A Few Gentle Reminders In Time for Gen Con

Greetings, Pathfinders! For Gen Con, we were going to put together a a post similar to the one we did for PaizoCon. Then I realized two things. One, if you went back to that article and substituted Gen Con for PaizoCon, you’d be on the right track. And two, the really important bits could be better summed up by two posters courtesy of John Kovalic of Dorktower and Munchkin fame.

 

I think that says it all. Enjoy Gen Con if you’re going; if you aren’t, be excellent to each other and we’ll see you on the other side!

Paizo Blog Summary for August 12

I’m on the road to Gen Con, which is why the summary is coming to you a day later than normal. Who knew getting reliable internet coverage on a Greyhound bus travelling through northern Ontario would be a problem? Anyway, the delay has allowed us to add a bit of a bonus at the end, so it’s all good.

Jumping ahead to Tuesday (see, we aren’t the only ones who had a problem with Monday), We saw the last of the Advanced Class Guide previews, with the Hunter. A mix of ranger and druid, with a definite focus on the animal companion? It’s the class I didn’t know I wanted until I saw it. I know at least one PFS player in my area who will be snatching up this class.

Tuesday also saw the release of the Iron Gods Player’s Guide. Everything your players need to know to take part in what I think is one of the cooler adventure paths we’ve seen. Get the Guide, and start working on all the reasons you have to play an android now!

The fourth and final instalment, ‘A Burning Love’, in Steven Savile’s Queen Sacrifice dropped on Wednesday. No spoilers, but definitely the pay-off I was waiting for, if not expecting. I recommend going back and reading the whole thing, well worth it!

For those eagerly awaiting the Adventure Card Guild, we got a preview of the Class Decks. There’s definitely an interesting assortment here, so if you thought the new Guild was going to start with the usual, you were happily mistaken.

Thursday brought us the last of the new Iconics, Adowyn, and her companion, Leryn. Another great backstory, perfectly encapsulating the hunter class as a good Iconic should. GMs and Organizers, I’d make a few extra copies of this one; I think she’ll see a lot of use.

Taking a break from the new miniature set, The Lost Coast, we normally see on Fridays, Erik Mona instead showed off the new iconic figures. These figures will be released in sets of their very own, and will make great additions to any PFS organizers kit, to go along with your pre-gens. Or just to have around because the new sculpts and paints look amazing.

Saturday saw even more important news for the Adventure Card Guilddue to issues at the printer the release date for the Class Decks has been pushed back, which means so has the official start date for the Guild. Check the article for details, but the new start date is September 3. A bit of a bummer for those eagerly awaiting the Guild’s start, but it means we get the high quality we expect from Paizo. That’s worth the wait, right?

Planning to cosplay at Gen Con? Then Sunday‘s announcement of Paizo’s 7th Annual Gen Con cosplay contest may be of interest. The Golarion cosplayers are always one of my favourite parts of of Gen Con and I’m keen to see what makes an appearance this year.

Remember that bonus we talked about? Monday (that’s right, yesterday) saw the official release of the new Guide to Organized Play 6.0. While it doesn’t go into effect until the 14th, now is your chance to read it over and get familiar with the new changes. They are many, more numerous than in past updates. As if that weren’t enough, both the Quick Start Guide and the Additional Resources have been updated as well. So get ready for a whole new season of PFS, Pathfinders!

That’s it! See anything you like or don’t like? Tell us about it in the comments or on Facebook. Until next time…

The GM’s Path: Why Should You GM?

Recently in my region, I had a lack of PFS Game Masters. We were still getting tables put together, but it was always the same small group of folks stepping up to run tables. As much as we all love GMing, myself included, it is easy to get burned out if you go too long. To avoid losing the GMs we had, we needed to find players willing to step up to a new role.

As part of that search, I spent some time thinking about why a person should GM. Oddly enough, the reasons can be found in the Pathfinder Society’s three-word credo.

Explore! – Pathfinders go to new places and try new things. If they didn’t, the Pathfinder Chronicles would be a series of increasingly boring travel guides about Absalom. Pathfinders have to explore, or they’re not really Pathfinders.

You can learn a lot about Pathfinder and PFS as a player, but not half as much as you’ll learn about the game as a Game Master. Scenario prep, monster tactics, table balance, how to report, how to deal with problem players; all things you never consider as a player, but are the bread-and-butter of a PFS GM. The skills you learn as a GM are good to have, even if you are still going to play most of the time. They can inform your playing and make you a better PFS player. GMing gives you an understanding of the game you wouldn’t otherwise get, even if you’ve played your character through the Seeker arch.

Report! – This one is a bit abstract, so bear with me. Pathfinders have to explore, that’s a given. But what would happen is Pathfinders never reported on the things they found? Would the Society be the force in Golarion it is today? Most likely it wouldn’t exist; with no tangible findings or knowledge to build on, there would be nothing holding a bunch of adventurers together as a Society. So Pathfinders have a responsibility to the Society, not just to explore, but to report what they find.

Likewise, I think at some point players have a responsibility to help support PFS by at least trying to GM. Simply put, if all anyone wanted to do was play, then none of us would get to play. PFS always needs Game Masters. Rarely do I hear Venture-Captains complaining about having too many. If players are the bricks we build PFS with, GMs are the mortar holding the bricks together. If players are the wings of the Society, GMs are the wind beneath them. If…you get the idea. For the Society to grow and prosper, we need players to step over to other side of the GM screen, even if it’s every once in a while.

Cooperate! – One of the great strengths of the Society is the belief that a Pathfinder can always count on another Pathfinder. You may have your personal differences, you may fundamentally disagree on whether kittens are a light snack or more of a breakfast thing. But at the end of the day you are Pathfinders, and that shared camaraderie is more important than trivial differences (even over kittens).

That camaraderie extends into the ranks of PFS Game Masters as well. We don’t always get along; heck, some of the most heated arguments I’ve had online or in real life have been ‘discussing’ Pathfinder with other GMs. But at the end of the day we’re all GMs together, and I’ve met few groups of people more generous and willing to help. The PFS Shared Prep Drive (and then site) is a great example of that.

And PFS GMs are just generally a good group of people. Yes, we argue on occasion, but I’ve also had some of the best, most interesting discussions with my fellow GMs. And Game Masters are there for each other, especially for new GMs, because we know what it was like to prep your first table. We’ve been there, and if we can make it a little easier for the next person, we’ll do that.

Okay, so that’s my reasons why you should Game Master for PFS. At this point you may be wondering, “Great, but I’ve never done this before, how do I get started?” (You may not be wondering that, but play along.) Well, good news! Fellow Venture-Captain Kristie Schweyer and I are penning a series of articles, The GM’s Path, to help neophyte GMs work up to, and beyond, their first game. So if I’ve convinced you with the why, stop back for the how.

And in the meantime, keep playing, Pathfinders!

Pathfinder Society – Season Three Summary

A Chronicle of the Pathfinder Society’s exploits during the adventuring season from the First of Arodus in the year 4711 (by Absalom Reckoning), through the Thirtieth of Erastus, 4712 A.R., prepared by Chronicler Thaddeus Lamplighter, Pathfinder.

[This is a player-friendly, spoiler-free summary of the events which occurred during Season Three, the so-called “Year of the Ruby Phoenix”. Blue text like this is out-of-character!]

The Pathfinder Society is a group of explorers, scholars, and treasure-seekers who recover lost knowledge from sites across Golarion. As such, it suffers from a simple problem which costs time and energy: the issue of travel to and from these far-flung sites. Most Pathfinders spend more time on the road than actually exploring, trudging down muddy roads or half-marked paths to arrive at their assigned exploration site. While magical means of travel exist, most are inconvenient for mass travel, requiring the spellcaster to travel with the agents to the location and then back again. There are also those Pathfinders who shun such point-to-point travel on strictly philosophical grounds: if one only looks where one expects to find something, one will never find something not already known. The serendipitous discovery allowed by conventional travel is one of the great joys of travel on the Open Road.

Yet there are times when speedy travel is required, and some believe this need was the initial spark which set the Society’s course for the 4711-12 adventuring season. Legends tell of a tapestry, created by the famed Tian sorceress Hao Jin, which was the gateway to a demiplane filled with wonders beyond count. Hao Jin had spent her life collecting curiosities, artifacts, and relics from across Golarion, and kept many of them secreted within the Tapestry’s demiplane. As Hao Jin’s aims were similar in nature to those of our Society, this Tapestry would be a treasure trove if it could be recovered. In addition, it was rumoured the Tapestry also allowed travel between various points in space, and perhaps in time, offering at once a priceless cache of hisrotical objects and a potential solution to the travel issue.

Through secret research, the Decemvirate, our Society’s anonymous leaders, ascertained that the Tapestry was still within Hao Jin’s earthly treasure vault. As Hao Jin had died in 4380 by Absalom reckoning, simply requesting the item was impossible. All of Hao Jin’s treasures were in the safekeeping of the Church of Abadar, according to Hao Jin’s strict instructions. Every decade, one item from the vault would be given away, to the winner of a world-wide martial contest called the Ruby Phoenix Tournament. If a Pathfinder could qualify and then win this prestigious event, the Hao Jin Tapestry could be recovered for the Society. At some point before 4710 A.R., the Society’s sights were set firmly on acquiring the Hao Jin Tapestry, although most agents would not learn of this until the following year.

The first step was to earn a place in one of several qualifying tournaments held around the world. As one such tournament was held in Absalom near the time of the Grand Convocation of 4711 A.R., the Society was well-represented and earned several opportunities to compete in the Ruby Phoenix Tournament itself. [As recounted in Scenario 3-00 Blood Under Absalom, at PaizoCon 2011 and other conventions following.]

And so, Pathfinders accustomed to exploring the Inner Sea found themselves setting sail for the far distant shores of Tien Xia, or marching over the Crown of the World to the far side of the planet. Thanks to the efforts of the Venture-Captain Amara Li, who spent much time at the Grand Lodge in Absalom, the Lantern Lodge in Goka became a forward operating base for much of the Society’s work in Tien Xia. [Season Three saw the addition of five new “ideal-based” factions for PCs: the Grand Lodge, Lantern Lodge,  Shadow Lodge, Silver Crusade, and Sczarni all became options for characters, joining the existing five “nation-based” factions of Andoran, Cheliax, Osirion, Qadira, and Taldor. Due to the storyline for Season Three, the Lantern Lodge was prominent initially; the other factions are mentioned later in this article.]

As the Society prepared its agents for the coming martial competition, it learned of competition of another sort – our old rivals, the Aspis Consortium, were also mounting a major effort to win the tournament. Pathfinders and Aspis agents clashed many times throughout the year, often racing each other across Avistan to recover items or lore which would give an edge in the tournament.

While much of the Society’s efforts were focused on the Ruby Phoenix tournament, this was far from the only goal the Society pursued. The recent defeat of the Shadow Lodge, and many of those disaffected agents’ acceptance back into the Society under the leadership of Grandmaster Torch, created many issues to be resolved. Pathfinders retrieved former Shadow Lodge agents for interrogation, recovered artifacts of great power or danger, and negotiated favors or rights of passage with various groups. Once again, an artifact in the keeping of the Blakros Museum in Absalom was the source of trouble which cost the lives of several Society agents, leaving many to wonder why Nigel Aldain was still the curator despite several similar incidents.

Within the Society, attitudes were also changing. Many Pathfinders saw the potential of the Society to achieve other goals in the broader world, instead of remaining focused on the accumulation of knowledge. Many flocked to Ollysta Zadrian’s banner when she founded the Silver Crusade, a group of Pathfinders who saw the Society’s potential to do good in the world. The infiltration of the Society by the disreputable band of Varisian “cousins” known as the Sczarni was perhaps inevitable, but served to coalesce those members of the Society who used the Society only as a tool to increase their personal wealth and power. What distinguishes these agents from the Aspis Consortium we have opposed for centuries escapes me, but clearly the Ten see the value in their well-known connections across the Inner Sea. The Society’s contact with the Lantern Lodge brought many Tian Pathfinders into the fold, with the varying outlooks and perspectives offered by their different culture. There were also those who chose to ignore these outside influences and focus on their duties as a Pathfinder.

Finally, after months of preparation, the Ruby Phoenix Tournament was held near the end of 4711 A.R., and despite Aspis treachery the Society prevailed. As is fitting, the individuals who competed were not named, and it was the Society itself who received the honor and glory of the victory. There are those who suspect that one or more members of the Decemvirate themselves may have been among the competitors, but this rumor seems unfounded. [Due to the nature of the campaign, individual players may have played these scenarios and the Ruby Phoenix module in any order, but in the timeline the Ruby Phoenix tournament would have occurred sometime before scenario 3-12, “Wonders in the Weave Part 1: The Dog Pharaoh’s Tomb” was released, since it is the first scenario to feature the use of the Hao Jin Tapestry.]

The first teams sent into the Tapestry’s demiplane revealed that it was not as private as had been previously assumed – there existed at least one other way of entering the tapestry from Golarion, and over the years various denizens had come to call the Tapestry home. Through negotiation, quick wit, and the occasional use of brute force, the Society managed to gain control of the Tapestry and ensure our rivals had no access to its treasures. With some effort, the Tapestry could be shaped to provide portals to other areas of Golarion, partially solving the travel issue outlined earlier. However, these portals are time-consuming and difficult to create and maintain, and so they do not truly replace more mundane forms of travel. Still, the Tapestry allows Pathfinders to travel between several of the most prominent Lodges easily, vastly increasing our Society’s range of influence.

As the adventuring season of 4711-12 drew to a close, the Society had claimed possession of the Hao Jin Tapestry and its private demiplane of artifacts and portals, and had forged many inroads and alliances with the peoples of Tien Xia. The Shadow Lodge had for the most part become re-integrated into the Society, further complicating the political situation of the Society as a whole. Individual teams sent on assignment might contain a Society loyalist serving the Ten, a former Shadow Lodge member advocating for the rights of the lowly field agent, a Sczarni theif looking to make a quick profit, a Chelaxian devil-binder beside a freedom fighter from Andoran, and a paladin of Sarenrae trying to resolve their faith and their career path. One assumes that the Ten intended for this situation to promote a greater understanding of differing methods in pursuit of a unified goal, but in practice it sowed dissension and interfered with the efficient completion of tasks. The Society’s efforts, released from the grand goal of winning the Ruby Phoenix Tournament, began to fragment into individual factions, and the Ten seemed content to let the situation perpetuate. It would take a world-threatening crisis to bring the Society’s aims back into focus.

 

Paizo Blog Summary for August 4

Greetings, Pathfinders! As Gen Con (or as I call it, Gamer Christmas) draws ever closer, how are you preparing for the convention? Will you attend, or are you going to experience Gen Con through our friends over at Know Direction? Either way, tell us you’re getting ready for the con.

Let’s see what was cooking on the Paizo Blog last week.

Monday brought very important missives from the new faction heads for Pathfinder Society play. If you haven’t yet, you might want to slip over and read the letters. All the leaders, new and returning, have important instructions for us all. Something about a ‘Sky Key’?

Our preview of the Advanced Class Guide continued on Tuesday with a look at the Shaman. While it isn’t top of my ‘must play’ list, I am curious to take a closer look at the class as it’s the first one we’ve seen taken from two non-Core classes, the witch and oracle. It’s an intriguing combination and I’m curious to see it play out.

Wednesday saw the advent of two posts. The first was the latest chapter in Stephen Savile’s Queen Sacrifice, The City Under No Stars. This story just keeps getting better and better, and as a GM I love all the little details I can pull out and use my future games. The second post brought us a detailed look at changes to the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, since it came out a years ago. Definitely worth a read if you intend to take part in PACG Organized Play, as things may be different from how you remember.

On Thursday we met our newest iconic, Shardra Geltl. These new iconics always find a way to surprise me, and Shardra is no exception. Picturing a shaman character I would never have thought of a dwarf. But her story is compelling and I can’t wait to see her in future products.

Paizo rounded out the week with another double posting on Friday, both from Erik Mona. First, Erik gave us a head’s up of an Advanced Class Guide oddity. I won’t try and explain it here, you really need to read the post. Personally, I think it’s great Paizo came out with this ahead of time, and I may find myself buying a second copy sometime down the road. Next, Erik showed off some iconic figures from the upcoming The Lost Coast set, and gave us some Mini Mates news for Gen Con. The first two iconic figures look great, but I will be binge buying boxes until I get my hands on Squealy Nord!

And that was it for this week. See anything you liked or disliked? Let us know about it in the comments, or talk to us (and Like us, if you’re so inclined) on Facebook.

From the Field: 3 Tips for Con-going on a Budget

With Gen Con fast approaching and convention season in full-swing, I thought it might be useful to talk a bit about con-going on a budget. I think conventions are one of the best parts of the table-top gaming hobby, exemplifying everything we love about our shared passion. But many people stay away from conventions because they think it will cost a ton to attend. And yes, with that much geekery packed into an enclosed space, the temptation to “GET ALL THE THINGS!” is quite high. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As someone on a budget myself, let me pass along three tips to make your con experience more affordable, and keep you from having to eat cheap ramen to atone for your mistakes.

1) Volunteer – The one expense you know you’ll have every convention is the pass. Whether you go one day or all weekend, you have to pay to get in. But every gaming convention I know of needs volunteers to make the con run; very few ever have enough. And they all offer free passes if you volunteer. For gaming conventions in particular, you can get your volunteer hours through running games. I’d be hard-pressed to find a Venture Officer who never needed more GMs for their cons. And getting your pass for free because you are gaming is sort of like being paid to game, which is pretty sweet. Plus, volunteering is a great way to make sure gaming conventions keep happening. No convention anywhere would run without its volunteers; doing your part keeps cons healthy. And you can meet new people who are also nerds, and there are usually volunteer perks and activities throughout the year…the list goes on. In short, volunteering can net you a lot more than a free pass.

2) Set a Budget Before You Go – And stick to it. Yes, there will be lots of pretty-shinys, and yes, maybe you do have enough in your account to get the gold bust of Gary Gygax you’ve had your eye on. But do you have enough to get it and pay your phone bill? It’s amazing how we forget about or minimize other necessaries when something we desire is right in front of us. (Actually, it’s not amazing, it’s psychology) To minimize the lure of the impulse buy, set a daily budget for yourself before you go to the con. Setting it before is important; chances are that budget will inflate if you set it while salivating in the dealer’s room. Nope, save yourself the grief and set it the day before. Then stick to it. Doing this will help you when you come face-to-face with that gold bust. You can remind yourself you only have x dollars to spend, and move on. But do keep that bust in mind for later; no one is saying you can’t save up for it. Pro Tip: If you are someone who has serious impulse control issues, most banks will allow you to change the daily withdrawal limit on your bank card for a few days. Just remember to change it back after the con.

3) Look for the Free (and then Cheap) – If you know where to look at a con, there is a plethora of free stuff for the having. Promotional items from companies can be anything: pens, pencils, hats, posters, buttons, water bottles. Hey, maybe the company isn’t your favourite, but…free. At gaming cons especially, its possible to get free or discounted gaming material, and all it will cost you is sitting down and trying out a game’s demo. That’s practically like getting paid to play a game! Regardless, the con-goer on a budget doesn’t turn down free stuff. The con-goer on a budget smiles, says thank-you, and puts the free stuff in the bag he/she brought for that purpose. Also, don’t ask for seconds or thirds of something, that’s just crass. Think of the other con-goers on a budget.

The next best thing to free, is cheap. There are plenty of cool things you can get at a con that won’t break the bank. If the con has an artist’s alley or similar area, head over and see if there are any artists offering inexpensive sketches. Not all artists do it, but many offer a $5 or $10 quick sketch, in addition to the more expensive detailed drawings. Check the game dealers for lightly used or shelf-worn stock, which is usually discounted. And don’t forget to make a pass through the dealer’s room late on the Sunday; most dealers will have marked some prices down, or are open to haggling, to avoid hauling or shipping all that stock back home. Just try not to be obnoxious about asking for deals, nobody likes that.

I hope you find those tips useful at your next con. Do you have any tips or tricks for con-going on a budget? Drop them in the comments or on our Facebook page! And take a second to answer our short survey, if you’d be so kind.

GM Perspective: Three Quick Tips

Whether you’ve just started as a PFS GM or have been at it a while, there are always ways to make your life easier, and spruce things up at the table. As someone who does a fair-to-moderate amount of GMing, I want to pass along three quick tips I use to make my table run a little smoother and add a bit of colour. These are all simple ‘fixes’ that anyone with a computer and printer can do; plenty of time to get into 3D terrain builds later.

1) Make Combat Cheat Sheets – Whether you run your game off a digital device like a laptop or pad, or print the scenario out, it can be handy to create a few pages where you consolidate all the combat stat blocks. You can cut-and-paste text from most PDF readers, so pulling the material out of the scenario is a snap. And in the cases where the scenario references another sourcebook, like an NPC from the NPC Codex, you can just print that page and tuck it with the rest. If you don’t have the sourcebook you need, or just want to save some printer ink, hit up the Pathfinder Reference Document and get the text-only version.

When you put your cheat sheets together, take the opportunity to include the text from that spell or feat you are a little fuzzy on, so you have it where you need it during the combat. Does an NPC or monster use a special combat manoeuvre? Put that in as well. Include whatever information you think will help you run combats smoother and with less page flipping/scrolling.

And if you don’t have time to do it yourself, check out a Shared Prep site and see if someone did it for you.

2) Highlight the Text – Okay, so this one might seem a little OCD to some of you; to others (like myself) it seems perfectly normal. But highlighting important text got me through high school and college, and it can help at the game table as well. It’s something you can do with your scenario whether it’s print or digital and it’s a lot easier than it sounds. First, decide what colour is going to highlight what. When I do it, I usually assign pink to Monsters, green to Treasure, orange to Traps, blue to any GM information (DCs, important story text, and so on), and purple to scenario information (success condition info, any special tracking the scenario needs, and the like). Then just read through the scenario and highlight away. At the end you’ll have a whack of rainbow-coloured pages that are surprisingly easy to navigate. An important thing to remember: you don’t have to highlight an entire paragraph. In fact you shouldn’t. If you have a paragraph discussing an NPC’s reaction to Diplomacy, for instance, just highlight the Diplomacy DC. That will help draw your eye to that section when necessary, which is all you want. Again, most PDF readers will have this function, and combined with bookmarking can make it really easy to navigate a scenario PDF.

3) Help the Players Picture It – Pictures may or may not be worth a thousand words, but they can be more valuable than gold at the gaming table. As you read through the scenario you’ve seen the Venture-Captain and NPC art Paizo has provided. Put it to use! Most PDF readers will allow you to select and copy a graphic, so snag those pictures and print them off separately. When that person makes an appearance, clip the picture to the front of your GM screen (if you use one) or stand it up on the table for the players to see. Immediately they’ll have a better idea of who they’re dealing with, and the NPC in question moves one step from being a muddled picture in their mind to a ‘real’ person. Leaving them out can also help as an aide to memory when the players need to recollect a key piece of information later in the scenario.

As a bonus, not only do these three simple tricks make running a scenario easy and engaging the first time, but the next time you need to run it all this prep is taken care of. You can keep a few of these pre-prepped scenarios for times you need to run on the fly, and you’ll look like a rockstar!

What are your scenario prep tricks and tips? Drop them in the comments or share on our Facebook page.

Paizo Blog Summary for July 28

Good morrow, gentle Pathfinders! Many cool things this week, so let’s get to it.

F. Wesley Schneider got our Monday rolling with tales of Gen Cons past, and his first experience with True Dungeon. As a kid growing up in northern Canada, I lived the con life vicariously through stories like this in the pages of Dragon; only much later did I get to create con stories of my own. A great way to start the week.

Tuesday snuck in with a look at the upcoming Slayer class from the Advanced Class Guide. I suspect the slayer is going to have huge appeal across PFS, and seems like she’ll make a good fit, especially for the more…unsavory…Society missions. And I’d like to personally welcome Mark Seifter back to the land of the living; I know everyone here at the blog was pulling for you.

Wednesday brought the continuation of Steven Savile’s Queen Sacrifice, with Chapter Two: Into the Dark. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything. So I’ll just say this: I’ve been continually excited and impressed by the talent and quality of stories which come our way just about every Wednesday on the blog. If you aren’t taking advantage of this great resource, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Wednesday also brought us the first preview blog for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles, with the developer, Gaby Weidling. A great look at sharks, pirates, swashbuckling, ships, and plunder; enough to get anyone excited for the new set. And if you’re taking part in the new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Organized Play, you got a look at the promo cards you can expect for the first several months. I’m personally looking forward to the owlbeartross.

As they do every year, Paizo made an important announcement Thursday regarding Gen Con and subscription pick-ups. If you’re a subscriber, you need to read this post. Now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

We also met the newest iconic on Thursday, with a look at the “Shadow of Sarenrae”, Zadim. I love the angle of connecting Zadim to the church of Sarenrae. It would have been very easy to attach the slayer to some sort of death cult or vicious band of assassins. But the back-story, especially the meeting with the cleric iconic, Kyra, fleshes out the class as more than a simple dealer of death.

Friday was all about Lamashtu, as Erik Mona brought us another Publisher Preview of the upcoming The Lost Coast miniature set. He gave us our first look at three rare figures: Etainia, priestess of Lamashtu; Thelsikar, an evil mystic and servant to Lamashtu; and the Mother of Monsters herself (or at least, the earthly manifestation, suitable for scaring the crap out of your players). The more I see of this set, the harder it gets not to pre-order a case. I’m a GM, I can always use more minis…

That’s it, that’s all! As always, if you have comments about the things you’ve read feel free to drop them here or on our Facebook page. We are also running a very quick and easy survey about the blog, so give that a look if you have 2 minutes. Until next time, Pathfinders, may your crits confirm!

Know Your Nations: The Nation at the Center of the World, Part Two

Lady O’s Personal Note: This written episode uses information from a variety of sources (see below), but has been synthesized into a player-friendly, spoiler-free format. GMs should be assured that none of this information removes the need for Knowledge checks to identify locations and places in Absalom. This is information Pathfinders would have learned in training, but whether they remember that information when it counts is based on their Knowledge checks. Enjoy!

The Large Seminar Room in the Pathfinder Society Grand Lodge is abuzz with activity and conversation. Today is the Pathfinder Initiate Orientation. Pathfinders who have finished their three-year initiate training are set up with housing and given the grand tour of the Grand Lodge. It is treated with the utmost importance to the Society, and a magnificent lunch reception has been provided to all the new initiates, with delicacies from all over Absalom. Also enjoying the repast are several opportunistic Venture Captains, Instructors, and a few stealthy Seekers on assignment to the lodge.

“Good afternoon Initiates!” Ambrus says in a loud and booming voice. “You have spent this morning attending to your housing, taking a tour of the Grand Lodge, and being formally introduced to the instructors here. But now it is time for you to learn more about the city you will call home for the next few years.”

He gestures to a well dressed woman. “This is Lady Ophelia Stormslayer, Seeker Member of the Society and one of the newly appointed Dawnmothers of the Temple of the Shining Star here in Absalom. It is paramount that you learn as much as you can from this next lecture as this has been her home for many years. Thank you, Ophelia, for taking the time to teach these new Pathfinders”.

The room booms with applause and shouts of “The Light of Sarenrae be Praised!” from a few followers in the room. Lady Ophelia smiles and steps up to the podium.

“Thank you Ambrus, and all of you for your warm welcome. It seems like only yesterday I sat amongst others like you and began my journey. It is a joyous and wonderful day indeed.” Ambrus pilfers the buffet and, after finding a seat at the instructor’s table, begins to eat. Smiling indulgently at him, she claps her hands and a few servants begin dispersing small green booklets to the initiates.

“These books are a guide to Absalom, and a gift from the Lamplighters and Seekers of the Society. Absalom is a rather huge city, with a history just as huge. Although I plan to walk you through the most important sections today, I can say for a certainty you will not remember it all. This book is yours to have, and feel free to take any additional notes you like. We will start with page ten, which shows a map of Absalom.”

Picture Provided By Pathfinder Society Organized Play and Paizo Publishing

Picture Provided By Pathfinder Society Organized Play and Paizo Publishing

“Absalom was founded when the Starstone was raised from the sea by Aroden in 1 AR. It is said he wanted to create a city that would be open to progress, and a fitting tribute to the Starstone which fell from the sky. Scholars have argued for many years and will for many more to come about why he did that. Regardless of the reason, many flocked to Absalom for its wealth of natural resources and strategic position in the Inner Sea as a whole. The city today is presided over by the Grand Council of Absalom. Each district chooses leaders to represent them on the council and there is one Primarch who oversees the proceedings of each council meeting. The current Primarch is Lord Gyr of House Gixx who was elected in 4660 AR.”

“As you can see, the city is broken up into eleven districts. Each district is noted on a separate page of the book, and you can reference in greater detail on your own time. First is the Ascendant Court, which is page 13 in your books. ” Ophelia allows a moment for the initiates to turn to the proper page, as many were taking notes during her previous speech.

“The Ascendant Court is known as the religious center of Absalom. Located at the physical center of Absalom, it serves as a hub for all of the districts. This is due to the all roads in Absalom ending in the Ascendant Court. Here, churches of all faiths here in Golarion are open for worship. Aside from the many temples, the district’s most notable locations include the Avenue of the Hopeful, The God’s Market, and the Temple of The Shining Star. The Chelish Embassy is also located here, in a former temple to Aroden. But the most famous location in this district is the Starstone Cathedral, on the next page.”

The room begins to murmur with excitement as many turned the page to find a picture of the Cathedral.

Photo provided by Pathfinder Campaign Setting by Paizo Publishing

Photo provided by Pathfinder Campaign Setting by Paizo Publishing

“Oh that is a good sign that you are true Pathfinders at heart.” Ophelia says with a smile. “There are four bridges that lead into the Cathedral. Well actually, three.” She says thinking again about her previous statement. “The original four bridges were built to honour the only four deities who completed the Test of the Starstone: Aroden, Iomedae, Cayden Cailean and Norborger. The bridge for Aroden crumbled in 4698 AR due to lack of care. But that’s a story for another day.”

“Additionally, it’s important to know the district is policed by an independent guard known as the ‘Greycloaks’. They are staunch Atheists, who through their non-affiliations with any specific church, maintain the peace and the law of the city equally and without bias. It is in your best interest to do what they say, and be respectful, as they are very much serious types. We will now move onto The Coins District, which is on page 16 of your books.”

“The Coins District sits between The Docks to the south and the Ascendant Court to the north. Eastgate District is on the East side, and The Foreign Quarter is on the west. Many of you might have passed through this district to get here. How do you know? Well, how many of you passed an Owlbear statue on your way in?” A good number of hands rise. “Well that’s how you know. It’s a landmark of that district.”

Photo Property of Paizo Publishing

Photo Property of Paizo Publishing

“The Coins is known for its trading. Legal and illegal, in this district anything goes. Taverns and brothels of whatever repute you want reside in this district. It is also home to the Grand Bazaar and is one of the few places in all of Golarion where slave trading is legal.” The room begins to murmur and hiss at the statement. Ophelia raises a hand to calm the crowd. “Now, now Pathfinders, your job is not to judge or hinder the commerce of the city. But if you choose to purchase and free slaves with you own funds, you are legally allowed to do that.”

“On Page 19, you go further south into the district known as ‘The Docks’.” Pages begin to flurry as Ophelia continues on. “The Docks District is the place where everything, and I mean everything, happens. But I advise you to be careful. The Harbour Guards are not necessarily the most honourable in the city, and if you get yourself into trouble there is very little chance they will assist you. While I trust many of you are able to handle yourselves, it’s still best not to cause any trouble there. One of my favourite sites in Absalom is there, and you have probably seen it on a good day from the top of the dorms. It’s known to the Society as “The Beast”.” The entire audience murmurs as they turn the page in their books and see the actual crane itself.

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

“The Beast is used to unload the heaviest and largest loads in Absalom. It is a massive five-story stone windmill-like structure, and when activated it turns a long wooden winch and rope system sticking out of the top. Sunday’s are most impressive; when they do routine checks on The Beast you can see the entire crane rotate 360 degrees.  Even more impressive; in 4499 AR, during the Red Siege, the Beast defended itself using a 1-ton block of stone as an incredibly oversized flail. Can you imagine that?”

“Now in 4698 AR, there was a massive earthquake that hit the island of Kortos. It affected two districts in Absalom the most: The Puddles and The Precipice District. Both of these districts are showcased on pages 26-30.”

“The earthquake made the Puddles District drop below sea level at high tide, causing flooding and erosion. The center of the district is now a festering lake known as the ‘Little Inner Sea’. As a result many moved out of the district. Those who could not afford to move were left in the district to fend for themselves from the thieves and derelicts who would eventually move in and use the district for their operations. That, and the fact that funding for the district is scarce and a city guard presence is virtually absent, and the district is neither a safe nor great place to find yourself in.”

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

“There is a place of amazing note here, and it is known as the Metro-Cathedral. It’s a now abandoned temple of Abadar, but the best part about this temple is not only its lack of flooding, but that it is also home to the first full-sized pipe-organ in all of Golarion; if you jump onto one of the keys it plays a note. In fact, it used to take a whole team of organists and choristers just to play one hymn during their masses. In 4709, the Pathfinder Society assisted in thwarting a potential coup in the city, involving the great Metro-Cathedral. As a result, the Society was granted maintenance of the building with the blessing of Absalom’s Abadaran Church. We use the location as a place of research and safe refuge for members of the Pathfinder Society.”

Photo provided by Getty Images

Photo provided by Getty Images

“The Precipice District suffered a different fate during the same earthquake. The district was once known as Beldin’s Bluff, after the arcanist who once lived in the district. His house was a majestic tower to behold. Those who loved the tower built a beautiful district full of tea shops, schools, and housing for the government officials and nobles of Absalom. When the earthquake hit the district, however, two of Beldrin’s towers fell into the water, as well as half the original district. While the inhabitants eventually rebuilt, it never quite regained its former glory.”

“The district is currently one of the most supernaturally dangerous areas of Absalom. There are many who speculate this is because of the residual magic from Beldin’s fallen towers, or that many of the “residents” of the original district never quite left.  In late 4709, The Pathfinder Society was commissioned to do a survey of the lost Tri-Towers Yard and the dungeons underneath the Drownyards of the quarter. Many teams ventured to the district and returned with much knowledge of the district and its former glories.”

Ophelia, looks at the hourglass. “My, an hour has gone by already? Time does go fast. Let’s take a few minutes break and we will continue our lecture.” Initiates and teachers rise and the room is abuzz with conversation; Pathfinders wondering more about each district and comparing notes. Some students stay seated and continue writing in their books.

Tune in next week for the rest of the lecture!

Character Creation: The Fluff

When creating a character for PFS, many of the questions you would usually ask the GM have already been answered for you in the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play, or on the Additional Resources page on the Paizo website. This can actually make character creation faster and easier, especially because most of the options Paizo publishes are legal for play. As always, the first step is to come up with a character concept.

Concept

Last time we looked at the mechanics of creating a new PFS character, and how that was different from a standard home campaign (see Character Creation: The Crunch). There are very few restrictions placed on the concept for your character in Organized Play, but the chief among them is: No Evil Characters.

That said, why is your character a Pathfinder field agent? What is their motivation? When making your Pathfinder, keep in mind the Society’s three tenants: Explore, Report, Cooperate. Which of these does your character embody, and what will they do to further the Society’s goals?

Explore

Curiosity is one of the founding principals of the Pathfinder Society. Searching for lost artifacts and knowledge is the Society’s purpose, so it draws many inquisitive minds who want to know the answers to “Who? What? Why? and Where?” Perhaps your character has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and cannot leave a question unanswered. Or do they have wanderlust and need to see the world? As a member of the Pathfinder Society you can travel to far off places, meet interesting people, and sometimes kill them.

Report

With the world renowned Pathfinder Chronicles turning adventurers into celebrities, many young adventurers seek the fame and fortune of a successful Pathfinder Agent. Durvin Gest, one of the original Pathfinders, has a 20 ft. statue on the grounds of the Grand Lodge in Absalom. With that kind of recognition and legacy, the Society attracts many attention-seekers. Others use it as a way to gain recognition from their peers in order to elevate themselves into high society.

Cooperate

Then there are those who recognize that Society agents are often in the midst of some of the largest political events in the Inner Sea. They realize that by working together, they can influence the course of Golarion’s history. Some member’s motives are pure and good, such as the Silver Crusade. But others are wholly selfish; with wealth and fame come power and influence, often leading to unsavoury types trying to take advantage of the Society. The Qadirans and Sczarni represent these types of Pathfinders. It’s no surprise they’re combining forces as The Exchange in order to gain a bit more leverage. Regardless of motive, Pathfinders understand that only by working together can they accomplish their goals.

The Other Guys

While field agents are trying to uncover lost knowledge, cultists of Norgorber, God of Secrets, try and hide the mysteries of Golarion. Other adventurers, who have no intention of exploring, reporting or cooperating, don’t fit the Society’s ideals and will find a hard time succeeding. Though you can create a character with opposing ideals to the Pathfinders, you’ll find that you’ve only made trouble for yourself from a role-playing aspect.

Class and Race Choices

For their many and varied missions, the Pathfinder Society needs agents with a variety of talents. Because of their appreciation for the strange and unusual, even three-armed alchemists and witches with prehensile hair can find equal pay for equal work. Much of a Pathfinder’s work happens outside of combat, so I would encourage you to create a character who can contribute to research, social situations, or even non-direct problem solving. Creative solutions are usually rewarded, so there’s no need to kick down every door. Often times, honeyed words or a little finesse will get the job done much more quickly.

The Society is also fairly non-discriminatory, though you will find a higher frequency of humans among the Society’s leadership. Feel free to let your imagination run wild and create whatever character you believe would make a good fit in the Society. Remember, humans populate the majority of the Inner Sea, so if you want to blend in, stick with a more “core” race.

Character Options

The number of options for your character can be staggering, but I find that by deciding what the Society sees in this new recruit, I can pick my options more carefully. Start with two core concepts:

1) What kind of character do I want to play?

2) What does the Society see in that character? Why would they recruit them to be a Pathfinder agent?

For example, I want to make a strong melee combatant, and I want them to be a bounty hunter character who is good at finding people. By selecting a half-orc with the Keen Scent feat, he can literally sniff out opponents. Since this is a fairly bestial trait, a more wild melee class like barbarian seems to fit nicely. Another feat like Step Up will ensure that they can’t easily get away, and the barbarian rage power No Escape will be handy if they try and run.

When using this technique, you’ll find you’ve created a character that can readily contribute to the various assignments a Pathfinder receives, and you can focus down on your plethora of choices. Where do you start on character creation? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Stats

Choosing your stats largely depends on your build, but keep in mind this character was chosen by the Pathfinder Society to go out on expeditions as part of a team. If your Big Dumb Fighter has a 7 in Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, why did the Society choose him to explore ancient tombs? Is he simply the muscle? If so, play that up. Find the most fragile member of the group and swear to protect them.

Whatever you do, don’t neglect Constitution. A low Constitution can get you killed very quickly in almost every combat situation. Yes, I mentioned this in Character Creation: The Crunch, but it bears repeating. Even if you’re trying to build the elven wizard who’s not very brawny, a wizard with a Constitution score of 5 only has 3 hit points at level 1. A critical hit from a hawk familiar, or just one dose of weak poison can easily kill you.

Post the Character

Register your character on the Paizo website. At a minimum, enter the character name that is associated with each character number. If you pick a nice portrait, you can even have fun posting on the board “in-character.” This makes for some interesting arguments when making rules discussions as a learned Investigator, or a Rogue with first-hand anecdotal knowledge.

Poll the Audience

Do you have any recommendations about the fluff behind creating a PFS character? If so, leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. I’d love to hear your advice on building an interesting and engaging character for Pathfinder Society.