work getting the two of you up again, but I can manage it."
Jendara held her lantern over the cliff’s edge, getting a glimpse of Tam's red hair about seven feet below her, just above the floor of what must be a vast cavern. The cliff broke up into long fingers of rock at the bottom, and he hung from the crotch of the two tallest. Jendara shook her head. "Damn, that's ugly. Let's do this fast before he loses an arm."
Somewhere in the darkness, the wail sounded again. Jendara felt gooseflesh prickle as she passed her length of rope to Vorrin.
"Make a good knot when you join those."
He brushed his fingers down her cheek. "The best."
She didn't watch him tie the two ropes together or wrap the rope around the rock, just moved her lantern out of the way and rubbed dirt into the palms of her hands. She didn't need any sweat to make climbing harder.
Vorrin wrapped the rope around her waist and tied it tight. She clambered over the cliff edge, and after only a moment's climbing could hear Tam's pained breathing below her. He was too much the islander to groan or whimper—the raw rasp of his inhalations was as bad as a scream. But there was no way to climb faster. No light, no ladder, just her fingers and toes searching out purchase on the cracked rocks.
Suddenly Jendara's palms went sweat-slick. Her fingers slipped off the narrow handhold, and for a sickening second she swung from the end of the rope, her face scraping the cavern wall.
"Jendara!" Vorrin yelled.
Then her foot found a hold, a rock spur of some kind. "I'm okay!"
And wished she'd been quiet as a frenzied barking sounded out in the darkness.
"Gods," Tam groaned. Jendara could see what he saw, a brightening in the distance like flickering torchlight. She thought of the goblin dog scat on the boat and climbed faster.
The bottom of the cliff came as a surprise. Now that she was down, Vorrin's hands were free to hoist the lantern, lighting up Tam and the rocky ground.
The goblin dog's snarl echoed off the walls of the great cavern. Jendara loosened the rope from her waist and stretched on tiptoe to work it around Tam's. His breathing was just tiny gasps now. Every ounce of his body hung from the pinned arm.
Jendara locked her arms around his thighs, grunting as she lifted him up out of the vise. A horrible squeak choked in his throat, and the big man went limp. "Damn it," she whispered. She could only hope he'd regain consciousness soon. She couldn't get him back up that cliff on her own.
Pressing herself against the rock that had gripped him, she pushed off again, getting a little higher. Tam coughed and wriggled. Suddenly all his weight was on Jendara and she staggered.
"Vorrin, he's free!"
"Islander, pirate—but most of all, mother."
The light disappeared, and after a second some of the weight came off Jendara.
Behind the rocks, the goblin dog shrieked. Jendara stiffened as she heard a sound she knew only too well, the dry scrape of air moving in a throat that had never spoken. Kran's strange laugh.
She pushed Tam back against the cliff face, propping him against the wall. She could smell the blood seeping from his scraped and mangled shoulder. "Be right back, friend."
Then she was off. She wished for her own lantern, but guttering torchlight guided her forward, as did a cacophony of sounds: the hollow wailing, a clatter of stones, the hideous sounds of goblin speech.
A goblin dog lay twitching on the cave floor, the end of a very familiar pocketknife jutting out of its eye socket. Its rider had rolled free, and swung a torch around its swollen gray head to block the volley of rocks Kran lobbed at its face. One goblin, alone. Jendara grinned to herself and felt for her belt axe. She could handle one goblin scout and a dead dog.
The belt axe soared through the air. The wet thud of it sinking into the goblin's skull was like music.
Kran dropped his rocks and ran to the dead dog. He jerked his knife free and began to cut at the black pack on the dog's back, which wailed and wriggled. Jendara reclaimed her axe and jogged to his side.
It was no pack, she realized. The glossy black hide belonged to a bear cub, a cut seeping blood along its side. She held its paws as Kran struggled to cut the last of its ties. The white blaze on its nose triggered prickles on the back of her neck.
A grizzly rampaging last night. An island under attack this afternoon.
A goblin scout here right now.
"We've got to get out of here." She tucked the bear cub under her arm and grabbed Kran by the hand, racing for Tam and the only way she knew out of the cave.
"Vorrin! Hurry up!" she bellowed. She didn't wait for him to begin pulling. She slapped Kran on the butt and urged him up the cliff, scurrying behind him. One-handed, weighed down by the bear, she still made it up before Vorrin finished hauling Tam.
They worked together to half-drag Tam out of the tunnel and down to the beach. By the time they hit the sand, they could see the goblin torches flickering at the mouth of the cave, brighter than the faint orange of sunset over the sea.
"How did you know there were more?" Vorrin asked.
"The bear," Jendara grunted, shifting Tam's weight against herself. "The goblins must have scared it last night when they took to the caves. The attack on Black Bay Island was a distraction."
Oric jerked awake from his post on a washed-up log. "Wha—"
But Jendara cut him off. "Run back to your village. If there's trouble, let us know."
His eyes were huge as he nodded and dashed away.
Jendara could already smell smoke. Her stomach sank as they rounded the headland. Flames stained the sky. Oric stood frozen, staring at his burning village.
Behind them, goblin riders whooped and cheered.
Jendara passed her son the injured bear cub. "Kran, run to the Milady and arm yourself. Help the crew protect the docks. And take Oric!"
The boy looked pale, but did as he was told. Jendara smiled up at Tam. "I sure hope you can fight left-handed."
He gave a weak laugh and took up a fighting stance. Jendara felt heat course through her veins, the ice that gripped her all day melting away. She rubbed the tattoos on the backs of her hands and chuckled to herself.
"Little bastards don't know what they're in for."
Jendara stood beside the mound of goblin dead and waited for Vorrin to pass her the torch. Her arms ached with exhaustion, but she felt proud: proud of herself and the people she'd helped defend. A group of women stood close by, and at least one smiled at her. She'd forgotten that, whatever other duties the women of the islands might have, they could still fight. They weren't so different, she and them.
A great roar came up from the docks as the villagers cheered for their returning kin. But many minutes passed before Jendara made out the shapes of the returning war party, and even in the moonlight, she could see a grimness in their approach. The man in front led a shorter figure on a rope.
Oric jumped up from his seat beside Kran. "Father! You're home!" He dashed toward the men but stopped as the torchlight revealed the scowl on his father's face.
"What happened?" Morul growled. "Smoke fills the sky above the island. We found this filth looting the tavern on Black Bay. And all the village gathers here to make a bonfire?"
Vorrin handed the torch to Jendara, and she held it a moment above the goblins. "Not just any bonfire. While you fought the fires on Black Bay Island, the main goblin troop prepared to attack your village under the cover of darkness. They would have succeeded, too, if not for our sons and their furry friend here."
Kran hugged the bear cub, who made a sleepy grumble.
"Bears? Boys? I don't understand."
The wise woman stepped forward. "Know that we only lost one building—the meeting house—and have only two wounded. Jendara and her people helped greatly."
Morul tugged the rope lead hard enough to send the small, dirty man at its end sprawling. "And what of this trash?" Gorg groaned from the sand, but didn't move.
Jendara smiled. "I have an idea." She beckoned to Morul and, when he joined her beside the bonfire, murmured quietly for a moment.
He looked from the cowering Gorg to the villagers to the pile of dead goblins. And then to Jendara. "You truly are Erik Eriksson's daughter, aren't you?"
She laughed and lit the bonfire.
Vorrin watched Jendara finish tucking the blankets around a sleeping Kran and a snoring baby bear. He waited for her to close the cabin door behind her and join him on the deck. The night was clear and the stars brilliant.
Jendara could tell he wanted to say something—something meaningful and true about the day, about helping the village women fight off the goblins, about finding Kran, about everything they had done. But he knew better. Instead, he settled for standing with her and grinning as they watched a small boat row out of the harbor. "Nice of Gorg to chip in like that. Glad he didn't have any hard feelings after that beating we gave him."
"You'd think he'd need his ship, but it was thoughtful of him to leave it to the village for rebuilding materials." Jendara laughed, then sobered.
She reached out to the grizzly fur, still sitting on the deck. "You know, it's funny how this bear saved so many people. If the goblins hadn't driven her out of the caves, she would never have lost her baby or attacked Yul's sheep. Kran wouldn't have followed his ears down into that cavern. Right now, we'd be sailing for the mainland, and a lot of people would be dead."
"That's some bear." Vorrin studied the moon a moment. "Are you disappointed that we missed the tide?"
She shook her head. "No. Not one bit. It felt nice tonight. Like being part of someplace. Like having a home."
He reached for his pipe and lit it, puffing until the coals glowed red. "You know, when we get done selling this load, maybe we should come back here. It'd make for a nice summer harbor."
Jendara looked sideways at him. "You saying we should tie up for summer?"
He puffed the pipe again. "There should be a place we can take the ship for repairs and supplies. A place to let Kran get his land legs. What do you think?"
She nodded, and felt herself begin to smile. Behind his pipe, Vorrin was doing the same.
Neither of them had used the word "home." But for two retired pirates, it was a pretty good first step.
Coming Next Week: Scaly adventures in the Sodden Lands in Ari Marmell's "Hell or High Water"
Wendy N. Wagner is the author of short stories in such anthologies and magazines as Armored, Way of the Wizard, Rigor Amortis, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and more. She is a regular contributor to inkpunks.com, and can be found online at winniewoohoo.com.
A New Leaf for Companions Tuesday, April 17, 2012Hey, everyone. Last week we got a little sidetracked, but we are back this week with the promised preview of the Advanced Race Guide. As part of the treesinger druid archetype, elves can gain a number of plant companions in place of a druid’s normal natural bond ability. Below you will find the full rules for these leafy companions. ... Plant CompanionsEach plant companion has different starting sizes, speed, attacks, ability scores, and...
A New Leaf for Companions
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Hey, everyone. Last week we got a little sidetracked, but we are back this week with the promised preview of the Advanced Race Guide. As part of the treesinger druid archetype, elves can gain a number of plant companions in place of a druid’s normal natural bond ability. Below you will find the full rules for these leafy companions.
Each plant companion has different starting sizes, speed, attacks, ability scores, and special qualities. All plant attacks are made using the creature’s full base attack bonus unless otherwise noted. Plant attacks add the plant’s Strength modifier on the damage roll, unless it has only one attack, in which case it adds 1-1/2 times its Strength modifier. Some plant companions have special abilities, such as scent. Plant companions cannot gain armor or weapon proficiency feats, even as they advance in hit dice, and cannot use manufactured weapons at all unless their description says otherwise.
As you gain levels, your plant companion grows in power as well. It gains the same bonuses that are gained by animal companions, noted on Table 3–8: Animal Companion Base Statistics on page 52 of the Core Rulebook. Each plant companion gains an additional bonus, usually at 4th or 7th level, as listed with each plant choice. Instead of taking the listed benefit at 4th level, you can instead choose to increase the companion’s Strength and Constitution by 2.
Illustration by Anna Christenson
Starting Statistics:Size Small; Speed 30 ft., climb 10 ft.; AC +2 natural armor; Attack bite (1d6); Ability Scores Str 10, Dex 17, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10; Special Qualities low-light vision, scent.
4th-Level Advancement:Size Medium; Attack bite (2d6); Ability Scores Str +4, Dex –2, Con +2; Special Attacks rage (1/day, as the barbarian class feature for 6 rounds).
Starting Statistics:Size Medium; Speed 20 ft., climb 20 ft.; AC +2 natural armor; Attack slam (1d4); Ability Scores Str 13, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 1, Wis 12, Cha 2; Special Attacks grab; Special Qualities low-light vision, scent.
4th-Level Advancement:Size Large; AC +1 natural armor; Attack slam (1d6); Ability Scores Str +8, Dex –2, Con +4; Special Attacks constrict 1d6.
Puffball (Floating Fungus)
Starting Statistics:Size Small; Speed 20 ft., fly 60 ft. (average); AC +1 natural armor; Attack thorn (1d4 plus poison); Ability Scores Str 10, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 2, Wis 14, Cha 6; Special Attacks poison (Frequency 1 round , Effect 1 Con damage, Cure 1 save, Con-based DC); Special Qualities low-light vision.
4th-Level Advancement:Ability Scores Str +2, Con +2.
Starting Statistics:Size Medium; Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft.; AC +1 natural armor; Attack 2 slams (1d6); Ability Scores Str 15, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 7; Special Qualities double damage against objects, low-light vision.
4th-Level Advancement:Size Large; AC +2 natural armor; Attack 2 slams (1d8); Ability Scores Str +8, Dex –2, Con +4.
Next week will continue on our tour of Chapter 1: Core Races with a look at some new feats for human characters.
A Dedicated Follower of Factions Monday, April 16, 2012 One of the defining characteristics of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign that separates it from other organized play programs is the faction system. A few weeks ago, Paizo Publisher Erik Mona, Campaign Coordinator Mike Brock, and I spent an obscene amount of time in a few very long meetings really digging into factions to determine what worked with their current implementation, what was lacking, and how we could improve...
A Dedicated Follower of Factions
Monday, April 16, 2012
One of the defining characteristics of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign that separates it from other organized play programs is the faction system. A few weeks ago, Paizo Publisher Erik Mona, Campaign Coordinator Mike Brock, and I spent an obscene amount of time in a few very long meetings really digging into factions to determine what worked with their current implementation, what was lacking, and how we could improve them, and in doing so improve the quality of the Pathfinder Society campaign as a whole. We came up with a lot of great ideas, and Mike and I have hinted at them in recent weeks on the messageboards. Well, today I'm going to pull back the curtain a little bit and reveal a few of the changes we have in store in a bit more detail.
First, starting in Season 4, all 10 factions will have a specific goal they hope to achieve over the course of the year. In general, we'll be moving away from the original metaplot of the factions vying for control of Absalom, as the campaign has expanded to incorporate the entire Inner Sea region to a much larger extent than was anticipated in Season 0. These goals will be clear and will be disseminated to all members of a given faction by the faction heads at the start of the season. Make sure all your Pathfinder Society characters are registered on paizo.com and that your email address and privacy settings are updated before August so you'll be sure to get any missives your faction leader may send. All Pathfinder Society scenario designers will receive an overview of the factions' plans in order to incorporate opportunities to achieve these goals into their respective scenarios.
Note that I said opportunities and not missions? Faction missions aren't going away, and you'll still get faction missives from your faction head at the start of a scenario. But except in specific cases where necessitated by the circumstances, faction missions won't just be a specific skill check you need to make or else fail the faction mission. They'll be more general, and tied to the overall faction goal for the season. While we'll make sure there's an opportunity presented in each scenario for members of each faction to put forward their factions' goals (and any specific tasks suggested in the scenario's faction handouts), we'll also be allowing for more player creativity.
For example, Andoran's goal for a season (and this isn't their goal next season) might be to bring slavers to justice. In a particular scenario, the PCs may encounter a merchant in Osirion whom they can discover has ties to slavers. Andoran faction PCs who discover this can then deal with the guy as they see fit, or if they miss this clue, they can use their time in the markets in a later encounter to put together a list of slavers operating out in the open in the markets of Sothis. In both cases, the PCs are helping their faction toward the overall season goal, and while we will present an opportunity to do so without the need to go off the rails, PCs will be rewarded for taking the initiative and going beyond these suggestions.
Another hot topic of discussion has been the so-called "faction war," in which each faction competes with the rest to be the winner of a given season. We're revising this faction-versus-faction paradigm, instead measuring each faction's success against its own goals to achieve varying degrees of success. Thus, a faction whose members get all their possible prestige in a given season achieve 100% success, and the results of their actions will play out in the ongoing, unfolding plot of the campaign. Similarly, a faction that struggles a bit and only gets 80% of its potential prestige might not achieve its ultimate goal but will certainly see the results of its many successes. Finally, a faction that only reaches the lowest threshold of success might see in-world consequences of its failures, which may determine the faction's goals the following season (perhaps calling into question the faction's very existence).
We've got some pretty deep and (we think) fun plots developing for all 10 factions, and the authors of our four Gen Con scenarios are already working to incorporate those threads into their adventures. Stay tuned this summer for more information from your faction heads about what your PCs are going to be working toward in the next year.
Pathfinder Battles Preview: In the Lair of the Lamias! (Also: Storm Giant)
Pathfinder Battles Preview: In the Lair of the Lamias! (Also: Storm Giant) Friday, April 13, 2012We've already revealed the dreaded Lamia Matriarch and the Huge Lamia Harridan, but the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition has even more lamias to slay player characters everywhere, and we're pleased to reveal two more in today's preview blog! ... Up first is the Lamia, a creature with ties to ancient Greek mythology and a strong pedigree in fantasy roleplaying games. Appropriately placed...
Pathfinder Battles Preview: In the Lair of the Lamias! (Also: Storm Giant)
Up first is the Lamia, a creature with ties to ancient Greek mythology and a strong pedigree in fantasy roleplaying games. Appropriately placed on a Large base, this nasty creature has a hateful streak you've really got to look out for. The common miniature also a great likeness of the art from the Pathfinder Bestiary.
Here we have the Lamia Kuchrima, the weakest of the lamia-kin. These flying creatures flock to the mountain skies of Varisia, as they have since the distant days of the ancient Runelords. Many dwell there still, and player characters in the Rise of the Runelords campaign will be facing several as they hack their way to the hidden city of Xin-Shalast at the campaign's conclusion. We've placed this figure at the common rarity, making it easy to gather a whole flight of them.
This figure isn't a lamia, but we think she's plenty cool. This Huge Storm Giant towers over player characters. The creatures feature heavily in the final encounters of the Rise of the Runelords campaign, and this powerful warrior is ready to usher things to a thunderous climax.
Advanced Race Guide: Art Preview Thursday, April 12, 2012We wrested our Advanced Race Guide preview back out of the hands of Tuesday's pernicious pirates. Inside this upcoming tome of cutting-edge characters and radical races you'll find all the information you need on creating members of all three of the races previewed here, along with any other exotic beings you’ve ever wanted to play or can possibly imagine. Check back next Tuesday for your first look at some of the Advanced Race Guide's...
Advanced Race Guide: Art Preview
Thursday, April 12, 2012
We wrested our Advanced Race Guide preview back out of the hands of Tuesday's pernicious pirates. Inside this upcoming tome of cutting-edge characters and radical races you'll find all the information you need on creating members of all three of the races previewed here, along with any other exotic beings you’ve ever wanted to play or can possibly imagine. Check back next Tuesday for your first look at some of the Advanced Race Guide's new rules, with a focus on its woodsier wonders...
Really this time.
Illustrations by Ben Wootten, Anna Christenson and Rayph Beisner
Mother Bearsby Wendy N. Wagner ... Chapter Two: Ill TideWhere's my son? Jendara's voice rumbled like a great beast's growl. Vorrin gripped her elbow, hard. ... The boys stared back at her for a second, then bolted. ... Come back! Jendara yanked her arm, but Vorrin kept his grip. ... They won't talk to you, he snapped. Hell, you scare me. ... Yul chuckled. You're right, mainlander. The boys will run home to hide. We'll go door to door. I know their fathers. ... But as he led them deeper into...
by Wendy N. Wagner
Chapter Two: Ill Tide
"Where's my son?" Jendara's voice rumbled like a great beast's growl. Vorrin gripped her elbow, hard.
The boys stared back at her for a second, then bolted.
"Come back!" Jendara yanked her arm, but Vorrin kept his grip.
"They won't talk to you," he snapped. "Hell, you scare me."
Yul chuckled. "You're right, mainlander. The boys will run home to hide. We'll go door to door. I know their fathers."
But as he led them deeper into the village, a hunting horn blew a long blast, then two short. Yul stiffened. "That's the call to town meeting. The emergency signal."
"We'll come," Vorrin said, and tightened his grip on Jendara's arm. She could feel her heart pick up its beat. An emergency, and Kran missing...
The narrow walkways filled with people, all chattering in high, tense tones. Everyone hurried toward the peak-roofed structure at the center of the village, the only building unclad by turf, and painted in dizzying shades of reds and blues. The church and meeting house. Jendara's family had practiced no faith, but town business was serious religion for anyone in a small town. She'd spent plenty of time in her own village's meeting hall. Just looking at it made her feel smaller and younger.
But her shoulders stiffened as she stepped inside. An elder in a wise woman's black kirtle and chemise stood beside a bandaged man, who alone sat on a wooden bench. The right side of his beard was blackened, in some places singed to the skin. The woman offered him a mug, and he sipped at it with a grimace.
Yul leaned to whisper at Jendara and her friends: "That's Birn, the chief's son from our neighbormost island. Their best fighter."
The cold prickling on Jendara's neck intensified. Instinct told her that whatever trouble had beset Birn somehow touched her son.
Another man stepped onto a podium. His red cloak proclaimed him a leader of some kind, and his craggy face bore more than a passing resemblance to Yul's. "Grave news, my friends. A goblin raiding party attacked our neighbors. Birn here rowed an hour to bring half a dozen wounded children to be treated by our wise woman."
Birn looked up, unflinching as the woman in question tightened a bandage around his right hand. "Most of our warriors are away, on a trading expedition. Our women and older children even now fight the fires the creatures have set. Our own wise woman was ripped apart by their dogs."
Jendara shook her head. This was bad news. With the benefit of surprise, a crew of goblins could wreck an entire village. Those people needed help. But she didn't have time to go on a rescue mission. She had a son to find. She began to turn away from the speakers, but paused as her eye caught movement at the front of the room. A towheaded boy hurried toward the man in the red cloak. She would have recognized him anywhere.
She tugged Yul's fur vest. "That's the one who stole my boy's tassel."
He frowned. "My nephew, Oric. We'll have to wait for the meeting to finish before we approach my brother."
Jendara shifted on impatient feet, listening as the warriors around her suggested and discarded course after course of action. Several of the women spoke quietly to the wise woman and then hurried off to their duties: preparing the warriors' fighting gear, gathering medicine, darting over to the wise woman's cottage to tend the injured children. Even if this was her home village, Jendara knew she wouldn't be joining them. She had taken on a warrior's life when she joined the pirate crew, closing the door on such domestic fellowship.
Yul caught her attention and they pushed forward through the crowd. His brother had neatly divided the group into parties, and now he clasped wrists with each of the men he'd commanded to lead. For a moment, Jendara pitied the goblins. These men knew battle, with their seamed faces and silvered scars. Most islanders practiced trade as the seasons turned, but in a land of quick tempers and fierce pride, everyone brought their shields and belt axes to the trading table.
"Yul." The leader clapped his brother on the shoulder. "I thought you'd stay with your wife. Her belly is fit to burst."
"Ayuh, her time is near." Yul leaned closer to his brother's ear. "I didn't come to volunteer, Morul. I came to ask you about your boy. I fear he brought harm to a visitor, the son of my new friend Jendara."
"Islanders give little credit to a mainlander like Vorrin."
The light-haired boy crept back into the shadows behind his father. Jendara narrowed her eyes at him.
Morul grunted. "There's a boatload of injured here to tend, and a second to follow. There are goblins on Black Bay Island and no idea how they got there. I've got a war party to lead and defenses ready. I've no time to talk about children."
"I'll help with your goblins if you help with my boy," Jendara interjected. "Just need a word with your son, that's all. Get my boy back safe."
Morul looked Jendara from head to toe. He could be Yul's twin, he looked so much like the craggy farmer, and a sharp intelligence flared behind his blue eyes. The islanders followed him not just for his brawn, but his brain. "Why are you so worried about your boy, woman?"
She set her jaw. "He's a mute. Plenty of folks reckon that's reason enough to give him trouble."
Morul nodded. "Ayuh, that's reason to worry." He glanced at her belt axe. "You any good with that thing?"
Vorrin spoke first. "I served beside her in many battles. She's faster and meaner than any man I've ever sailed with." Beside him, Tam nodded.
The leader of the islanders looked unimpressed.
Jendara tried not to shift impatiently. Her father would have never taken Vorrin's word, either. "My father led the men of his island in twenty-five battles and never lost a one. He trained me like I was his son, and kept me at his right hand for six trading parlays."
"And his name?"
"Erik Eriksson the White."
Both Yul and Morul looked pleased. It was not a great or famous name, but well traveled. Like her abilities with axe and sword, trade was in Jendara's blood naturally. Everyone knew Erik Eriksson the White.
"A fine man and long missed. I will accept your offer of help against the goblins." Morul turned to the boy. "Oric is a boy for pranks. Come here, lad."
The tow-headed boy slunk toward them, his hands twisted behind his back.
"Show me the tassel," Jendara snapped. Kran would have been familiar with the steely tone.
Oric put out his hand, the yellow tassel sitting on his palm. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
Morul cuffed the side of the boy's head. "An islander speaks with pride even if he fears his punishment."
"I'm sorry!" Oric barked, stiffening his spine.
Jendara took the tassel. "Do you know where the mute boy—my son—went?"
Oric nodded. He cleared his throat. "Some visitor men on the pier told us you were a pirate. So we told Kran he ought to visit the pirate caves at the end of the island. That's all."
Jendara glanced at the tassel and raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, we took his hat and we messed around with it. And we told him he was nothing but a chicken liver if he didn't go down to the caves and come back with gold to prove he'd been there. But that's it! He even took his hat back." He looked up at her, then added in a mumble, "He gave my cousin a black eye."
Jendara felt a moment's pride for her boy, quickly overrun by anxiety. "Caves?"
Morul's lips thinned. "I doubt he went too far in, but it's an extensive network. Oric, take the visitors to our home. Get lights and rope."
Jendara nodded. "We'll join you as soon as we can. Thank you for your help."
She followed Oric out of the meetinghouse, the others following behind. Yul tapped her shoulder, his face troubled.
"I must go home to my wife now, but I wish you luck in your mission."
She thanked him for his help, and clapped him on the arm before hurrying after the others. Oric moved swiftly, gathering supplies from the family storehouse and then leading the rescue party down the beach. The sun's rays cast long, pale fingers of light across the sea, their touch failing to ease the chill in Jendara's heart. Goblins to fight, her son exploring in the darkness—it all felt like bad omens.
They rounded the headland of the beach, and she could see the caves cut into the cliffs at its end. There were multiple openings at different points in the rock face, and for the first time, her own fear touched her, freezing her tongue to the roof of her mouth. She was a child of open farmland and open sea. She had never been in a cave before.
Tam shook his head. "Spare your voice, lady. The way the waves echo in there, ain't no point shouting." He turned to Vorrin. "You mind if I lead? I grew up playing in caves like these."
Vorrin happily agreed.
Tam stopped a moment to light the lanterns Oric had brought for them. He smiled at the boy, who looked anxious. "Why don't you be our lookout, lad? If we need help, we'll shout for you, and you can run back to the village."
"I can do that, sir."
"Great. Then let's go into the first cave. It looks like it's right at the water line and the easiest to get into."
Jendara eyeballed the rocks flanking the cave's entrance. They looked rough and slick, the waves spitting up foam that clung to their dark flanks. One misstep, and a boy would tumble into the water. A boy or his mother, she reminded herself. She was glad she had a good sense of balance after working on ships all these years.
The yellow glow of Tam's lantern lit up the dark hollow of the cave, and as Jendara followed behind him, her own light redoubled the glow. It wasn't much of a cave, just ten or twelve feet gnawed into the cliff wall. A battered rowboat bobbed on the waves, as if sheltering peacefully while waiting for its owner.
"What's this?" Tam murmured, peering inside. He jumped back, nearly toppling off the rock he'd been balancing on.
"What is it?" Vorrin asked.
But Jendara could see for herself the still figure at the bottom of the boat, the long white hair and singed black cloak. The wise woman from Black Bay Island.
Tam leaned over again, his nose wrinkling as he pointed out a smear of dung on the gunwale. "I'm not sure, but this looks like goblin dog to me."
Jendara balled her hands into fists. The sliver of ice burning down the back of her neck had been a true warning, not the trite discomfort of an overprotective mother. There were goblins on this island, and given goblins' love for dark holes in the ground, the little bastards were probably exploring the same damn cave her son was.
"Well, whatever it is, one thing's for sure," Tam said slowly.
"What?" Jendara growled.
"No one's in this cave."
They picked their way out of the lowest sea cave and stared up at the other entrances. The cave mouths looked far above the beach, dark and unwelcoming. The sun sank another degree lower in the sky.
"Time to climb." Jendara slung her length of rope over her shoulder and reached for the first handhold in the cliff face.
Somewhere above, something wailed, its voice hollow and unbearably sad.
Coming Next Week: The stunning conclusion of Wendy Wagner's "Mother Bears."
Wendy N. Wagner is the author of short stories in such anthologies and magazines as Armored, Way of the Wizard, Rigor Amortis, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and more. She is a regular contributor to inkpunks.com, and can be found online at winniewoohoo.com.
Plunder and Pillage! Tuesday, April 10, 2012Avast! We've stolen your weekly Advanced Race Guide• preview because the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path starts now! Download the free Skull & Shackles Player's Guide, full of ideas and advice to help create all sorts of scallywags, swashbucklers, and other seaworthy characters perfect for this piratical campaign. Also, look inside for a preview of some of the high-seas challenges and new subsystems you can expect to see featured in the most...
Plunder and Pillage!
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Avast! We've stolen your weekly Advanced Race Guide* preview because the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path starts now! Download the free Skull & Shackles Player's Guide, full of ideas and advice to help create all sorts of scallywags, swashbucklers, and other seaworthy characters perfect for this piratical campaign. Also, look inside for a preview of some of the high-seas challenges and new subsystems you can expect to see featured in the most grog-guzzling, plank-walking, keelhauling Pathfinder Adventure Path to date.
Pathfinder Society in Denmark (or Tidings from the Viking Lodge)
Pathfinder Society in Denmark (or Tidings from the Viking Lodge) Monday, April 9, 2012 ... Illustration by J.P. TargeteLast month, we highlighted the UK and Venture-Captain David Harrison's efforts to grow Pathfinder Society there. We now shift our focus to the north and the land of the Vikings. Venture-Captain Diego Winterborg's report on Pathfinder Society in Denmark was a very interesting read for me and I hope all of you find it informative as well. ... Denmark is a Scandinavian country...
Pathfinder Society in Denmark (or Tidings from the Viking Lodge)
Monday, April 9, 2012
Illustration by J.P. Targete
Last month, we highlighted the UK and Venture-Captain David Harrison's efforts to grow Pathfinder Society there. We now shift our focus to the north and the land of the Vikings. Venture-Captain Diego Winterborg's report on Pathfinder Society in Denmark was a very interesting read for me and I hope all of you find it informative as well.
Denmark is a Scandinavian country made up of a peninsula that is geographically joined to Northern Germany, called Jutland, and a large number of islands southwest of Sweden, the largest of which are Funen and Zealand. Its size and population are roughly the equivalent of Tennessee. Greenland and the Faroe Islands are part of the Danish Rigsfællesskab, or Commonwealth.
The Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign made its arrival in Denmark in February 2010 when a few friends and I went to a small RPG convention in the town of Odense. Danish RPG conventions are, by their nature, rather small events, and are largely dominated by indie games and a lot of deep-immersion, psychodrama players, so it goes without saying that we made quite an impression with our loud combat-heavy, dice-rolling RPG, which we ran in the convention's common area, for all to see. While we fully expected a lot of people would be provoked by our very different approach to gaming, it gave us an excellent opportunity to engage them in a discussion about the merits of “our game.” By the end of the convention, what started out as a four-man event had drawn in a score of new players and totaled some 10 sessions.
During the summer of 2010, we arranged a game day in honor of then Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator, Joshua J. Frost, who was making Copenhagen his first stop on his European tour. His tour culminated at Paizo Con UK that year. Frost was very keen on having a solid PFS presence in Europe, and in Denmark I volunteered for the position of regional coordinator. That is how Denmark, being a small country by most standards, was fortunate enough to be assigned a Venture-Captain with the first round of selections, when the program was born in the fall of 2010.
Early in the fall of 2010, the first game days were planned at the game store, Fantask, in Copenhagen. While the venue is very small and only allows for a single session every other weekend, it has been very reliable and has been a constant for over a year.
Pathfinder Society has since had annual representation in Denmark's two largest gaming conventions, Viking Con and Fastaval, as well as other smaller conventions and game days in and around Copenhagen.
This winter Jacob Trier, who had just recovered from serious illness, volunteered for the position as Venture-Lieutenant based in Jutland. This addition will ensure a stronger presence in the western half of Denmark. By next month, regular store games are expected to start in Dragon's Lair in the city of Aarhus and this year's Fastaval convention will have a locally based Pathfinder Society coordinator.
In 2011, Viking Con and Fastaval had nine Pathfinder Society tables each. This was satisfactory as a very small core of players and GMs drove our continued interest in Pathfinder. This year, however, we are seeing the emergence of more private gaming groups and expect to have a growing GM base for 2012's events.
The primary Pathfinder Society events scheduled for 2012 in Denmark are:
Spilfestival, on March 24, features Blood under Absalom as its highlighted event. This marks a milestone for the Pathfinder Society in Denmark as it is the first time a Pathfinder Society multi-table special will be run here.
Fastaval, April 4–8: Danish Pathfinder players will get their first opportunity to play the Season 3 exclusive, The Cyphermage Dilemma. We have 15 tables scheduled over the four days.
Viking Lodge Game Days are planned for July 28–29. Started in 2010, this is fast becoming a Danish tradition. The plans for this event are still in the planning stages. Participants can count on being among a good number of Paizo fans and having a full day of Pathfinder Society games, followed by a night out in Copenhagen afterward.
Viking Con 31, October 19—21, is Denmark's largest gaming convention and we will certainly have something special to offer to Pathfinder Society players.
Danish Pathfinder Society events are also receiving a measure of Paizo convention support, which hopefully will increase interest and send a strong signal that Paizo pays attention to its international fans.
To facilitate continued growth of Pathfinder Society, we are making plans with public libraries to start having monthly game days. The success of this plan is still dependant on GMs volunteering to run games. Initially, I am planning game days in Copenhagen libraries only. But, the public library network in Denmark is rather extensive and Pathfinder Society has the potential to reach veritably every Danish roleplayer interested in participating in an organized play campaign.
This brings me to one of my most important points about roleplaying in Denmark. The RPGA and Living Greyhawk never established themselves in our country, and the very concept of an organized play campaign is very new to Danish gamers. According to my friendly local gaming store, Pathfinder RPG sales are increasing, and continued convention scheduling and internet exposition is bound to draw players into the fold one handful at a time. While events to date remain small, we always know we will be among friends as we strive to continue increasing our numbers.
If you live in Denmark or Southern Sweden and are interested in trying out Pathfinder Society Organized Play, you can keep up with our growing community on our website, pathfindersociety.dk. Danish convention organizers and store owners interested in hosting Pathfinder Society events should contact me at email@example.com.
Diego Winterborg Venture-Captain
If you are in another country and do not have a Venture-Captain, but think you can do as good a job as Diego did above, please do not hesitate to send me a write-up about Pathfinder Society play in your area of the world and include some photos.
Mike Brock Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator
Pathfinder Battles Preview: We Be Goblins! Friday, April 6, 2012 Goblins chew and goblins bite. ... Goblins cut and goblins fight. ... Stab the dog and cut the horse, ... Goblins eat and take by force! Goblins race and goblins jump. ... Goblins slash and goblins bump. ... Burn the skin and mash the head, ... Goblins here and you be dead! Chase the baby, catch the pup. ... Bonk the head to shut it up. ... Bones be cracked, flesh be stewed, ... We be goblins! You be food! —The Goblin...
Pathfinder Battles Preview: We Be Goblins!
Friday, April 6, 2012
Goblins chew and goblins bite.
Goblins cut and goblins fight.
Stab the dog and cut the horse,
Goblins eat and take by force!
Goblins race and goblins jump.
Goblins slash and goblins bump.
Burn the skin and mash the head,
Goblins here and you be dead!
Chase the baby, catch the pup.
Bonk the head to shut it up.
Bones be cracked, flesh be stewed,
We be goblins! You be food!
For my money, that three-verse song from the opening encounter of "Burnt Offerings," the very first Pathfinder Adventure Path adventure, is as responsible as anything for the huge success of the Pathfinder Adventure Path line. Over the years (and really more or less immediately), gamers began to equate Pathfinder with goblins, and the creepy little critters (as envisioned by artist Wayne Reynolds and Paizo creative director James Jacobs, the song's author) soon became a sort of unofficial mascot for the Pathfinder brand.
The Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder Battles fantasy miniature set gave us a great opportunity to revisit the first Pathfinder adventures, and we knew we needed to include as many goblins in the set that we could.
This week, I thought I'd show off most of the goblin miniatures from the Rise of the Runelords set to celebrate the fact that at long last, we're ready to reveal the set's product descriptions, prices, and case configurations!
I'll get to that a bit later. First, let's talk about goblins!
First up we have the common Goblin Commando, an elite goblin troop to supplement the Goblin Warrior or Goblin Hero from Heroes & Monsters. As you'll note in the Goblin Song above, goblins are no fans of horses, which is why this trooper's makeshift pole-arm is called a horsechopper.
Speaking of Goblin Commandos and mounts, here we have the vicious Goblin Commando on Goblin Dog, an uncommon figure that plays prominently in several encounters of "Burnt Offerings," especially in the raid on the town of Sandpoint that kicks off the entire campaign. August's Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition expands this encounter, working Flip-Mat: Town Square to set the scene. All you need to make it perfect is to add miniatures, and this guy is designed specifically for that purpose.
Here we have the leader of the goblins harrying Sandpoint, Warchief Ripnugget on Stickfoot. This teensie tyrant barks orders at his tribe from the back of a giant gecko, making the PCs' encounter with him (and with this rare miniature) one they won't soon forget.
There are at least two more goblin-related miniatures coming in later previews, so if you can hear one of the twisted verses of James Jacobs's Goblin Song echoing over the horizon, it's because we're not quite done with goblins yet!
The Nitty Gritty
We've been teasing product details for months, and I'm pleased to report that everything has finally fallen into place so that we can reveal all of the little details about the size of the set, when it will come out, and how the cases will be packaged. Click through to the various product pages for price and additional details.
Pathfinder Battles: Rise of the Runelords Set Details
Release Date: August 2012 Set Size: 65 prepainted plastic miniatures
The Standard Booster
Rise of the Runelords Standard Boosters contain four collectible miniatures. Each blind box contains a random selection of miniatures from the set, including one Large figure and three Medium or Small figures. Many figures feature colored clear plastic spell effects, crystals, and the like, and these figures range from monsters to important NPCs to Pathfinder iconic characters like Seoni and Harsk.
Standard Boosters come in the following configurations:
Single Standard Booster
8-ct. Standard Booster Brick
32-ct. Standard Booster Case (4 bricks)
The Huge Booster
The Rise of the Runelords set contains four Huge figures, from the Treachery Demon to the Lamia Harridan (shown below) to two figures we haven't revealed yet. The large size and relatively small number of these figures makes it impractical to include them in the Standard Booster, so WizKids created a new product configuration: The Rise of the Runelords Huge Booster. Each blind-boxed Huge Booster contains a single Huge figure from the Rise of the Runelords set.
Huge Boosters come in the following configurations:
Single Huge Booster
6-ct. Huge Booster Case
The Rune Giant
As we revealed last week, the biggest miniature in the set is the towering Rune Giant, our first Gargantuan miniature! The Rune Giant has been produced in extremely limited quantities, and is available for purchase only to retailers (from their distributor), paizo.com Pathfinder Battles case subscribers, and customers who pre-order a Standard case (while supplies last). For more details, visit the Rune Giant product page.
Customers with an Ongoing Pathfinder Battles Case Subscription receive the right to purchase the Rune Giant at 75% off the listed retail price, and are guaranteed access to this extremely rare figure at a rate of one per case ordered. They'll also receive a coupon code good for 20% off the purchase price of one Encounter Pack (such as Champions of Evil) and the standard 20% case subscriber discount on all Pathfinder Battles singles purchases made on paizo.com.
Completing the Set
We've worked hard with WizKids to pack the cases in such a way that customers who purchase a case of Standard Boosters, a case of Huge Boosters, and the Rune Giant can reasonably expect to complete the entire 65-figure set. While we cannot guarantee that this will happen due to the unlikely potential of packing errors at the factory, the intention is that a full line of cases will get a nearly complete set.
So that's it! The long-awaited full details on the long-awaited Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder Battles set!
Next week we'll be mack with more previews and more exciting miniatures reveals!
Prepare to Set Sail Thursday, April 5, 2012We're just a few weeks away from shipping out the first chapter of the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path to subscribers. To get your peg legs itching, here are two pieces of art from Pathfinder Adventure Path #55: The Wormwood Mutiny. Both depict life aboard a pirate ship, albeit on different sides of the coin. Whether you find infamy and plunder upon the high seas or end up swabbing the decks, anchors are lifting soon and the life of a pirate awaits!...
Prepare to Set Sail
Thursday, April 5, 2012
We're just a few weeks away from shipping out the first chapter of the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path to subscribers. To get your peg legs itching, here are two pieces of art from Pathfinder Adventure Path #55: The Wormwood Mutiny. Both depict life aboard a pirate ship, albeit on different sides of the coin. Whether you find infamy and plunder upon the high seas or end up swabbing the decks, anchors are lifting soon and the life of a pirate awaits! Be sure to check back next week for the release of the free Skull & Shackles Player's Guide.
Illustrations by Craig J Spearing and Mariusz Gandzel
Mother Bearsby Wendy N. Wagner ... Chapter One: Waking the BearKran tapped his slate, louder this time, and Jendara gave in, looking up from her ledger. The boy's blue eyes gleamed as his chalk squeaked, underlining the word please a second time—his equivalent of begging. Jendara's lips moved as she read the note. ... You want to play marbles on the beach? With some village boys? ... He nodded his head, making the yellow tassels of his cap dance. The tip of his nose was pink from the...
by Wendy N. Wagner
Chapter One: Waking the Bear
Kran tapped his slate, louder this time, and Jendara gave in, looking up from her ledger. The boy's blue eyes gleamed as his chalk squeaked, underlining the word "please" a second time—his equivalent of begging. Jendara's lips moved as she read the note.
"You want to play marbles on the beach? With some village boys?"
He nodded his head, making the yellow tassels of his cap dance. The tip of his nose was pink from the cold sea air.
She grunted. "Just don't take too long. Captain Vorrin wants to catch the outgoing tide, and that means all packed up by sunset."
He swiped his slate with his sleeve, scribbled a thanks, and then darted down the gangplank. Jendara's eyes followed him along the pier until he cut over to the small strip of beach. She trusted Kran more than most mothers trusted their eight-year-olds, but she liked knowing where he was. He didn't get social invitations very often. There weren't many on the islands who could read, or who'd go near a god-touched boy with no speech.
She realized she was holding her quill too tightly, and put it down. Anyway, someone was approaching the ship-turned-market square: a big man with the dung-crusted boots of an island farmer. He reminded Jendara of her father, and she tried not to smile at him. Bad enough being a woman in this business; it wouldn't do to look soft.
"You got something real heavy in that pack of yours." She cleared the ledger and writing case off the table to make room for his wares. She'd been buying lots of ivory and whalebone this trip—always in high demand on the mainland—but whatever he carried in his pack looked soft. Furs, maybe.
"Ayuh. It's a load alright." The man dropped his bag with a thud that made the table creak. He undid the knotted ties and the sack slid open, revealing a pile of deep brown furs.
"What did you catch?" The fur felt sleek and oily beneath her fingers, the hairs coarse.
He didn't answer at first, working with the bag. Now Jendara could see that this great mass wasn't a stack of pelts, but one magnificent hide, and her heart quickened. This could be worth a lot of gold to the right buyer.
He began unfolding the hide. "It's big."
"Ayuh." He shifted on his feet, frowning as he recollected. "It was in with the sheep, killing anything that moved. Had to protect my stock."
A paw hit the ship's deck, and she could see claws longer than her own hand. She couldn't imagine facing something so huge gone on a killing spree. "How'd you kill it?"
"Arrow through the eye. Then I jumped on its back and cut its throat." He'd uncovered the head, well cured and massive, but marred by a white patch of fur like a lightning bolt down the nose. "Woulda kept it, but the wife said it was probably unlucky, way it was acting. Figured you'd give me a fair price for it."
Jendara mentally calculated a few figures. It was a good pelt, and she knew a dealer in Magnimar looking for quality winter furs. She named her price, and the farmer grinned hugely. He spat on his palm and stuck it out, just as her father had done every deal he ever struck. She spat on her own and shook as fiercely as he did.
"We should drink. This deal is good for both of us."
"Yul is a typical islander—gruff and hard, but kind all the same."
She looked out at the docks. No one else approached, and the sun was already low in the sky. She doubted anyone further would be looking to trade with her. "All right."
Someone laid a hand on her shoulder. "You two mind a little company?"
Jendara shrugged. She hadn't heard Vorrin behind her, but wasn't surprised by his sudden appearance. Her husband, Ikran, had asked Vorrin to look after her and Kran as he'd lain bleeding out on the deck of a captured caravel. She couldn't hold it against either of them, much as she wanted to.
"You have a name, Bear Hunter?" Vorrin put out his hand. "I'm Vorrin, captain of this ship."
The farmer's lips thinned as he took Vorrin's measure. Vorrin's close-cropped black hair and thin mustache were a strike against him here on the archipelago. His accent, city-fine, didn't help. The farmer hooked his thumbs in his belt, a conspicuous rejection of the hand. "I am Yul."
"Lead us to the nearest ale, friend." Jendara stepped between the two men, hurrying Yul down the gangplank. She could feel Vorrin's eyes on her back, and could easily imagine the irritated expression. He abided the Ironbound Archipelago because she wanted to do business here, because he loved his nephew and believed in keeping his word. But he didn't like this cold, rough land.
The crunch of gravel beneath her boots made Jendara smile. It had been one thing to leave the islands for the man she loved, but she'd never felt right when she was away. Here the stone lay just beneath the tough heath, and the beaches were long stretches of gray rock and gravel. Even the land was hard here. It went without saying that the people worked hard, fought hard, and grew hard as frozen leather under the wind's cold buffeting.
But business had been brisk in this town, and the wind a constant reminder that she had a trade route to finish before the winter sea grew too rough for Vorrin's ship, the Milady. Jendara hadn't taken a moment to visit the village. It wasn't so different from the place where she'd grown up. The steep peaks of the house roofs stood out from the green turf climbing up the walls, the houses themselves snuggled down into the earth. They could withstand any storm, stay warm in any gale—little tough houses for big tough people.
A donkey huffed at her as they passed a lean-to where animals could wait out of the weather. Jendara patted its shaggy head and then hurried to catch up as Yul pushed opened the nearest door, releasing the pungent tang of peat smoke and spilled ale.
Jendara stepped inside and was struck by the realization that she had been here before. She could remember sitting at the little bar, rubbing oils into the backs of her still-itching hands, tossing back drinks that burned her throat but eased the fresh sting of the tattoos. She touched the back of her hand, the now-old ink covered by fingerless gloves. She could easily imagine the black jolly rogers beneath the wool, puffy and peeling as they had that night. So it must have been the end of her first pirate tour, pockets loaded and a lust to prove herself filling her heart.
Yul nodded at the barkeep, a shaven-headed man as broad as Yul and just as bearded. The man filled three tankards in quick succession, sliding them down the bar without a word. Jendara drank a long pull of the foaming stuff.
"Well, well, if it ain't the famous Jendara. I thought the rumors of you turning respectable were gullshit, but look at you out here, drinking with the farmers."
Jendara put down her tankard with deliberate softness. She turned to face the voice—one of those nasty, thin voices she'd come to associate with cowards. There was no point ignoring it: men like this only responded to intimidation. She folded her arms across her sheepskin vest and let her ice-blue eyes speak for her.
A short and dirty man stood in front of the nearest table, where a knot of men sat drinking. The little man sneered. He wasn't a native—the brown hair and narrow jaw, far too small for all his yellow teeth, proved that. From the waves of fish stench wafting off his layered sweaters, she imagined him a very minor pirate who made ends meet by fishing.
The worst kind of pirate. The jolly rogers on the back of her hands felt suddenly hot, as if Besmara, chief bitch and goddess of all pirates, agreed with Jendara's pronouncement.
She peeled off her gloves slowly, letting everyone in the bar see the tattoos.
"Jenny, Jenny, Jenny." The weasely man took a swig of beer and grinned down at her. She remembered him now. He'd once asked Ikran for a position on their boat, and she'd had to throw him overboard when he didn't like Ikran's answer. Gorg. That was his name.
Gorg's grin grew wider as he leaned toward her. "You still watching over that mute brat of yours?"
The jolly roger seemed to laugh as her knuckles connected with Gorg's face, splitting the skin over his cheekbone with the force of the blow. He screamed and dropped to his knees—not incapacitated, but going for his boot knife. Jendara lashed out with her heel, launching the man backward across the room.
She hadn't paid attention to other men at the table, but they must have been Gorg's friends, because they exploded up from their seats, snarling. Men screamed. Knives hissed free of their scabbards. Jendara laughed and slipped her axe free of her belt.
The weapon's haft shook with its own mirth as she brought the blunt end down on a man's skull, then jerked her arm backward, slamming the handle's butt into another man's solar plexus. Both sailors dropped. Jendara looked around for more, but Grog was already draped senseless across a chair, and the last of his companions was currently dangling from Vorrin's fist, toes not quite touching the floor.
The tavern door flew open, the low light of afternoon like a lighthouse beam cutting through the thick air. A man stood framed in the doorway. Jendara recognized him as Vorrin's first mate. Silence filled the room.
Vorrin released the man he'd been holding up by the sweater-front. The sailor crumpled to the ground. "Tam? Something the matter?"
"Ayuh." The word reminded Jendara that Tam was a fellow islander. He hesitated in the doorway.
"Well what, man?"
"It's the boy." Tam stepped inside, bobbing his head uncomfortably. "I saw a whole group of lads come racing up from the beach, laughing like loons. But Kran weren't with 'em."
Jendara felt her knees go soft, and she put her hand down on the bar to steady herself.
"Looked down the beach, but there weren't no sign of the boy. Figured we ought to go look for him."
Jendara sheathed her axe and moved toward the door. Vorrin clapped his hand on her shoulder. "Don't go off half-cocked."
She shook his hand loose. "I've got to find my son."
"No purpose going by yourself," Yul warned. "Folks don't tolerate strangers around here."
Jendara's lips thinned. She knew it was true—knew the close-knittedness of islanders—but resented it anyway. "He isn't like other boys. There's been trouble other places."
Yul didn't ask for details, but opened the door. "I'll help you look for him."
Jendara nodded curtly, rage boiling her veins, some of it residual, some of it the goddess's, and most of it for anyone who might hurt her child. Beyond Yul's shoulder, a knot of sniggering boys huddled under the lean-to where the donkey had waited. A growl bubbled up in Jendara's throat.
But she did, just from their wicked laughter, their covert glances. She did know, from the hush that fell over the little group as they saw the strangers coming their way. A shiver of cold warning ran down her spine.
One of the boys held a yellow tassel between his fingers. A yellow tassel just like the ones she'd sewn onto Kran's hat.
Coming Next Week: A mother's fury in Chapter Two of Wendy Wagner's "Mother Bears."
Wendy N. Wagner is the author of short stories in such anthologies and magazines as Armored, Way of the Wizard, Rigor Amortis, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and more. She is a regular contributor to inkpunks.com, and can be found online at winniewoohoo.com.
RPG Superstar™ 2012: Mike Welham! Tuesday, April 3, 2012After five rounds of intensive competition, amateur game designer Mike Welham has won RPG Superstar 2012! ... RPG Superstar is the largest annual tabletop roleplaying design contest. The popular vote of paizo.com's more than 200,000-strong fan community chose Mike Welham's Doom Comes to Dustpawn Pathfinder Module proposal. Welham will receive a contract to write the full adventure for Doom Comes to Dustpawn, which will be released...
RPG Superstar™ 2012: Mike Welham!
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
After five rounds of intensive competition, amateur game designer Mike Welham has won RPG Superstar 2012!
RPG Superstar is the largest annual tabletop roleplaying design contest. The popular vote of paizo.com's more than 200,000-strong fan community chose Mike Welham's Doom Comes to Dustpawn Pathfinder Module proposal. Welham will receive a contract to write the full adventure for Doom Comes to Dustpawn, which will be released in January, 2013.
On behalf of the judges and Paizo Publishing, as well as the many voters, congratulations again to the rest of our Top 4 contestants Steve Miller, James Olchak, and Tom Phillips.
The Advanced Race Guide is Coming! Tuesday, April 3, 2012We've been talking about it for many months now, but we're finally getting close to the release of the Advanced Race Guide. So, the time has come to start giving you some previews of this hefty tome of racial options and lore. ... To start, I thought I'd give you an overview of what to expect in the book. Inside, you will find four large, meaty chapters, filled with rules and information concerning all of the core races and just about...
The Advanced Race Guide is Coming!
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
We've been talking about it for many months now, but we're finally getting close to the release of the Advanced Race Guide. So, the time has come to start giving you some previews of this hefty tome of racial options and lore.
To start, I thought I'd give you an overview of what to expect in the book. Inside, you will find four large, meaty chapters, filled with rules and information concerning all of the core races and just about every player-friendly race you'll find in the Bestiary, Bestiary 2, or Bestiary 3. The first chapter covers the core races, giving you ten pages of information about the race, including new alternate racial traits, favored class options (for all of the classes), archetypes, feats, gear, spells, and magic items. Following this up in the second chapter are sixteen races given six full pages each to explore new options, including alternate racial traits, a handful of favored class options, archetypes, and some additional rules to round out your choices. While not as common as the core races, any one of these selected races would make for a fine PC or companion (with your GM's approval, of course). Finally, we shift focus to fifteen uncommon races. Each one of these gets two pages, presenting race history, a few alternate traits, favored class options, an archetype a few additional rules to get you going.
After giving you a mountain of racial options for 38 different races, you'd think we would be just about out of space, but no. The final chapter of the book contains a complete system for designing your own races, balancing them against the others in the book, or even going above and beyond, creating more powerful races that emulate monsters from a Bestiary or your own imagination. This system went through a significant playtest a while back, and we think that with the final tuning, you're really going to enjoy tinkering with this system.
But enough of my rambling. Let me give you a brief preview of what you can expect in Chapter One of the book. Take a look at this art from the stonelord paladin archetype found in the dwarf section. This guy slowly transforms into stone as he goes up in level, gaining DR, a host of immunities, and the ability to summon a small earth elemental to serve him! Next week, we will continue to explore Chapter One, looking at some leafy friends.
Conquest Day Monday, April 2, 2012 ... Illustration by Dave RapozaI almost lined this holiday boon up perfectly with its in-game date and real-world date. When I realized it was my 6-month anniversary (wow, time flies), I was torn. What better way to celebrate than to help Pathfinders fight undead? But I felt my state of PFS blog was slightly more important, so I delayed this holiday blog for a week. ... Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider wrote the description below of Conquest Day, and...
Monday, April 2, 2012
Illustration by Dave Rapoza
I almost lined this holiday boon up perfectly with its in-game date and real-world date. When I realized it was my 6-month anniversary (wow, time flies), I was torn. What better way to celebrate than to help Pathfinders fight undead? But I felt my state of PFS blog was slightly more important, so I delayed this holiday blog for a week.
Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider wrote the description below of Conquest Day, and where you’ll also find a special Pathfinder Society Chronicle sheet you can download and apply to a Pathfinder Society character. Conquest Day is mentioned on page 248 of The Inner Sea World Guide.
Every year, on the 26th of Pharast, Elder Architect Oblosk—oldest member of Nex’s Council of Three and Nine—ascends to the highest balconies of the Bandeshar in Quantium. In a voice made thunderous by the platform’s magic, the wizened pech councilman spends the hours from dusk to just past noon enumerating the atrocities committed by the necromancers of Geb upon the people of Nex, culminating with the disappearance of the archwizard Nex himself. At the conclusion of this record of national wounds, the country’s eleven other council members join Oblosk in renewing their yearly vow to neither forget nor forgive the Gebbites’ atrocities and to again swear in their lost ruler’s name to endlessly wage war against their ancient enemies.
On this day, known as Conquest Day, all the people of Nex are expected to share in their leaders’ oaths, to celebrate the shared patriotism of their wondrous nation, and to remember the sacrifices of heroes past. This also makes it a day for many Nexian wizards to reveal deadly new spells, gigantic constructs, and audacious arcane masterworks—which many creators promise to be the doom of their foes. Even throughout the rest of the Inner Sea region, many crusaders, rebels, and zealots observe Conquest Day as a day to renew blood oaths, launch long-planned battles, and finally take revenge. It is a day for words of honor, a day for battle cries, and a day where glory most favors the bold.
A bit dreary with all the talk of battles and undead and disappearing archwizards and the like, but hey, at least it is better than Taxfest (and yes, that’s also on page 248).
Mike Brock Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator