Pathfinder Battles Preview: Uncommon Courtesy Friday, October 21, 2011I’m pleased to report that I have now seen preproduction samples of all 41 miniatures in the Pathfinder Battles Heroes & Monsters set, and I am thrilled with how they look! At long last we have discovered the “perfect” goblin skin tone, and the big meaty Ettin finally has the proper ink wash to make him a truly menacing brute. Things are really coming together, and folks around the Paizo office are blown away by the quality...
Pathfinder Battles Preview: Uncommon Courtesy
Friday, October 21, 2011
I’m pleased to report that I have now seen preproduction samples of all 41 miniatures in the Pathfinder Battles Heroes & Monsters set, and I am thrilled with how they look! At long last we have discovered the “perfect” goblin skin tone, and the big meaty Ettin finally has the proper ink wash to make him a truly menacing brute. Things are really coming together, and folks around the Paizo office are blown away by the quality of the sculpts and paint jobs of the entire line. The commons in particular are amazingly impressive, with far better paint jobs than most gamers are used to at that rarity. WizKids has done a tremendous job both in the initial execution, and in keeping up with a bewildering amount of changes and suggestions from Paizo aimed at making these minis as close to perfect as possible.
To that end, we’ve been shaking up the rarity scheme a bit, so while I was planning to reveal the entire uncommon list today, we’re going to have to wait another week since a few minis are moving around and I don’t want to reveal anything that might change later.
But I do want to share some uncommon images with you! As I explained last week, we see the uncommon rarity as the perfect landing point for player character miniatures (the “heroes” in Heroes & Monsters). While everyone needs multiple orcs and goblins, you probably don’t need a whole army of human rangers or dwarf clerics or what have you.
Today’s blog shows off three of the uncommons (that won’t be changing rarities) no one outside the office has seen yet. Two of them are player character types, while the third is a creature you’ll use again and again.
Our first miniature this week is the Dwarf Fighter, a doughty dude in plate armor and a fancy winged helmet. If you’ve got a copy of the Inner Sea World Guide you probably recognize this guy from the back cover. He means business!
Next up is our Half-Elf Cleric, in this case a crusading warrior of Iomedae. I really like the way WizKids emblazoned her holy symbol on her tabard. And since she’s using a sword and wearing plate mail armor, this miniature easily doubles as a fighter or paladin.
Last up this week is a nasty Venomous Snake, whose image comes straight out of the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary. A bright red coat is nature’s way of saying “I am going to murder you,” and it’ll be fun to watch your players squirm like Indiana Jones when this little guy hits the table.
That’s it for previews this week! But here we are at the end of the post, and I can’t spoil that uncommon list I was planning to, and I feel terrible! So, in order to make up for this egregious slight, here’s a list of a few rares in the set that we haven’t previously announced!
A Passage to AbsalomBy Dave Gross ... Click here to read this story from the beginning. ... Chapter Two: Dry SherryPlease, Captain, you must see it from my perspective. ... Captain Qoloth brayed so vigorously that the top of his close-shorn head bumped the ceiling. The Katapeshi stood several inches taller than I and doubtless carried thrice my weight on his broad frame. His prominent jaws and bristly whiskers suggested a parent among that nation's hyenafolk, though my studies at the Acadamae...
"Please, Captain, you must see it from my perspective."
Captain Qoloth brayed so vigorously that the top of his close-shorn head bumped the ceiling. The Katapeshi stood several inches taller than I and doubtless carried thrice my weight on his broad frame. His prominent jaws and bristly whiskers suggested a parent among that nation's hyenafolk, though my studies at the Acadamae suggested that such a hybrid was categorically impossible. Considering the bestial odor of his fur-clad body, I reevaluated my understanding of the term "impossible."
"Do you know, my half-elven friend, what it is that I most enjoy about being captain?" Qoloth smiled, revealing long canine teeth. "It is that everyone else aboard my ship must see things from my perspective."
"Very well." My station was no advantage so far from my native land, even had I chosen to announce my Chelish origins on a vessel flying the crowned white lion of Taldor. My attempts at reason had failed to move Captain Qoloth, who noted with perfect logic that the Lacuna Codex had been stolen before I came under his protection by boarding his ship. Thus, I was reduced to begging the most meager concession. "Will you at least grant me permission to question the other passengers?"
"Talk all you like. Just remember, there is no magic aboard the Lion. And keep your boy out of the other cabins."
Radovan bristled at the dismissive term. It mattered little to him that he had, in fact, been spotted attempting to pick the lock of Shadya's cabin to search for the missing tome.
"Very well, Captain. Thank you for your time."
Arnisant awaited us on deck. A sea breeze ruffled the hound's pewter-gray coat, but the sun's warmth assuaged the winter chill. The wolfhound's eyes flicked toward Radovan before settling on me. I bade him heel as we strolled the deck, careful not to intrude upon the labors of the crew.
The Lacuna Codex had to be somewhere aboard the Sea Lion. Under other circumstances, I would appreciate the captain's insistence that none of his guests were to be subjected to physical or magical inspection. For the exorbitant price he charged for passage, one expected a modicum of privacy while traveling between Taldor and Absalom.
Yet someone had absconded with my property, and the thief had to be one of my fellow passengers. Apart from the crew, who had been nowhere near my luggage before the theft, there were only six others aboard. In his own coarse manner, Radovan had already searched Shadya, the Qadiran woman who had lifted my purse at the wharf. While not eliminating her as a suspect, Radovan's "inquiry" left five other likely suspects.
Lord and Lady Neverion seemed innocuous, but it is my business to dispel seeming. The wealthy Menas Neverion began life as a butcher, gradually expanding his business until he had accumulated sufficient capital to speculate on imports. Desna favored his investments, and eventually he bent his vast fortune toward his ultimate goal: the title, hand, and lands of the widowed and impoverished Lady Charikla. Had catastrophe withered their holdings? The stolen Codex was worth a fortune to the right buyer.
Or to the wrong one.
Pekko and Jaska were dwarf merchants conveying cargo to Absalom. They too took the air, their breath forming clouds as they walked arm-in-arm on the far side of the deck. Pekko threw us a jaunty wave. He was a gregarious sort with bells and charms tied in his red-brown beard. Jaska was his opposite in almost every regard, disagreeable of countenance with a sooty smudge of a beard and an angry canker-blossom overtaking his left nostril. He was the one who seemed most concerned with the safe handling of their cargo, the nature of which I had not yet discovered. Did either of these ostensible traders harbor a lust for rare tomes?
"Pekko is likeable enough, if something of a lush. But is his jovial exterior a front for something more sinister?"
The young elf called Murviniel had revealed himself to be a Pathfinder aspirant, as I had surmised. Once he overcame his trepidation, he asked whether I was, as he suspected, "the famous" Venture-Captain Varian Jeggare. Accustomed as I am to idle flattery, I was surprised that his admiration sounded genuine, if born of innocence. Any active Pathfinder would know that my once-flourishing reputation had paled. In fact, my latest excursion had proven a failure except for the discovery of the now-missing Lacuna Codex. Did Murviniel hope to steal for himself the prize that would win back my former status?
The creak of salt-encrusted hinges interrupted my reverie. As the portly Menas Neverion held the door, his delicate wife emerged from below decks. She squinted at the white sky as the breeze ruffled the various furs of her stole. In her arms shivered a pair of tiny dogs that must have arrived within their baggage. Arnisant lifted his snout to catch their scent but remained obediently at my side.
"I bet you could eat both of those little rats in one bite, couldn't you, Arni?" Radovan scratched the back of the hound's head.
"Please," I said. "Do not confuse my hound by using a diminutive of his name."
"Arni's not confused," said Radovan. "He's smarter than he looks, like you always say about me."
"Considerably smarter, I hope. All the same—"
"There you are, my dear fellow." Menas Neverion bustled toward us, extending his hand to grasp mine as if I were some common broker of fortunes. I countered his unseemly greeting by offering a curt Chelish bow. He withdrew the offending appendage and fiddled with a button on his fur coat.
"Your Excellency, my husband wishes to invite you to sample his sherry this evening," said Lady Neverion. She stroked a finger across the heads of the tiny dogs cradled in her arm. They trembled and strained their little necks for a view of Arnisant. "If the sherry pleases the foremost count of Cheliax, it should dazzle the connoisseurs of Absalom."
While I had taken no special pains to conceal my identity, I had not expected to be known among the other passengers. Only Murviniel had recognized me, and I now wondered how. Certainly my name was well known among members of the Society, but my image was not so commonly distributed. Even setting aside that question, either Murviniel had identified me to Lady Charikla, or else some other intelligence allowed her to identify me by title.
Lady Neverion anticipated my question. "We were never formally introduced, my dear Count. I glimpsed you once, some years ago, during a procession in Oppara. You cut quite the dashing figure among the Chelish emissaries. I pray you won't think me forward when I say you appear quite unchanged."
"My lady is most kind," I replied with a more courtly bow than I had offered her husband. Menas appeared undisturbed by the attention she shone upon me, but I could not return the compliment, for I had no recollection of the lady. My most recent visit to Oppara had occurred more than forty years earlier, when I served a minor role in a diplomatic gesture following the revolutions in Galt and Andoran. Unless some magic were responsible for preserving her appearance, Charikla must have been little more than a child at the time of my visit.
A sudden eructation drew my attention. The sound emanated from my hound. Arnisant gazed up at Charikla's little dogs, who yipped in fear. With a sign, Radovan directed him to move farther away. Charikla cradled her darlings to her breast.
Before I could frame an apology, Menas spoke again.
"Do be a good fellow and join us for a drink before supper." He glanced to the side and waved at Pekko as the dwarves completed their latest circuit of the deck. Pekko waved back, but sour-faced Jaska tugged him down the stairs to the cabins. Menas added, "We've invited everyone, and I promise I won't be stingy, even though it's very expensive stuff."
Lady Neverion glanced away from her husband's crass remark. Radovan cleared his throat to cover a chuckle. Even to one raised on the streets of Egorian, the pretensions of this merchant lord were risible.
"I would be honored," I said.
"And do bring your man," he added. "I've invited that Qadiran girl. What do you think? They'll add a bit of color."
Menas grinned, awaiting my approval. His wife's eyes narrowed as she considered my bodyguard. Radovan smiled without revealing his teeth, but I knew he was stifling the urge to wink at her. That was wise, for Lady Neverion was doubtless unaccustomed to including hellspawn or pickpockets in her social gatherings.
"We should be honored," I said.
"Don't bring your hound, of course. My lady wife's precious little creatures are not among the hors d'oeuvres." He leaned in to whisper, "Not that I'd mind the quiet afterward!"
Radovan snorted. Charikla turned away, murmuring assurances to her noisy little dogs until Menas offered her his arm and escorted her around the deck.
We arrived at the Neverions' cabin twenty minutes after the appointed hour. I wished to observe the dynamics established among the other passengers in my absence. Also, it would not do for a count of Cheliax to stand awaiting the arrival of those of lesser status.
The chamber was larger than I had expected, even considering the high price Captain Qoloth charged his passengers. Not even the enormous master of the ship had any need to stoop beneath the seven-foot ceiling. His evening clothes included a hyena-pelt cape that only exacerbated his resemblance to the hyenafolk.
For the occasion I had chosen an embroidered coat to wear over a linen shirt with laced cuffs. Radovan's leather garb was barely presentable, but none of my clothing would fit his wide chest. I insisted that he wear a soft gray half-cape I had made for myself in Caliphas.
The Neverions appeared well appointed as usual, all fine furs and tasteful jewelry, the selection of which I attributed to Lady Charikla rather than her husband. Menas laughed as he poured another drink for the jocular Pekko, who held two large wine goblets rather than the dainty sherry crystals held by the other guests. Despite the effort to appear unconcerned, I could see Menas wince slightly as he calculated the cost of every drop he poured for the seemingly insatiable dwarf. The dwarves had donned gray waistcoats over fresh linen shirts, but Pekko had already managed to stain his cuffs while quaffing sherry from both goblets. Judging by his rosy cheeks and the ever-increasing volume of his voice, he had already imbibed plenty, and he had a bottle of his own nestled into one of his trouser pockets.
I started toward the group, but then I heard Radovan's intake of breath. I followed his gaze to the other side of the cabin.
Shadya appeared less a thief and more a lady in loose silken trousers draped as sensuously as a skirt over her long legs. Over a beaded shirt she wore a brilliant azure vest of crushed velvet, its stiff fabric somehow failing to conceal the curves of breasts and hips. Subtle patterns appeared in the fabric as she moved, betraying its fine quality. Either Shadya was an exceptionally successful thief, or else she picked pockets for the thrill of the act.
Radovan straightened. Before he could take a step toward the woman, she lifted her chin and turned away. Radovan jutted his jaw, deterred for now.
Murviniel appeared at my elbow. Alone among the guests, he appeared out of place. His robes were the color of old sailcloth, and his tri-corner hat was unfashionable even in Andoran where it had once been popular. His only ornament was a cheap brass ring on which was stamped the emblem of the Pathfinder Society.
"There's only one captain on this ship, by Abadar!" Qoloth's voice thundered across the cabin, but his wide grin belied his threatening tone. He drained his glass and held it out for Menas to refill. The trader obliged, tugging at his tight collar as the captain joined Pekko in guzzling his expensive sherry.
"While we are aboard ship, you must address me as Count Jeggare."
"I beg your pardon, Your Grace."
"'Excellency' is the traditional honorific."
"I'm sorry, Your Excellency."
Radovan moved away, but not before I saw him roll his eyes.
I waved away Murviniel's apology. It is acceptable to dispense with formality in the field, but the young elf was not yet a member, only an applicant to the Society.
"How is it that you recognized me?" I asked.
Murviniel lowered his eyes. "The truth is, Your Excellency, you are my idol."
"My hero," he said. "You travel the world and uncover secrets no one else has ever found, even other Pathfinders. My copy of your Bestiary of Garund has fallen to pieces, I have read it so often. I want to be just like you."
"Your words are…gratifying." It was now my turn to feel flustered, but before I could recover my composure I saw Menas Neverion pull at his collar again, this time with far more force. The man's face had turned dark red. His eyes bulged, the veins darkening as they spread toward his iris.
Beside Menas, Pekko peered into his goblets, one after the other, glassy-eyed and seemingly oblivious to the events around him. Charikla recoiled from her husband, her face a mask of revulsion as she realized the extent of his distress. Qoloth squinted suspiciously at the choking merchant before reaching out to steady the man.
"Help him!" cried Charikla. Jaska grabbed Menas and eased the man to the carpet. The others all moved at once, some toward and others away from the fallen merchant. I pushed through the crowd and felt the man's throat.
"Too late." I said. "He is already dead."
Coming Next Week: Theft turns to murder, and an elegant ship becomes a dangerous prison in Chapter Three of "A Passage to Absalom."
Dave Gross is the author of numerous Pathfinder Tales novels and stories. His adventures of Radovan and Jeggare include the novels Prince of Wolves and Master of Devils, the Pathfinder's Journals "Hell's Pawns" and "Husks" (published in the Council of Thieves Adventure Path and the upcoming Jade Regent Adventure Path, respectively), and the short stories "The Lost Pathfinder" and "A Lesson in Taxonomy." In addition, he's also co-written the Pathfinder Tales novel Winter Witch with Elaine Cunningham.
... Manipulating Terrain Tuesday, March 15, 2011For the last installment of the Design Tuesday blog on terrain, we are going to look at a relatively new type of terrain—terrain that you can actively manipulate. This kind of terrain can grant a creature a variety of effects, from an attack, to cover, to a special or enhanced mode of movement. ... Some of the examples of this type of terrain will look familiar. Much of it can already be found within existing encounters. Where this is the...
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
For the last installment of the Design Tuesday blog on terrain, we are going to look at a relatively new type of terrain—terrain that you can actively manipulate. This kind of terrain can grant a creature a variety of effects, from an attack, to cover, to a special or enhanced mode of movement.
Some of the examples of this type of terrain will look familiar. Much of it can already be found within existing encounters. Where this is the case, it is up to you, the GM, to decide whether or not you wish to allow the special terrain effects described below.
Other samples of this type of terrain are new. Some, like the blink crystal, grant magical effects, and can add a sense of mystery and danger, as well as the possibility for strange tactics on the part of the PCs and their opponents.
Like the hazardous terrain presented last week, these new terrain types straddle the line between terrain and new dangers. Based on how much of this terrain you plan to use, you may want to consider adjusting the CR of encounters that use these more active forms of terrain, especially if their use grants one side of the combat more advantage than their foes.
Alchemical Devices: This terrain is actually a broad class of similarly acting terrains. They can be as simple as a workbench cluttered with beakers filled with roiling concoctions, or as complex as a distiller or even stranger alchemical machines. Manipulating such devices requires a standard action and any number of skill checks. Toppling a table requires a Strength check. Making a distiller shoot a gout of highly-pressurized alchemical gas may require a Disable Device check, a Craft (alchemy) check, or even a Strength check, if the PCs are using a strategic application of brute force. Interacting with more complex machinery usually requires a Disable Device check, though a higher DC Craft (alchemy) or Knowledge (arcana) check may do in a pinch.
Whatever the type of alchemical device, the basic rules for its manipulation are as follows. A successful check made as a standard action creates a 15-foot cone (or alternatively a 20-foot line) of damaging energy, controlled by the creature that successfully manipulated the device. It deals damage to creatures within the area of effect. A Reflex or a Fortitude DC halves the damage. Often alchemical devices create an area of acid, but the destructive energy could be cold, electrical, fire, or in rare cases even sonic or force damage, depending on the nature of the device.
To add more flavor and danger to specific alchemical devices, you can layer on additional conditions and effects. You could add bleed damage (which works well for acid or even fire damage devices), have creatures knocked prone on a failed saving throw (for sonic or force damage devices), or have a failed saving throw entangle creatures for 1d4 rounds (for cold damage devices) or even daze creatures for 1 round (for electrical damage devices).
The following are some suggestions for baseline effects of alchemical devices based on the base CR of the encounter.
Simple Alchemical Device (CR 1–5): Activating—DC 14 check; Effect—DC 12 Reflex saving throw for 2d6 acid, fire, or electrical damage, or a DC 12 Fortitude saving throw if the device deals cold, sonic, or force damage.
Complicated Alchemical Device (CR 6–10): Activating—DC 17 check; Effect—DC 15 Reflex saving throw for 3d6 acid, fire, or electrical damage, or a DC 15 Fortitude saving throw if the device deals cold, sonic, or force damage.
Advanced Alchemical Device (CR 11–15): Activating—DC 22 check; Effect—DC 20 Reflex saving throw for 4d6 acid, fire, or electrical damage, or a DC 20 Fortitude saving throw if the device deals cold, sonic, or force damage.
Magic-Infused Alchemical Device (CR 16+): Activating—DC 27 check; Effect—DC 25 Reflex saving throw for 4d6 acid, fire, or electrical damage, or a DC 25 Fortitude saving throw if the device deals cold, sonic, or force damage.
Blink Crystal: These strange, cloudy-white crystals glow with a faint purplish radiance. Typically blink crystals are the size of large gemstones, and they are always set in a statue or some similar large and immobile casing. If a blink crystal is removed from its casing, it loses its magic and becomes nothing more than a large piece of common quartz (worth 10 gp). A creature adjacent to a blink crystal can touch it as a free action, which causes the creature to teleport up to 20 feet to an unoccupied space on stable ground within line of sight. Touching a blink crystal as a swift action along with a successful DC 20 Spellcraft or Use Magical Device check can increase the range of the teleport to 40 feet. Failing this check allows the creature to teleport 20 feet.
Bubbling Caldron: A size Large bubbling caldron can be tipped over with a DC 15 Strength check made as a standard action. Doing so releases a 30-foot cone of boiling liquid from the caldron in the direction of the creature’s choosing, and deals 2d6 fire damage to all creatures within the cone’s area. A successful DC 12 Reflex saving throw halves the damage.
The liquid makes the area of the cone slippery (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 412) until it dries or dissipates. The cone of liquid affects creatures on the ground only. Flying or levitating creatures can avoid the liquid and its damaging effect.
Chandelier: Successfully leaping onto a chandelier allows a creature to hang from it and use its momentum to increase the power of a jump before the end of the leaping creature’s next turn. A creature is flat-footed while it hangs or balances on chandelier.
Using the momentum of the chandelier grants the leaping creature a +5 circumstance bonus on Acrobatic checks made to jump off the chandelier, and the jump is considered to have a running start for purposes of determining the DC of the check.
Chandeliers have size categories like creatures do. They are typically size Small or larger. A chandelier can easily support a single creature of its own size or smaller.
A creature larger than the chandelier’s size (or two creatures of the same size or smaller than the chandelier) can attempt to hang on it or use it to gain the bonus on Acrobatics checks made to jump, but at the end of the creature’s turn (or the second creature’s turn, if two creatures are using the chandelier for the same effect), the chandelier breaks free from its supports and both the chandelier and any creatures hanging from it fall to the ground. If either a creature two or more size categories larger than the chandelier or three smaller creatures leap on to the chandelier, the chandelier and those hanging on it fall immediately. Creatures take normal damage from the fall plus an additional 1d10 damage from the falling chandelier. At the GM’s discretion, extremely large or heavy chandeliers or chandeliers with sharp protrusions or other dangers can deal additional damage upon a fall.
Furniture: From flipping over a table to using a gong as makeshift shield, a movable piece of furniture can be manipulated to create partial cover for a short period of time. A creature that is adjacent to the piece of movable furniture can attempt a Strength check as a move-equivalent action to gain cover from the item until the start of its next turn.
The DC of the Strength check depends on the size of the furniture. The base is DC 10 for size Small furniture, and the DC increases by 5 for each size category over Small (moving a Medium piece of furniture is DC 15, moving a Large piece of furniture is DC 20, and so on). A creature cannot attempt this manipulation if it is two or more size categories smaller than the piece of movable furniture it wants to manipulate.
Rug: A creature can spend a standard action to attempt to pull a rug out from under creatures standing atop the rug. This requires a DC 15 or higher Strength check, depending on the size of the rug. If successful, each creature standing atop the rug (some of its space must be on atop the rug) must succeed on a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or fall prone. Creatures that cannot be tripped are immune to this effect. Rugs that are larger than a 4-square area require higher Strength checks. The DC increases by 2 for every additional 2 squares of rug area beyond 4 squares.
... Illustration by Kieran Yanner ... Hazardous Terrain Tuesday, March 8, 2011In last week's Design Tuesday blog, I delved into the importance of terrain to push your encounter design to the next level, and provided you with some design philosophy to ponder when designing your own terrain. This week, I'm back with some concrete examples. ... The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game assumes combatants are able to use their movement abilities with little or no hindrance. Sure, there are walls, doors,...
Illustration by Kieran Yanner
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
In last week's Design Tuesday blog, I delved into the importance of terrain to push your encounter design to the next level, and provided you with some design philosophy to ponder when designing your own terrain. This week, I'm back with some concrete examples.
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game assumes combatants are able to use their movement abilities with little or no hindrance. Sure, there are walls, doors, and difficult terrain to navigate, or maybe some obscuring effects to grant a little concealment, but for the most part PCs and monsters have free reign to move about the rooms and corridors of the dungeon as they wish. The following types of terrain are all exceptions to this norm. While some act as difficult terrain, they present further hazards while navigating the battlefield.
One thing to keep in mind about all of these new terrain types is that they typically work best as smaller, tactically placed patches. You may be tempted to fill an entire battlefield with one of these new terrains, but doing this should be the exception rather than the rule. They all work best when they give characters a choice between freedom and danger. When properly placed, they can reward the use of combat maneuvers and spells that grant increased mobility to allies or restrict or force the movement of enemies, and may limit the opportunities to make charge attacks without stymieing that tactic outright.
You may notice that these new terrain types are very similar to the hazards presented on pages 244–245 of the Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide. So what is the difference between these terrains and hazards? These hazardous terrains involve slightly more choice on the part of combatant than hazards do. Most, if not all, have effects when a character chooses to move into or is forced into them, and those effects should be relatively easy to determine before the combatant enters them, either by way of their physical characteristic or an easy Knowledge check (DC 10) of the appropriate type.
Anchor Stone: This strange stone has a debilitating gravitational effect on those who do not traverse over it quickly. Each time a creature starts its turn on an area of anchor stone, it must succeed at a DC 12 Fortitude saving throw. Any creature that fails can only take a 5-foot step on its turn. Any creature that succeeds at the saving throw must move at half speed on its turn.
To take the effects of anchor stone, a creature must be standing on or touching the stone. Anchor stone has no effect on those who fly over it or otherwise do not have physical contact with the stone.
Some areas of anchor stone are more powerful than others, having a DC of 15, 20, or even higher.
Choke Spores: This type of fungus thrives in subterranean caves and other damp and lightless areas. The first time a creature starts its turn within an area containing choke spores, the poison of the fungus is released, inflicting those within that space with the following poison.
Choke Spore Poison
Type poison, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 14
Frequency 1/round for 1d4 rounds
Effect 1 Dex and 1 Wis damage; Cure 1 save
Once an area of choke spores releases its poison, that area becomes dormant for 1 day. With a single standard action, a creature can use fire (from a torch, a flaming magical weapon, or a similar implement) to destroy all the choke spore balls within all 5-foot-squares adjacent to the creature. Acid, cold, and fire damage from area effect spells automatically destroy patches of choke spores within the spells' effect areas.
Fey Mist: This strange swirling mist of purple and green gas and motes of light dazzles those who stray within it. Fey mist provides concealment. Furthermore, a living, non-fey creature that starts its turn within the mist must make a DC 12 Will saving throw or become confused for 1 round. Those that make their saving throws are dazzled for 1 round instead. This is an enchantment effect.
Some areas of fey mist are more powerful than others, and have and require a DC 15, DC 20, or even DC 25 Will saving throw to avoid its confusion.
Flame: A house is on fire and that flame rages in large areas, a hellish landscape burns around you, or a large bonfire rages in a clearing where a coven of witches chant evil incantations. While the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook has rules for forest fires, sometimes you may want to have a section of an encounter area that just burns.
When a creature starts its turn with its space fully within an area of flame, it takes 1d6 points of fire damage, and if the creature is wearing metal armor, it is affected as if by a heat metal spell. A creature that starts its turn with its space only partially within an area of flame must succeed at a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or take the damage and the heat metal effect if it is wearing metal armor. A creature that moves through areas of flame must make a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or take 1d6 points of fire damage, but avoids the heat metal effect. This save is made the first time a creature moves into flame with a move action or when it is affected by something that pushes or otherwise forces the creature into an area of flame.
Supernatural or powerful flames can have higher DCs. A raging fire can have a DC of 15 or the fires of Hell can have a DC of 20, 25, or 30 depending on the power of the flames.
Areas of flame often create smoke, the effects of which can be found on page 444 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.
Haunted Ground: These areas of accursed ground are often the sites of horrid crimes or intense and bloody battles. The intense fear of those who lost their lives lingers and saturates the area. This fear affects living creatures that stray within these areas. A living creature that starts its turn in an area of haunted ground must succeed at a DC 15 Will saving throw or become shaken for 1d4 rounds. If the creature is already shaken, it becomes frightened for the same duration instead. Frightened creatures become panicked for the same duration instead. Creatures that are immune to fear effects are immune to haunted ground.
Razor Rubble: Either rubble made of sharp stone, or laced with small sharp blades, this terrain functions like difficult terrain (see Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook193), but each square a creature enters deals 1 point of damage to that creature. A creature moving at half speed, or that succeeds at a DC 15 Acrobatics check as a free action when first moving into an area of razor rubble can avoid the damaging affects for the round but not the difficult terrain effect.
Slick Ice: A frozen lake, a sheen of thick ice on a dungeon or cavern floor, or some other cold and slick surface, slick ice can be hard to traverse, but can also increase the speed of creatures that are agile or foolhardy enough to utilize its surface's lack of friction.
A creature traversing slick ice at more than half speed is required to make a DC 15 Acrobatic check at the start of the movement. Failure causes the creature to fall prone at the start of the movement. Running or charging on slick ice increases the DC by 5, with the same effect on a failed skill check. A creature that succeeds at this check by 5 or more can increase its move across the ice by 10 feet, but is considered flat-footed until the start of its next turn. Creatures (like those with enough levels of barbarian or rogue) that can't be caught flat-footed at the start of combat are immune to this flat-footed effect as well.
Tentacle Mold: This strange vermillion fungus clings to the moist walls, floors, and even ceilings of dungeons and caverns. When a living creature is in or near a patch of this fungus, acidic pseudopods lash out, with sickening effect.
When a living creature starts it turn in an area of or in a square next to (if it clings to the walls or the ceiling) of tentacle mold, it must make a DC 15 Fortitude saving throw; on a failed saving throw the creature takes 1 acid damage and is sickened for 1 round. Though the effect is like a poison, this is not actually a poison effect; the strange chemistry of this kind of mold makes it more alchemical in nature.
Design Tuesday: Fun with Terrain—First Things First
... Illustration by Kevin Yan ... Design Tuesday: Fun with Terrain Tuesday, March 1, 2011When designing an encounter, it's tempting to focus the majority of your attention on the mix of monsters and villains. After all, coming up with interesting enemy synergies and evocative scenes of terror, threat, and evil-doing go a long way in making encounters both memorable and fun. Often neglected, though, is making sure that the setting you place these bad guys in offers both threat and opportunity...
Illustration by Kevin Yan
Design Tuesday: Fun with Terrain
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
When designing an encounter, it's tempting to focus the majority of your attention on the mix of monsters and villains. After all, coming up with interesting enemy synergies and evocative scenes of terror, threat, and evil-doing go a long way in making encounters both memorable and fun. Often neglected, though, is making sure that the setting you place these bad guys in offers both threat and opportunity of its own. When designed correctly, the terrain of an encounter can provide opportunity and challenges that not only compliment the opponents that you select, but can make combat the stuff of gaming stories for years to come.
First Things First
There are two ways to go about terrain selection for your encounter. The first is to think about the environment that you want to set your encounters, or an entire adventure, within, and filling it with the proper terrain. When it comes to dungeon and cavern settings, much of this work is already done for you. Take a look at Chapter 13 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, especially pages 410&ndash416, and you'll find a good selection of terrain types to stock your dungeon. You'll also want to check out pages 193—194 of the Core Rulebook as it has the rules for difficult terrain and obstacles, and maybe take a peek at pages 244–245 Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide for some sample hazards to play with.
Picking proper terrain is all about creating interesting exceptions, so the first thing you'll want to do is make decisions about the baseline terrain for your dungeon. Unless your group is full of seasoned Pathfinder veterans, you'll want to set those baselines at or near the base assumptions of the Pathfinder rules: Masonry walls, flagstone, and wooden doors are a good start. For the most part you, and your players will not have to think about these areas of terrain at all. They're the standard dungeon dressing everyone is use to. Then you'll want to think about the possible exceptions for your dungeon. Are parts of the dungeon in disrepair? Are parts of the dungeon in the midst of construction? Does the dungeon serve as an entryway to a subterranean cave system? Does it lead to an underground river or water or magma? Once you are done imagining your dungeon, and maybe even sketching it on some graph paper, you can start to figure out where the exceptions sit, and then start brainstorming possibilities that you can't find in the rules... but we will get to that later.
Straying deeper into Chapter 13, you can make similar choices for large areas of terrain that are not dungeons, but the principles are the same. Find your baseline, and then ponder the possibility of interesting and evocative exceptions to that baseline. Take some notes, ponder some possibilities, and search the rules for similar types of terrain.
The other way to go about creating interesting environments is to think about the monsters and villains you want in your encounter in the adventure, and ask yourself two questions. The first question is, what kind of terrain compliments the monsters' or villains' tactics? The second question is, what kind of terrain compliments your PCs' abilities? Answering the second question can be a little tricky, especially if your end result is being designed for a nonspecific group of PCs (say you're writing an adventure for a convention or Pathfinder Society open call, or you're already thinking about next year's RPG Superstar). More often than not, you'll want to try to fill your encounters with terrain that does both simultaneously. This creates better-balanced encounters that don't favor one side or the other overly much, which not only tend to create more exciting encounters, but can also bypass the need to adjust the CR of your encounters because terrain favors one side more than the other.
Whenever possible, it's best to use a mixture of these two approaches. Treat each one as lenses toward your ultimate goal—to create a fun game experience in a world that seem rich, vibrant, and full of possibilities and potential dangers for the PCs to explore.
Designing New Terrain
Whenever you get the itch to create a new piece of terrain, you should shoot toward making your terrain challenging to interact with but not overly frustrating. In general, you will want one of two speeds for your new terrain. The first speed is terrain that has automatic effects when a creature spends an action to interact with it, but the effect is always constant. Unlocked doors, stairs, and small passageways all fall under this category. They talk directly to the action economy of the game. Someone must spend an action or slightly modify her normal actions in order to use them (think squeezing, opening doors, or basic difficult terrain). This type of terrain is easy to use, quick to remember, but it lacks variability. Some of the most exciting terrain features effects that do not guarantee success, or, better yet, feature varying degrees of success.
Enter the second speed of terrain, where actions are often required, but the effect is variable. Usually such variability is tied to the uses of a skill. For most terrain you will want to pick a basic skill that can be used untrained and that makes sense for the terrain type. Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, Fly, Survival, Swim, and even raw Strength checks are some obvious examples, with Acrobatics already doing a lot of the heavy lifting with the terrain found in the Core Rulebook (see hewn stone floors, rubble, and slippery floors). But don't be afraid to mix it up a little with other skills, even those that can't be used untrained (Disable Device, Ride, and even Stealth are some personal favorites). Creating such terrain is just another way where PCs (or monsters) with high skill bonuses have an opportunity to shine, but at a cost. Failure is a possibility.
When creating new terrain, it is not only important to make sure that they work within the normal rules of the Pathfinder RPG but that they are also the right fit for the PC and creature mix you are designing encounters and adventure for. Designing a fight on a frozen lake may seem like fun, but the last thing you want to do is slow down the encounter to a crawl with every creature being forced to make an Acrobatics check in order to accomplish any kind of movement whatsoever. Consider creating relatively safe areas (maybe areas covered with snow or rough ice that grants more traction), giving clumsy creatures slightly suboptimal movement choices, while allowing agile creatures to gamble for success, or even the possibility of greater effect. With those sheets of ice, consider giving them the possibility of bonuses when higher Acrobatics checks are rolled.
Can We Get Some Examples?
With some of terrain philosophy out of the way, start fooling around with creating your own terrain. Tune in next Tuesday for some new pre-made terrain objects to spice up your game. Next week we will be focusing on some terrain primarily designed to limit or focus movement and action types, and the week after we will unleash some crazy terrain options that grant new action options, such as movement and even some terrain that grants creatures special attacks.
Iconic Love Monday, February 14, 2011For some of us, Valentine's Day is just another day. We go to work, come home, maybe hang out with our significant others a bit or send the kids off to the sitter for a rare night out. For other people, however, Valentine's Day carries more significance, and flat-out demands acknowledgement. They see it as an excuse to truly cut loose, to go all-out with the romance and treat it like a real holiday. ... And then, apparently, there's a third type of person:...
Monday, February 14, 2011
For some of us, Valentine's Day is just another day. We go to work, come home, maybe hang out with our significant others a bit or send the kids off to the sitter for a rare night out. For other people, however, Valentine's Day carries more significance, and flat-out demands acknowledgement. They see it as an excuse to truly cut loose, to go all-out with the romance and treat it like a real holiday.
And then, apparently, there's a third type of person: the type for whom Valentine's Day means a chance to go totally insane. Such appears to be the case with Pathfinder Tales author Kevin Andrew Murphy. How else can you explain the fact that he chose the occasion to, without any prompting or warning, write us an entire heroic crown of sonnets immortalizing the iconic characters' backgrounds in prose. (For those of you who've forgotten your 400-level literature classes, a "heroic crown of sonnets" is a specialized form of poetry in which you have 14 sonnets, each linked by their first and last lines, plus a fifteenth which is made up exclusively of the previous sonnets' linking lines, in order. Needless to say, it's incredibly difficult to do well.)
I'd say more, but I'm still processing the whole thing, so I think it's better to just post the sonnets in their entirety. Happy Valentine's Day!
The Fifteen Loves of Golarion
A Heroic Crown of Sonnets for Valentine's Day 2011
by Kevin Andrew Murphy
1. Alain, the Cavalier, "For Love of Glory" I am the one who lives to tell the tale.
The victor is the braggart of his fame,
The first to know the glory of his name
But not the last. The bards now all regale
The common folk with ballads of my deeds,
The battles won by force of my prowess,
The ransomed kings who've bowed to my duress,
And Donahan, the noblest of steeds.
Sometimes I think he is my only friend.
The men I ride with? Those I can replace.
The maids I bed? Each just a pretty face.
Yet Donahan is mine till journey's end.
If he falls first, then part of me is dead.
I've said the words that needed to be said.
2. Alahazra, the Oracle, "For Love of Truth" I've said the words that needed to be said,
For Truth is blind, and I am blind in truth.
My clouded eyes see little but forsooth
My inner eye sees clearly. I have read
The fates of men with but the barest glance.
I know the future as I know the past,
Which seeds will sprout and which of them will last,
For Destiny leaves nothing up to Chance.
It was not Chance that burned me with its fire.
The simoom's breath is but the Wind of Fate
That claimed me with its Flame. I now relate
The Fate of Love, if that is your desire:
All present loves become in days ahead
Mementos kept in memory of the dead.
3. Seelah, the Paladin, "For Love of Those Now Gone" Mementos kept in memory of the dead,
Reminders of what nothing can restore.
The wingéd helm that dead Acemi wore
Now hides my face and my unworthy head.
I feel its weight: part guilt, part gift, part theft.
Part love. She saw and yet forgave her thief,
The child who stole her helm. Ergo, my grief.
Acemi is still dead and I am left.
I have no words to say in my defense.
I know my deeds. I must have faith in grace
So now I wear her helm and take her place.
What Iomedae learned: Inheritance,
A gift of trust from those you must not fail
Now silent in the realm beyond the pale.
4. Harsk, the Ranger, "For Love of Solitude" Now silent in the realm beyond the pale,
My brother lies–and those who took his life.
I ended theirs with crossbow quarrel and knife.
The giants dead, now I alone prevail.
My kin who dwell below with bended backs
To toil at the forge or in the mines,
Or worshiping our gods at dwarven shrines,
Have my regard, and yet my brother's axe
Is all I bear away from whence I hail.
A hunter's life is love of solitude.
A Spartan camp, a pot of tea fresh-brewed
Will keep him more alert than mugs of ale.
My quarry's tracks are runes left for the sage.
I know the letters written on this page.
5. Ezren, the Wizard, "For Love of Scholarship" I know the letters written on this page,
My father charged with some impiety
Against our god, some awful blasphemy
Too dire for words, and nothing can assuage
The gossips' tongues, for rumor needs no proof.
And Abadar? The merchant god cares not
Who prospers or who fails nor what is bought.
The Golden One stays in his Vault, aloof.
I spent my youth to clear my father's name,
In quest to save the business that he built,
But in the end I only proved his guilt.
Now scholarship's the only love I claim.
Yet law for arcane law can be exchanged.
Old orders sometimes must be rearranged.
6. Sajan, the Monk, "For Love of a Sister" "Old orders sometimes must be rearranged."
So said the monks when taking twin from twin.
My sister Sajni's gone. I should begin
Describing how we came to be estranged.
We were conceived. Our lives were intertwined
Like threads of web and woof strung on a loom,
So were our limbs locked in our mother's womb.
Though born as two, we're more when we're combined.
We trained with temple swords and so time passed
Till at twelve years we each were sent away
And battle woes lost her to Jalmeray.
I left, deserting all I knew, my caste,
To seek my sister. Far too far I've ranged.
I've changed some facts which never should be changed.
7. Damiel, the Alchemist, "For Love of Change" I've changed some facts which never should be changed
And yet that is the goal of alchemy:
Quicksilver shifting, mutability.
The philosophic art just seems deranged
To those too dull to grasp aetheric heights
Or dream of fixing one's perfected form,
Not living with the dull and banal norm.
You reach out when the stars are in your sights,
Yet what you grasp may be the fulgent dark
For nightmares ride as well between the stars.
Like Shelyn's smile can hide Zon-Kuthon's scars,
The bright quicksilver sea conceals a shark,
And from the left the villain steps onstage
To let men feel the battle fury's rage.
8. Amiri, the Barbarian, "For Love of Oneself" To let men feel the battle fury's rage,
The Six Bears tribesmen donned the skins of bears
They'd taken from our totems in their lairs.
Each boy was sent to do it at an age.
We girls were told to sit inside and spin,
Awaiting a barbarian's return.
This never was a name that women earn.
I brought a she-bear's hide back to my kin.
The time came that a warband of my clan
All dared me to bring back a giant's blade.
When I returned, they mocked me as a maid.
The blood rage came. I slew them to a man.
That bastard blade I bear with me. Beware
To taste the kiss of malice and despair.
9. Seltyiel, the Magus, "For Lack of Love" To taste the kiss of malice and despair,
One needn't know the touch of love or hope–
At very least, not of an equal scope–
And pain is seldom more than one can bear,
And when it is? Well, there is always death.
My mother died the moment I was born.
My sister's cries, those spared my life that morn.
I often think she should have saved her breath.
Sioria, oh how could you divine
The babe you saved would still be here alive
Or on a feast of wormwood one could thrive.
I'll kill your father once I first kill mine.
Foul Lairsaph was a fool to teach his spawn
To walk the road with weapons sheathed or drawn....
10. Valeros, the Fighter, "For Love of Adventure" To walk the road with weapons sheathed or drawn
Is how a sellsword passes most his days.
That much at least is truthful in bards' lays.
The rest? Well yes, there is a need for brawn–
The same goes for an ox that pulls a plow–
But when your sword-arm makes some villain yield,
That's better than some plowshare in a field.
At least it's more exciting anyhow.
One day I may retire to a farm,
Grow beans and beets or brew a bit of beer,
But now I love my freedom and I hear
A distant village sounding the alarm.
If there's adventure calling, I'll be gone
To greet the hope that rises with the dawn.
11. Kyra, the Cleric, "For Love of Hope" To greet the hope that rises with the dawn,
The Crown of Our Beloved Sarenrae
Who cast the Beast below to Asmodae,
Is how a priestess prays for I'm Her pawn.
Whate'er the Dawnflower wishes I will do.
When bandits burned my village and Her shrine,
That's when I saw the face of the divine.
Through streaming tears the sun shone and I knew
The Everlight had filled me with Her power
To heal the sick and ailing with Her light
And cleanse those past redemption of their blight
By scimitar, like Dawn's Eternal Flower.
One day I'll join my goddess in the air
To live a life of joy and forswear care.
12. Merisiel, the Rogue, "For Love of Freedom" To live a life of joy and forswear care
Is what I always felt the world should be.
See something that you like? Then take it. Free!
If you don't like your lot, then folk should share.
They call it thievery, who gives a fig?
My knives can teach their tongues to be polite,
And while some think I could be more contrite
It's not like they're not working the same gig.
This knife I got from some Azlanti queen.
This one? From Galt. Belonged to some coquette
And these? From Geb. But most I just forget.
I only care if I can keep them keen.
You make life up like some bard's folderol.
I sing the songs that rise up from my soul.
13. Seoni, the Sorcerer, "For Love of Magic" I sing the songs that rise up from my soul
And write the runes appearing in my dreams.
The ones I walk with talk about my "schemes,"
If schemes they are, or just an unknown goal.
I'd like to say I like just who I am,
Yet who can say just who they are? Not I.
Or what I am, or how I am, or why.
That statement just might be my epigram.
I only know when spells wish to be wrought,
The way they say that love pulls at the heart.
Just so I feel the call of arcane art.
It springs to mind like any other thought.
I'd work alone, but I lack that control
For love and friendship are what make one whole.
14. Lini, the Druid, "For Love of a True Companion" "For love and friendship are what make one whole."
So spake the norn who whispered in the wood.
She vanished but her fey advice is good
And with it I can talk to mouse or mole.
The purest love is love you get from beasts.
My friend Droogami taught me this is true.
It's something though that I already knew.
I never bought the nonsense from the priests
About the love of gods as the most pure.
Who can believe a love you never see?
My love is for the leopard next to me
And she for me and that's what shall endure.
She's great and strong where I am small and frail.
I am the one who lives to tell the tale.
15. Lem, the Bard, "For Love of Happy Endings" I am the one who lives to tell the tale.
I've said the words that needed to be said,
Mementos kept in memory of the dead
Now silent in the realm beyond the pale.
I know the letters written on this page.
Old orders sometimes must be rearranged.
I've changed some facts which never should be changed
To let men feel the battle fury's rage,
To taste the kiss of malice and despair,
To walk the road with weapons sheathed or drawn,
To greet the hope that rises with the dawn,
To live a life of joy and forswear care.
I sing the songs that rise up from my soul
For love and friendship are what make one whole.
Vote on the Costume Contest! Thursday, August 12, 2010We’re back from Gen Con, and in addition to the usual scramble to meet deadlines and recovery from horrifying illnesses contracted by shaking hands with approximately ten bajillion people, that means it’s time for everyone to vote on the contestants in the Third Annual Gen Con Pathfinder Cosplay Contest! ... We had an extraordinary number of contestants this year, and all of them did bang-up jobs! Yet only one can be the official winner of...
Vote on the Costume Contest!
Thursday, August 12, 2010
We’re back from Gen Con, and in addition to the usual scramble to meet deadlines and recovery from horrifying illnesses contracted by shaking hands with approximately ten bajillion people, that means it’s time for everyone to vote on the contestants in the Third Annual Gen Con Pathfinder Cosplay Contest!
We had an extraordinary number of contestants this year, and all of them did bang-up jobs! Yet only one can be the official winner of the grand prize (both a pile of Paizo store credit and bragging rights), which is where you come in. At the bottom of this blog, you’ll see a link for comments. Sound off and place your vote for the best costume in that thread. You have until the end of the weekend to make your selection. On Monday morning, we’ll tally all the votes, and announce the official winner in a blog post next week.
Ready? Here are this year’s fine contestants, in no particular order:
Lora as Feiya, the iconic witch.
Jason as Damiel, the iconic alchemist.
2009 contest champion Kelly as Harsk, the iconic ranger. (Maybe he’s a little tall for a dwarf, but how can you say no to a hand-made crossbow and his adorable animal companion, Biter?)
Blake as Nethys.
David as a paladin of Iomedae.
Corienne as a Tien monk.
2008 contest champion Tiffany as the Harrower from the campaign setting hardcover. (You can’t see her wayfinder here, but it came with its own ioun stone!)
Noel as Trifaccia from Pathfinder Adventure Path #12. Look out, he's got a whip!
Honorable Mention: Jodi as Amiri, the iconic barbarian, who despite her amazing costume has removed herself from the running, on account of already being Sean Reynolds' girlfriend (and isn't that prize enough?).
... Illustration by Alex Aparin ... Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Preview #1 Thursday, July 1, 2010The start of Gen Con 2010 is five weeks away, which means that the Advanced Player's Guide will be hitting game stores and subscriber mailboxes in just over one month. To celebrate the release of this impressive tome, we are going to be previewing parts of it every week until its release. Last week we recapped the information from the PaizoCon APG Preview Banquet. This week we are going to...
Illustration by Alex Aparin
Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Preview #1
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The start of Gen Con 2010 is five weeks away, which means that the Advanced Player's Guide will be hitting game stores and subscriber mailboxes in just over one month. To celebrate the release of this impressive tome, we are going to be previewing parts of it every week until its release. Last week we recapped the information from the PaizoCon APG Preview Banquet. This week we are going to dig into some details with an extensive look at the races chapter.
As I mentioned last week, each of the seven core races receives a two-page spread of information. Each spread starts out with information about adventurers of that race, taking on each of the 17 classes available (that includes the six new classes found in the APG). This is followed up by alternate racial traits that allow characters to portray members of the race that are a little different than the rest, but still well within the theme of the race. To take one of these alternate racial traits, a character has to give up one or more existing racial traits. For example, take a look at this dwarven racial trait.
Stonesinger: Some dwarves' affinity with the earth grants them greater powers. Dwarves with this racial trait are treated as one level higher when casting spells with the earth descriptor or using granted powers of the Earth domain, the bloodline powers of the earth elemental bloodline, and revelations of the oracle's stone mystery. This racial trait replaces the stonecunning racial trait.
Or how about this Half-Orc racial trait.
Toothy: Some half-orcs' vestigial tusks are massive and sharp, granting them a bite attack. This is a primary natural attack that deals 1d4 points of piercing damage. This racial trait replaces the orc ferocity racial trait.
Each replacement racial trait is made to explore one facet of the race's inherent theme. Elves get abilities that tie them to nature, gnomes get abilities that explore their fascinations, half-elves can take abilities that help them live in both worlds, halflings can focus on their sneaky talents, and even humans are not left out. Humans can take racial traits that reflect their upbringing.
In addition to a host of racial traits, each race also receives a number of favored class options. These options are tied to a race's theme in most cases, meaning that races only receive options for classes that are racially common. Possessing one of these options just gives your character an additional choice whenever he gains a level in his favored class (instead of a skill point or a hit point). For example, take a look at this elven wizard favored class option.
Wizard: Select one arcane school power at 1st level that is normally usable a number of times per day equal to 3 + the wizard's Intelligence modifier. The wizard adds +1/2 to the number of uses per day of that arcane school power.
Once an elven wizard takes this power twice, he gains an additional use of that ability. Want more, take a look at this gnome bard favored class option.
Bard: Add 1 to the gnome's total number of bardic performance rounds per day.
Of all the races, only humans have an option for all 17 classes. Here is the human sorcerer favored class option.
Sorcerer: Add one spell known from the sorcerer spell list. This spell must be at least one level below the highest spell level the sorcerer can cast.
Although this chapter is only 18 pages long, in a 336-page book, it is absolutely crammed full of new rules for characters of any race and class, a philosophy we took with the entire rest of the book. Next week, we will delve into the classes chapter, starting off by taking a look at the six new base classes in the book, and I might even go into some detail on the changes made to them after the playtest was over.
... Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Preview Banquet Recap Tuesday, June 22, 2010With PaizoCon 2010 officially in the books, it's time to start looking forward to the Advanced Player's Guide, which releases in early August at Gen Con. On Saturday night, during the banquet, I gave a nice long preview of the book, and wanted to make sure that everyone who was not able to attend also had a chance to hear about some of the exciting new rules and features in this mighty tome. ... First off, we...
With PaizoCon 2010 officially in the books, it's time to start looking forward to the Advanced Player's Guide, which releases in early August at Gen Con. On Saturday night, during the banquet, I gave a nice long preview of the book, and wanted to make sure that everyone who was not able to attend also had a chance to hear about some of the exciting new rules and features in this mighty tome.
First off, we took a look at the races chapter, which includes a two-page spread of information on each of the seven core races. Each one includes new alternate racial class features for you to choose from and new favored class options. The latter gives you another thing to choose from when you take a level in a class favored by your race. For example, dwarven barbarians can choose to gain 1 additional round of rage per day instead of an additional hit point or skill rank.
Next comes the classes chapter, which starts off with the six new base classes and then continues on with new rules and material for the 11 core classes from the Core Rulebook. The base classes have received a host of updates since the playtest, but still primarily function much in the same way as they did before. For the core classes, we added scores of new rules. Most of the classes contain numerous archetypes, or different takes on the class, which includes a number of alternate abilities that you can take as a package. For example, rogues can select the sniper archetype which grants them increased range with their sneak attack and reduces their penalties for making attacks at long range.
Illustrations by Eric Belisle
Although this chapter has a little something for everyone, one of the things I was most excited to reveal was the antipaladin class. This alternate paladin is sure to keep your players up at night. His smite good attack deals double damage to paladins and good-aligned clerics on the first successful attack. His touch of corruption deals damage and can inflict terrible cruelties on hapless PCs. He can be a carrier of disease and can radiate an aura of sin. He is a tough, tough customer. But my favorite part of putting together the entire book was writing his code of conduct. Here is an excerpt:
Under exceptional circumstances, an antipaladin can ally with good associates, but only to defeat them from within and bring ruin to their ranks.
After classes is a meaty feats chapter, containing 163 feats that range from metamagic feats, combat feats, and even a host of racial feats. This chapter even includes a number of high-level feats that duplicate a number of powers of the old 3.5 archmage prestige class. One feat of note is Shadow Strike, which allows a character to deal precision damage, even if the target has concealment, allowing rogues to finally be able to sneak attack a foe in a dark alley.
After feats comes equipment, which contains new tools, useable by nearly any PC, and a lengthy chapter full of spells. There are spells in this book for every spellcasting character, including new spell lists for elementalist wizards. All told, 57 pages of spells with new choices at every level of play. After spells comes the prestige class chapter, which includes 8 new classes. I previewed the Stalwart Defender during the banquet, which is an update of the 3.5 Dwarven Defender. The name change stems from the fact that you no longer need to be a dwarf to take levels in this class. The class also grants many new abilities that the defender can choose from as he gains levels.
The book is rounded out with a large magic items chapter, including new items from virtually every category. It starts with armor and weapons and wraps up with cursed items and artifacts. That chapter is followed up with the new rules chapter, which includes info on four new combat maneuvers (dirty trick, drag, reposition, and steal), an optional hero point system, and the entire traits system used by the Pathfinder Adventure Paths.
All of that, crammed into 336 pages between two beautiful covers. A detailed preview of the Advanced Player's Guide will start very soon. Keep your eyes here on the Paizo blog for more information on this exciting book.
... GameMastery Guide Preview: Things Get Weird! Friday, May 21, 2010 ... Let me let you in on one of the guiding philosophies of the GameMastery Guide. We didn’t make this book to let you run my game, or a “Paizo-brand” game, or any sort of game anyone here thinks you should run. We created the GameMastery Guide to give you the tools you need to run your game the way you want. For example, let me note a few entries in the index: Airships; Evil Characters; Extraterrestrials; Gambling;...
GameMastery Guide Preview: Things Get Weird!
Friday, May 21, 2010
Let me let you in on one of the guiding philosophies of the GameMastery Guide. We didn’t make this book to let you run my game, or a “Paizo-brand” game, or any sort of game anyone here thinks you should run. We created the GameMastery Guide to give you the tools you need to run your game the way you want. For example, let me note a few entries in the index:
Definitely some unusual stuff in there, and likely several topics you’ll have no interest in including in your game. But if something on that list does strike your fancy, now you’ve got help on how to make it work. These discussions aren’t all meant to give you in-depth rules on how to do this or that: while several provide a host of new rules content—like ship combat and undead uprisings —others walk you through what you need to consider to include such elements in your game. And even if you’ve never thought about taking your game in an atypical direction, who knows what might inspire you? Maybe it is time to unleash an undead uprising on your campaign, or take your PCs where no one has gone before.
Play what your want: that’s the guiding message of this book. Heck, there’s even a section on personalizing published adventures to make them work better for you and your players. Also, rest assured that the topics presented above are some of the weird stuff—the parts of the book that take the discussions beyond the norm. There’s still plenty for GMs who never get tired of traditional sword and sorcery adventure. But how weird does the weird get? Well, I’ll let these crazy illustrations by Florian Stitz and Eva Widermann show you (at least I think those are the artists… Sarah’s out of town this week).
As for next week’s GameMastery Guide Preview: let’s just say that we’ve got some fantastically interesting toolboxes to open.
... The GameMastery Countdown Begins! Friday, April 30, 2009In just about a month (give or take a week or so), the thousands of pages we set free into the wild promise to return to us in shiny blue binding as the complete GameMastery Guide. In the weeks leading up to the GMG's release we'll be previewing some of that tome's coolest and most innovative aspects right here on the blog. What to kick things off with ended up being a real tricky decision, though. So rather than focus on any one...
The GameMastery Countdown Begins!
Friday, April 30, 2009
In just about a month (give or take a week or so), the thousands of pages we set free into the wild promise to return to us in shiny blue binding as the complete GameMastery Guide. In the weeks leading up to the GMG's release we'll be previewing some of that tome's coolest and most innovative aspects right here on the blog. What to kick things off with ended up being a real tricky decision, though. So rather than focus on any one element, I've gone through the book and snipped a handful of shots to give you an idea of what to expect merely from the text of this behemoth. Look closely and you'll likely notice that some snippets tease more than just a chart here or a new rules concept there. Also, since—aside from Christopher Burdett's thematically relevant compass rose—I've gone totally art-light here, tune in next week for a look at some of the GameMastery Guide's incredible illustrations, including its official mascot!
Oh Yeah! Wednesday, April 14, 2010 ... Illustration by Alex Aparin ... Harsk learns the perils of not bringing a large enough kettle to the triceratops tea party on the cover to Sargava, the Lost Colony. ... James Sutter ... Editor ...
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Illustration by Alex Aparin
Harsk learns the perils of not bringing a large enough kettle to the triceratops tea party on the cover to Sargava, the Lost Colony.
... The NPC Guide: The Babies Are Back! Friday, April 2, 2010Cave raptors are sated and have finally released me from their grim, stony world—it's time to blog! ... Back when I served as a lowly intern, a weary and overworked Sean K Reynolds offered me my very first Paizo gig. The encroaching Pathfinder Chronicles: NPC Guide would need dozens of generic stat blocks if GMs were to treasure it above even their own families. A not-insignificant portion of my sanity died off as I stared...
The NPC Guide: The Babies Are Back!
Friday, April 2, 2010
Cave raptors are sated and have finally released me from their grim, stony world—it's time to blog!
Back when I served as a lowly intern, a weary and overworked Sean K Reynolds offered me my very first Paizo gig. The encroaching Pathfinder Chronicles: NPC Guide
would need dozens of generic stat blocks if GMs were to treasure it above even their own families. A not-insignificant portion of my sanity died off as I stared into the abyss of an estimated twelve billion 1st- to 5th-level nonplayer characters, but ultimately the turnover made its way back to Sean and his shiny, shiny knife.
In any creative industry, there's a phrase that goes something like, "Your babies will get cut first." Meaning that in any creative project, your favorite elements or that extra something special you really loved creating will probably end up on the cutting room floor. The NPC Guide was no exception, and several of my favorite characters ended up cold and lifeless at Sean's feet. But now, through the miracle of the Internet, I have the power to bring them back!
So behold these glorious characters, free of charge! Behold the glory that is the Internet!
Er... I mean, check out these sweet NPCs, coming straight to you as a super-sized web enhancement for the NPC Guide. This first installment of five is only the beginning; we'll toss up more batches from time to time, so stay tuned.
ALKENSTAR: GUNMARSHAL CR 3 Hero or villain, the Gunmarshal stands as a proud icon of Alkenstar's victory over the chaotic Mana Wastes. Even gunslinging rogues and bandits are influenced by honor and tradition afforded by that pride.
XP 800 Dwarf fighter 4
N Medium humanoid (dwarf)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft; Perception +6
DEFENSE AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 13 (+3 armor, +3 Dex) (+4 dodge vs. giants)
hp 22 (4d10)
Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; +2 vs. poison, spells, and spell-like abilities; +1 vs. fear
Defensive Abilities bravery +1
OFFENSE Speed 20 ft.
Melee short sword +5 (1d6+1/19–20)
Ranged revolver +8 (1d6) or Rapid Shot +6/+6 (1d6)
Special Attacks +1 on attack rolls against goblinoid and orc humanoids
STATISTICS Str 12, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 8
Base Atk +4; CMB +5; CMD 18 (22 vs. bull rush or trip)
Feats Exotic Weapon Proficiency (firearms), Gunslinger (see below), Point-Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (revolver)
Skills Acrobatics +5, Craft (guns) +9, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (engineering) +7, Perception +6 (+8 unusual stonework), Survival +8
Languages Common, Dwarven, Kelish, Osiriani
SQ armor training +1, stonecunning
Gear studded leather, revolver, short sword, gun cleaning kit, cigars (3), smokestick, tindertwigs (3)
SPECIAL ABILITIES Gunslinger (Ex) This character does not provoke attacks of opportunity when attacking with firearms. See page 59 of the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting.
BELKZEN: THUNDERING CHOIR MUSICIAN CR 1 Though feared for their swords and the mad gleam in their eyes, the one memory that forever haunts those who've warred against the orcs are the drums. Carried for miles across hills and rocky plains, the ominous drumbeats of orc thundering choir musicians weigh on the minds of men like the heartbeats of tireless predators, never stopping, never slowing. The thundering choir musicians are fierce warriors, but the rhythm of their drumbeats and chants is their foulest weapon, whipping other orcs into murderous frenzies and inspiring terror in the hearts of even the bravest men.
XP 400 Orc bard 2
CE Medium humanoid (orc)
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception –2
DEFENSE AC 13, touch 10, flat-footed 13 (+3 armor)
hp 13 (2d8+4)
Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +1
Weaknesses light sensitivity
OFFENSE Speed 30 ft.
Melee longsword +4 (1d8+3/19–20)
Ranged masterwork sling +2 (1d4+3)
Special Attacks bardic performance (13 rounds/day, standard action), countersong, distraction, fascinate, inspire courage +1
Spells Known (CL 2nd; concentration +3)
1st (3/day)—cause fear (DC 12), cure light wounds, remove fear 0 (at will)—dancing lights, daze (DC 11), message, resistance, summon instrument STATISTICS Str 17, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 6, Cha 13
Base Atk +1; CMB +4; CMD 14
Feats Extra Performance
Skills Appraise +5, Craft (leather) +5, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (history) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +0, Perform (Percussion) +6
Languages Common, Orc
SQ bardic knowledge +1, versatile performance (percussion), well-versed
Combat Gear thunderstones (4); Other Gear studded leather, longsword, masterwork sling, bullets (20), lucky human foot, masterwork drums
DRUMA: KALISTRADE PROPHET CR 1 By achieving wealth, the Prophets of Kalistrade prove themselves more righteous than those around them. They travel to discover converts and new business opportunities, furthering their enlightenment. Part entrepreneur, part cultist, they open doors and pull strings for those they consider friends, or financially hinder their detractors.
XP 400 Human expert 3
LN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +0; Senses Perception +2
DEFENSE AC 11, touch 10, flat-footed 11 (+1 armor)
hp 10 (3d8–3)
Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +5
OFFENSE Speed 30 ft.
Melee quarterstaff +2 (1d6)
Ranged light crossbow +2 (1d8/19–20)
STATISTICS Str 10, Dex 11, Con 9, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 8
Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Persuasive, Skill Focus (Knowledge [religion]), Profits of Kalistrade (see below)
Skills Appraise +7, Bluff +1, Craft (jewelry) +6, Diplomacy +6, Intimidate +7, Knowledge (geography) +5, Knowledge (history) +6, Knowledge (local) +2, Knowledge (nobility) +3, Knowledge (religion) +5, Linguistics +5, Perform (Oratory) +0, Profession (merchant) +7, Ride +1, Sense Motive +8
Languages Common, Dwarven, Elven, Kelish
Other Gear padded armor, light crossbow, quarterstaff, copy of The Prophecies of Kalistrade, mercenary contracts
SPECIAL ABILITIES Feats The Kalistrade prophet has the Profits of Kalistrade feat, which grants him a "resource pool" of 300 gp, allowing him to obtain goods of this value even in settlements too small to have something that expensive. See page 73 of the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting.
FIVE KINGS MOUNTAINS: DWARVEN TRADITIONALIST CR 2 In the eyes of some dwarves, the civilizations of the surface world slowly erode dwarven culture and values, tearing away at their heritage like the rain wears away great stone monuments. Elves bear inefficient frippery, while humans buck the social order, and the less said about halflings and gnomes the better. These traditionalist, xenophobic members of dwarf society would love nothing more than complete isolation from other cultures, and perhaps even to return to the depths of the Darklands. While this usually amounts to little more than talk, the numbers of these radical conservatives swell on occasion into dangerous political groups and gangs.
XP 600 Dwarf expert 2/warrior 2
LN Medium humanoid (dwarf)
Init –1; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +3
DEFENSE AC 18, touch 9, flat-footed 18 (+7 armor, –1 Dex, +2 shield) (+4 dodge vs. giants)
hp 30 (4 HD; 2d8+2d10+10)
Fort +5, Ref –1, Will +4; +2 vs. poison, spells, and spell-like abilities
OFFENSE Speed 20 ft.
Melee masterwork dwarven waraxe +5 (1d10+1/×3)
Ranged light hammer +2 (1d4+1)
Special Attacks +1 on attack rolls against goblinoid and orc humanoids
STATISTICS Str 13, Dex 8, Con 14, Int 11, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +3; CMB +4; CMD 13 (17 vs. bull rush and trip)
Feats Alertness, Power Attack
Skills Craft (armor) +7, Knowledge (engineering) +3, Knowledge (history) +3, Perception +0 (+2 unusual stonework), Profession (blacksmith) +8, Sense Motive +5
Languages Common, Dwarven
Combat Gear caltrops (3), potion of bull's strength; Other Gear masterwork banded mail, masterwork heavy steel shield, masterwork dwarven waraxe, light hammer (2), genealogy books, masterwork artisan's tools
GEB: BLOOD LORD INITIATE CR 2 The practical seat of power within Geb rests with the Blood Lords. Administrators and necromancers both, any family of repute attempts to position their members within its ranks. The most fortunate embrace undeath, gaining immortality as vampires, ghouls, or other intelligent undead.
XP 600 Ghoul necromancer 2
NE Medium undead
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5
DEFENSE AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +2 natural)
hp 24 (4 HD; 2d8+2d6+8)
Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +7
Defensive Abilities channel resistance +2, undead traits
OFFENSE Speed 30 ft.
Melee bite +3 (1d6+1 plus disease and paralysis) and 2 claws +3 (1d6+1 plus paralysis)
Rangedray of frost +4 (1d3)
Special Attacks channel negative energy (DC 15, 6/day), grave touch (1 round, 6/day), paralysis
Spells Prepared (CL 2nd; concentration +4)
1st—cause fear (DC 14), shield, reduce person (DC 14), ray of enfeeblement (DC 14)
0 (at will)—arcane mark, bleed (DC 13), detect magic, ray of frost, read magic Prohibited Schools illusion, conjuration
STATISTICS Str 12, Dex 15, Con —, Int 17, Wis 11, Cha 14
Base Atk +2; CMB +3; CMD 15
Feats Command Undead, Improved Channel, Scribe Scroll, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +4, Climb +6, Knowledge (arcana) +10, Knowledge (history) +8, Knowledge (planes) +8, Linguistics +9, Perception +5, Profession (politician) +6, Spellcraft +10, Stealth +7
Languages Aklo, Common, Draconic, Infernal, Kelish, Osiriani, Vudrani
SQ arcane bond (amulet)
Combat Gearscroll of mage armor, wand of true strike (15 charges); Other Gear acolyte robes, government seal, spellbook
... 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.
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 6: Move 6d6 Tons, and what do you get?
... Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 6: Move 6d6 Tons, and what do you get? Tuesday, October 27, 2009 ... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog! ... So far, we've uncovered the shocking details of raising an innocent idea into a rebellious roleplaying product, but if your beloved book never moves out of the house, then it will never really make anything of itself. Now is the time when a PDF, so self-important, must go out into the world by...
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 6: Move 6d6 Tons, and what do you get?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog!
So far, we've uncovered the shocking details of raising an innocent idea into a rebellious roleplaying product, but if your beloved book never moves out of the house, then it will never really make anything of itself. Now is the time when a PDF, so self-important, must go out into the world by itself. And sure, it may come back wrinkled or torn, or even upside down, but without that life experience, it will never truly be its own book. It's time to talk about the physical, blue-collar side of game design: printing, warehousing, and distribution.
For all intents and purposes, Dwarves is ready to pack up and head off to college. Out of sight of its overprotective developers and even its best friend, the art director, it will grow into a bearded adult of glossy pages and the comforting scent of ink. Then it comes home, where its loving parents criticize its dress, notices it's gained weight, and implies that it should cut its hair because it looks like a hippy. Then it leaves again.
Printing of RPG products is arranged through horrible, arcane methods, often via deals with unseen and unknowable supernatural powers. Paizo prefers to deal through the fey, who are both adept at weaving physical products from ideas and accept readily available sandwiches as payment (in truth, lead developer Jason Buhlman's most important contribution to the company is his astounding egg salad, which pleases the fey queen Titania and ensures a lasting business relationship and a minimum of ironic curses). Once the electronic layout of a book is finished, it is transferred through a series of tubes to the distant faerie courts. The attending pixies immediately spin it into gold, and then press the gold itself into physical books and arrange for its return. Total elapsed time to print a Paizo product: 14 minutes. Sadly, due to the unstable chronological connection between the First World and our own mortal realm, upwards of two months may pass in our world during that 14 minutes.
Eventually, sprite couriers, glamered as UPS drivers, drop off multiple tons of product at the Paizo warehouse. This fabulous structure, adjacent to the production offices, is the realm of warehouse manager and 10th-level monk Jeff Strand. The warehouse stores not only Paizo's catalog of products, but also much of the stock for the online store, and so organization is vital. Inhuman physical strength is also important, as every pallet of products can weigh up to an Imperial ton (which is to say, it weighs as much as 2,000 pounds worth of emperors). Jeff and his able-bodied assistants work tirelessly to ship orders out as soon new product arrives, focusing first on Paizo's thousands of loyal subscribers. During these rushes, Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens and Vice President Jeff Alvarez can even be found braving the warehouse's icy trenches and lurking glabrezu in order to send books far and wide.
The enormity of Paizo's distribution efforts is staggering, especially to a little goblin. In addition to sending out literally tons of product at a time to subscribers and fans, pallets of each and every product to come through the door immediately goes back out to retail distributors like Alliance and Diamond. Like NBA scouts, these distributors then ship our MVPs all across the U.S. of A. and beyond, across the ocean to Europe and even north into the fabled Canada. And this volume doesn't even include our licensees who translate Paizo products for non-English-speaking fans.
Printing and distribution are vital to the lifecycle of a gaming product. Without that final kick out of the nest, to plummet or soar, pages would be doomed to constant revision. Roleplaying is built on a spine of pulp and glue, and losing the physical quality of the game book means losing an important piece of our heritage. Without that healthy respect for the past, the next generation will grow up cold and mechanical, controlled as they are by the fluoride in their computer screens. By the end, we'll bow before our PDF overlords, and soylent green will be people!
Plus, if you drop your latest Pathfinder in the bathtub, you can fix it with a hairdryer—try doing that with an e-reader!
This wraps up our quick review of the Paizo publishing process; you now understand as much about creating new products as I do. Starting next week, we'll take a look at existing Paizo products with our new feature, Sci-Fried.
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 5: Layabout
... Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 5: Layabout Tuesday, October 20, 2009 ... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog! ... There comes a time in every game product's life when a developer has to learn to let go; to let his sweet, innocent babe go out, make mistakes, and grow into a book. A game product needs to stay out late, crash the car, and hang out with the wrong crowd. And that wrong crowd is the art director, in Paizo's case the amazing...
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 5: Layabout
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog!
There comes a time in every game product's life when a developer has to learn to let go; to let his sweet, innocent babe go out, make mistakes, and grow into a book. A game product needs to stay out late, crash the car, and hang out with the wrong crowd. And that wrong crowd is the art director, in Paizo's case the amazing Sarah Robinson and the undefeated James Davis.
Welcome to the jungle we call layout.
When last we saw Dwarves of Golarion's's art director, she was a childhood friend helping to tutor the infant sourcebook in good grooming and healthy posture. But now that editorial puberty has hit, the art director becomes a corruptive influence. She'll introduce the book to page composition, gateway fonts, and the pagan ways of design. While the developer cares about making a good text, the art director (or humble-yet-beautiful production goblin) is only concerned with tarting the book up.
Once development and editing are finished, layout is everything else. It means making an attractive page that doesn't remind the reader of a junior-high science textbook. It means making sure the words, the art, and all the stat blocks don't trip over each other. It also means constantly harassing the developers and editors to cut or add words and send material to work with in a timely fashion. The process is arduous, often checking a work line by line for tight spacing or dangling widows (who hang around poorly laid-out products to get their kicks; during last month's move we uncovered no fewer than thirty-eight widows cleverly concealing themselves in the recycling bin). For any given product, the process may take hours, days, or even weeks, depending on how recently the art director has been fed.
In ye olden times, layout was performed by hand, using glue and a layout churn to mock up a page and send it away to the printer by horseless carriage. These days, much of the hard work of layout is performed by computer, where all the trimming and gluing are handled digitally. The common computer terms "Cut," "Paste," and "Churn" actually hail from these pre-computer layout processes.
This is the basic workspace, with the guides for page and column sizes. Boring enough.
Our text needs to live somewhere fancy, so first we design an attractive page.
We drop in the formatted text from the developer next.
Now we switch everything to a dwarfier font and adjust the text spacing a little.
Add some frames and titles, so we all know what we're looking at.
Now we drop in our artwork, wrap the text around it, and make sure everything fits.
And that's a finished spread!
Like a fancy show octopus with a mastery of sign language, a well laid-out product is a joy to look upon and easy to understand. While the prose might make a book beloved, its layout makes it popular, and often the only difference between a bestseller and a discount special is how well each page presents itself. Without good layout, even well-written books would languish in exile, their hideous countenances creating a wall between themselves and the general populace. Resentment would set in, and as their numbers grew alongside their discontent, murmurs of revolution would spread. Cries of "Viva la Composicion!" would echo through the winding streets, followed by bloody, horrific riots. Heads of editors and writers alike would roll as the dispossessed texts yearned for justice, but settled for vengeance.
To dodge that bloodshed, make sure to follow up your writing and editing with a loving layout. The bourgeoisie will thank you for your effort.
And now our baby manuscript has grown up into a finished book! Or has it? Still nothing more than a digital file and a pile of black-and-white printouts, Dwarves won't be it's own book until it has returned with a diploma from one of several prestigious printers. Next week, we'll examine what goes on once the book is out of Paizo's hands.
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 4: The Editor's Compositional Fitness Challenge
... Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 4: The Editor's Compositional Fitness Challenge Wednesday, October 14, 2009 ... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog! ... Yes, editing: the sport of grammatically minded kings. So far we've examined the natural growth of Dwarves of Golarion, as well as its invaluable hours of education, and yet we've ignored physical fitness. Without a steady regimen of editing, our little manuscript could turn into a clumsy...
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 4: The Editor's Compositional Fitness Challenge
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog!
Yes, editing: the sport of grammatically minded kings. So far we've examined the natural growth of Dwarves of Golarion, as well as its invaluable hours of education, and yet we've ignored physical fitness. Without a steady regimen of editing, our little manuscript could turn into a clumsy butterball, drawing ridicule and cruelty from other game products.
To keep a product trim, healthy, and happy, it's going to need editors to run it through its paces.
According to Paizo's editorial tag-team of Christopher Carey and James Sutter, an editor's job involves neither crushing the dreams of authors nor blindly hacking away at text, but instead is a carefully crafted routine to burn off flabby text and improve narrative posture. Like a cephalopod, any quality Paizo product needs to hit the gym regularly to keep it healthy. Just like any fitness-obsessed octopus will hit both the free-weights and the treadmill, Paizo products will rotate their editing to catch problems with grammar, spelling, word choice, continuity, voice, and even the occasional rewrite to adjust the word count. Even the greatest authors will occasionally dip into the candy-coated bacon of purple prose or forget to tie their punctuation, so a good editor can help make sure every product can fit into its cover before the big class reunion.
The amount of editing any given product needs is easily determined with the formula n+1, where n is the amount of time you actually have to edit the book. Because of this conundrum, it's important for editors to make the most of the time they do have. At Paizo, the ideal grammatical specimen sees four editorial passes: two from each of Paizo's own hard-nosed prose-wranglers. A 'pass' is a single read-through. Obsessive-compulsive as any wild pack rat, these editors greedily gobble up any mistakes they sniff out, trading it for proper spellings or active voice. And because anyone, even editors, can make mistakes, multiple passes and different editors help to ensure that no errors go unexamined.
For Paizo products especially, the editors also serve the dual role of security. They stand constant vigil over continuity of Golarion, ensuring that dead NPCs don't crop back up, that cities don't spontaneously shift location, and that worst of enemies aren't running around as BFF. The editors have the blessing and curse to read every product Paizo releases, from thrilling Planet Stories to mysterious modules, and serve as living repositories of the universe.
And yet they stay so svelte, just like the products they care for.
Editing is necessary for the health and longevity of a product. Without it, mistakes, typos, and plain, old dead wood can slip through into the final product, clogging intakes eventually leading to frustration overheating in readers. The heat released by frustrated readers contributes to the inconvenient truth of global warming, melting the polar ice caps, flooding coastal regions, and causing alligator populations to explode. Ultimately, mankind devolves into primitive tribes of swamp dwellers, hiding in terror from the maurading ultra-gators that have made this marshy, dystopian Earth their own!
So to keep your writing trim and healthy, and to ensure the survival of the human race, edit!
Now that our product is happy, healthy, and knows where its going in life, next week we're ready for that special time in every product's life when it truly becomes a book. Next week, we examine layout!
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 3: An Outbreak of Art
... Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 3: An Outbreak of Art Tuesday, October 5, 2009 ... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Cave raptors are sated; It's time to blog! ... As it stands, Dwarves of Golarion is now written and assembled by its loving developer. Though awkward and gangly, we can see what it will finally grow up into. But at this point, this happy child is nothing more than a text document in the daycare that is a documents folder, happy rolling in the mud and receiving...
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 3: An Outbreak of Art
Tuesday, October 5, 2009
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Cave raptors are sated; It's time to blog!
As it stands, Dwarves of Golarion is now written and assembled by its loving developer. Though awkward and gangly, we can see what it will finally grow up into. But at this point, this happy child is nothing more than a text document in the daycare that is a documents folder, happy rolling in the mud and receiving bowl cuts from mom. But there's an ugly truth for gaming products that this little production goblin's learned at her junior prom: you can be creative and brilliant, but if you don't look good, nobody'll pick you up.
Enter the art order, the good grooming of game design.
The majestic octopus mates for life, and hopes to find a sensitive and intellectually compatible lover that shares its appreciation of American Gothic poetry, but it will make its initial judgments based on appearance and health. Similarly, good art can make a product seem interesting and romantic before the first words are even read. It can make the difference between a product you don't tell your friends about, and one you take home to mom. But like an attractive octopus, a quality illustration must be carefully cared for if it is to be worthwhile.
The art order begins once the text for a product has begun development. By now, the developer knows how everything will shake down, even if the specifics remain a mystery. The developer will sit down with the decorator crab that is the art director, and with careful attention to the budget, they decide how much art the book can stand and what compelling elements to call out in pictorial form. With that list completed, the task is kicked back to the developer and his editorial cronies, who write up brief descriptions of all the illustrations they'll need to get their product a seat at the popular table during lunch.
By now, the art director is already comfortable in its den, combing through the preferred artists list and thinking about what to assign to whom. Just like writers and tutors, different artists' styles lend themselves better to different moods and fit different products*. A happy, bubbly, or wacky artist would be a terrible fit for Dwarves of Golarion's "quiet and cool" attitude, and would be better suited for its goofy sidekick, Gnomes of Golarion. Once the art orders are written, the art director mails them along to the illustrators of choice, together with the promise of great riches.
The first thing received from the artists are those embarrassing family photos we like to call 'sketches.' These are passed out among the editorial and art staff, who make crippling judgments about cowlicks, large ears, and crooked teeth that will haunt the product well into adulthood. They also make note of any changes the artist needs to make.
Finally, the finished images are received from the artists who, like the octopus, die shortly afterwards. This cruel cycle of nature provides the few glimpse of a grown-up, mature product that needs to be home by ten because tonight is a school night.
Illustrations by Jeremy McHugh
The art order is vital in a product's life cycle because it prevents the normally docile artists from breaking free of their enclosures and wandering the streets, mauling and tagging innocent civilians at random. It also serves as the cranial implant that prevents the art directors from seizing the reigns of power and assuming their rightful places as god-kings, directing the entirety of a company's funding into a single, penultimate illustration that makes children weep and grown men fall to their knees in prayer. Very important if you are a company looking to put out more than one product.
By now in the life cycle, our game product has begun to grow up and go through some awkward changes. Suitors have come calling, and its started wearing makeup. Tune in next week when we'll examine how to cope with your precious first draft's frustrating period of editing!
*Except for Wayne Reynolds, whose art is universal and can bring peace to warring nations.
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 2: The Awkward Development Years
... Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 2: The Awkward Development Years Tuesday, September 29, 2009 ... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Cave Raptors are sated; It's time to blog! ... When last we left Dwarves of Golarion, it was a mere egg of an outline, being fussed over by attentive parents and waiting to hatch. But now it is time for that blessed moment when an idea emerges into the world as written words! It is time for… the development phase! ... Development is the process of...
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 2: The Awkward Development Years
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Cave Raptors are sated; It's time to blog!
When last we left Dwarves of Golarion, it was a mere egg of an outline, being fussed over by attentive parents and waiting to hatch. But now it is time for that blessed moment when an idea emerges into the world as written words! It is time for… the development phase!
Development is the process of growing a book from an idea and a few rough notes into written text, rearing the infant outline into a rebellious and hateful teenager who will keep you up at nights, drinking your secret stash of scotch and praying to god it turns out alright. Much like the rearing of the noble octopus, a game product requires two separate parties: the designer and the developer. Designers are the writers and artists (more on those wily and attractive artists next week), while the developers are the core who tie everything together. Where developers are comparable to an overprotective parent, designers are more akin to teachers: chosen carefully by the developer to impart information and direction to their snot-nosed offspring.
Of course, this is not an insult. Both octopi and game developers are widely known for their post-nasal drip.
Choosing a writer is a careful task. Like parents, developers want someone who will make their job easier. These choices are made by means of an arcane formula that takes into account past products, punctuality, and relative position of the stars. Managing Editor Wes Schneider admits that Paizo relies on a small, incestuous lot of authors to rear our products. Putting new designers through their paces requires time and branding irons, both of which Paizo has in painfully limited quantities*.
For roleplaying products, the ideal designer can fill three vital roles for the juvenile product: author, game mechanic, and artisan. Telling a good story and having a firm grasp of the mechanics are important, but just as vital and oft overlooked is the role of player-friendly artifacts in a young game's life. Like a sweater vest, legible maps and gripping player handouts are those little touches that decide if a product rides along on the bus or resides at the cool table at lunch.
The developers' job is just as challenging and vital to give their books the best chance at happiness. They need to organize everything those precious bundles have absorbed from their designers and make sure they play nice with the other products. A developer needs to tweak the mechanics to balance with the system at large, rewrite some fluff to keep the narrative canon, and embarrass the product in front of its friends. Even the best writing needs at least a week or two in development, says Schneider, because "folks aren't here every day, and they don't know exactly what we need."
Dwarves of Golarion and similar anthology products are like troubled foster kids: they get bounced between several authors and other corrupting influences. A firm and loving eyeball is needed to guide them through this troubled time. The twitterpated Sean Reynolds, developer in charge of this problem child, has had his hands full. Every line written by its savage gang of authors needs to be reviewed for balance and continuity, and he must occasionally search its room for illicit substances and pop culture references.
Without proper development, a game product suffers. Its already-overworked Paizo parents stretch themselves too thin trying to write thousands of words a day while maintaining their backbreaking day jobs in the grammar mines. Neglected and uneducated, the books would fall back into dull narrative habits and eventually turn to crime to make ends meet. Crime rates skyrocket, property values plummet, and we are all left unprepared for the forthcoming invasion of the reptimen from the Earth's core!
So, for a happy and contributing addition to the RPG landscape, make sure you follow the example of the methodical octopus. Keep a close group of talent to help raise your products, but don't give away your own parental responsibilities!
Tune in next week, when we examine the art of art, and stretch the octopus metaphor to it's breaking point!
*Wes also mentions that if you're a newcomer who'd like to write for Paizo and has a high pain threshold, you should still write and submit. Both the Pathfinder Society Open Call and RPG Superstar are Paizo's favorite tools for reviewing new blood in an organized setting. Publishing your own material online through a blog or website is a good icebreaker as well (check out Paizo's Community Use Policy for more details). Being on productive and nonviolent terms with other publishers also helps, as the RPG industry is made up of a mere 73 people, all of whom know each other personally and frequently gather for the imbibing of caustic organic solvents.
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 1: Hatching an Outline
... Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 1: Hatching an Outline Tuesday, September 22, 2009 ... Illustration by Crystal Frasier ... Cave raptors are sated, so now it is time for blogging! ... Few things spring into the world fully formed, and game products are no exception. And if you aren't involved in the publishing industry, you might expect the life cycle of a supplement as unknowable as that of an octopus. ... And it is. ... As a neophyte nanny in the Paizo maternity ward, my...
Ecology of the Pathfinder Product, Part 1: Hatching an Outline
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Illustration by Crystal Frasier
Cave raptors are sated, so now it is time for blogging!
Few things spring into the world fully formed, and game products are no exception. And if you aren't involved in the publishing industry, you might expect the life cycle of a supplement as unknowable as that of an octopus.
And it is.
As a neophyte nanny in the Paizo maternity ward, my elbows-deep, on-the-job training has been a real eye-opener. And if I have to suffer through that experience, then there's no reason not to share the pain. Over the next few weeks, we'll take a look at the stages of development of a young sourcebook, show off embarrassing baby pictures, and generally demystify the miracle of life as we follow Dwarves of Golarion from Outline, to Development, through Art Orders, Editing, Layout, Extra Editing, and finally Printing and Shipping.
The octopus knows it is time to reproduce when the seasons are right. Similarly, Paizo Publisher par excellence, Erik Mona, explains that a product first emerges when the various carriers demand a season's previews for their catalogs. At this point, the development team enters a furious ritual to determine whose memes are passed on to the next generation of Pathfinder canon.
Once the product ideas are agreed upon, each one goes on to outlining.
As a book egg, the outline doesn't tell us much, except that the book is healthy and to start preparing the office for its blessed arrival. We know who the proud papas are, and the outline hints if the book will grow into a fluffy nerd or crunchy jock, but nothing is set in stone just yet. Developers dig out warm nests in a hard drive to house the outline, lining it with file folders and sticky notes until writers can be assigned to help the book hatch and develop. A title (and adorable nickname) is decided upon, the chapters are parsed out, words counts are decided, and a handful of notes give developers and contributors an idea what the baby book will look like all grown up.
Unlike the noble octopus, the developer does not hover over the outline, constantly blowing salt water over it. Sean Reynolds occasionally spills latte on his, but more in a crude ritual to beg the gaming gods for the product's continued health.
Some things are immutable: Companions and Modules are Small sized (32pages), while Chronicles and APs will grow to Medium size (64 and 96 pages). Much like octopi, the largest, healthiest writers get first claim to the larger, healthier books, though until the outline hatches into development, even it's parentage can change.
Dwarves of Golarion Outline
As we can see from these adorable Dwarves of Golarion baby photos, the prenatal book doesn't resemble the adult product except in title. As the final draft of the outline, it's already showing the beginning signs of development: Exact words counts for each chapter have been decided and writers have been assigned to sit on the project until it hatches. We can also see in the bottom, left-hand corner that a goblin has chewed on this outline: an obvious indicator of superior product!
Without the outline, development would grow higgledy-piggledy, with chapters repeating each other, growing like tumors until they stretched the page count to breaking. Writers would run free, uncontrolled and burning things they shouldn't burn. Chaos would spill into the streets, and civilization as we know it would crumble.
So remember kids, be like the mighty octopus: plan your books carefully before getting started and save us all unneeded anarchy.
... Dwarves of Golarion Tuesday, September 8, 2009Kazmur here had a nice, relaxing weekend. When you're a dwarf, you celebrate your work as much as you do your time off. And when your job is to chisel your king's face onto the side of the mountain, you know that your people will be admiring your work for generations to come. Also, you have sweet job security. ... Illustrations by Jeremy McHugh ... Sean K Reynolds ... Developer, Pathfinder Companion ...
Dwarves of Golarion
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Kazmur here had a nice, relaxing weekend. When you're a dwarf, you celebrate your work as much as you do your time off. And when your job is to chisel your king's face onto the side of the mountain, you know that your people will be admiring your work for generations to come. Also, you have sweet job security.
... Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Preview #14 Wednesday, August 12, 2009The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook releases tomorrow at Gen Con and game stores around the country. Over the past 14 weeks, we have look at all of the core classes and one of the prestige classes that can be found in the book. We've taken a look at a host of feats, spells, and magic items, as well as a few other rules bits along the way. This week, we are investigating the most important rule in the game. Not...
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Preview #14
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook releases tomorrow at Gen Con and game stores around the country. Over the past 14 weeks, we have look at all of the core classes and one of the prestige classes that can be found in the book. We've taken a look at a host of feats, spells, and magic items, as well as a few other rules bits along the way. This week, we are investigating the most important rule in the game. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the first rules in the book.
This is your game.
The rules in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook are presented to help you tell the stories that you want to tell. They are organized to help speed up play and enrich your world. You might find that, through play, some of these rules do not suit your style of play or do not serve the story you are trying to tell. Feel free to change them. Sit down with your group and discuss what "house rules" you are going to use as part of your campaign. Add, subtract, or even polymorph these rules to fit your needs. If you are the Game Master, you should work with your group to determine what changes are appropriate. If you are a player, remember that the GM is the final arbiter, but do not be afraid to make suggestions or bring new rules to the table for him to review. When you play the Pathfinder RPG, we want to make sure that you have fun. The rules are there to serve that goal, not to stand in the way.
Since this is the last preview, I want to take just a moment to thank all of the playtesters that spent countless hours playing, reviewing, and critiquing the Beta version of the game. I think you will find that they had a large influence on the final design and deserve a great deal of credit for all of its improvements. It was a lot of work to weed through over 100,000 messageboard posts, but the final game makes all of that effort worth it. If you were part of the Alpha or Beta playtests, I would like to say thank you.
As of this posting, a number of folks have already received their rulebooks, and discussions are already taking place on our messageboards about the changes and additions to the game. So, instead of talking about the rules, I wanted to close this preview with a look at some of the fabulous art that you will find in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. The Core Rulebook is available in stores and at our booth at Gen Con starting tomorrow. See you on the boards.
... Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Preview #4 Wednesday, June 3, 2009The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook is set to release on August 13th, 2009, and in anticipation, we are releasing a preview of the game each week until the game hits store shelves. This week, we are taking a look at Harsk, the iconic ranger. ... Harsk ... Male dwarf ranger 11 ... LN Medium humanoid ... Init +5 (+9 underground, +7 mountain); Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +17 ... DEFENSE ... AC 24, touch 15,...
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Preview #4
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook is set to release on August 13th, 2009, and in anticipation, we are releasing a preview of the game each week until the game hits store shelves. This week, we are taking a look at Harsk, the iconic ranger.
Male dwarf ranger 11
LN Medium humanoid Init +5 (+9 underground, +7 mountain); Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +17 DEFENSE AC 24, touch 15, flat-footed 19; (+6 armor, +5 Dex, +3 natural) hp 109 (11d10+44) Fort +10, Ref +12, Will +8; (+2 vs. poison, spells, and spell-like abilities) Defensive Abilities defensive training (+4 AC vs. giants), evasion OFFENSE Spd 20 ft. Melee+2 greataxe +15/+10/+5 (1d12+5/x3) Ranged+1 axiomatic shock light crossbow +15/+15/+10/+5 (1d8+1 plus 1d6 electricity/17–20) Special Attacks favored enemy (humanoid [giant] +6, undead +2, dragon +2), favored terrain (underground +4, mountain +2), hunter's bond (companions), quarry Spells Prepared (CL 8th)
3rd—cure moderate wounds, summon nature's ally III
2nd—barkskin (already cast), bear's endurance
1st—longstrider, resist energy, speak with animals STATISTICS Str 14, Dex 20, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 6 Base Atk +11; CMB +13; CMD 28 (32 vs. bull rush and trip) Feats Deadly Aim, Endurance, Improved Critical (light crossbow), Improved Precise Shot, Iron Will, Pinpoint Targeting, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Reload, Rapid Shot Skills Climb +16, Heal +17, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +14, Perception +17, Stealth +24, Survival +17 (+22 following tracks) Languages Common, Dwarven SQ swift tracker, track +5, wild empathy +9, woodland stride Combat Gearwand of cure moderate wounds (50 charges); Other Gear+3 studded leather armor, +2 greataxe, +1 axiomatic shock light crossbow, 40 bolts, 20 silver bolts, 20 cold iron bolts, 5 adamantine bolts, belt of incredible dexterity +4, headband of inspired wisdom +2, cloak of elvenkind
Let me tell you a little story.
For months now, stories were spreading about brutal attacks made against merchant caravans making their way through the Mindspin Mountains. While not uncommon during this time of year, the savagery of the attacks and the reports of a giant man, bedecked with ice, caught Harsk's attention. Not a week later, Harsk was high up the mountains, casting about for a trail. He had already encountered a pair of slaughtered caravans, when he found one that was recently attacked. Fresh boot prints in the snow confirmed his suspicions. It was a frost giant. For two days he followed the trail without fault, leading deeper into the mountains before ending at the mouth of a deep, dark cave. Sneaking inside, the wily dwarf quickly found his prey, sorting through a vast pile of ill-gotten loot. The giant had no idea that death had come for him as Harsk took aim with his trusted crossbow.
This is the sort of situation a ranger like Harsk dreams of. Having caught the giant in a cave, he has immense bonuses against the behemoth. Using his favored terrain bonuses, Harsk received a +2 on all Survival skill checks when tracking the giant through the mountains. In the caves (which count as underground), this bonus increases to a +4. It also applies to his initiative (giving him a great chance at going first), Perception, and Stealth checks. His favored enemy bonuses against giants of +6 applies to Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks made against the giant, but more importantly, it applies to his attack and damage rolls. Added up, these bonuses give him a +32 bonus on Survival checks to track the giant in the caves (+30 in the mountains) and a +28 to avoid being spotted as he sneaks up to within 30 feet for the attack.
Assuming Harsk gets the drop on the giant, he can use Pinpoint Targeting during the surprise round to ensure he gets a hit. This feat allows him to make a single attack as a standard action that ignores armor, natural armor, and shield bonuses to AC (which drops the giant's AC down to 8). If he wins initiative, he can then take a full attack against the giant. Using Deadly Aim (which allows him to take a –3 penalty on attack rolls to gain a +6 bonus on damage rolls, just like Power Attack but for ranged weapons), his bonus on these attacks comes out to +19/+19/+14/+9 with each attack dealing 1d8+14 plus 1d6 electricity and 2d6 from the axiomatic quality. If Harsk hits with all 4 attacks (and the surprise attack, which deals a little less damage), his average damage is around 138 points of damage, which is just enough to put the giant in his grave.
If Harsk really wanted to ensure success, he would denote the giant as his quarry before combat begins. This ability is gained at 11th level and it allows a ranger to select a creature that matches one of his favored enemy types as his quarry, granting him a +2 bonus on attack rolls and automatically confirming all critical hits against the target. He can also take 10 on Survival checks to track his quarry while moving at full speed without penalty. Although Harsk can have no more than one quarry at a time, he can select a new quarry 1 hour after his previous quarry is slain.
Now, this is not exactly a fair fight, as Harsk is built to kill giants in caves, but rangers are built to excel in specific circumstances. Against other enemies or in other environments, they are still capable combatants, but they really shine when hunting their favored enemies or while adventuring in their favored terrain.
Harsk also possesses the hunter's bond class feature, which allows him to grant any allies within 30 feet half of his favored enemy bonus against one foe as a move action. Once given, this bonus lasts for 3 rounds. He could have taken an animal companion instead, but we will discuss those in more detail during the druid preview. For now, remember that if Harsk were to take an animal companion, his effective druid level would be 8th (not 5th, as it was in 3.5).
In addition, Harsk has a few spells to aid him in his struggles. He now casts spells with a caster level equal to his ranger level –3 (instead of half his ranger level). His progression has also been improved a bit, giving him a few extra spells. Of special note is summon nature's ally III, which allows him to summon a boar, a wolverine, or even 1d3 Small earth elementals. Take a look at the following lists for more examples (some might even say this was a sneak peak at the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary).
Aurochs (herd animal)
Harsk has a few other abilities as well. Swift tracker allows Harsk to move his normal speed while using Survival to track and reduces the penalty to –10 while moving at twice his normal speed. Track now grants a bonus on Survival checks made to follow tracks equal to 1/2 his ranger level. This change was made because everyone can track now using Survival, making the ability redundant. At higher levels, Harsk would gain additional favored enemies and terrains, additional combat style feats (additional archery feats in Harsk's case), improved evasion, camouflage, hide in plain sight, and at 20th level, the master hunter ability. This ability allows him to kill his favored enemies with a single bolt, assuming they fail their saves. He can also use this ability to deal nonlethal damage equal to the target's hit point total, allowing him to bring his prey back alive.
That covers the ranger. Come back next week and enter the domains of Kyra, the iconic cleric.
Snagged from the Vault: Dungeon Denizens Revisited
... Snagged from the Vault: Dungeon Denizens Revisited Friday, April 3, 2009Closing out this week's blogs, we unveil a terrible creature that epitomizes the savage and insatiable hunger possessed by you, our ravenous readers: the bulette, illustrated here by Steve Prescott... ... Of all the beasts that populate the wilderness, few are as feared as the bulette. Known sometimes as the landshark, the bulette is a sleek predator, moving as fluidly through earth as those primeval eating machines...
Snagged from the Vault: Dungeon Denizens Revisited
Friday, April 3, 2009
Closing out this week's blogs, we unveil a terrible creature that epitomizes the savage and insatiable hunger possessed by you, our ravenous readers: the bulette, illustrated here by Steve Prescott...
Of all the beasts that populate the wilderness, few are as feared as the bulette. Known sometimes as the landshark, the bulette is a sleek predator, moving as fluidly through earth as those primeval eating machines move through water. Bulettes possess insatiable hunger and view anything that moves as food. They hunt constantly, and when their attention turns to new hunting grounds they feed until nothing remains. They are the stuff of nightmares, the bane of the wilderness—a brutal, savage monster whose ferocious majesty was not evolved, but intentionally crafted.
Meet the Iconics: Harsk Tuesday, November 20, 2007Not all dwarves are meant for the mines. As a young dwarf, Harsk spent every spare moment outdoors under the wide skies of southeastern Varisia, particularly at night beneath the stars, where his keen vision made him a hunter without compare. While generally uninterested in his family's traditional smithing, he still inherited enough of their tinkering ability to construct his own crossbow, a heavy, highly accurate weapon that few others are...
Meet the Iconics: Harsk
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Not all dwarves are meant for the mines. As a young dwarf, Harsk spent every spare moment outdoors under the wide skies of southeastern Varisia, particularly at night beneath the stars, where his keen vision made him a hunter without compare. While generally uninterested in his family's traditional smithing, he still inherited enough of their tinkering ability to construct his own crossbow, a heavy, highly accurate weapon that few others are able to wind. Eschewing the company of his fellows, few things made Harsk happier than crouching in a tree stand with his bow, listening to the wind through the forest leaves and waiting for deer or larger prey to wander by.
That all changed twenty years ago, when his elder brother, a fine captain named Sigur, led a dwarven war band from Janderhoff against a small party of giants that had descended from the Mindspin Mountains to raid and pillage. Out of affection, Sigur offered his less-experienced sibling the chance to come and prove himself as Sigur's chief scout and second-in-command. Calm and peaceful by nature, Harsk turned him down, failing to see the honor his brother was doing him until several days after the company had departed. Traveling light and fast, Harsk caught up with his brother quickly—but not quickly enough. Misjudging the size and skill of the raiding party, Sigur led his band into an ambush, where it was slaughtered to the last dwarf.
With his brother's blood still fresh on his hands, Harsk went mad with rage. That night, he stalked through the giants' camp like a vengeful wraith, slaughtering giant after giant with his crossbow before melting back into the forest, only to reappear elsewhere and take another victim. When the last giant was left gurgling in the dust, Harsk took up his brother's axe and slipped off into the trees, vowing to forever be the voice of justice in the wild places, to keep balance and prevent the sacrifices of noble men like his brother.
Harsk, like many of his kind, is gruff and taciturn, but there ends most of his connection to dwarven society. Something of a loner, he prefers to spend his time outdoors, communing with nature, though he occasionally travels alongside others whose goals match his own. Uninterested in the beer and ale that so characterize dwarves in the minds of human society, Harsk instead drinks pot after pot of strong tea to keep his senses sharp. While he never lets his brother's axe out of his sight, he wields it only as a last resort, knowing that his true skills lie in the hunt and striking from darkness.
Bidding Adieu to Volume 2 Wednesday, October 3, 2007So after what felt like years of waiting (it was more like weeks), we finally got in our office copies of Pathfinder #2 today! Which also means that we'll be shipping them out to subscribers and distributors very soon. I actually walked by a pallet of them down in the warehouse earlier today, and seeing SKINSAW MURDERS written on a stack of boxes as tall as me was strange. The Skinsaw Man came out of a game I ran back in college set in my...
Bidding Adieu to Volume 2
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
So after what felt like years of waiting (it was more like weeks), we finally got in our office copies of Pathfinder #2 today! Which also means that we'll be shipping them out to subscribers and distributors very soon. I actually walked by a pallet of them down in the warehouse earlier today, and seeing "SKINSAW MURDERS" written on a stack of boxes as tall as me was strange. The Skinsaw Man came out of a game I ran back in college set in my own campaign world, and seeing the word on those boxes really brought it home—the word may have been born in central California, but then it went up to Seattle, then over to England, then back here, then over to China, and now it's back here and ready to begin its final step in global saturation. It's exciting. And a little surreal.
In any event, that's about a wrap for Pathfinder #2! We'll have an alternate map of Magnimar to show you on Friday's blog post, and then starting next week we'll start revealing tidbits about Pathfinder #3: "The Hook Mountain Massacre." Demented ogres, haunted campfires, castles and gazetteers and lake monsters, oh my! I can't wait to show some of it off!
In fact, I don't want to wait. Check out this sneak preview of one of the pieces of art from Pathfinder #3. Who could this dwarf be? Does he have nefarious plans for our heroes? Why is his ass so tiny?
The Complete Zogonia Monday, June 4, 2007For quite some time, fans...
The Complete Zogonia Monday, June 4, 2007For quite some time, fans have been asking us where they can find a compilation of all of Tony Moseley's hilarious Zogonia strips from the pages of Dragon, and at long last we're finally able to give you an answer. Zogonia: Slice of Death contains every Zogonia strip ever published in Dragon, plus a few rare strips that ran in Games Quarterly or were judged too risqué for the magazine. As an additional bonus, the book contains an introduction and a...
The Complete Zogonia
Monday, June 4, 2007
For quite some time, fans have been asking us where they can find a compilation of all of Tony Moseley's hilarious Zogonia strips from the pages of Dragon, and at long last we're finally able to give you an answer. Zogonia: Slice of Death contains every Zogonia strip ever published in Dragon, plus a few rare strips that ran in Games Quarterly or were judged too risqué for the magazine. As an additional bonus, the book contains an introduction and a strip-by-strip "commentary track" by the artist himself, plus a large sampling of the Mt. Zogon strips which ran in Dungeon.
Rest assured, if you're a fan of Tony's work, you won't want to miss this book. For sample pages, click here.
Forge Spurned Friday, May 18, 2007In Crown of the Kobold King we introduce the dwarven deity Droskar, God of Toil. Droskar's following began as a reaction against the bon vivant trends that pervaded the dwarven society of their day, instating a dreadful dogma of salvation through endless toil and brutal subservience to the Dark Smith, as Droskar was often called. The dwarves became slaves to their own industry, producing heaps of weapons, armor, and gear to appease their dark god. The...
Friday, May 18, 2007
In Crown of the Kobold King we introduce the dwarven deity Droskar, God of Toil. Droskar's following began as a reaction against the bon vivant trends that pervaded the dwarven society of their day, instating a dreadful dogma of salvation through endless toil and brutal subservience to the Dark Smith, as Droskar was often called. The dwarves became slaves to their own industry, producing heaps of weapons, armor, and gear to appease their dark god. The wilderness around them was fed to Droskar's fires of industry, until the dwarves choked on their own black fumes and starved in the dust.
The rise of this new religion also saw the first appearance of a new undead monster associated with such endless toil: the forge spurned. When a dwarven worshiper of Droskar perishes, he is brought before his divine lord and judged. If the Master of the Dark Furnace finds him unworthy, he is pierced with burning barbs and returned to the world as a tormented undead creature on an accursed errand to gather souls for Droskar's Furnace. Forge spurned are consumed with their need to forge their soul chains, and prey upon any creature they feel they can easily best. If a forge spurned is felled and its chain taken by another, it seethes with dark fury. A forge spurned stops at nothing to retrieve its chain, lest it be forced to forge another, extending its period of burning torment.
Forge spurned resemble hulking dwarves wrapped in heavy steel chains. Their faces, hands, and bodies are riddled with glowing hot hooks and half-melted razor wire. Black smoke rises from their smoldering beards, framing a freakishly contorted face covered in ash and soot. The tormented beings heft black iron hammers in both hands, and the chains that drape their forms possess the malevolent life of angry metal serpents.