Worldscape Workbook—The Chainmail Bikini

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

We're a month away from the release of Pathfinder Worldscape #1, the launch of an all-new comic book series from our partners at Dynamite! Pathfinder Worldscape throws the Pathfinder adventurers Valeros, Seoni, Merisiel, and Kyra into a prison dimension that draws in the greatest warriors of three worlds, giving us the unique opportunity to cross over the Pathfinder adventurers with Dynamite's incredible roster of fantasy and pulp characters, including Red Sonja, John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, and a host of others. I'm quite excited about the series as a Pathfinder publisher and as a pulp fan, but to be perfectly frank, the thing that excites me most about Pathfinder Worldscape is the fact that I am writing it.

I've previously contributed scripts to the Pathfinder: Goblins!, Pathfinder: Origins, and Pathfinder: Hollow Mountain series, but this is my first go as the sole writer for all six issues, and overall the Worldscape project is one I've been working behind the scenes to make happen for years, almost since the very first Pathfinder comic ever came out. I'm thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to write comics featuring the iconic characters we created, but mixing that with the chance to script the exploits of characters created by Robert E. Howard (and Roy Thomas), Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Frank Frazetta pushes the experience over the top for me to the point that it's become a real creative highlight of my career.

Pathfinder Worldscape also provides me with the opportunity to work up official Pathfinder RPG game statistics for some of these legendary heroes. As with previous Pathfinder comics series, each issue of Worldscape contains a short RPG appendix and a pull-out miniatures-scale poster map. The first issue naturally leads with official game statistics for Red Sonja, one of Dynamite's flagship characters and one of the true pillars of sword & sorcery comics. Putting together Red Sonja's Pathfinder stats was a fascinating experience in game design and creative adaptation, and in the process of making it all work it occurred to me that it might be fun to open up my creative process a bit here on the Paizo blog, and discuss—step by step—my thought process on bringing these characters to life—Pathfinder style.

So, welcome to the first installment of the Worldscape Workbook, where I plan to do just that, on a more or less weekly basis. Throughout the month leading up to the Worldscape series and during the release of the issues themselves, I'll be opening up my brain here every Wednesday (because Wednesday is new comic book day!) and letting you know what went into adapting these characters, and why I made some of the decisions I did.

Even though I'm taking the design lead on this project, of course there are lots of other people involved, giving me suggestions, modifying my mistakes, and generally snickering about my bad decisions directly to my face in advance, ideally to spare me from all of you laughing in my face after the issue comes out, and it is too late to do anything about it. These conversations have taught me a lot about the design philosophy at play within Paizo's editorial and design department, and as I was sitting there thinking about how interesting it was to sink my teeth into this stuff, it occurred to me that a lot of you would probably find it pretty interesting, too.

I won't be posting the game statistics here on the blog—you've got to buy the issue for that—but I do plan to talk about why I made certain decisions, and (sometimes just as importantly) why I didn't make certain other design decisions (or why I did, and Jason Bulmahn made me change it). In the process I'll be revealing some of my own design blind spots and stupidities, which I figure some of you will also appreciate.

So let's begin at the beginning, with the character featured in next month's Pathfinder Worldscape #1: RED SONJA!

In the following weeks, I'll discuss things like Red Sonja's statistics, her new sword-devil archetype, her class, her equipment load-out, and so on, but first things first. I've got to address the chainmail bikini.

It goes without saying that there is not currently a bikini armor type in the Pathfinder RPG, so figuring out the value of Red Sonja's armor wasn't as simple as simply picking out something appropriate from the Core Rulebook. The smallest bit of armor there that's even remotely close is the chain shirt, and while the original version of Red Sonja way back in the 1970s DID wear a chain shirt (along with some fantastic hotpants), the current incarnation wears decidedly less material.

As an aside, one of my biggest surprises in researching about 100 issues of Red Sonja comics from various eras is that her chainmail bikini isn't really chainmail.

That's more appropriately a type of armor called "coin mail," which also isn't in the Core Rulebook, in bikini form or otherwise. So my first decision regarding Red Sonja's armor was that I was going to have to invent an entirely new type of armor for her, which I did:

New Armor Type: Decorative Armor

Little more than a few small patches of cloth adorned with bits of metal, decorative armor is more a fashion statement than practical protection. Despite its impracticality, decorative armor can be enchanted with enhancement bonuses and special armor qualities.

Cost 5 gp; Armor Bonus +0; Maximum Dex Bonus —; Armor Check Penalty 0; Arcane Spell Failure 5%; Speed (30 ft.) 30ft.; Speed (20 ft.) 20 ft.; Weight 5 lbs.

This passed muster with a couple of Paizo's developers, but "decorative armor" met its match when I passed it by Jason Bulmahn and Owen K.C. Stephens, who correctly pointed out that I had created it only as a kludge to get Red Sonja enhancement bonuses, and that this type of armor would be too tempting to monks and wizards, who would gain all of the upside while suffering none of the downside. Jason did thank me for at least putting that 5% spell failure chance in there, but I'd only done that as a trick to sneak it by him, and it didn't work.

So decorative armor was dead, as I pretty much knew it would be, and I had to figure out something else. To be honest, I wasn't too bothered, as the solution never really worked for me, anyway. Slapping three triangles of a dozen silver pieces over your breasts and crotch doesn't really make for effective protection of any kind, so facing rejection of my armor solution, I went back to my original original idea, which is far, far simpler.

Red Sonja's chainmail bikini isn't armor at all.

Instead, I decided, Red Sonja would derive most of her Armor Class from a combination of a naturally high Dexterity AND a special ability of her sword-devil archetype.

But an archetype requires a class, and what class is Red Sonja? Check back here next week, and I'll tell you!

In the meantime, check out a recent interview I did with Bleeding Cool about the series with lots of details on the plot, characters, and how the whole project came together.

You might also consider setting up a Pathfinder Comics Ongoing Subscription to make sure you don't miss the first issue, which hits comic stands on October 19th!

Thanks for your time, and we'll see you in next week's Worldscape Workbook!

Erik Mona
Publisher

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Calling it now: Paladin.

Dark Archive

I have been collecting the comics since issue #1 and at the beginning they weren't very acurate to the game.
They got better with the inclusion of the mini battle maps and recently the quality of the story matched the one of the RPG products.
And now we even get a new archetype of a martial character - how cool is that?

Pathfinder Worldscape #1 will be in stores on the 19th of october!


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I've liked the comics thus far.

I don't see that stopping anytime soon.


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I'm more than a little intrigued to see how Fantomah is going to get statted up.


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Awesome, Erik. Looking forward to watching some of your thinking and creative process. This blog series is going to make at least one nerd very, very happy. :)

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You should have just made the coin mail bikini a bracers of armor that takes up the body slot. I've seen several GMs take this approach in their home games when trying to homebrew bikinimail.


When this was announced I wasnt too thrilled about it. But seeing this type of thing gets me intruiged and Ive decided to keep my ongoing subscription. I loved loved Hollow Mountain. Have the artists been announced for the books?

Silver Crusade

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Cyrad wrote:
You should have just made the coin mail bikini a bracers of armor that takes up the body slot. I've seen several GMs take this approach in their home games when trying to homebrew bikinimail.

While that would have worked if a player wanted to make a Red Sonja character it wouldn't have for the purposes of making the Red Sonja, since to my knowledge her armor isn't magical.

Silver Crusade

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Also, dat one courtesan with the riding crop, oooooo...

Dark Archive

H2Osw wrote:
When this was announced I wasnt too thrilled about it. But seeing this type of thing gets me intruiged and Ive decided to keep my ongoing subscription. I loved loved Hollow Mountain. Have the artists been announced for the books?

Jonathan Lau is named for issue #1 and #2 (16th november).


Hmmmm...the warriors taken to another world for some grand battle has been done many times. My favorite was for the miniatures game called "Heroscape". Best minis game ever, in my opinion. I still get sad about Hasbro/WotC killing that product line.
Heroscape is the only game that can lure me away from Pathfinder for a time.

Grand Lodge

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Two little nit-picks about the above reasoning not to include that armor type:

1) Monk's would still be screwed, as their abilities are taken away when wearing ANY armor, regardless of stats inherent.

2) Wizards already have an amazing loophole: haramaki armor (Ultimate Equipment). That armor gives a +1 AC bonus, has no max dex penalty, no ACP, and no spell failure chance. It can be enchanted, and doesn't really require Light Armor Proficiency since no penalties for non-proficiency would be derived due to its stats.

EDIT: It's also cheaper than the above armor, and weighs less.

Silver Crusade

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Strife2002 wrote:

2) Wizards already have an amazing loophole: haramaki armor (Ultimate Equipment). That armor gives a +1 AC bonus, has no max dex penalty, no ACP, and no spell failure chance. It can be enchanted, and doesn't really require Light Armor Proficiency since no penalties would be derived due to its stats.

EDIT: It's also cheaper than the above armor, and weighs less.

Aaaaaaand now you've brought it to their attention :3

Grand Lodge

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Rysky wrote:
Strife2002 wrote:

2) Wizards already have an amazing loophole: haramaki armor (Ultimate Equipment). That armor gives a +1 AC bonus, has no max dex penalty, no ACP, and no spell failure chance. It can be enchanted, and doesn't really require Light Armor Proficiency since no penalties would be derived due to its stats.

EDIT: It's also cheaper than the above armor, and weighs less.

Aaaaaaand now you've brought it to their attention :3

Lol. Also, devs, you forgot to give us homework, and I think last week you mentioned something about a pop-quiz?

Silver Crusade

That is a fun idea, I like the mixing genres and stories thing, it is tried and tested in comics. Keen to read them.

And Erik says he's statting them up. Okay then...

Tarzan is some spell-less Ranger, unarmed fighting style, Cheeta is his maxed-out chimpanzee AC. He has ridiculous Wild Empathy, Trackless Stride, Speak With Animals. Favoured Enemy humans (not Jane though), brachiation speed 60'.

He's also prone to going crazy and has a mighty jungle call so maybe a dash of Barbarian with some noisy rage power.


You can add an armoured kilt to the Haramaki armour for an extra +1 AC.

It might slow you down if your character is not a dwarf.


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Another solution I've seen where the character art depicts an inappropriately attired PC, but the player wants something more practical, is to spring for the cost of the glamered armor quality. Suddenly you've got your platemail or what have you but it now looks exactly like your character sketch. The cost makes it impractical at low levels, but with the flat cost, at higher levels, it's workable.


I've always assumed that the chainmail bikini is in fact glamered armour - proper armour made to look like a chainmail bikini.


My first thought when they said they were statting out Sonja, was a Slayer.
She's a warrior but she always seemed to rely more on her skill, speed and accuracy in combat.

Shadow Lodge

Slayer or Brawler

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber

Congrats on getting this going Erik! Red Sonja?!? you get to play with Red Sonja?!? Wow! :) :) :)

Next project: Conan and Merisiel team-up? :)


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Shouldn't a chain mail bikini also have a plus to diplomacy skill check if the person could be attracted to you and a minus to opposing spell casters concentration checks?

Contributor

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Strife2002 wrote:

Two little nit-picks about the above reasoning not to include that armor type:

1) Monk's would still be screwed, as their abilities are taken away when wearing ANY armor, regardless of stats inherent.

2) Wizards already have an amazing loophole: haramaki armor (Ultimate Equipment). That armor gives a +1 AC bonus, has no max dex penalty, no ACP, and no spell failure chance. It can be enchanted, and doesn't really require Light Armor Proficiency since no penalties for non-proficiency would be derived due to its stats.

EDIT: It's also cheaper than the above armor, and weighs less.

Silken ceremonial armor also says hi.


Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber
waynemarkstubbs wrote:
I've always assumed that the chainmail bikini is in fact glamered armour - proper armour made to look like a chainmail bikini.

I second this. Why can't she wear glamored armor?

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

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Strife2002 wrote:

Two little nit-picks about the above reasoning not to include that armor type:

1) Monk's would still be screwed, as their abilities are taken away when wearing ANY armor, regardless of stats inherent.

2) Wizards already have an amazing loophole: haramaki armor (Ultimate Equipment). That armor gives a +1 AC bonus, has no max dex penalty, no ACP, and no spell failure chance. It can be enchanted, and doesn't really require Light Armor Proficiency since no penalties for non-proficiency would be derived due to its stats.

EDIT: It's also cheaper than the above armor, and weighs less.

There was an earlier draft of decorative armor that specifically said it didn't count as wearing armor. After that failed, I made one of her archetype powers work so long as you didn't have an armor bonus (which decorative armor didn't provide), but the whole thing turned into a rabbit hole and I ended up going with a much simpler solution.

The haramaki definitely came up often in our discussion.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

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Ask a Shoanti wrote:

Another solution I've seen where the character art depicts an inappropriately attired PC, but the player wants something more practical, is to spring for the cost of the glamered armor quality. Suddenly you've got your platemail or what have you but it now looks exactly like your character sketch. The cost makes it impractical at low levels, but with the flat cost, at higher levels, it's workable.

I felt like that was a cop-out in this case. I can get away with giving Sonja bracers because she wears armbands, which is close enough. She doesn't wear invisible plate mail, so far as I've noticed. A lot of the rules I make for myself in how I go about this are, frankly, arbitrary, but trying to keep it close to the stuff the character actually has is a necessity for me.


Color me intrigued!


MythicFox wrote:
I'm more than a little intrigued to see how Fantomah is going to get statted up.

Fantomah? Is that the French pulp-era master criminal? Or am I thinking of Fantomas instead?


Red Sonja's Coin-Mail Bikini should definitely have the same statistics as a Haramaki. Just call it what you like in her stat block, and in the possessions area list it as follows:
Coin-Mail Bikini (as Mwk Haramaki). Boom-done.
If they didn't want wizards to ever be able to wear actual armor, they shouldn't have published armor they could wear in Ultimate Combat.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Erik Mona wrote:
But an archetype requires a class, and what class is Red Sonja? Check back here next week, and I'll tell you!

You kinda let it slip before, with that EN World article that showed that she's a level 7 ranger.

That said, I'm quite hyped for this comic series; I just side-cart'd a preorder, and can't wait for it to arrive! I'm also very interested in these design diaries, as I always find these peaks behind the proverbial curtain fascinating.

In this case, I'm intrigued by the process that went into the coinmail (née chainmail) bikini armor, since insofar as I'm aware this is probably the most serious treatment that that particular trope has ever received in the tabletop RPG industry. It's a shame it's not going to be an actual armor that anyone can wear, though I agree that as written the above armor is little more than an excuse to get enhancement bonuses (even if haramaki armor does that already, as others have noted).

...but what I really want to know is, why does Sonja have a +1 shield bonus to her AC? Doesn't she typically fight with a two-handed style, rather than sword-and-shield?


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YES! YES! YES! WE'RE GETTING A ARCHETYPE FOR RED SONYA? YES! FLIPPIN HAIRY GODS YES! THIS IS SO COOL! :D

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Two-Weapon Defense would grant her a +1 shield bonus.


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Are we also getting Pathfinder stats for Sonja? If so, YIPPE! :D

Silver Crusade

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Berselius wrote:
Are we also getting Pathfinder stats for Sonja? If so, YIPPE! :D

Yep.


Eric Hinkle wrote:
MythicFox wrote:
I'm more than a little intrigued to see how Fantomah is going to get statted up.
Fantomah? Is that the French pulp-era master criminal? Or am I thinking of Fantomas instead?

Fantomah (with an h at the end) is one of the very first female superheroes. She later became a pretty stock jungle girl, but she started as basically a jungle Ghost Rider, whose face transformed into a skull.


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So we're getting stats for Red Sonja as well as the Archetype she uses. I wonder, are we also getting stats for Conan, Tarzan, Jane Porter, John Carter, and Dejah Thoris? Also, will the Tarzan featured in this comic be the version from the latest movie (aka John Clayton III [aka Lord Greystoke]) or the one from the graphic novels?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Gleaming Terrier wrote:
Eric Hinkle wrote:
MythicFox wrote:
I'm more than a little intrigued to see how Fantomah is going to get statted up.
Fantomah? Is that the French pulp-era master criminal? Or am I thinking of Fantomas instead?
Fantomah (with an h at the end) is one of the very first female superheroes. She later became a pretty stock jungle girl, but she started as basically a jungle Ghost Rider, whose face transformed into a skull.

Erik actually had an article on his blog about her, which was enlightening. It also included links to three anthology comics that included Fantomah stories. You can get there by following this link.


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Berselius wrote:
So we're getting stats for Red Sonja as well as the Archetype she uses. I wonder, are we also getting stats for Conan, Tarzan (aka John Clayton III [aka Lord Greystoke]), Jane Porter, John Carter, and Dejah Thoris?

Magic 8-Ball indicates that if they appear in the story, signs are favorable for some sort of stats turning up.


Will the archetype and stats be free or do we have to pay for the comic to get them?


You will most likely have to pay, though the archetype might end up on one of the internet databases eventually.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Wow this is awesome and i´m really curious about what you made her class and that archetype!

Glamered doesn´t work for Red Sonja, as far as i remember she states at some point that she isn´t wearing armor on purpose, to defy people.


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Erik Mona wrote:
A lot of the rules I make for myself in how I go about this are, frankly, arbitrary, but trying to keep it close to the stuff the character actually has is a necessity for me.

Good call. It's probably inevitable (given the internet) that you'll miss something - but it's a laudable goal.

It's a subtle difference, but I think you want to avoid writing stories about "what Red Sonja would have been, if she'd been a pathfinder character".


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Tell me you weren't a little bit tempted to try and work Ostog the Unslain in.


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Misroi wrote:
Two-Weapon Defense would grant her a +1 shield bonus.

Ah, good thinking! I bet that's what it is.

Grand Lodge

I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed that the decorative armor wasn't excepted, but even more disappointed at the stats for the bikini. Back in 3.5 you had ceremonial armor. It was expensive (double the cost of masterwork armor), but you looked badass wearing just grieves and a single chain legging. When you wore it, you got half the armor bonus, it had +1 to the original Dex bonus, and it weighed half as much with half the ACP. For an example on who that was specifically designed for, check out Warduke. That was his baby, and he wore half-plate.

Then you have Piecemeal Armor from Ultimate Combat, and the torso section. There are a couple with +0 armor, but then there's the ones that are +1 that literally only cover the lower part of the belly. And they're dirt cheap with upwards of +10 Dex bonus.

This could have been played around with a bit. Maybe make decorative armor 1/4 the amount (rounded down) of the original armor, and used a chain shirt as the base for +1 AC. Have it be worth half the cost (50g) or quarter (25g), given it triple the Dex bonus (12), kept the speeds, no ACP, 5% ASF, and weighed 5 lbs.

That's my 2 copper.

Whatever you come up with in the end will work just fine, I'm sure, but a second go of it couldn't have hurt.

Silver Crusade

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I don't think they're going to go out of their way to justify the chainmail bikini, let alone buff it up.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

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Steve Geddes wrote:
Tell me you weren't a little bit tempted to try and work Ostog the Unslain in.

More than tempted. He appears in the series in issue #3 (as a visual joke/cameo).


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You really do have a dream job, don't you?

(And yes, that is jealousy - what of it?) :p

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

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LOL.

Sort of.

Yesterday I spent the _entire day_ in Paizo's conference room in budget meetings, scheduling meetings, and job interviews for someone else's department.

Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.

That said, today I had a ton of fun creative meetings, not least of which being a 2-hour playtest of the phenomenal Starfinder starship battle rules, so yeah, some days I definitely have a dream job.


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Erik Mona wrote:
I wrote:
And yes, that is jealousy - what of it?

LOL.Sort of.

Yesterday I spent the _entire day_ in Paizo's conference room in budget meetings, scheduling meetings, and job interviews for someone else's department.

Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.

That said, today I had a ton of fun creative meetings, not least of which being a 2-hour playtest of the phenomenal Starfinder starship battle rules, so yeah, some days I definitely have a dream job.

Not helping, Erik....

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