Iconic Encounter: One Last Miracle

Thursday, May 2, 2019

It takes dedication and resolve to stay true to one's principles, even when doing so is difficult or disadvantageous. No Pathfinder class more exemplifies this truth than the champion, whose sacrifices for her beliefs bring her incredible power, and no character better embodies the spirit of a champion than Seelah, the iconic paladin. 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 Biagio d'Alessandro

The spirit in Seelah's blade sang, an angelic chorus that only she could hear. It surged triumphantly as she blocked another devil's glaive strike, paeans like invisible hands supporting her weary sword arm.

Around her, Hell seethed, its flaming pits and spiked chains everything the canon had described. Blistering winds heated her armor until it burned like a brand wherever metal touched exposed skin. Blood ran freely from dozens of cuts, the last of her strength trickling from infernal wounds that refused to clot. She was tired—so, so tired.

But there could be no rest. No retreat. Just ahead, Merisiel's unconscious body bobbed as if floating on a sea of devils. Seelah wasn't about to abandon the elf, even if it meant her own death.

After all, she'd followed her friends into Hell itself—compared to that, what was one more battle?

She grinned fiercely at the thought and shoved forward, knocking another wicked glaive aside with her shield. Above a beard of writhing barbs, the devil's eyes widened.

"Iomedae!" Seelah screamed and slammed her sword into the devil's chest.

Light burst from the strike, flowing over the devil in radiant fire. It stumbled sideways, skin flaking and disintegrating into holy illumination. The goddess's power clung to the fiend like honey as Seelah moved past it, striking left and right with righteous fury, making one last push to reach her friend.

The devils carrying Merisiel saw the paladin coming, their fellows falling like wheat before the reaper as she carved a path to them.

The one holding the elf's feet dropped them. Snarling something in the tongue of the damned, it raised its glaive, reversed it, and slammed the point home into Merisiel's chest.

Or tried to. As the blade descended, light shot from the crossguard of Seelah's sword, sliding between the murderous glaive and Merisiel's undefended chest to wrap the elf in a paper-thin shield of blazing glory. The glaive's tip slid sideways.

The devil looked up just in time to see Seelah's blade scythe in. Severed beard-tendrils scattered as the devil's head left its shoulders, bouncing down the endless steps toward the flaming chasm that had spawned it.

It was enough. The other devils broke at last, dropping Merisiel's body and scrambling up the steps toward the safety of their blackened keep.

Seelah knelt, putting a radiant hand to Merisiel's chest. The elf's eyes flickered open.

"Seelah?" Merisiel stared up in surprise. "You came back for me?"

Seelah smiled. "You should have more faith, Merisiel."

Somewhere above them, a horn sounded. Then another.

Seelah's smile faded. She stood, every muscle in her legs screaming, and hauled the elf to her feet. Merisiel hissed as her injured knee took the weight, and Seelah draped one of the elf's arms across her armored shoulders.

"Come on," she said, as they began hobbling back down the stairs. "Let's see if the goddess has one last miracle for us..."

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 all your strikes be retributive.

Mark Moreland
Franchise Manager

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Tags: Iconic Encounters Iconics Paladins Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Seelah

I think you reused the art from Sajan's Iconic Encounter by mistake.


Huzzah!


Nice story.


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And also, good story. Paladins, sorry, champions always go back for their companions.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Is this showing off a mook category of monsters you can actually kill in single blows? Otherwise this story is not possible to tell in PF

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So I see we now have a Pathfinder homage for "A Paladin in Hell." Nice.


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The mechanical components are pretty easy to spot in this one!

Quote:
The spirit in Seelah's blade sang

Seelah's Righteous Ally is in her weapon.

Quote:

"Iomedae!" Seelah screamed and slammed her sword into the devil's chest.

Light burst from the strike, flowing over the devil in radiant fire.

The Blade of Justice class feat, which takes the place of PF1 smites.

Quote:
As the blade descended, light shot from the crossguard of Seelah's sword, sliding between the murderous glaive and Merisiel's undefended chest

Seelah uses Retributive Strike on the devil attacking Merisiel.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

WOW JAMES, JUST WOW. This was fantastic.

Liberty's Edge

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I like it! Very thematic for the Champion/Paladin.

Malk_Content wrote:
Is this showing off a mook category of monsters you can actually kill in single blows? Otherwise this story is not possible to tell in PF

Assuming Seelah is of appropriately high level to be wading through Devils in Hell, she's likely swinging for 4d8+5+1d6 from Holy, equaling out to 26.5 damage per hit assuming a silvered weapon (31.5 with their vulnerability to Good).

Now, these are Bearded Devils (a level 5 foe), with an AC of 20 and 60 HP...so if she rolls a 30 to hit (a common event if she's, say, 12th level to go with the damage suggested above) her damage (though not their Weakness) doubles and goes to 58...and comes just short of killing one per swing on average. If she is using Retributive Strike (which she is when she kills one in a single blow), that goes up by her Charisma and kills one on even an average roll. Blade of Justice will also push damage above the one-hit-kill threshold.

Or, to put it another way: When you crit, many low level foes become minions you kill in one blow, and high level Pathfinder characters crit very often vs. low level foes.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Deadmanwalking wrote:

I like it! Very thematic for the Champion/Paladin.

Malk_Content wrote:
Is this showing off a mook category of monsters you can actually kill in single blows? Otherwise this story is not possible to tell in PF

Assuming Seelah is of appropriately high level to be wading through Devils in Hell, she's likely swinging for 4d8+5+1d6 from Holy, equaling out to 26.5 damage per hit assuming a silvered weapon (31.5 with their vulnerability to Good).

Now, these are Bearded Devils (a level 5 foe), with an AC of 20 and 60 HP...so if she rolls a 30 to hit (a common event if she's, say, 12th level to go with the damage suggested above) her damage (though not their Weakness) doubles and goes to 58...and comes just short of killing one per swing on average. If she is using Retributive Strike (which she is when she kills one in a single blow), that goes up by her Charisma and kills one on even an average roll. Blade of Justice will also push damage above the one-hit-kill threshold.

Or, to put it another way: When you crit, many low level foes become minions you kill in one blow, and high level Pathfinder characters crit very often vs. low level foes.

Should be clearer, actual threats that can still be dispatched quickly.

Liberty's Edge

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Malk_Content wrote:
Should be clearer, actual threats that can still be dispatched quickly.

Actual threats in what sense? The Bearded Devils in that story are only a threat because Merisiel is unconscious (and anybody is a threat then), and to a lesser extent because Seelah is hurt, and because of their huge numbers. My general impression was that, after a hard fought battle with some greater Devil (plus Bearded Devil minions), Merisiel is unconscious and Seelah on her last legs and the tension is her saving Merisiel when one lucky hit could take her down.

Yeah, they probably only hit Seelah on a 19 or 20, but if she's one hit from going down and still suffering bleed damage from an earlier hit or two...

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

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The Fifth Wanderer wrote:
I think you reused the art from Sajan's Iconic Encounter by mistake.

Whoops! This has been fixed.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Deadmanwalking wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
Should be clearer, actual threats that can still be dispatched quickly.

Actual threats in what sense? The Bearded Devils in that story are only a threat because Merisiel is unconscious (and anybody is a threat then), and to a lesser extent because Seelah is hurt, and because of their huge numbers. My general impression was that, after a hard fought battle with some greater Devil (plus Bearded Devil minions), Merisiel is unconscious and Seelah on her last legs and the tension is her saving Merisiel when one lucky hit could take her down.

Yeah, they probably only hit Seelah on a 19 or 20, but if she's one hit from going down and still suffering bleed damage from an earlier hit or two...

One lucky hit or something nastier reinforcing them.

Or just them delaying her long enough for the bearers getting away with Merisiel. Or killing her as one attempts.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I guess my hopes of a troop/mook template in the first bestiary are not indicated then.


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Malk_Content wrote:
I guess my hopes of a troop/mook template in the first bestiary are not indicated then.

As DMW said enemies that are 3 or 4 levels lower than PCs die quick and ugly. Things aren’t much worse when the PCs are low level either. In DD1, other than the BBEG everything else dropped with a hit or 2. The danger was that so did the PCs.


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

Sometimes a story is just a story, folks.


Fumarole wrote:
Sometimes a story is just a story, folks.

Sometimes.

I wouldn't hold even most PF fiction to this standard, but these are explicitly being written partly to highlight certain rules and abilities, so they really should match the actual rules.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Thebazilly wrote:

The mechanical components are pretty easy to spot in this one!

Quote:
The spirit in Seelah's blade sang

Seelah's Righteous Ally is in her weapon.

Quote:

"Iomedae!" Seelah screamed and slammed her sword into the devil's chest.

Light burst from the strike, flowing over the devil in radiant fire.

The Blade of Justice class feat, which takes the place of PF1 smites.

Quote:
As the blade descended, light shot from the crossguard of Seelah's sword, sliding between the murderous glaive and Merisiel's undefended chest

Seelah uses Retributive Strike on the devil attacking Merisiel.

There is also the Lay on hands ;-)

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I think the new crit system is one of the highlights of Pathfinder 2nd edition. It allows for high-level characters to drop lower-level foes quickly without having to employ separate mook rules. So Seelah mowing through bearded devils is possible depending on her level.

At the same time, action economy is still a thing, so large numbers of weaker foes can still be a problem. Since this story takes place in Hell, I don't think it's all that unbelievable that enough devils have scored lucky hits on Seelah to weaken her.

In other words, I don't think this story is something that couldn't easily be replicated with the rules as we know them.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

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Characters in fiction have the benefit of rolling whatever they need to in order to tell a good story. The author decides when and how often they crit and when they fumble, even if it's not statistically likely.


Mark Moreland wrote:
The Fifth Wanderer wrote:
I think you reused the art from Sajan's Iconic Encounter by mistake.
Whoops! This has been fixed.

It still shows Sajan on the blog page.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

It took all of them to carry Meri? I hope this means they reworked Bulk rules...

More seriously, kickass work Sutter. I think this is my favourite yet.


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Rysky wrote:

It took all of them to carry Meri? I hope this means they reworked Bulk rules...

More seriously, kickass work Sutter. I think this is my favourite yet.

"Merisiel's unconscious body bobbed as if floating on a sea of devils."

I choose to believe they were crowd-surfing her like at a concert.

Contributor

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Thanks, folks! And yeah, as Mark and others have said, while we always aim to work within the rules, sometimes we need to rely on some lucky crits, prior damage, etc. to make the fiction flow. Spending half an hour playing through a combat encounter is fun. Spending half an hour reading one isn't. :)

Silver Crusade

Mark Moreland wrote:
Characters in fiction have the benefit of rolling whatever they need to in order to tell a good story. The author decides when and how often they crit and when they fumble, even if it's not statistically likely.

Arguably only to a limited extent if the fiction is intended to show the kinds of stories that can be told using PF2 rules.

If the stories show characters mowing down opponents like they're mooks that really should happen at least reasonably often (preferably very often).

Liberty's Edge

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pauljathome wrote:

Arguably only to a limited extent if the fiction is intended to show the kinds of stories that can be told using PF2 rules.

If the stories show characters mowing down opponents like they're mooks that really should happen at least reasonably often (preferably very often).

Agreed, though as I noted above, they very probably can do so pretty often if they're high enough level.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Thebazilly wrote:

The mechanical components are pretty easy to spot in this one!

Quote:
The spirit in Seelah's blade sang

Seelah's Righteous Ally is in her weapon.

Quote:

"Iomedae!" Seelah screamed and slammed her sword into the devil's chest.

Light burst from the strike, flowing over the devil in radiant fire.

The Blade of Justice class feat, which takes the place of PF1 smites.

Quote:
As the blade descended, light shot from the crossguard of Seelah's sword, sliding between the murderous glaive and Merisiel's undefended chest

Seelah uses Retributive Strike on the devil attacking Merisiel.

You missed the persistent damage from Seelah’s smite.


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Good stuff, Sutter. Very dynamic and tense.

(BTW I'm reading Death's Heretic... mind blown from before chapter 1!).


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Awesome story!
It's so paladin-y and so clearly shows all of the paladins key abilities that I would call it a nice "How to Paladin". :D


masda_gib wrote:

Awesome story!

It's so paladin-y and so clearly shows all of the paladins key abilities that I would call it a nice "How to Paladin". :D

For me, it was a very nice reassurance that paladins can still be paladins in PF2e, despite their shifted mechanical focus.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:

Good stuff, Sutter. Very dynamic and tense.

(BTW I'm reading Death's Heretic... mind blown from before chapter 1!).

Yay! Thank you! Glad you're enjoying it. :D


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While it may be just a guess on my part, based partly on the way I built the Paladin PC for my playtest game, that she has Second Ally to have the Shield Spirit as well as the afore mentioned Sword, and has (L10) Shield of Reckoning and (L6) Shield Warden. As to my eyes, that's a Reaction to reduce the damage to an Ally AND a triggered Retributive Strike.

Loved the story, as well as many others!

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber
James Sutter wrote:
Roswynn wrote:

Good stuff, Sutter. Very dynamic and tense.

(BTW I'm reading Death's Heretic... mind blown from before chapter 1!).

Yay! Thank you! Glad you're enjoying it. :D

Just jumping in to say that the Salim books are still my favorites of the Pathfinder Tales line.

Liberty's Edge

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Cori Marie wrote:
James Sutter wrote:
Roswynn wrote:

Good stuff, Sutter. Very dynamic and tense.

(BTW I'm reading Death's Heretic... mind blown from before chapter 1!).

Yay! Thank you! Glad you're enjoying it. :D
Just jumping in to say that the Salim books are still my favorites of the Pathfinder Tales line.

Agreed. Well, tied with the Pirate's Promise stuff and Nightglass series, anyway. All three of those series are just phenomenally good.


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Roonfizzle Garnackle wrote:

While it may be just a guess on my part, based partly on the way I built the Paladin PC for my playtest game, that she has Second Ally to have the Shield Spirit as well as the afore mentioned Sword, and has (L10) Shield of Reckoning and (L6) Shield Warden. As to my eyes, that's a Reaction to reduce the damage to an Ally AND a triggered Retributive Strike.

Loved the story, as well as many others!

I do expect she's at least level 10 or 12, but don't forget that as of Update 1.6 Retributive Strike has changed to provide Resistance against the triggering attack in addition to allowing a counter-strike! So she wouldn't necessarily have to have Shield of Warden and Shield of Reckoning. It seems more likely that her level 10 feat is Blade of Justice, given the whole shout-strike combo.

And yeah, I know these aren't written to match 1-to-1 with the actual rules but it's really fun to speculate. One of my favorite things is seeing game abilities I know well novelized to flow as only a description rather than an execution of mechanics and James does a GREAT job of it. Plus I think it's a mark of good writing if we can trace his descriptions back to their mechanical equivalents! It means it's an exceptionally good translation.

Honestly I DREAM of being able to provide descriptions of actions of this skill, as I really want to give good flavor descriptions for actions to make the cinematics of battle flow. But I often get most of my attention taken by trying to strategize and math everything and forget to elucidate. It doesn't help that most of my group is inexperienced/non-knowledgeable with PF, let alone PF2, so a lot of my effort goes to reminding them of how things work as well.

But perhaps someday I will get there. These Iconic Encounters will certainly continue to serve as inspiration!


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Echoing Charlie Brooks: Paladin in Hell keeps on giving, edition after edition after edition.


Illustration by Cardin yanis not Biagio d'Alessandro

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