Iconic Encounter: Party Crasher

Thursday, April 18, 2019

I had to search extra carefully to locate this week's Iconic Encounter, thanks in no small part to the unmatched stealth of Merisiel, the iconic rogue! Enjoy the following piece of short fiction from James L. Sutter in the next entry into our series of Iconic Encounters—brief vignettes of the iconic characters showcasing the myriad stories you can tell with Pathfinder Second Edition.

Illustration by Mary Jane Pajaron

Merisiel had heard enough. The targets, the timetables, the names of the operatives—she had everything she could need to properly foil their plan.

Below, the vampires stood around their map table, arguing over details. Merisiel itched to put knives in all their backs, but even with the element of surprise, she knew the only person she was likely to kill with such an attack was herself. Besides, it wasn't in the plan.

Unfortunately, what came next also wasn't in the plan. She'd arrived well before the vampires, and chosen the perfect hiding place in the subterranean cathedral's upper balcony. It had been a beautiful piece of infiltration work, if she did say so herself. Yet how could she have known that the head vampire's first order of business would be making her pretty-boy underlings move the map table from its original position to a new spot directly blocking Merisiel's exit? Who orchestrated a coup and then wasted valuable conspiracy time rearranging furniture?

Regardless, Merisiel was going to have to get creative. Given the vampires' ability to see in the dark, the shadows wouldn't be much help. And from their new positions around the table, no matter which way she tried to sneak past them, at least one would inevitably spot her long before she made it to the door.

Her gaze rose, taking in the vaulted ceiling.

Maybe...

Without further deliberation, she crept to the wall and began to climb.

It was a big risk—but then, what part of this caper wasn't? And for all the vampires' supernatural senses, they'd still started out as humans, which meant they retained a human mindset. And humans rarely looked up without a reason. Silent as a ghost, Merisiel picked her way across the ceiling, spidering over ancient frescoes of rulers long since turned to dust in the crypts below.

She was almost to the door when the fop with the perfectly tousled hair made an impertinent comment, earning a backhand from the leader. The slap knocked the vampire's head backward, tilting it at just the wrong angle. His eyes met Merisiel's and widened.

She dropped the last ten feet to the floor, rolling to distribute the momentum as best she could, and darted for the door.

They were almost too fast for her. A brace of knives flung backward slowed them enough to give her a lead, but she knew that would only buy her so much time—once they realized she wasn't packing silver, they'd lose what little caution they had.

She sprinted through musty stone corridors, the pack baying like hounds at her heels. The squad of spawn who'd been keeping lookout at the main entrance appeared in the tunnel ahead, and Merisiel dodged left around a corner, barely touching the stairs beneath her as she raced downward, deeper into the crypts.

Behind her, someone shouted about the sewers, realizing how she must have gotten past them the first time. She banked around another corner—

—and into a dead end. Half a dozen sarcophagi lay in niches around the circular mausoleum, the windowless walls covered in ornate Pharasmin prayers.

She whirled just in time to see vampires fill the only doorway. Recognizing her predicament, they grinned and took the time to form up, stalking forward slowly to savor the drama. Predatory eyes glowed with reflected light from the solitary torch.

"So. A spy." The dandy with the stupid hat sneered, baring a single long fang. "Perhaps not everyone in the court is as clueless as we presumed. Too bad they'll never hear your report."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," Merisiel replied. "They already know all your plans."

"What?" It wasn't really possible for someone that pale to blanch, but he made a valiant effort.

"Yeah, see, I snuck in yesterday while you were all taking your coffin naps and copied your documents." Merisiel made a face. "Honestly, I know you're a little behind the times, on account of being dead and all, but you really need to invest in some better locks. I mean, poison needle traps? What am I—twelve?"

"She's bluffing." The leader shoved her way to the front and grabbed Merisiel by her armor's leather collar. She hauled the elf close, perfect face twisting in a cruel smile. "If you had done what you say, why would you risk being here now?"

Merisiel made no move to resist, only matched that smile with one of her own.

"The thing is," she said, "it just seemed like a shame to waste the opportunity. What with all of you being together in one place."

The sound of grinding stone echoed from every direction as lids slid from sarcophagi. Kyra and the other priests stood up from their hiding places, holy symbols already extended.

Merisiel closed her eyes as the blaze of holy light washed over her.

If you liked this week's Iconic Encounter, be sure to check back next Thursday for another exciting entry in the series. Until then, Pathfinders, may your heists go off without a hitch.

Mark Moreland
Franchise Manager

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Tags: Iconic Encounters Iconics Merisiel Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Rogues
Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Huzzah!


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I wondered how she was going to get out of there. Was expecting a sunlight gambit,but that was much better. Very cool!


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Quote:
A brace of knives flung backward slowed them enough to give her a lead, but she knew that would only buy her so much time—once they realized she wasn't packing silver, they'd lose what little caution they had.

Niiice. "Packing silver" is very Pathfinder noir - reminiscent of the Dresden books (that's intended as a compliment, btw!) :)

"Merisiel was the kind of dame that attracted trouble - and that was how she liked it."


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I love it when a plan comes together. :)


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Also this:

Quote:
"I mean, poison needle traps? What am I—twelve?"

Oh, Merisiel. Could you be any more adorable?


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This was awesome. Even more than usual. And I never saw the twist ending coming.

I do wonder what's the mechanic illustrated here... that Merisiel is friggin' great? Wait, that's not a mechanic. That vamps require silver? I think it wasn't so in 1e but I could be wrong - still, not really a mechanic and not pertaining the rogue. Something about her acrobatic abilities? Her backup plan? Can rogues have contingencies now perhaps? Kyra and a whole host of other clerics sound a bit too much even for such a mechanic...

Mmmno, I got nothing.

Damn if this wasn't cool though! =)


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Roswynn wrote:
I do wonder what's the mechanic illustrated here... that Merisiel is friggin' great? Wait, that's not a mechanic.

If "Be Awesome Like Merisiel" isn't a Class Feat for PF2 rogues, it should be.

More seriously, is it the climbing skill she uses? Sounds like she's almost spider-climbing up a sheer stone surface...


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I think it just highlights all the skills rogues get: stealth, athletics, deception...

Fantastic story!

Silver Crusade

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

Woohoo! Meri and Kyra kicking ass together!!!

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
shadram wrote:

I think it just highlights all the skills rogues get: stealth, athletics, deception...

Fantastic story!

Plus the heightened Perception of being an Elf. She notices lots of minute things.


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Wandering Wastrel wrote:
Roswynn wrote:
I do wonder what's the mechanic illustrated here... that Merisiel is friggin' great? Wait, that's not a mechanic.

If "Be Awesome Like Merisiel" isn't a Class Feat for PF2 rogues, it should be.

More seriously, is it the climbing skill she uses? Sounds like she's almost spider-climbing up a sheer stone surface...

It does say "spidering".

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:

This was awesome. Even more than usual. And I never saw the twist ending coming.

I do wonder what's the mechanic illustrated here... that Merisiel is friggin' great? Wait, that's not a mechanic. That vamps require silver? I think it wasn't so in 1e but I could be wrong - still, not really a mechanic and not pertaining the rogue. Something about her acrobatic abilities? Her backup plan? Can rogues have contingencies now perhaps? Kyra and a whole host of other clerics sound a bit too much even for such a mechanic...

Mmmno, I got nothing.

Damn if this wasn't cool though! =)

Well, for starters, she dropped 10 feet to the ground without taking damage, so I guess she has the Cat Fall skill feat. :-P


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Mechanics-wise, the part that caught my eye was when she slowed her enemy by throwing knives behind her. Some sort of action to distract/hinder enemies while making a quick getaway?

Dark Archive

Fantastic, loving these little vignettes from James :D

Contributor

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Thanks everybody! This one was particularly hard to write, as we all wanted to see Merisiel do something tricky and Oceans-11-y (which is kind of a tall order for a few hundred words), but I'm really happy with how it came together. :)

Also, I love reading everyone's guesses about what the mechanical elements might be! I'm rarely tasked with writing new mechanics, but if I were, I'd totally come back and mine these threads. Some of these wrong guesses deserve to be right ones...


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

"Oh, you think I came here by myself? HOW QUAINT!"


Kyra and Meri are back to together!!!!!!!!! I thought they broke up back in spiral of bones comic?

Liberty's Edge

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I like it!

I must agree that the mechanic in question must be Rogues being awesome. Which is totally a mechanic.

Roswynn wrote:
That vamps require silver? I think it wasn't so in 1e but I could be wrong

For the record, the vampiric vulnerability to silver is indeed found in PF1.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Evan van de Steeg wrote:
Kyra and Meri are back to together!!!!!!!!! I thought they broke up back in spiral of bones comic?

This reminds me: Do we know if the next comic series will start reflecting the edition switch (changes to displayed mechanics, character designs, etc.)?

Liberty's Edge

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Birmy wrote:
This reminds me: Do we know if the next comic series will start reflecting the edition switch (changes to displayed mechanics, character designs, etc.)?

It will. They've specifically noted that Valeros will die (and get better), and then start using a shield as a result, for example.

Though I'm not sure mechanics will need to be reflected much. The in-universe stuff is staying pretty consistent and unchanged, really.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Birmy wrote:
This reminds me: Do we know if the next comic series will start reflecting the edition switch (changes to displayed mechanics, character designs, etc.)?

It will. They've specifically noted that Valeros will die (and get better), and then start using a shield as a result, for example.

That already happened. The dying part, I mean. The comics haven't (yet) shown Val with a shield.

Liberty's Edge

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Mark Moreland wrote:
That already happened. The dying part, I mean. The comics haven't (yet) shown Val with a shield.

Ah! Well, I did see one of you folks note that the shield was coming, so I'm at least partially right. :)

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Yet another great job. I really enjoyed the reversal of the old trope of the undead coming out of the sarcophagi to kill the hapless adventurers :-D

Charlie Brooks wrote:
Roswynn wrote:

This was awesome. Even more than usual. And I never saw the twist ending coming.

I do wonder what's the mechanic illustrated here... that Merisiel is friggin' great? Wait, that's not a mechanic. That vamps require silver? I think it wasn't so in 1e but I could be wrong - still, not really a mechanic and not pertaining the rogue. Something about her acrobatic abilities? Her backup plan? Can rogues have contingencies now perhaps? Kyra and a whole host of other clerics sound a bit too much even for such a mechanic...

Mmmno, I got nothing.

Damn if this wasn't cool though! =)

Well, for starters, she dropped 10 feet to the ground without taking damage, so I guess she has the Cat Fall skill feat. :-P

I think that's it because this is where I felt a small hiccup in the style : a bit more technical and less fluid / visual / evocative than the rest of the story.


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

Perhaps the mechanic being revealed here has to do with using stealth to hide fellow party members? I can't see a mass of priests of Sarenrae having great stealth scores...


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Feros wrote:
Perhaps the mechanic being revealed here has to do with using stealth to hide fellow party members? I can't see a mass of priests of Sarenrae having great stealth scores...

I don't think you need to be trained in Stealth to hide in a closed sarcophargus when the other party is chasing someone an not actively searching. You just need to fit in. :)

So I don't think its that. But I also only saw spider climbing, cat fall and bluffings as featured mechanics. Nothing new.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

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Some of the mechanics were easier to match with the art we had available and others weren't so simple. So while it's great that folks are trying to figure them all out, I want to manage expectations to limit the grar later when readers feel like some of the stories didn't adequately exhibit specific rules in the final book. That said, it's my goal to ensure that nothing in these stories wouldn't be possible with the 2E rules as presented in the Core Rulebook.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Also sometimes the changes that were easiest and most fun to illustrate in a story were changes from 1st edition to 2nd edition but not from playtest to 2nd edition, so they might not be new to you if you were fully up to speed on the playtest.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Mark Seifter wrote:
Also sometimes the changes that were easiest and most fun to illustrate in a story were changes from 1st edition to 2nd edition but not from playtest to 2nd edition, so they might not be new to you if you were fully up to speed on the playtest.

I take this as meaning this happened here. So Stealth as Initiative ?

Paizo Employee Designer

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The Raven Black wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
Also sometimes the changes that were easiest and most fun to illustrate in a story were changes from 1st edition to 2nd edition but not from playtest to 2nd edition, so they might not be new to you if you were fully up to speed on the playtest.
I take this as meaning this happened here. So Stealth as Initiative ?

Actually no, what Moreland's said is what happened here, where the art + a mechanic that's harder to describe lead to it being harder to discern (although to be honest, some of the joke answers are close enough in some ways to make me realize that somehow Sutter managed one of the hardest asks in this story; impressive!).

But at least one of the previous stories you have already read fits into the category I mentioned.


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I just want to say I am loving these short stories, new rules or not. Keep them coming, James. In the meantime, I'll start looking for other things you've written ;-)


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Feros wrote:
Perhaps the mechanic being revealed here has to do with using stealth to hide fellow party members? I can't see a mass of priests of Sarenrae having great stealth scores...

We do know that rogues can help their other party members with stealth rolls... so my guess is that Feros got the right of it.


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And we still have several Iconics to go . . . .


UnArcaneElection wrote:

And we still have several Iconics to go . . . .

Yay!


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Roswynn wrote:
Her backup plan? Can rogues have contingencies now perhaps? Kyra and a whole host of other clerics sound a bit too much even for such a mechanic...

While the whole thing might be a bit too much, I could see an ability that allows for some details 'to be determined later'. That she smuggled in the godbotherers and got them concealed in one of the tomb chambers was already set, but exactly which one was left open until she 'led' the vamps there.

It's similar to what I sometimes do with highly intelligent and/or tactically skilled NPCs: I allow them to cheat a bit because they are far smarter/more skilled than I am. Of course The Immortal Warlord™ ended up at his escape hatch while you are on the far side of a barrier field, it's not like he doesn't have a couple thousand years of fighting experience and the smarts to predict exactly how you would move during the fight.


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Now I've got this vision of Kyra talking to Merisiel after they've dealt with the vampires:

Kyra: "But . . . but . . . but . . . but I was over there!" (Points to a dumpster that was way too far off to have been any use in the encounter.)

Merisiel: (Pulls out a document that looks suspiciously like a character sheet.)

Kyra: "Oh, I know, Well Prepared is supposed to be in the latest patch to the multiverse. But still . . . hang on a minute . . . ." (Goes over to the far-off dumpster and is about to open the lid.) "No, I better not look. I just might be in there."

Grand Lodge

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drakkonflye wrote:

I just want to say I am loving these short stories, new rules or not. Keep them coming, James. In the meantime, I'll start looking for other things you've written ;-)

Both of his Pathfinder Tales books were excellent and I very much enjoyed listening to the Audible audiobook versions.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

UnArcaneElection, that's awesome. Merisiel having a casual disregard for the fourth wall seems to kinda fit her character. :)


MaxAstro wrote:
UnArcaneElection, that's awesome. Merisiel having a casual disregard for the fourth wall seems to kinda fit her character. :)

Mmm, I'd expect that more from Lini. She's the one with the fey origin after all.

Although Meri is a great trickster figure!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I feel like Lini's whole thing is being relatively down-to-earth by gnome standards, though.

Contributor

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treidenb wrote:
drakkonflye wrote:

I just want to say I am loving these short stories, new rules or not. Keep them coming, James. In the meantime, I'll start looking for other things you've written ;-)

Both of his Pathfinder Tales books were excellent and I very much enjoyed listening to the Audible audiobook versions.

Thank you! And yeah, if anyone's enjoying these but hasn't read my novels yet, please check out Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine! They're just like these, except 200 times longer. :D


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Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
James Sutter wrote:
treidenb wrote:
drakkonflye wrote:

I just want to say I am loving these short stories, new rules or not. Keep them coming, James. In the meantime, I'll start looking for other things you've written ;-)

Both of his Pathfinder Tales books were excellent and I very much enjoyed listening to the Audible audiobook versions.
Thank you! And yeah, if anyone's enjoying these but hasn't read my novels yet, please check out Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine! They're just like these, except 200 times longer. :D

And they are THE bomb diggity! When I think of an inquisitor, I immediately think of Salim Ghadafar. Thanks James!!

Contributor

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I love the ending here, James. "Oh, so you think you have me where you want me? Ha, I actually have you where I want you!" Well done!

Contributor

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Elorebaen wrote:

Thank you! And yeah, if anyone's enjoying these but hasn't read my novels yet, please check out Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine! They're just like these, except 200 times longer. :D

And they are THE bomb diggity! When I think of an inquisitor, I immediately think of Salim Ghadafar. Thanks James!!

Yay! Thank you! :D

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