New Books and Epubs! Wednesday, May 18, 2011It's an exciting day over here in the Pathfinder Tales department! Not only does today introduce the final chapter in Erik Mona's Two Pieces of Tarnished Silver (which you can read right here for free), but it's also the release date of two things that folks have been anxiously awaiting for a while now. ... Illustration by Daren Bader ... The first is Robin Laws' The Worldwound Gambit, a rollicking heist novel set in the demonic madness of the...
New Books and Epubs!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
It's an exciting day over here in the Pathfinder Tales department! Not only does today introduce the final chapter in Erik Mona's "Two Pieces of Tarnished Silver" (which you can read right here for free), but it's also the release date of two things that folks have been anxiously awaiting for a while now.
Illustration by Daren Bader
The first is Robin Laws' The Worldwound Gambit, a rollicking heist novel set in the demonic madness of the Worldwound. Hitch a ride with veteran con man Gad as he gathers the perfect team of scoundrels and thieves to infiltrate a cult's living tower deep in demon-held territory. Together they'll attempt to pull off the biggest job of their lives, saving their home from destruction and keeping business booming. Along the way, they'll have to deal with insufferable paladins, a dangerously seductive priestess, their own quirks and faults—and of course, plenty of demons. By turns hilarious and disturbing, Robin's new book is a dark, witty romp that will show you Mendev and the Worldwound like you've never seen them before.
Illustration by Jason Engle
The second thing we're proud to unveil is the latest batch of Pathfinder Tales ePubs, which includes not just several of the web fiction stories, but the first three Pathfinder's Journals from Pathfinder Adventure Path, available now in compiled electronic form, complete with all their original illustrations! For years, people have been asking for compiled versions of the journals for ease of reading and transportation—in fact, before he worked here, Mark Moreland compiled all the Eando Kline stories into a self-printed chapbook to read on his commute—and we're glad to finally be able to oblige. Appearing in this first batch are "Hell's Pawns" by Dave Gross, which marks the first appearance of Varian Jeggare and Radovan; "Dark Tapestry" by Elaine Cunningham, which follows the adventures of half-elven Pathfinder and desert druid Channa Ti; and "The Compass Stone: The Collected Journals of Eando Kline," which presents the entire epic journey of Pathfinder Eando Kline from his first appearance in Pathfinder Adventure Path #1 to the stunning conclusion in #18. Much longer than a typical web fiction story, both "Hell's Pawns" and "Dark Tapestry" are full-length novellas, while Eando's story is roughly as long as a Pathfinder Tales novel! "The Compass Stone" also comes complete with a new foreword by yours truly, discussing the evolution of the Pathfinder's Journal, and of Eando's story in particular. Joining these journals are the compiled web fiction tales "Lord of Penance" by Richard Lee Byers and "The Secret of the Rose and Glove" by Kevin Andrew Murphy.
And this is just the beginning! We hope to unveil the next novel in the Pathfinder Tales line fairly soon, and you can look forward to seeing further batches of web fiction stories and Pathfinder's Journals compiled for your electronic reading enjoyment at regular intervals. Because when it comes to Pathfinder fiction, more is better!
Attack of the Podcasts Monday, November 8, 2010A short while after Gen Con, Jason Bulmahn sat down with the fine folks from the Games With Garfield podcast to talk about Pathfinder, Paizo, gaming, Golarion, and a lot of ideas and theories about game design and development. We even find out that Jason beat Richard Garfield at Magic: The Gathering! You should definitely listen to it here. ... The Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast guys return to the Council of Thieves Adventure Path with an...
Attack of the Podcasts
Monday, November 8, 2010
A short while after Gen Con, Jason Bulmahn sat down with the fine folks from the Games With Garfield podcast to talk about Pathfinder, Paizo, gaming, Golarion, and a lot of ideas and theories about game design and development. We even find out that Jason beat Richard Garfield at Magic: The Gathering! You should definitely listen to it here.
The Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast guys return to the Council of Thieves Adventure Path with an interview with AP author Richard Pett, a new necromancer character-concept build, conversions of all five Abishi to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and an in-depth review of The Six-Fold Trial. You don't what to miss this one, so check it out here.
... Illustration by Steve Prescott ... The Face of Evil Thursday, December 3, 2009Folks have a lot to say when it comes to tieflings, villains, and high-level challenges. Ecarrdian Drovenge, fresh from his shoot for the cover of Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #30, embodies all three and largely speaks for himself. A scion of one of the most powerful families in Westcrown and a son of the archfiend Mammon, few dare stand in the way of his city-shattering vengeance, but your PCs might be...
Illustration by Steve Prescott
The Face of Evil
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Folks have a lot to say when it comes to tieflings, villains, and high-level challenges. Ecarrdian Drovenge, fresh from his shoot for the cover of Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #30, embodies all three and largely speaks for himself. A scion of one of the most powerful families in Westcrown and a son of the archfiend Mammon, few dare stand in the way of his city-shattering vengeance, but your PCs might be going toe-to-toe with him nonetheless in the upcoming endgame of the Council of Thieves Adventure Path.
... March of the Damned Friday, November 20, 2009Well, we're wrapping up the Council of Thieves Adventure Path here and along with it my series of new devils in each month's Bestiary draws to a close (on our end at least). At long last, let me reveal my ulterior motive. The new devils in Council of Thieves, when combined with those in Princes of Darkness: Book of the Damned Vol. 1, the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary, Pathfinder #12, and two stragglers from another project I'm still keeping mum...
... The Pawns of Hell Monday, November 16, 2009 ... Illustration by David Bircham ... It's an exciting time around here at Paizo. With all the hustle and bustle, if you've seen me on the boards at all, it's probably been commenting on Pathfinder fiction—how it's spooling up now, how some of the authors signing on are blowing my mind, and how we plan to manage things so that both the novel line and the gaming lines can flourish without breaking the world. (If you're curious, it's also...
The Pawns of Hell
Monday, November 16, 2009
Illustration by David Bircham
It's an exciting time around here at Paizo. With all the hustle and bustle, if you've seen me on the boards at all, it's probably been commenting on Pathfinder fiction—how it's spooling up now, how some of the authors signing on are blowing my mind, and how we plan to manage things so that both the novel line and the gaming lines can flourish without breaking the world. (If you're curious, it's also the subject of the editorial in Pathfinder #29.) Yet in all this discussion of the Pathfinder fiction that's coming, it suddenly came to my attention that it had been a while since I'd talked about the amazing fiction we already have.
If you've been reading Council of Thieves, I don't have to tell you that Dave Gross is one of the most talented authors we've had the pleasure of working with on Pathfinder fiction. But I can tell you, having just finished the final chapter of "Hell's Pawns"—the noir-fantasy Pathfinder's Journal in which the tiefling Radovan and half-elven Pathfinder Varian Jeggare hunt a murderer through the upper echelons of Cheliax's corrupt nobility—that Dave has something few fantasy authors in any world achieve: Weight. Gravitas. An honest, emotional connection to characters, not just the world they live in. It's what we've always striven for with Pathfinder fiction, and there can be no question that Dave delivers—along with plenty of murder, intrigue, and gangsters both official and amateur.
But I won't get into spoiler territory. Instead, I'd rather give you all a sample of what I'm talking about, a snippet from the beginning of the story, in Pathfinder #25:
On the scaffold, a knobby-kneed herald emerges from behind the canvas. He looks to either side, shuddering with exaggerated fear when the guards eye him up and down. The groundlings laugh, recognizing him as one of the Fools of Thrune, a jester from House Sarini sent out to amuse them while they wait. I lose interest the moment he raises a trumpet to his lips and blows out a length of crimson silk and a pair of sagging pillows meant to suggest he's blown his lungs out through the horn.
I see plenty of familiar mugs among the groundlings: stevedores, stable hands, street sweepers, barmaids, a seamstress I once gave a memorable night on the Bunyip Dock. A pickpocket I know tips me a wink as he pats a mark on the shoulder while his adolescent accomplice dips his hand in on the other side. A few others touch their chins or smile when they see me. I nod back.
No one from the stands throws me a greeting, but more than a few know me better than they'd admit. I know several of them better than I'd like their husbands to know, but to most I am only the silent bodyguard of Count Varian Jeggare. The only one among them bold enough to return my gaze is Ivo Elliendo.
The Paralictor glides out of the stands where he has been receiving the compliments of the ladies. His tall figure stands out like a plow cutting through a garden. The sharp red scourges on the ribs of his black leather jack give him a gaunt silhouette.
He squints when he spots me, and I can feel his scorn hot on my face. What else can I do but shoot him my toothiest smile? All around him, ladies who had followed his gaze snap up their fans to shield themselves from the sight of a mouth that I'm told looks like a drawer full of knives. The commotion distracts Elliendo, and when he sees he is surrounded by a halo of fluttering fans, his lined face darkens.
Elliendo stalks away from the stands and mounts the stairs, followed as usual by two hulking Hellknights. I begin to frame a prayer for rotting steps before deciding that's too much to ask, even on Judgment Day. On the scaffold, Elliendo peers north at the approach of the golden Royal Carriage down the Imperial Promenade. He snaps his fingers, and the clown retreats behind the canvas to a clatter of applause. Once the carriage halts and the window shades rise just enough for the occupant—no doubt some minor Palace official, rather than the Queen herself—to peer out, the canvas on the scaffold falls away to reveal the Instruments of Judgment.
In the center is a blazing furnace in the shape of a three-faced devil. From each of its gaping jaws jut a bramble of iron implements: knives, spears, chains, rods, brands, and most conspicuous of all the Tines of Cheliax. Each is a two-pronged fork sized for a stone giant, and today there are two of them.
Arrayed between the furnaces are racks of torture devices retrieved from every civilized nation on Golarion, and several not so civilized. The spiked cages of Geb are a crowd favorite, and two of them already hold prisoners. One is a fat man who begins screaming the moment he is revealed, while the other is pock-faced Gellius Bonner, the Butcher of Merrow Lane.
I fell into the Bonner case when the boss sent me to nose around the tannery across the river. I was supposed to catch a stable master selling the carcasses of his lady's mysteriously sickened horses. That went nowhere, but I spied the tanner sneaking out of his own home well past midnight. Curious, I followed him into town, expecting to discover nothing more than a mistress in some Cheapside flat. Instead, he led me to Bonner's shop, where he joined six men wearing crude robes. Bonner greeted them with some fiendish phrase, though I could understand only a few words before he led them downstairs. I let myself in for a peek. When I saw the yak-headed thing Bonner conjured and what they intended to offer it, I ran to Greensteeples and beat on the boss's door until his sleepy halfling butler woke him. With a few questions, Jeggare confirmed that the cult was demonic, not diabolic, so he sent a message directly to the Temple of Asmodeus, who in turn asked the Hellknights to capture the cultists, minus a few who resisted arrest. They even recovered two boys who had not yet been devoured.
The discovery broke the cases of more than a dozen missing children, disappearances that Elliendo had publicly sworn to solve. As he was not on duty that night, he was surprised to hear the criers' announcement of another mystery solved by the celebrated Varian Jeggare.
If it were for the murders alone, Bonner might have met his Judgment at the edge of an axe or, if it were only one or two killings, in hard labor for a decade. The devil-worshiping lords of Cheliax, however, do not suffer the denizens of the Abyss in the city. For consorting with demons, Bonner earned his special voyage to Hell.
While not an admirer of the spectacle, I make a point of witnessing the Judgment of anyone convicted on one of our cases. This time, the boss insisted that I bring something to confirm it was Bonner and not some magic-masked substitute who did the dance of the Tines. He sent me to the Plaza of Flowers with a couple of sakava leaves plucked fresh from a plant in his greenhouse.
Once the Instruments are unveiled, four proper heralds stand on the corners of the scaffold and announce the list of Judgments. Behind them, brawny shirtless men in red hoods prepare the braces for the Tines.
When a couple of the big men unlock Bonner's cage, I slip the sakava leaves from a sleeve pocket. The size of my thumbs, they are thick green ovals with tiny white hairs glistening with oil. Just before I crush them, someone calls my name.
She is taller than me, which is not too uncommon, but most of that height comes from a pair of legs snugged in black calfskin trousers with tiny stars and suns cut out along the outer seam to reveal bare skin. Her blouse hangs loose except in just the right places to make a celibate throw himself off the roof. Her big hazel eyes are too far apart with heavy eyebrows, but they look fine above a long nose pierced above one nostril with a tiny ruby. The stone sets off a hint of late-summer red in her brown hair.
I'm staring at her over the little green leaves.
"Are you Radovan?" she asks again. I could listen to her say my name all day, but then she ruins it by adding, "Count Jeggare's servant?"
"His bodyguard." Immediately I think of three or four suave answers.
"My messages to Greensteeples have gone unanswered, and I require the count's assistance," she says. "And naturally his utmost discretion."
"Naturally," I say, but before I can give her the pitch, I feel a sharp poke just below my shoulder blade.
"Say goodbye to the girly, copper-tongue," reeks a voice inches beneath my ear. I know who it is from the stench of garlic and boiled eggs.
"Not now, Ursio." I try to sound casual, but the scratch he gave me starts to itch. Out of the corners of my eyes I see a couple of shapes that must be his backup. "I'll stay in this very public place while you and your playmates go climb your thumbs."
"These bolts are tipped with black lotus venom," says Ursio, and I know it's his treasured hand crossbow with its steel "fangs" jammed into my back. "You'll be dead before your body hits the street."
It seems unlikely that Ursio has acquired the deadly and expensive poison, but on the scaffold I see the hooded men dragging Bonner to a table, where a third man awaits with a pair of curved knives held high for the crowd's acclaim...
For more of Radovan's adventures in Cheliax, check out the Pathfinder's Journal section of Pathfinder volumes #25 through #30. I promise you won't be disappointed.
... Measuring Westcrown Friday, October 23, 2009It's no secret that sometimes when we build an Adventure Path key bits of information slip through the cracks. For example, Council of Thieves takes place entirely within and near the city of Westcrown, and to support these adventures we're printing a nifty map of Westcrown on the inside front covers for the duration of this campaign. That map was always intended to be more of an art piece and a representational map that gives folks a basic idea...
Friday, October 23, 2009
It's no secret that sometimes when we build an Adventure Path key bits of information slip through the cracks. For example, Council of Thieves takes place entirely within and near the city of Westcrown, and to support these adventures we're printing a nifty map of Westcrown on the inside front covers for the duration of this campaign. That map was always intended to be more of an art piece and a representational map that gives folks a basic idea of the shape and layout of the city, as well as a spatial aid to keep track of where the various adventure locations take place. But for much of the Adventure Path, the exact distances between those various locations hasn't really mattered. That changes with the final adventure, though, where the PCs are going to be moving all over Westcrown to handle a lot of different situations in a relatively short period of time.
And so I needed to figure out what the scale was for the map of Westcrown.
As with so many other Adventure Path-related tasks, this rapidly exploded into a pretty complex problem. While on the one hand the map implies a specific scale (there are houses on the map, after all, and we all have a pretty good idea of how big a normal building should be), the map was never created with a scale in mind and thus, those buildings and streets are not accurately sized. So that's a deceptive measurement to base a map's scale on—initially, I used this to estimate a scale of 1 inch = 600 feet, which as it turned out, was really a rather poor estimation.
You see, for better or worse, the only actual unit of measurement we have nailed down in print that helps us to measure Westcrown's size is its population—114,700 people. Having no frame of reference as to what population density numbers were realistic or not, I went to the Internet to do some research. And as it turned out, one of the real world's most densely populated cities, Paris, has a population density of something like 66,000 people per square mile, so that should probably represent the uppermost end of the scale. And more to the point—Westcrown, for all its importance in Golarion, is no Paris. I looked around a little bit more. Rome's is 5,495 people/square mile. Seattle's is 7,179/square mile. New York City's is 27,440/square mile. Mexico City's is 15,410/square mile. Venice's is 1,705/square mile. Los Angeles's is 8,205/square mile. San Francisco's is 17,323/square mile. London's is 12,331/square mile. Renton's is 4,625/square mile. Point Arena's is 348/square mile. And all of these were numbers for modern cities—what would benchmark numbers from a fantasy world like Golarion look like? Even worse... I'd gathered these numbers off the Internet from Wikipedia... who knows how accurate the numbers really are?
It was about this time that I started stressing out, realizing that I was perched at the edge of a bottomless pit of statistics and urban planning and history from which I could well fall into forever, and since I had to get back on target and finish developing the latest adventure, I didn't really have the luxury of such an oblivion
So I made a few assumptions. I assumed that Wikipedia's numbers were accurate. I assumed that Golarion's baseline levels of urban density are comparable to the modern world, and given the fact that magic can more or less replace technological advancement and that the Inner Sea region's been civilized for far longer than any current real world civilization, I'm not worried that anyone can prove me wrong on this assumption.
Armed with these assumptions, I started assigning scales. At a scale of 1 inch = 600 feet (my original assumption), we'd have a Westcrown that covered an area of only about 0.26 square miles for a ridiculous population density of 441,153 people per square mile. Obviously this is way out of bounds. My desire to have numbers that fell into something closer to the range of real world numbers, combined with my desire to have a scale on that map that's easy to summarize, ended up with me settling at a scale of 1 inch = 4,000 feet (just over 3/4 of a mile). At this scale, Westcrown covers an area of just over 20 square miles, for a population density of about 10,000 people per square mile. Kind of at the low end for modern-day numbers, but given Westcrown's lack of skyscrapers and its relatively empty ruined quarter... I'm actually pretty content with that figure.
We're still a few weeks away from me having to nail down the city's scale in print, and I'm still not convinced the complex and confusing thought process I've gone through to reach the three scales I list above are 100% solid. So I decided to make this long-winded blog post, and to put the numbers up for everyone to look over and pick apart and challenge! Hopefully if there's some sort of critical flaw in my theories, someone will point them out on the messageboards in time for me to not make a fool of myself in print with a ridiculously unrealistic scale for the city of Westcrown in Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #30!
So, unless I get proven wrong by the end of the month or so, the scale of the map of Westcrown on the inside covers of Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes #25–#30 is... 1 inch = 1 mile. Kind of a complicated post to arrive at such a simple number, but that's sometimes how it goes in the wild and crazy world of game design, I suppose!
... Illustration by Jim Pavelec ... To Hell and Back Wednesday, October 21, 2009With Book of the Damned: Princes of Darkness showing up in stores shortly and the Council of Thieves Adventure Path well underway, the keen-eyed reader might be noticing a few crossovers. Indeed, Princes of Darkness was very much meant to be a companion to our infernal Adventure Path, while at the same time, we've drawn more than in a little bit of diabolism in from that damnable tome. So if you're reading through...
Illustration by Jim Pavelec
To Hell and Back
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
With Book of the Damned: Princes of Darkness showing up in stores shortly and the Council of Thieves Adventure Path well underway, the keen-eyed reader might be noticing a few crossovers. Indeed, Princes of Darkness was very much meant to be a companion to our infernal Adventure Path, while at the same time, we've drawn more than in a little bit of diabolism in from that damnable tome. So if you're reading through Book of the Damned and come across a creature or two that you're unfamiliar with, look no farther than Pathfinder Adventure Path for all the details we couldn't fit between two covers. Already the subtly mentioned ukobach (#25), stymphalian (#26), cerberi (#28), and a whole host of new devils have appeared, with even more infernal lore to come. So stay watchful all you infernal scholars out there! The secrets of devilkind reveal themselves fully to only to the most cunning diabolists.
... Illustration by Steve Prescott ... Countdown to Meltdown! Friday, October 9, 2009Well, as any devoted follower of our messageboards or weekly chat room meetings knows, things have been pretty frantic here at Paizo. As it turns out, releasing about 1,000 pages of rules (between the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary) and moving offices to Redmond, WA, all at the height of the convention season, is a really good way to knock product lines off schedule. We've been...
Illustration by Steve Prescott
Countdown to Meltdown!
Friday, October 9, 2009
Well, as any devoted follower of our messageboards or weekly chat room meetings knows, things have been pretty frantic here at Paizo. As it turns out, releasing about 1,000 pages of rules (between the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary) and moving offices to Redmond, WA, all at the height of the convention season, is a really good way to knock product lines off schedule. We've been scrambling to get things back on track, and I'm happy to report that we're making some really good progress there—in fact, Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #28 is just now heading off to the printer!
This volume's adventure was originally going to be a stand-alone adventure written by me for our Pathfinder Module line. When I kept not having the time to get it started, I realized that it'd make a perfect fit into Council of Thieves. Splitting the writing duty for it with RPG Superstar Clinton Boomer, we explore a "what if?" scenario in this adventure: What if a "nuclear reactor" used a powerful devil as its energy source instead of radioactive material? And what if that infernal reactor had a meltdown?"
Presented is a hint of what's in store for Westcrown when things go bad—part of Steve Prescott's incredible cover for the volume. And that's just what's going on up topside—just wait until you find out what's happening down below in the Nessian Spiral itself!
... 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.
... Behind the Scenes: The Six Trials of Larazod Friday, September 18, 2009 ... Illustration by Sara Otterstätter ... This month marks the debut of the The Six Trials of Larazod, the nefarious play that features prominently in Pathfinder Adventure Path #26: The Six-Fold Trial. As promised therein, presented here are the omitted history and details of that accursed play, including a more detailed dramatis personae and more incredible art from Sara Otterstätter. Enjoy! ... What Are the Six...
Behind the Scenes: The Six Trials of Larazod
Friday, September 18, 2009
Illustration by Sara Otterstätter
This month marks the debut of the The Six Trials of Larazod, the nefarious play that features prominently in Pathfinder Adventure Path #26: The Six-Fold Trial. As promised therein, presented here are the omitted history and details of that accursed play, including a more detailed dramatis personae and more incredible art from Sara Otterstätter. Enjoy!
What Are the Six Trials?
In modern times, The Six Trials of Larazod is best known as the fictional account of a Chelish tiefling named Larazod Rilsane. Larazod receives a vision from Asmodeus in which the dark god unveils a prominent Chelish magistrate—the sinister Paraduke Montigny Haanderthan—as a traitor to Cheliax, who has compacted with demonic powers and plans to bring the worship of Asmodeus to a sharp and brutal end. Burning with unholy justice and diabolical purpose, Larazod, along with his stalwart companions, sets out to expose the highly placed traitor Haanderthan. They are greatly overmatched, as Larazod is a minor scion of a piddling noble house whose influence lies tattered in the wake of Thrune's seizure of power in Cheliax. Undaunted, Larazod vows a smoldering blood oath to Asmodeus to see the traitor fall before Haanderthan's actions bring the dark glory of Cheliax low.
Larazod's actions swiftly bring him to the attention of the Paraduke, who has the young tiefling scooped up in the crushing grasp of the law and brought before his dark tribunal for questioning. There, a dire confrontation ensues wherein Larazod reveals his vision and heaps accusations upon Haanderthan in full view of a well-attended tribunal session. Outrage and scandal threaten to topple the order of things, and Larazod's enemies grow in number. Only one high-placed member of the tribunal takes his part—a beautiful daughter of House Sarini and rival of Haanderthan named Ilsandra. A sultry love affair between Ilsandra and Larazod develops as the pair seeks to topple the treacherous Haanderthan.
Haanderthan, using the awesome influence granted a man of his stature, forces Larazod to undergo six trials to prove the truth of his accusations, stating, "If Asmodeus truly granted you this vision, then his almighty black hand shall shield you from dismemberment and disembowelment in the trials we've planned. Surely your faith does not waver?" Larazod agrees to the trials, blasting the magistrate with unholy oaths to see his foolish plans undone.
The trials follow. Combat with foul beasts and grievous tortures leaves Larazod and his companions brutally maimed both in body and soul. At its climax, though, Larazod emerges unharmed and is vindicated as Asmodeus himself drags the nefarious magistrate to Hell.
Despite the spectacle and fame of this piece, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the play is that it is rarely performed to completion. The reality of these trials in their most lethal form—as the play's stage directions detail—prove so intense that nearly every performance ends in the gruesome onstage death of the actors playing Larazod and his companions, those who vow to join him in his darkest hour and face the trials alongside him.
Historical Notes on the Piece
The writer of The Six Trials of Larazod was a legendary playwright of House Sarini named Lokoris. Writing throughout the 4640s, Lokoris was a minor scion of his house who rose to prominence through his gifts of the quill, and who maintained a complete aloofness from political rhetoric or commentary in his many other successful black comedies and heart-breaking tragedies. A signature of his style was the combination of the comic and the serious, a hitherto unexplored mixture of human experience in Chelish drama. Lokoris was a devout follower of Asmodeus in his personal life, and yet his plays were known for their ability to present characters from all walks of life and even different faiths more vividly and realistically than his contemporaries.
The age old play known as Six Trials of Larazod was considered an outrageous piece, even more so after Lokoris’s revisions to the classic—wherein Larazod, a common man, defies the will of a corrupt magistrate. Rewriting this classic plot into both a violent celebration and sideways denouncement of the new Chelish regime, Lokoris transformed it into one of the most avant-garde and sadistic plays in the country’s history. In its time one performance caused widespread riots throughout the city of Westcrown. Lokoris was soon revealed as the playwright, not only ending his career but resulting in his disappearance. He was never found or heard from again, but common theory holds he was swept up by agents of House Thrune and his soul consigned to some bleak corner of Hell for all eternity—an ironic twist of life imitating art.
The play was banned for over 50 years then revived by a later troupe, whose playing of the piece in the outer regional theatres of Cheliax met with great success (though they went through actors quickly as the trials devoured a few each night). However, as the play began to pick up traction among larger and more respectable troupes, the play proved untenable once more. A production by a highly regarded troupe in Egorian resulted in the audience storming the stage and tearing apart the actors playing both Larazod and Haanderthan.
Since, the play is oft discussed in drama academies and among the well-read elite of Cheliax but has never received a serious staging. Until now.
The Three Larazods
There have been several restagings of Lokoris’s The Six Trials of Larazod in the last dozen years, but these have been from a much adapted and markedly less lethal text bearing more in common with the original, centuries old text. Finding a "Lokoris version” or a classic “Original Larazod” now is not easy, but texts arise from time to time. As such, audiences attending the play often don't know from which text the actors will be performing, with those expecting a night of theater instead finding themselves attending a bloodbath and visa versa.
In the modern readaption, as in the original, Tybain merely serves as comic relief (even most Lokoris versions cut many of his blasphemous musings on Aroden's power and what not). Additionally, the entire endgame of the plot is often reworked, and the character of Ilsandra much changed. In this revision, Ilsandra is a succubus who delivers a false vision onto Larazod to urge the youth to topple Montigny Haanderthan—in this version vindicated as a true patriot, falsely accused through abyssal treachery. Therein, Ilsandra is the real culprit, Larazod the flawed tragic hero, and Haanderthan a true believer in Asmodeus under false accusation. Obviously, this reading of the play is far more palatable to most nobles' sensibilities and on occasion receives patronage and stagings. The Lokoris version, while deadlier and far more of a spectacle, sees a tiefling triumphing over one of the rulers of the land and seems to encourage defiance against the aristocracy—features that, regardless of the villain's corruption, do not sit well with the noblesse.
Being those to face damnation and torments most foul amid the Six-Fold Trial.
LARAZOD RILSANE: A tiefling at a time when being a tiefling isn't easy. To most Chelaxians, tieflings are considered a distasteful mixing of pure bloodlines and diabolic influences based not on thoughtful and potent compacts and bargains, but rather a crude relationship and mere carnal episode bearing rotten fruit. Larazod is a low-ranking scion of a lesser house and has no real influence. He achieved nominal acclaim as an officer in the Everwar but has never really been recognized as a hero. He is an odd choice for Asmodeus's messenger, but his faith in the Dark Lord is peerless and unquestioning. He is a simple and low-ranking member of society who is chosen nonetheless by Asmodeus to right a terrible wrong through faith alone.
DENTRIS MALAGRADA: An old, cantankerous wizard and a retainer in Larazod's family for as long as anyone can remember. He has forgotten more about magic than most wizards ever knew. While his magic is rusty, his mind is otherwise sharp, and his rapier wit cuts down most foes before violence is even an option in their mind. As snarly and grumpy as he is, he loves Larazod like a son, and though he tries to talk the zealous youth out of his dire course of action several times, he still marches steadfastly into death and dismemberment with his tiefling master once his sound advice is ignored. He is the character who most often moves audiences to tears, and his death during the trials often leaves no dry eye in the house.
TYBAIN OBEISAN: A paladin of Aroden who is drawn to close kinship with Larazod not by common religion, but rather by the mutual power of their faith in their own respective gods. The religious discourse between these two characters in the original manuscript illuminates just how close faiths can be, even when diametrically opposed. Tybain serves mostly as comic relief in this play, though theorists claim his original purpose was far more dramatically interesting, and meant to serve as insightful religious and political commentary. However, most of this was cut in staged adaptations for obvious reasons, and only the comic bits involving this character remain. The actor cast as Tybain traditionally dies first in the Trials and usually to audience applause.
ILSANDRA: The diabolic daughter of House Sarini who falls in torrid lust/love with Larazod. Whether or not Ilsandra really loves the young soldier turned tyrant-toppler is a topic of much heated debate among noteworthy drama critics. Many insist she is just using the boy to take down her rival. Either way, no one can deny her canny, Machiavellian mind and demure use of both her charms and wiles to come out on top in the play's conclusion (whether Larazod survives or not).
DROVALID VORCLUNE: Para Inquisitor of the Tribunal, a deeply pious giant of a man whose flesh is one long taut veneer of scar tissue. He is a self-flagellant whose zealous love of his duties as head torturer is matched only by his zealous belief in Asmodeus's will. Assigned to administer soul-rending tortures to Larazod, the giant is converted by the tiefling's unyielding devotion to his beliefs and decides to assist the unlikely prophet through the remainder of his trials.
MONTIGNY HAANDERTHAN: The sadistic, traitorous, and demon-corrupted paraduke of Cheliax who engineers and oversees Larazod's trials. Arrogant and self-serving, he uses his lofty station in an attempt to deflect Larazod's accusations and put an end to both his accuser and his political rivals. His fate is decided, though, as soon as he defies Asmodeus's chosen servant.
BAILFF: The left hand and herald of magistrate Haanderthan. This nameless servant of the court introduces the feared paraduke and speaks no more, though his ominous presence lingers throughout the trial.
THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS: The archfiend and lord of Hell himself, whose hand shields Larazod throughout his trials and who ultimately exacts his own judgment upon both the accused and the accuser.
... They're Gonna Catch You All! Wednesday, August 9, 2009My evil murder dolls. Let me show you them. ... Left to right, we have Draggy, Fluff Gugg, Mr. Straw, the too-scary-to-have-a-name Mwangi Fetish, and Molly Missy. They will be visiting your characters with their own special brand of pain and murder soon. And perhaps your nightmares even sooner! ... Illustration by Tyler WalpoleJames Jacobs ... Pathfinder Editor-in-Chief
They're Gonna Catch You All!
Wednesday, August 9, 2009
My evil murder dolls. Let me show you them.
Left to right, we have Draggy, Fluff Gugg, Mr. Straw, the too-scary-to-have-a-name Mwangi Fetish, and Molly Missy. They will be visiting your characters with their own special brand of pain and murder soon. And perhaps your nightmares even sooner!
... Illustration by Sara Otterstätter ... Setting the Stage Friday, September 4, 2009In Pathfinder #26, we try something a little different. During the course of Richard Pett's The Sixfold Trial the PCs find themselves involved in the diabolical performance of a notorious play. It's a pretty neat idea that really gives the PCs an opportunity to show their stuff off the battlefield and gives players with a flair for the dramatic a real chance to shine. Yet rather than skim over this focal...
Illustration by Sara Otterstätter
Setting the Stage
Friday, September 4, 2009
In Pathfinder #26, we try something a little different. During the course of Richard Pett's "The Sixfold Trial" the PCs find themselves involved in the diabolical performance of a notorious play. It's a pretty neat idea that really gives the PCs an opportunity to show their stuff off the battlefield and gives players with a flair for the dramatic a real chance to shine. Yet rather than skim over this focal point of the adventure with just a few hand waves and Perform checks, we did something a little crazy.
We commissioned the text of the entire play.
And we did it from theatrically-minded madman Nick Logue.
What we got was The Six Trials of Larazod, a performance piece for you to read, roleplay, act out, and include however you and your group pleases, along with rules on how to integrate the work with (or exclude it from) the main adventure. I'm proud to say it's one of the most appropriately avant-garde pieces of game design I've ever seen. And it's headed your way in just a few weeks here. But to tempt you with what's in store, here's the introduction to the first work of literature to come to you directly from Golarion. Also, expect a very distinctive look for the play from artist Sara Otterstätter, like the title piece you see here.
The Six Trials of Larazod is the fictional account of a Chelish tiefling named Larazod Rilsane. Larazod receives a vision from Asmodeus in which the dark god unveils a prominent Chelish magistrate—the sinister Paraduke Montigny Haanderthan—as a traitor to Cheliax, who has compacted with demonic powers and plans to bring the worship of Asmodeus to a sharp and brutal end. Burning with unholy justice and diabolical purpose, Larazod, along with his stalwart companions, sets out to expose the highly placed traitor Haanderthan. They are greatly overmatched, as Larazod is a minor scion of a piddling noble house whose influence lies tattered in the wake of Thrune's seizure of power in Cheliax. Undaunted, Larazod vows a smoldering blood oath to Asmodeus to see the traitor fall before Haanderthan's actions bring the dark glory of Cheliax low.
So bone up on your Shakespeare and get ready for rehearsals—tryouts for The Six Trials of Larazod are just around the corner!
... Richard Pett Strikes Again! Tuesday, August 4, 2009I've been warning folks that Richard Pett's The Sixfold Trial, (part two of the Council of Thieves Adventure Path) is a weird one, but until you get your copy and check it out, it's hard to anticipate just how weird it is. And I mean that, of course, in a good way. Not only does this adventure give the PCs a chance to ham it up on stage (while trying to survive the production of a play whose actors generally end up dead during the course...
Richard Pett Strikes Again!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I've been warning folks that Richard Pett's "The Sixfold Trial,"
(part two of the Council of Thieves Adventure Path) is a weird one, but until you get your copy and check it out, it's hard to anticipate just how weird it is. And I mean that, of course, in a good way. Not only does this adventure give the PCs a chance to ham it up on stage (while trying to survive the production of a play whose actors generally end up dead during the course of the performance), but it also features a banquet with all manner of outlandish dishes and numerous opportunities to make powerful political enemies. And all of that happens before you hit the dungeon!
Of course, even in the dungeon the weirdness doesn't stop. One of my requests to Rich when he took on this project was, "Make the dungeon feel like it was designed by the artist Escher." Turns out, Rich also channeled M. R. James, Dante, Freud, and more, with strange psychological tests, deadly curses, devious traps, and more awaiting your PCs within. Yet it's the Outcast King who takes the crown. Check him out, in all of his handsome majesty! (And no, I'm not going to reveal what he is!)
Cheliax, Empire of Devils Tuesday, July 28, 2009 ... Available mid-August, Cheliax, Empire of Devils is a Pathfinder Companion sourcebook written by a star cast of authors led by Amber Scott (contributor to Dragon magazine, the Ecology of the Varisians article for Pathfinder, and Dark Markets, A Guide to Katapesh) and Colin McComb (TSR veteran and a designer for Fallout II and Planescape: Torment). Developed hand-in-hand with the Council of Thieves Adventure Path, Cheliax serves up a big...
In a land ruled by devil-worshipers, nothing is quite... normal. Basement arenas in slums host cockatrice fights. The elite military forces train against devils to overcome fear. Priests of Asmodeus interpret laws. At the top of the hierarchy, lovely young Queen Abrogail issues orders to the royal scribes, redacting events of the past and issuing new official histories so that eventually all will believe that Cheliax has always been in league with Hell.
As the Pathfinder Companion line is designed to be player-friendly, inside you'll find articles on Westcrown (an excellent source of info for players about to start the Council of Thieves Adventure Path) and the capital city of Egorian, magic items and spells of Cheliax, religion in Cheliax (including how non-Asmodean religions are allowed to exist there), new traits, new combat feats to emulate devil fighting styles, and four fully statted NPCs suitable for contacts, hirelings, or cohorts.
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