Cover illustration for volume 2. Click to enlarge.

What's Pathfinder All About?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

By this time, you've probably heard all about Pathfinder, Paizo's brand-new Adventure Path series. (If you haven't, of course, you should drop whatever you're doing and go check out Yet even now that you know what's going to be in Pathfinder, you're probably wondering what it's all about. The vision behind it. Where its heart's at. And to answer that, we've brought in James Jacobs, Pathfinder's Editor-in-Chief. Says James:

"Pathfinder's at once the most exciting and the scariest thing I've worked on here at Paizo. On one hand, it's a chance to dive headfirst into a brand-new world and craft a story from scratch for you to run your players through. And on the other… it's a chance to dive headfirst into a brand-new world and craft a story from scratch for you to run your players through. There's no convoluted canon or established game history to work around and make sure that we've got right, but that also means there's no awesome nostalgia or tradition to build off of. We have to start completely from scratch... right?

"Well, not quite. There are still an awful lot of classic monsters and other material we can use in the SRD. And while we can't really build directly off of established canon, we can certainly draw upon themes from the early days. We can also do the same thing that Gygax, Kuntz, Arneson, and the others did back at the game's dawning—we can draw upon real world myth. So as you read through Pathfinder's first Adventure Path and begin to uncover the sinister conspiracy that has driven the stone giants of the Storval Plateau to war, you might also see a few familiar names and themes from real-world myth popping up now and then, like Lamashtu, Baba Yaga, the seven deadly sins, and even Asmodeus.

Welcome to Varisia!

"The first step to building a new Adventure Path was a doozy, though For Pathfinder, we didn't have the luxury of a pre-existing game world to set our campaign in. Before I could even start writing the first adventure to Rise of the Runelords, I needed a world to set it in.

It all started with Erik Mona building up an enormous T-shaped map over the course of several sheets of graph paper. What he ended up with was several continents; way too much room for a single campaign. So I chose one relatively small (small as in "about the size of California") section of his map and started filling in the blanks. At the same time, the rest of the Pathfinder team—F. Wesley Schneider and James Sutter—and I began to work out the plotline for the inaugural Adventure Path: Rise of the Runelords. To a certain extent, the shape of this new region was dictated by the plot we came up with: we needed a mountain range to rival the Himalayas, a vast cliff face stretching hundreds of miles, and remnants from an ancient empire.

The result is the realm of Varisia.

During the course of Rise of the Runelords, we'll visit six major locations on the map of Varisia, including two cities, two legendary mountains, a fortress of giants, and a lost city. Yet those account for only six dots on a map—at current count, Varisia's got approximately 40 locations (including cities like lawless Riddleport and ruins like sinister Brinewall) and 20 sub-regions (including the inhospitable Mushfens, haunted Ashwood, and the giant-ruled Storval Plateau) waiting to be explored. Some of these might get some exposure in Rise of the Runelords, others will be the focus of GameMastery modules, and some are destined to be the stars of future Pathfinder Adventure Paths. But the point isn't to build just what we need for the next few Paizo releases—there's enough adventure in Varisia to set dozens of campaigns.

"Over the next several days, I'll be revealing more about Varisia, Rise of the Runelords, and other exciting developments on the Pathfinder front here on this blog. Want a taste? Then check out these notes I've jotted down for one of those mysterious locations on the regional map of Varisia—the remote island of Chorak's Rest.

Chorak's Rest

Although the Varisians have no name for this tiny and remote island, the giants of the Gnasher Mountains do. They call the place Chorak's Rest, after the legendary warlord said to be buried in a great tomb there. The giants of the Storval Plateau were not always the barbarians they are today; this much is obvious from even a brief perusal of the texts stored in the History Wing of the Great Library of Magnimar. Yet the giants of Chorak's Rest seem to have retained more of the old ways than their brutish cousins in the Gnashers. Whispers hint that these island giants are the descendants of King Chorak's honor guard, and that they've remained guardians for the past several centuries, preventing approach to the island by giant and human alike. Boats attempting to land on the island are quickly bombarded with boulders and spears, and aerial approaches are shot down with massive ballista bolts carved with strange runes or blasted from the sky by bolts of lightning. Yet for all these defenses, none have approached close enough to determine what, exactly, is behind this prodigious defense. What awaits the lucky (unlucky?) souls who finally manage to reach the island's shores is unknown, but many treasure seekers are sure it would be well worth the trouble.

For daily news breaks, sneak previews, and behind-the-scenes insight into Pathfinder, the GameMastery product line, and other Paizo projects, stay tuned to this blog!

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Tags: Pathfinder Adventure Path Rise of the Runelords Varisia Wallpapers Wayne Reynolds
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