In taverns the bards of Old Korvosa sing this song ...
Cressida was the wily ol’ arrow
Brooding dark, a beauty, a honeydew
In tabards black with silver thread
Cressida and Sabina, what a team they made
No barmaids or wenches to claim as their own
In tabards black with silver thread
Then came a day, ol’ Neo had to pick
So Cressida took the Field Marshal’s staff
In tabards black with silver thread
The challenge was offered, and quickly accepted
A dazzling display, even Blackjack was impressed
The priests of Abadar would not tell
Cressida returned to the castle that day
Part 1: The Low Market
The rich, pungent fragrance of Zeif spice and the wafting yeasty sweetness of a nearby bakery — though pleasant — were insufficient to block out the low market’s more rancid smells.
It was not yet midmorning, but the high sun was baking the mixture of human sweat, animal waste and a hundred other odors in a nearly overpowering olfactory stew. Petty nobles held perfumed handkerchiefs and flowers close to their noses, while everyone else just let the stink close down their senses before carrying on.
Celeste absorbed it with the same relish as she would the bouquet of a fine wine. It wasn’t that she couldn’t discern the good smells from the bad. It was just that she cherished these moments when she could be immersed in the sensations that, to her, seemed to make being human worthwhile.
Smells aside, the colorfully clad shoppers and the rancor of haggling merchants all were contributing to the lively pulse that earned the Free City its reputation as the most irresistible place to be. Smiling broadly, Celeste reveled in it and waded into the throng of people.
Celeste was conspicuous, even in this crowd. She was taller than most men, to begin with, and she walked with the carefree stride that only a freeborn adventurer would assert. She also bore souvenirs of her recent foray into the southern jungles. Her short-cropped hair was sun-bleached nearly white and her nominally fair skin was now a rich bronze. Certainly, it was browner than anyone this far north could manage so early in the summer season. The hide and cut of her traveling leather outfit were also clearly foreign, being unlike anything a midlands leatherworker could produce.
Her most distinguishing feature was a recent addition, however. She ran her tongue over the gold ring that pierced her lower lip, delighting in the sensation, getting used to the feel of metal inside her mouth. The lip ring made her feel playful, even mischievous, a side of her personality she rarely got to indulge in these days. And she knew that when she flashed a knowing smile and her deep blue eyes flared, it was the look of a scoundrel, and it made her appear all the most dangerous. In her line of work, it was an advantage not easily discarded.
Work, if that’s what one called it, meant running errands for her master Manzorian, who even now, securely was ensconced in his citadel in Magepoint. Work brought her again to the Free City, where she must resolve a mystery involving the abduction of certain nobles. Her hand rested lightly on the pouch containing one such noble’s locket. The piece of jewelry was her best clue as to the recent spate of disappearances — kidnappings, she corrected herself — and the trail led here.
Keeping her eyes and ears open, she moved about the low market, inspecting the finest wares, rubbing shoulders with the well-to-do. They, in turn, stepped away, perceiving at a glance that she was some rogue intent on snatching their purse or wares or both. She offered each a wide smile, the shiny gold lip ring doing little to assuage them of what they thought were her true intentions. She was about to inspect another stall, and frighten another merchant in the process, when a voice nearby called to her. She spun about, but did not see the speaker.
“Milady, if you please, may I have a moment of your time? It will be worth your while, I assure you.”
The voice that called to Celeste was high pitched and precise, a staccato delivery with an emphasis on all the wrong syllables, at least for the common tongue. A gnome! She looked down and beheld the inquirer: A male, possessing his race’s signature pointed nose, stood wringing a battered beret in his hands. His suit coat and breeches were well worn — but presentable enough, except for the small splotches of paint on his shoes. He was no beggar, but someone’s servant.
“How can I help you, master ....”
“Grovette is my name, milady. Grovette, apprenticed to Yalexex, the artist,” the gnome said, now pointing back toward the row of houses that served as the boundary to the city’s foreign quarter. “You see him over there.”
Yalexex was not difficult to pick out of the crowd. Fair skinned with a shock of wild, brown hair sticking out in all directions and wearing a smock splattered with paints of many colors, Yelexex was the very picture of an eccentric artist.
Even now, with the market’s bustle all around him, he went about with his arms extended, the thumbs and forefingers of both hands held up square before his eyes. No doubt he was mentally framing the scenes before him as he scanned the marketplace for likely objects or persons to portray on canvas. Celeste observed him crouching down (gaining disapproving looks from passersby), and then just as quickly standing up, squint against the bright sunlight and move the frame of his hands close to his face, all the while shaking his head disapprovingly. He threw his hands back out to their full extension of his arms and shouted “Eureka!” Never still for a second, he now had hands on hips, cocking his head sharply to one side to inspect something else, and from here, seemed to be muttering to himself. The man’s jerky movements had all the grace of a chicken pecking about a barnyard.
“My master is a bit eccentric, I must admit,” Grovette began, apologetically, “but he is unquestionably the finest portrait artist in the Free City.”
“Your loyalty to your master is admirable, Grovette, but why inquire after me?”
“Why, milady? Well, my master Yalexex instantly perceived your radiant beauty from across the marketplace ...”
“Go on,” Celeste said, smiling in spite of herself, and wanting to hear more. The addition of the lip ring to her appearance had been the clincher, she told herself. It made her irresistible.
“Well, my master bid me to summon you to his studio, where he might capture your essence on canvas.”
“I’m flattered,” Celeste said. “But I’m hardly dressed like a lady. Are not these nobles, in their powders and finery more suited to your master’s work?”
Grovette twisted the hat in his hand tighter, there being something uncomfortable about the question. He shrugged before answering.
Celeste, meanwhile, looked deep into the gnome’s eyes, peering into his soul, seeing if evil lay within. She could perceive a person’s nature, if pressed, but it was at times an unreliable ability. Even the best people could be capable of doing evil, of perpetuating sin, sometimes out of necessity. Grovette had seen and done evil in his time, she was certain of that — but how much, and whether he intended to do it again was an open question. Those secrets were buried within a person’s heart, which was more difficult to penetrate that even the mind. So far, she did not sense that he had lied to her.
“Yalexex demands high fees to paint the portraits of nobles, it is true, but to master his craft, he paints the scenes and people of the neighborhood,” Grovette said. “He is willing to compensate you for your time ...”
“Hardly necessary,” Celeste said, waving a hand dismissively, her smile even wider than before. “You don’t have to ask a girl twice if she wants to have her picture painted. Lead on, Grovette.”
As a Mac user, I'd like to pass this along.
I have the Pathfinder download, both the single document and the chapters one. When viewing the single document in Preview, the default pdf viewer on my iMac, some of the page headers in the Beastiary and Pathfinder's Journal section are not visible.
No problems viewing with Adobe Reader for iMac, though.
So much for making you feel good about being a D&D player ... especially if you've stuck with the game since first edition days.
I don't need a video history of all the mechanics that have been time-wasters over the years.
All the 4E teaser video does is make you feel miserable for playing D&D in the first place. Who thinks up this stuff? What a marketing disaster.
The CORRECT video history would have focused on the positive innovations in the rules over the years ... and then pointed out that the changes we'll see in 4E are in the same tradition of D&D's creators always striving to enchance the playing experience.
In particular, the vid should have boasted about the good things about third edition, and then talked about coming "improvements" (i.e. grappling rules, 30-level character advancement, racial builds).
The "improvements remain to be seen, IMHO, but for argument's sake we'll take WoTC at its word.
The 4E teaser video, as well as other demos, can be seen at Youtube
Does anyone else think this was completely the wrong tact to take?
Our darlin' angel Celeste sure did get buffed up after her last appearance.
In Dung. 128 she was listed as a ghaele eladrin bard 4.
In Enemies of My Enemy, she's now a ghaele eladrin bard 5 / lyric thaumaturge 7.
Yikes, that some gym membership she must have! You don't get stats like that working out at Curves.
So ..... what's she been up to?
Thanks Paizo gang for pulling back on the curtain to see your thinking process on the development of the game world for Pathfinder, and more importantly, its presentation format.
I was particularly pleased to hear that James said that a "Less is more" approach was foremost in your thoughts.
I know from my personal experience that while I'm NOT inclined to build a homebrew world from scratch, neither am I keen on being overburdened with canon.
With apologizes to Erik, who I knew contributed to the Living Greyhawk Gazeteer and had input on Greyhawk: The Adventure begins, both books are so loaded with detail I feel overburdened trying to incorporate all it in my game.
For my Age of Worms game, for instance, I end up going back time and again not to those works, but to my copy of the slim D&D Gazeteer -- which has just enough information to give me a jump start and plenty of room to add my own creations to the world.
The fact that the Pathfinder team is keeping this is mind, as well as trying to meet the expectations of those who DO like a little detail with supplemental material, is heartening.
Thanks for keeping us minimialists in mind.
Here are my favorite signature advertisements that ran in Dragon magazine during Paizo's publishing run. I think some were cleverly done, and really reflect the inner gamer in all of us.
1. Tools of the Trade / Origins 2004.
2. D&D 30th "Join the Party" / Wizards of the Coast
3. Everyone Still Wants Those Gems / Wizards of the Coast
4. The Training Wheels Come Off / Malhavoc
5. Live by the Sword / Champions Return to Arms
Honorable Mention: "Believe" / Animal Planet
By the way, it didn't appear in Dragon magazine, but Paizo's True to the Game ad that features the cover from Dragon 326 and ran in GameTrade magazine is one of the strongest Paizo offerred during its run.
So, does anyone else have any favorite ads, either from during the Paizo era or all time.
More than a few businesses, small or large, could learn a thing or two from Paizo on how to handle its customer relations.
In the past two days I've seen a well-orchestrated, concerted effort to react to customer concerns. Publisher statements, staff being made available on several messageboards to make comments, personal blog site posts, an appearance on a pod cast .... what a remarkable effort to get Paizo's side of things out and at the same time alleviate customer concerns, as well as seize the moment to launch a new product. At the same time, be as straightforward as possible with customers, providing them several options, from refunds to ways to allocate their subscription dollars.
I can only contrast that with the Wizards side of things, which is bouncing back customer service emails and not answering the customer service phone line, and from what I've seen, pretty much ignoring messageboard traffic. Plus, Wizards has no information on what it actually wants to do with Dragon and Dungeon titles.
Paizo staff correctly judged that a simple press release wasn't going to cover this transition. Best practice kudos for being receptive and responsive to your customers. It means a lot.
My favorite PC class – the bard – often is maligned because even in a fantasy game setting, the idea that a musician’s ability to perform could inspire others and generate other magical effects in the context of battle seems, to some, far-fetched.
[As opposed to the “realistic” ability of wizards to cast spells …. Er, I digress. ;-) ]
I love collecting stories about the important role martial music plays, and sharing them with my fellow players – anything to bolster my bard’s standing in a group of adventurers. These examples include fife and drummers in the Revolutionary War to modern-day tank crews who crank up their CDs while on the attack.
I’d lacked a really concrete example from a desert culture, until I read the article “Saudi Folk Music Alive and Well” by Kay Hardy Campbell in the March/April 2007 issue of Saudi Aramco World magazine.
Here’s an excerpt:
The entire article can be read here:
So, to my fellow bards, I say “play on.”
Recently I ran a game where I instituted the variant turning rules (from Complete Divine). I though they were implemented fairly well, although, initially I got some disbelieving looks from some of the PCs.
I was just wondering if anyone else wished to share their experiences with the rules -- what they thought of them in game play and whether they stuck with them or went back to the turning rules as written in the PHB.
I'm looking for additional resources, basically anything related to the ancient Baklunish Empire -- maps, legends, lore, king lists, magic, etc.
If anyone knows any good resources specifically on the Baklunish, please point me in the right direction.
Obviously, I can infer a great deal from the histories and cultures of the kingdoms that inherited Baklunish lands, as detailed in:
But if there are other sourcebooks with significant information, it would be great to know about it.
The newspaper I work for, the Journal Star in Peoria, IL, ran this article on D&D. No new ground, but it presented the hobby in a positive light, and they ran a photo in the print edition. (I think there is still a link to the photo on the pjstar.com homepage.)
Anyway, here it is.
Here is the photo
Yes, the old reliable sheet of ruled paper works just fine, as does any one of several generic character sheets available elsewhere on the Web, including Wizards of the Coast.
I think it would be really cool, however, if Sean, Sarah and any one of the contributing artists could get together and devise an artfully done Savage Tide-themed character sheet and make it available for download. I'm thinking of something along the lines of something like the sheets that Tony DiTerlizzi did for sale when third edition was released -- something that covers the basics but also incorporates artwork appropriate to the theme of the AP.
I know it's too late to ask for something like this for Age of Worms -- although there are plenty of us still charging through that AP and would appreciate a similiar treatment. It just seems like it would be something really nice to go along with the new Adventure Path.
I see over on Amazon that Paizo's own Mike McArtor and Wesley Schneider are co-authors of Complete Scoundrel, a D&D acessory to be released in early January.
Congrats on the assignment and the author creds, guys. Condolences on the post-X-mas release. Any chance it'll move up?
(Not that it would fit in my Christmas stockings, but having Mike and Wes under my Christmas tree would be nicer than having them show up for the Super Bowl. But I guess, being scoundrels, that's the way it's gotta be.)
Other than it being a Complete look at Scoundrels that lists at $29.95, any hints as to its contents? I assume it goes without saying there'll be new feats, equipment, spells and core classes. But what else?
(Like a chapter on how to run a really, really scoundrel-like campaign? What do you do if your DM is a bigger scoundrel than anyone sitting round the table? )
C'mon, Mike and Wes, be a scoundrel. A REAL scoundrel would ignore that non disclosure agreement and spill the beans. It'd be just between us. I promise not to tell anyone else. :)
What a clever idea. Reminds me of the marks and signs hobos and other traveling people would leave on mailbox posts and sides of houses that would warn other vagabonds of dangers/hospitality to be found inside.
I can see sprinkling this into my game as a DM. PCs encounter one of these signs, and only the rogue has a clue as to what it means! (Wlll he tell the others, or keep it to himself?)
Enjoyed Oliver Diaz and John E. Ling Jr.'s piece on familiars. You can never have too many options for choosing familiars. Frankly, the substitution of the platypus for the hedgehog was inspired. INspired! I say: Inspired!
I have to admit, though, that the first thought that popped into my head when I read that you'd added dog and rabbit to the familiar list was that ....
.... dogs and rabbit make very good Meals Ready to Eat.
"Your adventuring party is now exploring Maure Castle for the second straight month. Food and water have been scarce, and you haven't seen the sky in all that time. And, oh yes, your cohort is eyeing your familiar hungrily."
So who do you keep happy? The cohort or the familiar? It's not like you can order out for KFC or anything.
Is that what you meant by the "flavoring" part of the title?
In the same tradition of the Best Covers posting, here are my picks for the best interior artwork from 2005. Comments welcome.
Again, I'm no art critic. Just a guy who knows what I like.
1. "Umbagen," April, by Prescott, Wahlstrom.
I have several honorable mentions:
All I can say is that there was a lot of great stuff this year. As a DM, I really wish a lot of this artwork were made available on a monthly PDF, just as is done on the Dungeon side of things.
Since this is the season of "Best of ...", I thought I'd chime in with my choices for best Dragon covers of 2005. Since I'm not an art critic, just someone who knows what he likes and doesn't like, I'd love to hear what others think on this subject.
1st. August. "We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat." Peter Bergting
2nd. October. "Mummy I'd Like To Flank." James Ryman.
3rd. May. "Well-Provisioned Explorer." Steve Prescott.
4th. March. "Medusa's Stony Gaze." Scott Fischer.
Honorable mention: September. "Dishonored Moonblade." Matt Dixon.
I just wanted to say happy thanksgiving to everyone out there in D&D land, as well as to everyone who makes Dungeon and Dragon magazines the top-notch publications that they are. Thanks for the great reads and awesome artwork these past 12 months. This is a great online community.
My very best wishes I save for those D&D players who are serving in uniform at ships at sea and on foreign shores. Thank you for your service, for guarding our borders and for preserving freedom far from home. We pray you return safe -- and that in the future the only encounters with hostiles you have are at the gaming table.
Everyone keep rolling d20s.
Given the 11 core classes, the "witch" class description in the DMG, and the 3 classes detailed in each of the Complete books ...
I was wondering if there is a strong fantasy archetype that has yet to be detailed as a character class?
If so ... what is it and what shape should it take, conceptually?
In a good way.
I've loved lizardmen, er lizardfolk (sorry 'bout that ... don't wanna be a gender snob), ever since I first read about them in the novel Quag Keep. way back in 19-- (errr, we won't say how far back).
Anyway, this geezer says Bravo to Amber and Wes. You guys did the old scalies justice with your Ecology article in 335. And hey, I learned Eberron has lizardfolk, too -- so the place has got something goin' for it. I may have to visit it sometime.
Anyway, good article. Liked the lizardfolk feats, lizardfolk legends and the lizardfolk tactics. So congratulations for laying an egg.
Thanks Erik for writing such a nice appreciation on the life of Andre Norton. Learning the story behind how Quag Keep was written was really an added touch. The novel may not be considered her greatest work, but to those of who play in the Dungeons and Dragons back yard, it was a priceless contribution to our game. Thanks for remembering her in the June issue.
I absolutely loved the Plunderer's Handbook. A lot of nifty tricks for mundane items. Even for experienced players, it was a good reminder of what clever players can do with some simple stuff.
As a player of bards, I've always had a signal whistle in my pack.
Unfortunately, my DM is of the belief that sounding a signal whistle is nothing more than ringing the dinner bell for wandering monsters.
Every time I blow the signal whistle, out comes his percentage die ....
So, has anyone else found ways to use the plunderer's handbook?
Has your DM foiled your use of the suggestions?
What have your experiences in game play been?
Cue up the music from the Sound of Music. Issue 331 had bunches and bunches of "My Favorite Things."
From cover to cover, here are just a few:
I love new equipment.
Us rules geeks too often overlook the quality of illustrations in Dragon. But I was really struck by the artwork for The Umbragen article.
Steve Prescott and David Wahlstrom really captured the exotic feel of Xen'drik and the shadow elves themselves in the two main pieces of art -- the ones of the drow in the temple ruins and later the drow taking down the mind flayers.
As you can see, I've decided to adopt the archer's profile for my avatar. (Tough choice, since I was attached to Gimble the bard). Way to go fellas!
With great sadness I note the passing of science fiction and fantasy's grand dame, Andre Norton. Long before TSR had a fiction department, Norton wrote Quag Keep, in which D&D roleplayers actually become their characters and embark on a quest for Quag Keep.
I invite you to share your favorite Norton novels and stories here. Surely there are Witch World fans in the audience.
Well, you've done it again Amber.
You've provided information so useful I can't ignore it.
That rooftop scrambler background will work great for an NPC I'm building for our spring Selgaunt campaign. I can't wait to see the PC's reaction to the NPC skipping merrily along the ledge while making his/her escape.
Well Amber, you've done it again. Another article with information so useful I can't ignore it.
That Rooftop Scrambler background is going to be perfect for an NPC I'm building for our spring Selgaunt campaign. I can't wait to see the PC's reactions when they watch the NPC skipping along the ledge making his/her escape.
Maybe I'll suggest one of them take a look at becoming the Masked Avenger. That'll balance things out ... maybe.
Well done on the Mesopotamian Mythos deities. Very well done!
The research behind the mythology really showed in the details. If this doesn't get anyone to try gaming in the Bronze Age, I don't know what will.
I've used the Sumerian cosmology for one of my games. Not only was I struck by the many similarities, but I'm so intrigued by some of your choices it looks like I'll be adopting them.
Now all we need is the ecology of the Bull of Heaven, and we're all set to go looking for the Sacred Me.
Again, well done.
Thanks for Richard Pett for coming up with the 100 useless items. What a great way to dress up a dungeon.
My favorite? No. 13, a mirror with the words "I am the most" written on the face in goblin.
I think it appeals to the narcissist in every goblin.
I'd love to hear what others think is their favorite.
Before incorporating the concept of flaws into game play, I'd like to know what the experiences were for other gamers.
Do flaws enhance game play?
I ask because when we played Swashbuckling Adventures, those rules incorporated Virtues and Wiles, which work in the same fashion as flaws. The reaction was mixed, and in many cases, we felt created unbalanced game play.