Prepare to Raise Hell

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I've got a lot of favorite parts of the Pathfinder campaign setting—if you've been following along for the last few years, there's a good chance you already know a few of them. Since we created the Pathfinder world, I've had a chance to explore the pits of Hell in the Book of the Damned, some of Golarion's mightiest treasures in Artifacts & Legends, and the gothic nightmare of Ustalav in both Rule of Fear and Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound. But in all that time there hasn't been a good opportunity to fully detail my favorite of Golarion's countless organizations. With the Hell's Rebels and Hell's Vengeance Adventure Paths, though, that's changed. This month, at long last, you'll learn more than has ever been revealed about the Pathfinder world's most infamous champions of law: the Hellknights.


Illustrations by Roberto Pitturru

Since their first appearance in the Rise of the Runelords Player's Guide, Hellknights have been a part of the Pathfinder campaign setting. In those crazy frontier days of Golarion's creation, we didn't have all the setting's details fully defined. As a result, part of the goal of the player's guide for our first Adventure Path was to fake it. To that end, I wrote in a whole weave of loose ends, threads suggestive of places yet to be visited, threats without faces, and groups bound to be enemies or allies. One of these organizations—described among the ranks of paladins, if you can believe it!—were the Hellknights. There wasn't much more than a name for the group, but the grim title immediately stuck, so much so that we got our first glimpse of these dark armored crusaders as early as Pathfinder Adventure Path #2: The Skinsaw Murders.

Over time there'd be drips and drabs revealing more on the Hellknights, particularly in our campaign setting hardcovers and in two meaty articles I wrote for Pathfinder Adventure Path #27 and #28. Liane Merciel's newest novel, Pathfinder Tales: Hellknight, also has more than a little to do with these grim mercenaries. But beyond those books, there hasn't been a ton more on the relentless order. It's been too long.

The drought ends now.

Today presents the first of three previews of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Path of the Hellknight. While my name's on the book's cover as author, this title owes most of its coolest bits to star developers Amanda Hamon-Kunz and John Compton, who not just contributed a host of ingenious new player options, but made me sound like I know what's what. Creative Design Director Sarah Robinson also somehow managed to outdo herself once again, not just by wrangling incredible art, but by creating a gorgeous interior evocative of dark iron and bloody crimson. As for the content, today I'll show you a bit from the first chapter, a section that provides an overview of the Hellknights as a whole, the group's history, methods, philosophies, and the like. Throughout this series I'll also be showing off snippets and symbols of all seven of the major Hellknight orders, starting with the Order of the Chain and Order of the Gate.

Order without Mercy

Path of the Hellknight's first chapter focuses on the Hellknights as an organization, their history, their unyielding philosophy—the Measure and the Chain—and more of the traditions and trails that bind their distinct orders. There's also a fantastic piece of art depicting the Hellknights' founder, Daidian Rhul, along with details on his deeds and mysterious disappearance. The section also includes a discussion of what it means to play a Hellknight character. Being zealots, Hellknights are similar to paladins in some ways and bring with them some of the challenges one might expect with inflexible heroes. To that end, the section includes big picture advice for players and GMs alike planning to bring Hellknight characters into their games—such as the following.

Hellknight Philosophy at the Table: Hellknights seek to embody supreme order, refuse to compromise their ideals, and do everything they can to uphold their philosophies. People and circumstances that don't fit into their definition of order must be stamped out to meet their vision of progress. For some, this extends to whole religions, cultures, or philosophies. When making a character, discuss with your group whether a Hellknight character is right for your party—Hellknights and law-breaking characters are unlikely to work well together. Also, discuss with the group and GM how appropriate themes of intolerance are in your game. Behaving in ways that make other players uncomfortable simply because your character is a Hellknight is neither respectful nor fun. Consider that lawful neutral Hellknights of any order tend to focus on the harsh judgment of societal vices, while lawful good characters usually work at the organization's fringes, hunting down criminals and bringing justice to civilization's frontiers. Lawful evil members are the ones who tend to commit acts of prejudice and intolerance. Remember that every Hellknight order has members focused on different tasks, meaning that it's your choice whether your member of the Order of the Nail is either a righteous traveling judge or a vicious murderer—make the character that's right for your entire group.

Beyond this introduction chapter, the book spends considerable space focusing on the various Hellknight orders. Each section features details on the order's organization, philosophy, citadel, prominent members, tenets, suggested rules for Hellknight characters, and new options for Hellknight heroes and villains. Every one of these chapters begins with an overview of fundamental information, including rules elements that tie in with the new Hellknight Obedience feat—an option similar to Inner Sea Gods' Divine Obedience feat—which grants a host of new powers to an order's most fanatical members. All one has to do is take the feat... and perform an excruciating daily reckoning. I'll show off the reckonings here, but the powers themselves can wait for now.


Illustration by Daniel Lopez

After this first chapter, Path of the Hellknight turns its attention to each of the major Hellknight factions. For this first preview, here are a few glimpses of the Order of the Chain and the Order of the Gate.


Illustration by Damien Mammoliti

Order of the Chain

Symbol hand wrapped in chains
Headquarters Citadel Gheradesca, near Corentyn
Leader Lictor Uro Adom (LN male human fighter 5/HellknightISWG 7)
Members guards, sleuths, trackers, victims of outlaws
Armor Features lock-and-chain design, manacle-like gauntlets, helms reminiscent of iron prisoners' masks
Favored Weapon flail
Reckoning Crush your limbs with tightened chains. Gain a +2 bonus on combat maneuver checks when attempting to disarm, grapple, or trip opponents.

The Order of the Chain counts among its ranks the greatest Hellknight bounty hunters and jailors. Believing that everyone has a vital role to play in society, the order seeks to remove those who irredeemably deny their place and who actively impede civilization's progress. Rather than slaying criminals and nonconformists outright, the Order of the Chain forces most of its captives into lengthy terms of service in work camps. The most dangerous malefactors are sequestered in the order's fortress-prison, Citadel Gheradesca. Few criminals surrender easily, and so members of the Order of the Chain train in a variety of fields: tracking, criminal psychology, investigation, and interrogation, to name a few. Little strikes greater dread in a lawbreaker than knowing she's become a Hellknight of the Chain's quarry.

Along with details on the structure and fugitive hunting techniques of the group, players of Order of the Chain Hellknights can also expect a variety of new rules and uses for restraints, from fetters and iron masks to new uses for common manacles.


Illustration by Damien Mammoliti

Order of the Gate

Symbol infernal eye staring out from a swirling portal
Headquarters Citadel Enferac, east of Pezzack
Leader Vicarius Giordano Torchia (LE male human wizard 11/HellknightISWG 2)
Members devil worshipers, intellectuals, planar-blooded outcasts, spellcasters
Armor Features helm with a vortex-like pattern, crimson robes
Favored Weapon dagger
Reckoning Etch complex symbols of penitence into your flesh with a dagger. Gain a +4 bonus on Will saving throws to resist divination spells and spell-like abilities.

Punishment is a response to the failure of law. To the members of the Order of the Gate, true order can be achieved only when criminal behavior is quelled before it is committed—preferably before it is even considered. The Order of the Gate doesn't seek to convince every free-willed creature of a lawful society's virtues, because its members believe that forces stronger than rhetoric must be used to prevent the sickness of criminal impulse. Thus, the Order of the Gate employs magic to enforce its vision of law.

Would-be Order of the Gate Hellknights can look forward to learning a measure of this spellcasting order's secrets, including invasive new scrying techniques, methods for shielding spellcasters, and the order's connections to planes beyond.

Keep on the lookout for more previews of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Path of the Hellknight, as I'll be covering the rest of the major Hellknight orders soon, along with plenty more glimpses of the dreads to come.

Thanks for reading!

F. Wesley Schneider
Editor-in-Chief

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Damien Mammoliti Daniel Lopez Hellknights Pathfinder Campaign Setting Roberto Pitturru

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

In the 5th paragraph, you mentioned the Order of the Godclaw when I think you meant to mention the Order of the Gate.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

I'm so ready. ^_^


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Path of The Hellknight? You mean Path of Badassery ♥

I really can't wait for this!!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

These guys seem to pop up everywhere and I'm really looking forward to being able to flesh them out with official material. Awesome!


Oh, the art all looks amazing. I am greatly looking forwards to this particular book.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Did you think of adding a useful bonus for the gate hellnight reckoning or is it really bad on purpose?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I am very ready for this! Looking forward to reading about the Pyre.

Editor-in-Chief

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CWheezy wrote:
Did you think of adding a useful bonus for the gate hellnight reckoning or is it really bad on purpose?

I think a lot of folks will be excited to have that bonus after they read the section on the Order of the Gate.

Thought police sure aren't immune to being accused of thought crime. ;)


Hmm, thought the Order of the Gate were more about keeping people from poking reality in bad ways.


Will there be advice on how to integrate good and evil characters into one party? We've seen Hellknights as both LG and LE, and I'd love to see examples of how good Hellknights interact with evil ones. I picture Batman Begins, where Gordon is a good cop and his partner is on the take, but they're bound together by the law.


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Is the Vicarius of the Gate supposed to be a Hellknight rather than a Signifier?
If so, why?

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Lord Twitchiopolis wrote:

Is the Vicarius of the Gate supposed to be a Hellknight rather than a Signifier?

If so, why?

I'm guessing it's because it matches his listing in the article in Pathfinder Adventure Path #27: What Lies In Dust, which (obviously) predates the Hellknight signifer prestige class.

That said, it's an odd choice in a post-signifer world. Perhaps it slipped through the cracks during the writing process. ^_^


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Can anyone legally give us a sneak preview of archetypes, prestige class updates, Hellknight Obedience, etc?


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I am sure that we can do that some time next week after we get our shipping notices. The earliest previews should start Monday evening if things follow the usual pattern.

Silver Crusade

Hellknights are fully deserving of their own book, they have always been an evocative part of Golarion. Having a majority LN was a great idea in the first place, making them possible allies as well as enemies.

I hope we can make groups like this, my idea for a Hellknight secret police party of terrifying and humorless NPCs: Investigator, Inquisitor of Abadar, Mesmerist and Sword Saint/Hellknight/Justicar

Editor-in-Chief

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Lord Twitchiopolis wrote:

Is the Vicarius of the Gate supposed to be a Hellknight rather than a Signifier?

If so, why?

He is.

Hellknights, even the most magically inclined orders, are still a martial organization. Commanders seen as weak or as unwilling to stand in the front ranks are less respected and, thus, have a more tenuous grip on their authority. As a result, even spellcasters who rise to significant rank among the Hellknights often go through the same trials as rank-and-file members, preventing any from claiming they're not "true" Hellknights.

Also, as you'll soon see, Lictor Torchia and Lictor Wrens are far too pretty to hide behind signifer masks.


You'd think the facial scars from standing in the front ranks without a mask would have fixed that problem.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Scars can be pretty!


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

They can also be sensitive.... >:)


"Bad ways" would be pretty subjective, since I'm pretty sure the Order of the Gate is one of the most-commonly-evil-aligned orders. They do have that discipline that summons devils, after all.


Not actually sure they ever break down "These are the ones that go Evil most." Other than saying that Order of the Torrent is particularly Good Aligned, but as players we can make some educated guesses. Admittedly the stopping crimes before you consider them is a bit Orwellian, but all the Orders summon Devils. Signifiers of the Order of the Gate might be less likely to go bad, simply due to their being fewer Devils summoned per Signifier.

Liberty's Edge

So, what orders do you guys think are more "PC friendly"?

Silver Crusade

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Paladinosaur wrote:
So, what orders do you guys think are more "PC friendly"?

Order of the God Claw venerates aspects of Abadar, Asmodeus, Iomedae, Irori, and Torag, has Paladins, and sends Hellknights to fight in the Worldwound, so they might be seen abroad and some might be sympathetic. There's some funny business with them in Hell's Vengeance though, and they are meant to be notoriously zealous and bonkers so your mileage may vary.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Paladinosaur wrote:
So, what orders do you guys think are more "PC friendly"?

The Order of the Torrent is a minor order of predominantly good-aligned Hellknights.

The Godclaw, Scourge, Nail, and Pyre all have workable elements, depending upon the group.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

The Dark Prince be praised! The sourcebook of prophecy is upon us!


3 people marked this as a favorite.

We will have order in this Kingdom even if I have to kill all of you to get it.


Cole Deschain wrote:
Paladinosaur wrote:
So, what orders do you guys think are more "PC friendly"?

The Order of the Torrent is a minor order of predominantly good-aligned Hellknights.

The Godclaw, Scourge, Nail, and Pyre all have workable elements, depending upon the group.

yep those are the good ones for pc's

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