Rise of the Runelords: Shalelu Be Food?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

She heard them before she saw them.

“...Bones be cracked, flesh be stewed"

“We be goblins! You be food!”

Shalelu’s lip curled in a half-conscious snarl at the song. She crept closer, slipping from the forest to a knot of gnarled old pear trees that the farmer, or more likely the farmer’s great-grandparents, had planted by the house. Under the tangled branches, heavy with ripe fall fruit, she peered at the singing goblins.

The barn was already burning. Judging by the height of the flames leaping from its blackened roof, the farmers must have brought in the fall hay, and it was now blazing merrily behind a ring of dancing goblins. At least there weren’t any screams. Any animals in the barn either had escaped, or were already dead.

The fire’s grip was closing around the farmhouse, too. Burning arrows studded the roof. The eaves were smoldering, the wooden shingles beginning to glow from beneath like a red dragon’s scales—and even as Shalelu tried to assess how much longer the house had, she saw the curtains twitch before an upstairs window. The brief round shape of a face peeked out through the glass. It vanished almost as soon as it appeared, but it was enough to tell Shalelu that someone was inside.

Well, that tore it. Not that she needed much of a push where goblins were concerned.

Smoothly, with the ease of long practice, Shalelu broke from the trees and shot the first goblin. Even before her first arrow hit, she had another flying. Two goblins fell, one clutching at an arrow in his red-gurgling throat, the other with a feathered shaft sprouting from her eye.

She shot a third before the rest reacted. As the third goblin fell, his screech cut off by the arrow bisecting his windpipe, the survivors spotted the elf. A frozen instant passed between them. Shalelu felt a flashed hope that the goblins’ cowardice might drive them to flee, even though she stood alone—but no. Their wavering morale caught and steadied as the biggest goblin leaped toward her, brandishing a rickety but sharp-edged dogslicer.

“Brave, brave warriors! Warriors of the Mosswood! Kill this elf! Kill her!” the big goblin howled. As a battlefield speech, Shalelu felt it was uninspired, but whatever it lacked in creativity, it made up in volume. Certainly the goblins seemed to think it did the trick, because they all came rushing at her in a shrieking, knee-high mob of red eyes, needle teeth, and swinging dogslicers, simultaneously absurd and deadly earnest.

The shouting champion at the head of the mob was the most ridiculous of them all. She wore a decapitated toy horse’s head impaled on her spiked helm, with puffs of woolly stuffing flapping around her enormous ears. Her cloak was as green and moldy as any other Mosswood goblin’s, but she’d trimmed it with dogs’ tails: poodles’ dirt-stained pompoms, curly blond spaniels’ plumes, a mastiff’s grizzled stub. Another tail hung from the pommel of her dogslicer.

It would have been a mistake to dismiss the goblin as a joke, though. People died for such mistakes. That toy horse’s neck was smeared with real blood; those tails had been collected from real dogs, and some of them looked like they’d been big and fierce. The grisly kneecaps that served as the goblin’s pauldrons were real flesh and bone, and from their ragged edges had probably been chewed off human legs. Maybe live ones.

That was the danger with goblins, Shalelu thought. You laughed at them, thinking they were stupid and big-headed and preposterous, and then they slashed your ankles and pulled you down and cut your throat before you realized that they were, actually, serious as murder.

Art by Michele Giorgi

She wondered whether someone had made that mistake with these goblins. They’d been in a fight recently. Several were limping or favoring wounded sides and limbs. One looked like he’d narrowly dodged a spell; a burn scar streaked black across his forehead. But the goblins had survived, which meant maybe whoever they’d fought hadn’t.

A small mystery. If she survived, maybe she’d try to solve it.

First she had to survive.

Shalelu aimed past the charging champion and shot two more goblins, wounding the first and felling the second. Then the champion was on her, and Shalelu had to skitter back, slinging her bow behind a shoulder and drawing her shortsword. She feinted and retreated back toward the farmhouse. The fire was spreading, and she didn’t have long to save whoever was in there.

“Uruvuu Kneebiter will wear your head!” the big goblin crooned at Shalelu, sweeping her dogslicer low.

“Uru-who?” Shalelu snorted, straining to sound nonchalant. That goblin was faster than she liked. “Do you fancy yourself one of the big heroes? Should Vorka and Ripnugget cower and whine at your name?”

“They will!” Uruvuu hissed, and leaped.

The elf kicked at the goblin, but to her astonishment, Uruvuu jumped over the kick, grabbed her leg, and bit her, sinking her filthy teeth into Shalelu’s leg just above the knee.

“Get off!” Shalelu slashed down at the goblin, hacking one of Uruvuu’s grisly pauldrons in two and cutting a deep gash into the champion’s shoulder. Uruvuu just lifted her head and grinned up horribly, her teeth dripping red.

“I’ll eat you,” the goblin snarled, and bit Shalelu again.

Shalelu swore furiously. She couldn’t get Uruvuu off her leg. If it had just been the one goblin, Shalelu could have made short work of her — but there were far too many of them, almost a dozen, and not just Mosswood, either. She spotted warty Licktoad goblins and tattooed, reed-wearing Brinestumps, and wondered: what are they all doing together? The tribes did not easily ally.

But the question seemed to float far away, untethered to the violence on the ground. Shalelu was losing too much blood, maybe going into shock. She slashed at a leering goblin and ripped his abdomen open, spilling his guts wetly into the barn’s blowing ashes, but still there were too many, and still Uruvuu was gnawing at her knee. Is this how it ends?

Overhead, the farmhouse window slammed open. Strange pale leaves floated down. No, not leaves, Shalelu realized, even as she cut another goblin’s throat so savagely that its head flopped backwards, limply, over the gouting stump of its neck. They were pages. She recognized the illustrations.

Pages from Erastil’s Book of Common Prayer, ripped out by the handful. Someone had drawn crude goblin faces in thick, sweeping strokes over each one. The ink was still wet enough that the faces stuck lightly together when they kissed.

But they drifted apart, falling, and when they came down over the fight, the goblins broke apart in total pandemonium. “The words! Words! Stolen out of our heads! You see them! Take them back! The cursed words! Burn them!”

Frantically the goblins grabbed at the ink-smeared pages, thrusting them into the barn’s blaze. They forgot about Shalelu entirely, each one vying to grab and burn pages of precious, stolen words. Even Uruvuu shrieked in terror, blood bubbling through her teeth as she elbowed her kin aside to snatch up her own pages.

Shalelu cut down another two goblins in the confusion. Then the rest, realizing that they were outnumbered—or, at least, were now facing Shalelu with odds no better than six to one, which seemed to count as “outnumbered” to them—fled, screaming, from the bloodied elf and the still-falling rain of pages around her.

“Thanks,” Shalelu called up to whoever was in the farmhouse. Her leg felt like murder. She pressed a wooden wand against the wound, gritting her teeth until the magic flowed forth to heal her. Then, testing her weight gingerly, she looked up to the window. Already she could hear the goblins shouting and arguing as they tried to regroup in the wood, and see the red reach of flames spreading across the roof. “You’d better come out. We need to get to Sandpoint before they come back.”

More than safety, Shalelu wanted answers. This attack was unusual. Fractious rival tribes allied and attacking humans far outside their normal territory. Champions striving to make new legends for themselves. She’d been hunting the local goblins for years, and she’d never seen them cooperate like this.

Something strange was afoot. And whatever it was, this was just the beginning.

About the Author

Liane Merciel is the author of novels including Pathfinder Tales: Nightglass and Hellknight, Dragon Age: Last Flight, and others. She has written for Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. At present she is trying to find a way to shoehorn a(nother) carnival of face-eating ghosts into a story.

About Rise of the Runelords

Rise of the Runelords was the very first Pathfinder Adventure Path, and its legacy—be it the cruel comedy of goblins and ogres, the iconic seaside town of Sandpoint, or the sinister presence of the Runelords themselves—can be felt to this very day. Rise of the Runelords was the first Pathfinder Adventure Path to be compiled into a single hardcover volume, and later this year it will be the first Adventure Path to join the ranks of the Pathfinder pocket editions! Rise of the Runelords has never been more affordable!

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Scarab Sages

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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Huzzah!

Nice intro to ROTR!

Shalelu should be an icon.


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

Shalelu caused one of my first modificatio9ns to a Paizo AP...

Her cameo in Second Darkness just... wasn't gonna fly, considering that the last our group saw her, she was hanging out in Xin-Shalast with her latest human paramour (our party ranger), helping him make the place safe for anyone who wanted in.

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

8 people marked this as a favorite.

The Pathfinder Adventure Path: Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition Pocket Edition for the first edition of the Pathfinder RPG drops 2/26/2020!

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

This is awesome. I am running RotR and we are in the Sandpoint raid right now and Shalelu has become a regular ally so my group should like this. It will also show that even though they saved the Swallowtail Festival that there were consequences for people in the hinterlands who didn't have the benefit of fresh face heros.

Dark Archive

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I guess this is related to Lost Omen Legends?

I don't think Shalelu is very famous in setting though, maybe at Minkai though?

Grand Lodge

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Liane Merciel wrote:

It would have been a mistake to dismiss the goblin as a joke, though. People died for such mistakes. That toy horse’s neck was smeared with real blood; those tails had been collected from real dogs, and some of them looked like they’d been big and fierce. The grisly kneecaps that served as the goblin’s pauldrons were real flesh and bone, and from their ragged edges had probably been chewed off human legs. Maybe live ones.

That was the danger with goblins, Shalelu thought. You laughed at them, thinking they were stupid and big-headed and preposterous, and then they slashed your ankles and pulled you down and cut your throat before you realized that they were, actually, serious as murder.

I miss this version of the Goblin race a lot nowadays. Don't get me wrong, I know a lot of people who enjoy playing the little buggers. And it's totally fair that not every member with a certain ancestry should behave the same.

But recently it feels like Pathfinder has only shown examples of the good and relatively kind goblins. While the stupid, yet vicious goblin villains who loved to sing as they tried to chop off your legs or burn you to death with firebombs have vanished.

I miss that variant of goblins that were shown in ROTR and "Wrath of the Fleshwarped Queen," "The Emerald Spire" and many featured prominently in many other adventures. I hope they will make a return sooner than later!

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

CorvusMask wrote:

I guess this is related to Lost Omen Legends?

I don't think Shalelu is very famous in setting though, maybe at Minkai though?

It is related to the Pathfinder Adventure Path: Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition Pocket Edition.

Scarab Sages

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Lyoto Machida wrote:
I miss that variant of goblins that were shown in ROTR and "Wrath of the Fleshwarped Queen," "The Emerald Spire" and many featured prominently in many other adventures. I hope they will make a return sooner than later!

The PC Goblins are the exceptions, not the normal.

I figure PC Goblins as outcasts.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Is there new art in the pocket edition then? (Dont recall ever seeing this piece before.)


Great story! My party loved Shalelu's different appearances in the adventure paths.

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Kevin Mack wrote:
Is there new art in the pocket edition then? (Dont recall ever seeing this piece before.)

Good eye! No new art for the PE. But we commissioned this new art for the blog, which now means it is included in Community Use. You're welcome!

Dark Archive

Wait its completely new art for the BLOG? ._. Wow

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Merciel AND Shalelu?

WOO!


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Charles Scholz wrote:
Lyoto Machida wrote:
I miss that variant of goblins that were shown in ROTR and "Wrath of the Fleshwarped Queen," "The Emerald Spire" and many featured prominently in many other adventures. I hope they will make a return sooner than later!

The PC Goblins are the exceptions, not the normal.

I figure PC Goblins as outcasts.

Actually if you read Lost Omens Characters Guide the Scarps of Varisia are peculiar in that they've always been treated as vermin by humans, have fought and lost a lot of battles, and the consequence is that they're all very young and that their less evil elders, who kept the wisdom and traditions of their culture, all died in those skirmishes. The humans (and Shalelu, here) don't give them time to grow old and take back their old ways, so they're a culture of teenage delinquents at best.

That said, I confess I think the Scarps are fun. At the same time, I'm having troubles with Pathfinder's characterization of different species (thankfully the word race has been mostly thrown out of the window). It is mostly essentialist: how do ogres behave? How do lamias behave? How do goblins behave? Culture is tied to species/ancestry/"race". Sure, there are variations, but even dwarves and elves fall prey to this mischaracterization. I can almost get behind that because the common ancestries have lots of ethnicities with different cultures, but hobgoblins, for instance, are all a species of efficiency-minded magic-hating ruthless soldiers. I know they were created to be that, but with time they could have become different. More varied, as humans are. As most ancestries could be.

Fantasy has this bad habit of treating different species as monolithic. All lamias are evil. Almost all Avistani orcs are evil. Almost all elves are chaotic good. Humans are the only ones who seem to be molded by their life experiences, as they should, everyone else is seen through an essentialist lens that goes back to Tolkien at the least.

Isn't it time we fought evil factions instead of evil races?

Scarab Sages

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Roswynn wrote:
Fantasy has this bad habit of treating different species as monolithic. All lamias are evil. Almost all Avistani orcs are evil. Almost all elves are chaotic good. Humans are the only ones who seem to be molded by their life experiences, as they should, everyone else is seen through an essentialist lens that goes back to Tolkien at the least.

I recko Paizo's moving away from the notion that you can judge someone by their ancestry or 'species' or whatever you want to call that category.

That said, you can always have people of any category serve as antagonists - human bandits, goblin raiders, elf pirates - as well as PCs.

Fall of Plaguestone spoiler:
There are a bunch of orc minions that aren't characterized with any sympathy, so orcs can still serve the role of Tolkienesque 'evil minion' as well as more heroic or complicated narrative roles.

IMO it's the right balance.

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.

When I started reading this story, I thought it took place in present-day Golarion and what Shalelu initially thought was a goblin raid was actually a 'burn-the-place-for-the-insurance-money' scheme the goblins cooked up with the farmer.

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:
Charles Scholz wrote:
Lyoto Machida wrote:
I miss that variant of goblins that were shown in ROTR and "Wrath of the Fleshwarped Queen," "The Emerald Spire" and many featured prominently in many other adventures. I hope they will make a return sooner than later!

The PC Goblins are the exceptions, not the normal.

I figure PC Goblins as outcasts.

Actually if you read Lost Omens Characters Guide the Scarps of Varisia are peculiar in that they've always been treated as vermin by humans, have fought and lost a lot of battles, and the consequence is that they're all very young and that their less evil elders, who kept the wisdom and traditions of their culture, all died in those skirmishes. The humans (and Shalelu, here) don't give them time to grow old and take back their old ways, so they're a culture of teenage delinquents at best.

That said, I confess I think the Scarps are fun. At the same time, I'm having troubles with Pathfinder's characterization of different species (thankfully the word race has been mostly thrown out of the window). It is mostly essentialist: how do ogres behave? How do lamias behave? How do goblins behave? Culture is tied to species/ancestry/"race". Sure, there are variations, but even dwarves and elves fall prey to this mischaracterization. I can almost get behind that because the common ancestries have lots of ethnicities with different cultures, but hobgoblins, for instance, are all a species of efficiency-minded magic-hating ruthless soldiers. I know they were created to be that, but with time they could have become different. More varied, as humans are. As most ancestries could be.

Fantasy has this bad habit of treating different species as monolithic. All lamias are evil. Almost all Avistani orcs are evil. Almost all elves are chaotic good. Humans are the only ones who seem to be molded by their life experiences, as they should, everyone else is seen through an essentialist lens that goes back to Tolkien at the least.

Isn't it time we fought...

Your comments made me recall that in his interview on Know Direction last night, regarding the foes in the Extinction Curse Adventure Path, Ron Lundeen said he has made an effort to characterize them as demon-worshiping baddies who deserve a "punch in the face." They are not bad because of who they are, they are bad because of what they do. I think we are on the same page with you? That said, in a fictional narrative, not every character will see things that way.

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

7 people marked this as a favorite.
CorvusMask wrote:
Wait its completely new art for the BLOG? ._. Wow

Yes, Mark Moreland commissioned it for the blog, I'm not sure if there are any plans for it to be used elsewhere, but I would not be surprised.

Grand Lodge

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:
Charles Scholz wrote:
Lyoto Machida wrote:
I miss that variant of goblins that were shown in ROTR and "Wrath of the Fleshwarped Queen," "The Emerald Spire" and many featured prominently in many other adventures. I hope they will make a return sooner than later!

The PC Goblins are the exceptions, not the normal.

I figure PC Goblins as outcasts.

Actually if you read Lost Omens Characters Guide the Scarps of Varisia are peculiar in that they've always been treated as vermin by humans, have fought and lost a lot of battles, and the consequence is that they're all very young and that their less evil elders, who kept the wisdom and traditions of their culture, all died in those skirmishes. The humans (and Shalelu, here) don't give them time to grow old and take back their old ways, so they're a culture of teenage delinquents at best.

That said, I confess I think the Scarps are fun. At the same time, I'm having troubles with Pathfinder's characterization of different species (thankfully the word race has been mostly thrown out of the window). It is mostly essentialist: how do ogres behave? How do lamias behave? How do goblins behave? Culture is tied to species/ancestry/"race". Sure, there are variations, but even dwarves and elves fall prey to this mischaracterization. I can almost get behind that because the common ancestries have lots of ethnicities with different cultures, but hobgoblins, for instance, are all a species of efficiency-minded magic-hating ruthless soldiers. I know they were created to be that, but with time they could have become different. More varied, as humans are. As most ancestries could be.

Fantasy has this bad habit of treating different species as monolithic. All lamias are evil. Almost all Avistani orcs are evil. Almost all elves are chaotic good. Humans are the only ones who seem to be molded by their life experiences, as they should, everyone else is seen through an essentialist lens that goes back to Tolkien at the least.

Isn't it time we fought...

I'm not advocating that goblins should be evil and vicious monsters. My complaint (an admittedly minor issue) is that it's been nearly a year since PF 2 came out and I haven't seen any examples of the classic ankle-biter goblin.

Maybe I just missed it? I haven't bought all the Second Edition material, but my experience is now goblins are monolithic in the opposite direction. All the goblins I run into are either sympathetic, helpful or generally good-hearted to the point where I feel like the existence of the evil psycho goblin got ret-conned out of Golarion.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

It’s barely been half a year since P2 launches :3

In P2 the only group of goblins we’ve seen thus far (not counting PFS) is from book 1 of Age of Ashes. There’s other critters and monsters to show off, and we had plenty of adventures in P1 against goblinoids (Burnt Offerings, Ironfang Invasion, etc).


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Aaron Shanks wrote:
Your comments made me recall that in his interview on Know Direction last night, regarding the foes in the Extinction Curse Adventure Path, Ron Lundeen said he has made an effort to characterize them as demon-worshiping baddies who deserve a "punch in the face." They are not bad because of who they are, they are bad because of what they do. I think we are on the same page with you? That said, in a fictional narrative, not every character will see things that way.

I've noticed the same in the Age of Ashes campaign I'm running for my group - the baddies are part of an evil, contemptible organization, but they're very varied in ancestry/species. I like this and I agree in this department we're on the same page.

The Bestiary, though... it promulgates this old idea that whole categories of creatures can be objectively Evil. Like lamias and ogres and even goblins, confusingly enough. For various reasons, and with various nuances and cultural habits... and I understand most of us gamers want Bestiaries with species lore and info on how to play them. I'm just trying to wrap my head around the concept without running into the essentialism problem... and I'm not seeing how to think about it other than "yes, it's a problematic aspect, let's acknowledge that and move on", which isn't all that satisfying...


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Roswynn wrote:

...

The Bestiary, though... it promulgates this old idea that whole categories of creatures can be objectively Evil. Like lamias and ogres and even goblins, confusingly enough. For various reasons, and with various nuances and cultural habits... and I understand most of us gamers want Bestiaries with species lore and info on how to play them. I'm just trying to wrap my head around the concept without running into the essentialism problem... and I'm not seeing how to think about it other than "yes, it's a problematic aspect, let's acknowledge that and move on", which isn't all that satisfying...

Ironically, the PF1e Bestiary makes it clear that the alignments given for each entry is simply the norm for the creature. The alignment can vary as much as you need it for your story. For some reason (probably space) they omitted that from the PF2 Bestiary.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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It’s fiction; everybody, both we players, and the citizens of the lost coast will all have their own point of view.

I’m just rejoicing in more stories about Shalelu.


I still think a conversion guide to coincide with this release would be a perfect opportunity to get even more People on board for PF2.
One of the real Advantages of Pathfinder is its Wealth of Adventure paths. Opening the door to PF2 Players using the already out there Paths would greatly help.
In addition, I guess Rise would be one of the easiest conversions, what with 90% of the Monsters already in the bestiary and most NPC's being based on Core Classes.


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I agree that having Rise for 2nd edition would be awesome.

I would like it even better if it were... uhm, "reworked" for modern sensibilities (the party discovers the goblin are wayward uneducated children treated like pests by the humans, Nualia's treatment is emphatised as contemptible and the people of Sandpoint as guilty, the lamias are less monolithically evil and the ogres are less Midwest/Appalachian horror story...).

I love all APs and really wanna run RotR but boy does it need a refresh.

Feros, saying that the norm for goblins, ogres, hobgoblins, lamias, and so on is to be evil is an essentialist point of view. The problem here is that we're taking species of people (because they're people, obviously) and saying they tend towards being evil or good or anyways making bold swiping statements about the character of not just whole cultures, but actual families of interrelated individuals, reflecting a very retrograde view of the world. This kind of reasoning has promoted uncountable horrors in history and since PF has almost always tried to be "woke" it doesn't reflect well on it. That the new bestiary perpetuates such clichés is a real pity and a waste of an opportunity to really make PF its own original brand of fantasy.

Of course magic can explain how goblins were born from barghest blood and hobgoblins genetically engineered to be elf-hating armies and chromatic dragons were metallics corrupted by a destructive deity... but the result is the same, even with a good reason. Fiends and celestials can be normally one alignment, otherwise they wouldn't be fiends and celestials, they would be something else... one species could be almost always evil as an interesting thought experiment. So many of them? Why adopt such conservative fantasy stereotypes when you can break free of them and tell a story much more grounded in reality, resonating louder with people?

Again, I love PF as many of you know, and I run it every week. In my conversion I'm trying to prep RotR so that some parts of it appear in a less bigoted, racist light, but it's a tall task, and when the new bestiary doesn't help at all... it all gets so much harder =/


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Roswynn wrote:

...

Feros, saying that the norm for goblins, ogres, hobgoblins, lamias, and so on is to be evil is an essentialist point of view. The problem here is that we're taking species of people (because they're people, obviously) and saying they tend towards being evil or good or anyways making bold swiping statements about the character of not just whole cultures, but actual families of interrelated individuals, reflecting a very retrograde view of the world. This kind of reasoning has promoted uncountable horrors in history and since PF has almost always tried to be "woke" it doesn't reflect well on it. That the new bestiary perpetuates such clichés is a real pity and a waste of an opportunity to really make PF its own original brand of fantasy.

Of course magic can explain how goblins were born from barghest blood and hobgoblins genetically engineered to be elf-hating armies and chromatic dragons were metallics corrupted by a destructive deity... but the result is the same, even with a good reason. Fiends and celestials can be normally one alignment, otherwise they wouldn't be fiends and celestials, they would be something else... one species could be almost always evil as an interesting thought experiment. So many of them? Why adopt such conservative fantasy stereotypes when you can break free of them and tell a story much more grounded in reality, resonating louder with people?

Again, I love PF as many of you know, and I run it every week. In my conversion I'm trying to prep RotR so that some parts of it appear in a less bigoted, racist light, but it's a tall task, and when the new bestiary doesn't help at all... it all gets so much harder =/

The range of alignments from the norm is supposed to be wide and varied. Indeed, in PF1 Bestiary the words used are, "While a monster’s size and type remain constant (unless changed by the application of templates or other unusual modifiers), alignment is far more fluid."

I take the norm to mean "culture", not ancestry or species. This seems to have been the intent from the start from the language and direction in the books—and on these boards—by the developers.

That said, they could have been a bit more clear about it from the start and I agree that not having this plainly written out in the new bestiary is a significant oversight.


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Lyoto Machida wrote:
Liane Merciel wrote:

It would have been a mistake to dismiss the goblin as a joke, though. People died for such mistakes. That toy horse’s neck was smeared with real blood; those tails had been collected from real dogs, and some of them looked like they’d been big and fierce. The grisly kneecaps that served as the goblin’s pauldrons were real flesh and bone, and from their ragged edges had probably been chewed off human legs. Maybe live ones.

That was the danger with goblins, Shalelu thought. You laughed at them, thinking they were stupid and big-headed and preposterous, and then they slashed your ankles and pulled you down and cut your throat before you realized that they were, actually, serious as murder.

I miss this version of the Goblin race a lot nowadays. Don't get me wrong, I know a lot of people who enjoy playing the little buggers. And it's totally fair that not every member with a certain ancestry should behave the same.

But recently it feels like Pathfinder has only shown examples of the good and relatively kind goblins. While the stupid, yet vicious goblin villains who loved to sing as they tried to chop off your legs or burn you to death with firebombs have vanished.

I miss that variant of goblins that were shown in ROTR and "Wrath of the Fleshwarped Queen," "The Emerald Spire" and many featured prominently in many other adventures. I hope they will make a return sooner than later!

I agree with you 100%. Goblins should *not* be a fun, happy go lucky, playable race. :(


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Roswynn wrote:
Charles Scholz wrote:
Lyoto Machida wrote:
I miss that variant of goblins that were shown in ROTR and "Wrath of the Fleshwarped Queen," "The Emerald Spire" and many featured prominently in many other adventures. I hope they will make a return sooner than later!

The PC Goblins are the exceptions, not the normal.

I figure PC Goblins as outcasts.

Actually if you read Lost Omens Characters Guide the Scarps of Varisia are peculiar in that they've always been treated as vermin by humans, have fought and lost a lot of battles, and the consequence is that they're all very young and that their less evil elders, who kept the wisdom and traditions of their culture, all died in those skirmishes. The humans (and Shalelu, here) don't give them time to grow old and take back their old ways, so they're a culture of teenage delinquents at best.

That said, I confess I think the Scarps are fun. At the same time, I'm having troubles with Pathfinder's characterization of different species (thankfully the word race has been mostly thrown out of the window). It is mostly essentialist: how do ogres behave? How do lamias behave? How do goblins behave? Culture is tied to species/ancestry/"race". Sure, there are variations, but even dwarves and elves fall prey to this mischaracterization. I can almost get behind that because the common ancestries have lots of ethnicities with different cultures, but hobgoblins, for instance, are all a species of efficiency-minded magic-hating ruthless soldiers. I know they were created to be that, but with time they could have become different. More varied, as humans are. As most ancestries could be.

Fantasy has this bad habit of treating different species as monolithic. All lamias are evil. Almost all Avistani orcs are evil. Almost all elves are chaotic good. Humans are the only ones who seem to be molded by their life experiences, as they should, everyone else is seen through an essentialist lens that goes back to Tolkien at the least.

Isn't it time we fought...

We do have evil factions and they have existed from the beginning but to address your initial point: if every race was treated like humans (i.e., anyone can be any alignment), I believe (opinion here) that it would make the game overall more challenging and taxing for people who don't want to deal with "grey" and would rather just have a "point me in the right direction" (perhaps combat heavy over RP heavy individuals). If we treated all drow, orcs, goblins, and ogres as individuals it would bog down several encounters. This makes sense in real life that we should not judge any book by its cover, but for "a game" where the average individual (may) want to just sit and click, er roll, giving them straightforward, no fuss, here's the bad guy/girl because the book says so and their actions back it up, go kill it/them.

Additionally, the game is built predominantly around combat so if you want to "talk through" most (or all of it), which is perfectly fine if all parties are in agreement, then perhaps all world citizens, and non, should receive more skill points per level/race/etc. so that they *could* be more combat and diplomatically ready for future incidents.

Should you go that route, I would suggest expanding and revising (diplomatic) skills as it would be much easier to "solve" situations when you generally only have to worry about a handful of skills. I would imagine that (N)PCs would tend to level up more frequently and the overall median level of creatures in the world would go up.

It sounds like fun.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Villains don’t stop existing just because people exist.

Humanoids can be any alignment and have free will, this has always been the case. If you go after an orc warband that’s been attacking villages, you’re going after them because they’re a warband attacking villages, not because they’re orcs. Human warband, same result. Gnome warband, same result.

Quote:
if every race was treated like humans (i.e., anyone can be any alignment), I believe (opinion here) that it would make the game overall more challenging and taxing for people who don't want to deal with "grey" and would rather just have a "point me in the right direction" (perhaps combat heavy over RP heavy individuals).

Then find a different game.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Quote:

Additionally, the game is built predominantly around combat so if you want to "talk through" most (or all of it), which is perfectly fine if all parties are in agreement, then perhaps all world citizens, and non, should receive more skill points per level/race/etc. so that they *could* be more combat and diplomatically ready for future incidents.

Should you go that route, I would suggest expanding and revising (diplomatic) skills as it would be much easier to "solve" situations when you generally only have to worry about a handful of skills. I would imagine that (N)PCs would tend to level up more frequently and the overall median level of creatures in the world would go up.

... you haven’t actually looked at the rules or played haven’t you?

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

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DerNils wrote:

I still think a conversion guide to coincide with this release would be a perfect opportunity to get even more People on board for PF2.

One of the real Advantages of Pathfinder is its Wealth of Adventure paths. Opening the door to PF2 Players using the already out there Paths would greatly help.
In addition, I guess Rise would be one of the easiest conversions, what with 90% of the Monsters already in the bestiary and most NPC's being based on Core Classes.

Thanks DerNils. Ideally, sure. We discussed it. The Marketing team was all for it, haha! We want to make conversion easier, but that's an undertaking that would need to be built into our production schedule well in advance—and Pathfinder Second Edition is only six months old. The Kingmaker AP Anniversary Edition will be the first full conversion we will publish. That said, many players find converting our older APs to Pathfinder Second Edition is possible for them to do on their own even now. The Gamemastery Guide may help. Adventures Ahead!

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

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By the way, the Gamemastery Guide has a section on "ALIGNMENT VARIANTS," including no alignment. We understand there are different play styles out there. Adventures Ahead!


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@ Aaron Shanks:

Will "Adventures Ahead!" be your catchphrase/sign off going forward?

*I quite like it!*
(^_')=b

Carry on,

--C.


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Alignment variants in the GMG sounds like possibly my cup of tea, or at least good for a lot of what ails me, and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope the druid in my AoA campaign will still be able to use Searing Light with some efficacy though or she will object heavily to this kind of loss - but that's a different problem, it's really good that we can tinker with alignment generally speaking.

I've thought about it and I think if I emphatize that different species have many different cultures, similarly to the core ancestries (great job on the various ethnicities anyways guys, making dwarves and halflings etc more varied was a masterstroke), I could be able to present more monolithic ancestries in a more progressive light. Not perfect, but should help, most of all with no alignments or a similar solution.

I'll try dusting off my old Paizo pdfs about giants, dragons, classic monsters etc and see if I find more chances for different cultural approaches to bolster. Different cultures within the same species would be a huge improvement in future books anyways imvho, and I'd support that unconditionally.

Oh, btw, I still haven't been able to express my appreciation of Liane's story about Shalelu above this comments - I really enjoyed it and I hope she'll keep churning out these little masterpieces for her PF fans for the foreseeable future (to paraphrase Rysky, Liane + Shalelu = Win!).

Contributor

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Hey hey! I'm happy people liked the story. :)

It's interesting that the discussion turned toward the essential nature of goblins, too, because that was one of the things I had to think about while writing this piece. The version of Shalelu that I got with the writing prompt listed her stats with "favored enemy: goblinoids," so it was a fun writing exercise to think about how to convey that through her POV while also keeping her a solidly Good character.

Because, on the one hand, she has to hold certain views in order to class "goblinoids" as a "favored enemy," and those views can't be totally unreasonable or unfounded, because if she just holds irrational prejudices for no reason (and, moreover, holds them to the point where she is extra efficient at killing these guys on account of it), then that's not terribly Good. On the other hand, goblins are PC-able now, which means they can't be Always Evil Always.

So my thinking was: well, obviously these goblins are bad, because we actually see them in the act of burning down a farm and trying to kill everybody on it, so first we'll show that part, and then we'll relate that to Shalelu's personal experiences and firsthand knowledge about these specific tribes and their varying flavors of psychotic giggling malice, and then we'll use that to support her generalizations concerning All Goblins. That way (a) it's clear that her views are not in fact unreasonable, based on her personal experience of these specific antagonist tribes in this specific region; and (b) if players or GMs want to push back against that, they'll know where she's coming from and what they need to do to effectively play that angle.

So based on that, I knew this particular piece had to be written in tight third-person POV (which is my general preference anyway, because it lets you build in these effects), so it would be clear that what we're seeing comes through Shalelu's personal filter. (By contrast, the Shyka piece takes a more fairytale mythic tone, with no clear or anchored point of view, because the effect I was aiming for there was the exact opposite: nobody has direct personal knowledge of how that story went down, and possibly the whole thing was just invented out of thin air in the first place.)

HOPEFULLY -- and whether or not this succeeded, I couldn't tell you, but it's always part of the goal -- there's enough in the text to both support the playstyle of "Sandpoint's goblins are psychotic giggle fiends! LET US SMITE THEM!!" and "here's a potential character-building point of disagreement that our party/this PC might have with a major NPC. LET US ARGUE WITH HER (in a respectful and mutually enlightening fashion)!!"

Ultimately all this stuff gets folded into the story and (again, hopefully) isn't disruptive to the flow of the narrative, but it's always fun when there's that extra little challenge of trying to build in enough texture for people to strike sparks off it in whatever way best suits their home games. It's a big part of why I enjoy writing game-linked fiction. :)

and that, I guess, is today's episode of real long blabbling from the DVD director's commentary

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

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Psiphyre wrote:

@ Aaron Shanks:

Will "Adventures Ahead!" be your catchphrase/sign off going forward?

*I quite like it!*
(^_')=b

Carry on,

--C.

It’s been in my email signature for a year, so, yes. Thanks!


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Firstly, I just want to say really awesome blog piece, it hearkens to a lovely classic feel, a quality that made RotR as popular and everlasting as it has been.

Into the other matter, the culture of a given race is really what the determining factor is. The vast majority of orcs are CE because their culture celebrates and demands that. Now, in the case of an orc baby whos found in the woods and raised at a monastery, well his alignment could be just about anything, because he has been allowed to grow without the demands placed upon him by his racial culture.

Thats really what it all boils down to, demons are always THIS alignment because they are outsiders with an intrinsic creation that specifies such, humanoids aren't bound by such rules, but generally follow the culture of their racial norms. Its also why if you totally deconstruct the monolith, then everything just becomes "Humans with funny X", and thats doing a disservice to good worldbuilding.

Sovereign Court

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I am quite comfortable with symbolism.

Goblins represent cackling, destructive impulses.
Orcs represent the desire to bully and dominate.
Hobgoblins represent the urge toward direction and group domination.
Aboleths represent our fear of powerful forces that we are not even aware of acting against us.
Dryads represent our fascination with the beauty of nature.
Sirens represent the temptation of rumoured treasures far across the sea.

Etc.

This is their function.
This is why they may be loaded with meaning.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Liane Merciel wrote:
Hey hey! I'm happy people liked the story. [...]

I‘m a bit confused about this blog: did you write an intro to the pocked edition for the AP or a novel based on the AP?

I liked Nightglass and Nightblade, so even though I’m currently playing RotR I‘d buy the novel if you wrote it with Shalelu as the main protagonist.


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I think that in the story Shalelu could have thought about how dangerous and hostile the Scarps are and compared that to many other goblins from all around the Inner Sea, to show she's mostly a sworn enemy of *these* particular tribes, but I'm still not very good at writing and I wouldn't dream of giving pointers on how to do it to Liane, of all people. The story was thoroughly enjoyable anyways and worked well. Conflict about the nature of goblins can wait until the farmers are safe, that's for sure.

Gambit, it's good that the evil of many monsters is purely cultural, but when a whole species of monsters is so predominantly evil the difference tends to get lost. I think the approach used for the core ancestries - giving each of them many different cultures and ethnicities - tends to work better in avoiding racial essentialism. Sure, elves still are mostly chaotic good and dwarves lawful good, but apart from that, they're not Klingons vs Romulans. They're much less essentialist, because it's clear it's not their "race" that molds them into who they are, but their varied traditions, their history, and the circumstances they live in.

"Humans with funny X" is certainly a danger to avoid. If one wants different species in their world the species need to be, well, different. That said, avoiding racial essentialism is very important in my opinion, because it encourages reluctance to consider alternative perspectives and ends up in a generalized close-mindedness. It's not by chance that people at Stormfront recently held up D&D, and particularly the race/alignment system, as a perfect demonstration of how the world works.

GeraintElberion, I like symbolism. I'm less inclined to use species to symbolize general traits or ideas, although as long as those traits/ideas are represented through a multiplicity of different cultures and we don't necessarily attach Good/Evil labels to the results then I'll consider myself sufficiently vindicated. I think the Wights in ASoIaF might be a symbol for climate change, and I can easily get behind the Oliphaunt of Jandelay as a symbol for unthinking destruction. I do think we need to be careful though to avoid creating fictional species which already sound like racist clichés and attach greater significance to them. We should instead make them more sophisticated in their cultural differences, as was done for dwarves (Holtaksen, Pahmet, Paraheen, Kulenett, Taralu...), for elves (as is tradition), and even for goblins.

We shoudln't conflate race, culture, and ability, because that makes race objectively real instead of a social construct. I don't see that as a desirable end.


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^We don't know (unless it has been detailed in a novel or an AP book article or something) how much Shalelu knows about the rest of Golarion -- she might have never met any Goblins other than those in the parts of Varisia near Crying Leaf and Sandpoint (and maybe in between). And if she had happened to make a side trip to Isger and the surrounding area, that certainly wouldn't help.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
GeraintElberion wrote:

I am quite comfortable with symbolism.

Goblins represent cackling, destructive impulses.
Orcs represent the desire to bully and dominate.
Hobgoblins represent the urge toward direction and group domination.
Aboleths represent our fear of powerful forces that we are not even aware of acting against us.
Dryads represent our fascination with the beauty of nature.
Sirens represent the temptation of rumoured treasures far across the sea.

Etc.

This is their function.
This is why they may be loaded with meaning.

Three of those are humanoids that aren’t innately evil and have free will.

The others are an aberration, fey, and a magical beast. So a world of difference.

Contributor

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I once had a bad reaction to a (prescribed) drug: it made me angry all the time. It's one of the experiences that made me realize that free will is not as free or willful as most people think. But it also shaped how I view orcs these days. Orcs were created by their gods to be warriors, they are innately ferocious. When you're angry all the time, it's easy to be chaotic evil. Even if an orc chooses to be lawful or good, they still have to either subsume or refocus that anger. (I suppose one might compare it to the many versions of the Incredible Hulk.)

In the same way humans are the baseline for ability scores, I think of humans as the baseline for alignment. We have both good and evil, lawful and chaotic instincts. Fantasy races with alignment tendencies diverge from "human nature" in meaningful ways. Dwarves don't have as strong a desire for individuality (thus a lawful alignment and a Charisma penalty). Elves live long enough that permanence is less important to them (thus a tendency to chaos). Whether good or evil, by humans standards, goblins never stop being precocious children (and thus devoid of other influences go Lord of the Flies).


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Reading Shalelu being so bad-ass almost makes me regret giving her such a silly voice in our game. :P


David Schwartz wrote:

I once had a bad reaction to a (prescribed) drug: it made me angry all the time. It's one of the experiences that made me realize that free will is not as free or willful as most people think. But it also shaped how I view orcs these days. Orcs were created by their gods to be warriors, they are innately ferocious. When you're angry all the time, it's easy to be chaotic evil. Even if an orc chooses to be lawful or good, they still have to either subsume or refocus that anger. (I suppose one might compare it to the many versions of the Incredible Hulk.)

In the same way humans are the baseline for ability scores, I think of humans as the baseline for alignment. We have both good and evil, lawful and chaotic instincts. Fantasy races with alignment tendencies diverge from "human nature" in meaningful ways. Dwarves don't have as strong a desire for individuality (thus a lawful alignment and a Charisma penalty). Elves live long enough that permanence is less important to them (thus a tendency to chaos). Whether good or evil, by humans standards, goblins never stop being precocious children (and thus devoid of other influences go Lord of the Flies).

Well said David, you have expertly surmised how I view fantasy settings. I think the core of the discussion falls to the age old nature vs nurture debate, and I would say for D&D its generally about 25% nature, 75% nurture.


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^Sounds more like the other way around, in practice.

Dark Archive

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Liane Merciel wrote:
and that, I guess, is today's episode of real long blabbling from the DVD director's commentary

This needs to be a thing!

On a similar note, for anyone who hasn't seen it, go watch the horror in games panel with Liane from last years Paizocon!


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As UnArcaneElection points out, it sounds more like in D&D it's more like 75% nature, 25% nurture, thus an essentialist pov.

That said I must say I like David's concept - a species might be constantly angry, for magical or biological reasons, and orcs could certainly qualify, thus being usually classified as CE. It certainly is supported by the way half-orcs are usually depicted - people with anger problems in a nutshell. I also agree that dwarves tend towards community and are less egoistic/individualistic than your "average" human, so they can be represented as usually LG, while it's very true that the impermanence of all things experienced in elven long natural lifespans can lead to a chaotic/frequently changing disposition towards various subjects (I personally really love the way elves are depicted in PF, almost never marrying because it would be a mind-boggling bore for instance).

The way you describe goblins, David, would be perfect for PF1, but while reading Lost Omens Character Guide I've noticed an effort to depict them as a less sociopathic ancestry. The Scarps, the goblins populating Western Varisia, are described as being continuously treated like vermin by the local people, with their elders constantly killed before they can manage to give the rest traditions and common sense, and thus they're a result of the cycle of violence (which imho is a strong theme in Burnt Offerings and RotR in general, and something I really like about this AP and constantly draws me in).

Ragarding the cycle of violence I would like to point out my understanding of orcs - they've always been predator-like, aggressive and so on, but it was the clashes in the Darklands against the ancient dwarves that gave them a taste for actual warfare. The fact the dwarves, even classified as Good as they are, tried to wipe them out again and again during their Quest for Sky, only to find out they were pushing them exactly where they were going, and after it, because at that point the hate between the two species was just too ingrained and festering, made them the war-obsessed, always-angry, omnicidal culture we meet in Avistan - plenty different from Garundi orcs. I appreciate that orcs as enemies are a sad result of circumstances and conservativism on the part of the dwarves, honestly (if my reading is at least partially correct).

Changing subject, it's absolutely true that Shalelu doesn't necessarily know about other populations of goblins and thus might not know there are indeed decent goblins around, for sure. I'm really not fighting against Liane's portrayal of Shalelu (or of the Scarps) in this story, which I found rather awesome.

Again, I'm thinking about David's pointers and I must say they're very smart and appealing. We don't want different ancestries/species to be the same as humans with pointed ears, so we need to have them be really different. Perhaps D&D didn't go far enough in that direction and that's why I (and many others) get this idea of racial essentialism from its "races" (even calling them races at this point in time seems really absurd). On the contrary PF has always tried to make them unique and different from humans in a myriad ways, and as of late they've also become more culturally varied, which is all in all the important concept I'm trying to push here - it's okay that biologically a species tends to have certain characteristics (heritage, feats - and I'm very glad that now no 2 specimens of the same ancestry are really the same even though they follow certain themes), but that shouldn't be a substitute for different cultures/ethnicities.

As I said, I wanna extend the reasoning to the various "monster races" as well - ogres, trolls, orcs etc. I hope I find some interesting material, but in the meantime I would like to encourage Paizo (which has already done a good job with orcs, for instance, and arguably with trolls and others) to try and clarify the non-essentialist nature of some of their various species. Alignment is something the new edition has brought over of course, but I'm glad we'll be able to tinker with it with the GMG on hand, and more nuanced, less outright villainous species would furtherly work against the essentialist ideal (with some exceptions - fiends are fiends, and I don't think a settlement of "good urdefhans" would necessarily be a great idea!... although... interesting thought experiment). If they could also, in general, be depicted as belonging to actually different cultures, same way the core ancestries have been, that would do a lot of good to the gaming subculture... for so many reasons.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think the more important thing is that the alignments need to be treated more like Starfinder, less like PF1.

ie, unless one is directly drinking from the DivinityWell of power, there can be variations within alignment that don't immediately shift one to a different alignment.

Otherwise, how could someone *choose* to be Lawful? How can someone dictate to others how to live their lives if they are Chaotic, etc, etc.

Not being tied down to the baggage and cultural interpetations of nearly fifty years of gaming tradition is a liberating prospect... and also one loaded with great responsibility.

I've seen some very *interesting* takes on alignment in the Kingmaker CRPG that leave me both scratching my head at times (that's not how it used to be!) and smiling (That's how I've always envisioned it).

If philosophy, religion, and culture continue to evolve, then yes, the idea of a goblin mob family running a numbers racket in Katapesh *does* make a bit of sense.

:>

Scarab Sages

Currently running a convereted Rise of Runelord for 2e, wish I had this earlier so I didn't have to lug the giant hardback of it to my games. Check out our conversion to 2e on our Podcast here https://nvng.podbean.com/ . Have fun out there pathfinders!

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