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Worldscape Workbook—The Fish that Got Away

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pathfinder Worldscape #1, my new sword & sorcery supergroup crossover comic from Dynamite, is on newsstands and is shipping to paizo.com customers NOW! Early reviews are pouring in for the issue, and I've been thrilled by the initial response. Most readers seem to be digging the "fish out of water" story I've been building as our intrepid iconic heroes meet the likes of Red Sonja, John Carter of Mars, and Tarzan, and as the first issue shows, those meetings aren't always going to go down the way you might expect them to.

Each issue of Pathfinder Worldscape contains a short RPG appendix that translates some of Dynamite's heroes, races, equipment, and worlds to the official Pathfinder rules, and while writing comic stories featuring all of these amazing characters has been a wonderful and challenging experience, writing up their game statistics has, to me, often seemed even more wonderful—and definitely more challenging.

The biggest challenge, truth be told, is in fitting everything I want to say into the relatively short appendices. When you're suddenly unleashed on the world of Barsoom, for example, there's an awful lot to say, and not a ton of space to say it. For example, Pathfinder Worldscape #2, which releases three short weeks from now, was initially to include stats for the green Martians of Barsoom, stats for the most famous green Martian of all—John Carter's best friend Tars Tarkas—and stats for a new "warlord" archetype that will be used by both Carter and Tars as a way to model the "no-armor" fighting styles of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars books. All that plus a poster map and some ideas for how to use it in a Pathfinder game.

As it turns out, I only ended up having room for the green Martian rules in #2, plus some rules for radium rifles and pistols. Full stats for Tars Tarkas, as well as the warlord archetype necessary to stat him (and John Carter) up, will come in future issues.

But my space-bursting woes did not start with issue #2. I ran into similar trouble with Pathfinder Worldscape #1, and I thought it might be fun to use this week's Worldscape Workbook to take a peek at some Pathfinder rules that might have been.

I've already spent a lot of space in this column ballyhooing writer Gail Simone's 2013 "relaunch" of Red Sonja for a Dynamite arc entitiled "Queen of Plagues." I relied on Simone's characterization of Sonja for my take on the character in Pathfinder Worldscape, and I probably read the six-issue arc a half-dozen times during my preparation for the series.

Beside the great take on Red Sonja, which really does a lot to restore agency to the character's origin and remove some of the elements that might have made sense in the early 1970s but which seem regressive by today's standards, one of my favorite elements of the Queen of Plagues storyline were the weird fish-people used by Red Sonja nemesis.

Generally speaking, Red Sonja's world is more "mundane" than that of the Pathfinder world. Based as it is on Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age, the home of Conan the Barbarian, Sonja's setting is one of ancient human kingdoms, the occasional giant here and there, and maybe a serpent man lurking in the shadows. It's not—again generally speaking, because different writers and artists bring different approaches to each story—the sort of place where you wander into a tavern to find orcs rubbing shoulders with halflings, dwarves, and elves. When a genuine "monster" appears, it's generally a sign that something very unique and special is happening.

The fish-men of that first Dynamite reboot arc are—aside from some psychic ghosts—pretty much the only monsters in the bunch, and they stick out in a very good way. We see several images of the creatures, usually in crowd or battle scenes, and what we see is intriguing. Simone's fish-men, drawn by artist Walter Giovanni, echo the vast diversity of the oceans themselves. Some have heads like hammerhead sharks. Others have beards of octopus tentacles, or are encrusted with coral. Some loom large and powerful, others sqat and blubbery. All of them look interesting, and they also look like nothing I've ever quite seen in Pathfinder before.

So I wanted to include them from the very start. The red sea-creature Kelgeth, from the opening scene of Pathfinder Worldscape #1 in which Valeros finds himself on the Worldscape, belongs to this race. I included him in this early scene in part to show the diversity of the Worldscape as a unique representative of Sonja's Hyborian Age, but also because I thought his appearance would be a good anchor for a cool new Pathfinder race in the back of the issue.

That presented an interesting challenge that speaks to the difference between writing a comic and writing a gaming supplement. Although Gail Simone put a ton of cool characterization into snippets of dialog, and Giovanni's art made the creatures unique and interesting, none of Simone's scripts actually gives a formal name for the creatures. They're called "fish-men" a few times, but it's unclear if that's supposed to be the name of the race or if it's just something people call them dismissively. From a Pathfinder perspective, we generally like to avoid gendered pronouns in race names (we use "lizardfolk," not "lizard-men"), so even if that was supposed to be their name, it didn't really work for me. I started calling them "sea-spawn," and the name stuck in my head.

I imagined a Pathfinder Worldscape #1 appendix filled with options for your sea-spawn character. Want a big strong guy? You can! Want someone with a tentacle grab attack? Ok! Just choose from this list of options and build your very own unique sea creature, perfect for any campaign.

It never lasted more than a couple of days. Once I began laying down Red Sonja's sword-devil archetype and her stat block itself, it quickly became clear that I wouldn't have space to stat up the full sea-spawn race. Maybe I'll find time in a future issue, or maybe in some other future Worldscape project.

Until then, keep your eyes on the sea. You never know what might come out!

If you have not already done so, please consider picking up a copy of Pathfinder Worldscape #1 at your local comic shop or right here on Paizo.com! Or, to make sure you never miss a single Pathfinder comic you can set up a Pathfinder Comics ongoing subscription!

I'll be back next week for another Worldscape Workbook, where I'll talk about the game goodies to come in Pathfinder Worldscape #2! Until then, please let me know what you thought of the first issue of the comic, and if there's anything from the Worldscape you'd like me to make sure to make room for before I run out of RPG appendix pages!

Until then, I remain...

Erik Mona
Publisher

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Dynamite Entertainment Licensed Products Pathfinder Comics Pathfinder Worldscape

Sadly the only place I can find a PDF of this for sale is on a amazon-based page run by Dynamite Entertainment which doesn't work for me or my blind daughter as none of us own a tablet or android (which my daughter can't use anyways).


Hey Erik. Loved issue one - my favorite introduction to any of the arcs so far. I followed Red Sonja for a while a few years back, starting with the Gail Simone reboot and the characterisation was seamless, imo. Good job!

In terms of things-to-go-in-the-appendix: I don't know if it's too late but I'd like to see a regional map of some description (in lieu of the poster side of the battlemat, perhaps). For me I struggle to really anchor a fantasy world until I see the map. Even better if it were an 'in-world' style map. :)

Scarab Sages

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

Would they work as variant Deep Ones?

Not sure how much of the Cthulhu Mythos is implied for Sonja's world, though Howard was of course a first generation contributor to the canon.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

How about a worldscape splatbook? Everything from the comics plus the stuff you had to cut. I know I'd be up for a copy.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

There will be more Worldscape beyond the comic series. Not sure the exact format yet, but stay tuned. Lots of interesting plans in the works on that front, and I've naturally got a lot more to say about the topic. On a lighter note, I'm thinking about starting a campaign set there...

Also, Steve, thank you so much for that thoughtful review of issue #1. Your appreciation and long-time support mean a lot to me, and I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the issue. I've really poured my heart into this series, so it's great to see it receive a positive reception (especially from you!).

As an aside, Steve, I just got the final packaged product for Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes yesterday, and only got a chance to open it for the first time last night. I think it's one of the strongest sets yet! You're going to really dig it, I think!

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Snorter wrote:

Would they work as variant Deep Ones?

Not sure how much of the Cthulhu Mythos is implied for Sonja's world, though Howard was of course a first generation contributor to the canon.

They seem much more mundane, in a sense, than deep ones. They're more or less just fish-men goons if I'm being honest, but Walter Giovanni put so many fun little details and differences into their depiction that they just call out to be a very customizable 0-HD PC race for Pathfinder.

In my opinion, anyway. :)


Erik Mona wrote:
Also, Steve, thank you so much for that thoughtful review of issue #1. Your appreciation and long-time support mean a lot to me, and I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the issue. I've really poured my heart into this series, so it's great to see it receive a positive reception (especially from you!).

Hold that thought. I'll be bringing the full set to Paizocon next year craving signatures. :)

Quote:
As an aside, Steve, I just got the final packaged product for Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes yesterday, and only got a chance to open it for the first time last night. I think it's one of the strongest sets yet! You're going to really dig it, I think!

I'm hanging out for it - two sets a year isn't quite enough. It's been a long time between drinks.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

You're telling me!

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Erik Mona wrote:
They seem much more mundane, in a sense, than deep ones. They're more or less just fish-men goons if I'm being honest,...

These henchmen know they're plaice!

Scarab Sages

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Like the cover for issue 2. Love the skull in the background.
I wonder if Sea-Spawn are similar to Tieflings, where each child born has different fish attributes?

Scarab Sages

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

How about a hagfish-spawn, who can turn himself in knots, and exude a foul slime?
Be a nice reminder for the iconics, of the Sandpoint bar in Pathfinder 1.

"Come on, Valeros! You've chugged down worse than that!"

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

That's a great idea.

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