... Pathfinder Society: News from the Field Monday, February 7, 2011As the days get longer and the snows begin to melt (okay, so maybe not the last part) word comes in from Pathfinder Society events throughout the world, proving that it takes only a month for our esteemed agents to recover from the inevitable lull of the holiday season to pick up adventure and exploration anew on the cusp of spring. ... Photography by Adam Daigle ... In Houston, Texas, nearly 30 tables of Pathfinder Society...
Pathfinder Society: News from the Field
Monday, February 7, 2011
As the days get longer and the snows begin to melt (okay, so maybe not the last part) word comes in from Pathfinder Society events throughout the world, proving that it takes only a month for our esteemed agents to recover from the inevitable lull of the holiday season to pick up adventure and exploration anew on the cusp of spring.
Photography by Adam Daigle
In Houston, Texas, nearly 30 tables of Pathfinder Society were played in the final weekend of January, including the Year of the Shadow Lodge multi-table special. Attendee and Pathfinder Society author Adam Daigle sent the following pictures to me over the weekend, showing that Team Cheliax was present in full force.
Cover illustration by Joe Wilson
That same weekend, on the other side of the pond, European Pathfinders were making their mark on Conception, one of Great Britain's largest gaming conventions. UK Venture-Captain Dave Harrison ran several tables of The Midnight Mauler, the Tier 1–7 scenario by Paizo's own Crystal Frasier available now only to 4-star GMs and Venture-Captains. Reports from players at the table are that this is a new favorite, so don't miss the chance to get in on this memorable event at your next local convention. Contact your nearest Venture-Captain to find out when The Midnight Mauler will be offered in your area!
Have a report from a recent convention or game day in which Pathfinder Society made a particularly large showing? Did any of your regional players create their own Pathfinder team regalia or did someone run a unique event or incentive? Stop by the Pathfinder Society Organized Play messageboards and let us know. Reporting back to the Decemvirate is one of every Pathfinder's duties, after all.
... New Year's Resolution: Recycle Less! Monday, January 24, 2011With the advent of a new calendar year, we here on the Pathfinder Society Organized Play creative team have, like so many others during this season, made a New Year's resolution. No, it's not that we'll eat less junk food, nor is it that we'll exercise more (we are gamers, after all). It's actually something I expect some readers may be upset to hear: we're making an effort to recycle less. ... Use recycled art, I mean. ......
New Year's Resolution: Recycle Less!
Monday, January 24, 2011
With the advent of a new calendar year, we here on the Pathfinder Society Organized Play creative team have, like so many others during this season, made a New Year's resolution. No, it's not that we'll eat less junk food, nor is it that we'll exercise more (we are gamers, after all). It's actually something I expect some readers may be upset to hear: we're making an effort to recycle less.
Use recycled art, I mean.
Beginning with January's scenarios, each new Pathfinder Society scenario will contain at least one new piece of art, generally a depiction of a prominent monster, NPC, or ally. We still may use existing art when we can, but this is one of the first steps in expanding the scope of Pathfinder Society scenarios into new areas. As the program continues to grow, so do our art budgets.
The Lost Pathfinder—Chapter Four: Behind The Curtain
The Lost Pathfinderby Dave Gross ... Chapter Four: Behind The CurtainA good crack on the skull is worse than you might think. Assuming it doesn't kill you, there's a good chance it'll soften your brain, cross your eyes, destroy your sense of smell, or leave any of a dozen other unpleasant reminders of that time you were stupid enough to walk past the hiding spot of the hellspawn assassin you were meant to be sneaking up on. ... But I'm not whining, and it's not like I hadn't been knocked cold...
The Lost Pathfinder
by Dave Gross
Chapter Four: Behind The Curtain
A good crack on the skull is worse than you might think. Assuming it doesn't kill you, there's a good chance it'll soften your brain, cross your eyes, destroy your sense of smell, or leave any of a dozen other unpleasant reminders of that time you were stupid enough to walk past the hiding spot of the hellspawn assassin you were meant to be sneaking up on.
But I'm not whining, and it's not like I hadn't been knocked cold once or twice before. This time I went down hard, my head bouncing off the bare backstage floor. Chances are I would have stayed down if hot, stinking vomit hadn't filled my mouth and nose.
The pungent stench was better than a slap for dimming the sparks that danced in my head. I rolled over and let the rest of the curried fish stew I'd had for dinner gush out. If Malla had served something less aromatic, maybe I would have choked to death before coming to. I shuddered at the thought and made a mental note to steal something nice for the plump cook.
Above me, quick footsteps rang out on the scaffold ladder, evoking a flurry of admonishing shushes from the performers who wanted silence before the curtain went up. That was my deadline, too, since the woman who'd coshed me on the noggin was here to murder my boss.
Still dizzy, I wobbled up to my feet and grabbed the iron ladder for support. I felt my adversary's weight on the framework, and looked up to see her silhouette looking down at me. She hesitated for a second, but when I put a foot on the ladder, she ran. Her steps were a thunder above the singers, whose hushing added the sound of a rain shower to the clamor.
I reached the catwalk just as the curtain began to rise. Limelight flooded the stage twenty feet below us, but I barely noticed the dazzling colors of the set and costumes. To either side of the scaffolding hung flat walls, tree boughs, and latticework arbors crawling with painted vines, all awaiting their turn in the next scene change.
Between the twin iron rails, the assassin stood in the center of the catwalk, the phony flower box lying at her feet. She cradled an elegant stock in one arm and fixed the crossbow in place. Three bolts were clamped to the stock, and she'd set one against the string. In the reflected light from below, I saw the dark gunk that covered the sharp head of the bolts.
It had to be black lotus paste. One shot of that, and even the priests of Asmodeus wouldn't be healing the boss. Of course, if this were a serious hit, they'd have already been paid to find fault in any contracts he'd made with them.
"A whispering flower is ominous, but its silence is more so."
This was definitely a serious hit.
I was halfway to the assassin when she cocked the lever. Realizing I wouldn't make it before she set the bolt in place, I snatched one of the little knives out of my jacket sleeve and flicked it toward her. It was a good throw, but she avoided it with the merest bend of her knees and a tilt of her head. The second one, aimed to strike her when she dodged the first, flew harmlessly past her shoulder. There must have been some snake mingled with her human and diabolic blood. I could come to like this woman if she weren't messing with my livelihood.
She glanced out toward the boxes and hesitated. Shoot at me or shoot her target is what she had to be deciding. The question was whether success or survival was more important to her. She raised her crossbow and pointed it out into the audience. I shouted my filthiest curse.
Say what you like about a country that's held onto its remaining imperial might by bargaining with the legions of Hell, but queen-ruled Cheliax is still the most powerful nation in all of Avistan. Even so, there's a word or two that'll strike any woman sharp enough that the first thing she wants is to put you down. I figured halflings still bristled at "slip," and, no matter how much I like to keep my cool in any situation, "boy" and "hellspawn" still raised my hackles. Manly as the assassin was, I was betting that was doubly true of her. I needed her to hate me for a second.
My epithet rippled over her face. With a snarl, the assassin turned the crossbow toward me. Only then did I realize the stakes. Even when I was in his good books, the boss wouldn't have paid the small fortune it would take to resuscitate me. He'd have to sell one of his precious orchards or an entire farm, assuming I was only dead and not destroyed. I didn't really know how it went with black lotus. The thought made me flinch, and I dove low to knock the legs out from under the assassin.
The killer was smarter than she'd looked. As I flew toward her knees, she leaped straight up and set one foot on either rail, deft as a bird on a line. I hit the iron platform hard. All I could do was hope the impact would throw off her aim, but the assassin's knees bent to absorb the shock. Steady as a veteran sailor on the crow's nest, she held the stock of the crossbow against her cheek and drew a bead on her target.
Something she saw made her frown and hesitate again. I grabbed her ankle and wrenched her down from her perch.
She twisted as she fell, hitting me dead in the sternum with the butt of her crossbow. The blow took away my breath and wet my eyes. She was even heavier than she looked, with muscles hard as cobblestones. I thrust an arm through the open wedge of the bow but couldn't get a grip on the bolt. My other hand clutched at her face, fingers seeking her eyes.
She cracked my chin with an elbow and struck me again in the throat. I turned to avoid the third shot, which caught me on the thick of my neck, and she caught my arm in a wrestler's grip and bent it painfully, forcing me onto my face.
Through the grille of the catwalk, I looked down at the singers. Their voices barely smothered the sound of our fight above, but a lone chorus boy stared up at us as he sang, his mouth an O of astonishment as he sustained his note. Despite my predicament, I threw the kid an apologetic grimace.
Using my opponent's strength against her, I tried twisting in the direction she was forcing me, but she planted a knee between my thighs to stop my escape. If she had kneed me a little harder, she'd have discovered the surprise I wore for those who go for the cheap shot. Maybe she knew I wore a spiked cup. If she'd asked for such detail about her target's bodyguard, she was even more dangerous than I already understood.
She let go of the crossbow I had tangled with my arm, and I finally caught hold of the haft and threw it away. The weapon clattered across the catwalk and came to a stop beside the railing. I half wished it had fallen onto the stage, summoning help. If that arrived in the form of local guards, it'd go a lot worse for the assassin than it would for me. But if someone called the Hellknights, it'd go badly for both of us. It was better to wrap things up and get the hell out of here.
I whipped my head back and cracked her on the face. It wasn't much of a blow, but it threw her off balance enough that I twisted out from under her. We lay side by side on the catwalk, and that's where you don't want to be if I'm mad at you. My spur caught her high on the chest, and I felt more than heard the crack of her breastbone. The strength evaporated from her arms as she reached for me, and I gave her another shot to the shoulder for good measure. We scrabbled over the catwalk for a few more seconds, but it was all over save for the rap on the head.
When she lay still, I glanced out where she had aimed her weapon, but all I saw was one of those tiny balconies. It was empty.
I collected her crossbow and dragged the assassin to the end of the catwalk. At the base of the ladder, four beefy stagehands awaited us. After removing the bolt and loosening the crossbow string, I lowered her unconscious body and dropped her into their arms. When I climbed down after her, the big boys blocked my path.
"What's all this, then?" asked the smallest of them. He must have been their boss.
I thrust the crossbow into his chest. "You work it out," I told him. When one of his boys reached for my arm, I menaced him with the poisoned crossbow bolt. He stepped back and looked to his boss for direction, and by the time he looked back I was out the door and into the hall.
A cluster of guards stood over their unconscious comrades where I'd left them. One of them was just coming to, and his rescuers eyed me with suspicion. Their boss asked the obvious question, but I ignored it and answered the important one.
"These knuckleheads let an assassin bribe her way into your playhouse," I said, thrusting the crossbow bolt into his reluctant hands. His eyes widened as he recognized the poison on the tip. I pushed past him.
"Wait," he demanded.
I turned to face him. The fight had taken it out of me, and I was too tired to run. "My boss is waiting," I said. "If you have something to say, make it quick."
He hesitated, looking down at the bolt and considering his culpability in the matter. After a moment's consideration, he looked me up and down and said, "Nice jacket."
∗ ∗ ∗
My opera cloak was scant comfort against the chill I felt upon emerging from the opera. However fine the weather, a cold wind blew in on me from the direction of all my peers. I was beginning to understand at last, after decades of effort to integrate myself fully into the human society of my mother, that I had never been one of them—not truly, not at all. I was born before House Thrune ascended the throne on the backs of devils and men sworn and damned. We did not like it, my mother and I, but since her death I had been ever loyal to the throne, answering each summons to war, spilling my coffers when taxed and overtaxed, and yet still turning the course of my wealth to the comfort of those least buoyed by the national triumphs, employing halflings not as slaves but as servants, elevating a hellspawn street thug as my bodyguard, and bending my considerable talents to the advantage of my peers who wished their personal injuries and indiscretions to be soothed privately...
It was intolerable ingratitude. That one misfortune—in a career of hundreds of favors rendered discreetly and without a single instance of advantage taken over those whose secrets I had uncovered and recovered and kept safe—should result in such a bestial display...
I had endured such abuse as only the lowliest of criminals deserve, and from the very crust of the scab that has formed over the wound left by the death of Aroden, usurped by the infection praised in my homeland as the Prince of Law. That we citizens of an empire should come to serve at the foot of Asmodeus, better described by our foreign foes and rivals as the Prince of Lies, master of all us damned Chelaxians who think nothing of exploiting the generosity of a peer only to...
I had thought I was alone, but Radovan has a most distasteful habit of creeping up on me.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Why should I be otherwise?" I said.
"You made a sound," he said. "And, you know, you left the opera."
I did not wish a description of this "sound" Radovan had heard, nor did I wish to discuss the matter of my early departure. Still, it was an unexpected comfort to hear the voice of one I could trust, no matter how rude his manners. My headache had dissolved into a maelstrom of indecision. I felt as though I were on the brink of an abyss, capable of surrendering myself to the void or else turning to leap... I knew not where.
"You look like you could use a drink," said Radovan.
The surrender in his voice was more damning than any chastisement. It was Radovan, among all my servants, who had most blatantly hinted that I had been drinking too much since the unfortunate affair of the Henderthanes. That he would encourage me to seek the solace that he believed diminished me made me feel more poignantly ashamed than any admonishment my mother had ever gently delivered.
"No," I said. "That is the last thing I need."
"All right," he said. To his credit, he kept most of the relief from his tone. "Then maybe it's time to get you home."
The comforts of Greensteeples were plentiful, and no lord of Egorian had grown more accustomed to his house than I, who had resided in mine, apart from the occasional tour or campaign, for nearly a century. Yet I knew I would find no solace in Egorian, even if I were to close my doors to visitors and mingle exclusively among the society formed by my books, my gardens, and my memories. As I came to this realization, it was the image of the whispering lilies, drooped and wilting in the solarium, which sprang foremost to my mind—a symbol of all that had gone wrong.
And which might yet be set right.
"No, Radovan," I said. "It is time to depart."
Coming Soon: For the further adventures of Radovan and Jeggare, see the forthcoming Pathfinder Tales novel Prince of Wolves. Meanwhile, stay tuned for next week’s Pathfinder Tales webfiction and the first installment of “Noble Sacrifice,” by Richard Ford!
The Lost Pathfinderby Dave Gross ... Chapter Two: The Bunyip DockVincenzo smiled feebly when he saw me. His tiny mouth and buckteeth gave him the look of a ferret. I smiled back, and he bolted up the crooked stairs. ... I found Vincenzo right where Mac said I would, in a small warehouse abutting the Bunyip Dock. Even in the heart of the Cheapside districts, the sagging pier was a lonely place. Some of the local toughs, including me, liked to take a woman there if time was short and she wasn't...
The Lost Pathfinder
by Dave Gross
Chapter Two: The Bunyip Dock
Vincenzo smiled feebly when he saw me. His tiny mouth and buckteeth gave him the look of a ferret. I smiled back, and he bolted up the crooked stairs.
I found Vincenzo right where Mac said I would, in a small warehouse abutting the Bunyip Dock. Even in the heart of the Cheapside districts, the sagging pier was a lonely place. Some of the local toughs, including me, liked to take a woman there if time was short and she wasn't picky. Others took marks down the long pier, knowing the ravenous creatures that prowled the waters would dispose of the body. And a certain addict of my acquaintance apparently used the place to ride out his latest shiver-induced dreams.
The warehouse was small and inhabited mostly by rats and the occasional squatter. The owners wouldn't pony up for repairs, so those foolish enough to rent the space sometimes found their goods floating past the pilings after the rotten floor gave way. The last tenants had abandoned their wares, so the place stank of mildewed grain and imported fruit that had long since turned to slime and mold.
"Don't make me chase you," I called after Vincenzo. I doubted that would stop him, so I followed him up the stairs, grimacing at the squealing steps. If Vincenzo had taken his hit already, he wouldn't run for long. But when the shiver took him down, he'd be out for hours, his head filled with spider dreams.
The upper floor was a confusion of crates and slanting beams of sunlight. The sound of his footsteps had stopped, but I saw Vincenzo's wake in the dusty air. Thinking of the sharp knife he favored, I glanced to the sides in case he wanted to try his luck at an ambush.
The stack of crates beside me creaked. I leaped forward, avoiding the falling boxes but not the disgusting explosion of rotten fruit that burst from them. As I rolled up to my feet, I slipped in the mess and fell down hard in the splinters and slime. The stench was worse than anything I'd smelled since crawling up through the privy in House Tauranor. I tried breathing through my mouth, and that was worse. The mold spores wet my eyes and prickled the back of my throat.
Behind me, Vincenzo scrambled over the boxes to reach the stairs. Trying to stand up, I slid in the muck and nearly added my breakfast to the goo. Before the mess could swallow me whole, I grabbed an unbroken crate and pulled myself onto the stack. My first few hands-and-knees steps just smeared more of the crap over the crates, but enough of the stuff came off to give me friction. Despairing of the insult to my new clothes, I uttered a vow of revenge on that miserable addict. I crawled over the unbroken crates and saw Vincenzo's head disappearing down the stairwell. One of the rotting stairs cracked under his foot. He stumbled and cursed, but I heard him plant his feet at the bottom.
I made it to the stairs and leaped the rail. Desna smiled, and Vincenzo ran directly under my trajectory. My knees caught him in the kidneys. He screamed for half a second before the pain shut down his breath and he hit the floor beneath me. The floor beneath him gave, and we fell through the splintering timbers.
I caught the edge of the hole with one hand, Vincenzo's graying ponytail in the other. We let out simultaneous shouts as my arm and his scalp went taut. Below us, fragments of the broken floor splashed into the water where Lake Sorrow drained into the River Adivian. They bobbed to the surface before a swell raised them up within inches of Vincenzo's kicking feet. A dark shape emerged from the water to disintegrate a three-inch plank with one snap of its jaws.
It was a bunyip the size of a fishing boat. Its head resembled a seal's, only five times bigger and with a maw bristling with three rows of shark's teeth. I'd never seen one this close, and one look at its grin told me there was no intimidating something like this with my own pretty smile.
Vincenzo squealed and grasped my wrist. He struggled to climb my body back into the warehouse. If I didn't need his information, I'd have shaken him off and let the monster have him. It wouldn't have taken more than two or three bites for the bunyip to gobble him up.
Instead, I strained to pull us both up with one arm. Vincenzo was so frail that it would have been a breeze under different circumstances. Between his thrashing about and the splintered edges of the broken warehouse floor digging into my palm, I was lucky just to hang on. The remaining floorboards creaked as I pulled us up.
The bunyip leaped, causing a big wave to wash over the pilings. It came so close that I felt the warmth from the big mammal's body, and its fishy breath washed over us. The monster's jaws snapped shut just behind Vincenzo's ass as the informant clambered up my legs. He almost fell back into the water when he grabbed my "tail" and unexpectedly pulled my big knife out of its hidden sheath. A second later I felt his knee in my kidney, then his feet upon my shoulder as he climbed back into the warehouse.
"Not even the Big Knife is much good against an angry bunyip."
Illustration by Joe Wilson
"Give me a hand," I demanded. He turned to face me, his eyes dreamy and confused. For an instant he brandished my own knife at me. Then he looked at it in horror and dropped it as if he'd just realized he'd picked up a snake. He turned and ran.
My foulest curse chased him, but I felt the air pressure drop beneath me. Refusing to look down, I grabbed the shattered floor with my other hand and pulled with all my might. In two quick motions, I jerked my body above the floor and rolled forward onto my feet just as the bunyip's head smashed up through the floor and doubled the size of the hole.
Vincenzo hesitated at the warehouse door to look back at me. He shrieked at the sight of the bunyip rising above my five and a half feet of height. Feeling cocky, I ignored the thing, brushed a few splinters off the shoulder of my jacket, and crooked a finger at Vincenzo.
"Last chance to play nice," I told him. Beneath us, the bunyip fell back into the river with a splash that shook the warehouse. Vincenzo moved toward the door. I took a throwing knife from my sleeve. The moment his hand touched the latch, my knife pinned it against the door.
Vincenzo screamed and tugged at the blade, but I'd thrown it hard. I retrieved my big knife and strode over to him in six big steps. Removing my throwing blade from the door, I grabbed his ponytail and dragged him back to the hole in the floor. There I held him over the river water.
I fixed my eyes on his face, but he stared down at the water. We both heard the furious splashing, but only he could see what swam down there.
"You know what I want," I told him. "Who and where?"
"At the opera," he screamed, his pupils rolling back as the shiver began to grip him tight. "I don't know the name. One of yours!"
"One of my what?" I growled. I felt the air pressure change again, and Vincenzo hugged his knees to his chest. We both knew that wasn't going to be enough.
"A hellspawn!" he shrieked as we heard the bunyip crest the surface.
∗ ∗ ∗
"I am in no vein for bad news," I warned Radovan. He had burst past the butler to enter the solarium, causing me once more to reevaluate my decision to employ so many halflings. I considered adding a few guards large enough to encourage him to develop better manners.
"Can't be helped," he said. The several foul stenches he had brought into the hothouse threatened to wilt the nearby orchids that I had cultivated for decades since my all-too-brief expedition to the Mwangi Expanse. "One of your peers hired an assassin."
I blinked at him, uncomprehending. The scent of flowers had lulled me toward an afternoon nap. I reached for my wine, but the clumsy butler must have repositioned it after refilling the glass. I bumped it from its table onto the stone path, where the crystal shattered into a thousand glittering fragments. They sparkled in the afternoon sun, briefly mesmerizing.
"Do you hear me?" said Radovan. "It's a hit on you."
"Ridiculous," I said. Granted, I was perhaps a trifle drowsy, but I could not at that moment think of anyone who would be so rash as to threaten a scion of House Jeggare. I did, of course, have one prominent rival. However, his ethics, if not his demeanor, were beyond reproach. The day he chose to end my life, I would see it coming. "Who would be so reckless?"
"I didn't get names," he said. "But I have a description of the assassin and a location. You'll want to skip the opera tonight. There's a tiefling you want me to find before he finds you."
"Out of the question," I said. What I did not explain, what Radovan could hardly understand, was that a performance of The Water Nymph promised my only solace in a day that had brought nothing but miserable tidings. Besides, the Opera House was the perfect location for me to avoid hellspawn, since none were allowed within. I waved Radovan away, but he failed to grasp my meaning. I tried to rise from my reclining chair and said, "You may go."
My hand slipped off the chair, and I began to fall. Radovan caught my arm, his grip exceedingly tight. "Boss," he said, "you need to take this seriously. A lot of families got hurt in the Henderthane business. I'm just surprised we haven't taken more heat before now."
I removed myself from his presumptuous grasp and stepped back, slightly unsteady. All of this unwelcome news was exacerbating my headache. I felt dizzy and confused, but most of all I felt angry.
"It is not for you to tell me how to receive this or any other information," I said. "You've delivered your news, and you are dismissed."
He stood in perfect stillness for a moment, his expression caught halfway between wonder and anger. Never before had he released his fury on me, although I had seen him cow thieves and informants with one of his notorious smiles. If he retained even a fraction of the good sense he had demonstrated in past service, he would not test me now.
He did not speak for many seconds. At last he rubbed the back of his neck and said, "Right."
Radovan never addressed me properly, and I had been permissive, perhaps excessively so, in allowing him such informalities as "boss." He turned and walked away, brushing past the butler, who scurried toward the broken wine glass with a brush and pan. Before he bent to tidy the mess, he set another crystal goblet on the table and filled it from the bottle.
I lifted the new glass to observe the color of the wine. Instead, I noticed a difference in the glass itself.
"Why is this not the same as the previous?" I asked the butler.
"Forgive me, Your Excellency," he said with a low bow. "I am afraid that was the last of the old set. Recently there has been some... attrition."
I squeezed the bridge of my nose, hoping to dull the rising pain. How could I have been so careless, so forgetful? I felt a sudden urge to call Radovan back, but I could think of nothing to say.
Coming Next Week: A night at the opera turns deadly in Chapter Three of "The Lost Pathfinder."