Some of Golarion's greatest heroes hail from not one world but two, caught between dueling cultures and impulses, and it's your turn to become one of them! Bastards of Golarion is due out soon, and this is one Player Companion you won't want to miss. Here are five reasons why:
Best of Both Worlds
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Cover by Ralph Horsley
Some of Golarion's greatest heroes hail from not one world but two, caught between dueling cultures and impulses, and it's your turn to become one of them! Bastards of Golarion is due out soon, and this is one Player Companion you won't want to miss. Here are five reasons why:
Half-Elves and Half-Orcs: Readers have been asking for a book on these unusual races for years, and Bastards of Golarion makes such wishes a reality. Numerous details and expanded flavor provide inspiration for these mixed-blooded adventurers and inform players how their half-elf or half-orc character may interact with others in the world of Golarion. Oh, and did I mention a flurry of new traits and rules options for each of these races?
Regional Variants: The half-human child of a Snowcaster elf is sure to be different than that of an elf from Kyonin, and the same can be said for desert orcs from Osirion versus orcs from the Hold of Belkzen. All-new details on ten (five for half-elves, five for half-orcs) of these half-blooded variants breathe life into your game and allow for a bevy of new character choices. New alternative racial traits make sure the rules represent your unique character, whether she be descended from the jungle orcs of southern Garund or the mysterious elves of the Mordant Spire.
Character Themes: Half-elves and half-orcs aren't the only people of Golarion to come from unusual or dubious origins. Even seemingly unassuming humans can be bastards given the right backstory! Four diverse character themes in this book provide inspiration for an infinite number of characters and stories. Whether your character calls himself a bastard or a celebrity, an outcast or an unfortunate, these character themes and related rules options shine a light on previously unenviable origin stories and show how such characters can rise from regret to resplendence!
Half-Race Hometowns: You've decided your bastardly adventurer's race and background story, but where did this character even come from? Information on Averaka—the city of half-orcs—and Erages—haven for half-elves—make sure your bastard's hometown is as fleshed out as she is. Regional traits and archetypes for characters from either of these unique locales tie your character's formidable past to her heroic present.
Build-A-Bastard: In addition to details and traits for bastards of unusual origins (such as the strange gillmen of Absalom or the half-hag changelings from northern Avistan), the last few pages of this book provide suggestions and rules for creating characters whose racial ancestry is perhaps less obvious or more distant. Ever wanted to play a human character that's actually 1/8th orc and 1/8th dhampir? This book shows you how.
Illustrations by Ian Llanas and Michael Rookard
And because I would be remiss to write a blog post about this book without including some of its some juicy art, here are two of my favorite pieces to tide you over until Bastards of Golarion is in your hands.
Queen of Thorns Sample Chapter Scavenger Hunt!Wednesday, October 31, 2012 ... It's Halloween, and in the spirit of going door-to-door looking for treats, we've decided to do something a little unusual for the release of the new Pathfinder Tales novel Queen of Thorns. Instead of offering a single sample chapter, we've spread the first four chapters across four prominent fantasy and gaming websites, giving you a free sneak preview of the first 70 pages of the book! Here to talk a little bit...
Queen of Thorns Sample Chapter Scavenger Hunt!
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
It's Halloween, and in the spirit of going door-to-door looking for treats, we've decided to do something a little unusual for the release of the new Pathfinder Tales novel Queen of Thorns. Instead of offering a single sample chapter, we've spread the first four chapters across four prominent fantasy and gaming websites, giving you a free sneak preview of the first 70 pages of the book! Here to talk a little bit about the project is the author himself, Dave Gross:
To give people a taste of the Pathfinder Tales novel line, Paizo's fiction editor solicits short prequels for the web fiction page. These stories allow us authors to show a glimpse of what happens to our heroes between books. I appreciate the opportunity to go darker or funnier or just a little different from the novels while showcasing the same protagonists.
I love them.
Paizo also posts chapter excerpts from the novels, often from the middle of the book, with glorious full-color artwork.
I hate them.
Well, I love that Paizo is showing off beautiful art and a sample chapter, but why is it never Chapter One? That drives me crazy! I wrote the chapters in order, damn it, and I think the first one is a pretty good introduction to the story. Why can't that be the excerpt?
So I complain, as anyone who's read my editor's blog knows all too well. And he responds with perfectly reasonable-sounding explanations like, "We wanted to show off some action, because we like your fight scenes." (That's a dirty trick, the appeasa-flatter.) Or maybe he'll say, "We loved this character and wanted an excuse to commission a painting of her." (I loved her too, so I'm thwarted.)
But, damn it! I still want everyone to read Chapter One (and Two and Three) before Chapter Four. And so I keep complaining, and my editor keeps posting lists of things authors should never say to editors, and so it goes.
But something different happened this time. I don't know, maybe my editor was just tired, or maybe the stars were right. I suspect the enlistment of publicity impresario Jaym Gates might have been a factor. The result is that you can follow the links from blackgate.com to flamesrising.com to sfsignal.com and finally to paizo.com (below) to read Chapters One, Two, Three, and Four of Queen of Thorns.
If you like what you read, I hope you'll buy a copy of the book. And if you like that, I hope you'll tell everyone you know to buy one, too.
In the meantime, let's thank our hosts at all the participating websites, as well as Jaym Gates and my long-suffering editor, James Sutter, for making this happen.
I promise not to complain for the rest of the week.
About This Chapter
After Prince of Wolves and Master of Devils, in which the boys spend much of their time on separate journeys, for Queen of Thorns I wanted a plot closer to a classical quest fantasy with a group of heroes. You know, like a Fellowship or a Ring of Companions or something like that. So in Chapter Four, Count Jeggare assembles a party that leaves Radovan wishing he'd stayed in Rivendell. I mean, Iadara.
Jokes aside, Kyonin is only superficially similar to Middle-earth. In addition to the fey creatures infesting the woods and the horde of demons threatening from the south, the Fierani Forest is full of half-forgotten archaeological sites, some concealing arcane or cosmological mysteries. What could be more exciting to a Pathfinder like Count Jeggare? Although, as things turn out, the expedition into the Fierani Forest might reveal as many secrets of Radovan's infernal heritage as of Varian's long-absent father.
Chapter Four: The Fierani Forest
Somebody was making a hell of a racket, and not just in my nightmare. I'd been having a lot of those lately. I shook off the terrors, sat up, and rubbed sand out of my eyes.
Desna smiled. Nobody was getting murdered outside of dreamland. Arnisant just had Fumblewhatsit backed up against the campfire.
"Call off your animal! Great glens and gardens, he'll eat me in one bite!" The gnome wasn't tall enough to hold the skillet out of reach. He protected it with his body, but the hound's big jaws shook his confidence.
"Arni, get over here!"
The dog bounded and sat beside me, a long rope of drool running from his jaws.
The gnome scowled at Arni and set the skillet back on the fire. Fat black sausages sizzled in the pan.
"You all right, Fim?"
"Fimbulthicket," he winced as he pressed a hand to hip. "And I'm fine, thanks for asking. Dodging a hungry dog is nothing new, I'm sorry to say."
"Where's the boss?"
The gnome tilted his head in the direction of the brook. His baggy eyes told me the boss had kept him up late, as he had our last couple of nights in Omesta, quizzing him about his old man. It didn't help that we'd slept this last night in the forest just outside the elf and gnome city. The boss said it was supposed to get us prepared for the upcoming journey.
It was going to take a lot more than one night's camping to toughen up the gnome, who winced every time he moved. He probably hadn't spent a night out of a soft bed since he'd last seen Variel. That was around the time the boss was born, and I still had trouble thinking of him as working on a hundred years old.
I didn't mind sleeping on the ground so much as the fiends tearing through my dreams. I couldn't blame it on last night's supper, which had been pretty plain fare after all the rich elven goodies back in Iadara. No, I had a pretty good idea where my nightmares came from. They didn't come from the things I'd eaten. They came from the things I'd done.
As I pulled on my boots, the back of my neck itched. I looked around, saw nothing. Listening, I heard the sizzling meat on the fire, the water from the brook, and birdsong from the trees, but nothing out of order. Still, it felt like somebody was watching me.
I shook out my blanket and made a cloud of gray dog hair. No wonder I'd dreamed about wrestling a demon-bear. Whenever I slept near the boss, Arni waited for him to fall asleep before moving from the foot of his bunk to steal my covers, the big mooch.
The starknife rested behind the pack. I'd carried it with me ever since we'd left Ustalav. Even all the time I tramped through Tian Xia in a devil's body, I kept it near. A few times I'd had to use it to kill, but that's not why Azra gave it to me. Despite swearing to Bishop Senir that I'd never go back to Ustalav, I wondered sometimes whether Azra was waiting for me to return her knife and seal the offer she'd made me.
It was a stupid thing to think about. I wrapped the starknife in my blanket and stuffed them both into my pack.
I fetched my jacket off the tree where I'd hung it. It looked no worse for the dunking I'd taken back in Iadara. Most of my scrapes and bruises had healed, too. While the night I spent with Kemeili was fun, I was glad it was behind me. There'd been a time I'd have felt different. Maybe the problem was I'd spent a year stuck in a body nobody could love. Or maybe I'd had my fill of rough stuff for one lifetime.
My spurs slid into their elbow slots as I shrugged on the jacket. I rolled my shoulders to feel the slack hidden under the overlapping strips of red leather. It was the best jacket I'd ever had, and I liked feeling my tools close to hand. If I slapped my arms just so, razor-sharp blades filled my fingers. Even in a tight spot, it was easy to slip a rake or probe out of a hidden pocket.
I snagged a couple sausages from the skillet, juggling them as the fat dripped down my fingers. It was time I learned to be more careful around hot things.
Arnisant followed me out of camp. When I paused, he sat at my side and gave me a pitiful look.
I broke a sausage in half and held it up. "You stay off my bed. Got it?"
The Arnisant Falls started flowing. Before he could drown in his own puddle of drool, I dropped the sausage. He made it disappear and looked to me for more. I finished mine before I let him have the other half of his. Otherwise he'd harry me all the way to the brook.
We found the boss in the middle of the stream. He stood on a stone, his pose telling me he was halfway through the Thirty-Six Forms he'd learned from the masters of Dragon Temple. I'd learned the same exercises from a less reputable source. No surprise, the boss still practiced the Forms, and I had to admit he was a lot better at them than I was. Still, I made better use of them up close and personal.
I hopped onto a nearby stone and joined him. Usually we didn't go for more than a minute before he started pointing out my mistakes. This time he didn't say a word. We just let our bodies flow through the motions.
We finished and began again. As we Gathered the Sun and did Crane Steps Forth, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. The elf ranger Caladrel crouched on a branch overhanging the brook. He watched until we finished the second routine.
The boss looked at Caladrel. An unspoken message passed between them, and the elf dropped as light as a leaf to the ground. He set aside his bow and quiver, slipped the long elven curveblade off his back. Facing us, he imitated our movements as we did it all again.
By the time we reached Tip the Leaf, I knew he was one hell of a quick learner.
"Immaculate," the boss said when we were done. "Have you studied?"
Caladrel shook his head. "I practiced Willow-Oak calisthenics while training for the rangers. Your exercise seems to have a similar purpose."
They collected their weapons, and Arni and I followed them back to the campsite. Caladrel and the boss were the same height, a good five inches taller than me. As they locked step, the boss fell into the ranger's rolling gait. As long as I'd known him, he was a natural mimic, even when he wasn't trying.
It was good to see the boss in his long coat with the riffle scrolls slung around his chest. The Shadowless Sword hanging from his hip should have looked all wrong with his Chelish clothes, but somehow its black-and-gold lacquered scabbard seemed to fit in just perfect. When he drew the blade, it moved as swiftly as his Chelish rapier ever had. Swifter, even. He said that's how it got its name, because it moved too fast for the sun to throw a shadow behind it.
The one difference I noticed in the count lately was that he'd lost that little bit of gray in his hair. I couldn't tell whether he was using dye or magic, but it was only a matter of time before I caught him at it. He was getting old, even for a half-elf, but he hid it pretty good.
"Prince Amarandlon sent me to aid in your search," said Caladrel. He saw the boss's eyes narrow, same as me. "He explained that the expedition is under your command. I welcome the opportunity to learn from you."
The boss nodded, but he was preening on the inside. He likes having his toes kissed. I guess that can't be helped, when you're born into the richest family in the richest country in the world. "The prince's message said I should expect two others."
"Maybe Faunra?" I'd hoped to find that doe-eyed ranger in Omesta while the boss and Fimbulthicket planned our excursion, but the gnomes told me she'd flown back to Iadara. I made up for my disappointment by catching up on the sleep I'd lost with Kemeili.
The boss gave me a look, but Caladrel smiled. He was turning out to be a regular guy, despite the toe-kissing.
"I'm afraid not," said the elf. "I'm here for the rangers. The others will represent other concerns. Doubtless one will be the queen's creature."
The boss's eyebrow rose a bit. Otherwise he masked his suspicion pretty good.
"That reminds me," Caladrel said, rummaging in his pack. "I bring a gift from Prince Amarandlon."
"Your master has been most generous to me," said the boss.
"Actually, the gift is for your associate."
The boss masked his disappointment pretty bad.
Caladrel pulled out a dirt-colored cloth and handed it to me. It was light as a handkerchief, but I let it fall open and saw it was a full cloak with a hood.
"Thanks," I said, trying to sound polite. "But it's not really my style."
"Your red leathers stand out against the forest," said Caladrel. "With scouts from the Witchbole venturing ever closer, stealth is our first line of defense."
"It's kind of warm to wear a cloak, don't you think?"
"Try it on."
The boss gave me the look, so I threw the cloak over my shoulders. The hem fell just above the top of my boots, covering up my red jacket and pants. It wasn't too warm after all.
"Much better," said Caladrel. "Now you aren't visible from a mile away."
"Thanks." Maybe it'd get caught in a briar patch. Maybe a breeze would blow it into a ravine. I revised my wish list for Lady Luck.
Back at the camp, the gnome with the goofy name rolled his eyes when he saw we'd brought company for breakfast. When the boss told him to expect two more, he shuffled over to his pack and dug out more sausages. Grumbling as he rubbed his wrists, he said, "I hope they bring more provisions."
"It would appear one has," said Caladrel.
A tall figure came out of the forest. Mirror-bright armor glinted out from beneath a hooded elven cloak like mine. The warrior's backpack was twice the size of mine, and it came with a barn door of a shield and a rafter of a sword.
The newcomer dropped the pack. Pulling back the hood, she revealed herself as the Forlorn woman who'd slugged me at the queen's party.
"Desna weeps." Sometimes I forget and say it out loud.
Caladrel coughed. "Count Jeggare, allow me to introduce Oparal, paladin of Iomedae."
"Your Excellency." She made a stiff Chelish bow.
Oparal can certainly handle herself in a fight.
The boss barely nodded, reminding her of the pecking order. With a sly smile, he said, "I believe you are already acquainted with my bodyguard, Radovan."
The black pupils of her steel-colored eyes slid toward me. Her nostrils flared. Her expression was almost comical except for the fact that my jaw still ached. Otherwise, I would have tipped her a wink to show I wasn't scared.
I wasn't. Not much, anyway.
"Hungry?" asked the gnome.
"Yes," said Oparal. "Our owl only just arrived."
At a nod from the boss, Oparal went to sit beside the fire. I made the "let's talk" sign. Caladrel caught the hint and joined the others at the fire while the boss and I strolled out of earshot.
"You sure this is a good idea? I mean, seriously—a paladin?"
"We could wish for no better ally if we encounter demons in the forest."
"We don't need one of these holy avengers. They make me nervous. You don't like them either. Besides, we've handled fiends before."
"I never said I don't like paladins. As for demons, you and I have only ever faced one or two at a time, usually with the Egorian Watch only a shout away."
"You're forgetting Iron Mountain."
"I forget nothing," he said. "Those were devils. And you were on their side."
He had to remind me of that. "I couldn't help it."
"All I am saying is that the circumstances are different."
"You weren't the one that ogress clobbered."
"I was not the one who offended her."
"Thanks for the sympathy."
The boss looked past me. That sly smile found its way back onto his face. "Perhaps our last companion will be more to your liking."
I turned to see her approach. Under an elven cloak she wore black-and-yellow leathers—wasp colors. A coiled whip hung at her back, pushing up her cloak like the bustle of a ball gown.
Kemeili planted a fist on her hip and smiled at me. "You didn't think I'd let you get away that easily, did you?"
∗ ∗ ∗
Caladrel paused and raised a hand. He lowered it, palm-down. We all crouched low. Even Arnisant lay down without needing to be told. Clever boy.
Whatever the ranger spotted, I was glad to set down my overstuffed pack. The boss kept his books in his satchel, but I was the one hauling around the rest, including his tent. At least he had all his little scrolls and widgets in his coat and bandolier.
Caladrel beckoned the boss forward. I went with him.
We peered through some bushes at a mob of demons ambling through the forest. They wore the bodies of elves, some of them in scraps of ranger leathers, but there was no mistaking them for real elves. They jiggled with every step, glutted with something wriggling inside them. I counted seventeen of the damned things.
"Vermleks," whispered Caladrel.
"I will lead the attack," said Oparal, who'd joined us without an invitation. She shrugged off her pack and set her shield on an arm as thick as mine. Traced in gold on the shield's face was the image of a winged, eagle-headed woman.
"No," said the boss. "There are too many for us simply to rush in."
"The count is right," said Caladrel.
"But we are less than half a day from Omesta," said Kemeili, who I hadn't even heard creep up on us. "They have never come so close before."
"They have, and more often than you might think," said Caladrel. "But we are charged with protecting the queen's guest. You take your duty seriously, don't you, Oparal?"
"I—" Oparal looked at the boss and me. "I do."
"Then wait. With your permission, Count Jeggare ...?"
The boss gave him the nod, and Caladrel drew an arrow from his quiver. I could have sworn the fletching moved itself into his fingers, like the container was handing it to him. He nocked the arrow. On its tip was a lump that looked like a plant bulb.
The boss whispered to Oparal. "Caladrel knows the forest. We will follow his lead."
"Of course, Excellency."
"In the field, call me Varian."
I didn't like having a cloak on me, even if it didn't make me too hot. I dropped it on the ground. As an afterthought, I shrugged off my jacket, too. Oparal looked at me like I was stupid. Maybe she was right, but I didn't want demon gore all over my new leathers.
Caladrel popped up and back down so quick that I noticed the sound of his bow only after I realized he was moving. The demons heard it, and some of them looked back in our direction. A few stared so hard I felt like they were looking straight at me. I moved real quiet-like, and their elven eyes followed me.
Past the demons, the arrow hit the ground with a squelching sound. That got the attention of all the demons. Wailing, they rushed toward the arrow, shoving each other to reach it first.
"The scent drives them mad," Caladrel whispered. He pointed through the brush at a pair of demons ripping hunks of meat off each other. Caladrel nodded up toward the forest canopy. "It also attracts help."
At first it looked like cones were dropping from the high branches, but there were no pines around. The "cones" were fist-sized wasps.
"Well done, Caladrel," said Kemeili.
The demons noticed nothing but what was between them and the scent. The wasps swarmed over them. For a few moments, the demons didn't seem to notice. Then one began screaming and slapping at its elven body. Its head swelled and darkened. An instant later, it burst open like a rotten melon. A liver-colored worm's head burst out through its gaping neck, squealing as it squirmed free of its wasp-stung body.
"Now?" Oparal had her hand on her sword.
"Let them weary themselves," said Caladrel.
An impatient growl rumbled in Oparal's chest. She sounded like Arnisant when he spied a cat. She was spoiling for a fight.
Six or seven of the demons raised their stolen hands above their heads, gurgling unholy prayers. The air around them congealed. The wasps fell to the ground while the demons crushed the insects in a frenzy of slaps and stomps.
"Now," said the boss.
By the time I realized Caladrel had stood, he'd unleashed three or four arrows. One jutted from the chest of a vermlek, blood spurting through its hollow shaft.
Oparal charged the demons. Her sword struck quick as lightning and blazed twice as bright. Two demons came up behind her, black energy surrounding their hands as they reached for her. The boss riffled a scroll, and two gray bolts of magic struck each vermlek in the face. They howled and clutched their eyes as Oparal whipped her sword around and opened their bellies. Bloody worms as thick as my arm poured out of the wounds. Below each thick head, the worms split into four long tails, the tails further tipped with nests of countless tiny tentacles. The abandoned elf bodies slumped to the ground.
The boss tucked his expended scroll back into his bandolier. I stayed close in case one of the worms went for him. Arni did the same, barking as a worm shot quick as a snake past Oparal. The hound jumped in front of the boss, but the demon didn't go for the count.
It raised a dripping tail and pointed straight at me. In the squealing tongue of demons, it called out to its wormy buddies. Their heads swiveled in my direction. They rushed me.
I tensed, deciding whether to stand or dodge.
With a crack, Kemeili's whip caught the first vermlek by one of its wormy tails. The demon struggled to get free, but the curved flaps of the whip held it tight. Kemeili pulled it off course, giving me all the room I needed.
I planted the big knife a couple of feet below the worm's five-jawed mouth. Dark blood sprayed up as I pulled out the blade, but the demon barely grunted at the wound. Maybe that's not where it kept its heart.
Or maybe vermleks don't need hearts.
It rammed its head against my ribs, knocking the breath out of me. Arnisant's jaws caught the worm just below its head. The hound shook once, twice, and the third time tore away a mass of ruined flesh and six inches of bloody windpipe.
Turns out vermleks do need windpipes.
We left it flopping on the ground and turned to stop the next one coming toward me. None even came close.
Caladrel and the boss each put down another one with their swords. The ranger's big two-hander moved so fast that all I could see was its red blur. It hummed as it moved, louder when it touched a demon. In the instant it was out of its sheath, the boss's Shadowless Sword was damned near invisible. It looked as if everywhere he pointed his hand, some magic power tore wounds in the demons' flesh.
Oparal cut the legs out from under two vermleks trying to break away. As the worms escaped their host bodies, she chopped them into pieces.
Kemeili twisted the handle of her whip. Three long, wicked barbs grew from its tip. She lashed a vermlek across the belly, revealing the worm inside. With another stroke, she tore it out of its shelter. I filled it with darts from my jacket sleeves. It flopped a few times and lay still.
It was over before I'd worked up a good lather. I thought about how the vermleks had looked at me, then I began to sweat.
Oparal looked at me herself, eyes narrowing. The white light of her sword began fading. She raised it up and chopped the head off another demon.
Caladrel joined her in the beheadings. The closer his sword came to the vermleks, the more it glowed like blood on a lantern pane. As the demons died, so did the glow.
The boss had been right. It was good to have a couple demon slayers with us. I only hoped they didn't mistake me for one of the bad guys.
Kemeili wiped the gore off her whip while the gnome looked us over for injuries. A gnome-sized whirlwind floated just above the grass behind him, but it hadn't left his side during the battle. He didn't find any wounds on us. "Not even a scratch!"
Good thing, I thought as I fetched my jacket. Otherwise I'd have felt pretty silly setting aside what little armor I had. I promised myself not to do that again, even if it meant getting a little slime on my leathers.
"Don't sound so disappointed," Kemeili said to the gnome. "Or maybe next time just help us fight them."
He waved away her complaint. "I've seen scum like these a dozen times before. I knew you could handle them. They're boring."
The boss knelt to examine the dead demons. I counted time in my head until he broke out his sketchbook. Fourteen seconds—a new record.
Kemeili shot me a silent question. What is he doing?
I could have told her that the boss is a student of everything, but the truth is he likes weird stuff best. For instance, he calls himself a botanist—a fancy word for "gardener"—but the plants he likes most are the freaks like those whispering lilies he used to give his Pathfinder agents. They could plant one wherever they were, talk into the flower, and their words would come through lily's twin in the boss's greenhouse.
I could have told her that, but I didn't want to lead her on. If she'd finagled her way into the group because she couldn't get enough of me, well, who could blame her? On the other hand, it was way too convenient. If the queen had sent Oparal, that left the temple to send Kemeili. And while the Calistrians were bunches of fun with their temple baths and prostitutes, guile and revenge weren't high on my list of good times.
Kemeili waited for an answer until I shrugged and turned away, pretending to concentrate on cleaning the gore off my knife. Once the boss decided we had to bury the elven bodies and burn their demon hosts, I kept busy enough to avoid her for the rest of the afternoon.
After we finished, we hustled east until the boss called a halt at dusk.
It was about time, I figured, since I was carrying twice as much gear as anybody except the paladin, and I'd decided she was half giant.
Actually, she didn't look half bad. I liked how the sunlight made her black hair shine almost blue, but she never cracked a smile, especially when she saw me looking back at her.
The gnome dropped his pack. It hit the ground with a heavy thump. I grabbed the strap and hefted it. It was almost too much to lift in one hand.
"Hey, Thick. How do you haul so much?"
"Fimbulthicket," he corrected me, but then he smiled. He'd shaken off his morning grump, but he still winced as if every move brought out a bad ache in his bones. "I imbued myself with the might of an ant."
"Proportionately, they are far more powerful than we gnomes. Even stronger than you humans."
He called me human, so I liked him a little better, despite his stupid name. "So you cast a spell?"
"You got to teach the boss that one." I touched my own aching back. It'd be worth one of his riffle scrolls to lighten my load.
The gnome shook his head. "It's not some arcane formula, but rather my connection to the Green that lends me power."
"I get it. You're more like a cleric than a wizard. But the boss is a clever guy. Maybe he could figure out a way to do with his scrolls what you do with your Green."
"Perhaps." The gnome shrugged, then brightened. "If he did, it would certainly be the first time that I ever heard of such a thing."
The boss doled out chores, and no one seemed to mind his giving orders. Caladrel made a fire as Kemeili skinned the hares he'd shot while he scouted ahead during our hike. She was good with a knife, as I knew better than most.
"Hey, boss. I could use a little help with that thing over there."
He glanced at Kemeili and back at me. We walked off far enough that I figured the elves wouldn't overhear us.
"I'm starting to think it's a bad idea to take Kemeili with us."
"She is an official representative of the temple of Calistria," he said. "You realize they are the most influential sect in Kyonin?"
"Yeah, yeah." He'd given me the long lesson before we'd arrived, and I could list the names of all the elf gods. I liked that they worshiped Lady Luck, same as me and the boss, but their favorite was Calistria, the Savored Sting. "I'm just saying I don't think she's here for the right reason. Even if she was, she's going to be a distraction."
"She is important not only to the success of our mission but to the continued goodwill of her temple, the court, and the queen herself."
"Just keep her happy," he said. "That should not be too onerous. Or have you lost your touch with the ladies?"
"Lost my—? Hey, now. You know that's not a problem."
"I hear quite a few wild boasts, but when we face a situation that requires a certain subtle—"
"Fine, I'll keep her happy."
"Excellent," he said, turning to go back to the others. He paused and added, "Just not near camp. Show some discretion."
The boss and Oparal went off to fetch water, talking as they went. I had his tent set up and his gear stowed inside by the time they returned with filled canteens and waterskins.
I stretched out Arnisant's supper by giving him a little at a time rather than throwing him a whole hare. By the time it was gone, he didn't even give me the starving dog routine. He just settled down at the boss's feet.
"What other varieties of fiend might we face?" the boss asked Caladrel.
"The list is endless," said Caladrel. "The vermlek are the least of them. I have fought over a dozen kinds, but many others lurk in Tanglebriar or await summons from the Abyss."
"This is why I returned to Kyonin," said Oparal. "To wipe this filth from our land."
Caladrel raised his leather tankard in salute. "May you touch the Brightness."
"A laudable goal," said the boss. "But I would be as glad to avoid them as to slaughter them. Our mission is to find Variel Morgethai."
"We are all here to help you find your father, Varian," said Kemeili. He usually told people to call him by his given name 'in the field,' as he put it. Still, I didn't like the way she said it. Maybe he would have to be the one to keep her happy. That thought was more annoying than I'd expected it to be.
"Are we certain he still lives?" said Oparal. "No one has seen him for almost a century."
"I would know if he had died," said the gnome. He rubbed his knuckles. "I would feel it."
The boss shot him a curious look. It was a weird thing to say. From the way everyone else looked away, I wasn't the only one who thought so.
The gnome picked up on it too. "I would feel it in the Green. Variel has always been a strong presence in the land."
Everybody nodded as if that explained everything, but it still killed the conversation.
Caladrel and Oparal discussed the best ways to kill demons. Lightning and poison were useless. Fire, frost, and acid weren't so good either, but that mattered more to the boss, who had to pick the right spells to write in his riffle scrolls. Since I'd had the big knife whammied in Goka, I was all set to slice off a hunk of demon.
As we banked the fire and got ready to sleep, I caught another of those looks from Kemeili. It was weird how she could look like a girl one moment—complete with a baby-doll voice that shouldn't have done it for me but, to be honest, kind of did—and then turn her head in the firelight to become all woman.
Well, maybe part tiger, too.
Sleep is what I wanted, and Kemeili looked like she had more than cuddles on her mind. I rolled up the elven cloak and shook out my jacket, trying to make it clear that I was ready for sleep.
"What's that?" said Oparal. She sat on a fallen log beside the fire, her big sword across her knees. "That image on your jacket."
I held it up, showing off the phoenix on the back. "Phoenix. Big flaming bird. They got them over in Tian Xia."
"Did you see one?"
"Yeah. Once. Kind of."
Oparal tilted her head to the side, obviously not buying my story.
"I had this jacket made to remind me of all the fights I had in Tian Xia. That's a land on the other side of the—"
"I know what Tian Xia is."
"Well, long story short, I got into a few tussles over there. Each of these pictures is kind of my souvenir."
"Trophies of your kills?"
I didn't like her tone. It didn't matter to me what god she wore on her shield. She had no business judging me. Still, I wasn't about to back down just because she wore shiny armor. "I didn't kill them all," I said. "Just the ones who got in my face with their righteous attitudes."
"That's no phoenix." She held up her shield to show off the bird-woman—which now that I looked closer, did bear some suspicious similarities to the symbol on my jacket. Not the same, but close enough to make me wonder what the artist had known. "It was someone bearing the symbol of my order, wasn't it?"
"Nah," I said. "It was a whole other country. Different gods and everything."
Oparal reached into a belt pouch and brought out a little jar. She opened it and dipped in a finger before drawing a little sun on her brow, across her lips, and on the armor over her heart. "Tell me again who you killed," she said. "I will know if you lie."
"That's enough," said the boss.
"So you know what he did?" said Oparal.
He didn't know, because I hadn't told him. The moment he hesitated to answer, Oparal knew it too.
"There were two of them," I said. "Well, one woman in two bodies. I think one of them was a paladin. I wasn't looking for a fight, but they were. This phoenix on my jacket, that's what was left of them afterward."
Oparal's eyes widened. No doubt she was surprised I'd told the truth.
"Like I said, I wasn't the one looking for a fight."
"You killed a paladin!" She dropped her jar of holy balm and drew her sword an inch from its sheath. It lit up the trees around us.
"Put that away," said Caladrel. "They can see that light in Razmiran."
When Oparal didn't move, the boss snapped, "Sheathe your weapon, or return to Iadara and tell the queen we have no use for you."
Oparal shoved the blade back into place, but her eyes never left my face. I folded the jacket so nobody else could see the phoenix or any of the other figures carved into its leather. Eventually I turned away from Oparal and walked out of camp, half-hoping the boss or Arni would follow. But they didn't.
I found a cozy spot just within range of the fire's light and sat down. What pissed me off about Oparal wasn't that she'd made me admit what I did. I didn't give a good damn what she thought. I just didn't like thinking about the people I'd killed. Most of them had it coming—killers themselves, or worse. Others came looking to kill me, and I shouldn't have felt a bit bad about killing them first.
But this phoenix paladin, when she'd found me, she thought she'd found a devil. A monster, not a man. I tried telling her otherwise, but she wouldn't listen. So I could say I hadn't killed her. She'd killed herself.
But that was a lie, and I knew it. The truth was that I beat her before I killed her. I could have walked away. Well, run away. But I could have got away—that was the point. I could have got away and left her there alive.
But that's not what I did.
Shoving the jacket under my head for a pillow, I lay down alone. When sleep finally caught up with me, it brought me nightmares about the people who hadn't had it coming.
Happy Labor Day! Monday, September 3, 2012 It's Labor Day here in the States, which means that all the goblin-wranglers and libromancers at Paizo are taking a well-deserved day off. To hold you over until the next blog post, here's the unadulterated cover illustration for Robin Laws' new Pathfinder Tales novel, Blood of the City--a story revolving around Luma, an urban druid, and her family of high-end mercenaries in Magnimar. ... One of my favorite things about novel covers is the way they...
Happy Labor Day!
Monday, September 3, 2012
It's Labor Day here in the States, which means that all the goblin-wranglers and libromancers at Paizo are taking a well-deserved day off. To hold you over until the next blog post, here's the unadulterated cover illustration for Robin Laws' new Pathfinder Tales novel, Blood of the City--a story revolving around Luma, an urban druid, and her family of high-end mercenaries in Magnimar.
One of my favorite things about novel covers is the way they wrap all the way around the book, and it's always with a tinge of regret that I write the back cover copy, knowing it'll cover up such wonderful details. Just take a look at those fountains here in the wealthy Alabaster District, and it's easy to see why Magnimar is often called the City of Monuments....
A Passage to AbsalomBy Dave Gross ... Chapter Four: Cheap SackThe dwarf slumped on the floor of the closet. The manacles on his wrists were newly bolted to the deck to form a makeshift brig. ... “I’d never harm Pekko,” said Jaska. “Without him, I’m out of business.” ... “You’re out of business because you got pinched smuggling poison,” said Radovan. ... “Satyr’s tears aren’t just poison,” said Jaska. “They’re are a key ingredient in remedies for all sorts of ills. For some, it’s the only...
A Passage to Absalom
By Dave Gross
Chapter Four: Cheap Sack
The dwarf slumped on the floor of the closet. The manacles on his wrists were newly bolted to the deck to form a makeshift brig.
“I’d never harm Pekko,” said Jaska. “Without him, I’m out of business.”
“You’re out of business because you got pinched smuggling poison,” said Radovan.
“Satyr’s tears aren’t just poison,” said Jaska. “They’re are a key ingredient in remedies for all sorts of ills. For some, it’s the only thing that works.”
That much I knew to be true, but the satyr’s tears had now been used to murder two men aboard ship, and a search of their cabins had failed to uncover the Lacuna Codex. The poisonous herbs, however, turned up in a search of the crates—already opened—in the dwarves’ cabin.
“Who else might have had a motive for poisoning your partner?” I said.
“Nobody,” moaned Jaska. “Everybody loved Pekko. He had an easy way about him. I know the business, but Pekko knew the customers. He did his best work with that flask of his.”
“Yet you never indulged in drink.”
Jaska flushed. “Even outside my people, no one respects a dwarf who won’t so much as raise a toast.”
“What? Are you some kind of monk or something?” said Radovan.
I ventured a supposition.
“You suffer from some sort of inflammatory ailment, probably gout,” I said. “If it is so acute as to require satyr’s tears, then alcoholic beverages must incite excruciating attacks.”
The dwarf nodded. “I told Captain Qoloth as much, but he wouldn’t hear it. All he cares about is arriving in Absalom with his murders solved.”
“How did you intend to disguise your abstinence at the sherry tasting?”
“I usually say I’d just had a drink or two. This time it was trickier, since Pekko and I had just been chatting with Menas. They shared a few drinks in our cabin before the party.”
“Did you have business with Lord Neverion?”
“Not yet,” said Jaska. “Pekko thought him a good future prospect, so I left them to it while I visited the head.”
“Could anyone else have overheard their conversation?”
He pondered. “I passed a crewman, and also that girl and the elf. One of them might have entered the cabin between the time I left and when I arrived at the Neverions’ party.”
“Who awaited you there?”
“Our hosts, of course. And Pekko. Oh, and one of the crew was just leaving. He’d brought fresh glasses. Menas almost handed me one, but thankfully his wife distracted him, and then Pekko kept him occupied with...” he choked "...with his stupid jokes.”
The presence of the ship’s crew complicated matters more than I liked, yet I knew no reason Shadya or Murviniel would desire the death of Menas Neverion. Worse, my most recent visit to the deck confirmed my suspicion that dampening magic was not the least of the Sea Lion’s enchantments. We had nearly arrived in Absalom, far ahead of schedule even considering the favorable winds. Time was running out.
We left Jaska to his confinement. As we walked to Lady Neverion’s new quarters, we saw a deckhand emerging from her cabin, arms full of bags. The ship turned sharply, and the docking whistle sounded above. We had arrived.
With a brief pause to fetch Arnisant from our cabin, we hastened above decks, where the crew prepared to dock. Already we were within the wide harbor of Absalom, its docks stretching east to west. Ships from a dozen different ports vied with the Sea Lion for an available berth. Behind their colored sails and banners, the manors and temples of Absalom rose up to the grand Starstone Cathedral in the distance.
Captain Qoloth stood near the main mast, Lady Neverion’s hand on his fingers.
“Thank you for agreeing to speed our journey,” she said as his whiskers brushed her hand. “It will soothe my nerves to spend a few days on land before returning to bury my husband.”
“And no doubt it is some consolation to see justice done.” He glowered at Jaska, who stood shackled and glum between a pair of sailors.
“Indeed,” Charikla sniffed before indicating a crate of wine bottles left on deck. “Please accept this gift for your men. I never touch the stuff. This common sack is all my husband would drink when no one was looking, even though it aggravated his gout.”
Something tickled in my mind at the word “gout.” Considering his age and girth, it was no surprise that Menas should suffer from the same affliction as Jaska. But what could the dwarf hope to gain from the merchant lord’s death?
The captain, on the other hand, had been most considerate in providing Charikla with an alternative to the cabin in which her husband had died. Furthermore, he had commanded me not to trouble her after the discovery of the poisonous herbs among the dwarves’ cargo. As a wealthy widow, Charikla was well suited to reward Qoloth for his compliance.
"What exactly is Murviniel carrying in that enormous backpack?"
Shadya and Murviniel emerged from the passenger cabins. A porter trailed behind the Qadiran woman, but the elf carried his own over-burdened backpack.
“You ask me,” said Radovan, “every damned one of them is guilty of something.”
Such a simple remark, yet it spawned a hasty theory that just might fit our circumstances.
“Captain Qoloth,” I said. “A moment, if you please.”
Everyone who had been preparing to debark stopped to listen. That was well, but the ship’s master looked displeased. “Make it quick.”
“I implore you to keep everyone aboard until we can summon the city guard and resolve the matter of these murders, not to mention the theft of my property.”
“We have our killer, and I already told you the theft is not my responsibility.”
“But you don’t have the killer,” I said. “In fact, you’ve imprisoned the one innocent man among your passengers—myself excepted, of course.”
“And me,” said Radovan. He grinned, stopping just short of revealing the full horror of his smile. “I haven’t done anything real nasty in weeks.”
Radovan’s uninvited aside once again proved handy.
“Despite his fearsome appearance, my bodyguard is a fine example of the adage that one should not judge a book by its cover. Of course, sometimes a cover is honest. For example, you, Captain, are probably much as you appear: a practical businessman who runs an efficient ship with a disciplined crew.
“I’m—” Qoloth hesitated, considering whether I was mocking or flattering him.
“Lady Neverion is also much as she appears, a woman of noble breeding in mourning for her late husband.”
Charikla bowed her head in assent.
“But not mourning for her second late husband.” She bristled, and I added, “No one could mistake you for a happy couple. You were ashamed of his coarse manners and low breeding. If not for the misfortunes of your estate, you should never have thought twice about marriage so far beneath your station. Oh, I believe your horror at his death was genuine. Perhaps you did not expect the method of his murder to be quite so horrible, nor for it to occur so close to you. Yet twice you prevented him from offering a drink to others. You knew which was the tainted glass.”
Charikla’s lips trembled briefly, but she could deny none of what I had said. I turned toward Shadya.
“Our other female companion is also much as she appears, but one must examine her cover closely.” I raised a finger to silence Radovan, who I sensed had been poised to add a remark. “Despite your immodest behavior, Shadya, you have no air of desperation about you. No matter how successful your thefts, you could not have stolen the refined taste to choose such fashionable garments as those you wore the night of the sherry tasting. You are a dilettante from a wealthy family. You steal not for necessity but for the thrill of transgression.”
“I didn’t take your book,” she said. Her voice betrayed a rising fear, and I marked the direction of her gaze when it left my eyes.
She indicated exactly the person I had begun to suspect.
“No,” I agreed. “You merely provided the diversion, drawing my attention and that of my bodyguard while the true thief stole the Codex from my satchel. What I did not realize before was that not everyone at the dock in Cassomir was fooled by your charade. Someone else witnessed the theft, and the price for her silence was the murder of her husband.”
Lady Neverion’s face paled. She was past anger now, wading deeper into the cool waters of fear as I spoke.
“But why was Pekko killed?” demanded Jaska. One of the sailors guarding him jerked his chains to silence him, but the other man looked at the dwarf with sympathy.
“To cover the killer’s tracks. The murderer visited your cabin before the party and acquired a sample of the satyr’s tears from Pekko.” I turned toward the elf.
“But I told you,” Murviniel said. “I’ve only read about such herbs.”
“And yet you brought along a pouch of nettle tea on what you pretend is your first visit to Absalom. You fooled me at first, but I see now what lies beneath your false cover: a thief and a killer.”
“You’re mad,” he said. “Very well, then. Let’s hear the rest of it. What tale will Venture-Captain Varian Jeggare spin for us next? Oh, will it appear in the next volume of the Chronicles?”
“You are no mere Pathfinder applicant. That ring upon your finger resembles those a certain venture-captain presented to her agents decades ago.”
Murviniel shrugged. “One of whom must have fallen on hard times and sold it.”
“Plausible, I admit. But there are more surprises under your cover. The nettle tea you drink soothes a number of ailments, most of them peculiar to men of middle years. Sometimes even I forget how misleading a youthful elven appearance can be. One day—perhaps already—the nettle tea will no longer ameliorate your illness. You cannot say you are unfamiliar with the effects of satyr’s tears, both beneficial and toxic.”
“That’s—that’s—” His naive front evaporated. “What motive would I have for killing Neverion?”
“Before you stole the Lacuna Codex, you had none. But you had to repay the silence of the one who witnessed your theft. Is that not correct, Lady Neverion?”
Charikla adopted a statue’s gaze, staring off into the distance.
“Everyone else present was a man, except for the barmaid—whose attentions were devoted to Radovan—and Lady Neverion, who as a lady of noble birth naturally turned away from Shadya’s bawdy antics. What did she see? I would have noticed had you approached close enough to dip a hand inside my luggage. I wager you plucked it out with a spell.”
“You did do it!” Shadya shoved Murviniel away from her. She closed the distance and struck him again, pushing him over and over.
“How do you know that, sweetheart?” said Radovan. He slid over to Murviniel’s other side, drawing his attention by producing his big knife.
Shadya answered me rather than Radovan. “This elf bet me I couldn’t let your henchman see that I was lifting your purse while leaving you unawares.” She pointed at Murviniel. “If I had known about a killing, I would have told someone. He said it must have been the other dwarf who killed him, over some sort of business dispute.”
“So much for honor among thieves,” said Murviniel, turning his back to the gunwales. “You may be your own most ardent admirer, Count Jeggare. But I must admit you figured it out eventually. Too bad it’s just a bit too late.” He fell over the edge of the ship and plunged into the water.
“Man overboard!” cried a sailor.
I ran to the side and looked down just in time to see Murviniel kick away from the ship. Once free of the Sea Lion’s dampening field, he vanished in a twinkle of magic. I recognized the effect of a minor teleportation spell and looked up along the pier. There he reappeared, already sprinting through the chaotic mass of laborers.
I withdrew a riffle scroll and prepared to throw myself into the water, hoping the scroll would still function after a good drenching.
“Wait,” said Shadya. “You can find him later, can’t you?”
“Perhaps, but I cannot allow him a chance to pass the Lacuna Codex to a confederate. The book is untraceable by magic, and I—”
“This is your book?” Shadya tossed me my Bestiary of Garund. I shook my head, but then I saw fragments of Murviniel’s wicker backpack clinging to the cover, and I recalled the shoves Shadya had given him. She had cut his pack like a purse.
The Bestiary was stuffed full of loose sheets between its pages. Flipping through, I recognized pages of the Lacuna Codex. Murviniel had hidden them in plain sight during my visit to his cabin. Yet there were too few pages to account for the entire tome.
“Not all of it is here.”
Shadya revealed several more slender volumes she had liberated from the elf’s pack and concealed behind her back. Two more were also full of Codex pages. A quick accounting ascertained that she had recovered them all. My sigh of relief deflated me so completely that I almost sank to my knees. Arnisant approached to sniff me, assuring himself I was unharmed.
“Nice work,” Radovan told Shadya. She smiled before remembering she was angry with him. Before she could cement the frown to her face, he whispered something to make her laugh.
I looked past them to see one of Qoloth’s men take Lady Neverion by the arm while a second confiscated her dogs. Shaking his head, the captain signaled the guards to release Jaska from his bonds.
“I can’t say I’m glad to lose the bonus the lady promised for swift passage,” said Qoloth. He said nothing more, perhaps hoping that his silence would prompt me to compensate him for his loss.
As the crew set the gangplank on the dock, I oversaw the conveyance of our luggage while Radovan exchanged a few words with Shadya. The manner in which they stood so close suggested she had forgiven him, at least in part, for his earlier rough behavior. It had, after all, won her wager with Murviniel.
“I don’t expect the boss will want you charged,” Radovan said. “He’s a pretty understanding guy.”
“Perhaps a reward for rescuing his books?”
“He ain’t that understanding. But what kind of reward did you have in mind?”
“Perhaps another kiss,” she said. “I wasn’t prepared to appreciate the last one.”
A smile spread across Radovan’s wide jaws. He stopped it at what he calls “the little smile” before moving in to grant Shadya’s request.
Standing beside me, Qoloth asked, “How does he do that?”
I shrugged. “No one knows.”
We finished our business, glancing up from time to time to see whether the way was clear. When Shadya at last withdrew from Radovan’s embrace, she shouldered her bag and skipped across the gangplank. She waved once without looking back and disappeared into the crowd.
Radovan was still grinning as he hefted a few of our bags.
“You know she lifted your purse,” I said.
Radovan traced his thumb over his lips and gazed into the waterfront crowds. “Yeah,” he said. “I know.”
Coming Next Week: The guilty conscience of a halfling in Galt in Amber E. Scott's "The Seventh Execution."
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 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.
Gen Con Facebook Roundup Friday, August 5, 2011In addition to the live blog coverage of Gen Con, our intrepid staff has been posting photos to the official Paizo Facebook page to the delight of fans everywhere (as well as those of us stuck back at the office!) ... We've rounded up some of their pictures from the show (so far) to show off for today's blog. ... Mark Moreland and the Pathfinder Society Venture-Captains dine at the aptly-named Pope Table.Dave Gross signs copies of the new...
The Ironroot Deceptionby Robin D. Laws ... Chapter Three: The DogGad's feet scramble for purchase against a heap of gravel as the muscular prisoner chokes the life from him. Stokh grunts in surprise; Gad's supposed to be shackled at the ankles. He tightens his grip. Gad's arm flails into the gravel pile. He fishes out an object. ... The burly prisoner sees the flash of metal and releases Gad in a twitch of panic. Knuckles white on the hilt of Ethundel's dagger—stolen when he prompted...
The Ironroot Deception
by Robin D. Laws
Chapter Three: The Dog
Gad's feet scramble for purchase against a heap of gravel as the muscular prisoner chokes the life from him. Stokh grunts in surprise; Gad's supposed to be shackled at the ankles. He tightens his grip. Gad's arm flails into the gravel pile. He fishes out an object.
The burly prisoner sees the flash of metal and releases Gad in a twitch of panic. Knuckles white on the hilt of Ethundel's dagger—stolen when he prompted Stokh to push him into the elf on the way into the excavation that morning—Gad neatly plunges it between the startled man's well-demarcated ribs. He jams it in deep. He twists, forcing Stokh to cry out in pain.
Agonized cries resound through the pit. They cease as blood fills Stokh's lungs. He dies to the sound of running elven feet. Gad steps out of Stokh's path as his corpse timbers to the dirt. He slides to Vitta's side, yards away. He presses his ankles together. Vitta slaps the shackles on them. Using a twig she's carved, she clicks its tumblers, locking it. She stashes the twig in the rock pile, retrieving another item. When she sees that Ethundel has seized control of the scene and is barking orders to his fellow Reclaimers, she places it in Gad's hand.
Ethundel rushes to Stokh's side. He places fingers on his jugular, shakes his head, and rises. A red fury, so intense as to be visible in the weak light of predawn, suffuses his triangular face.
"Where is the new one?" he calls. "Where is the churl?"
Gad scrabbles back, catching his eye. The elf sprints at him, hauling him to his shackled feet. He backhands Gad across the face. Throws him against the pit wall. When he tries to knee him in the groin, Gad angles to avoid the worst.
"What happens here?"
At the slicing sound of his mistress's voice, Ethundel stops. He throws Gad to the dirt. "The new one has murdered our best thrall. Our strongest, most loyal human."
"They say that all the best leaders are a little crazy. By that metric, maybe Dualal is destined to rule."
Dualal's arched brow suggests that her admiration for Stokh ran cooler than her lieutenant's. "Humans are vicious, Ethundel. They slay one another. The savage ones are oft of greater use than their docile brethren."
Ethundel points at Gad. "And I shall slay this one."
"And lose two slaves, instead of one?" says Dualal. "When we are a few day's digging from our prize?"
"I warned him not to defy me."
She laughs. "I've told you time and again, child, just because these creatures walk and talk, and seem capable of feeling, you must not mistake them for people. They are but snarling animals. If one dog tears another's throat, it is not the fault of the dog, but of the negligent dog-keeper." She sweeps toward Ethundel. "Why did you let my one good dog kill my other?"
"Milady..." Ethundel stutters.
"I raised you from nothing, and you are hard and brave, yet you haven't the sense of a barnacle."
Ethundel can see that his comrades are watching him.
"I didn't even do it!" Gad blurts.
"What?" says Dualal.
"He says I killed Stokh, but it wasn't me. Look! He's stabbed. Do I have a blade?"
"Ethundel," she says, "did you let the human have a dagger?"
"I did not!"
"Look!" says Gad, "the blood's on his scabbard!"
The dagger is back on Ethundel's hip. Returned to him when he was trying to knee Gad in the gobbles. Stokh's sticky blood smears his belt and tunic.
Dualal's hand snakes out at him.
In an unthinking defensive gesture, Ethundel's hand lands on his guilty dagger-hilt. He immediately lets it go, as if it burns. His lips follow the rhythm of his unraveling thoughts. "He must have—no..."
"Give me that blade," she says.
From her tone, Gad decides he guessed right. These two are like mother and son. But not truly mother and son. All the demands, none of the affection.
She pulls the knife from its sheath. With it falls a bundle wrapped in a dirty rag. It falls to the dirt. Glinting dawn light reflects from ruby facets. Dualal bends down to seize the purloined gems.
"You've been holding out on me," she says.
"I told everyone that any treasures found in the Ironroot Vaults were to be turned over to me. And you, of all my followers, you betray me?"
"I've never seen those before."
"You, whom I elevated not for your strength, nor for your courage, but for your loyalty—you would forsake me for a handful of stones?"
She stabs him in the chest. He drops to his knees, more out of supplication than injury.
"Milady, it's a trick, I would never—"
Dualal jabs the knife into his open mouth, slashing his tongue. "Silence, traitor!" She wheels to face the appalled ranks of her minions. Ethundel gags behind her. "Each of you will stab him once with his own duplicitous blade. I shall punish shirkers and light-strikers as I have punished him!"
One by one, they step up and meekly comply. Her lackeys slash at Ethundel enough to say they've done it. She wrinkles her nose in dissatisfaction.
"You there. Human," she says.
"Me?" Gad asks.
"These elves are of the blood, yet have permitted it to run thin in their veins. We lost Golarion to you because we lacked your cruelty. To take it back, we must equal your barbarity. Teach my men a lesson, human. Show them what savagery is."
She proffers the knife.
"Do it. I'll reward you."
Gad steps up and slices open Ethundel's throat.
Imagining that he's doing it to her.
∗ ∗ ∗
Days of toil pass, with no hint of Dualal's promised reward. Each morning Gad and Vitta go down into the excavation with the rest of the press gang. Some days they break rocks. Some days they pass debris buckets down the passage or up the shaft. Every night they stumble from the complex, which they now know as the Ironroot Vaults, topple onto beds of gravel, and surrender to pain-wracked sleep.
Since his stabbing of Ethundel, the other prisoners come to Gad, as if, in killing the elf, he gained a measure of his authority.
"They're going to work us to death."
"My name is Saadak. I have a wife, three children, and another on the way. My death will be their misery, too."
"If we're still alive when they get whatever they're looking for, they'll slaughter us just for spite."
"I am Barash, son of Barash. I was foolish to venture so close to the Shudderwood with my cart, but it is not a crime I deserve to be killed for."
"I overheard her. They seek a gem that will prove her destined to rule the world. That can't be true, can it?"
"I am Tlivush. That is my brother, Tliuka. It does not matter what happens to me, but if he does not return, it will break our mother's heart."
"There must be a way we can escape."
"She thinks you're her new pet or such. We beg you, sway her to ease up on us."
It throws him off. Gad is used to leading, to calling the moves, but with confederates who are in on the gaffle. Responsibility for a pack of ordinaries is not part of the plan.
The next evening, as the end of the shift nears, Vitta's ax opens a hole to a hollow chamber. She quickly returns the rock to its place. "The digging's almost done," she says to Gad.
That night, Gad sleeps fitfully. He dreams that Dualal is looming over him.
Dualal is looming over him.
She unlocks his shackles and takes him for a walk. They stroll up the slope out of the pit, to the dead forest beyond. "The other dogs gather around you," she says.
"We prefer 'human.'"
She turns to face him, as if worried that he'll rifle her pack. "I said I'd reward you, and I will. Even though a sliver of me now suspects that you somehow abetted Ethundel in his betrayal."
"That's not so," Gad says.
"Your people were bred to serve mine. You'll deny it, but it's true. Are we not older, wiser, more beautiful? How could we be supplanted by such as you?"
"It is a mystery."
"I could use a loyal dog. A killing beast. Instinctively, the others yearn to follow you. Why is that?"
"Your thoughts rush swiftly. This poor dog can't keep up."
"When I rule... It is unrealistic to expect that we shall exterminate your race entirely. Many will remain. I must learn to command your kind. Yet my revulsion for you clouds my understanding."
"You're not too big to admit that."
"Not at all."
"What makes you think you're going to be world-queen?"
"Do not mistake this moment of intimacy for weakness. Insolence shall still be punished. My visions say so. Since I was but a child, I have dreamed my future glory. I would fall into a trance, and recite epic stanzas of my eventual deeds. All the great prophetic poems of elvenkind refer to me, foretell my coming. Yet unbelievers, even other Reclaimers, refuse to see the obvious parallels in the texts. The prophets say that the great elf queen to come will find a gem, buried deep in the earth. Its light will shine on the elven people, curing them of their blindness. Forcing them to recognize me. I will unite the elves and fey of the known worlds, then the seven leaves will fall—but it is beyond your comprehension."
"And that's what we seek here—your gem?"
"Two thousand years ago came the first harbinger of my rule. The thornbeast. A terrible tripartite devourer: animal, mineral, vegetable. It scourged the elven kingdoms, seeking the queen too early, enraged by its failure to find her. The elves of this land finally captured it and sealed it in their own holy Ironroot Vaults. They could not kill it, so they left a powerful gem, the Opal of Command, to force its eternal slumber."
"And the opal is your gem of prophecy."
"So what happens when you take it from its resting place? You release the thornbeast?"
"Don't worry about that, good dog."
∗ ∗ ∗
Gad asks the amber elf what his name is as he and Vitta smash through the last wall of rock to the open chamber beyond. The elf has time to snarl at him before the stones give way, collapsing into a tumble of rubble at their feet.
Darkness shrouds the chambers beyond. Vitta reaches for a lantern.
The amber elf stops her short. "Halfling! Go to the top, and convey to your mistress that the excavation is at an end."
Gad steps lightly on her toe, to forestall the retort he can already hear coming. She stalks off down the passageway, squeezing her way past the row of bucket-haulers. "Drop your pails, boys," she says. "Digging's over."
Soon Dualal and her best-armed guards have shoved themselves into the tiny terminal chamber. She peers into the black with her exceptional elven eyes.
"Shall I dismiss the thralls?" Amber elf asks. "We shall guard you, the rest of the way."
"Yes," says Dualal.
A hideous, hungry wail echoes from the depths.
Dualal whispers: "The thornbeast." She swallows, then shudders back to composure. "On second thought," she says. "The thralls may still be of use. To walk ahead, and alert us to hazards." She turns to Gad. He expects to see a cruel smile but there is only blankness. She gestures to the pile of stones, and hands him a lantern.
"Proceed, brave dog, proceed."
Coming Next Week: The perils of the thornbeast and the rewards of presumption in the final chapter of "The Ironroot Deception"!
Robin D. Laws is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novel The Worldwound Gambit—also starring Gad—and six other novels, as well as various short stories, web serials, and comic books, plus a long list of roleplaying game products. His novels include Pierced Heart, The Rough and the Smooth, and the Angelika Fleischer series for the Black Library. Robin created the classic RPG Feng Shui and such recent titles as Mutant City Blues, Skulduggery, and the newly redesigned HeroQuest 2. His previous fiction for the Pathfinder campaign setting includes "Plague of Light" in the Serpent's Skull Adventure Path. Those interested in learning more about Robin are advised to check out his blog.
... Illustration by Wayne Reynolds ... Adventure Begins Here! Wednesday, May 11, 2011The first RPG product I ever purchased came in a red box, with a fighter laying the smack down on a red dragon. I was 12 and I've never stopped gaming since. I suspect that this fall some young whippersnappers will see this Beginner Box, pick it up, and begin their own journey into this great hobby of ours. With this amazing art from Wayne Reynolds, how can they not? And what can you do to make their journey...
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Adventure Begins Here!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The first RPG product I ever purchased came in a red box, with a fighter laying the smack down on a red dragon. I was 12 and I've never stopped gaming since. I suspect that this fall some young whippersnappers will see this Beginner Box, pick it up, and begin their own journey into this great hobby of ours. With this amazing art from Wayne Reynolds, how can they not? And what can you do to make their journey easier?
... Golarion Day: Prepare to Get Harrowed! Thursday, April 28, 2011So, we just shipped The Harrowing off to the printer. An adventure where you get sucked into a magical deck of harrow cards and end up interacting with some of the strangest characters we've published yet! Check 'em out! (Those of you who are familiar with the Harrow Deck will probably recognize these three folks...) ... Illustrations by Dmitry Burmak ... Also, you can tell when I forget to write a blog post until we get to a...
Golarion Day: Prepare to Get Harrowed!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
So, we just shipped The Harrowing off to the printer. An adventure where you get sucked into a magical deck of harrow cards and end up interacting with some of the strangest characters we've published yet! Check 'em out! (Those of you who are familiar with the Harrow Deck will probably recognize these three folks...)
Illustrations by Dmitry Burmak
Also, you can tell when I forget to write a blog post until we get to a point where I have only 20 minutes to do a blog before heading into a supersized meeting that'll take up the rest of the day, can't you? Cause there's not many words? Guess I should put up a third picture from The Harrowing to further distract you from the lack of words... hope it works!
Magus Preview Tuesday, April 26, 2011 ... Illustration by Wayne Reynolds ... Every Tuesday until the book's release, we are going to be digging into some of the new rules and options you will find in Ultimate Magic. After a bit of a mix up last week, this week we are going to take a look at the new base class, the magus, and the archetypes slated to appear in this book. ... From its first appearance as part of the playtest of this book, the magus has gone through a number of iterations. The...
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Every Tuesday until the book's release, we are going to be digging into some of the new rules and options you will find in Ultimate Magic. After a bit of a mix up last week, this week we are going to take a look at the new base class, the magus, and the archetypes slated to appear in this book.
From its first appearance as part of the playtest of this book, the magus has gone through a number of iterations. The second playtest version of the class is, in fact, quite a bit similar to the final version of the class, with a number of clarifications made to make things work a bit more smoothly. Take a look at the revised spell strike ability, for example.
Spellstrike (Su): At 2nd level, whenever a magus casts a spell with a range of "touch" from the magus spell list, he can deliver the spell through any weapon he is wielding as part of a melee attack. Instead of the free melee touch attack normally allowed to deliver the spell, a magus can make one free melee attack with his weapon (at his highest base attack bonus) as part of casting this spell. If successful, this melee attack deals its normal damage as well as the effects of the spell. If the magus makes this attack in concert with spell combat, this melee attack takes all the penalties accrued by spell combat melee attacks. This attack uses the weapon's critical range (20, 19–20, or 18–20 and modified by the keen weapon property or similar effects), but the spell effect only deals x2 damage on a successful critical hit, while the weapon damage uses its own critical modifier.
As you can see, we clarified how the attack worked, and how critical hits were handled when using this ability. In addition, we replaced the pool spell abilities with ones that are a bit more in line with the flavor of the class. Take a look at these.
Spell Recall (Su): At 4th level, the magus learns to use his arcane pool to recall spells he has already cast. With a swift action he can recall any single magus spell that he has already prepared and cast that day by expending a number of points from his arcane pool equal to the spell's level (minimum 1). The spell is prepared again, just as if it had not been cast. Improved Spell Recall (Su): At 11th level, the magus's ability to recall spells using his arcane pool becomes more efficient. Whenever he recalls a spell with spell recall, he expends a number of points from his arcane pool equal to 1/2 the spell's level (minimum 1). Furthermore, instead of recalling a used spell, as a swift action the magus can prepare a spell of the same level that he has in his spellbook. He does so by expending a number of points from his arcane pool equal to the spell's level (minimum 1). The magus cannot apply metamagic feats to a spell prepared in this way. The magus does not need to reference his spellbook to prepare a spell in this way.
So, that is a taste of the sorts of changes you can expect to see with the base class itself, but how about those archetypes? Here is a list of all the magus archetypes in the book, with a short description of each.
Magus Archetypes Bladebound: A magus with this archtype is bound to a special sword, called a black blade, that gains powers, and over time, sentience. Hexcrafter: Using the powers of a witch, this magus can use hexes and can curse his enemies. Spellblade: Capable of creating a light blade of pure force, the spellblade can wield two weapons and still cast his spells. Staff Magus: Skilled at using the quarterstaff, these powerful magi can eventually treat any magic staff as a deadly weapon.
That wraps up our preview for this week. Come back next week when we will examine some of the ways this book will help you master magic.
... Illustration by Wayne Reynolds. Wallpaper design by Crystal Frasier. Widescreen version here. ... Ultimate Power! Friday, April 8, 2011Itty bitty living space? Nah, not with Ultimate Magic in your bag! This 256-page tome is the latest hardcover release for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and will be shipping to distributors in just a few weeks. Until you can hold the book in your hands, let this great wallpaper of the iconic magus Seltyiel by the always amazing Wayne Reynolds adorn your...
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds. Wallpaper design by Crystal Frasier. Widescreen version here.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Itty bitty living space? Nah, not with Ultimate Magic in your bag! This 256-page tome is the latest hardcover release for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and will be shipping to distributors in just a few weeks. Until you can hold the book in your hands, let this great wallpaper of the iconic magus Seltyiel by the always amazing Wayne Reynolds adorn your desktop.
... Illustration by Dan Scott. Wallpaper design by Crystal Frasier. Widescreen version here. ... Bark at the Moon! Friday, March 4, 2011Last week we showcased the cover art from Howard Andrew Jones' Pathfinder Tales novel Plague of Shadows. This week we go back to the beginning and give you a wallpaper based on Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross, the novel that launched the entire line. If you haven't read it yet you really should. It's got fighting, murder, mystery, true love, werewolves,...
Illustration by Dan Scott. Wallpaper design by Crystal Frasier. Widescreen version here.
Bark at the Moon!
Friday, March 4, 2011
Last week we showcased the cover art from Howard Andrew Jones' Pathfinder Tales novel Plague of Shadows. This week we go back to the beginning and give you a wallpaper based on Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross, the novel that launched the entire line. If you haven't read it yet you really should. It's got fighting, murder, mystery, true love, werewolves, ancient magics, curses from beyond the grave, and even dead Pathfinders! Best of all, if you know any Pathfinder Tales subscribers, they may have received a free copy to give away...
And tune into this spot on Monday as Pathfinder Designer Stephen Radney-MacFarland guest-blogs and things get... explosive.
The Walkers from the Crypt—Chapter One: The Diversion
The Walkers from the Cryptby Howard Andrew Jones ... Chapter One: The DiversionThey're not baying. Vallyn stepped out from behind the boulder and peered out at the grassland. Does that bother anyone else? Shouldn't they be howling at us? ... Elyana had no time to waste educating the young bard. There were but a few minutes left before the hounds would reach them. ... She'd caught sight of the animals almost a half hour ago as she and her four companions fled across the grasslands of southern...
The Walkers from the Crypt
by Howard Andrew Jones
Chapter One: The Diversion
"They're not baying." Vallyn stepped out from behind the boulder and peered out at the grassland. "Does that bother anyone else? Shouldn't they be howling at us?"
Elyana had no time to waste educating the young bard. There were but a few minutes left before the hounds would reach them.
She'd caught sight of the animals almost a half hour ago as she and her four companions fled across the grasslands of southern Galt. The seemingly inexhaustible hounds had slowly gained on their horses, and the party had finally picked out a rise from which to make a stand. It would be a near thing, as the bard was little use at range and Mirelle no use at all. Edak was an accomplished bowman and would have been a great asset, but he was still at home recovering from their last foray into Galt.
Stelan stepped up beside the bard and raised a hand to visor his face against the sinking sun. Tall and sturdy, he wore banded chain mail that hung below his waist. Normally the knight kept it immaculate, but after the tumultuous events of the last few days, it was rent in numerous places, and stained with coppery red splashes that resembled rust. "Elyana will take out as many as she can at long range," he told the group. "Then she and I will try to get them to cluster for Arcil."
Elyana looked up from the arrows she was planting in a row before her. "I'll take the left flank."
"Good." Stelan smiled grimly. "I'll take the right."
Elyana rose in time to see Arcil acknowledge Stelan's plan with a regal nod. The wizard's traveling clothes were as rumpled and stained as the rest of theirs, but they had begun life as expensive garments tailored for his frame, and they still suited him. With his gray-flecked hair and proud nose he looked more like a wandering aristocrat than an accomplished mage.
"But then what?" Vallyn asked. He gazed apprehensively out at the wedge-shaped formation of hounds sprinting forward through the high grass. "How can they keep running like that?" He was young and wide-eyed, and though he was shorter than the rest of them Elyana thought he still looked gangly. Everything he carried seemed a little too large for him, from clothes to sword, and only the lute slung over his back looked as if it belonged on his person.
"They're dead," Arcil said in his low, smooth voice. "They need neither breath nor rest."
"Dead?" Vallyn repeated.
Elyana saw that the youth's eyes had widened even further, and she shot Arcil a warning look. She could see the hint of a sly smile playing at the corner of the wizard's mouth.
"Galt is a land brimming with the dead," Arcil continued, unfazed.
"Thanks to the Galtan justice," Mirelle said bitterly.
"Yes," Arcil agreed. The wizard was frequently cold to those he felt beneath him—which was nearly everyone—but with Mirelle he was somewhat solicitous, as if he worked to foster good feelings. Elyana supposed the extra effort stemmed from the blonde's pretty features. When they had released her from the Galtan cell, Mirelle shyly confided that she'd had to scrounge amongst cast-off garments thrown into her cell after her own had been torn and soiled during her capture. Probably she had noticed Arcil staring at her tight bodice.
"Galtans hate wasting resources," Arcil said. "Their Gray Gardeners have grown quite practiced at necromancy."
"So how do we fight them?" Vallyn asked nervously.
"We do as I say," Stelan said patiently. "We'll funnel them so that they charge the easiest part of the slope, in a mass." Stelan pointed Vallyn to the gap between a large boulder and a sprawling thicket they themselves had passed through to reach to the summit. "Arcil can then work his magics, and you can work yours. If there are any left, you let me stand the front as they charge. If I can't hold the line alone, move up beside me. If they flank us, we form a circle. Clear enough?"
Vallyn nodded hurriedly.
"Mirelle, you stay clear, with the horses."
The girl's bright eyes fastened upon the knight. But then, she had been watching the knight since her rescue the night before. He was not an especially good-looking man, owing in part to his broken nose, but his ease at command had exerted a powerful effect on the pretty teenager. Elyana was not sure why this bothered her, as Stelan had shown Mirelle nothing but appropriate kindness, and she supposed that it tied directly into her certainty that she, as an elf, would eventually lose her human lover one way or another.
"I hesitate to advise another spellcaster," Arcil was saying to Vallyn, "but remember that charm spells will not work upon the dead."
"They don't?" Vallyn sounded almost as if he wished to complain about the fairness of the issue.
"Stand ready, everyone. Mirelle, it's time to move. Back near the picket lines, please."
The girl obligingly obeyed.
"Elyana," Vallyn asked quietly, "how far away do you think the rest of the Galtans are?"
He had asked her that several times since they had stopped. Only Elyana's eyesight was keen enough to occasionally detect the distant pursuers, though all of them had known they would be followed. The bard had been all for pushing on for the border, no matter that the others told him the Galtans could hardly be expected to stop pursuit there. Even if they reached a Taldan fortress, it would most likely be abandoned, and border patrols in the northeast were a rarity. So there would be no outside aid short of a miracle. They'd have to deal with the Galtan posse themselves. Somehow.
Elyana lifted her bow and arrow and studied the onrushing hounds. Their hides were a uniform dark brown, flecked with white and crimson. They did not vie for first position or race with one another; they maintained precise order and formation. "Three dozen," she said. And then, scanning the dry, rolling plain for a cloud raised by horsemen, she answered Vallyn. "We have at most three-quarters of an hour."
"At the least?"
"Just over a quarter-hour."
She heard the dry grass rustle as the bard stepped away, and then she centered the whole of her attention upon the targets. She'd elected to use the diminished stock of her own arrows first, for the greater distance shots, as she had crafted them herself and knew their capabilities. Those they'd lifted from the bodies of the Galtan guards were a little longer than she used with her own pull, and were hastily, if efficiently, made.
Vallyn had recently described an attack by her as a storm of arrows. This time, though, she took careful aim before launching. The opening arrow arced up and out, then slammed straight through the shoulder blade of the leading hound. The impact spun it into the one on its right, breaking the formation. In the brief moment when she paused to set her next arrow, order was restored, and the struck hound ran on, the arrow sticking up like a decorative flag. She was glad Vallyn couldn't see that. The young man was still quite green, and prone to panic. Her second shot caught the creature near the same place, and this time it stumbled and rolled. It struggled to rise for a time as its companions ran straight over it, then lay motionless as their repeated footfalls flattened its chest cavity.
She accounted for seven more before the things closed to medium range. She left three of her own arrows in reserve and shifted over to the Galtan supply as her love lifted his own bow. She and Stelan kept up a steady barrage, whittling down the numbers.
"They're hideous," Vallyn said. He had climbed to the top of the rounded boulder.
He was right; from closer on she could see the gaps in their flesh where ribs showed through, and the missing ears and rotted noses. Elyana saw now that their uniform appearance was deceptive. They might once have had different color fur, but their coats had rotted away to reveal stringy muscles to which occasional patches of blackened skin still hung.
"Oh, nicely done," Arcil said, stepping forward. He advanced on Stelan's left to gain a clear view, whispering into the air and twisting his hand. Something resembling a red bead surrounded by a scarlet nimbus of energy floated up from the tips of his extended digits, hung glowing for a moment, then soared out toward the oncoming abominations.
He had timed his attack with precision. Just as the front animals came within fifty feet of the hill, the bead reached them, flaring into a massive ball of flame.
Those in the front rank were instantly reduced to charred black powder and bone fragments. Others ran on, burning like candles until they collapsed under the consuming red tongues of fire. Many fell, though their limbs thrashed long after a living creature would have perished, powered as they were by arcane energies.
A handful of the creatures escaped the damage, fanning out into a line but maintaining a regular distance from one another. Blazes sputtered in the grasses around a blasted center, though the wind was not high enough for it to spread swiftly.
Elyana sighted along her bow as a hound darted toward her side of the hill. Smoke was already curling skyward, marking their positions for the Galtan troop. She heard Stelan calling out to the god Abadar to give him strength.
Her arrow took the thing low in the haunches, for it had sprung unexpectedly far after it clawed for purchase up the first third of the steep slope. Her second arrow drilled down through one blank eye socket, and the creature rolled lifeless all the way to the bottom.
She spun at a warning cry from Mirelle. One of the hounds had bounded up the trail only to be blasted by forked lightning cast from Arcil's outstretched hand. It lay smoking just a couple swordspans before the wizard. Three others had come up along the less vertiginous right side; Stelan dropped his bow and advanced to meet them.
Elyana nocked an arrow and followed him with her aim. Stelan swung against one from which two arrows already stood out, slicing it neatly in half. She was just about to let fly against another when the bard dropped into the fray, teeth gritted, and swung his own blade. It was a decent slash and might have sent a living beast cowering, but the unclean thing simply sprang for his sword arm and clamped down.
To Vallyn's credit, he didn't scream, but the arch of his back spoke volumes. Elyana skewered the third hound with two swift shots before it too could leap on the bard, and Stelan stepped in to slice the head off Vallyn's attacker.
Stelan took a guarded step back and looked over the battle scene. Fire was spreading slowly through the high grass, and the horses picketed at the rear of the hill whinnied nervously.
"That's all of them," Stelan said after a brief inspection. He then turned to Vallyn.
Elyana had already set down her bow to attend the bard. Now the young man dropped his sword. Jaw clenched, he stared almost dully at his right arm. The sleeve of his tunic was wet with blood, which streamed down toward his fingers. She didn't remind Vallyn that he probably should have stayed back, as commanded, because he surely realized it now. It had been clear that Stelan was not going to be overrun.
"Is he alright?" Mirelle asked.
Arcil's answer was immediate. "He should be fine."
"Here," Elyana said, and she gently took the bloodstained hand with her left and gripped Vallyn's bicep with her right. She pushed all else from her mind—the snorting of the frightened horses, the crackle of the devouring fire, the rapid breathing of the frightened youth. The wound was deeper than she had thought, but with concentrated effort she was able to extend her energies first to knit the surface flesh, then to join the muscles beneath. It was still not quite enough, so she took a deep breath and extended her powers a second time.
"Elyana is better in the woods than any cityborn Galtan. But is it enough?"
The bard laughed then, and his face lit in a winning grin. "Thanks, Elyana." He flexed his fingers. "I can't play without my right arm..." He trailed off, and his face fell. "Is something wrong?"
She had been staring, for the boy's face was beaded in sweat. He did not look like someone recovering from exertion, but someone who was still undergoing it. Wordless, she stepped up to him and set her hand against his neck.
"What is it?" Stelan asked.
"Rapid heartbeat," she reported. "Rapid breathing."
"We just finished a battle," Stelan countered reasonably.
"Sweat's pouring off of him."
Arcil cursed under his breath. "He's been infected. You should have stayed back, boy."
"Infected?" Vallyn said queasily.
"How do you feel?" Elyana stepped back to look at his eyes. The black centers had near swallowed the brown.
"A little dizzy," Vallyn answered. "And a little tired. I'm going to be okay, though, right?"
That sort of magic was beyond her; she said nothing .
He licked his lips, then brushed them with trembling hands.
"Sit down against the boulder for a minute," Stelan said. "Mirelle, help him drink this." He handed his winesac off to the girl and motioned the others over to him.
Stelan wasted no time. They had planned on finishing the hounds and climbing immediately back into the saddle to keep ahead of the beasts' deadlier masters. "How bad is he?" he asked.
"Not good. The poison works quickly. He needs a real healer."
"Is this a mortal wound?" For once, Arcil actually sounded worried.
"It will be." Elyana answered.
Stelan frowned. "There's that little village just the other side of the border."
She shook her head. "If we lead the Galtans there, they'll level the place."
"They have that old healer," Stelan reminded her.
She had not forgotten, for the woman had once saved a very badly wounded Stelan from a deep spear thrust.
"She's the only one I know of anywhere nearby," Stelan finished.
"We can hold off the Galtans if they come," Arcil said confidently.
"I'm not sure we can, Arcil." Stelan cast a glance back to Vallyn and Mirelle. The girl looked back at them, clearly more concerned now than she had been during the attack, for the young man was shivering even under the cloak she had cast over him.
Arcil's brows furrowed. "Surely they can't be this desperate for the granddaughter of, of what—some minor noble? Why so much effort?"
The Galtans were a little mad in any case, and likely to track down any who escaped their warped sense of justice with extreme prejudice, but Elyana didn't think that was why they were out in such force.
It was as if Stelan read her thoughts. "They're after us, now. Your lightning blast cooked at least one Gray Gardener there near the gate, and, Abadar forgive me, I lost track of how many guardsmen I felled on the gallop out."
Security around the bastille had been tighter than Elyana's initial reconnaissance had led them to believe.
"Stelan's right," she said, and saw Arcil's expression sour at that. "It's revenge. Prestige. They wish to make an example of us."
"Supposing that you are correct," the wizard said, "what are we to do?"
Stelan frowned thoughtfully.
"I have a thought." Elyana pointed southeast to the dark outline of the woods that encroached upon the plain only a few miles out. "You can ride with Vallyn for the border. One horse. I'll take the rest of us south, into the Verduran Forest, and draw the Galtans after. We can lose them there."
"Absolutely not," Stelan told her. In answer to her probing look, he continued. "We were asked to free the girl. I cannot condone a detour into the forest when she is so very close to freedom. Our first duty is to her."
"What about Vallyn?" Elyana asked.
Stelan's frown deepened in consideration.
"You're thinking we have to lose one or the other, but my plan can save them both."
"It is a decent suggestion," Stelan admitted, "but you are lighter, and swifter. You should take Vallyn."
Arcil laughed shortly. "Elyana's three times the woodsman you are. Woodswoman. What have you. Her plan makes better sense than yours, and you know it. She'll run rings around a troupe of cityborn Galtans and lead us to safety after they're hopelessly lost."
"And what of you, and the girl?"
"We'll be fine," Elyana said. "We'll ride out with four horses with tracks so obvious they can't be missed."
"All the better, so they don't use magic to track us," Arcil said.
Stelan did not waste much longer making his decision. He stepped over as if to explain the matter to Vallyn, but the young man was already sleeping.
"What's going to happen?" Mirelle asked, looking back and forth between them.
Elyana spoke up. "We're going to give the Galtans an obvious track to pursue us, while Stelan's going to take Vallyn to a healer on our swiftest mount."
"Don't worry," Arcil said. He smiled in an awkward semblance of comfort, and ended up looking sly instead. "Elyana will lose them in the forest, and we'll ride safely away."
Elyana was pleased to note the girl's courage. Mirelle did not voice her worries, she merely nodded. "Will Vallyn be all right?"
"I will see to it," Stelan said.
He cast off his armor and extra gear while Elyana helped Mirelle strip Vallyn of all equipment but his lute. Stelan then climbed into the saddle and beckoned for Elyana and Arcil to hand up the bard, which they did.
The young man mumbled feebly at them before settling against Stelan's chest. The knight sat grim and statue-straight in the saddle. "May Abadar protect you," he said. He then locked eyes with Elyana. Stelan had never been comfortable with public displays of affection between them more prominent than handholding, and his long look was warning and farewell and an expression of deepest love all in one. After a moment he kicked his stallion into a start downslope, moving swiftly to a gallop. He passed the screen of flame and then darted southwest.
Elyana did her best to rub out the tracks, though she grew increasingly concerned about the Galtans. The grass was not dry enough beyond the rise to maintain the blaze, and without any real wind, the fire was dying. When Arcil, watching from the height of the hill, announced that he saw riders, she knew it was past time to leave. The wizard had notoriously bad eyesight.
She leapt into the saddle of her palomino gelding and urged the others to hurry. "Run them hard the whole of the way," she instructed. "And spread out. We want to show them as many clear tracks as possible."
"Have no fear," Arcil told her. Mirelle only dipped her head in acknowledgment. Elyana watched them ride off toward the dark bulk of the woods, leading Vallyn's riderless horse. She followed, halting only a hundred feet out to look back from a small rise. Already the hill where they'd made their stand seemed smaller. Beyond the long trail of dead hounds, feathered with arrow shafts, was a clump of blackened bodies. As unsettling as that was, she was even less pleased by the count of figures on the horizon. They rode at a trot, a swath of them numbering four dozen or more, the dust cloud kicked up by their travel stained red by the lowering sun. She hoped she had not oversold her prowess.
She clicked her tongue, and her horse shot down the slope and after the others, toward whatever the forest might bring.
Coming Next Week: A desperate ploy in Chapter Two of "The Walkers from the Crypt." This story is a standalone prequel to the new Pathfinder Tales novel Plague of Shadows, available now!
Howard Andrew Jones is the author of the newly released Pathfinder Tales novel Plague of Shadows. He's published one other novel, the new historical fantasy adventure The Desert of Souls, as well as edited eight collections of literary giant Harold Lamb's work, and currently serves as the Managing Editor for the iconic sword and sorcery magazine Black Gate. For more information, see his website at howardandrewjones.com.
Elyana Rides Again! Wednesday, March 2, 2011 ... Illustration by Eric Belisle ... It's time to begin another story on Paizo's free web fiction Wednesday, and this time we have something new and different for you! In celebration of the release of Plague of Shadows, the new Pathfinder Tales novel, we've brought you a brand-new prequel story from Plague of Shadows author Howard Andrew Jones, featuring a number of the same characters but taking place well before the novel. Once again (or rather,...
Elyana Rides Again!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Illustration by Eric Belisle
It's time to begin another story on Paizo's free web fiction Wednesday, and this time we have something new and different for you! In celebration of the release of Plague of Shadows, the new Pathfinder Tales novel, we've brought you a brand-new prequel story from Plague of Shadows author Howard Andrew Jones, featuring a number of the same characters but taking place well before the novel. Once again (or rather, once before) the Forlorn elf Elyana and her friends will encounter the evil of the Gray Gardeners in Galt—but this time there are the dark depths of the Verduran Forest to contend with as well. It's a pleasure to get to see characters from the novels in the web fiction, and we hope to do so each time a new novel releases—as well as sometimes just for fun.
As an author, Howard has knocked it out of the park. Early comments on Plague of Shadows have been extremely positive, and it's easy to see why. Perhaps it's the smooth speed with which he handles the fight scenes (and there are plenty), or the fast-paced sword and sorcery flavor (which is hardly surprising, given his status as Managing Editor of modern pulp magazine Black Gate). Yet even more than that, I think it's the classic feel of his stories that draw people in. Of all the novels we've published so far, Plague of Shadows is the one that most closely hews to the time-tested adventuring party dynamic. There's Elyana, the Forlorn elven ranger who knows her love for any human can never last; Drelm the honorable half-orc, struggling against his heritage; Vallyn the bard; Kellius the wizard—these are characters that feel familiar, even as they feel new.
And that's just the main party. Set many years earlier than the novel, this new story, "The Walkers from the Crypt," introduces us to the party that came before, and to the tensions that laid the novel's groundwork. But I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll stop there, and just say that it's a lot of fun.
I would also be remiss if I didn't note artist Eric Belisle's amazing illustration of Elyana, who also features on the cover of Plague of Shadows. Eric's perfectly captured the look and feel of an elven ranger from Golarion, and I hope you'll agree that the character in both the story and the novel are every bit as compelling as the illustration.
... Illustration by Daren Bader. Wallpaper design by Crystal Frasier. Widescreen version here. ... A Plague on All Your Houses! Friday, February 25, 2011The latest Pathfinder Tales novel, Plague of Shadows, has started shipping to subscribers and stores. In this novel, written by sword and sorcery icon Howard Andrew Jones, the race is on to free Lord Stelan from the grip of a wasting curse, and only Elyana, his old elven adventuring companion and former lover, has the wisdom and reflexes to...
Illustration by Daren Bader. Wallpaper design by Crystal Frasier. Widescreen version here.
A Plague on All Your Houses!
Friday, February 25, 2011
The latest Pathfinder Tales novel, Plague of Shadows, has started shipping to subscribers and stores. In this novel, written by sword and sorcery icon Howard Andrew Jones, the race is on to free Lord Stelan from the grip of a wasting curse, and only Elyana, his old elven adventuring companion and former lover, has the wisdom and reflexes to save him. When the villain turns out to be another of their former companions, Elyana and a band of ragtag adventurers must set out on a perilous race across the revolution-wracked nation of Galt and the treacherous Five Kings Mountains, bound for the mysterious Vale of Shadows. But even if they can succeed in locating the key to Stelan’s salvation in a lost valley of weird magic and nightmare beasts, the danger isn't over. For Elyana's companions may not all be what they seem.
Plague of Shadows is straight up old-school fantasy adventure. Bands of heroes race to complete a quest fighting dragons and other monsters along the way. This wallpaper showcases Elyanna fighting an umbral dragon (check out Bestiary 2 to see its stats!) inside the Vale of Shadows. To learn how the fight ends, pick up your copy of Plague of Shadows today either here at paizo.com or at your local bookstore.
... Illustration by Christopher Burdett ... Golarion Day: Death to the Iconics! Thursday, February 24, 2010So we have this book coming out soon called Undead Revisited. A 64-page book that's sort of a spiritual sequel to Classic Horrors Revisited, I suppose, in that it's got ten six-page articles that explore all sorts of scary monsters. But whereas Classic Horrors Revisited focused on frights that come from myth and legend, Undead Revisited focuses more on undead who were mostly created...
Illustration by Christopher Burdett
Golarion Day: Death to the Iconics!
Thursday, February 24, 2010
So we have this book coming out soon called Undead Revisited. A 64-page book that's sort of a spiritual sequel to Classic Horrors Revisited, I suppose, in that it's got ten six-page articles that explore all sorts of scary monsters. But whereas Classic Horrors Revisited focused on frights that come from myth and legend, Undead Revisited focuses more on undead who were mostly created whole cloth for the game. A few in here, like the wight, are certainly from mythology, but most of the undead in this book are things like bodaks, devourers, graveknights, nightshades, and raveners—creatures made up for the game and only very loosely (if at all) inspired by overall stories featuring undead and threats from beyond the grave.
Anyway, when I was ordering art for the book, I decided to have a little fun. Each chapter opens with a half-page illustration, so why not show these horrible undead doing what they were born to do—kill player characters? So for each chapter opener, you get to see some violent undead monster killing off one of our iconics—pictured here, the iconic alchemist Damiel meets his end at the shadowy hands of a shadow.
Of course, there's only ten chapters, and when you count the three most recent additions to the party (the samurai, the ninja, and the gunslinger), we've got over double that in iconics. That DOES mean that only ten of the iconics get offed in this book. So make sure to check out Undead Revisited when it comes out to discover if YOUR favorite iconic bit the dust!
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.
... Illustrations by Kerem Beyit. Wallpaper design by Crystal Frasier. Widescreen version here. ... Snakes, I Hate Snakes! Friday, January 28, 2011I've been in the gaming industry for a decade now and I still get a smile on my face when new product arrives from the printer and I get to thumb through it for the first time. This week was a banner week as I got preview copies of Flip-Mat Village Square, the new Pathfinder Tales novel Plague of Shadows from sword and sorcery master Howard Andrew...
Illustrations by Kerem Beyit. Wallpaper design by Crystal Frasier. Widescreen version here.
Snakes, I Hate Snakes!
Friday, January 28, 2011
I've been in the gaming industry for a decade now and I still get a smile on my face when new product arrives from the printer and I get to thumb through it for the first time. This week was a banner week as I got preview copies of Flip-Mat Village Square, the new Pathfinder Tales novel Plague of Shadows from sword and sorcery master Howard Andrew Jones, and the theme for this week's wallpaper: "Sanctum of the Serpent God," part 6 of the Serpent Skull Adventure Path. This awesome piece showcases
Vyr-Azul, the High Priest of Ydersius, the insidious villain of Serpent Skull who plans to restore his god and usher in a new Age of Serpents. You'll finally meet him at the heart of the serpent-god's sanctum, and the fate of Golarion hangs in the balance!
... Illustration by Dave Rapoza. ... Wallpapers Are Back! December 20, 2010Last Friday, Managing Editor extraordinaire Wes Schneider spoke a little about the upcoming Carrion Crown Adventure Path. This amazing AP starts with Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: The Haunting of Harrowstone and a stellar cover by Dave Rapoza. In honor of the upcoming AP, and as a new feature on the Paizo blog, we're proud to offer the first of many new wallpapers. Just download the image below and in no time you'll...
Illustration by Dave Rapoza.
Wallpapers Are Back!
December 20, 2010
Last Friday, Managing Editor extraordinaire Wes Schneider spoke a little about the upcoming Carrion Crown Adventure Path. This amazing AP starts with Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: "The Haunting of Harrowstone" and a stellar cover by Dave Rapoza. In honor of the upcoming AP, and as a new feature on the Paizo blog, we're proud to offer the first of many new wallpapers. Just download the image below and in no time you'll be able to gaze at Feiya and Merisiel kicking the snot out of skeletons to your heart's content, all from the comfort of your office chair. This might be the first new wallpaper in a while, but it definitely isn't the last, so keep an eye on the blog for more in the coming weeks.
... Illustration by Dave Rapoza ... Carrion Crown Is Coming Friday, December 17, 2010In a flurry of crunched stat blocks and flung pages, the last two weeks have seen us send two volumes of Pathfinder Adventure Path off to the printer, Pathfinder Adventure Path #42: Sanctum of the Serpent God and, right on its heels, Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: The Haunting of Harrowstone. While the former brings the Serpent Skull Adventure Path to its climactic close, the latter marks a total shift,...
Illustration by Dave Rapoza
Carrion Crown Is Coming
Friday, December 17, 2010
In a flurry of crunched stat blocks and flung pages, the last two weeks have seen us send two volumes of Pathfinder Adventure Path off to the printer, Pathfinder Adventure Path #42: "Sanctum of the Serpent God" and, right on its heels, Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: "The Haunting of Harrowstone". While the former brings the Serpent Skull Adventure Path to its climactic close, the latter marks a total shift, taking us from the wild jungles and hidden ruins of the Mwangi Expanse to the foggy moors and haunted ruins of Ustalav, the seat of gothic horror in Golarion. Longtime readers know that every new campaign gives us the opportunity to not just explore new themes, lands, and menaces, but to also reinvent Pathfinder's look for a new series.
And Carrion Crown looks incredible. Beyond Dave Rapoza's fantastic cover and the work of numerous talented interior illustrators, art director Sarah Robinson and graphic designer Andrew Vallas have put together something really amazing that perfectly captures the brooding menace of this grim campaign.
I'm probably more than a little biased, though, as besides the fact that gothic horror is my preferred cup of tea, the campaign is taking place in Ustalav, one of my favorite corners of Golarion. While Carrion Crown continues our long tradition of sword-swinging, spell-slinging high adventure, its inspirations come more from the pens of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, M. R. James, Shirley Jackson, and H. P. Lovecraft than J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and Jack Vance. Think of it as a campaign set in Transylvania rather than Camelot or the Hyborian Age.
In the weeks before the Carrion Crown Adventure Path begins, check back here for more previews on what to expect from the campaign. Things kick off in the coming months with "The Haunting of Harrowstone," a ghost story that sets the tone for the series perfectly. That same volume also includes details on the sleepy town of Ravengro, new rules and examples that vastly expand the haunts presented in the GameMastery Guide, a creepy new series in the Pathfinder's Journal (by yours truly), an outline of the entire campaign, monthly details on the legends and superstitions of Ustalav, and something a little bit different added to the campaign's Bestiary to increase your toolbox of classic horrors. We've also built a ton of support for the campaign into our Pathfinder Campaign Setting and GameMastery lines, but I'll show off some of that awesome insanity a bit later.
... Ultimate Magic Playtest Monday, September 20, 2010 ... Illustration by Wayne Reynolds ... Welcome to the playtest of the Ultimate Magic, a new sourcebook for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, due to be released early next year. ... The playtest begins with a look at the Magus, a brand-new base class that blends the powers of a wizard with the martial prowess of a fighter. You can find this class as a free PDF in your downloads up at the top of this page or at this link. Once you have...
Ultimate Magic Playtest
Monday, September 20, 2010
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Welcome to the playtest of the Ultimate Magic, a new sourcebook for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, due to be released early next year.
The playtest begins with a look at the Magus, a brand-new base class that blends the powers of a wizard with the martial prowess of a fighter. You can find this class as a free PDF in your downloads up at the top of this page or at this link. Once you have downloaded the class and used it in your game, check out the messageboards, where you will find a pair of boards dedicated to this playtest.
This playtest cycle will last two weeks, until Monday, October 4th, and it will be followed shortly thereafter by another cycle containing the Words of Power alternate spellcasting system.
So grab the Magus and use him in your game today. We are looking forward to seeing your feedback and comments concerning this new class. See you on the boards.
New Art! Thursday, September 16, 2010Paizo sure has been hiring quite a few new people of late. I came on board as a Developer at the beginning of the month, and we just announced yesterday that Hyrum Savage will be joining the team as Marketing Manager. The third new hire of the fall is none other than Andrew Vallas, who started after Labor Day. As Graphic Designer he's been a lifesaver, taking some of the workload off Art Director Sarah Robinson as she puts the finishing touches on Save...
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Paizo sure has been hiring quite a few new people of late. I came on board as a Developer at the beginning of the month, and we just announced yesterday that Hyrum Savage will be joining the team as Marketing Manager. The third new hire of the fall is none other than Andrew Vallas, who started after Labor Day. As Graphic Designer he's been a lifesaver, taking some of the workload off Art Director Sarah Robinson as she puts the finishing touches on Save Doctor Lucky. So far, Andrew's time has been taken up with last minute changes to the Bestiary 2 as we approach the finish line for shipping that to the printer, and laying out Pathfinder Player Companion: Inner Sea Primer and Pathfinder Module: The Godsmouth Heresy.
Andrew first found Paizo while using art from Pathfinder as mini-painting inspiration and through the Planet Stories line of fiction. He attended PaizoCon in June, where he not only played his first Pathfinder game after last rolling dice during the days of 2nd Edition, but he attended the art seminars and met with Sarah, and the rest is history.
Gen Con 2010 Promotional Paizo Mini from Reaper Miniatures
... Gen Con 2010 Promotional Paizo Mini from Reaper Miniatures Monday, August 16, 2010Not only did Reaper Miniatures bring miniatures of the six new Advanced Player's Guide iconics to Gen Con, they brought a promotional mini of half-elven venture-captain Varian Jegarre—a Pathfinder of Egorian and protagonist of Dave Gross's Pathfinder Tales novel Prince of Wolves—which con guests got for free if they spent $50 at the Paizo booth. If you couldn't get one at Gen Con, though, don't...
Gen Con 2010 Promotional Paizo Mini from Reaper Miniatures
Monday, August 16, 2010
Not only did Reaper Miniatures bring miniatures of the six new Advanced Player's Guide iconics to Gen Con, they brought a promotional mini of half-elven venture-captain Varian Jegarre—a Pathfinder of Egorian and protagonist of Dave Gross's Pathfinder Tales novel Prince of Wolves—which con guests got for free if they spent $50 at the Paizo booth. If you couldn't get one at Gen Con, though, don't worry—we'll have some for sale here at paizo.com in the near future.
One really nice thing about this mini (above and beyond the nice sculpt and detailed face) is it's a one-piece mini, which makes it nice for people new to painting minis—there's no assembly required!
Painted miniature by Meg Maples
Sean K Reynolds
Developer and Miniatures Aficionado
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?).
The Foxes Have Landed (part II)Thursday, August 5, 2010 ... Sara Marie: Those were some delicious biscuits! Over. ... Crystal: This time we should say something less confusing and less likely to end with us eating biscuits. Like Hedgehog. ... .... ... Crystal: Hedgehog. ... Sara Marie: I like porcupines better. Porcupine. ... Crystal: Where are you, anyway? I got lost when the cave raptors were chasing us. Hedgehog. ... Sara Marie: Let me turn on a light... Looks like I'm in Sarah's office....
The Foxes Have Landed (part II)
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Sara Marie: Those were some delicious biscuits! Over.
Crystal: This time we should say something less confusing and less likely to end with us eating biscuits. Like "Hedgehog."
Sara Marie: I like porcupines better. Porcupine.
Crystal: Where are you, anyway? I got lost when the cave raptors were chasing us. Hedgehog.
Sara Marie: Let me turn on a light... Looks like I'm in Sarah's office. There's art all over the place. Porcupine.
Crystal: She must have left in a hurry. Does it look trapped? Hedgehog.
Sara Marie: I don't SEE anything that looks like a trap. Where are you? You're better at spotting traps than I am. Porcupine.
Crystal: I don't know. I dropped my darkvision when that lurking ray grabbed at us. Where ever I am, smells nice! Hedgehog.
Sara Marie: There's a folder marked "TOP SECRET" sitting right on top of her desk! I'm going to see if I can get a closer look. Porcupine.
Crystal: No wait! The "top secret" folder is Midwestern family recipes! It's almost certain to be booby-trapped!
Sara Marie: Where else should I check?
Crystal: Check the refrigerator. I think that's where she keeps the special art. Hedgehog.
Sara Marie: You're right! This thing is chock full of art-like pictures. Most of it seems like stuff that's already released. Porcupine.
Cats are away…it's time for little goblins to play!
Cats are away…it's time for little goblins to play! Wednesday, August 4, 2010Sara Marie: Hey Crystal! ... Crystal: Yes? ... Sara Marie: I just brought an order down to the warehouse and I realized something! ... Crystal: That cats do, in fact, float? ... Sara Marie: You are the ONLY person down there. ... Crystal: Yes, yes I am! ... Sara Marie: Know what else I saw? ... Crystal: The end, whereupon none were spared, not even the children? ... Sara Marie: The editorial pit. Unattended....
Cats are away…it's time for little goblins to play!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Sara Marie: Hey Crystal!
Sara Marie: I just brought an order down to the warehouse and I realized something!
Crystal: That cats do, in fact, float?
Sara Marie: You are the ONLY person down there.
Crystal: Yes, yes I am!
Sara Marie: Know what else I saw?
Crystal: The end, whereupon none were spared, not even the children?
Sara Marie: The editorial pit. Unattended.
Crystal: Well, I wouldn't call it "unattended." I'm still here.
Sara Marie: Precisely. Sutter's desk, all alone, with no one to guard it.
Crystal: His cans of beans left unattended...
Sara Marie: Suppose he's got anything good over there?
Crystal: Perhaps his collection of priceless pre-Columbian guitar picks?
Sara Marie: I meant interesting.
Crystal: Oh! Yes! I think he has the original Dead Sea Scrolls and the final manuscript of "Misfit Monsters".
Sara Marie: I just had an idea! The entire editorial staff is going to be working this week at Gen Con. Every single one.
Crystal: Two time zones away
Sara Marie: There is no way they're gonna have time to check on Paizo's website.
Crystal: Definitely no way! Plus, they'd have to time travel to do it. What with the time zones and all.
Sara Marie: We could totally put up a Misfit Monster or two on the blog. WE WOULD BE FAMOUS!!
Crystal: Famous, eh? I do enjoy fame… But... do we dare?
Sara Marie: Ooooh this one is snazzy!
Crystal: What are you looking at in there? Hang on. Let me chew through my leg chains... Holy Lamashtu! Is this the new Flail Snail?!
Sara Marie: Sweet! I knew there would be perks to not going to Gen Con!
Crystal: You mean besides avoiding the sleep loss, exposure to dangerous chemicals, vomiting and hair loss?
Sara Marie: I wonder who else left their office unattended...
... Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Preview #5 Thursday, July 29, 2010The Advanced Player's Guide releases in just one week and already boxes and boxes are on their way to your FLGS and subscriber copies are shipping out. One week from today, we will all be at Gen Con, handing out copies of this meaty rulebook. But that's next week. Today we have the final preview of the book, taking a look at prestige classes and some of the new rules found in the APG. ... There are eight prestige classes...
Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Preview #5
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Advanced Player's Guide releases in just one week and already boxes and boxes are on their way to your FLGS and subscriber copies are shipping out. One week from today, we will all be at Gen Con, handing out copies of this meaty rulebook. But that's next week. Today we have the final preview of the book, taking a look at prestige classes and some of the new rules found in the APG.
There are eight prestige classes featured in the Advanced Players Guide, from the mighty Stalwart Defender to the sly Master Spy. Here is the name and brief summary of each class in the book.
Battle Herald: This class blends the best of the bard and the cavalier to create a character that can truly take control of the battlefield, granting big bonuses to his allies. Holy Vindicator: Mixing cleric and paladin, the holy vindicator is the perfect weapon to deliver his deity's will, usually at the end of a sword. Horizon Walker: A class that nearly anyone can qualify for, this class is perfect for adventurers that travel the world and the planes beyond, granting a wide variety of bonuses based on terrain. Master Chymist: A prestige class for alchemists whose minds have split into two because of repeated use of their mutagen—now they are part monster and part dangerous madman. Mastery Spy: Skilled at the art of lying, able to take on the appearance of others easily, and even able to hide their alignment from spells, the master spy is perfect for infiltrating and hiding with the enemy. Nature Warden: Bonding closely with her animal companion and the lands around her, the nature warden is a force of nature, deadly when protecting the lands that she calls home. Rage Prophet: Sometimes the spirits that speak to oracles drive them into a mad, rage-filled frenzy. This mix of barbarian and oracle is just that, blending spells and rage together. Stalwart Defender: This is a revision of the Dwarven Defender and it is no longer just for dwarves. This class is known for holding its ground and taking whatever punishment the enemy throws at it.
Illustration by Eric Belisle
Illustration by Eric Belisle
Of course, that's not all that you'll find the APG. The last chapter of the book contains a host of new rules to use in your game, starting out with four new types of combat maneuver. The first, and perhaps my favorite, is the Dirty Trick combat maneuver. This maneuver lets you apply a penalty (either blinded, dazzled, deafened, entangled, shaken, or sickened) to your foe for 1 round plus 1 round for every 5 by which your check exceeds the target's CMD. The type of course, depends on the situation and your imagination. Kicking sand in an opponent's face might blind him, while pulling down his pants might entangle him.
The next maneuver is Drag. This works like Bull Rush, only in reverse. Next up is Reposition. This maneuver allows you to move your opponent to a different location within your threatened area, but you cannot use it to move a foe into a dangerous space, such as off a cliff or into a fire. Finally, there is Steal. This combat maneuver lets you snatch a small item that is loosely carried by your target. So while you cannot take the plate mail of a target or take the sword from his hand, you can rip the brooch off his cloak. Of course, each one of these maneuvers comes with a pair of feats (Improved and Greater) to increase your odds of success and grant additional bonuses.
After Combat Maneuvers is a complete system for using hero points in your game. This system grants PCs a small pool of points that they can spend at particularly dramatic moments, giving them an edge. The rules also include guidelines for granting new hero points, how they can be spent, and a number of feats, magic items, and spells that use these rules. We recognize that not everyone plays with a system like this, so this entire rules section is optional.
Last but not least is the system of character traits. This system first appeared in the Pathfinder Adventure Paths and it grants PCs a pair of small bonuses tied to their background at character creation. Your PC might bear a curious birthmark shaped like your deity's holy symbol that you can use as a divine focus or you might have grown up as a bully gaining a bonus on Intimidate. No matter what you choose, this system gives you a reason to work out where your hero came from.
Well, that about wraps up the previews of the Advanced Player's Guide. With the book hitting shelves next week, I hope that you will swing by Gen Con or your favorite game store and check it out. I would like to take a moment to thank all of the playtesters that, once again, helped contribute to a truly great book. Until next time.
... Meet the Castaways! Monday, July 12, 2010With the first adventure in the Serpent's Skull Adventure Path, the PCs are shipwrecked on the notorious island of Smuggler's Shiv. But fortunately for the fragile 1st-level characters, they won't be alone against cannibals in the jungle, ghosts in the surf, dimorphodons in the sky, eurypterids in the tide pools, and mysterious bat-winged night monsters. Because they aren't the only ones lucky enough to be stranded on Smuggler's Shiv. ... Presented...
Meet the Castaways!
Monday, July 12, 2010
With the first adventure in the Serpent's Skull Adventure Path, the PCs are shipwrecked on the notorious island of Smuggler's Shiv. But fortunately for the fragile 1st-level characters, they won't be alone against cannibals in the jungle, ghosts in the surf, dimorphodons in the sky, eurypterids in the tide pools, and mysterious bat-winged night monsters. Because they aren't the only ones lucky enough to be stranded on Smuggler's Shiv.
Presented here are five other castaways whom the players will be getting to know quite well during the course of their stay on Smuggler's Shiv. A couple of you out there will probably recognize these characters, since they're the ones I had you play at PaizoCon during the Serpent's Skull preview game I ran. In the actual adventure, though, these five are NPCs, complete with their own secrets and emotional baggage and talents. Keeping these NPCs from killing each other and working together to survive is a key part of the adventure—and each has a fun little boon to grant the PCs if they become good friends. These five will continue to play roles in the campaign as the Adventure Path unfolds, and how the PCs interact with Aerys, Gelik, Ishirou, Jask, and Sasha can ultimately mean the difference between success or failure!
... Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Preview #2 Thursday, July 8, 2010The start of Gen Con 2010 is four weeks away, which means in just one month, the Advanced Player's Guide will be hitting game stores and subscriber mailboxes. In anticipation of this mighty sourcebook, I am taking you on a guided tour, touching on some of the highlights each week until release. Last week we took at look at the races chapter and the new alternate favored class bonuses. This week we are diving into Chapter...
Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Preview #2
Thursday, July 8, 2010
The start of Gen Con 2010 is four weeks away, which means in just one month, the Advanced Player's Guide will be hitting game stores and subscriber mailboxes. In anticipation of this mighty sourcebook, I am taking you on a guided tour, touching on some of the highlights each week until release. Last week we took at look at the races chapter and the new alternate favored class bonuses. This week we are diving into Chapter 2: Classes by looking at the six new base classes.
If you were not a part of the playtest of these classes, might I suggest that you grab the playtest document, which is still available here at paizo.com. Now go read up on the all of the new classes. Don't worry, I'll wait. All finished, good. I am going to walk through each of the classes and spend a bit of time talking about what changes you can expect to find in the book.
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Alchemist: Using all sorts of alchemical formulas, bombs, and mutagens, this class is focused on using strange concoctions to enhance the alchemist and damage his foes. Most of the changes to this class center around new discoveries that were added. Discoveries allow the alchemist to enhance his bombs and mutagens, but we added discoveries that allow him to use his bombs to dispel magic or to work better with poison, such as this new discovery.
Concentrate Poison: The alchemist can combine two doses of the same poison to increase their effects. This requires two doses of the poison and 1 minute of concentration. When completed, the alchemist has one dose of poison. The poison's frequency is extended by 50% and the save DC increases by +2.
Cavalier: This mounted warrior is skilled at directing allies around the battlefield and granting bonuses to his teammates. Each is dedicated to a specific order that grants abilities specific to his focus. Most of the changes from the playtest version of the cavalier are relatively small or designed to clarify an existing ability. For example, we clarified how large the cavalier's banner must be and how it must be displayed to grant its bonus to the cavalier's allies.
Inquisitor: Rooting out enemies of the faith, wherever they might hide, the inquisitor uses the powers of her faith to ruthlessly destroy her foes. One of her signature abilities is to declare judgment on one of her foes, granting her bonuses when fighting that enemy. The playtest version of this ability improved as the combat progressed. While this was a fun mechanic, it was ultimately rather unwieldy in play and was replaced with a simpler system. Now, whenever the inquisitor uses her judgment ability, she selects the type and gains a bonus based on her level. For example, take a look at this judgment of purity.
Purity: The inquisitor is protected from the vile taint of her foes, gaining a +1 sacred bonus on all saving throws. This bonus increases by +1 for every five inquisitor levels she possesses. At 10th level, the bonus is doubled against curses, diseases, and poisons.
Oracle: The oracle draws her power from the gods, but not one in particular. Her power is derived from her belief in a chosen mystery, which guides her and grants her additional powers. There were two big changes to the oracle from the playtest version. First, the bonus spells granted by the oracle's mystery are now granted a level sooner than before (the first arrives at 2nd level instead of 3rd). The second is the addition of the Life mystery, with powers like the following.
Enhanced Cures (Su): Whenever you cast a cure spell, the maximum number of hit points healed is based on your oracle level, not the limit based on the spell. For example, an 11th-level oracle of life with this revelation may cast cure light wounds to heal 1d8+11 hit points.
Summoner: The summoner is bonded to a special outsider, known as an eidolon, that gains powers and abilities as the summoner gains levels. His spells and class features all support this powerful, ever-changing ally. Most of the changes to this class were relatively small in nature, but the big one was a change to how often the summoner can call his eidolon. He can now summon the ally as often as he likes (provided it has not been banished due to damage recently), but he cannot use his summon monster ability at the same time. This allows him to keep the flexibility needed with the summoned creatures, but prevents him from overrunning the battlefield with too many creatures.
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Witch: The witch is an arcane spellcaster with an extensive spell list of spells drawn from both the wizard and cleric spell lists. She also gains powerful hexes that she can use to augment herself or harm her enemies. The biggest change made to the witch involves her familiar, the creature that helps her to understand magic and serves as an envoy of the witch's mysterious patron. Now the bonus spells granted by a witch's familiar are no longer tied to the type of familiar, giving the witch a lot more flexibility in concept and theme. We also made a number of changes to the witch's hexes, including making flight a basic hex that does not grant true flight until 5th level, and added a few others here and there to round out the witch concept. For example, what witch would be caught without a cauldron.
Cauldron: The witch receives Brew Potion as a bonus feat and a +4 insight bonus on Craft (alchemy) skill checks.
Well, that just about rounds up our look at the six new base classes in the Advanced Player's Guide. Next week, we will continue exploring the mighty classes chapter (which is about 1/3 of the book) by taking a closer look at all of the options available to the core classes from the Core Rulebook.
... 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.
Random Encounters in the Fellnight Mist—Mist Random Encounters
... Random Encounters in the Fellnight Mist Monday, March 8, 2010Here's some more bonus material for the Pathfinder Module Realm of the Fellnight Queen. The RPG Superstar 2009 adventure by Neil Spicer originally included some additional random encounters at the beginning of Part 2: Lost in the Mist, but they were cut for space reasons. Adding these encounters helps to reinforce the eerie atmosphere of the mist. Mist Random Encounters Roll on the following chart to generate a random encounter...
Random Encounters in the Fellnight Mist
Monday, March 8, 2010
Here's some more bonus material for the Pathfinder Module Realm of the Fellnight Queen. The RPG Superstar 2009 adventure by Neil Spicer originally included some additional random encounters at the beginning of Part 2: Lost in the Mist, but they were cut for space reasons. Adding these encounters helps to reinforce the eerie atmosphere of the mist.
Mist Random Encounters
Roll on the following chart to generate a random encounter for each day spent in the mist.
Type of Monster
Amnesiac Elf: A half-elf named Carith (N male half-elf warrior 2) wanders this part of the forest. He had the misfortune of falling victim to a pixie memory loss arrow (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 228) and now finds himself lost in the mist. If the PCs escort him to a safe place (for example, leaving him in the care of other good-willed forest creatures), award them experience for a CR 3 encounter.
Desperate Townsfolk: A Perception check (DC 20) detects cries for help in the fog. If the PCs respond, they discover a family of four with a stuck wagon fleeing Bellis. A DC 30 Strength check can get them moving again (multiple PCs can assist in moving the 10-foot-by-10-foot wagon, one per square adjacent to the wagon). A Diplomacy check (DC 20) convinces them to return to town for their own safety. If the PCs free the wagon or convince the family to return to Bellis, award them experience for a CR 2 encounter.
Dire Bear: The PCs blunder into the path of a dire bear that a short time ago hungrily raided a giant beehive. Unfortunately, he's still hungry and can smell the PCs through the fog.
Fellnight Spriggans: Four Fellnight spriggans deserted Rhoswen's army to explore and pillage on their own. They attack the PCs on sight (see page 7 of Realm of the Fellnight Queen).
Giant Bees: A nest of giant bees has recently had its hive disturbed by a dire bear. Three of the bees now angrily search the mist for creatures to attack.
Missing Lumberjacks: The PCs happen upon a ruined Lumber Consortium camp littered with debris. Thorn darts riddle the tents and supplies. A DC 15 Survival check determines at least nine lumberjacks have gone missing from the site. A search of their belongings discovers 38 gp, 42 sp, 118 cp, a brass cup engraved with the likeness of Cayden Cailean worth 25 gp, and a masterwork throwing axe.
Devarre the druid has laid traps to capture animals. Along a narrow deer trail lies a camouflaged pit trap (see Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 420) designed to catch a bear, covered by leaves and baited with a honey-covered shoe.
Spirit Moss: A patch of spongy gray-green moss covers the sides of a massive log. A Knowledge (nature) check (DC 20) identifies the substance as spirit moss (Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting 217). Those consuming it suffer 2d6 points of Strength and Dexterity damage (no save), but temporarily gain the ability to speak with dead (CL 10th). A character who makes a Survival check (DC 16) may harvest enough for two preparations.
Unicorn Sighting: Any character making a Perception check (DC 20) notices a horse-like figure in the mist. As some of the fog drifts past, a unicorn meets their gaze and then gallops away, teleporting if the PCs try to pursue it.
Will-o'-Wisp: A will-o’-wisp uses the fog to mimic the voices of desperate townsfolk trying to leave Bellis, pretending to be lost in the mist or stuck among the thickets. It draws unsuspecting victims into a patch of brambles, a ravine, or a swampy area (see Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 427).
... Oh yeah! Adventure Paths! Friday, February 12, 2010Huh. It's been a while since I've talked about an Adventure Path in the blog, I just realized. Looking back, seems the last time we talked about an Adventure Path at all was on January 6th, in fact. AIEEE! ... Now... sometime soon I wanna share with you some excerpts from Merisiel's journal that have come into my possession... excerpts that catalog her joys and frustrations over the foundation of her new nation in the northeastern River...
Oh yeah! Adventure Paths!
Friday, February 12, 2010
Huh. It's been a while since I've talked about an Adventure Path in the blog, I just realized. Looking back, seems the last time we talked about an Adventure Path at all was on January 6th, in fact. AIEEE!
Now... sometime soon I wanna share with you some excerpts from Merisiel's journal that have come into my possession... excerpts that catalog her joys and frustrations over the foundation of her new nation in the northeastern River Kingdoms... but I'm still deep in the process of translating it to English from Elven and excising all the racy parts that the MAN won't let me put on the blog.
So, since I don't have the time yet to post that preview of the kingdom-building rules that'll be appearing in Pathfinder Adventure Path #32, why don't I show off some of the art from the first Kingmaker adventure instead? Let's see... how about pictures of two of the more ferocious war chieftains your PCs will be dealing with during the course of "Stolen Land?" Names withheld to prevent the not-so-innocent...
And I promise to make public Merisiel's journal soon! Stay tuned!
Illustration by Kyushik Shin
Illustration by Eric Belisle
Illustration by Scott Purdy
PS: Yes... the third picture is of a carbuncle. For real.
... River Kingdoms of the Fellnight Queen Friday, January 29, 2010It's a busy week here at Paizo, and that means it's time for an art blog! So enjoy this sneak peek at some artwork from the upcoming Pathfinder Module Realm of the Fellnight Queen and Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to the River Kingdoms! ... Illustration by Andrew Kim ... Illustration by Jorge MaeseIllustration by Andres Espara ... Sean K Reynolds ... Developer, Pathfinder Chronicles and Pathfinder Modules ...
... In with the New Friday, January 22, 2010I recently had the opportunity to run into yoda8myhead, extra pervasive poster on these boards and mastermind behind the Pathfinder Wiki. Besieged with the usual onslaught of questions and accusations also came a request for a few more pieces of art previewing some of our upcoming products (and perhaps in some cases past-viewing some recent releases). Ask and ye shall receive… ya harpy. :P ... Wes Schneider ... Managing Editor ... From Classic...
In with the New
Friday, January 22, 2010
I recently had the "opportunity" to run into yoda8myhead, extra pervasive poster on these boards and mastermind behind the Pathfinder Wiki. Besieged with the usual onslaught of questions and accusations also came a request for a few more pieces of art previewing some of our upcoming products (and perhaps in some cases "past-viewing" some recent releases). Ask and ye shall receive… ya harpy. :P
... Advanced Player's Guide Playtest, Round 3! Monday, December 14, 2009 ... Illustration by Wayne Reynolds ... Illustration by Wayne Reynolds ... The playtest of the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide is well underway, with the release of the final two classes slated to appear in the book, due out in August. In this round, we are looking at the alchemist and the inquisitor. The alchemist is all about using potions and arcane alchemy to increase your abilities. This works a bit like...
Advanced Player's Guide Playtest, Round 3!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
The playtest of the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide is well underway, with the release of the final two classes slated to appear in the book, due out in August. In this round, we are looking at the alchemist and the inquisitor. The alchemist is all about using potions and arcane alchemy to increase your abilities. This works a bit like spellcasting, but offers some interesting advantages. In addition, the alchemist is quite skilled at lobbing bombs that burn, freeze, and electrify foes (among a host of other possibilities). The inquisitor works as a monster hunter for the faith, rooting out its enemies, no matter where they hide. The inquisitor is a master of adaptation, moving her abilities around to better fight her foes. This is your chance to take a look at these classes before they hit shelves in August. You can download the free PDF containing both of these classes here.
Over the past month, we have released the other four classes due to appear in the book, including the cavalier, the oracle, the summoner, and the witch. While we are focusing on the alchemist and the inquistor for the next two weeks, the playtest itself will remain open until the end of January 2010. Time permitting, we hope to release some updates to some of the classes in mid January.
As with the Core Rulebook playtest last year, there are a number of forums set up for playtest feedback and commentary. The first is a general forum, for discussing larger issues and announcements. Following this is a trio of forums for discussing each round of the playtest. Discussion on the alchemist and the inquisitor should go in the round 2 forum.
The playtest has been a huge success up to this point. I have been receiving a mountain of play reports and comments on the classes and I want to encourage folks to continue working with these classes. As with the previous rounds, actual play reports are more useful to the process than untested observations. So, give these last two classes a try. Make a whole party of characters using only these six classes or have the PCs face off against them as villains. When you are done, post up the results. I look forward to seeing them.
... 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 #13 Wednesday, August 5th, 2009The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook is set to release in a little over a week, on August 13th, 2009, and in anticipation, we are releasing a preview of the game each week until the game hits store shelves. Since we’re done looking at the core classes, this week we’re exploring the heights of power with Seltyiel, the iconic eldritch knight. ... Seltyiel ... Male half-elf wizard 5/fighter 5/eldritch knight 10 ......
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Preview #13
Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook is set to release in a little over a week, on August 13th, 2009, and in anticipation, we are releasing a preview of the game each week until the game hits store shelves. Since we’re done looking at the core classes, this week we’re exploring the heights of power with Seltyiel, the iconic eldritch knight.
Male half-elf wizard 5/fighter 5/eldritch knight 10
LE Medium humanoid (elf) Init +9; Senses low-light vision; Perception +21 DEFENSE AC 25, touch 19, flat-footed 20 (+6 armor, +4 deflection, +5 Dex) hp 174 (15d10+5d6+70) Fort +18, Ref +17, Will +12; +2 vs. enchantments, +1 vs. fear OFFENSE Speed 30 ft. Melee+2 keen axiomatic shocking burst longsword +24/+19/+14/+9 (1d8+7/17–20) Ranged ray +22 (by spell) Special Attacks force missile (9/day), intense spells +2 damage Spells Prepared (CL 15th)
7th—grasping hand, prismatic spray (DC 23), spell turning
6th—chain lightning (2, DC 22), disintegrate (DC 22), form of the dragon I, greater dispel magic
5th—cone of cold (2, DC 21), polymorph, teleport, wall of force
4th—dimension door, ice storm, stoneskin, wall of fire (2), wall of ice
3rd—dispel magic (2), fireball (4, DC 19), fly (2), haste (2)
2nd—invisibility (2), mirror image, scorching ray (3), see invisibility
1st—magic missile (3), shield (2), true strike (2)
0 (at will)—detect magic, mage hand, mending, ray of frost, read magic
Prohibited Schools: enchantment, necromancy STATISTICS Str 14, Dex 20, Con 16, Int 23, Wis 8, Cha 10 Base Atk +17; CMB +19; CMD 38 Feats Arcane Armor Training, Critical Focus, Critical Mastery, Disruptive, Empower Spell, Greater Weapon Focus (longsword), Improved Initiative, Improved Vital Strike, Lightning Reflexes, Penetrating Strike (longsword), Power Attack, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Diplomacy), Spellbreaker, Staggering Critical, Tiring Critical, Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Specialization (longsword) Skills Diplomacy +26, Fly +28, Intimidate +23, Knowledge (arcana) +29, Knowledge (planes) +29, Perception +21, Spellcraft +29, Stealth +25 SQ arcane bond (bat), armor training +1, bravery +1, diverse training, elf blood, spell critical, weapon training (heavy blades +1) Combat Gearcube of force, potion of cure serious wounds (4), quicken metamagic rod, rod of cancellation, scroll of limited wish (2), staff of evocation, wand of lightning bolt (CL 10, 50 charges); Other Gear+2 keen axiomatic shocking burst longsword, +4 etherealness leather armor, belt of physical perfection +2, boots of teleportation, cloak of resistance +5, hand of glory, headband of vast intelligence +6, orange prism ioun stone, pearl of power (two spells), ring of protection +4, ring of regeneration, ring of wizardry (III), vibrant purple ioun stone (dimension door, shield)
Starting off, the eldritch knight prestige class works much as it did in 3.5, but we’ve added a few abilities to spice things up. The class provides Seltyiel with a fast base attack progression and nine levels of spellcasting (bringing his total caster level up to 14th, although the orange prism ioun stone puts his caster level at 15th). The class also grants three bonus feats, at 1st, 5th, and 9th. With these he can select any of the combat feats that he qualifies for (same as a fighter). In addition, starting at 1st level, Seltyiel gained diverse training, which adds his eldritch knight levels to both his fighter levels and his arcane spellcasting class’s levels for the purposes of qualifying for feats. This allows him to take feats that would normally be reserved for 15th-level fighters and wizards (but more on that later). Finally, upon gaining his 10th level in eldritch knight, Seltyiel gained the spell critical feature. Whenever Seltyiel scores a critical hit, he can cast any spell as a swift action without increasing the spell’s level. The spell does not provoke an attack of opportunity and must include the target of the critical hit as one of the spell’s targets or put him within the area of the effect. Its bad enough to be hit with a critical, but to add a cone of cold on top of it can truly be devastating.
Although quite capable in melee combat, Seltyiel has a wide variety of powerful spells at his disposal as well. Grasping hand can grapple foes with a +26 bonus on its combat maneuver check. Form of the dragon I allows him to take on the shape of a Medium dragon of any color, gaining its attacks, breath weapon, and a host of resistances and other abilities. Polymorph mimics a host of other spells that allow him to change shape, allowing him to become an animal, humanoid, or even an elemental. Although not incredibly powerful for a 20th-level character, four fireball spells are nothing to overlook.
Beyond spells, Seltyiel has a vast number of feats which increase his combat prowess. Many of these feats are for fighters only, but Seltyiel qualifies thanks to his diverse training class feature. Arcane Armor Training allows Seltyiel to spend a swift action to reduce his armor spell failure chance by 10%, which eliminates it altogether in his case. Critical Mastery is a fighter-only feat that allows Seltyiel to apply the effects of two critical feats to a successful critical hit. In his case, that means that anyone who is struck with a critical hit is both staggered (can only take a standard action each round) and fatigued, thanks to Staggering Critical and Tiring Critical. This is, of course, in addition to the 1d10 electricity damage from the sword and a free spell (thanks to spell critical). Seltyiel also possesses the Disruptive feat (another fighter-only feat), which makes it harder for spellcasters to cast on the defensive while he is adjacent (+4 to the DC). To top it off, he has Spellbreaker (fighters only, once again), which allows him to take an attack of opportunity against foes that fail on their check to cast defensively. Finally, Seltyiel has the Penetrating Strike fighter-only feat. This feat allows him to ignore 5 points of damage reduction with every attack made with his longsword (except for DR/—). Greater Penetrating Strike ignores 10 points of DR (and 5 points of DR/—), but Seltyiel couldn’t quite qualify for this feat, which requires you to be a 16th-level fighter.
I should also spend a moment talking about Seltyiel’s specialization. Being an evoker, he gains intense spells at 1st level, granting him a bonus on damage spells equal to 1/2 his wizard level (in this case, only 2 because the levels of eldritch knight don’t count). He also gains force missile, which acts like a magic missile that he can fire one at a time, up to 9 times per day, adding his bonus from intense spells to each missile. Seltyiel is also a half-elf, which comes with a +2 bonus to one ability score of his choice, the Skill Focus feat for free, and the ability to pick two favored classes (in this case, fighter and wizard).
Finally, lets take a look at Seltyiel’s potent magic items. At this level, Seltyiel has around 880,000 gp of magic items, but much of that is spent on a number of particularly expensive items. Both his armor and his sword take up nearly a quarter of his total value, but items like the quicken metamagic rod, staff of evocation, and ring of wizardry (III) eat up a fair amount as well. Of note is his ring of regeneration which now restores 1 hit point per round and makes him immune to bleed damage. It’s certainly useful, allowing it to regain all of his hit points in just over 17 minutes, but costs 90,000 gp.
There’s only one more preview left before the release of the Core Rulebook! Accordingly, next week on the day before the game releases, we’re going to take a look at the most important rule in the game...
... Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Preview #11 Wednesday, July 22, 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 sneaking around with Merisiel, the iconic rogue. ... Merisiel ... Female elf rogue 6 ... CN Medium humanoid (elf) ... Init +4; Senses low-light vision; Perception +12 ... DEFENSE ... AC 20, touch 15, flat-footed 15 (+5...
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Preview #11
Wednesday, July 22, 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 sneaking around with Merisiel, the iconic rogue.
Female elf rogue 6
CN Medium humanoid (elf) Init +4; Senses low-light vision; Perception +12 DEFENSE AC 20, touch 15, flat-footed 15 (+5 armor, +4 Dex, +1 dodge) hp 42 (6d8+12) Fort +4, Ref +10, Will +4; +2 vs. enchantments Defensive Abilities evasion, trap sense +2, uncanny dodge OFFENSE Speed 30 ft. Melee+1 rapier +9 (1d6+2/18–20) Ranged dagger +8 (1d4/19–20) Special Attacks sneak attack +3d6, surprise attack STATISTICS Str 12, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 10 Base Atk +4; CMB +5; CMD 20 Feats Dodge, Mobility, Nimble Moves, Weapon Finesse Skills Acrobatics +13, Climb +10, Disable Device +18, Knowledge (local) +9, Perception +12, Sleight of Hand +13, Stealth +13, Swim +10 Languages Common, Elven SQ finesse rogue, trapfinding +3, trap spotter Combat Geardust of tracelessness, potion of cure moderate wounds, potion of invisibility (2); Other Gear+2 studded leather, cloak of resistance +1, +1 rapier, daggers (8), handy haversack, masterwork thieves tools, ring of feather falling, rope of climbing
Hey, have you seen Merisiel around here anywhere? I am waiting for her to get here so that I can properly preview her and her awesome rogue talents, but she must be running late. Just like an elf, always running late. I know they live for hundreds of years, but my poor human life is short and I would like to spend it on things other than waiting for her to show up. Ow... my kidney!
So, now that Merisiel is finally here and I am shy one kidney, it is time to look at the rogue. Not much changed between the Beta version of the rules and the final game, but for those who are not familiar, let me walk you through the major differences.
The big change for rogues in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is the addition of rogue talents. These work like the special abilities that rogues gained at higher levels in 3.5, but now they are scaled and a rogue gets her first one at 2nd. Every 2 levels beyond 2nd, she can select an additional talent, and upon reaching 10th level, she can begin selecting advanced talents (which includes all of the special abilities from 3.5). Rogue talents are a mixed bag of abilities that allow a rogue to become a little better at one facet of rogue life. Merisiel here has three talents: finesse rogue, surprise attack, and trap spotter. The first gives her Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat, making it a common choice for 2nd level rogues. Surprise attack causes all of Merisiel's opponents to be treated as flat-footed to her attacks during a surprise round, even if they have already acted. Finally, trap spotter gives Merisiel a Perception check to notice a trap the moment she moves to within 10 feet of it.
Other rogue talents add to a rogue's sneak attack, such as slow reactions that causes an opponent hit by a rogue's sneak attack to lose the ability to make attacks of opportunity for 1 round. There are a number of rogue talents that affect movement, allowing a rogue to move faster while balancing or sneaking. There are even a pair of talents that allow rogues to cast a limited number of simple spells to aid them in their shadowy deeds.
Aside from rogue talents, there have been a few other modifications and additions to the rogue. The biggest of these are the changes to sneak attack. This iconic ability now functions on a wider variety of creatures, such as undead and constructs. Now that all characters can locate and disarm mechanical traps regardless of the DC, the trapfinding ability now grants a bonus on Perception checks to notice traps and Disable Device checks equal to half the rogue's level. It also grants rogues the ability to disarm magic traps. Finally, up at 20th level, the rogue gains the master strike class feature, which allows her to kill, paralyze, or put targets to sleep with a successful sneak attack.
Aside from her class features, there are a few other interesting rules bits presented here. Dodge now grants a +1 dodge bonus to AC (and CMD) against all targets. Never again will you need to remember to designate a single foe. Mobility works much as before, but Nimble Moves is a new feat. This allows Merisiel to ignore 5 feet of difficult terrain each round while moving. It might not seem like much but it does allow her to take a 5-foot-step into such terrain or move through it during a charge, both of which might be vital depending on the circumstances.
Well, that is all for this week. Wait a minute, that was a bit short. Since I seem to have a bit of extra space this week, I guess I will take a look at some of the other rules that a rogue must contend with on a daily basis. Of course, I am talking about traps and poisons.
While traps work much in the same way that they always have, the trap rules have been adjusted to scale all the way up to CR 20. This was accomplished by adding in some modifiers for traps that target multiple creatures or last for more than 1 round. For example, the chamber of blades trap, presented below, that deals damage to everyone within a large chamber and lasts for 1d4 rounds. On average, this trap is going to last for 2 rounds and everyone in the room is going to be attacked twice at a +20 bonus for 3d8+3 on each hit. While this is not a huge amount of damage for 10th level characters, it can add up really quick. On average, PCs are going to take 32 points of damage before this trap has run it course (or double that if a 4 is rolled for the duration).
Chamber of Blades Trap (CR 10) Type mechanical; Perception DC 25; Disable Device DC 20 EFFECTS Trigger location; Duration 1d4 rounds; Reset repair Effect Atk +20 melee (3d8+3); multiple targets (all targets in a 20-foot-square chamber)
Poisons, on the other hand, have seen some revisions. After PCs hit about 7th level in 3.5, poison becomes almost an irrelevant threat. Once heroes feast becomes an option, it is completely pointless, which is a shame. In the Pathfinder RPG, poisons are a threat again at every level. The immunity gained from heroes feast has been changed to a bonus against poison saves (the same has happened to its immunity to fear) and neutralize poison now requires a caster level check versus the DC of the poison to remove it. Add that in with some advanced poisons and you have a threat that the PCs must now consider when taking on some of the more iconic monsters in the game.
In addition, the mechanics behind poison have changed. Most now deal damage every round until they have run their course (this is called the frequency), but the amount of damage per round has been decreased a bit to compensate. Each poison has a cure line as well, which tells you how many saves you need to make to be free of the poison before the frequency has run out. If you have been poisoned multiple times by the same source, you no longer need to make multiple saves. Instead, the duration of the poison increases by 50% of the original duration and the DC of the save increases by +2. So, if you were poisoned three times by a wyvern, the frequency would become 1/round for 12 rounds and the DC would increase to 21. This system really opens up the poison rules (and curses and diseases which work under similar rules), allowing you to concoct all manner of vile ways to die. Here are a few sample poisons from the Core Rulebook to get your ideas flowing.
Belladonna Type poison, ingested; Save Fortitude DC 14 Onset 10 minutes; Frequency 1/minute for 6 minutes Effect 1d2 Str damage, target can attempt one save to cure a lycanthropy affliction contracted in the past hour; Cure 1 save
Insanity Mist Type poison, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 15 Frequency 1/round for 6 rounds Effect 1d3 Wis damage; Cure 1 save
King's Sleep Type poison, ingested; Save Fortitude DC 19 Onset 1 day; Frequency 1/day (unlike others, this poison continues until cured) Effect 1 Con drain; Cure 2 consecutive saves
Tears of Death Type poison, contact; Save Fortitude DC 22 Onset 1 minute; Frequency 1/minute for 6 minutes Effect 1d6 Con damage and paralyzed for 1 minute; Cure none (This poison continues until the end of its frequency, regardless of the number of saving throws made)
Wyvern Poison Type poison, injury; Save Fortitude DC 17 Frequency 1/round for 6 rounds Effect 1d4 Con damage; Cure 2 consecutive saves
There are only three more previews left to go before the release of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. Of course, if you want a bit more, check out Kobold Quarterly #10, which contains another preview written by yours truly and a look at the revised shadowdancer prestige class. Next week, we will round out our look at the base classes by taking a look at Ezren, the iconic wizard.
The Two Faces of Kyonin Friday, October 10, 2008In Pathfinder #17, the PCs visit the elven homeland of Kyonin. We'll be providing a gazetteer of this nation for GMs to use to expand adventures set in this verdant kingdom. As you can see by the two pictures here by Andrew Hou, though, Kyonin isn't just an idyllic sylvan setting with beautiful elven villages—there's a dark side to Kyonin as well. The fiend-haunted forest of Tanglebriar, empire of the demon Treerazer (that's his palace...
The Two Faces of Kyonin
Friday, October 10, 2008
In Pathfinder #17, the PCs visit the elven homeland of Kyonin. We'll be providing a gazetteer of this nation for GMs to use to expand adventures set in this verdant kingdom. As you can see by the two pictures here by Andrew Hou, though, Kyonin isn't just an idyllic sylvan setting with beautiful elven villages—there's a dark side to Kyonin as well. The fiend-haunted forest of Tanglebriar, empire of the demon Treerazer (that's his palace Witchbole shown in the not-so-friendly illustration), lies deep within the kingdom's borders, providing a constant source of high-level adventure opportunity for the brave and foolhardy.
The Last Home of the Elves Monday, September 15, 2008For the last several months of Pathfinder's Second Darkness Adventure Path we've been neck-deep in drow, with one terrible question looming over our heads all the while: With such a history of fantastic dark elven cities, where do the drow of Golarion actually live? The answer started as a sketch on a single piece of graph paper and grew into a tape and grid work monstrosity that would dominate my dining room table for several weeks. From...
The Last Home of the Elves
Monday, September 15, 2008
For the last several months of Pathfinder's Second Darkness Adventure Path we've been neck-deep in drow, with one terrible question looming over our heads all the while: With such a history of fantastic dark elven cities, where do the drow of Golarion actually live? The answer started as a sketch on a single piece of graph paper and grew into a tape and grid work monstrosity that would dominate my dining room table for several weeks. From this ever-expanding madness eventually developed a vast underground metropolis I eventually dubbed Zirnakaynin, the Last Home of the Elves.
While the city of the drow won't completely take shape until Pathfinder #16, players at last Gen Con's Ascension of the Drow Pathfinder Society event got a first look at the massive, tri-cavern subterranean domain. For everyone who missed out on Ascension, though, here's a sneak peek of the heart of the drow race, their stockade and sanctuary: Zirnakaynin.
None, not even the drow, can say how long their ancestors wandered the darkness, but for more than 8,000 years settlements have stood among the severe cliffs of Cocyrdavarin, the great cavern that now holds Zirnakaynin. The first walls of the city rose upon the cavern's highest scarp, and like a glacier slowly crashed down upon the lower slopes. Over time, each level took on a distinct name and characteristics.
Atop the crowning plateau stand the ancient bladed walls of the Last City, the densely packed heart of Zirnakaynin, where the drow first clustered in fear of the dark. Today, it is home to the city's wealthiest and most powerful non-nobles, cruel artisans and performers, and purveyors of all manner of decadences. At the plateau's westernmost edge, amid gardens of dark stone, stands the topless tower of Ileccinoc, the seat of the city's ruling council, the many-spired column that looms over all Zirnakaynin.
Beneath the heights of the Last City sprawls Arsyrvhar, the Pale March, home to most of they city's drow population, many of its everyday shops and residences, and the markets of Ovessia. Mingling among the common drow, merchants from Zirnakaynin's slave cities and strange locales throughout the Darklands travel here to bargain and curry the favor of drow nobles. Those traders whose wares are considered unworthy for elven consumption are banished from the bustling district to the slum-bazaar of Drashes in Ghenavoc.
The lowest span of Cocyrdavarin, the Pit of Ghenavoc hosts the most worthless of drow society: the low-born, the deformed, the city's few freed slaves, and foreign residents. Among workhouses, slave pens, drug dens, and warehouses, the least of Zirnakaynin's society scrape out pitiful lives.
... Elves of Golarion Friday, August 29, 2008The second Pathfinder Companion is off to the printer! Elves of Golarion is filled with all sorts of information about one of the most popular races in the game; everything from details on the elven nation of Kyonin to magical food to elven PC Character Traits, and more! We'll have a bit more information to show off in the coming weeks, but for now, check out Ben Wootten's awesome cover for the book, wherein lovely Merisiel (and a few of her...
Elves of Golarion
Friday, August 29, 2008
The second Pathfinder Companion is off to the printer! Elves of Golarion is filled with all sorts of information about one of the most popular races in the game; everything from details on the elven nation of Kyonin to magical food to elven PC Character Traits, and more! We'll have a bit more information to show off in the coming weeks, but for now, check out Ben Wootten's awesome cover for the book, wherein lovely Merisiel (and a few of her friends) give a band of bugbears a proper elven welcome to the woods.
... Meet the NPCS: Allevrah of Kyonin Monday, June 16, 2008For the first twelve installments of Pathfinder, we introduced our twelve iconic adventurers. With Second Darkness, our third Adventure Path, we're switching tactics. Since there's only 11 core classes (we kind of cheated with Seltyiel a little, making him our iconic multiclass character), starting with Pathfinder #13 our cover characters are instead iconic NPCs from the current adventure path or campaign. Of course, that means that...
Meet the NPCS: Allevrah of Kyonin
Monday, June 16, 2008
For the first twelve installments of Pathfinder, we introduced our twelve iconic adventurers. With Second Darkness, our third Adventure Path, we're switching tactics. Since there's only 11 core classes (we kind of cheated with Seltyiel a little, making him our "iconic multiclass" character), starting with Pathfinder #13 our cover characters are instead iconic NPCs from the current adventure path or campaign. Of course, that means that we'll be needing to walk a thin line between showing off our new characters and spoiling key plot points for the adventures themselves. Second Darkness is a good example, since the nature of the main bad guy race isn't obvious immediately in play, but by the end of the first adventure, it should be. It's a small spoiler to players who see the cover, but that's less important than having an eye-catching cover in the first place, really.
But there's a world of difference between showing off an illustration of a character and posting an extensive back story for that character. For the iconic heroes, this was never a problem since they don't actually appear in the adventures. Going forward, though, it's probably not a good idea to spell out exactly what an NPC's role in the adventure is. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that just because an NPC shows up on a cover doesn't mean that NPC is a bad guy. We'll be putting potential allies of the PCs up on the cover now and then as well.
Pictured here, for example, is an elven general named Allevrah. She's a pretty important member of Kyonin's military forces, and has certainly seen her share of battle (note her clipped ear—the result of a close call in a battle against a babau assassin—wound whose scar she wears with pride as a trophy). Her role in Second Darkness is pretty important—important enough that we chose to illustrate her on the Gen Con alternate cover to Pathfinder #13, but if you want to know what that role is, I'm afraid you'll have to play the adventure!
Meet the Iconics: Merisiel Monday, July 23, 2007The elves have a name for elven children unfortunate enough to be born and raised in human society—the Forlorn. In a few rare cases, these foundlings or orphaned elves find loving homes with humans, although the fact that, over the course of their childhood, one-time playmates become their effective guardians and foster parents results in a strangely skewed sense of the self. Most Forlorn aren't as fortunate—they live on the streets...
Meet the Iconics: Merisiel
Monday, July 23, 2007
The elves have a name for elven children unfortunate enough to be born and raised in human society—the Forlorn. In a few rare cases, these foundlings or orphaned elves find loving homes with humans, although the fact that, over the course of their childhood, one-time playmates become their effective guardians and foster parents results in a strangely skewed sense of the self. Most Forlorn aren't as fortunate—they live on the streets as almost eternal urchins, watching alone as their companions age and move on to greater things.
Merisiel is one of the Forlorn, only now emerging from decades spent as a child of the streets into a young adult ready to make her own way in life. A master at stowing away on ships, she's called dozens of cities home, leaving one for another when her companions outgrew her or she outlived them. Life has been hard for Merisiel, made more so by the fact that she's always found it difficult to master skills that come easily to her companions. Never the sharpest knife in the drawer, as the saying goes, Merisiel has learned to make up for this by carrying at least a dozen of them on her person. When things go wrong with her carefully laid plans (as they almost always seem to do), the knives come out and what needs to be done gets done. To date, Merisiel hasn't met a problem that can't, in one way or another, be solved with daggers.
Merisiel's life experiences have taught her to enjoy things to their fullest as they occur—it's impossible to tell when the good times might end. She's open and expressive with her thoughts and emotions, and while she's always on the move and working on her latest batch of plots for easy money, in the end it comes down to being faster than everyone else—either on her feet, or with her beloved blades.