Hi all! Mikhail Rekun here, I'm one of the freelancers who wrote for this book -- I'm the guy that wrote the gnolls, the Mbe'ke dwarves, the Mwangi Jungle, and the Terwa Uplands. Just want to say thank you for all the enthusiasm, especially for my beloved floofy gnolls. :D
My veeeeeeeery first D&D character, back in the misty depths of [checks calendar, feels himself turning to dust]... long ago... was a gnoll. Terribly emo gnoll, but I've had a love for the fluffy-eared critters ever since, and for hyenas as well. I'm fairly sure I've been wheedling Eleanor for a chance to write gnolls since I started freelancing for Paizo.
Each of the gnoll heritages was based on one of the four hyena subspecies, so when I was looking at aardwolves I was like "...welp, gnoll/halfling." I'm pretty sure the "Many are skeptical that you are in fact a gnoll" line comes from Eleanor originally, though.
...I'd been thinking Angela Lansbury when I wrote her, honestly, but I think Jennifer Lewis is the superior choice. And yes, she'd be a great patron for PCs.
One of my proudest moments as a Paizo freelancer was getting the following sentence into print: "The centaur is Jaldan (NG female centaur apprentice shaman), the PCs’ contact. The children are Alayn and Linnit (CN male and female human adorable brats), a pair of young troublemakers" (PFS1-15: Blooming Catastrophe, pg. 5)
There’s a tiny mention of a gnoll hoping to found a gnoll nation opposed to slavery and I’m SO keen on it.
Also me! Unlike her Katapeshi counterpart, Gold Beetle is more focused on the nation-building than the abolitionism, though it's definitely part of her agenda.
Eleanor Ferron wrote:
That document was extremely useful in digging up some more authentic hyena-related myths to draw on. The Right-Hand Blood feat also came from the same document:
"Another belief considers that the flesh of the right side of a striped hyena has healing properties against many illnesses but the left side is poisonous." (Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan: Hyenas, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1998, pg. 96)
I've read a few fanfics or campaign narratives here and there, and I've written enough cutscenes for my home campaigns that they probably edge into fanficness.
The best TTRPG fanfic I have ever read, by a considerable margin, is the 40k All Guardsmen Party.
I must admit that Michael Sayre knew very well how to hook me onto a project.
"Hey, Mikhail, do you want to work on a PFS adventure featuring displaced Russian soldiers in Golarion?"
"...is there a way for me to say 'Yes' loudly and quickly enough?"
The hat, by the way, is called a papakha.
[is not blamed] Marvelous, I escape unscathed!
The real reason is probably just conservation of detail. But hey, it opens the field to the PCs, as the Unofficial Lost Omens Dating Guide demonstrates. :B
I also like how there are other post campaign articles without confirming they happened ;D Such as Choral the dragon theory and certain three headed raven from War for the Crown.
I think this was a case of convergent evolution. One of the directives of the book was definitely 'make some plot hooks' for the people in question, and you have these APs with handy dandy post-campaign plot hooks as is...
Maleagant has standards.
Thanks, Sasha and Mikhail! It's great to hear these insights from you, although I'm fairly sure you couldn't have called a feat "Stiff Upper Lip" (TM) without inciting the wrath of the British people! ;)
Alas. Thus is my creativity constrained by cruel reality, and Golarion forever loses a spark of genius.
Hail and well met, fellow travelers! The name is Mikhail Rekun, and I wrote the Human Ancestries section of this book.
First, credit where it's due, Eleanor and Luis did yeoman work putting this book together, and Mark did a great deal to convert my early-system musings into actual rules.
Overall, I'd say this was the most difficult project I've ever undertaken for Paizo, before or since. On the mechanical side, the PF2 system was still being finalized when I was writing all those feats, which made for some interesting times (I want to say that heritages became a thing about halfway through my writing, though my memory may be deceiving me). On the setting side, well... summarizing an entire world's worth of ethnic groups was never going to be easy. Still, I'm rather pleased with the final product.
A couple of miscellaneous notes:
Anyway, that's all from me for now. Hope you lot like the book!
I very, very, very much would like to see playable gnolls somewhere in the setting.
They're a venerable D&D race, dating back from the first edition. They have a very appealing look (how can you not love these faces?). The hyena link gives you options for some definitely novel biology (the insane jaw strength has definite play applications, while the reproductive aspects are not exactly game-friendly but can definitely be fodder for cultural myths in the style of the Hugo-award winning Digger by Ursula Vernon.)
Keith Baker's 4E article on gnolls was a master class in how to make gnolls interesting and playable without detracting from the 'dangerous monster' aspect.
And I think that there are definite signs that Golarion may be ready for such a thing. We're steadily moving away from 'It's okay to kill them because they're green' approach to gaming, and if goblins can be a player ancestry, I can't imagine why gnolls couldn't be.
So, all aboard the gnoll hype train! Gnoll gnoll gnoll!
1) Ustalav and all that is within it, but especially the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. I started gaming in Ravenloft, and Ustalav feels very much like Ravenloft's hip, modern successor.
2) Taldor, and the mixture of politics, arrogance, history, and genuine albeit faded greatness that it has. If I were to live in Golarion, I would be a Taldan.
3) The Test of the Starstone and the stories of the Ascended Gods (Iomedae, Norgorber, and Cayden Cailean). More than any others, they feel like fully realized and complex characters, while at the same time maintaining that 'mythic' quality to them.
4) Psychopomps. I feel profound sympathy for the put-upon bureaucrats who are just trying to make the universe run properly.
You are most welcome! You have not heard the last of me, but alas, the big stuff I've worked on is still under NDA at the moment. Weep for the plight of the freelancer, Rysky.
First of all, thanks to @Mikhail Rekun for the extremely useful post.
You are very welcome!
I agree with this, with the caveat that Anastasia might think to use magic to intervene covertly abroad and spare her armies. But I don't see a way clear to her loosening the reins in a longstanding repressive society, when she's only ever seen that lead to ruin for her family and for herself personally (she might also get some schadenfreude from scrying on the Russian Civil War from time to time).
I think at this point we are so far out of the usual situation that any historical comparisons are of limited use at best, and narrative considerations become more important (in this case, I'm guessing that the narrative purpose is to make people who finished the Reign of Winter AP feel like they accomplished a positive act).
Anyway, I will bow out of the discussion at this point, but feel free to ping me if anyone wants more Random Russian History Fun Time Posts.
I generally avoid wading into these sorts of debates, but for once this touches very close to my own field. So, here we go!
First off, hi, I'm Mikhail Rekun. I'm a Paizo freelancer, though not one who's done anything related to Saga Lands to date. When not writing about duskwalkers and mortics, though, I'm a historian of the late Russian Empire. (I've got a book and everything! Check it out: How Russia Lost Bulgaria, 1878-1886) My specialty is diplomatic history and foreign relations, not the Romanov dynasty itself, but I'm moderately familiar with them.
First point: There is not enough historical information to say firmly that Anastasia would be more liberal or more repressive than the typical ruler. Ultimately, Anastasia died when she was seventeen years old, and as a woman would have never been considered for the Russian throne owing to the Pauline laws of succession (there's some outside edge cases where such a thing was possible, but this was no a concern at the time to my knowledge). I'm not aware of Anastasia ever showing much interest in politics at a young age.
Thus, everything is going to be guess work to a certain extent, and that's even before you factor in the potential PTSD from her family's death, or the way resurrection, dimensional travel, and all the rest would influence the poor girl.
That said, we can untangle a couple of other points here.
The argument that the Romanovs were uniformly repressive, or that the lesson of history is that if you give the people an inch they will take a mile is a bit of an oversimplification. By and large, the last 150 or so years of the Romanovs saw more liberal monarchs alternating with more reactionary ones - you have Catherine the Great followed by Paul I, Alexander I followed by Nicholas I (Nicholas Palki, the real Gaoler of Europe), Alexander II followed by Alexander III, and then Nicholas II as the odd duck in the flock.
Taken as a whole, Imperial Russia was a more conservative land than France or the United Kingdom, but there were regular efforts to modernize, liberalize, and update it - the biggest effort was Alexander II's Great Reforms, which freed the serfs but also brought about massive reorganizations in the judiciary, in civil administration, and so forth.
The reason here is that it was fairly clear that a consistently authoritarian line would leave Russia further and further behind its peers among the Great Powers. I won't get into the details because I am much too lazy to break out my books, but suffice to say that Russia's antiquated administration came with serious costs - more modern states such as Germany were better able to mobilize large numbers of soldiers, and use civic expenditures to arrange railways the way they liked them for easy logistics. Ultimately, Alexander II became a reformer and a liberal (in the contemporary Russian sense of the term), because Imperial Russia had been beaten black and blue during the Crimean War, for all that the French and British armies had their own share of woeful incompetence.
Nicholas II breaks the pattern a bit, because he was honestly not the brightest bulb, but even his own experiences point to the fact that one cannot effectively repress a population indefinitely - the Revolution of 1905 was only really stopped because Sergei Witte essentially bullied Nicholas into granting a constitution and allowing for a legislature, even if the October Manifesto was subsequently defanged to near irrelevance with the various election manipulations. Which in turn played a major role in letting pressure build that resulted in the February Revolution.
So, it's certainly plausible that a reborn Anastasia might conclude that perpetual repression is a long-term loser, because sooner or later the system breaks down. Personally, I think it's even more plausible that she'd become a staunch pacifist and noninterventionist, because the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 had their proximate causes in her father getting involved in unwise and unsuccessful foreign wars.
This post is getting a bit unwieldy, but I'll touch on a second point, which is the idea that the Romanovs were uniquely brutal. As noted, compared to the rest of Europe they were more conservative, and they definitely had their unpleasant moments (best example here would be the regular pogroms launched by basically all the Tsars).
But consider their contemporaries - such folks as Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Dowager Empress Cixi, or the most triumphant example, King Leopold II.
King Leopold II of Belgium's life overlapped a bit with Anastasia's (she was born in 1901, he died in 1909), though I don't know that they'd ever met. But in the Congo Free State, Leopold ran what can only be called a genocidal regime, uniquely brutal and horrific even by the standards of colonialism, which saw such things as routine mutilation, forced labor (slavery, not to mince words), and cut the Congo's population roughly in half. He's someone who could give Hitler and Stalin a run for their money in the body count contest.
Ultimate conclusion then: Yes, the Romanovs were conservative in general and on occasion quite reactionary (the point about Nicholas I and the Revolution of 1848 is a valid one), but they were neither uniformly tyrannical nor necessarily out of line with other European monarchs of the Victorian era.
Furthermore, there's not really enough on Anastasia to make sweeping proclamations as to what kind of ruler she would be, but certainly a benevolent, non-violent Anastasia is entirely possible.
Sources: I've got more books on this topic than I care to think about, but a very good set of readable histories on the late Russian Empire would be the various books of W. Bruce Lincoln, especially In War's Dark Shadow. If anyone is terribly interested in an actual reading list, I would be happy to provide.
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the old, classic pulp adventures (or more accurately, their retro reincarnations like Indiana Jones or Johnny Quest). It had orientalizing baggage by the truckload, no argument here, but at the same time... there was this little spark of genuine interest in other lands and other cultures. "Look how cool the world is! Look at all these interesting places and interesting people!"
Seeing this made me grin, I'll say.
Anyway, this was a genius trick and I am legitimately impressed. Also putting a bunch of adventures on my to-read list, clearly.
I was very much thinking of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain when I wrote it.
Greetings all and sundry! This is Mikhail Rekun, your humble author and writer of the capstone section. A great big thank you to Eleanor and Luis for tossing this my way - it was fun to really stretch my wings with high-power, high-level stuff.
A few miscellaneous notes and comments below. Standard disclaimer, this is me in my civilian hat, and is no way, shape, or form official.
1) My balance guideline was 1 capstone = 4 feats, leaning towards more powerful and dramatic effects out of the principle of ending the campaign, and the edition, with a bang.
2) I dearly, dearly wanted to call the Wizard capstone 'Schrodinger's Wizard', but this would have been too meta. The thought, however, is there.
3) My own personal favorite capstones are 'The Boss', 'With This Sword' and 'Won't Stay Dead,' for their ability to spark new stories or roleplaying moments ("How did you survive that broken neck?" "Special trousers.") Arch-Familiar gets an honorable mention because I love familiars.
Finally, I note that the narrator of this section, Kallixeina Nyx, is a character from my Planescape campaign, and is the sister of Kharmione Nyx from the Half-Dead article intro in AP 139: The Dead Roads. You can see what Kalli looks like here.
Hope everyone liked the capstones!
Greetings to all and sundry! This is Mikhail Rekun, and I wrote one of the monsters at the end of this AP -- the Gurgist, everyone's favorite terrifying masked horror who isn't really that bad.
As ever, a massive thank you to Ron Lundeen for sending this my way, along with big bunches of ideas to ponder. And likewise, what follows are some random comments that are not in any way official.
Stylistically, the Gurgist grew out of thinking about hungers, while trying to avoid the usual zombie tropes (nothing wrong with those, but we were aiming at more than just 'cannibal humans'). So, I was thinking about hunger as a central theme, and addiction, and I was reading Discworld, and a little light bulb went up above my head. For those sorry souls among you who have not read Sir Terry's Discworld series, vampires there often become teetotalers, displacing their addiction to blood for something else.
Now, in Sir Terry's books, this is mostly played for laughs. So I started thinking of how to make it creepy (leading to the obsession skills). And then one of my friends showed me something that involved masks, and a second light bulb went on. Creepy masks! Masks make everything creepy! (My players are now rolling their eyes a bit). Maybe not the most original idea in the history of gaming (creepy masked dead things are a thing), but hey, it works.
Fun fact: As often neutral critters, they can also be creepy-cool allies.
So, this is where the Gurgist came from. I'm rather proud of them, and I'm really proud of the artwork that came with them. Seriously, it's amazing.
Mechanically, Gurgists are slow-moving rogues. They have the zombie vibe, and then they rush up to you and sneak attack you (ideally, they're fighting in groups and set up flanks). Whereupon they are zombies dual-wielding daggers and hitting you for way too much damage.
Hope folks enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them, and with luck a few PCs will get to go 'urk' at being stabbed repeatedly.
Hello everyone! This is Mikhail Rekun, I wrote the Half-Dead article at the back. I just want to say a very big thank you to Ron for giving me the chance to write about this -- various creepy dead things are absolutely in my wheelhouse.
Some miscellaneous comments on things in the article not immediately obvious: (For the record, this is me in my civilian hat, and is in no way, shape, or form official).
1) The Dhampir's Blasphemous Chalice is inspired by Brian Lumley's Necroscope series, with its alien vampires.
2) The Suit of Inverted Jade is based on a real-world thing, the jade burial suits of Han Dynasty China. I had the privilege of seeing one at the National Museum of Beijing roughly at the same time as Ron first messaging me about this article, so it was meant to be (you can find more on them here).
3) The weapons from the Vanth's Scythe feat are meant to match the weapons of the psychopomps -- scythe for vanths, quarterstaves for shoki, whips for the morrigna, and bows for olethros.
4) The Shabti feats are all named after actual Egyptian titles, with the exception of First General. But the others are all real things.
Finally, as a tiny bit of trivia, Kharmione Nyx, the hustler from the article introduction, is a character in a Planescape game I have run. You can see what she looks like here.
That's all! Hope everyone liked the article.
Greetings all and sundry! Mikhail Rekun here, I wrote the familiar and animal companion sections. I might have made some manner of feral sound when Luis offered me a chance to write it.
I'm glad to see people like those sections so far. Some random thoughts, keeping in mind that this is me in my 'Private Citizen' hat and I don't actually have my copy yet.