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Golarion Day: Return of the Sable Company

Thursday, January 6, 2010

Howdy, everyone! So, hot on the heels of the announcement of "Design Tuesdays," I'm here to unveil the first installment of "Golarion Day!" Every Thursday, we'll try to do a post that expands the world of Golarion in some small way. Sometimes, this might be a tiny new rules element. Other times, it might be a bit of lore. It could be a brief look into an upcoming product or an interview with someone who's worked on the world of Golarion. Or, as in today's case, it could be a quick update of older rules to the current Pathfinder RPG system. Let me know what you think, and if you have any special requests for future Golarion Days, let me know that as well!

So, back in the day in the Guide to Korvosa, we told you about a group of rangers called the Sable Company. Exported from my homebrew game (where they were known as Skyriders), these highly trained city guards patrol the skies above Korvosa on hippogriffs that they've bonded with. In Guide to Korvosa, we handled this bit of fun flavor by simply introducing a new feat: "Sable Company Marine," which let rangers select hippogriffs as an animal companion. And for a few years, all was well and good.

Then we went and did something unthinkable. We changed games. And in the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary, we didn't even bother to keep the poor hippogriff around. The griffin was there, sure, but no sign of his less cultured kin.

I'll be honest. I was a bit surprised to see the hippogriff become the most-missed monster from the Bestiary. I would have assumed something bigger and badder, like missing titans or nightwalkers or inevitables would get folks riled up, but I was wrong. So when it came time to do Bestiary 2, it was obvious what monsters we needed to include—chief among them was the hippogriff.

But the job still wasn't finished, because we'd also changed the way rangers get animal companions, and we'd even changed the way animal companions work.

So, until we actually get around to revisiting Korvosa's Sable Company in print (which, I bet, we'll do some day in the future), check out the following rules for allowing rangers to gain hippogriffs as animal companions. Note that we've changed the way you gain a hippogriff from a mere feat to a ranger archetype—this is because hippogriffs are pretty powerful creatures as far as animal companions go, and not all rangers have the right stuff to serve in the Sable Company. It requires the sacrifice of some traditional ranger training in order to master a bond with a hippogriff, in addition to being a member of the Sable Company itself. It's up to your GM whether the Sable Company is hiring. (Basically, you need your GM's permission to select this archetype, and your GM may require your character to perform certain duties as befits your responsibilities in the Sable Company.) In fact, if your GM's cool with it, you can adjust the adjustments and flavor of the archetype so that other classes can get access to hippogriffs as riding companions—you can even use these rules as a sort of template to open up "animal companions" for similarly powered magical beasts. Because who wouldn't want to play a halfling ankheg rider?

Anyway, here you go: Pathfinder-compatible updates for the Sable Company of Korvosa!

Ranger Archetype: Sable Company Marine

Illustration by Florian Stitz

You graduated from the elite hippogriff-riding school of the Endrin Military Academy. Not only can you ride a hippogriff with great skill, you have also formed a close bond with a particular mount. A Sable Company Marine has the following class features:

Hippogriff Companion: You can gain a hippogriff as a companion. This ability works identically to hunter's bond when used to gain an animal companion, but can only be used to gain a hippogriff (see below for rules for hippogriff companions). You gain a +2 bonus on Ride checks made when riding your hippogriff companion, and whenever you are within 20 feet of your hippogriff, it gains a +2 morale bonus on all saving throws made against fear effects. This ability replaces favored terrain and hunter's bond.

Hippogriff Companions

Starting Statistics: Size Large; Speed 40 ft., fly 50 ft. (average); AC +2 natural armor; Attack bite 1d6; Ability Scores Str 15, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 9; Special Qualities darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent.

4th-Level Advancement: Speed fly 100 ft. (average); Attack bite 1d6, 2 claws 1d4; Ability Scores Dex +2, Con +2.

James Jacobs
Creative Director

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Florian Stitz Golarion Thursdays Hippogriffs Korvosa Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Rangers
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Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This is so AWESOME!!! You've made one of my players very, very happy with this James. We just started CotCT last week and she had herself set on becoming a Sable Company Marine :)

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

Awesome sauce.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor

As one of the early folks in the "No hippogriffs? But what of the Sable Company?" camp, thank you very very much for this blog post. Good approach to it.


Fantastic stuff!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Honor restored ! No more shall we weep !


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! Golarion Thursdays and Design Tuesdays are currently set to be my favorite days. (I guess joint first place with Caturday :p)

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

For future Golarion Thursdays, I'd like to suggest a revisiting of the Osirion prestige class for the Living Monolith. I tried updating one for a Pathfinder Society scenario in Echoes of the Everwar: Part Four - The Faithless Dead, but it might be nice to see that get revamped a bit for full-on Pathfinder RPG. Plus, Osirion is cool.

Also, Fleshcrafting/warping/whatever from Second Darkness might something worth touching on again. I'd be curious to see any modifications or additions to that bit of Golarion lore. Particularly if you can weave in something that dovetails nicely with the alchemist class.

My two cents,
--Neil


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Very cool, but out of curiosity what are your thoughts of cavaliers being part of the Sable Company? Seems to me they would fit right in.

Qadira

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Chris Manos wrote:

Very cool, but out of curiosity what are your thoughts of cavaliers being part of the Sable Company? Seems to me they would fit right in.

When I was running Curse of the Crimson Throne, the Paladin PC was a member of the Sable Company. We even played through his graduation ceremony and the selection of his bonded mount. I think it would be quite easy to open up Company membership to a variety of classes.


Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Also, what about adding hippogriff to the list of animal companions druids can select?

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

THANK YOU!!!!!!

I can finally convert my Sable Company Marine from my CotCT game I ran for my wife! (One of our favorite pairs of characters ever. 8^)


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

HURRAY! Victory for the Sable Company!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Wonderful news. Paizo, you guys are the best!


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
jreyst wrote:
Also, what about adding hippogriff to the list of animal companions druids can select?

This.

Rather than trying to find out which class features to dump for each class we want to give access to hippogriffs (I' personally want to give them do druids and cavaliers as well) could it be a feat tax? Like improved familiar? Only for companions?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I love the idea of Golarion day! Awesomeness!

Andoran

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Cheliax

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

I'm a bit confused, if rangers get their 1st favored terrain at 3rd level and hunter's bond at 4th level, then do you lose that favored terrain when you get your companion at 4th?


I had the same confusion. It's also not clear if in fact you are supposed to gain your hippogriff at third level or fourth; if at third level, then how do you calculate for you animal companion being level 3 - 3?

EDIT: Mechanical unclarity aside, this is an awesome piece of content. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Todd Morgan wrote:
I'm a bit confused, if rangers get their 1st favored terrain at 3rd level and hunter's bond at 4th level, then do you lose that favored terrain when you get your companion at 4th?

Nope you never get favored terrain or hunter's bond


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
MaxAstro wrote:

I had the same confusion. It's also not clear if in fact you are supposed to gain your hippogriff at third level or fourth; if at third level, then how do you calculate for you animal companion being level 3 - 3?

EDIT: Mechanical unclarity aside, this is an awesome piece of content. :)

You get the hippogriff at 4th level the same way it works for hunter's bond.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Todd Morgan wrote:
I'm a bit confused, if rangers get their 1st favored terrain at 3rd level and hunter's bond at 4th level, then do you lose that favored terrain when you get your companion at 4th?

Ninja'd by Justin, but yeah; if you take this archetype you never get favored terrain.

This, to me, looks like an example of an archetype that might be better served as a PrC. You're supposed to choose archetypes at first level, RAW. This seems like something that a character would need to earn his way into several levels later.

Andoran

Justin Franklin wrote:
Todd Morgan wrote:
I'm a bit confused, if rangers get their 1st favored terrain at 3rd level and hunter's bond at 4th level, then do you lose that favored terrain when you get your companion at 4th?
Nope you never get favored terrain or hunter's bond

And I would agree that you get your hippogriff at 4th level, since that creates the fewest headaches. The way I see it, the hippogriff directly replaces the hunter's bond, and the favored terrain is what you have to give up to keep things balanced. That sound about right?

And a hearty huzzah for the Sable Company!!


EtsuElfRanger wrote:

And I would agree that you get your hippogriff at 4th level, since that creates the fewest headaches. The way I see it, the hippogriff directly replaces the hunter's bond, and the favored terrain is what you have to give up to keep things balanced. That sound about right?

And a hearty huzzah for the Sable Company!!

I agree that is almost certainly the intent, I'm just saying that if RavingDork ever wanders over to this thread we're going to hear about how it implies you can get an animal companion at third level because the rules aren't clear enough. :p

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

I don't think it needs to be a prestige class.

It's part of the character's background "You graduated from the elite hippogriff-riding school of the Endrin Military Academy." So you're a first level ranger who graduated just like being a first level wizard that escape- er graduated the academe. By losing favoured terrain you're 'banking' the class ability. Even if you're drummed out of the Sable company before you get 4th level, you still could find the bond with a 'wild' hippogriff

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Matthew Morris wrote:

I don't think it needs to be a prestige class.

It's part of the character's background "You graduated from the elite hippogriff-riding school of the Endrin Military Academy." So you're a first level ranger who graduated just like being a first level wizard that escape- er graduated the academe. By losing favoured terrain you're 'banking' the class ability. Even if you're drummed out of the Sable company before you get 4th level, you still could find the bond with a 'wild' hippogriff

would this then mean that the Sable Company does not accept higher level characters who already have advanced beyond level 4 and can't go back and change their ability?

I've always felt a Prestige Class best accommodates the skills gained by affiliation with organizations, while archetypes are best used for character concepts.

Regardless I can make this work in my games as a base concept for a PrC.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Krome wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:

I don't think it needs to be a prestige class.

It's part of the character's background "You graduated from the elite hippogriff-riding school of the Endrin Military Academy." So you're a first level ranger who graduated just like being a first level wizard that escape- er graduated the academe. By losing favoured terrain you're 'banking' the class ability. Even if you're drummed out of the Sable company before you get 4th level, you still could find the bond with a 'wild' hippogriff

would this then mean that the Sable Company does not accept higher level characters who already have advanced beyond level 4 and can't go back and change their ability?

I've always felt a Prestige Class best accommodates the skills gained by affiliation with organizations, while archetypes are best used for character concepts.

Regardless I can make this work in my games as a base concept for a PrC.

I see your point, I've just become 'prestige shy' I guess.

Still, maybe the ones they pick up later don't have the bond. I could see the archtypes saying things like "He took to that like he was Academy trained!" Good point though.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Chris Manos wrote:

Very cool, but out of curiosity what are your thoughts of cavaliers being part of the Sable Company? Seems to me they would fit right in.

My thoughts are that that might be cool... but traditionally, the role's been filled by rangers. These guys are supposed to be excellent trackers and hunters as well as mounted dudes, after all—they're elite city guards who often have to chase down criminals.

In Korvosa, they'll remain rangers, in other words.

But as I point out in the post... the archetype and feat are REALLY easy to adjust for any class that gains a mounted companion opportunity, be they druids or paladins or cavaliers or whatever.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
MaxAstro wrote:
EtsuElfRanger wrote:

And I would agree that you get your hippogriff at 4th level, since that creates the fewest headaches. The way I see it, the hippogriff directly replaces the hunter's bond, and the favored terrain is what you have to give up to keep things balanced. That sound about right?

And a hearty huzzah for the Sable Company!!

I agree that is almost certainly the intent, I'm just saying that if RavingDork ever wanders over to this thread we're going to hear about how it implies you can get an animal companion at third level because the rules aren't clear enough. :p

The key wording for me is "This ability works identically to hunter's bond when used to gain an animal companion", and since Hunter's Bond says "At 4th level, a ranger forms a bond with his hunting companions." At least that was how I read it. ;)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

jreyst wrote:
Also, what about adding hippogriff to the list of animal companions druids can select?

Ask your GM.

Hippogriffs are not animals; they're magical beasts. They shouldn't be on a list of ANIMAL companions for druids, in my opinion.

But again... if your GM's cool with it... why not?

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Heck, when I first read it, it looked like you got the Hippogriff at 1st level, since it doesn't say when you get it! 8^) But the "works identically to hunter's bond" is a good point.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Todd Morgan wrote:
I'm a bit confused, if rangers get their 1st favored terrain at 3rd level and hunter's bond at 4th level, then do you lose that favored terrain when you get your companion at 4th?

Good question... but yeah. You get your hippogriff ability at 4th level. We'll make that more clear if we keep the semi-experimental "Give up 2 class abilities for one that's a bit better than normal" mechanic and graduate it in to print form.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Matthew Morris wrote:
I see your point, I've just become 'prestige shy' I guess.

And that's valid. Lots of 3.5 PrCs would be better recast as archetypes or alternate classes (or just forgotten altogether). As an elite company, this just seems like an excellent fit for the "Prestige" in Prestige Class. You can fluff it any way you'd like, certainly.

I just kinda hope that archetypes and PrCs are each used when appropriate. I know that archetypes are the new hotness, but there's still room for PrCs. (Yes, I know that Paizo has continued to publish new PrCs in the age of the archetype.)

But, hey, that's just, like, my opinion, man.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Krome wrote:

Would this then mean that the Sable Company does not accept higher level characters who already have advanced beyond level 4 and can't go back and change their ability?

I've always felt a Prestige Class best accommodates the skills gained by affiliation with organizations, while archetypes are best used for character concepts.

Regardless I can make this work in my games as a base concept for a PrC.

It'd would be VERY unusual for the Sable Company to accept higher level characters into their ranks. Not only because that'd require some GM leniancy to allow a ranger PC to rebuild a character choice (which, incidentally, is fine with me!), but for the in-world reason of the Sable Company is an organization with a hierarchy. Someone who's already a higher level ranger is, in a way, overqualified. And being more powerful than those of equal newbie rank, there'd be a weird sort of command issue funk. So no... normally, the Sable Company means you join the organization at 1st level and work your way up through the ranks.

Prestige classes are very unlikely to ever appear as part of a Golarion Day post, by the way—they're simply too time-consuming to build and format. This post for today, in fact, probably represents as complex as things will get, rules-wise. And many posts won't have rules content at all.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Justin Franklin wrote:
MaxAstro wrote:
EtsuElfRanger wrote:

And I would agree that you get your hippogriff at 4th level, since that creates the fewest headaches. The way I see it, the hippogriff directly replaces the hunter's bond, and the favored terrain is what you have to give up to keep things balanced. That sound about right?

And a hearty huzzah for the Sable Company!!

I agree that is almost certainly the intent, I'm just saying that if RavingDork ever wanders over to this thread we're going to hear about how it implies you can get an animal companion at third level because the rules aren't clear enough. :p
The key wording for me is "This ability works identically to hunter's bond when used to gain an animal companion", and since Hunter's Bond says "At 4th level, a ranger forms a bond with his hunting companions." At least that was how I read it. ;)

That's the correct way to read it.

As an aside: rules mechanics we post to the blog do not go through the same extensive development cycle that our print or PDF products have. For three reasons:

1) Blog posts are not so high on our priority schedule that we can afford to put that much time into them.

2) Doing this gives us a great place to try out some experimental and weird new rules to see how folks like them in a way that doesn't "lock them down" in print format. If a mechanic that's introduced here or in the design day posts is super popular, cool! If it ends up breaking things... well, it's only a blog post so it's easy for folks to write off.

3) Our ability to relatively quickly answer questions about the post in these feedback posts makes it SUPER EASY to clarify hazy rules language as necessary without spreading it out through an entire board.

Andoran

Hmmm, I think I'd house rule this to you get your 1st favored terrain (and it increases incrementally every 5 levels thereafter) but no subsequent favored terrains. I'd highly encourage urban for the feel of Korvosa, but allow others as specialists for Korvosa's domains in southern Varisia.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

James Jacobs wrote:
It'd would be VERY unusual for the Sable Company to accept higher level characters into their ranks. Not only because that'd require some GM leniancy to allow a ranger PC to rebuild a character choice (which, incidentally, is fine with me!), but for the in-world reason of the Sable Company is an organization with a hierarchy. Someone who's already a higher level ranger is, in a way, overqualified. And being more powerful than those of equal newbie rank, there'd be a weird sort of command issue funk. So no... normally, the Sable Company means you join the organization at 1st level and work your way up through the ranks.

Well. OK, then.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Studpuffin wrote:
Hmmm, I think I'd house rule this to you get your 1st favored terrain (and it increases incrementally every 5 levels thereafter) but no subsequent favored terrains. I'd highly encourage urban for the feel of Korvosa, but allow others as specialists for Korvosa's domains in southern Varisia.

That's also a really cool and elegant solution.

Andoran

Ooo, "Elegant". I like that ^_^


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I greatly approve of this archetype and the idea of us getting stuff like this every Thursday :D

Man, I almost want to use this for my ranger, but it doesn't really fit with his theme and background T_T

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Studpuffin wrote:
Ooo, "Elegant". I like that ^_^

See? Preening isn't the only route to elegance.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Matrixryu wrote:

I greatly approve of this archetype and the idea of us getting stuff like this every Thursday :D

Man, I almost want to use this for my ranger, but it doesn't really fit with his theme and background T_T

In that case... folks shouldn't be shy about posting requests here. Even blatantly transparent requests for content that would work GREAT for their character.

I make no guarantees that I'll pick up the request and run with it, but I can't consider a topic for Golarion Day that I haven't thought of or that hasn't been requested.

For that matter, this series of posts would be a GREAT place for folks to ask about weird topics we mention in passing in a book but never seem to expand upon later.

Andoran

James Jacobs wrote:
Studpuffin wrote:
Ooo, "Elegant". I like that ^_^
See? Preening isn't the only route to elegance.

I wonder if Hippogriff preen...

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

James Jacobs wrote:
If it ends up breaking things... well, it's only a blog post so it's easy for folks to write off.

And easier for us to change if a fix is simple. (Changing thousand of printed books...not as easy.)

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I had a thread on this very subject, a few months ago.

This was before we had the Bestiary 2, so we based it on the Roc, and tweaked it from there.
We dropped the starting natural armor by 4, to a base of +1.
The Roc seems overburdened with armor, for a flyer, but YMMV.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Just in case, since I can see my players miss-reading it:

The Ranger gets the Hippogriff at level 4, and at level 7 the hippogriff gets the "level 4" advancement (owing to the Ranger counting as a Druid - 3 for the purposes of an animal companion).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

In that case... folks shouldn't be shy about posting requests here. Even blatantly transparent requests for content that would work GREAT for their character.

I make no guarantees that I'll pick up the request and run with it, but I can't consider a topic for Golarion Day that I haven't thought of or that hasn't been requested.

For that matter, this series of posts would be a GREAT place for folks to ask about weird topics we mention in passing in a book but never seem to expand upon later.

Now there's an idea...giving us a spot to ask for content, but only directly Golarion related content ;)

Well, I do know that one place in Golarion I've been wanting to know more about or see more content from is Hermia. Another character I'm playing is a Half-Elf Summoner from there, and I spent a while looking for stuff related to the island. However, all I was ever able to find was the 'Hermian blood' feat/trait. Honestly though, I can't even think of any specific content from the place to request because there's so little information about it in the first place.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

LoreKeeper wrote:

Just in case, since I can see my players miss-reading it:

The Ranger gets the Hippogriff at level 4, and at level 7 the hippogriff gets the "level 4" advancement (owing to the Ranger counting as a Druid - 3 for the purposes of an animal companion).

100% correct.

Grand Lodge

This is awesome! I played one in CotCT back in beta with Karui Kage and loved it. Sadly, the game ended before I got much play out of him being in the Sable Company, but it was still a lot of fun.

Andoran

Snorter wrote:

I had a thread on this very subject, a few months ago.

This was before we had the Bestiary 2, so we based it on the Roc, and tweaked it from there.
We dropped the starting natural armor by 4, to a base of +1.
The Roc seems overburdened with armor, for a flyer, but YMMV.

I just gave a horse a fly speed and changed it's hoofs to claws.

My current Ranger in CoT has a Roc companion.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

*crosses his fingers for PFS legality*

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