|Shaun Hocking Contributor|
|Michael Brock Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator|
|Benchak the Nightstalker RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8|
I haven't had a chance to sit down and really dig into my copy of Asylum Stone after it came in today, but the bit about an old story called "The Orphan and the Rider" and the message it got across got me to thinking.
You know how in those Elder Scrolls videogames you can find books lying around everywhere? Some are works of fiction, some are travel journals, some are religious treatices, some are scientific studies, and so on. Some of these are accurately factual, some are filled with inaccuracies and half-truths colored by the perceptions of the writer, and some are just flatout wrong.
Back to Shattered Star: The PCs are most likely going to be staying at Heidmarch Manor. There's a library in there. The material available to PCs during their downtime covers a wide range of topics and ways of covering them, and that's before getting into whatever Pathfinder Journal volumes might be available. Varisia is filled to the brim with old stories and legends that have been told time and time again, probably changing over the generations.
For players new to Varisia or Golarion, and for groups that want to get more immersed in the setting and specifically the AP, making a lot of the books you might be expected to find in the manor available in a stripped-down but still flavorful style could be a real boost. Some things in particular might resonate much more with players that have actually read The Orphan and the Rider early in the campaign rather than first hearing of it when their character makes their first relevant knowledge check for it. Each book would probably be no longer than a brochure, and these could just be left around the table for players to browse during downtime or to take home.
There's no shortage for innacurate* books on the ancient history of Varisia, and any number of theories with varying degrees of truth could be put forth for curious and investigative players to latch onto. It could help with foreshadowing as well, though one would want to be careful not to give too much away(though if one's reading clicks at just the right moment and leads them to conclusions that wind up saving the day or making a breakthrough, it should certainly feel rewarding for those players).
Has anyone done this before? How did it work out for your groups? And what topics from and around the Shattered Star AP would you want to touch on with such "mini-books"?
*Heck, Darvayne Gios Amprei practically made his name on that, didn't he?
Current potential library:
The Orphan and the Rider - A grim fable touching on one of the bloodiest legends in Avistan and featuring a very unhappy end
A highly speculative "historical" text on the ancient empire of Varisia painting it with a utopian lens.
An incomplete and ambiguous catalogue of the fleshforged creations of Alaznist.
An incident report involving faceless stalker predation in Magnimar with references to:
A sketchy archaelogical report and collection of legend fragments concerning strange races brought to Varisia and enslaved by ancient Thassilon.
Random fables or reports involving random creatures that may or may not show up in the AP.
An outdated travel journal detailing the then-current state of things in Kaer Maga.
A travel journal of a scholar who spent time amongst the Shriikirri-Quah, filled with cultural details seen through a more open-minded but still Chelish lens.
An alarmist pamphlet detailing the arrival of the Order of the Nail Hellknights issued on the streets of Magnimar during the reign of Queen Domina in Korvosa.
Partial reports covering the events of Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne, and Second Darkness.
A collection of poems and prayers gathered from some of Magnimar's Empyreal mystery cults.
A collection of a long missing/deceased horror writer's stories punctuated with a collection of rambling letters touching on subjects possibly including Leng, intellect devourers, or qlippoths.
Recovered partial rubbings and translations of ancient Thassilonian texts, some of which touch on the feats and deeds of specific Runelords.
A collection of traditional Varisian folk songs.
A detailed report of the Irespan disaster.
An obscure poem extolling the terrible glory of an unknown goddess(Lissala).
I've been somewhat successful with a similar approach. Every session I make sure I have one page per player as a handout concerning some topic which provides the players with background information. Note that my players aren't really into the Pathfinder setting and don't interact with it outside the gaming sessions. I just take some articles from the Pathfinder Wiki and add/remove some parts (and subsequently are now grotesque chimeras of Dutch/English documents).
So far I've done a summary on ancient Thassilon and all the Runelords, a bit about Magnimar (the founding of it by the paladin and the Ordellia-angel thing, the names of the districts and some nice monuments/Irespan) and some details about the Irespan and the Underbridge district.
It succeeded in giving the players (not the player characters) some hints of things to come and some insight on the relevance of the events in the AP, as well as providing a sensible motivation for the needs of the NPC's and a gentle nudge in the right direction.
In my experience, the success of these kind of added background information pamphlets (or little books) is severely dependent on your players lust for knowledge. Considering 90% of all of the PC-game players of Elder Scrolls, or Baldurs Gate never reads any of the books littering around in the game-world (I made up that number), one probably should expect the same kind of interest from the average Pathfinder player.
About information density; less is more. And non-relevance might end up in non-interest. Also; images really help sometimes! I would definitively add something about the denizens below Kaer Maga when my players are about to start part 3.
I may write some stuff up as well. My PC in Skull & Shackles is a Thassilonian wizard and mad scholar on Vasrisian/Thassilonian lore (which she gets no play with on a boat full of mental savages), and after that campaign's done, I'm moving her back to Varisia to continue her research/be a recurring NPC. I figure she's written some history book or books on Thassilon, in particular Eurythnia (her region/magic school of choice), so I might write up an Elder-Scrolls-esque couple of pages as, say, an excerpt from her book (which if it was written IRL would prolly be in the 900+ page range, since she SO loves to prattle).
Barring that, there are a few bits from Eidolon and Merciless: Abendego, Belkzen, Varisia, and Other Hells (I think that's the title) in a couple APs and whatnot. Oh and the Darklands one- or is that a Pathfinder Chronicle? I might copy those out and make easy-peasy PDF printables out of 'em, like I did with the Kingmaker Charter.
I'd personally love to see what everyone comes up with, and while I know my group, and most of them wouldn't bother to read any of it, I'd still like to have a pile around in case they do (sometimes folk get bored when they show up early or there's a game-break for a food run).
A few from Mikaze's list I'd love to write:
Other stuff I'd love to do:
A brief write-up of subsequent explorations of Xin-Shalast
A journal from one of the former Gray Maidens, either a now-slain one or maybe one of the others mentioned in the article (or maybe even just the Shattered Steel fiction, prettied up as a book)
A collection of information on the cult of Lissala (unless I get the PDFs of the PFS scenarios detailing all that, this one will be in the "partially inaccurate" pile)
Anything- ANYTHING- on the Peacock Spirit
Dudes, go for it! :D
I know for certain that a Xin-Shalast write-up would get used as a prop by Sheila Heidmarch during the initial breakdown of what that branch of the Society's goals in Varisia are.
Gonna try and get a few done after the Halloween project for the forum is done. Probably the faceless stalker reports and outdated Kaer Maga book.
Still picking out a font for this; once I decide, I'll put up a PDF of the document in print-friendly form, and later I may do a version for fancy handouts with a background and such.
Anyhoo. Here goes, edited for Paizo formatting.
From Whence Sin?
The following is a written record of a sermon delivered by Imam Zhadul an-Kaziim, a Sarenite high priest in the year 4392 AR, translated from the original Kelish into common Taldane. All due diligence has been observed to keep the nuance of the words and phrases used as accurate as possible; where such efforts proved to no avail, a similar Taldane idiom or concept has been substituted. As the translator of this particular sermon, I take all blame for any inaccuracies in the text, and am willing to discuss such matters via personal correspondence.
Yours in brotherhood and scholarship,
-Father Orisio Julerre
My fellow travelers in the Dawnflower's grace, I speak to you gathered here today on a matter that sits heavy in the heart of our faith and our people. So many of you, my brothers and sisters, have come to me and say, I walk the Virtuous Path in the footsteps of the Empyreal Ascended, yet temptation besets me! And in the foreigners, and in the Heathens, and yes, even amongst our own, we see sin spring forth! So, Blessed Imam, He Who Sees Her at Dawn, from whence sin?
Now, those who seek to curry favor, or to press the agenda, or who tow the line of the Satrap, they will say to you, it is the Taldanes, menacing us from their northern perch, who place the seed of sin within us! Or they will cry out, it is the mutterings of the discontent of Osirion who plant that seed within our breast!
Such are the words of those with noble intent but short-sighted goals. Yes, the Taldane does wave his straight sword at us. Yes, the Osiriani, desiring a return to their ancient and decadent ways, threatens revolution. But sin- from whence comes sin?
The Birth of Light and Truth tells us the hand can offer Food and Water, or it can offer Suffering and Death. The Heart can Love, or it can Desire. But only the Mind decides which to give. So it is not the foreign agent, or the unruly tribe, but us- we, ourselves- from whence sin doth spring. Let me take you down the path.
Within the mind we find our needs, our wants, our hopes, our fears. Within the mind we see the coin of virtue and sin. Our gate to virtue is Humility. Our gate to sin is Pride. The humble man seeks to raise up others; the prideful man seeks only to raise up himself. One is a fulfilling goal, the other a hollow one. It is between these two gates where we see the lure of sin, and from that lure, we are so led down further into its dark grasp.
In Pride, we seek to better our own station, to fill the hollowness within. And in from that hollow comes Greed, draped in silks and golden finery, tempting us. A man of means can buy his heart's desire, we say to ourselves. Surely, with Greed, with wealth, can I not find happiness? The answer- and ask any miser upon his death-bed- is no. But such is the temptations of Greed that we ignore the calling of Generosity, and so pass by another virtue.
With Greed firmly in our minds, we still feel that emptiness in our hearts. One wonders: if the pleasures of wealth cannot sustain me, surely I desire a lover who can complete me. Enters brazen Lust, cooing sweet platitudes of ecstasy and joy. With Greed placated, we can spend meager coin to find our satisfactions, and in seeking the pleasures of the flesh, we ignore Love, beckoning us to return to virtue.
Lust satiated within the breast, we wonder further at the emptiness that still pervades us: I am proud, and I am rich, and I am satisfied carnally beyond my wildest desires. Why do I still feel so alone? Within our belly growls Gluttony: you do not seek temporal pleasures, my child. You seek to truly possess. To consume. You, my child, hunger. You have fed on power, wealth, and desire. Fill me and you fill all. And so in your indulgence of food and wine, you are deaf to sweet Temperance, and pass by yet another virtue.
Bloated and drunk, one looks before one's own material possessions, and wonders: the others I see, they seem so much happier. What do they have that I do not? And so we open ourselves to Envy, seeing what others possess and wishing it to be ours. Distant Charity calls, but we hear her not; after all, if all we own has not brought us joy, how can giving it away bring us to virtue?
Left with little else, one comes to realize the option for possessing our newfound desires is mighty Wrath. Targets of our need find themselves faced with hostility, violence, and murder, and we savor their suffering, for it means we now control their own possessions and in our hands lies their very lives. Kindness cries out for us to see the error in our ways, but the blood pumping in our ears keeps us from heeding her plea, and we casually bypass yet one more virtue.
And now we find ourselves delusional, rich, carnally desirous, obese, covetous, and violent. In our sin-addled mind shuffles Sloth, bidding us recline upon our glory. Our foes laid low, our desires quenched, there is little else for us to do but wait for the end. And so we do as he beckons, for after shoveling all this into that hole in ourselves, what more can we do to satisfy our needs? A distant shout- Zeal- asks us to rise and renounce sin, but by now, our hearts and minds are all but closed to the call, and we shut the final door on virtue.
So you ask me, from whence sin? And I reply, from our very selves.
I've got some ideas bubbling on the ol' brainpan. I'll see what tomorrow brings.
BTW, you could also use my Wayfinder previews, if you want. The latest one is here, but there's a bucket of others that might also prove to be at least an amusing diversion.
EDIT: I added the ones from last year to my dA Handouts gallery. Might add more if I get bored and can't sleep.
A Skymetal Primer
The famed seven known skymetals are legendary to most, ever sought but rarely found. In my duties as a member of the Pathfinders, I have spent over a decade working for Black Sovereign Ontar in order to gain his confidence and be granted access to the Silver Mount to better study these wondrous materials. While Numeria certainly possesses the largest supply of these metals, small quantities can be found all across the Inner Sea region, though rarely in amounts significant enough for even moderate-scale processing. The seven skymetal varieties are listed below alphabetically for convenience.
Also might be interested in the wiki's List of works which is trying to list all of the books/manuscripts/plays/songs/poems mentioned in the products. It may give you ideas on what you want to write...
The Tale of Rickle Peakes
Rickle Peakes they call'd by name
When chaos dawned upon our Age
He blamed the Herald for the crime
He took up arms, with blade in hand
He fled the halls of sweet wind songs
And so he dwells yet to this day