Iconic Encounter: Test of the Hidden Peaks

Thursday, April 25, 2019

We're hard at work training for the release of Pathfinder Second Edition, a task that requires precision of mind, feats of endurance, and the patience of a coiled viper. The task would be next to impossible if we didn't have such an inspiring example in Sajan, the iconic monk, who strives every day to perfect himself and those around him. 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 Robert Pitturru

Claws large enough to take Sajan's head clean off whispered past his shoulder, sliding through the air where he'd been a heartbeat earlier. The troll caught himself, following up with a kidney strike that could have eviscerated a horse, but too slowly. Sajan stepped inside the troll's guard, the combination flowing smoothly. Gut, gut, face, throat—his arms pistoned as he struck, the sound of each fist's impact blending with the others like raindrops in a storm.

The troll staggered backward, pushing Sajan away with a clumsy front kick, abandoning any attempt at grappling in order to put some space between them.

It was the wrong move. Sajan took two steps forward and launched himself into the air, rolling to his left. His chambered right leg shot out, heel catching the troll in the cheek with all the force of his momentum. Bone shattered.

Both Sajan and the troll dropped to the ground, but only Sajan landed on his feet. The troll lay on the paving stones, chest heaving as he blinked uncomprehendingly up at the hawks riding thermals high above.

Sajan leaned down and extended a hand.

"Again?"

"With you?" The troll accepted Sajan's hand, threating to pull the monk off his feet as he lurched upright. He reached up and shoved his broken jaw back into place with a crunch. "If I enjoyed hurting myself, I would have stayed in Kaer Maga and become an Augur."

Sajan grinned and slapped the troll's enormous shoulder. "Quit whining—some of us actually have to live with our injuries. In ten minutes you won't even remember that I hit you."

"Not true." The troll led him across the practice yard to the water barrel. Ignoring the dipper, the giant lifted the entire thing and took a long drink before setting it down again. "I won't be forgetting that anytime soon." He shook his head. "Tusks, Sajan—if that's how you fight when it's all in good fun, I'd hate to see you angry."

Sajan lifted the ladle, dribbling water over his shaved head. "That's my secret, Jora: I never fight angry. Anger clouds the mind, makes you stupid. Slow."

Jora raised one bushy caterpillar of an eyebrow. "Never?"

Memories rose unbidden: A battle. A lord. A hard woman with his own face.

Sajan frowned. "I—"

A gong rang. Both Jora and Sajan spun, snapping to attention. Across the yard, the temple's huge bronze doors swung open, unleashing an orderly procession of monks. And behind them...

Sajan bowed low, Jora only a heartbeat behind. "Master! You honor us."

The old woman approached. She was tiny, her silver hair bright against the deep blue of her sari, yet her ancient feet made no sound as they crossed the weathered stones. Her callused palm touched the back of Sajan's head, as gentle as a sparrow alighting.

"Sajan." Her voice was high and strong, forged on countless battlefields. "You've trained well in your time with us, yet the time for study is past. I have seen the path that Irori has set for you, and it is long—long before you came to us, and longer still once you leave. Yet before you go, if you would be a full son of the Hidden Peaks School, you must pass one final challenge."

Sajan closed his eyes.

"Tell me what I must do."

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, keep your ki focused and your minds open.

Mark Moreland
Franchise Manager

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Iconic Encounters Iconics Monks Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Sajan
Liberty's Edge

17 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Apply this resin to my wagon.

Paint this fence.


11 people marked this as a favorite.

Love it. Absolutely love it. Especially the expectation subversion, very cool!


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Love the way this ended up


7 people marked this as a favorite.
TheGoofyGE3K wrote:
Love it. Absolutely love it. Especially the expectation subversion, very cool!

Especially since it's set up in the description of Jora's moves. "following up with a kidney strike" isn't how you'd expect a normal troll's attack to be phrased.

Liberty's Edge

8 people marked this as a favorite.

This is great. Nice to see the occasional friendly Troll, y'know? Jora seems like a chill guy.


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Huzzah for a troll acting as a person!

Also huzzah for showing a monk going barehanded with a troll and actually smacking it around some.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

A civil troll, and Sajan seems to be having frequent temple stays for training while the search for his lost twin sister goes on. Interesting...


11 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

"...his arms pistoned as he struck, the sound of each fist's impact blending with the others like raindrops in a storm."

I loved that bit of sensory imagery.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

My favorite story so far. Well done!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I enjoyed this. Short and sweet and a very quickly established in a setting which could only be a Monks training ground and a monks "play" fight (g++ d&%n trolls lol)

Contributor

13 people marked this as a favorite.

Thanks, everybody! I enjoyed getting to show a different side of trolls, especially after we already got one classic troll fight in the series. Plus any chance to drop a little Kaer Maga reference is good by me. :D


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This is definitely my favorite so far. Really good. Yaaaaay Jora. Yaaaay Monks!


6 people marked this as a favorite.

"That's my secret: I'm always not angry." *super punch*


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Original post wrote:
{. . .} "If I enjoyed hurting myself, I would have stayed in Kaer Maga and become an Augur." {. . .}

Win.

Original post wrote:

{. . .} Sajan lifted the ladle, dribbling water over his shaved head. "That's my secret, Jora: I never fight angry. Anger clouds the mind, makes you stupid. Slow."

Jora raised one bushy caterpillar of an eyebrow. "Never?"

Memories rose unbidden: A battle. A lord. A hard woman with his own face.

Sajan frowned. "I—"

A teaser of something more, I expect?


5 people marked this as a favorite.

Blown away. I was just wandering why we were having another troll fight after Kyra's vignette, and then you hit us with this jab-jab-sucker punch - the troll is training with Sajan. Awesome.

It seems to me that in general, in 2e you can more often find humanoid monsters of different alignments than the usual. First goblins, now trolls... I wonder about orcs. It'd be nice if they weren't almost always chaotic evil. It seems that they're more diverse - there are traditionally female monsters who also have male members, for instance - dryads, harpies. It'd be nice if nymphs made the list too, and others. And for alignment to actually be less binding.

Anyways I've decided I'm gonna read Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine asap. Possibly followed by other Pathfinder Tales. Gonna be weird reading novels after all this time...

Silver Crusade

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

TROLL MONK!

TROLL FRIEND!

TROLL MONK FRIEND!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:

Blown away. I was just wandering why we were having another troll fight after Kyra's vignette, and then you hit us with this jab-jab-sucker punch - the troll is training with Sajan. Awesome.

It seems to me that in general, in 2e you can more often find humanoid monsters of different alignments than the usual. First goblins, now trolls... I wonder about orcs. It'd be nice if they weren't almost always chaotic evil. It seems that they're more diverse - there are traditionally female monsters who also have male members, for instance - dryads, harpies. It'd be nice if nymphs made the list too, and others. And for alignment to actually be less binding.

Anyways I've decided I'm gonna read Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine asap. Possibly followed by other Pathfinder Tales. Gonna be weird reading novels after all this time...

Though non-evil trolls were always around in PF1 too. At least in Kaer Maga, which Jora mentions here.

At least I assume non-evil. Civilized enough to be capable of living peaceably in a city with other races at the very least.

I'm not really fond of the idea of changing the traditionally single-gender mythological creatures. I'd be hesitant about making new creatures that way or even keeping existing non-mythological fantasy creatures, but I kind of think if you're going to use mythological stuff sticking to the roots is fine.

Silver Crusade

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
thejeff wrote:
Roswynn wrote:

Blown away. I was just wandering why we were having another troll fight after Kyra's vignette, and then you hit us with this jab-jab-sucker punch - the troll is training with Sajan. Awesome.

It seems to me that in general, in 2e you can more often find humanoid monsters of different alignments than the usual. First goblins, now trolls... I wonder about orcs. It'd be nice if they weren't almost always chaotic evil. It seems that they're more diverse - there are traditionally female monsters who also have male members, for instance - dryads, harpies. It'd be nice if nymphs made the list too, and others. And for alignment to actually be less binding.

Anyways I've decided I'm gonna read Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine asap. Possibly followed by other Pathfinder Tales. Gonna be weird reading novels after all this time...

Though non-evil trolls were always around in PF1 too. At least in Kaer Maga, which Jora mentions here.

At least I assume non-evil. Civilized enough to be capable of living peaceably in a city with other races at the very least.

There's other instances of non-evil trolls, it's just their constant and obscene hunger wrecks havoc on their body and mind. Like it does with pretty much anyone who starts to starve.

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

8 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:


It seems to me that in general, in 2e you can more often find humanoid monsters of different alignments than the usual. First goblins, now trolls... I wonder about orcs. It'd be nice if they weren't almost always chaotic evil.

Orc worshipers of Sarenrae popped up in a recent Pathfinder Society scenario, so I think they might get more moral diversity in the future.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Charlie Brooks wrote:
Roswynn wrote:


It seems to me that in general, in 2e you can more often find humanoid monsters of different alignments than the usual. First goblins, now trolls... I wonder about orcs. It'd be nice if they weren't almost always chaotic evil.
Orc worshipers of Sarenrae popped up in a recent Pathfinder Society scenario, so I think they might get more moral diversity in the future.

Orcs worshipping Sarenrae? That is so perfect - as the goddess of redemption perhaps they feel they need to distance themselves from their Eeebul Avistani culture in the Hold of Belkzen (I'd like to see more shades of orc even in that culture... that they're all, or almost all, evil... heh).

What's the scenario? I might be able to find it and convert it to 2e if you remember the name. It'd be nice.

I'm not an expert on alignments... I think Kaer Maga trolls could actually be eeebul almost to a man (heh) and it would work, but if we do have more neutral and good trolls around, whether they were there since the beginning or they're a new feature of 2e, I'll be one happy camper indeed.

As for mythic monsters, I'll avoid derailing the thread and instead start a new one, so, thejeff, or anybody else who feels like giving us a piece of their mind, if you wanna come over for some tea, please feel free.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:
I'm not an expert on alignments... I think Kaer Maga trolls could actually be eeebul almost to a man (heh) and it would work, but if we do have more neutral and good trolls around, whether they were there since the beginning or they're a new feature of 2e, I'll be one happy camper indeed.

That's fair and why I added the "civilized enough to live peaceably in society" bit, though one could also argue that there's nothing that says Jora here can't be evil. Evil monks are a thing and evil people can be friendly enough in the right circumstances.

The key is that they're capable of being something other than the predatory monsters they're usually used as.

Mind you, I've never really been sure how the Kaer Maga trolls were really supposed to work - not so much because of the always evil thing as because trolls have a base intelligence of 6. Some may be smarter of course, but if that's the average some will be dumber as well. That's going to make it hard to function in a city with much smarter races.

Liberty's Edge

11 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:
Orcs worshipping Sarenrae? That is so perfect - as the goddess of redemption perhaps they feel they need to distance themselves from their Eeebul Avistani culture in the Hold of Belkzen (I'd like to see more shades of orc even in that culture... that they're all, or almost all, evil... heh).

We've had these for a while. There's a whole tribe of Sarenrae worshiping Orcs in the Hold of Belkzen book. They're neat.

What I want to hear more about are the demon-fighting Orcs of the Mwangi Expanse. We've got almost nothing on those folks.

Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:


Anyways I've decided I'm gonna read Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine asap.

Hooray! Thank you! :D

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

11 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:


Anyways I've decided I'm gonna read Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine asap.

You know, I really should put something at the end of each one pointing readers to James's existing work and other Pathfinder Tales offerings. I'll try to get an "about the author" thing added to future blogs and retroactively on existing ones.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Just goes to the show not every monster is a simple generic statblock. A Troll can become a lawful neutral monk who loves peace and friendship. A Centaur can forsake his or hers tribe and study the ways of magic in a Metropolis. And a Fiend can rise above the evil and vileness that spawned it to become something more difficult and nobler than before. All it takes is imagination, a sheet of paper, a pen, and some dice. ;) :D

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Charlie Brooks wrote:
Roswynn wrote:


It seems to me that in general, in 2e you can more often find humanoid monsters of different alignments than the usual. First goblins, now trolls... I wonder about orcs. It'd be nice if they weren't almost always chaotic evil.
Orc worshipers of Sarenrae popped up in a recent Pathfinder Society scenario, so I think they might get more moral diversity in the future.

The Burning Sun tribe

scenario reference with minor spoiler:
were first introduced in Belkzen Hold of the Orc Hordes, so they've been around for a bit.

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Michael Sayre wrote:
Charlie Brooks wrote:
Roswynn wrote:


It seems to me that in general, in 2e you can more often find humanoid monsters of different alignments than the usual. First goblins, now trolls... I wonder about orcs. It'd be nice if they weren't almost always chaotic evil.
Orc worshipers of Sarenrae popped up in a recent Pathfinder Society scenario, so I think they might get more moral diversity in the future.
The Burning Sun tribe ** spoiler omitted ** were first introduced in Belkzen Hold of the Orc Hordes, so they've been around for a bit.

You mean people like Uirch the CG warpriest? Warning: I might be in love!

Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Great story, James! Very nice hook at the end, too. Looking forward to more!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Good stuff, hinting at both events before the story and to come, and places far from the current scene. I like how the wider world (and the characters history) informs such a small localized scene, that's some masterful writing.

I also like how it plays with expectations and lets the reader know that Golarion is not their father's D&D setting.

Silver Crusade

im with cole deschain im glad that the monk is naling that troll


Variel The Druid wrote:
im with cole deschain im glad that the monk is naling that troll

That troll happens to have a NAME GOOD SIR! What did High Lord Kittysnoogins of the Pancakelands ever DO to YOU?

Paizo Employee Software Developer

test body


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Robert Brandenburg wrote:
test body

*Software Developer*

I see what you did here. :P

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