Favorite trope subversions?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


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Your Standard Fantasy Setting (warning: TV Tropes link!) can get a little stale after a few years. What are some of your favorite examples of Paizo subverting expectations regarding a generic fantasy setting element or story progression?

A good (if obvious) example would be the death of Aroden. It would have been like having to call off the Second Coming because Jesus choked on a bagel.

(If it’s in an adventure module or path, be sure to put it in a spoiler tag unless it’s on the back of the book or happens before the first session begins).


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Arcadia having maybe the highest tech level of any continent on average and being able to cordon off Avistani settlers in two tiny little colonies comes to mind. Likewise for the continent, I love that Arcadian dwarves and orcs are buddies, that firearms are old enough to have deep-rooted traditions (rather than being a brand new technology), and that the bloody-handed jaguar goddess you might expect with Fantasy Mesoamerica hung up her conquering hat thousands of years ago.

For how poorly the d20 fantasy space has handled almost anything Native-adjacent over its entire span (whenever its bothered to try at all!), the results have been pretty heinous, but Pathfinder has set things up to avoid the worst of it in ways that just make me ecstatic. The difference between Arcadia and something like Old Maztica is mind-boggling.


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I just love Geb. I love the idea of the "country dominated by undead" but it basically works and has a solid contingent of living inhabitants with decent lives and is a major agricultural exporter. Yes, it *also* has people who are raised effectively as cattle, and treated accordingly. It's a place with some fundamentally horrible practices... but it's not one-note. It's entirely possible to be a living LN loyal citizen of Geb who is internally consistent and also not a terrible person.

Nex is in some ways similar. "We sold the soul of our country to a dark god in return for a promise to keep us safe and thriving as a people... and it worked." Like, these are fundamentally evil places in some ways... but they're not entirely evil, and they're also fundamentally functional.

I appreciate the Magaambya's magical achievements in a similar way to how @keftiu appreciates Arcadia's technological advancement.

I have to give props for the fact that the bitter orc/dwarf wars are, in fact, entirely the fault of the dwarves.


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I think you mean Nidal rather than Nex? But yeah, I really love Nidal being a truly ancient civilization that traces so many things all the way back to the apocalypse they bargained for protection from.


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Geb is an interesting place for sure, but I always questioned why they use zombies as farmhands. If I were growing food for human consumption and possible export, wouldn’t skeletons be the obvious choice? They’re not any more expensive to make than zombies, faster, and much more hygienic.


QuidEst wrote:
I think you mean Nidal rather than Nex? But yeah, I really love Nidal being a truly ancient civilization that traces so many things all the way back to the apocalypse they bargained for protection from.

Right you are. I admit, I'm not great at names.

Prosperum wrote:
Geb is an interesting place for sure, but I always questioned why they use zombies as farmhands. If I were growing food for human consumption and possible export, wouldn’t skeletons be the obvious choice? They’re not any more expensive to make than zombies, faster, and much more hygienic.

As for hygiene... well, you can wash things, you know? It's not like the dirt is all that hygenic either.

I'm guessing that it's some combination of...
- Zombies just aren't that pleasant to be around. Thus, you want the skeletons in the cities, and the zombies out in the farmlands where only the peasants have to deal with them.
- Similarly, you can stack skeletons away from a rainy day and they'll last indefinitely. Zombies are going to rot regardless. So you want your zombies doing something that zombies can usefully do while also being under some sort of supervision so that someone's there to spot it when it's time to replace/repair them. Farming fits that pretty well.
- Zombies are stronger. This is potentially important when pulling a plow.
- If and when the zombie does collapse into uselessness, it's a much quicker trip to the mulch pile.


Perhaps the zombies staff the farms that sell domestically, while the landowners with export licenses use skeletons?

Or maybe I’m just overthinking things again…


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For me:

Arcadia and the Magambya, for reasons said above

Lost technology like sentient androids first of all existing, and second of all being important enough to justify a patron diety

Prosthesis being so common and accessible a level 1 character can have a fully articulated and dextrous artificial arm or a wheelchair they can control with their minds

Always evil stock ancestries just straight up not existing

Arrows aren't useless annoyances for big villains

"Squishy wizard" is very easy to defy

A meta example, but even though PCs are OP compared to npcs, you will have a hard time making a character so overwhelmingly the Chosen One/shounen protag that they make their teammates insignificant


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Elves being (at least in part) aliens who abandoned this world in the ancient past, rather than solely being the ancient keepers of the land, is a fun twist. I like that we have both… and that most of those who did stay behind aren’t from Avistan.

Getting to have both psychic Venusian princesses and the Mualijae wardens against ancient evil?


Mine are not Paizo specific, but I like playing gnomes kicking ass. The image of a tiny gnome monk, warrior, or wizard crushing in battle makes me laugh. It would be absolutely frightening to walk up to some 2 or 3 foot tall gnome thinking, "This little guy doesn't seem to dangerous. Let's see what's going on here." Then all you see is brutality. It gets even better if it is a forest gnome female that is 18 inches tall. I imagine this 18 inch tall female gnome chasing a giant as it runs screaming in fear and I can't help but laugh. I would read that story and watch that show if it were made.

I don't mean hobbits or pechs learning to fight or gremlins. I mean a gnome that is like a John Wick/Conan gnome that is just incredibly realistic and brutal to watch beat down enemies.


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I quite like both of the dwarven cultures in Garund and how they're tied to the sky rather than the earth.


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Ventnor wrote:
I quite like both of the dwarven cultures in Garund and how they're tied to the sky rather than the earth.

The two Mwangi dwarven cultures, the Mbe'ke and the Taralu, are great! Garund as a continent is blessed with so many good dwarves; I've never much liked the bearded little guys, but after the love they and the Donguni and Kulenett got, I'm really hoping they round out the set with a treatment of the Pahmet, Paraheen, and Vahird of the Golden Road relatively soon.


Am I misremembering, or are orcs in the Mwangi super highly respected as a general rule because they've so thoroughly devoted themselves to battling, and protecting people from, demons? That's super cool if I've got it right.

Also, on a more micro scale, I love those portions of various APs where something spooky, or magical, or even divine sounds like it's going down, but the text makes it clear that folks just be making up rumors, as opposed to every magical-sounding thing being true like in most fiction.

This is more for Starfinder than Pathfinder, but I love how Eox, the corrupted, undead-filled horror planet of the setting, are not only very open to playing ball with the rest of the Pact Worlds, but were the first political entity to agree to sign up.


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Starfinder's take on Eox is hands-down my favorite thing Paizo has done setting-wise. To take the planet of the undead and have them also home to a major media empire? chef kiss


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I wouldn't call Zo! a "major media empire". Definitely an edgy celebrity, but to me that's MTV versus say, NBC/CBS/ABC.


Leon Aquilla wrote:
I wouldn't call Zo! a "major media empire". Definitely an edgy celebrity, but to me that's MTV versus say, NBC/CBS/ABC.

I wouldn't either; I'm talking about the whole Halls of the Living. Zo! is just a small part of Eoxian media. It's an entire media-oriented city, putting it more on the Hollywood scale.

Liberty's Edge

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The Linnorm-slaying King who is actually a Queen with a very much alive Linnorm ally.

The Conan wanabee who is a recovering drug-addict with futuristic tech at his disposal.

Baba Yaga allying with PCs and crowning a benevolent ruler.

Earth being a source of weird alien technology.

The Evil uber-archwitch and the Good uber-archmage sharing a friendly drink every once in a while.


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QuidEst wrote:
Leon Aquilla wrote:
I wouldn't call Zo! a "major media empire". Definitely an edgy celebrity, but to me that's MTV versus say, NBC/CBS/ABC.
I wouldn't either; I'm talking about the whole Halls of the Living. Zo! is just a small part of Eoxian media. It's an entire media-oriented city, putting it more on the Hollywood scale.

Eox's two main exports seem to be horrifying necrotech and reality TV broadcasts. There's some social commentary there.

Radiant Oath

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

If we're counting Starfinder stuff, I always found it amusing that the DROW are now better integrated into wider society than the elves are through the power of an evil force more insidious than any demon lord or even Rovagug himself...capitalism!


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The Raven Black wrote:
The Conan wanabee who is a recovering drug-addict with futuristic tech at his disposal.

Similarly, I love the "barbarian" Conan-king returning to lucidity and declaring that his kingdom is a safe haven for androids. The obvious move is to play him as suspicious of technology and artificial life, so doing the exact opposite is fascinating.

The tidbit in Legends about his consort seeking a robot body so that the two can be immortal sovereigns of a united Kellid nation? Phenomenal.


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Kevoth-Kul is a good time. I love how he still plays up being drugged out of his gourd because he knows all the other rulers will underestimate him for it.

Though I am sad he knows he's immortal now. It was more fun when he wasn't aware.


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Perpdepog wrote:

Kevoth-Kul is a good time. I love how he still plays up being drugged out of his gourd because he knows all the other rulers will underestimate him for it.

Though I am sad he knows he's immortal now. It was more fun when he wasn't aware.

*reads*

I'm amused by the fact that the heads he keeps in a pile next to his throne are petrified. So much more practical and hygenic.

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