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Thank you for the comforting words you guys =)

I don't do secret checks, admittedly, and that might have helped them. They were all gathered in this regular room though so one seeked while the others aided, and it wasn't really all that long before they found it. It had also talked before, as per written in the room description.

Anyways they've become real monsters. I remember when bosses gave them tough, even despairing fights... nowadays they bulldoze over everything in their path. 15th level. I think I'm doing something wrong, plus the critical hits deck really makes the fighter something out of Dragonball Z (It's over 9000!!).

My party fought it too, same AP, and they took damage from the maws it materialized, thought they could hurt it by targeting them and its eyes, then used seek in the area the initial voice had come from - the stove in the kitchen - and found it there, druid cast stone to flesh to remove high resistance to anything but adamantine, and they took it down. Not easily, but not with particular difficulty either. Interesting monster for sure, wish its abilities were better described in the MM.

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One thing that gets me is, he's a cloistered cleric, and he's using a bow.

I mean, cloistered cleric is all about casting in my opinion. Having a decent bow can help in niche situations, but he should want to cast, cast and cast more.

If he were a warpriest I could totally see him going around gishing archer/cleric, sure, but cloistered? Get closer to your allies and use that bless spell.

Btw my impression isn't that "warpriests are traps"... don't have a player with one though, so I may be wrong (although I hope not, it would suck if they were so terrible). They're still full casters, they shouldn't compete with fighters in strike accuracy.

Not as such. But you can check the various types of magical ammo that you could buy, if you really care about defeating the enemy's resistance.

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Yay Mwangi book!

JJ, I have a question - what's the scale for the Lost Omens World Guide poster maps? Or those in the book itself? Really, I'd just like to know the actual distances involved. You can totally point me to somewhere else if you're not the right guy to ask.

Sorry to bother you, there's just so many sources, all saying different stuff, I need the most official answer I can get. Thank you! T__T

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Btw thank you JJ and Paizo for Vudra, from the bottom of my heart! Even just an article at the end of an adventure is awesome to me, honestly.

Hey... do you think it would be possible to get similar treatments of other regions in Golarion further on? So that we start getting some details before you all are ready to come out with full books, y'know...

Southern Garund comes to mind. Also many places in Arcadia, Casmaron and if you guys feel like, Sarusan... wouldn't it be cool?...

(Not that you gotta write them all down in the next few months of course! XD ).

Oh and thank you so much for your answers re: summon spells, JJ! ^___^

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James Jacobs wrote:
It's because that character is genderfluid and it's no big deal.

Thanks J, thought so but wanted to make sure with the author himself ;)

So changing subject: when you use a spell like summon animal you effectively create a short-lived animal to help you out and then it disappears, same thing with celestials, fiends, even dragons?

It's certainly much more practical for a spell with a brief casting time and it's good that the ritual for Planar Ally is more involved and actually calls an already existing being. I guess my question is, the creature you summon with the spell is still a living creature, not completely artificial, with feelings and sentience and whatnot, right? So if you send them to die it's on you, I would say? What is the canon and what's your pov on the moral implications?

(Btw hadn't got the memo re: the Mwangi Expanse AP announcement, positively thrilled here!!)

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Hi JJ! =D

Something that came to me while reading Sandpoint - Light of the Lost Coast (everyone stop reading if your GM is having you adventure there!):

Is there any particular reason Shayliss Vinder's vigilante identity is gendered male? I'm wondering whether perhaps Shayliss is struggling with her gender identity, or perhaps she's genderfluid and it's no big deal, or she just feels more comfy as a man-coded vigilante.

If you could answer me this it would be really helpful in portraying her, I think!

Btw, loving the latest Q&A about your original campaign, Jack Vance, communicating info for boss fights... Playing that campaign with your sister must have been a blast! And a lot of locations you originally came up with made it in the official setting - that must be pretty nice!

Please don't work yourself too hard with all the products Paizo's working on atm (most of all Kingmaker!).

Thank you and big hugs! ^____^


James Jacobs wrote:

Genre: Movie/video game soundtrack.

Band: Dead Can Dance.
Artist: John Carpenter.
Album: Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

I love OSTs too! And Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China and Into the Mouth of Madness are fantastic (the latter is one of the creepiest movies I've ever seen, a masterpiece). Dead Can Dance sound really interesting. As for Duran Duran I love Ordinary World, personally - I think maybe I'm too young to really appreciate their older stuff?

Anyways! Another question about PF came to mind - you said you like Wayne Reynold's rendition of Ameiko, right? (I *love* Wayne!) - what's the story with her white strands of hair, does she bleach them or did they lose their color because of a wound, or stress, idk?

James Jacobs wrote:

I don't feel like it; sorry. How to adjust and revise Second Darkness has been a constant buzz in the back of my head for over a decade now. The two primary ways I'd try to fix it would be to insert a transition adventure between parts 2 and 3 that would ease the PCs more elegantly out of Riddleport and start to lay the foundations for elves being allies. Originally, we skipped a level there and said, "GMs: Here's your chance to make up an adventure of your own!" and that went over like the proverbial lead balloon. Then I'd pretty much have to rewrite book 5, so that it was more half-and half political shenanigans with a lot more helpful elves in the first half, and a much smaller dungeon crawl in the last half sharing space with an aiudara exploration bit.

All that work would amount to a few months of writing and revising.

The transformation of the main villian absolutely makes sense, but I'd also like to recast that so that so that she turns lavender instead of black to fit with the 2nd edition drow look.

Dammit, J, you said you didn't feel like it but you gave me a lot of good stuff in your answer! Thank you, that's exactly the kind of stuff I was interested in! Thank you so much!

An easy one now (I hope!): what is your favourite musical genre(s) and/or band(s), artist(s), album(s)?

Hi JJ!

Listen, you said (paraphrasing here) you don't much like the way elves are presented in Second Darkness - that they're more LN there than the CG they should be in PF (and that they clearly are from reading the latest Paizo products IMO). Right?

Not asking you a creative effort nor to stake out a territory that might come back and bite Paizo in the ass for future developments, but if you feel like coming up with some hints about how to make Second Darkness elves more Pathfinder-elven without having to rewrite the whole campaign... like, the Council of Winter, would you change their motivations or MO? Would they affect people (and Telandia) differently? Telandia's court - would it be less politicking spy-movie? Does the transformation of the main villain even make sense to you?

Again, please don't feel you have to make an effort to answer this by squeezing your creative juices - just some suggestions on how to make the elves a bit more Pathfinder-y would go a long way! (If you feel like!)

Thank you as always and take care! Huuugs! =)

James Jacobs wrote:

A lot of folks (both customers and Paizo employees) are super eager to go new places in 2nd edition, so I really doubt we'll see anything more about Sandpoint in the game anytime soon, if ever, for 2nd edition. Furthermore, the rules so far for how to assign a level to a settlement seem to be a lot of "Uhh, dunno, do what you want" and not really anything tied to populations or city size or the like, so I'm not comfortable at this point nailing down a settlement level for Sandpoint. Same with Turtleback Ferry or Magnimar for that matter.

I'm not using any of them in my campaigns at this point so I don't even have that to fall back on. So... I guess, feel free to do what sounds good for your game without worrying to much about us printing something else about these settlmeents anytime soon!

Kingmaker stress has, alas, only increased.

I'm really sorry to hear that! At this point I hope you'll be able to finish it soon and get back to a semblance of normalcy, or something close to it.

I'll try to let you work undisturbed. Thank you for the info and tips re: settlement levels, I'll eyeball it then. I know everyone wants to see other locales, I think with the Mwangi Expanse and Absalom you're already doing a great job lately, looking forward to more seldom seen lands and cultures in the future!

Right, so, question to legitimize this post and then I'm out of your hair - do you like The Cure? What are your favorite songs by them?

Please take care of yourself! Hugs, R-

Hi JJ!

I'm following your advice re: checking the Magnimar and Sandpoint sourcebooks for more info on Varisian culture, and I'm understanding a lot about them (I think!), so I wanted to thank you for your patient advice and explanations. I'm thinking that in fact Varisians aren't just a bunch of Esmeraldas (that might be the way they're portrayed in Magnimar's harrow parlors by foreigners perhaps!), but something much more original and complex, and I like it very much. I feel kinda silly in having tried to shoehorn them as Rromani at all costs when the similarities are superficial at best (I did have to study and understand Rromani culture a bit to grok it, though, so net gain after all).

Right! That's for the thanking you part, but I *do* have a question - I don't think I've yet seen in 2e official sources what settlement level is Sandpoint. Or Magnimar as for that! If you're using them in your campaigns, what level have you given them? Is it working as intended? If you're not using them, what do you reckon would be appropriate? Do they have special features (like Kovlar in AoA #4, where you can get higher level items because it's full of great dwarven artisans - or other special abilities like the sample ones in the GMG)?

I don't know how much if at all you were involved in Turtleback Ferry but that would be of interest as well!

I don't wanna bother you overmuch though, and I hope these don't count as multiple questions in a single post (or if they do, that they're similar enough to be okay...).

Oh, and I hope the stress from overseeing/writing the new Kingmaker has lessened. Or at least that you found a good way to cope. I love that we're gonna have an officially 2e-converted Kingmaker with extra stuff inspired from Owlcat's version, but I don't love that the process is being this tough on you.

Actually I should leave you to it, sorry. Cheers! R-

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Hey James,

I know you're not exactly the Rules Guy but bear with me - in Lost Omens World Guide there's a background called Varisian Wanderer which is very neat and very Varisian... but gives you Circus Lore? I didn't know Varisians had circuses! Is it true? Actual big tops or do they more like sing, dance, juggle, perform acrobatics and so on? I'm gonna copypaste it:

LOWG wrote:

You have spent your youth wandering the lands of Varisia and beyond among the brightly painted wagons of a Varisian caravan. You have heard endless tales of your people’s history and lore, and have learned many songs and stories from the disparate people you have met.

Choose two ability boosts. One must be to Dexterity or Charisma, and one is a free ability boost.
You're trained in the Performance skill, and the Circus Lore skill. You gain the Fascinating Performance skill feat.

Also about Varisians, you once said:

JJ wrote:
Romani traditions are in there for sure, but also some Spanish as well. But also purely fantasy stuff that riffs off of more modern traditions like the Goth subculture or old time maritime traditions transposed from ship-based travel to overland travel.

Can you tell us more about the Spanish traditions and the fantasy/Goth/maritime stuff you mentioned?

Hi James!

I hope you're doing fine and Kingmaker is not stressing you out too much. Also that you don't take it too personally when some of us criticize some of the choices Paizo makes for the setting and the rules. Generally speaking, I think we care very much, so sometimes we can put too much pressure on you and yours. But most of us love Lost Omens!

Okay, so here's a question - I remember you once said the Sczarni weren't meant to be all Varisians, and not all just criminals - that it was an ethnically-mixed groups and some acted more à la Robin Hood than like mobsters.

In the CRB though they're definitely described as the Varisian mob, in line with 1e, admittedly.

Is that in the end their established role or do you think somewhat like a small retcon could take place? And is the CRB description in line with their ethnic makeup and activities in your own campaigns?

Thank you so much! Cheers!

Thank you JJ. I didn't mean to "play unfair" and apologize for coming on too strongly. I swear I didn't mean to bait you, although I probably *was* rather argumentative.

I'll eagerly wait for the Ancestry Guide. Thank you for the Recall Knowledge tips, and sorry for taking you away from Kingmaker, which is another product I'm looking forward to.

Last question: are there new weapons that you know of in the Advanced Player's Guide?

James Jacobs wrote:

All alignments listed for creatures in any Bestiary list the typical alignment for that creature. The GM can change those whenever they want.

Gnolls in Pathfinder are intended to play an evil role—they're demon worshipers and slavers, and as such are typically chaotic evil. A gnoll can be any alignment, but one that's not chaotic evil is not a typical gnoll monster. Ogres are awful creatures, and we lean into that (with their classical mythological lore of being such); the word itself is a real-world word that has a definition of " a monster in fairy tales and popular legend, usually represented as a hideous giant who feeds on human flesh" or "a monstrously ugly, cruel, or barbarous person" (using the definitions from As such, an ogre monster needs to epitomize those features in order for the word to retain it's meaning. If we wanted to do a non-evil version of something like this, we would use a different word entirely.

Pathfinder is, at its core, a game that simulates combat, and that means there needs to be a wide range of things for your player characters to fight, and that means that presenting a wide range of creatures that are presented as things that you SHOULD fight if you want to protect things or be heroes is important.

We, you, or anyone else can certainly tell a story about a non-evil ogre (although the implication that "old classics and folklore are 'nuanced' is a bit disingenuous, in my opinion—those stories are often things people told to try to understand evil and awful things in the world, not to explore the psychology of what is or isn't evil), if there's no baseline that "ogres are typically evil," then your story about a non-evil ogre loses a lot of its compelling elements. To take it down analogy lane... a story about a flying bird is boring. A story about a flying elephant is not. It's the exceptions to the norm that make stories about exceptions worth telling. The story about Shrek is fundamentally flawed and less interesting if there wasn't an element of "ogres are monsters" to build off of.

We could have simply cut the alignment line entirely from the book, sure, but that removes a key element of the monster's role in the made-up world that we're presenting to you to use in your games. And that's a disservice to storytelling, in my opinion.

When we take a creature from a Bestairy and present it as a player character ancestry, THAT is the time where we get into the details and nuances of how they're not simply always the same thing. Alternately, presenting a multi-page entry for a creature in an ecology format article, such as in a Pathfinder Adventure Path or a "Monsters Revisited" style book gives us room to explore their culture and society. In a monster bestiary (whose PRIMARY PURPOSE is to give you, the GM, rules for things that the PCs can fight against), where we often have fewer words than this messageboard post (and often fewer words than in this paragraph) to say every non-rule-thing we want to say about the monster, leaning on the alignment is a necessary shortcut for us to present the creature's baseline world lore without having to cut it out entirely.

Looking back at your note on gnolls vs. ogres... Gnolls are a creature we already knew that there was an interest in having a player-character ancestry option for, and they're the right size and shape to make good PC ancestries, and we knew at the time that some day we were going to do a PC ancestry for them, so we devoted some of the bit of space we had to pointing out that there are exceptions. Ogres, on the other hand, are NOT an appropriate PC ancestry due to the fact that they're so big and inhumanly strong, and we haven't seen much of an interest in PC ogres, and we aren't really interested in making them into a PC ancestry, so we didn't want to spend some of our limited text resources talking about how some ogres are not evil.

Feel free to change a monster's alignment however you wish in your games to make them fit your world better. You have the advantage of only being limited by your time and interest in exploring that creature's subtleties; you don't have to get everything you want to say about it into a single short paragraph.

Okay, sorry, I must have not explained myself clearly: I wasn't saying the "old classics", or folklore or mythic monsters, were *nuanced*. I was saying that Paizo and other companies in this day and age could be able to portray those "monsters" in a more nuanced light.

Just to clarify.

Okay, next question: don't you think this view of "monster races", i.e. ogres, gnolls, etc, all monolithically evil, mostly savage, barbaric, horrifying, opposed to goodly civilization etc, replicates colonialist ideologies employed to justify the subjugation and genocide of whole peoples?

I ask in good faith. I think they do and that makes me terribly uneasy when I have to explain gnolls to my players or think about some ogres' motivations, but I'm finding ways to unf*$# the game in my head (like giving everyone a name, making everyone a person, giving them thoughts, aspirations, sense of humor, feelings, aesthetics, beliefs, having them negotiate, having them run away or yield, showing the consequences of violence, focusing on what the characters are feeling...).

I generally like the Lost Omens setting. And the APs. So I'm trying to make it work, even though it requires effort. I just like Paizo's work very much, and feel like I want to do this.

Although, if later on monstrous races stop being mostly savage brutes out to destroy civilization, and don't become goodly monstrous kingdoms nor noble savages, but functioning, complex, internally diverse societies (and not just collections of near-identical tribes at war with each other)... I would love that kind of book. Even if it contained a lot less creatures.

But I don't think that's the direction you're going with the Bestiaries. Although it should be explored more often, I think, at more length.

As long as we have races of monsters to fight, because they're evil monsters... we're doing nothing Tolkien didn't, and I'm not sure we wanna be stuck in that time period regarding depictions of the foreign and characterizations of what's "evil".

You know, I ask you these things, because on one hand I see the model Paizo is following of course, and it's very successful, but on the other you guys always try to promote diversity in everything you can, which is so admirable. So maybe... it would be possible to avoid evil races to fight and focus more on evil factions, like in most of Age of Ashes (and many other APs!).

Also, when my players roll a Recall Knowledge I'm always struggling with how to tell them a whole species behaves a certain way - that doesn't seem conducive to good storytelling to me. If you have any suggestions about this, too, I'd be happy as a clam.

James Jacobs wrote:

Shadowtongue is their language, but since that was a Golarion language in 1st edition and not a Core language we had to fake it in 1st edition. In 2nd edition, us using Golarion in the core setting let us correct this, so that now Shadowtongue is the official language of the Shadow Plane, and as such, is the native language for velstracs. We kept Infernal on their list mostly for backwards compatibility reasons.

That said, Starfinder's handled by a different team with a different Creative Director, so you'll see some differences now and then between the settings, especially since Starfinder built its world lore from 1st edition content.

So, for your game, feel free to choose whatever you prefer.

Thanks JJ, Shadowtongue for Velstracs sounds great!

I have another question, but this is complicated.

I've noticed many creatures in the bestiary are given an evil alignment, described as totally despicable in various flavors, and left at that. Why did Paizo choose this approach and what can a GM do to change it at least a bit?

I'll give you an example: gnolls are statted as CE, but when you read their description you find out many aren't, actually, so it obviously depends on the gnolls your GM is having you face - it sounds like a cultural matter tied to what clan you're from. Ogres on the other hand are statted as CE and their whole bit is how they're completely horrible bullies and torturers, all of them stupid and astoundingly mean, etc. Many creatures have had this treatment - lamias, chromatic dragons, trolls...

First off I don't understand why the Bestiaries don't explain anything about the alignments as statted. I guess most creatures only tend towards a certain alignment but can deviate - after all even demons can be redeemed, right? So labeling whole species as evil is more of a shortcut I guess?

And secondarily, when the Bestiary talks about how ogres are these completely immoral beings, why is that so? Why some creatures are almost always a certain alignment (not talking about extraplanar beings here) - is it in their genes, and does that mean we should commit a genocide to free Golarion from those evil races? Is it their culture, and is it so monolithic that they don't have even half the variety seen in humans, not even that of dwarves, elves, halflings, gnomes, goblins? If gnolls can be varied in their alignment why not other creatures too, right in the Bestiaries, and why keep evil races almost unaltered from 1st edition even when Paizo could give a much more nuanced portrayal of old classics and folkloric and mythic beings? Is it really that *all* ogres are required to be sadistic torturers to tell a certain kind of horror story?

This was probably a doozy but I hope you won't be angry at me. This kind of thoughts are really bugging me as of late and I'd like to know your stance on this.

Thank you again.

Hey JJ!

About Velstracs: do they mainly speak Infernal or Shadowtongue? What's their "1st language", and do their names come from it? I read in the SF adventure Heart of Night by Saif Ansari that they see Shadowtongue as too young and insignificant to really get into, so should they default to Infernal? Wouldn't that mean their names are in Infernal as well? Same for rakshasa, I think their main language is Infernal, so their names are probably in Infernal as well?

I'm trying to gather words from various languages to give myself and my players a good idea of how they sound, so any help would be much appreciated!

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I saw something similar for 1e Seoni and Valeros by Rafael Malavassi, but alas, nothing else!

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Yeah, I was commenting about the fact that we lost Alahazra, I do know Seelah is Black (and that is awesome). Sorry if I wasn't clear, English isn't my 1st language.

BTW I love Korakai, who has East Asian elements... But he *is* a birb, after all. He's a great addition, I'm just sorry we had to demote Alahazra to... "just a build".

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I'm not very enthusiastic about the fact that an adventure in which Garundi and Mwangi characters would have worked very well excludes all humans. I totally understand why that is and I think experimenting is a great use of adventures, but it sounds so much like a wasted possibility... I hope we'll have more adventures in Garund in the future!

Bashing some Aspis Consortium f$#~ers in the head is also great news, no matter if it's serpentfolk, alghollthu or anything else behind them (although I'd prefer it were just them and their immoral, bigoted greed).

I love that we'll have orcs to play with - I hope we finally have a less monolithically CE ancestry here, and that we manage to ditch the "racial stereotype from less enlightened times" angle. Goblins were very well done in Lost Omens Character Guide (for instance it explained the mostly evil ones in Varisia are young individuals who hate the trespassing long-shanks and that their clashes with them killed off the older ones who could have given them more of a culture and softened their rougher tendencies). I hope the way orcs are portrayed, not just Garundi ones but Avistani as well, becomes less essentialist and more nuanced.

I'm not in love with kobolds right now. I like the breath weapon very much, less so all the special abilities like Cringe and Grovel who make them appear like comic reliefs so much. I think if you need to make a species ridiculous in order to have it resonate with players then there's something wrong somewhere. I hope those are not all the options we'll have with kobolds (yes, they're cute; no, they don't need to be stupid and cowardly).

The investigator's new combat ability sounds interesting and better than the playtest one, although I personally would have liked a little more DPS. Maybe with a feat? Who knows. But it's good.

Yay for cackling being an option and not a witch-defining feature!

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Have you checked this gorgeous 3D rendition of Quinn?

That said, I think it doesn't matter that the actor's his spitting image - what's more important is that he can accurately portray him, "BE" Quinn - and give his personal spin to the character (also, he shouldn't be too young - Quinn has grey hair and beard and a noticeably wrinkled face).

Anyways I'm glad we still have one of our Black Iconics!

(Bolas, finally! Yay!)

Deadmanwalking wrote:

As a pagan who does occasional fortune telling stuff with tarot cards, I'd disagree with this. The Tarot deck is bigger, certainly, and thus inevitably slightly more complex, but the minor arcana are often a bit same-y in some ways. That's good for some things but less so with others.

Tarot has some history that the Harrow obviously doesn't in the real world, which means I'd always actually use it, but I don't think it inherently covers less territory.

The 'default reading' is a little limiting, but that's a limitation of only having one spread rather than of the deck. You could easily do any particular tarot spread (celtic cross, tetratkys, mandala, etc.) with Harrow cards and fix this particular problem.

It is also canonical that they're used for gambling as well as fortune telling, so that part is definitely covered.

So the default reading is a bit limiting. That's what she said too, more or less. I must tell her to try different spreads then. Thank you DMW.

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Okay, I've been reading and thinking and re-examining and so on. I wanna say what I would personally like for our Varisian friends to be in the coming APs and other products (most of all more sourcebooks about various parts of the Lost Omens setting!).

When I started to read about Varisians I hoped they were Romani. At first, many years ago, I felt they were a lot of fun, but thankfully my appreciation of the problems of marginalized people has developed a bit in the meantime. Now I still like Varisians, and at the same time I don't.

First off I learned they're not meant to be stand-ins for Roma. I like JJ's ideas about what they should have been, but I think representation is more important today, for a product like Pathfinder, for Paizo, for us players. I know in the US the plight of Roma people isn't something that draws angry crowds to the streets with big signs and chants, but here in Europe *we really need representation of Roma in our stories*. There's still an awful lot of prejudice against this ethnicity, and ignorance, and hate. I would like for Paizo to partly go on with the way they've described Varisians until now, even though they aren't the people JJ came up with back in the day. I feel it's too late to make them non-Romani, and I definitely would appreciate more (respectful, well-researched) stand-ins for *real people who need representation* instead of a completely made-up ethnicity.

Right now Varisians are in a sort of weird place. On one side they could really be Roma. On the other a lot of Roma stereotypes have been somehow attached to them, mostly erroneously b/c they never were meant to be Roma. It's rather confusing - it's very hard to play them as anything but Roma, but at the same time we try hard to de-Esmeralda-them however we can, and it's both confusing and labor-intensive. The Sczarni are another sore point. JJ wanted them to be an inclusive band of shades-of-grey rebels and scoundrels, not monolithically evil or good - but at this point they've become The Varisian Mob (further adding injury to the portrayal of RL Roma, some of whom commit criminal acts, but not in larger percentages than white people or other ethnicities - poverty does tend to breed criminality sometimes, but Roma aren't more criminally-inclined than anyone else).

At the same time Varisians have many interesting features, from their past in the Thassilonian empire, to the nation they managed to build for themselves (Ustalav), to their very interesting relationship with Chelaxian colonists and Shoanti cousins... I feel like they could be very easily related to Roma and still maintain a lot of distinctive character. Some of the material written about them, most of all in APs, most of all recently, is fascinating and interesting.

Why not embracing what Varisians have become instead of once and for all decoupling them from Roma people? They've become Roma in all but name in many respects, and they've been so for a very long time. But we do need to make them more indicative of the real ethnicity instead of characters based on Notre Dame de Paris (ugh).

1. Let's distance them from the Harrow a little - yes, poor Roma will read your future for money if they're allowed into a city, but it's cold reading at most. They don't have special powers in that sense. The Harrow should be a divination method spread to all of southern Avistan, right? Maybe even further. So let's make Harrowers an international phenomenon from all ethnicities. Hell, certainly *some* Varisians are Harrowers... and so are Taldans from a host of nations.

2. Let's decouple them from the Sczarni as originally intended. Let's show Taldan Sczarni, elven Sczarni, exiled Shoanti Sczarni. If you want, let's have also morally decent Sczarni. The name sounds like something that originated among Varisians anyways - let's not demonize them.

3. Let's show that they don't roam b/c of their inherent wanderlust - they do because in Varisia many people won't have them in their towns and cities. Let's show they do settle down when possible, in both shitty ghettos and clustered, colorful, wealthy mansions, and anything in between.

4. Let's show they have suffered. And they still do. The way Chelaxians treat them is spot on. They try to live comfortable settled lives but too many bigots just won't have them, or will make it a living hell. Vardos are all well and good and necessary, and there's a joy in setting for the next horizon, and pride in travelling with a kumpanya, but the need to always roam is not a lifegoal.

5. Let's emphasize their love and respect for their elders, their dominant positions within Varisian societies, their role as oral storytellers and thus keepers of the past, their judgment of honor as something highly desirable and their power to kick you out if you won't uphold it.

6. Let's make their spirituality complex and multitheistic, with some shamanic elements - they won't go into gadje churches or listen to gadje priests, but they do worship the core pantheon, and perhaps Desna is a sort of Great Mother they acknowledge. Desnan clerics are definitely a boon while needing to travel!

7. Let's show the richness of their fables, myths and legends, hundreds of them (not that we have to set them all to paper, but let's define some of their mainstays - the birth of the first violin using the hair of a dead person as strings, for instance).

8. Let's have them perform a myriad little rituals for baxt (fortune) and make them hospitable and ready to give gifts to guests (more baxt and honor are always welcome, and you *need* those connections!).

9. Give them flamenco - or whatever equivalent we have - after all it's them who came up with it! Show their music in all its wonderful variety, with plaintive paeans and fast jazz, violins and concertinas, spoon-beating, choruses, hand-clapping and so on.

10. Show they dress "like colorful butterflies"... because they don't really have a choice (when you're poor and on the run every piece of clothing is okay). At the same time there are huge wedding dresses, coin-strings forehead ornaments, and more.

I'll stop now. I'm not even as knowledgeable as I'd like to be about the topic atm. I do believe it's too late to make Varisians anything else than what they are - but *we can* make their portrayal of a beautiful real life culture much more respectful and free from harmful stereotypes. Esmeralda Varisians tell us Romani were a fairtytale people who no longer really exist, not a real, living, breathing ethnicity who still struggles with oppression *right now*.

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I know right?

PS Am I entitled to say that if I'm only bisex? But homoromantic I swear! ;)

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Kudos, James. Kudos, Paizo!

EDIT - I mailed this to my whole group!!

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Okay, I love Korakai and the fact that he comes from Tian Xia. I'm also glad that the oracle as depicted here is such a good match for a shaman, it would be good to not depend on druids exclusively (although if one day the shaman comes back as a full class - or at least an archetype - I certainly won't be the one to raise my voice against it).

I definitely hope Alahazra will not be completely phased out - we need more representation than ever, in every aspect of the game. Good representation, not monolithically evil orcs or scantily clad, sexually objectified exotic flowers. And a Black woman ceding her place to an anthro bird, as much as I love Kora and I love the Tibetan and Korean hints in his backstory, is not exactly what I was hoping for.

Still, love the story, love the character... hope for improvements.

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I didn't know anything about Juneteenth but I hope this year will mark more and more progress for Blacks and other minorities fighting against an international system that has become a fascist kakistocracy with no regards for anyone who isn't a white cis male. Black Lives Matter.

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Thanks to all of you, bookmarked everything and looking for Tony Gatlif's filmography and Bury Me Standing! Cheers y'all! =)

CrystalSeas wrote:

One interesting source is a first person account of many visits between 1991 and 1995 with the Roma in Albania, Bulgaria, the former Czechoslovakia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Romania and the former Yugoslavia.

"Bury Me Standing", by Isabel Fonseca. 1995

Nice!! I will definitely look for it. Sounds very much like what I'd like to see.

What about articles on the 'webs, do you know of any that goes a little deeper than usual? Does anyone?

Oh yeah, Oracles would be a great choice too. I wonder about witches... and also, back in the day the Shoanti had storytellers called Thunder Callers who were an archetype of bard - that would be nice too if it resurfaced...

You're right though DMW, at least edicts and anathema... probably divine abilities and skills too... some of these things were addressed in Lost Omens Characters Guide in a way (the feat that gives you a different advantage for each Quah) but I guess it would be good form to give the full treatment to their spirituality.

Okay so, Varisians (ie the elephant in the room).

I'm trying to adapt some things in the setting that I don't particularly like for my house campaigns. One of my players is a Varisian half-elf in AoA, plus I'm converting RotR, so this one must be addressed, if for no other reason (hint: there's plenty of other reasons).

I know JJ said Varisians don't just take after Romani but also Spanish, Goths and, at least where trade routes are concerned? pirates. They don't get a lot of verbiage in Lost Omens Character Guide, like most other human ethnicities. Afaik the most recent and exhaustive source about them is 1e Inner Sea Races, which describes them as... perfect Esmeraldas. You know, from Hunchback of Notre Dame. The most stereotypical collection of gypsy clichés you can think of.

Now, I don't care for Varisians being a mish-mash of inspirations, in theory or practice. I think representation is more important, and I want Varisians to be representative of Romani in my games, a people who has had all the worst luck where I live (Italy) and that is still systematically persecuted, more or less openly and directly. That means *a good, faithful and positive representation* is finally in order - not colorful wandering cartomancers playing a mean violin. At least, not *just that*.

Does anyone know more about actual living and breathing Romani cultures? Or about links I can go to in order to discover more on my own? I want to do Varisians right but I've googled around and no doubt also because of the traditional isolationism (often imposed upon them) of these ethnicities it's pretty hard to come up with interesting facts to incorporate in a house campaign while simultaneously actually represent the rl people we're talking about. Advice is also welcome, most of all if aimed at helping my player get a feeling for what Varisians would be if they actually were a good equivalent of Romani *and* at how to modify them in RotR, CotCT and other APs to make them less thieving dancing scoundrels and more, you know, Romani. And of course, if anyone reading this belongs to this beautiful ethnic group, please, *please* contact me, one way or another. I swear I wanna help.

In conclusion I will admit I *like* Varisians, but I take my passions seriously and considering what attracted me to PF was mainly the ethnic and sexual diversity of its people, I really don't understand why in some aspects, like the aforementioned sexual identity and orientation, the setting is decidedly progressive, while on a number of other fronts I feel like I'm still playing Gary Gygax's version of the game (or Tolkien's vision of high fantasy as for that). So while I could examine the problems critically and not do much more other than that, I'm determined to adjust at least my own Golarion to 2020 sensibilities. Paizo is to be praised for much of their stances regarding race, disability and sexuality, but it's my humble opinion that we still have a way to go (and the older material can sometimes be simply cringe-worthy).

Thank you all for bearing with me and my undying gratitude to all who will decide to help even just a tiny bit!

And of course



I agree with keftiu on the dislike for Romani stereotypes in the Varisians (even though JJ says they're a mix of a lot of influences, but I just see a bunch of Esmeraldas) - at the same time the Harrow should have the same place the tarot held irl, i.e. be used as playing cards and fortunetelling device by lots of people across the Inner Sea (I can totally see it used in Cheliax, Andoran, Taldor, etc).

Tbh I don't really remember the rules, but my neopagan player says she found it limiting and awkward compared to tarot. I hope the Harrow comes back, but possibly with the same broad, multiplicitous versatility as its rl inspiration.

I think I remember that Shoanti shamans function exactly like druids, iirc they're also described as something like "druidic shamans". It's no news, for now playable shamans seem to be meant to occupy that niche.

If you think about it, with an animist society, the primal tradition makes sense - you commune with nature (and its myriad spirits) and get your powers from it. It's no perfect fit for sure and I hope later on we'll see shamans again, but for now I think it might suffice.

Hey JJ

Glad to know you're taking care of yourself and the Paizo people are mostly smart working and practicing social distance (it's bad, but necessary at the moment).

Back with (of course) a Rise of the Runelords question. Here come the spoiler tags (one would assume everyone and their grannies know the AP top to bottom by now but... never assume).

RotR - also a little bit about Age of Ashes:
Burnt Offerings apparently ends on two climaxes - the fight against Nualia and the one against the greater barghest. I've seen this kind of design elsewhere in other adventures (RotR2 climaxes with the fight against Foxglove but ends with that involving Xanesha. Hellknight Hill has a very tough greater barghest very late, practically followed suit by the Cinderclaw cultists' charau-ka lieutenant).

How do you preserve the tension when you have a big climactic encounter with the main enemy *but then* the story isn't over and there's another the players are (somewhat) expected to face? In what order would you conspire to make the encounters happen, if it were up to you? In other words, what's the dramatic logic of facing off the antagonist when then you discover there's another powerful monster to dispatch, or that of risking your life against a powerful fiend before you've made Sandpoint safe again from its current villain?

Okay, as always I don't possess the gift of brevity, alas, but I hope you understand the question and that it doesn't prove too boring to answer. At the very least you're giving me much needed feedback, and I always treasure our dear Creative Director's views and advice.

Thank you in advance and hold on, we'll make it through!


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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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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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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!).

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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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I didn't know about red pandas! Didn't even know they existed. Thank you for the pointer guys!

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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...

So, when all's said and done, why are they called that? Ailouros is cat in Greek. Guy doesn't really look like a cat imvho.

Maybe Argyrans would've worked better? Argyros is silver.

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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?

... I think the word "deities" is spelled wrong even more often than the word "rogue".

Owen was in rare form when he wrote this (☞゚ヮ゚)☞

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Hahah! Thanks Mark for answering in the other thread and sorry for bringing game questions to the Off Topic forums - you're the best! (Your fellow designers are awesome too of course... and the editors... and the fluff writers, and the artists, okay I'll stop).

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Mark Seifter wrote:
Our awesome and insightful community members beat me to the right answer. As they said, this is how we let you tell a story of your PC's progress vis-a-vis the monsters of the world, with a scary solo boss one day becoming a mook you can fight and beat in large numbers, where the math carefully scales to account for the action economy. This is as opposed to the more typical approach of having certain enemies within their level work differently because they are intended to be a boss, with similar numbers to other monsters of that level but extra actions every turn, ability to negate bad effects, etc. We thought it would increase your flexibility and the sort of narrative and simulationist coherence of the game world to try to do it this way, and it wasn't easy, but I think we succeeded. You have to use different tactics than mook-sweep-up blitzkrieg (which denies the action advantage of groups of mooks) against single enemies, though, leveraging buffs, debuffs, and so on. But the posters in this thread have that covered too! :)

Holy shit it's Mark! (Cue fangirl squeal) Hey Mark! I didn't think you were gonna answer anymore and then you surprise me with this... on this thread! XD

Anyways yeah, the posters have been super helpful and now I perfectly understand how the game is supposed to work, and my players are getting there too easily enough, even though since they were used to the other method you mention they took a little longer. This design is certifiably awesome and the more I study the rules of this edition the more I'm lovin' it (which, take note, is great praise for a gamist system from a simulationist player! ;P ).

I'll proceed to read your answer to my group. Holy shit you're so awesome!

And yeah, thank you everyone, you've all been great in explaining how it works to this noob here =)