Happy Labor Day! Monday, September 3, 2012 It's Labor Day here in the States, which means that all the goblin-wranglers and libromancers at Paizo are taking a well-deserved day off. To hold you over until the next blog post, here's the unadulterated cover illustration for Robin Laws' new Pathfinder Tales novel, Blood of the City--a story revolving around Luma, an urban druid, and her family of high-end mercenaries in Magnimar. ... One of my favorite things about novel covers is the way they...
Happy Labor Day!
Monday, September 3, 2012
It's Labor Day here in the States, which means that all the goblin-wranglers and libromancers at Paizo are taking a well-deserved day off. To hold you over until the next blog post, here's the unadulterated cover illustration for Robin Laws' new Pathfinder Tales novel, Blood of the City--a story revolving around Luma, an urban druid, and her family of high-end mercenaries in Magnimar.
One of my favorite things about novel covers is the way they wrap all the way around the book, and it's always with a tinge of regret that I write the back cover copy, knowing it'll cover up such wonderful details. Just take a look at those fountains here in the wealthy Alabaster District, and it's easy to see why Magnimar is often called the City of Monuments....
Noble Sacrificeby Richard Ford ... Chapter Two: Notions of PeaceFor Andoran and liberty! screamed Kal, as above them a dozen figures moved, loosing their arrows as one. ... Kal braced himself for the inevitable deluge that would pierce his flesh and leave him bleeding like a stuck pig... but it never came. ... Guttural cries of pain pealed out from over the lip of the rock wall, and shouts of anger joined them—not the foul speech of the goblins, but human voices. ... From down the...
by Richard Ford
Chapter Two: Notions of Peace
"For Andoran and liberty!" screamed Kal, as above them a dozen figures moved, loosing their arrows as one.
Kal braced himself for the inevitable deluge that would pierce his flesh and leave him bleeding like a stuck pig... but it never came.
Guttural cries of pain pealed out from over the lip of the rock wall, and shouts of anger joined them—not the foul speech of the goblins, but human voices.
From down the passage came the first of the hobgoblin berserkers, and Tiberion took a step forward, ready to cut them down as they charged. But before he had a chance, missiles suddenly rained down from above, piercing the foremost goblinoid's body. It fell with three arrows protruding from its chest as the rest ran into a solid volley, falling and shrieking. Kal loosed his bow into the fray, taking one of the hobgoblins in the throat. Altogether, it was enough for the others to halt their advance, and as the hum of bowstrings announced a second storm, the remaining hobgoblins in view turned and fled back the way they had come.
Silence fell over the dark gully as Kal looked around frantically, trying to spy who had come to their aid, though he could see little in the waning light. Before he could call out, a rope was suddenly dropped down from above.
"You'd best move quick," came a disembodied voice. "They won't stay gone forever."
Kal needed no further encouragement, and he shouldered his bow, then grasped the rope and pulled himself up the rock face. Tiberion was quick to follow, easily scaling the sheer surface despite his heavy armor.
When he reached the summit, Kal was helped up by strong hands. He saw that several disheveled figures hunkered in the dark, their bows drawn against any further danger. On the ground lay several goblin archers, arrows still protruding from their filthy, twisted corpses.
"Thank you," said Kal to the bearded man who had helped him up. "For a second there I thought we were going to end our days with our guts splayed to the winds."
"There'll be time for thanks later," came the reply. "And likely time for the rest as well. For now we have to move."
"And the horses?" Kal looked back over the gully, but could no longer see where they'd dismounted.
With that, the grim figure and his grubby cohorts began to slink off into the dark. Kal and Tiberion followed across the sloping rocks, trailing their sure-footed guides over the uneven ground. How these new men managed not to slip in the dark, Kal didn't know, but several times he found himself losing his balance and falling to his knees, only to be grabbed and pulled to his feet by one of their rescuers. They carried on silently for more than an hour, winding their way further up toward the mountain peaks as the night wind began to whip through the gullies, threatening to fling them into oblivion at any moment. It was to his great relief that Kal eventually spied a campfire in the distance, and as they climbed closer, the welcome smell of cooking food reached his nostrils.
The camp was small, and situated in a narrow gully. Within was packed a motley band of men, women and children huddled together for warmth and safety from the elements. The men that had guided them were greeted with warm embraces and heartfelt blessings, but as Tiberion strode into the firelight, the camp fell silent.
Kal felt the discomfort keenly, and as Tiberion's albeit unwilling companion, found himself obliged to make the introductions.
"A Hellknight's idea of freedom is a strange thing."
"I am Kal Berne of the Steel Falcons," he said, his stomach knotting as all eyes turned his way. "And this is Tiberion. We are part of an allied contingent, sent to root out the remaining invaders in these lands."
"We know what you are," said the bearded man who appeared to be their leader. "I am Ursul, and this," he indicated the camp with a grand sweep of his arm, "is all that remains of Isger's settlements for ten leagues of here."
There were pitifully few for all that, but Kal believed the man. "How did you come to be here?" he asked.
"This was the only place we could run to when the hordes came. Tribe after tribe of goblins swept across our lands, leaving nothing but cinders and corpses. Some fled north, but not quick enough to avoid the slaughter. We ran south, and hid here. And lucky for you we did." Ursul took a seat beside the fire as one of the women handed him a bowl and spooned him some thick broth from a bubbling pot. "You'd best sit, unless you're too good for the likes of us?"
"Of course not," Kal replied taking a seat. He gratefully accepted a bowl of the thick stew, and the smell of it made his stomach gurgle in anticipation.
Tiberion remained in the shadows, seemingly vigilant for any sign of attack. Kal was happy to let him remain aloof, if such was his inclination.
The ragtag band of refugees was keen for news of the world beyond the mountaintops, and Kal was happy to report the progress of the allied forces—how they had pushed back the goblin tribes to the Chitterwood, and how they were optimistic the conflict would be over by winter. This news was greeted with relief by Ursul and his band, and Kal surmised they had doubts as to whether they would survive winter snows up in the unforgiving slopes of the Aspodell Mountains.
As the night wore on, Kal began to feel comfortable among these refugees, and his sympathy for their plight began to grow. It must have been difficult for them, surviving for so long in such treacherous conditions, but their spirits seemed high. So caught up was he with their revels that he almost forgot his mission. It was when he glanced back and saw the stern figure of Tiberion gazing off into the distance that the gravity of his situation suddenly began to weigh on him.
He stood and walked to where Tiberion was perched, staring beyond the thick veil of darkness.
"Anything to report?" he asked.
Tiberion glanced at Kal without bothering to return the Andoren's smile. "Somewhere beyond those peaks stands Citadel Dinyar; fortress of the Order of the God Claw."
"Is that where you come from?" asked Kal, his interest piqued by Tiberion's uncharacteristic spark of conversation.
"No. I was raised in Citadel Vraid, near Korvosa."
That was more than five hundred miles northwest. "You're a long way from home."
"The Order of the Nail goes where it's needed."
"But not necessarily where it's wanted." It was a flippant comment, and one Kal instantly regretted, but Tiberion did not seem to take offense.
"The world is a dangerous place. The Hellknights enforce order and law, and put fallen men back on the path of righteousness. Even when those men are unwilling to walk it."
"Some might call that tyranny." Kal felt himself beginning to flush at the Hellknight's easy arrogance. It was an outlook the Chelaxians were famous for: the sense that they should impose their will on the world, even if that meant enslaving those nations that resisted their ideologies.
"Are you so different in Andoran? Do you not punish the wicked and protect the innocent?"
"Of course we do. But our country has its independence. Its people are free."
"What use is freedom without peace? When the wicked are free to prey upon the innocent?" Tiberion shook his head. "No, only strict application of law can bring true peace. Your freedoms only hinder that."
"At least we're not slaves."
"You are all slaves. You just don't know it."
Kal gritted his teeth against a scathing retort. "So the Order of the Nail only wants peace—is that right? And what then? When you've made your peace, destroyed the last vestige of chaos—or freedom—where does that leave you?"
Tiberion stared at Kal as though searching for something. Locked in that gaze, Kal suddenly felt naked, vulnerable.
"If I live to see that day," Tiberion said solemnly, "I will gladly lay down my arms and live the life of a peaceful man."
"And until then you'll continue to kill. For peace."
"Even it means giving your own life?" But Kal already knew the answer.
"Mine, yours, and the those of every one of these people, if necessary." The corners of Tiberion's lips twitched upward slightly. "It is a small enough price to pay."
Kal had heard enough. With a shake of his head, he left the brooding Hellknight and returned to the warmth of the campfire.
Before sleep finally claimed him, he spent the rest of the night among the refugees, much preferring their stubborn optimism to Tiberion's uncompromising edge, but still he couldn't get their conversation out of his head. He knew there was no arguing with such belief, but part of him couldn't help but admire the steel of the Hellknight's conviction.
As the light of the morning sun gradually crept over the encroaching mountain peaks, Kal was awakened by a sudden commotion within the camp. Ursul was on his feet, talking in hushed tones to a younger member of his contingent. When the youth had finished his report, Ursul approached Kal, also beckoning Tiberion forward.
"There's something you should see," he said, and led them off toward one of the mountain trails that wound up from the camp, higher into the peaks. They eventually reached a high plateau, and Kal could see it looked out onto miles of open country, its vista including the vast Chitterwood and the blue-white serpent of the River Keld.
"There." Ursul pointed downward toward the foot of the Aspodells.
Kal craned forward, at first not seeing anything. Then, as he strained his eyes in the waxing light, he saw them—hundreds of them—moving like an army of insects in the distance and making their way northeast from the Chitterwood.
Tiberion gazed gravely toward the goblinoid war-host. "The horde is on the move."
"And it's headed straight for the reserve garrison at Wolfpoint," said Kal. "The fort's been behind the front lines for a month—they can't be expecting them to swing back down this side. They'll be totally unprepared!"
"Not if we warn them," Tiberion replied. The Hellknight was already moving back toward the camp.
Kal was quick to follow, with Ursul on his heels. They swiftly gathered their equipment, sharing a solemn glance as they realized the gravity of the task ahead. Wolfpoint was miles distant, and they no longer had horses.
"Take the north path," said Ursul, pointing the way from the camp. "It's narrow, but it'll take you straight to the foot of the range, shorter than the goblins' route, and the garrison's only a mile further on. May Old Deadeye speed your flight."
Kal gave a nod of thanks, and Tiberion led the way. Within minutes they had left the camp far behind them as they navigated the perilous track downward in their race to Wolfpoint.
Kal said a silent prayer. He'd seen goblins move before, and he knew Tiberion had as well. Even if their path was shorter, as Ursul claimed, it would still be a close thing. And if they didn't manage to beat the horde, it was likely there would be no one left at Wolfpoint to warn...
Coming Next Week: A desperate race and a comrade left behind in the final chapter of "Noble Sacrifice."
Richard Ford has written short fiction for Games Workshop's Black Library and the British Fantasy Society's acclaimed journal, Dark Horizons, as well as the novel The Dragons of Lencia.
... Hellknights Unleashed Wednesday, September 23, 2009 ... Illustration by Kevin Yan ... More than two years ago it fell to me to write the Rise of the Runelords Player's Guide, setting the stage for characters to take part in a world that was, at the time, painted not even in broad strokes but more in generally tossed bucket-sized splashes. Over time and through hundreds of thousands of words, though, what started as made-up names have transformed into some of the better-known characters,...
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Illustration by Kevin Yan
More than two years ago it fell to me to write the Rise of the Runelords Player's Guide, setting the stage for characters to take part in a world that was, at the time, painted not even in broad strokes but more in generally tossed bucket-sized splashes. Over time and through hundreds of thousands of words, though, what started as made-up names have transformed into some of the better-known characters, organizations, and locations in Golarion. But probably the passage that folks have grabbed onto most zealously comes from the description of the paladin on page 8, "Korvosa—in its traditional ties to Cheliax—enthusiastically supplies Citadel Vraid, bastion of the Hellknight Order of the Nail. The Chelish Hellknights pay homage to no deity, but rather bend the rigid law and infernal traditions of Hell to their will."
For years now folks have asked for more details on this iron-shod order of enforcers, even beyond their details in the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting, but the time has never seemed quite right to give away the entire farm—I admit, I've been kind of precious with my pet antiheroes. At the same time, rules for running or playing Hellknights have always been vague, largely because I didn't want to work up a class that would immediately have to be updated to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. But now, with the PF RPG rules in circulation, my blasphemous baby Book of the Damned Volume 1: Princes of Darkness nearing the shelves, and the Council of Thieves Adventure Path being set in the very city where the Hellknights were formed, the time finally feels right.
So, as of Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #27, the Hellknights finally march forth, that volume revealing everything characters need to confront, research, and even join the numerous orders of Hellknights. That's right, that does mean there's finally going to be a Hellknight prestige class—and one of the largest ones I've ever seen at that.
But that's not all: in Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #28, expect the other side of the coin, with a GM-focused inside look into the mindset, citadels, and history of these infamous orders.
So that's back-to-back months of Hellknight action coming at you, finally answering many questions about the deadly knighthood, yet also revealing dozens of new mysteries. For example, taken from Pathfinder #27, presented here are just two of the several new lesser Hellknight Orders detailed therein. But that will have to do for now—not surprisingly, the Hellknights frown upon spoilers.
Despite the cull of 4639, numerous lesser orders of Hellknights still exist. Most of these orders work at the edges of Cheliax's sphere of influence or within the countries once within the Chelish empire's thrall. Despite their smaller size, the majority of these factions uphold the same code as their elder, better-established brethren, though many uphold practices that subtly deviate from the core knighthood. Most are careful not to defy the mandates of the Measure and the Chain (the core philosophies of the Hellknights; detailed in Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #28), however, as the larger, more powerful orders are mindful of those who would use the Hellknight name to opposing ends.
Order of the Crux: One of several bands of mercenaries dubbed Hellknights during the Chelish civil war, the skull-clad Order of the Crux refused to disband after the revolution. Hunted down and destroyed by the Order of the Scourge in 4663, the butchers were slaughtered and their fortress, Citadel Gheisteno, put to the torch. However, 25 years later, three graveknights clad in scarred Hellknight armor rose from the ruin. Calling themselves the Order of the Crux and led by the venomous Lictor Shokneir, the undead triune lurks upon the border of Nidal and Molthune, seemingly biding their time.
Order of the Coil: Among the smallest Hellknight factions, the Order of the Coil maintains holdings near the Sargavan city of Eleder, from where they viciously seek to tame the tribal natives of the country and put an end to their backward pollution of the outside world. Seeing the efforts of scholars and adventurers—particularly Pathfinders—as spreading a disease of savagery by carrying curios from the jungles into the world beyond, the Coil hunts down and destroys such explorers and artifacts, notorious for ending these perceived corruptions with poison and flames. The favored weapon of the Order of the Coil is the greataxe.
Raising Hellknights! Monday, July 7, 2008A little over a year ago we started doing this thing called Pathfinder—you might have heard of it. Early on, we decided that its first volume would debut with a guide speaking directly to players, telling them a bit about the world we'd been cooking up. But honestly, at the time, we knew very little about said world. As James set to writing the premiere Pathfinder adventure, Burnt Offerings, I was tasked with drumming up that something for...
Monday, July 7, 2008
A little over a year ago we started doing this thing called Pathfinder—you might have heard of it. Early on, we decided that its first volume would debut with a guide speaking directly to players, telling them a bit about the world we'd been cooking up. But honestly, at the time, we knew very little about said world. As James set to writing the premiere Pathfinder adventure, "Burnt Offerings," I was tasked with drumming up that something for players, a project that would become the first Pathfinder Player's Guide. Tricky thing, though, was that the book needed nouns—names, people, places, things—and we really didn't have many of those at the time. So, I made a bunch up.
It's more than a year later and now we have Golarion. But, what's both really funny—and pretty cool—is that now, a bunch of stuff that I just wrote down hoping that it wouldn't sound too silly are tags on our world's map and have pages of detail in the upcoming Pathfinder Campaign Setting. The elves of the Mordant Spire, the gnomes of the shey citadels of Irrere, the god Nethys and Gozreh, cyphermages, a year ago if asked what these things were all I could do is shrug. Now, that's not so much the case. But above all of these, one name that really seems to have intrigued folks was born out of a love of moral ambiguity, fanatical law dogs from film and literature, and hardcore armor: Hellknights. And the hardcover Pathfinder Campaign Setting's got them. While there's still not a new class for these devil-allied, ironclad enforcers (hum, could we be waiting for a new rules system so we don't have to invent the wheel twice?), there's now more information then ever before on the various orders, ranks, goals, and disciplines of these feared enforcers of absolute law. Just take a peek:
The Order of the Scourge: With anonymity and no consequences, every man becomes a criminal. The Order of the Scourge combats the lawless tendencies within mortal hearts through ever-present watchfulness and brutal reminders that no crime goes unpunished. The Order employs a vast network of informants, pays bounties for substantiated accusations, and publicly metes out grim punishments. Under the perfectionist Lictor Toulon Vidoc, the Hellknights frequently travel from Citadel Demain, near Egorian, to patrol crime-ridden slums and annihilate criminal organizations.
Lesser Orders: Numerous lesser orders of Hellknights exist, although few are known outside the borders of Cheliax. For example, Egorian's Order of the Scar stalks murderers and assassins, while the Whisperwood's Order of the Pike hunts down monsters that flourish in civilized lands. Although less pervasive, these smaller orders are only slightly less feared than their better-known brethren.
Expect to see plenty more Hellknight tyranny in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting hardcover debuting next month! Also check out the new face of the Pathfinder player's guides with volume 1 of the Pathfinder Companion: Second Darkness, giving players everything they need to ready themselves for the coming peril! And just a warning: keep your nose clean, 'cause even beyond what's coming up in the hardcover there's plenty more of the Hellknights' merciless brand of justice on the horizon.
... His and Hers Full Plate Thursday, May 15th, 2008Well, not exactly, but the lovely armor worn by Queen Ileosa's Gray Maidens—from the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path, and thus the Curse of the Crimson Throne Item Card deck—is for women only. Make no mistake, though: you do NOT want to mess with them, no matter how good their armor looks. ... On the even less subtle side, the Hellknight Order of the Nail stomps around Korvosa in their less stylish but far more intimidating...
His and Hers Full Plate
Thursday, May 15th, 2008
Well, not exactly, but the lovely armor worn by Queen Ileosa's Gray Maidens—from the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path, and thus the Curse of the Crimson Throne Item Card deck—is for women only. Make no mistake, though: you do NOT want to mess with them, no matter how good their armor looks.
On the even less subtle side, the Hellknight Order of the Nail stomps around Korvosa in their less stylish but far more intimidating apparel. As befits an organization with "Hell" in its name, the Hellknights dress to inspire fear and wonder in those who meet or oppose them. Unlike the Gray Maidens, though, the Hellknights are open to people of both genders.
Oh no! Otyugh! Monday, December 10, 2007Wayne Reynolds continues his streak of brilliant artwork for Pathfinder—this background for the cover of Pathfinder #7, the first installment in the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, shows us that there are much worse things than alligators living in the sewers.... I particularly love the little details, like the inn's sign or the Hellknight about to take the monster out singlehandedly before the iconics get the chance. Click on the image to...
Oh no! Otyugh!
Monday, December 10, 2007
Wayne Reynolds continues his streak of brilliant artwork for Pathfinder—this background for the cover of Pathfinder #7, the first installment in the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, shows us that there are much worse things than alligators living in the sewers.... I particularly love the little details, like the inn's sign or the Hellknight about to take the monster out singlehandedly before the iconics get the chance. Click on the image to download a larger version.