Know Your Nations: Taldor

Greetings lovely Pathfinders!taldor

Lady Ophelia here, sharing with you my wisdom and knowledge about the many realms of Golarion. What they are like, and how they affect you the Pathfinder who may be going into the country on a mission.

Our next country on the lineup is Taldor, known as the “Decadent Empire”.

History and Geography:

Taldor is one of the oldest countries in Golarion. Major geographical features act as natural boundaries between the empire and its neighbours. To the north the Fog Peaks serve to divide Taldor from the nation of Galt. The Sellen River flows through the Verduran Forest, along the boundary of the empire and its western neighbour, Andoran. To the east, the World’s Edge Mountains and the Whistling Plains provide a buffer between the Taldan Empire and the empire of Kelesh. Finally, Taldor is separated from its long-time enemy to the south, the nation of Qadira, by the Jalrune River and the Zimar Scrublands.

Founded in 1281 AR, Taldor would go on to expand into numerous nations that have now grown to become powerful forces of their own within the Inner Sea region.  Taldan explorers absorbed Galt into the empire and founded both Molthune and Lastwall. Other explorers founded Andoran in 1707 AR, Isger in 2133 AR, and Cheliax in 3007 AR.

But expansion made the Taldan government excessively large and unable to function efficiently. Add to this constant conflicts with surrounding nations such as Qadira and those within their nations such as Cheliax, and Taldor was forced to reduce its hold on many nations and allow them to swim on their own. It was during this conflict that the province of Cheliax, under Aspex the Even-Tongued, declared its independence in 4081 AR. In what became known as the Even-Tongued Conquest, Aspex proceeded in annexing Andoran, Galt, and Isger. Unable to halt these secessions, Taldor signed a treaty recognizing Cheliax as an independent empire.

The end of Taldan expansion did nothing to reduce the excesses and waste to which the Taldan nobility had grown accustomed. Consequently, the country has been in a steep decline and only the great wealth of Taldor keeps it afloat today. But the wealth is dwindling away under the current monarch, Grand Prince Stavian III. His daughter and only heir Princess Eutropia is determined to bring glory and honour to Taldor once more when she assumes the throne upon his death.

Locations of Great Importance for the Society: (From the Society’s Library A.K.A The Pathfinder Wiki)

Oppara: Oppara is known as the “Gilded City” as the city was once covered in gold plating. There are very few remnants of the gold plating, but the city is still the capital of all of Taldor. Oppara is also home to world-renowned bardic colleges such as the Kitharodian Academy and the Rhapsodic College.

Wispil: Wispil is one of the only gnome towns in the Verudran Forrest. It’s known for its mining and lumber harvesting. However, they have a very sensitive relationship with the local druids in the area. Wispil harvests the lumber and sends it downstream to Cassomir where it is used for ships in the Taldor Navy.

Cassomir: Cassomir is located at the mouth of the Sellen River, and is the second largest settlement in the empire of Taldor. It acts as a major trade city, and through its ports goods flow from the Inner Sea, as well as from nations to the north that utilize the Sellen as a trade route. Cassomir is also home to the greatest of Taldor’s imperial shipyards, even though the majority of the fleet itself is stationed in Oppara.

Belhaim: The Dragon Plague years were quite eventful for northern Taldor. During the years between 3660 and 3672 AR, the region endured an explosion of violent and bloody depredations by no fewer than three dozen different dragons. Although the incursions of dragon activity are now over, Belhaim is still known as a refuge for travellers through the Verudran Forrest.

Tandak Plains: The Tandak Plains in Taldor stretch from the southern edge of the Fog Peaks to the Zimar Scrublands, and from the Inner Sea to the foothills of the World’s Edge Mountains. The plains were once part of a vast primeval forest, but 6,000 years of civilization transformed it into grasslands. It is split by the Porthmos River in the central region and the Verduran Fork in the north. The land is almost free of threats with the exception of roving gangs, vagabond communities, and the occasional conflicts between governors of the various Tandak prefectures.

The World’s Edge Mountains:  The World’s Edge Mountains separate eastern Taldor, and indeed Avistan from the Whistling Plains of Casmaron. It is formed by two long ranges, separated by the Porthmos Gap. The Gouged Eye tribe dwells in caverns under the mountains. These savage orcs frequently clash with the Taldan military and are considered vicious even by orc standards.

Society Standing in Taldor:

The Pathfinder Society shares a lot of common traits with Taldor, pursuing exploration and acquisition of knowledge and treasures. However, the relationship with the Taldan government is strained. Many nobles think Pathfinders are nothing more than grave robbers, despite the fact that many Pathfinders have found (and returned) great Taldan treasures hidden in plain sight. For example, Escobar Vallian, hero of the Society’s early second century, famously rescued the elaborate stone disk known as Yessild’s Mirror from a decrepit noble estate outside the town of Cassomir, where it had been used as a tabletop for more than 400 years since its creation by one of the greatest wizards in Taldor’s proud, almost inscrutable history. (Seeker of Secrets, 2009)

Taldor Faction:

The Taldan faction is as old as the Society itself. It was originally run by a man known as Baron Jacquo Dalsine, but he used the power of the Society’s influence to acquire goods and relics which he hoarded in his grand mansions, harming the Society’s relationships with Taldor. After his death in 4711 AR, he was replaced by the current head of the faction, Lady Glorianna Morillia.

Taldan Pathfinders usually hail from Taldor, but some are exiles, working for the Pathfinder Society to grow their personal fame and renown so they can restore their family’s name back home. It’s important to understand that in the Taldan faction you may have to be okay with spying, coercing others, cheating, blackmail and public humiliation of your enemies. So long as you do not violate the main principles (Report, Explore and Cooperate) of the Society, of course.

Traveling to Taldor? Here are some tips to make your trip memorable!

  • Taldans are decadent bon vivants, favouring rich foods, ornate attire, and jewelled accoutrements for even the most casual of affairs. To a Taldan, appearance is an expression of power, and a keen sense of fashion represents a keen mind. Their appreciation of the arts extends beyond fashion and painting, dabbling in sorcery, dueling, and the murky strategies of politics and war. A Taldan mind roused to ire is a dangerous thing, and the rest of the Inner Sea is about to receive a painful reminder of this timeless fact. (Paizo Blog, 2008)
  • The nobility of Taldor are incredibly fickle. But they support anything which will further their wealth and personal causes. It’s important to recognize this and work within that framework. If you give even the slightest disrespect to a Taldan Noble, you face steep punishment, up to and including death, depending on the perceived severity of the insult. So if gentility is not your strong suit, be quiet and allow your more diplomatic partners to deal with them.
  • Taldan’s are not against working their differences out rationally if it benefits them. But many are very well trained with the sword. The poor of Taldor, on the other hand, have very little to work with, but if made friendly can be some of your best allies.
  • There is A LOT of religious drama in Taldor, which can get an ignorant Pathfinder into trouble. In the beginning, Aroden was a big figure until he chose Cheliax as his patron nation. One of his temples still stands in Oppara, and many are still touchy about him. Sarenrae worshippers should take especial note, their faith is illegal in the country due to the many years the nobility fought zealots of Sarenrae during the centuries-long Great Campaign against Qadira. Also, the faith of Zyphus is not highly favoured in Taldor. In 4709, a few religious zealots of Zyphus attempted to kill many of the nobility of Taldor by trapping them in a theatre and unleashing an undead horde.
  • Items that will definitely help with monsters in the region: Cold Iron Weapons, Blunt Arrows, Neutralize Poison vials and Scrolls, vials of Lesser Restoration, Oils of Daylight and Align Weapon. Holy water is also recommended, especially if you are heading up to the World’s Edge Mountains and Fog Peaks. For more seasoned adventurers, I recommend scrolls of Restoration, Dispel Magic and Break Enchantment if you can acquire them.

Well that’s all for me this week! I hope that as you prepare for your next trip to Taldor, my words will be helpful to you and your party. Be safe out there Pathfinders, and may Sarenrae’s light bless you and light your paths.

~ Lady Ophelia

Want to know more about Taldor via written lore? (Pathfinder books) Check out the following:

Taldor: Echoes of Glory
Inner Sea World Guide
Pathfinder Campaign Setting
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Faction Guide

Want to Sponsor an Adventure in Taldor? (GM a game?) Choose These Society Titles:

Among The Dead
Among The Living
Among The Gods
The Jester’s Fraud
Decline of Glory
The Devil We Know Series: Shipyard Rats, Cassomir’s Locker, Crypt of Fools, Rules of The Swift
The Dalsine Affair
Library of The Lion
The Dragon’s Demand (Module Play Only)
Tomb of The Iron Medusa (Seekers/Module Play Only)
Tears at Bitter Manor (Module Play only)

Works Cited

Assorted. (2009). Pathfinder Chronicles: Seeker of Secrets. Seattle: Paizo Publishing .

Joshua Frost, M. M. (2008, June 19). Exploring The Pathfinder Society: Part 5. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5l9zk?Exploring-Paizos-Pathfinder-Society-Organized

Pathfinder Wiki. (n.d.). Taldor Nation Profile. Retrieved 5 13, 2014, from http://www.pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/Taldor

Lamplighter Lecture 4713 A.R. – The Demons of the Worldwound

[NOTE: This lecture was delivered live and in-character at the Manitoba Pathfinder Lodge’s annual “Convocation” event in Winnipeg, Canada in September 2013, just before presenting the Season 5 special, “Siege of the Diamond City”. It 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 demons and their abilities at the table; this is information Pathfinders would have learned in training, but whether they can remember that information when it counts is based on their Knowledge checks.]

“Welcome, fellow Pathfinders, to Nerosyan, the Diamond of the North! Thank you to Venture-Captain Jorsal for hosting us in such impressive surroundings, and thanks also to Venture-Captain Thurl, also of Nerosyan, who I don’t see in the audience at the moment. Surely the Starrise Spire is one of the Society’s most luxurious lodges. It is gratifying to see so many of our members here from around Golarion, included those we have not seen for a time. Again, welcome.

“I am Thaddeus Lamplighter, Chronicler of the Society and instructor at the Grand Lodge in Absalom. Before Venture-Captain Jorsal takes the stage, I have a few words from the Chroniclers to pass on which may aid you in the days and weeks to come. As some of you may have heard, the Society has made a significant discovery which will make Mendev a major operating base for some time. As such, the Society deems it wise to provide you with some refresher training on the likely threats you could face while operating on the edge of the Worldwound.

“All of this information was provided in your three-year training as Pathfinder recruits, although judging from my current class of students I suspect some of you paid more attention than others.  This information is the sort of material most of you could recall if you would ‘take ten’ minutes or so to think about it and discuss with your colleagues. Of course, in the heat of battle we revert to our training, but this lecture should at least prepare you for the days and weeks ahead. In addition, some of you may have come in on the no-longer-uncommon “field commission”, and missed the benefits of training entirely. You will want to pay particular attention if you wish to survive to see next year’s Grand Convocation.

[At this point, a large map of Golarion is projected over the head table, manipulated by illusionists to illustrate the text.]

“As you no doubt know, this city of Nerosyan sits on the edge of the Worldwound, a demonic blight and a physical portal from Golarion to the Abyss. We are here, in Nerosyan, near Mendev’s borders with both Numeria and Ustalav. The nation of Sarkoris once lay to our north and west, until just over a century ago.

“Sarkoris was once a loosely woven federation of Kellid clans without any need for a centralized government. The Kellid people are fierce warriors, and those of Sarkoris were also known for their unusually broad religious perspectives. For the people of Sarkoris, the divine could be found equally well in true deities, druidic nature spirits, and strange extraplanar entities. It would be such openness to otherworldly forces that eventually spelled Sarkoris’s doom.

“Among the various sects in old Sarkoris was a cult devoted to the demon lord Deskari, Lord of the Locust Host. Deskari had tried to invade Golarion before, in the year 4433 by Absalom Reckoning, but the invasion was stopped by the patron god of humanity, Aroden himself. Since then, the Locust King remained in his Abyssal lair, plotting his revenge and biding his time.

“Over a hundred years ago, in the year 4606 A.R., Aroden was prophesied to return to Golarion, ushering in the Age of Glory. Instead, the divine connection to his priests was severed, and Aroden fell silent. Thus began the Age of Lost Omens, and since then Aroden has answered no prayers. Most believe Aroden to be dead, though I remind the faithful that ‘…absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence…

“In the turmoil which followed, Cheliax turned to Asmodeus to support their sprawling empire, Andoran and other nations split to form independent nations, natural disasters rocked Golarion, and the modern world was forged.

“With Aroden unable to oppose Deskari, the demon lord saw his chance. The Locust Lord deceived three mortal spellcasters, pursuading them to tear open a miniscule portal to the Abyss, which Deskari then widened and held. The Sarkorians were quickly overrun by the endless horde of demons pouring through the portal, and all too quickly, what was once a vibrant nation was razed to the ground. In its place was a blasted, shifting wasteland with a gaping Abyssal chasm at its center – the Worldwound. Since that time, the history of the region once known as Sarkoris has been dominated by the rule of Abyssal warlords.

“The initial surge of demons was hampered by a series of crusades launched by the Church of Iomedae the Inheiritor, once the Herald of Aroden and a goddess in her own right. The First Crusade began in 4622 A.R. and lasted eight long years The faithful of Aroden gathered behind the banner of Iomedae, with the common purpose of defeating the encroaching demonic forces. The crusaders manage to reclaim Mendev and some of southern Sarkoris, forming the bastion of the future Crusades.

“In 4638 A.R. , a demonic counteroffensive overwhelmed the Mendevian defenses, and the crusader city of Drezen was sacked. In response, the Church of Iomedae declared the Second Mendevian Crusade, drawing warriors from every nation to  the region. After seven years of fighting, the West Sellen River became the new border, and the wardstones were created and installed around the Worldwound. These powerful abjurant artifacts create a magical barrier along the front, blocking teleportation and preventing further surprise attacks by the demonic horde.

“In 4665 A.R., the crusaders tried to advance the front in the Third Crusade, but the infiltration of agent provocateurs and cultists into the Mendevian ranks hindered the push. The Third Crusade ground to a halt amid squabbling, rivalries and witch hunts, with thousands of lives lost in three years for no gain.

“A surprise attack by a balor demon calling himself the Storm King compromised a key wardstone near Kenabres in 4692 A.R. This led the Church of Iomedae to announce the Fourth Crusade. With due respect to the crusaders and their sacrifices, little was accomplished in the 15-year-long effort, and the seemingly impenetrable demonic defenses prevented any gain again.

“This is where we are today, in the year 4713 A.R. The border is relatively stable, with routine raids and intelligence-gathering by both sides. The demons seem content to remain in place and ravage what is left of Sarkoris. Yet outside the wardstones, a demonic storm is brewing the likes of which Golarion has never seen. All things considered, the Worldwound is currently the single greatest threat to Golarion’s continued survival. And the Society will be right in the middle of it.”

[At this point the illusionary map is dismissed, and a series of images appear, depicting various demonic forms and abilities.]

“Now, to discuss your foes. Many of you may have come up against demons before, as they are often summoned to Golarion by evil spell casters.  With our nearness to the Worldwound, however, some refreshed training on demonic abilities and resistances is in order.

“Even those of you who did not specialize in extraplanar knowledge will be aware that demons come from the Abyss, a chaotic and evil outer plane where the souls of the most wicked mortals go after being judged by the Lady of Graves. The environment of the Abyss toughens these souls and gives them physical form as demons. During this process they gain resistance to the elements and to poison, and also against typical weapons. Cold iron weaponry can often penetrate a demon’s hide, as can powerful magical weaponry. The strongest demons can resist even these, unless the blade is also infused with holy righteousness.

“Many demons can also summon more of their kind, multiplying the threat quickly. While the weakest demons cannot do this, never underestimate the number of demons which you may face. As many demons can also teleport at will, it is not uncommon for a retreating demon to “flee”, only to reappear with several new allies, ravening for revenge.

“Although demons can be summoned to Golarion via magic, it is important to note that in the Worldwound they are not summoned creatures – essentially, they walked here, and so are able to use all of their inherent abilities to summon others of their kind. It also means that when they are killed, they die permanently – not enough to stem the tide of evil souls flowing to the Abyss, certainly, but every bit helps. I can think of few circumstances in which a defeated demon should be allowed to return to its masters if the opportunity exists to destroy it permanently.

“Finally, many of the more intelligent demons are telepathic, and thus able to issue commands silently and over great distances. Despite their chaotic nature, when driven by a strong leader, demons can be surprisingly organized in battle using this method of communication.

“Anyone expecting to encounter demons – and that means everyone in this room – should be armed with cold iron weaponry, and have the ability to infuse holy power into their weapons, whether via spell, magical oil, or through permanent enchantment. As many demons can fly, it would also be wise to be able to deal damage at range, either through a ranged weapon, spells, or through the ability to fly oneself. Demons which escape can return later with reinforcements, or provide critical intelligence about the Crusader defenses and positions if allowed to return. Stamp them out whenever and wherever possible.

“Now we will briefly examine the various types of demons which are most commonly found in the Worldwound. Again, while this information should help you prepare, only those well-trained in extraplanar knowledge are likely to recall this information in combat, when seconds count. This is far from an exhaustive list, however, and the number of demonic forms likely exceed these many times.”

[During this section, images showing the various forms of demon are projected above the head table. Links to these images are provided for the convenience of those restricted to technological viewing apparatus.]

“The least of demons is the dretch. Little more than blobs of flesh incarnate, these mindless drones are easily summoned by mortal spellcasters, and serve as slaves and fodder in the demonic horde. They may be dealt with much as one would deal with mindless undead – a few will not pose a major threat, but in large numbers they can be terrifying.

Vermleks are a greater threat due to their disguised nature. In its native form, a vermlek is a long worm-like creature. It can infest a mortal corpse host and use it as a motive source, walking around and appearing as an obese version of the corpse’s original form. Watching one of these demons burst forth from its host to attack is not a sight for the faint of heart. Once identified, however, they are usually easily dispatched.

“The familiar quasit is well-known as a demonic servitor of evil magic-users, subtle and intelligent. They often seek to manipulate their foes, disguising themselves as harmless animals or hiding behind cover of invisibility. Their wings allow them to remain out of reach, making them excellent spies.

“The babau demon can be a dangerous foe to the unprepared. Also known as “blood demons”, the red ichor oozing from their skin in actually acidic, and can damage your weapons as well as your flesh. Babaus are consummate assassins, using magical darkness and their longspears to attack with surprise. Magical oil of daylight can dispel their darkness, but as the creatures can use this power at will, it is more efficient to be able to fight in the dark yourself.

“Incorporeal and silent, invidiaks are dangerous foes. Shadow demons, as they are known, share many characteristics with the undead shadow, including their strength-draining touch. Worst is their ability to possess a mortal, taking complete control of their actions with no visible warning signs. As with all incorporeal creatures, they can be dealt with most effectively via force effects such as the oft-maligned magical missile which most conjurers learn on the first day of training.

“No demon strikes as much fear into the hearts of Mendevian crusaders as the lust demon, the succubus. While weak combatants, these foul temptresses can change their form to that of man’s greatest paragon of beauty and ensnare the mind of the weak-willed, driving them to work against their friends and undermine the defenses of the city. The kiss of s succubus is to be avoided at all costs; some suspect this is the true reason behind many Holy Orders’ vows of chastity. Once a succubus is identified, they must be destroyed to free those under her power, and to prevent her from escaping to begin her campaign of infiltration in another guise.

“Master of the Abyssal sky, the vulture-headed demons of wrath, the vrocks, are deadly in large numbers. Their telekinetic powers can disarm crusaders, and in a group they can work together to release a powerful electrical discharge. The spores exuded from a vrock’s feathers will infest exposed flesh, but holy water will kill the spores before they can grow.

Hezrou, or toad demons, inhabit regions of the Abyss too inhospitable even for other demons. They can utter hideous blasphemies, and their nauseating stench quickly overpowers anyone the demon grapples. Magical silence can be used to great effect against a hezrou to prevent the demon’s black words from doing their damage.

“Though the temptations of a succubus are hard to resist, for those of less moral fortitude the glabrezu’s powers may be more seductive still. Known as treachery demons, these demons wreak havoc not with their powerful claws, but through their ability to fulfill a mortal’s wish. Many fall victim to this temptation, but the glabrezu is master of twisting the intent of the wish while following the literal wording. No wish granted by a glabrezu ever truly  benefits the victim, and to engage in such activity is banned by many Crusader orders on pain of death.

“Demonic generals, the six-armed maraliths are fearsome foes in combat. Staying at range will not ease the battle, as they have powers of illusion and telekinesis, and the ability to conjure whirling barriers of blades to rend their enemies. All but the most powerful combatants should flee when they come face to face with a maralith.

“And so we come to the final entry in our list: the balor. Masters of fire, these demons scorch the earth and those nearby with their foul presence. They wield whips of fire, but their most feared weapon is the dreaded vorpal sword, a weapon which can behead foes with a single blow. The current “leader” of the Abyssal horde in the Worldwound is a balor of great power, though there may be others which have not chosen to show themselves yet. If you dare to face a balor, you must be able to stand toe-to-toe with one of the greatest foes on Golarion. Immunity to fire is a good start, as is having several heads on your shoulders.”

[As the illusions fade, the murmur of the crowd rises as agents discuss what they have just seen.]

“After all of that, many of you are perhaps wondering if this is really what you signed up for. Have no fear, your Venture-Captains will not send you into the heart of the Wound until you are ready. Newer agents are needed for many duties on the line, both assisting the Mendevian Crusaders and tracking down leads on the location of the lost Sky Citadel. More experienced agents will venture into the Worldwound itself, and visit other areas of demonic taint across Golarion. The very best Pathfinders will blaze the trail to Jormurdun itself. The coming year will see secrets uncovered that have lain dormant for millennia, and the Pathfinder Society will be at the center of discovery.

“As Durvin Gest, hero of the first Chronicles, did as he set foot in the ruins of lost Azlant for the first time, let us also prepare ourselves, armed with knowledge of our foes and secure in the abilities and loyalty of our comrades. Let us sally forth into the unknown, assured that our efforts will prove equal to any obstacles we face in the pursuit of knowledge. Explore, Report, Cooperate!”

 

References:

Running Season One Scenarios (for GMs – SPOILERS!)

[Based on reader feedback, I’m providing a bit more detail and spoilers for certain scenarios – hopefully this will help GMs select scenarios and prepare for them. As always, the GM Shared Prep is an invaluable resource for prep, and Pathfinderwiki gives additional detail and insight into the locations and people of Golarion. – Lamplighter]

Season One was the first season of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign to use the Pathfinder RPG rules. No mechanical conversion is necessary to play these scenarios, unlike Season Zero which used the 3.5 rules. However, the Chronicles are the old style, without the out-of-tier gold calculations, and there are many Tier 1-7 scenarios which have three subtiers of stat blocks. Most importantly, there are many story issues to be aware of, since the meta-plot and factions had a very significant role in Season One.

In terms of prepping Season One scenarios, it can really help to know what subtier you’ll be playing in advance. With the Tier 1-7 scenarios, the wide range of potential levels means that the encounters can change radically from one subtier to another, with totally different creatures and tactics. If you use advance scheduling for games, this won’t be a problem, but the Tier 1-7 scenarios are some of the harder ones to prepare if you don’t know who will be at your table.

In every scenario, the five nation-based factions of Andoran, Cheliax, Osirion, Qadira, and Taldor had side missions for their respective faction members to perform. At the time, these faction missions were the way a character earned Prestige, and so they became the dominant focus of many players. Since prestige limited access to new gear, the system encouraged players to put their faction’s mission before the Society’s objective. Today, this is no longer an issue, since prestige is earned through the completion of the primary and secondary success conditions (listed in the free download “Secondary Success Conditions” available at paizo.com). However, the faction mission handouts often contain information which can help a party accomplish these goals, and so GMs should hand them out anyway. Even though there is no reward for completing them, it does provide players with more information about the game world, and allows players to decide how involved they wish to be with the meta-plot of their factions. Make sure you read them before handing them out, as some of them can raise issues with lawful- or good-aligned characters or those from particular homelands.

The major issue complicating Season One scenarios is the emergence of the Shadow Lodge. Several scenarios (especially the “City of Strangers” series, #1-51 The Shadow Gambit and #1-52 The Twofold Demise) center on uncovering evidence to prove the existence of the Shadow Lodge. This was a fine objective when the scenarios were new, but is almost pointless now – most players are aware of the existence of the Shadow Lodge, and may even have been members while it was a legal faction for players in Seasons Three and Four! Things have actually gotten easier now that the Shadow Lodge is no longer available as a player option. Still, these scenarios need to be dealt with carefully, but they have such a great setting and some epic NPCs and faction missions (“For Taldor!”) that you should definitely run them anyway.  One way to do so is to portray the Shadow Lodge as seen in City of Strangers as rogue members who never came back into the fold with Grandmaster Torch, or who left with him at the end of Season Four, depending on what your players already know. Another way is to suggest that this may be a re-emergence of a “shadow” Lodge within the Society; not the same group as the capital-S Shadow Lodge, but a shadowy group having a similar agenda. The surprise is gone, so instead play up the setting and intrigue aspects of these scenarios.

Also in Season One, we had the appearance of the first two parts of the four-part retirement arc, Eyes of the Ten. At the time, PFS play was capped at level 12 – once you hit level twelve you were retired. Eyes of the Ten was a special scenario for level 12 PCs, which would give them one last epic mission before actual retirement. It is a great series, and begins with one of the all-time best PFS scenarios ever written, the double-length Requiem for the Red Raven, scenario #1-46, by Paizo Publisher Erik Mona. Today, this is just one of many options Pathfinders have for high-level play; with the sanctioning of modules and Adventure Paths, plus Special scenarios which allow play above level 12, you can actually take your Pathfinder PC all the way to 19th level. Eyes of the Ten does give one of the coolest rewards in Society play at the end of all four scenarios, and so it is definitely worth playing, but to make the most of it you should plan it out.

Since Season One scenarios were designed for teams of four Pathfinder agents, playing them today with the typical party of six can make them somewhat easier than average. When running them for experienced players, try to run these scenarios with four players to provide an appropriate level of challenge. For Eyes of the Ten, you should definitely get to know your party. If they are very combat-orientated, run the series with a group of four for a much more memorable experience.

Here are very brief notes on Season One scenarios, flagging potential issues for GMs. (WARNING: SPOILERS!)

The Devil We Know series (Tier 1-7)– PFS #1-29 Shipyard Rats, #1-30 Cassomir’s Locker, #1-41 Crypt of Fools, #1-48 Rules of the SwiftWhat starts as a simple rescue of a kidnapped Pathfinder turns into a campaign against a cult of Groetus, a derro invasion from the Darklands, and a major betrayal. A four-part series, but NOT intended to be played back-to-back, as some time is assumed to pass between scenarios. The Devil We Know series defined the Aspis Consortium as the Society’s hated foe, and the NPCs in this scenario have been on the top of many players’ “hit list” for four years. The NPCs in question do finally return, in the Destiny of the Sands series (PFS #5-12, #5-15, #5-16), so running this series beforehand will make Destiny of the Sands even more meaningful.

1-31 Sniper in the Deep (Tier 5-9) – Features underwater combat and incorporeal foes, which are great equalizers for one-trick-pony PCs who can power attack through a typical dungeon by themselves.

1-32 Drow of the Darklands Pyramid (Tier 7-11) – Alas, the title gives away the major reveal of the scenario, that the Drow exist and are active in the world. Still a great scenario, with lots of interesting combats.

1-33 Assault on the Kingdom of the Impossible (Tier 1-5) – Our first visit to the Isle of Jalmaray, a rich culture based on distant Vudra. Features the death of a Venture-Captain and a chance to strike back at the Aspis Consortium.

1-34 Encounter at the Drowning Stones (Tier 7-11) – PCs race against the Aspis Consortium, this time into the Mwangi Expanse.

1-35 Voice in the Void (Tier 1-7) – We visit the Blakros Museum, where we learn the secret behind how the Blakros family amassed its collection of relics. This scenario is the background for many of the events which occurred during the Grand Convocation interactive scenario at PaizoCon 2012, and directly leads to PFS #4-10 The Blakros Matrimony. NOTE: This can be a deadly scenario, with the possibility of permanent death without the possibility of a body recovery, but very creepy and full of lore.

Echoes of the Everwar Series (Tier 7-11) –  1-36 The Prisoner of Skull Hill; 1-42 The Watcher of Ages; 1-44 Terror at Whistledown;  #1-53 The Faithless Dead – This four-part series takes high-level Pathfinders across Avistan and northern Garund, tracking a set of artifacts left over from the Chelish Everwar of 4305 A.R. PC’s will enter  an orcish stronghold in the Hold of Belkzen, search a collapsed outpost in Cheliax, visit the gnomes of Varisia, and end up in Sothis to put an end to the arc. Important note: Part 1, 2, & 3 can be played in any order, but Part 4 must be played last.

1-37 The Beggar’s Pearl (Tier 1-7) – A dungeon crawl into a dwarvish ruin in Andoran which has been taken over by nightmare fey. This scenario has a large map but only the standard number of encounters, which makes it tedious to play out for a group of miniature-and-map players; large parts are best handled via the “theatre of the mind” technique.

1-38 No Plunder, No Pay (Tier 7-11) – The Society tasks you to break a pirate out of a Chelish military prison in order to track down his lost cargo of artefacts. Note that lawful characters may have significant issues with completing this scenario in the typical way, and may wish to negotiate or resolve the situation diplomatically. Several of the faction missions likewise skirt the law. In these cases GMs are reminded to “reward creative solutions” as outlined in the Guide to Organized Play.

1-39 The Citadel of Flame (Tier 1-7) – Exploration of a newly-revealed shrine to an arch-devil in the deserts of Qadira. This scenario features a long cat-and-mouse encounter with an opponent who avoids going toe-to-toe with the party, and so it’s a good change of pace from more straightforward combats.

1-40 Hall of Drunken Heroes (Tier 7-11) – PCs delve under Cayden Cailean’s temple in Absalom, seeking a hidden archive of demonic lore and bound creatures. The scenario takes place at least partially in public, complicating matters for parties that are usually very direct in their approach. Once below, PCs find powerful demons working to free their leader from weakening shackles.

1-43 The Pallid Plague (Tier 1-7) – Written by now-Paizo-Developer Mark Moreland, this scenario is a challenging trip into Darkmoon Wood to help the nymph queen Syntira deal with a horrible disease. The fey of the forest and the Andoran Lumber Consortium are at odds, providing an interesting political aspect to the mission.

1-45 Delirium’s Tangle (Tier 1-5) – Grandmaster Torch cashes in a favour, sending Pathfinders on a quest to fix one of his botched missions. PCs descend into the sewers beneath Absalom to find a missing Minotaur prince, and find a trap-laden labyrinth guarded by fierce morlocks. Since Grandmaster Torch’s history with the PCs may be long and complicated, see the suggestions for running Season Zero scenarios for ideas on how to deal with Torch in this scenario.

Eyes of the Ten series (Seeker arc) #1-46 Requiem for the Red Raven; 1-54 The Maze of the Open Road– The first two of the level 12 arc for Seeker PCs. These should be run consecutively, with the same players and GM for the entire series. The PCs should have enough of the back story to appreciate the scenarios; ideally, before a PC plays Eyes, they will have played 0-04 Frozen Fingers of Midnight, 0-07 Among the Living, both parts of the aforementioned City of Strangers series, and several of the following scenarios: 0-01 Silent Tide, 0-03 Murder on the Silken Caravan, 0-05 Mists of Mwangi, 0-17 Perils of the Pirate Pact, 1-35 Voice in the Void, 1-31 Sniper in the Deep, 0-20 King Xeros of Old Azlant, 0-22 Fingerprints of the Fiend, 0-26 Lost at Bitter End, 1-38 No Plunder, No Pay. This is supposed to be a special event for players, and so GMs are encouraged to pull out all the stops for this series. More tips for GMs prepping Eyes will be covered in a separate article.

1-47 The Darkest Vengeance (Tier 1-7) – Set in Ustalav, the PCs are sent to deliver transfer papers to Venture-Captain Skeldon Miregold, who is being relieved of command of the Karcau Lodge. This scenario features some great encounters, with heavy use of the Bluff skill and Will saves versus charm effects. The last combat is extremely deadly, and likely to kill several PCs in almost any tier-appropriate situation. There is also a complicated device which must be operated during a particularly deadly combat in supernatural darkness. Ensure you are well-versed in the rules on light and darkness before running this one.

1-49 Among the Dead (Tier 1-7) – Sequel to PFS #0-07 Among the Living, the PCs track the same cult to their headquarters with orders to wipe them out. This scenario contains a lot of traps, and so benefits from party members with good Perception skills, trapfinding, or LOTS of hit points. While there is a sidebar with suggestions on how to adapt for a party which can’t deal with traps, this scenario is also a good lesson in the virtue of versatility. The hideout is also a desecrated temple of Sarenrae, giving any worshippers of the Dawnflower a great chance for righteous indignation.

1-50 Fortune’s Blight (Tier 5-9) – Set in the River Kingdoms, the PCs must retrieve a magical weapon from a coven of hags. Lots of charms and curses appear in this scenario, as well as flying creatures which can spell doom for those unable to fly or fight at range. PCs may have to fight their Society allies, and will pay the price should they kill another Pathfinder.

The City of Strangers Series (Tier 1-7): #1-51 The Shadow Gambit;  #1-52 The Twofold Demise – These back-to-back scenarios set in Kaer Maga should be run sequentially (the PC’s don’t even leave the city between scenarios). This is a great series, with some really memorable events. The NPC contact “Ms. Feathers” is one of the most memorable NPCs in any scenario, and we will meet her again when we visit Kaer Maga in PFS #4-10 Feast of Sigils and PFS #5-18 The Stranger Within. Make sure to describe the city’s inhabitants, using material from the Paizo Campaign Setting book, City of Strangers. Things like the Troll augurs and the walking dead of Ankar-Te will stick with your players for a long time. Faction note: In these scenarios there is a “challenging” faction mission for Andoran players (and by extension, Silver Crusade players, who use Andoran faction missions) . These agents are asked to kill a fellow Pathfinder, without due process of law, based solely on their faction head’s say-so that he is evil . This can cause problems with various codes of conduct and other party members.  The simplest solution is for the players to ignore this unreasonable request (which is easier now that there is no loss of prestige for doing so). You should suggest this option to players who are having issues with the ethics of the mission. The Pathfinder Campaign Setting book City of Strangers provides rich detail for running these two scenarios, providing a window into one of the most memorable locations on Golarion.

1-55 The Infernal Vault (Tier 1-7) – A delve into a well-guarded family vault beneath Absalom. PCs will face fiends, traps, and optimized NPC foes before finally facing the powerful caster in her lair.

1-56 The Jester’s Fraud (Tier 5-9) – Master of Spells Aram Zey sends agents to Taldor to barter for some ancient relics, and discover that they have been stolen. The PCs track the thief across Taldor to a ruined keep where the jester reveals his true colours.

 

Pathfinder Society Season Summary – Season One

A Chronicle of the Pathfinder Society’s exploits during the adventuring season from the First of Arodus in the year 4709 (by Absalom Reckoning), through the Thirty-First of Erastus, 4710 A.R., prepared by Brother Thaddeus, Pathfinder and Lamplighter, Chronicler of the Society.

[This is a player-friendly, spoiler-free summary of the events which occurred during Season One, the first season of PFS to use the Pathfinder RPG rules set. Blue text like this is out-of-character!]

At the Grand Convocation in 4709 A.R. approached, the Society’s leadership, the masked and anonymous Decemvirate, must have evaluated the past year of agent reports with satisfaction. The Society had integrated an influx of new agents and expanded its operations dramatically throughout the Inner Sea [see a summary of Season 0 here]. As the new adventuring season began, these agents were given advanced training in their respective fields to further improve their skills. [The Pathfinder RPG rules were released, and all PFS characters were converted from the old 3.5 rules. This added new abilities and class features, making each PC roughly one level more powerful than they were under the old rules.]

During 4709 AR, the Society had encountered a rival organization that, on the surface, seemed to parallel our goals. The Aspis Consortium was a wide-ranging trade organization, dealing in (among other things) the location and trafficking of antiquities. Whereas the Pathfinder Society sought out such objects to further knowledge, the Aspis did so with a ruthless efficiency, merely for the potential reward of such antiquities on the private market. Many relics which should have been available to researchers across the Inner Sea through the Society’s resources instead wound up in the private collections of the highest bidder.  Very quickly the Society and the Aspis Consortium became bitter enemies, and this rivalry would define many of the Society’s actions in years to come. [The Aspis Consortium is perhaps the most-hated rival of the Society; they appear in several scenarios throughout the year, including the opening series, “The Devil We Know”. For many players this may have been their first encounter with the Aspis, and so they don’t have that built-up hatred of their rivals. Luckily, the series will create that in them!]

As the Society’s renown grew, so did the desire of nations interested in using the Society to further their national goals. Various nations offered enticing alliances in exchange for the aid of Pathfinder teams as troubleshooters, and the Society took advantage of this opportunity. Many agents were sent to aid the nation of Taldor with a bizarre series of kidnappings in its shipyard center, and again to follow up on hints of an evil cult discovered in Oppara the previous winter. Pathfinders were active in the deserts of Qadira, the mountains and forests of Andoran, in infernal Cheliax, and in the newly-opened tombs of Osirion. Many missions were also conducted in Absalom, and Pathfinders again visited the Blakros Museum on a mission of aid, this time securing an alliance that would pay handsomely in years to come.

In terms of accomplishments, the Society was instrumental in several major discoveries throughout the year. Society agents first mapped the Tilted Pyramid of Aram-Hul in Osirion, and a recently-uncovered temple to the archdevil Moloch in the Merez Desert of Qadira. Pathfinders retrieved several artifacts dating back to the Chelish Everwar, including the ring of Meshkenet the Wise and the silver sword “Desert Raven”, and the Society raced Aspis Consortium agents to the famed Drowning Stones in the Mwangi Expanse. The items recovered by agents throughout the year are presently housed in the Grand Lodge of Absalom, where they are studied by top scholars.

Careful observers would note that the Society’s methods took on a decidedly darker tone during the course of the year, often operating above (or below) the law of the land. Pathfinders were sent to free a pirate imprisoned by the Chelish navy, based on his knowledge of the location of a cache of evil artefacts. The Society also made inroads into the lawless city of Kaer Maga in central Varisia, working with several underworld contacts of convenience whose reputations were less than upstanding. And still, the various national factions continued to co-opt individual Pathfinders for their own purposes, sending Pathfinders on private missions up to and including theft, extortion, and assassination. While some would argue the mysterious goals of the Decemvirate were surely worth any minor transgressions, in the public eye the Society’s reputation took on a decidedly tarnished luster. During this time there were those (including the present author) who had trouble distinguishing between Pathfinder and Aspis agents in the field.

Some of this secrecy became clear to the rank-and-file with the revelation of a schism within the Society itself. A small group of Pathfinders, dissatisfied with the leadership and direction of the Society, had begun to work in the shadows toward unknown goals. This “shadow lodge” was amorphous, and any Pathfinder might be a secret member. As such, some compartmentalization for the sake of security was inevitable, although there was still grim speculation on what goals would require such rash and provocative actions on the world stage.

As the Grand Convocation of 4710 approached, the Society had seemingly departed from its core ethos of “Explore, Report, Cooperate”, and apparently become much more mercenary in its outlook. Faction “favors” grew to dominate Society missions, and often lead to conflict just short of violence between members. Widespread dissatisfaction was spreading through the ranks, with many agents feeling the Decemvirate had lost touch with the Society’s traditions and goals. No doubt this dissatisfaction led to the events in the following year, when the Shadow Lodge made itself known in a dramatic fashion.

Quirks of the Grid, Part 1 (of 3): Threatening

For the foreseeable future we will see a long-term, interesting and informative blog series covering a gamut of rules and ambiguous situations within the Pathfinder RPG system. I have the honor of presenting these rules in an easy to understand format where I will bring all the various information found in disparate places amongst the large Pathfinder RPG library together into one place.

Today, I’m going to start us out with part 1 of a 3 part series discussing quirks of the grid. How many times have you been playing at a table and your friend gets confused as to when he gets an attack of opportunity? Or worse, argues his action doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity? I know I have.

One of the simplest rules in the game can get quite confusing with all the various skills, feats, class abilities, spells, and magic items that change how the rule applies in a specific situation. I won’t be covering all the specific situations, as they are way too numerous and would explode this blog into a book of its own. But I’ll do my best to clearly explain the basic situation in which someone could take an attack of opportunity.

Essentially, a character must threaten a particular square for any action taken in that square to provoke an attack of opportunity. “You threaten all squares into which you can make a melee attack, even when it is not your turn.” (pg 180, Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook) A typical melee attack can attack all squares adjacent or 5-feet distant, including squares diagonal from the one you occupy. But what does this mean?

Typically you only threaten a square into which you can make a melee attack if you are considered armed and/or can do lethal damage. Melee weapons are the easiest way to ensure you are considered armed and can do lethal damage. As a matter of fact, if you are considered unarmed, you will provoke an attack of opportunity from an armed opponent who threatens you. “A monk, a character with the Improved Unarmed Strike feat, a spellcaster delivering a touch attack spell, and a creature with natural physical weapons all count as being armed…” (page 182, Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook) You are not considered armed if you are only carrying a ranged weapon.

The most common actions that will provoke an attack of opportunity while standing in a square that an opponent threatens include but are not limited to:

  • attacking a threatening opponent unarmed
  • moving into a square that a threatening opponent occupies
  • performing a combat maneuver without one of the improved feats
  • standing up
  • crawling
  • picking up an object
  • retrieving a stored object from your character’s person
  • making a ranged attack (including throwing a weapon—even if that weapon could be used in melee)
  • casting a spell
  • drinking a potion or applying an oil
  • reading a scroll
  • using a spell-like ability
  • loading a crossbow, sling or firearm
  • sheathing a weapon
  • moving a heavy object

Other actions as described by that specific action or listed in table 8-2 on page 183, Pathfinder RGP Core Rulebook may also provoke attacks of opportunity.

One such action I did not list above is movement. Movement complicates things and includes the most common error made when determining if an action provokes an attack of opportunity or not. “Moving out of a threatened square usually provokes attacks of opportunity from threatening opponents.” (page 180, Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook). The error most commonly made is that moving into a threatened square would provoke, but as noted above, only moving out of a threatened square provokes an attack of opportunity. Normally, only a 5-foot step or the withdraw action can avoid provoking an attack of opportunity for movement. Various skills like Acrobatics and feats like Spring Attack can also avoid provoking an attack of opportunity for movement. Just remember, you cannot move further than 5 feet in a given round, unless otherwise specified by a feat or ability, if you take a 5-foot step. Alternatively, you may only avoid an attack of opportunity for movement while making a withdraw movement action from the square you initially occupy before moving.

Now discussing movement and attacks of opportunity, it is important to bring up the quirk of the grid. “When measuring distance, the first diagonal counts as 1 square, the second counts as 2 squares…” (page 193, Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook) This means the second diagonal is considered 15-feet from the square you occupy, so typical reach weapons cannot reach into those squares. Typical reach weapons add 5-feet onto your natural reach and disallow you from threatening at 5-feet. So a medium- or small-sized creature threatens 10-feet from the square they occupy but not 5-feet. Since the second diagonal square is considered 15-feet, a creature with 10-feet of reach, or a reach weapon that threatens out to 10-feet, does not threaten the second diagonal.

This creates an interesting quirk of the grid. It allows a savvy and tactical creature to move toward the creature with a reach weapon along the diagonal, and avoid their attack of opportunity without having to do anything special or have any special feat, ability or magic. This was of course not the intended result of the way the square grid works. Sean K. Reynolds, former developer for Paizo and the Pathfinder RPG, clarified this on the message boards. He explained that just because the quirk of the grid does not have a 10’ square at the diagonal, does not mean that a creature is not passing through 10’. So this created a phantom 10’ circle around a creature with a reach weapon, and allowed them to take an attack of opportunity on a creature moving toward them from the second diagonal into the adjacent diagonal square (of course as long as it was not just a 5-foot step). Of course this clarification caused more problems than it solved.

It is up for debate whether the new problems are more or less significant than the problem of the hole in a reach weapons threatening area. If a threatening opponent chooses to take their attack of opportunity as a combat maneuver, they could choose to disarm or trip you. If they trip you, which square do you fall in, the second diagonal or the first diagonal? Neither of which you would threaten with your reach weapon, so while you get to take your attack of opportunity for movement, you would not be able to take a second attack of opportunity (if you have since taken your turn or have combat reflexes) when they choose to stand up or crawl away. Additionally, any feat you have which triggers an attack of opportunity upon tripping an opponent would not trigger in this instance, because you do not threaten them regardless of which square they fall prone. The same problem occurs with disarm. Which square does the disarmed weapon fall into, the second diagonal or the first diagonal? Finally, 5-foot wide diagonal corridors present a problem. With a reach weapon, you would technically never be able to attack anything in a 5-foot wide, diagonal corridor, unless that creature, or you, chose to squeeze into one of the half-squares created by the diagonal walls.

Many GMs, including myself, choose to allow reach weapons that threaten at 10-feet to threaten the second diagonal. Expect table variation on this.

Next week: “Quirks of the Grid Part 2 (of 3): Flanking.”