Pathfinder Chronicles: City of Strangers (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Chronicles: City of Strangers (PFRPG)
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In the outcast city of Kaer Maga, your business is your own, and no ware is too dangerous or taboo to find a buyer. Within the walls of the ancient, ruined fortress, refugees and criminals from every nation disappear into the swirling crowds of gangs and monsters. Here leech-covered bloatmages haggle with religious zealots who sew their own lips shut, while naga crime lords squeeze self-mutilating troll prophets for protection money. And these are just the city’s anarchic residents, not the fearsome beasts barely contained in the mysterious dungeons beneath the streets, held at bay by the elite rangers known as the Duskwardens. Welcome to the City of Strangers, a haven of freedom and independence—assuming you survive.

    Inside this book, you’ll find:
  • Detailed gazetteers for all 11 of the city’s districts, from the fabled Balconies of Bis to the necromantic paradise of Ankar-Te.
  • A history of the city and the bizarre, ruined monument that houses it.
  • Thorough briefings on the most important gangs and factions within the city, such as the golem-crafting Ardoc family and the abolitionist Freemen, as well as how they interact with each other.
  • The bloatmage prestige class, in which spellcasters use their own blood to empower their spells—but at a terrible price.
  • Statistics for the caulborn, a mysterious new race of telepathic, memory-eating monsters.
  • A layer-by-layer guide to the dungeons beneath the city, and the echoes of lost races and magic that still guard them.
  • New magic items, random encounter tables, and more.

City of Strangers is intended for use with the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, but can easily be used in any fantasy game system or setting.

by James L. Sutter

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-248-7

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscription.

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Simply the Best

5/5

Sometimes it's good to be direct: City of Strangers is the best book I've read so far in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line. Written by James L. Sutter, it's all about Kaer Maga, a city in Varisia inhabited by outcasts from a hundred lands somehow finding a way to live together in the crumbling remains of an ancient walled fortification. A city of outlaws and slavers with an "anything goes" mentality and no central government, there's also a strong current of individuality and freedom that makes the place far more interesting than a generic hive of cut-purses. Kaer Maga itself has a fascinating history and ethos, but what really sets this book apart is the writing: it's frankly fantastic. It's colourful, laugh-out-loud funny in some places, squirm-inducing in others. There are few RPG books that are "page-turners", but this is one of them. Indeed, the book, one of the earlier ones in the line, is almost 90% descriptive flavour with very little rules crunch, which is sometimes a turn-off for me: but here, I didn't miss it. I want a full adventure path centered around Kaer Maga just so I can use this book more.

Weighing in at 64 full-colour pages, the book has one of my favourite pieces of artwork to grace a Pathfinder book: the Iconic rogue Merisiel in battle against a Bloatmage. This art is reproduced as the inside-back cover, while the inside-front cover is a really good map of Kaer Maga that shows several notable locations while making the geography of the walled city quite clear. The interior of the book is divided into seven sections.

The first section (four pages) is the Introduction. It provides a brief history of the city, much of which will get expanded upon in later sections of the book, but the way the city is related to ancient Thassilon and the Runelords made it especially interesting for someone (like me) who is involved in the Rise of the Runelords adventure path. Next, the section has an overview of the various districts of the city. Unlike some Golarion cities, each of these districts has a very distinct "feel" and they don't seem repetitive. Last, there's the expanded settlement stat block for the city.

Section two, "The City", makes up the bulk of the first half of the book, weighing in at 24 pages. As you would expect, each district gets a more detailed write-up. There's Ankar-Te where undead servants openly walk the streets. The Bottoms is a district of craftsmen and day laborers firmly committed to democratic decision-making. Cavalcade is the industrial heart of the city, but one of its notable features is the Augur Temple: reclusive troll seers! The city's wealthiest residents live in Highside Stacks, and this district contains one of the most important libraries in Varisia: the Therassic Spire. Hospice is a district catering to visitors, and is full of inns, brothels, theatres, and taverns. There's a brewing antagonism between brothel owners in the district that could have surprisingly large repercussions! Oriat is something of a war-zone between clashing sects of a monastic order, but it also contains the Lyceum, a bardic college. Tarheel Promenade is the district where both divine and arcane spellcasters are likely to want to visit, as it's filled with temples, magic shops, and the like. The description makes it clear that some sort of shrine to every deity, large or small, can be found somewhere in the city. The Warren is where the city's poorest live, while Widdershins is best thought of as a "gated community" bought-up by the upper middle-class. I haven't done justice to the flavour and detail that litter these descriptions of the districts, but it will have to suffice to say that there's a lot for a GM to work with and PCs will never leave thinking Kaer Maga was "just another city." I also appreciate the little sidebars in the section, such as "City Adventure Hooks" and "Seen on a Street Corner."

Section three, "The People", is 18 pages long. The first couple of pages explain how each of the core classes and races fit into Kaer Maga. Photocopying these pages for players in a Kaer Maga-focused campaign wouldn't be a bad idea. Kaer Maga really is a city of outcasts, and, unlike most "civilized" cities, no one's going to bat an eye if an orc, tiefling, or ogre enters the city. Several paragraphs each cover the city's government (accurately described as "anarcho-capitalist") and foreign relations. A section on religion provides a little info on how some of the core deities are perceived. Abadar and Asmodeus are the most prevalent faiths in Kaer Maga, but some others receive their due; on the other hand, the "crusading" faiths of Sarerae and Iomedae don't receive a warm reaction. Last, twelve different factions in the city receive several paragraphs each of description. The groups that really stood out to me were the Augurs (the troll prophets I spoke about above), the Bloatmages (more on them below), the Duskwardens (urban rangers that keep the city safe from the threats that lay below), and the Iridian Fold (a positive representation of same-sex male couples, which is much appreciated in RPGs!). These factions, and their tensions, offer plenty of opportunity for drama and adventure in Kaer Maga.

Section four, "Beneath Kaer Maga" (11 pages) dives into the variety of threats laying under the city, which, in class gaming fashion, get more and more dangerous and mysterious the deeper down you go. What sets this chapter apart from most is how well-crafted the history and story of Kaer Maga is. Kaer Maga predates even ancient Thassilon, but during the age of the Runelords, the city served as a prison for Runelord Karzoug. What lays beneath Kaer Maga is not generic subterranean monster caverns, but things far stranger and truly unique from the prison period and before. I especially liked the map on page 52; it's useful but also looks exactly like something that could have been created in that setting. This section, of course, only gives overviews of what PCs are likely to run into beneath the city, and a GM would still need to develop actual level lay-outs and encounters. It'd be worth it though!

I don't know if I've ever seen a single-page section in a Campaign Setting book, but a random encounters table makes up section five. It's a good one that covers the surface and various subterranean levels and sensibly withholds the higher CR threats for the more dangerous areas.

Section six is a two-page write-up on the Bloatmage prestige class. These power-hungry arcane spellcasters have turned to blood-magic to fuel their abilities, and they can draw upon energies greater than traditional casters but at great cost: their bodies become more and more corpulent, and they can easily overextend themselves and collapse or fly into a homicidal rage! I never hear of players taking the Bloatmage prestige class so perhaps its drawbacks far outweigh its benefits, but I want to run one purely for the flavour.

The book ends with section seven, a two-page write-up on the Caulborn. The Caulborn, a race of hairless, blind humanoids that lurk under Kaer Maga, are a hive-mind whose goal is to collect the thoughts and knowledge of living creatures and transmit them to their hive's brain-sack. They're quite different than anything I've seen before, and I like it.

Reading this book immediately answers the question I have going into every Campaign Setting book: what's special about this place? The book is incredibly entertaining and evocative, and I had more than one "Jeez!" moment (but in a good way), like reading about a brothel with undead prostitutes ("there are some things you just can't do with a live 'un" reports regulars at The White Lady brothel, according to the book). Kaer Maga is definitely not your average fantasy city; its history and current lived reality make it a worthwhile setting for groups willing to take a turn on the darker (but not always evil) side of adventuring life. City of Strangers merits an immediate purchase.


No GM is New to the City of Strangers - with this Book in Hand!

5/5

The City of Strangers campaign setting book is hands down my favorite of the Golarion setting so far! These 64 pages are filled with more info on the city of scum and villainy than I'll be able to put into practice over the course of ten campaigns.

This is the book you need if your PCs are going to set foot anywhere atop that dreaded city on the Storval Plateau. If you are planning to run The Godsmouth Heresy, Seven Swords of Sin, The Asylum Stone or any of the PFS scenarios set in Kaer Maga, you MUST OWN THIS BOOK!

It will help you fill in the details of the various sectors of Kaer Maga and the factions that populate them. Breathe life into your bloat mages, necromancers of Ankar-Te with their undead servants and the troll augurs by reading up on them first in this setting guide.

Kaer Maga is my favorite setting in Golarion and whole campaigns can be cut from the cloth provided in these pages. Buy it today!!!


Favorite guide so far

5/5

I can only agree with the other comments, this supplement is brilliant and inventive. Kaer maga is stuffed with unusual characters, sometimes weird, sometimes plain brilliant, able to move even the most jaded players. Every corner hides some oddity!
I just love it and hope future supplements will hold to that standard.


4/5


The Standard for City Supplements

5/5

I finally made it around to picking this product up in preparation for a campaign that is starting up shortly. This is the bar for all city book supplements to meet. With the city of Kaer Maga brought to life this book was an excellent read with interesting districts, factions, people and geography.

See my full review at The Iron Tavern - Review: City of Strangers.


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Contributor

Dryder wrote:
Will this also contain a map of the city?

You bet! The city map is far and away the most detailed one I've ever made... there'll be a big map of the whole ground floor, district call-outs, a schematic of some of the dungeons beneath the city - the works.

Dark Archive

Arnwyn wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:

Awe. Some.

I already know which city in the Forgotten Realms I will include this as.

Ruins of Zhentil Keep?

No. Zhentil Keep has long since been detailed and mapped.

This is going to become the city of Three Swords, in the Shining South, sitting on the edge of the Landrise.

Oh, alright. Even after all these years as a FR fan, I'm not familiar with that one (I know where Landrise is). I did not mean to imply you would use Kaer Maga "as is" for ZK, but rather (mis)understood you would just "cannibalize" the book for NPCs, locations and other stuff.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

June can't come quickly enough!


Asgetrion wrote:
Oh, alright. Even after all these years as a FR fan, I'm not familiar with that one (I know where Landrise is). I did not mean to imply you would use Kaer Maga "as is" for ZK, but rather (mis)understood you would just "cannibalize" the book for NPCs, locations and other stuff.

Simply cannibalizing products provides me little value for the money.

And a great thing is that a lot of Paizo's stuff is too good to not use as much as possible! (It just has to be a very good fit for my setting... so regional products = thumbs down, but city-related products = instant buy!)


This cannot come out soon enough. I'm looking at running Seven Swords in May!

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

Beautiful anarchy, bloatmages, and troll augurs!

Dark Archive

Adam Daigle wrote:
Beautiful anarchy, bloatmages, and troll augurs! Oh my !

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

baron arem heshvaun wrote:
Adam Daigle wrote:
Beautiful anarchy, bloatmages, and troll augurs! Oh my !

You're damned right.


[Fingers Crossed] Oh, I hope there will finally be some more information on the Council of Truth in there. Once I run SSoS, I won't be able to keep my players away from researching those folks... [/Fingers Crossed] :D

Your Friendly Neighborhood Dalesman
Bringing Big D**n Justice to the Bad Guys Since 1369 DR

Contributor

The Dalesman wrote:

[Fingers Crossed] Oh, I hope there will finally be some more information on the Council of Truth in there. Once I run SSoS, I won't be able to keep my players away from researching those folks... [/Fingers Crossed] :D

There's definitely some information on the Council in there. I think I can safely say that everything that gets mentioned in SSoS or the Pathfinder's Journal in Hook Mountain Massacre is expanded upon, along with a bunch of new stuff as well.

Silver Crusade

James Sutter wrote:
I think I can safely say that everything that gets mentioned in SSoS or the Pathfinder's Journal in Hook Mountain Massacre is expanded upon, along with a bunch of new stuff as well.

Including the Tallow Boys?

I need to let another GM know, because if so one of his PCs is going to derail his campaign by making a beeline straight for Kaer Maga.


James Sutter wrote:
The Dalesman wrote:

[Fingers Crossed] Oh, I hope there will finally be some more information on the Council of Truth in there. Once I run SSoS, I won't be able to keep my players away from researching those folks... [/Fingers Crossed] :D

There's definitely some information on the Council in there. I think I can safely say that everything that gets mentioned in SSoS or the Pathfinder's Journal in Hook Mountain Massacre is expanded upon, along with a bunch of new stuff as well.

Yay!!! Now my only problem is having to run the module in the next few weeks, and not getting the book until July....

[Insert shameless begging for teaser information here] :)

Your Friendly Neighborhood Dalesman
Bringing Big D**n Justice to the Bad Guys Since 1369 DR

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I am so bloody happy this book is gonna turn up before I start CotCT (which I plan to do in August) ! Kaer Maga sidetrek during History of Ashes ! Yeeeah !

The Exchange

Dennis da Ogre wrote:

A little nit pick about the descriptive text:

"In the outcast city of Kaer Maga, your business is your own, and no ware is too dangerous or taboo to find a buyer."

Yes...ware is correct!

Sovereign Court

Whose bright idea was it to put Seoni in charge of the anti-tentacle device?


Generic Villain wrote:
Wow. Of all the new Paizo products that have just been announced, this is definitely the one I'm most looking forward to. I love "monster cities" like James Jacobs' Scuttlecove, and am especially looking forward to the bloatmage PrC. I've wanted to see those guys since Eando Kline met one in the Pathfinder fiction.

Yes! - at last the Bloatmage! :)

Contributor

Mikaze wrote:

Including the Tallow Boys?

I need to let another GM know, because if so one of his PCs is going to derail his campaign by making a beeline straight for Kaer Maga.

But of course! There's quite a bit of information about them in there. What's a city of corruption without some information-brokering prostitutes? :)


James Sutter wrote:
Mikaze wrote:

Including the Tallow Boys?

I need to let another GM know, because if so one of his PCs is going to derail his campaign by making a beeline straight for Kaer Maga.

But of course! There's quite a bit of information about them in there. What's a city of corruption without some information-brokering prostitutes? :)

The players in my game hated the Seven Swords of Sin, mainly because I ran it during RotRL between 3 and 4. The dinosaurs stat block has been affixed to my homemade screen and used as a grudge monster should a player get stupified during the game.

Paizo rocks.

Silver Crusade

James Sutter wrote:
Mikaze wrote:

Including the Tallow Boys?

I need to let another GM know, because if so one of his PCs is going to derail his campaign by making a beeline straight for Kaer Maga.

But of course! There's quite a bit of information about them in there. What's a city of corruption without some information-brokering prostitutes? :)

Unfortunately for his party the PC in question won't be going for the info so much as the wares.

Calistrian to the hilt, this guy. Damn near Slaaneshi.

Personally, I'm really interested in what's causing all those birth defects down in the Warrens(and if it's a good place to spawn certain sorcerer bloodllines and tieflings).


Man, I wish I had this when I ran the Crimson Throne AP. No matter, when I return to that group and run them up to 20th level, I'll have to make use of this one. Definitely.

Dark Archive

This is the best ever. I can't wait to get my hands on this.


I have a campaign set on the Storval plateau and our HQ is Kaer Maga. I hope this book is great!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

I believe it should actually be "no 'wares are' too dangerous", et al. Personally, I'd have just said "nothing is too dangerous"...

=+Aerlyinth

Silver Crusade

LOVE the artwork posted in the blog,

Awesome work of art!!

RM


Crap. Twice I've run side adventures in Kaer Maga, too bad this wasn't out sooner. Well, I'll just have to find a way to get my kingmaker group over to Varisia.


Skade wrote:
Well, I'll just have to find a way to get my kingmaker group over to Varisia.

Warp stone.

Silver Crusade

New cover!

Merisiel: You fat, bald, fatty-fat....fat fat!


Gorbacz wrote:
I am so bloody happy this book is gonna turn up before I start CotCT (which I plan to do in August) ! Kaer Maga sidetrek during History of Ashes ! Yeeeah !

You and I are on the same page, Gorbacz. In order to give the path a bit of a boost along the way, my conversion of Curse of the Crimson Throne is going to include a full conversion of Seven Swords of Sin, which is set entirely within Kaer Maga. I'm running my playtest group through it now. I'll try and take a look at this book and see what I can use from it.

Sovereign Court

The new artwork is HAWT! I am going to start a new campaing in August that is based smack dab in Kaer Maga. My players also play in the PFS so I think most of their characters are going to be affiliated with the Society. There should be plenty there to keep them occupied for a long time. I am not sure if the PFS has a very big presence in Kaer Maga, if so, that will be so much the better! This is a big "MUST HAVE"!!! I think it would be fairly easy to tie the PFS into the Seven swords of Sin as well.

Dark Archive

I love the new cover art.


Dennis da Ogre wrote:

A little nit pick about the descriptive text:

"In the outcast city of Kaer Maga, your business is your own, and no ware is too dangerous or taboo to find a buyer."

Lemme guess... you think it should have been "nowhere" ?


Shiny cover art...

The Exchange

I don't think those planks are going to hold up under their combined weight, if Merisiel is leaping forward instead of backwards. I'm curious to find out where exactly this fight is taking place, though.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What's with the bloatmage's face? He looks like he's wearing a yellowed mask.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

Everytime this thread gets bumped, the eagerness returns.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Bump.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

That tickles.


bundled bump.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

Now you're just being naughty.

Silver Crusade

Bump with a reminder that this book offers the opportunity for some bloatmage fanservice.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

Okay, I threw up in my mouth a little.


Snowball bump

Dark Archive

I'm kinda interested in seeing what is done with the bloatmages, anyway. The Bloatmage Initiate feat, IMO, is kinda junk.

Some sort of PrC or alternate option, perhaps taking damage to enhance spells (by drawing upon the excess reserves of blood), either nonlethal damage for minor effects, or Con damage for greater effects, and / or perhaps tapping into a set number of 'Heme points' stored up, could be intriguing. Not every spell would be enhanced, but when the bloatmage is willing to tap the resources they've stored up, they could boost a casting in some way.

The parallels between this sort of 'heme casting' and the use of 'stored rasa' in Tantic practices just occured to me.

.25 seconds later it squicked me out.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

I've updated the product description. (We snuck the final cover image in as part of a Paizo Blog entry last month; it hasn't changed since then.)

The Concordance RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

So very cool... i need it now!!!

The Exchange

Drool.


Just ran PFS #51 set here - was Awesome! If the details in there are any indication of what we'll find in this book, this will be the best release since Guide to Korvosa (if not better)!


This is the base city for my campaign and I would love to see if any of my ideas for the nastiness that is underneath the city is similar to the ideas of the writers.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

Yes! Finally!!

This looks awesome. The maps are completely amazing!

I already liked the text, but it's so much better seeing it all shiny and prettied up.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I received my PDF copy yesterday and have been reading it voraciously. So far, among my top 3 Paizo publications of all time!

BrOp

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