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paizo_blog July 22 2014, 17:25

Advanced Class Guide Preview: Slayer

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgbb?Advanced-Class-Guide-Preview-Slayer


Advanced Class Guide Preview: Slayer

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Into every generation, a slayer is born. The slayer is a hunter, a stalker, and a killer, with enough power to fight fairly and win, but the inclination to fight unfairly and win by an even wider margin. The slayer combines the stalking and combat styles of the rogue and the ranger with none of the ranger's nature focus. Basically, the slayer is Ezio from the Assassin's Creed series, the quintessential assassin and the last person you want to see leaping out at you from the shadows.

The slayer is a full BAB class with a slower sneak attack progression than the rogue, talents at even levels, and its own prime feature, favored target (which is now called studied target). Studied target is the slayer's spin on favored enemy. Instead of hating a particular type of creature, the slayer studies any target he wants (hey, no wonder it's called studied target!), gaining bonuses against that target until he switches targets. Since this bonus also applies to Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival (and later Disguise, Intimidate, and Stealth), clever slayers can also gain a substantial boon from this feature in a variety of non-combat situations as well by studying NPCs during social encounters too. Favored target has unlimited daily uses, and who knows—if the old lady suddenly starts attacking, then you're even ready to fight back right away!


Illustration by Ramon Puasa Jr

In the original version, there were 16 choices for slayer talents with 8 additional advanced talents available at level 10. Playtesters had trouble finding enough talents that they wanted to take for their builds, so for the second playtest, this increased to 24 talents and 10 advanced talents, including the powerful combat style talent that could be taken three times, essentially granting the ranger's combat style feats to the slayer, and allowing the slayer the potential to amass a small army of feats at his disposal. Additionally, playtests had shown that the slayer's 4+Int bonus skill points were insufficient to pick up all the sorts of skills he needed to successfully slay, so he bumped up to 6+Int skill points.

The final version of the slayer as it appears in the Advanced Class Guide is quite similar to the second playtest version, so pull up your playtest document (or download it now) for an excellent preview of the class. The most exciting change is in the action economy of studied target—at low levels (before 7th when you can study as a swift action), melee slayers were finding the move action to study a target was really cramping their ambushes. So now, starting from level 1, if you hit and deal sneak attack damage, you can apply your studied target as an immediate action, and it even applies the favored target bonus to damage for that same attack. That way, you can ambush all you like and get right to the slaying!

The slayer screams out for archetypes that capture all the different facets of the iconic image of the slayer. The slayer archetypes in this book are really nice in that they give you what you're looking for with a relatively light touch, generally switching out a few of your talents for thematic abilities and losing very little else. The bounty hunter is your Boba Fett, bringing back criminals and debtors alive with combat maneuvers and an incapacitating death attack. The cleaner is the guy you send in to make sure those darned investigators don't figure out what happened, with a special ability to force any would-be detectives to beat the cleaner's Disguise or Stealth in order to find clues. The cutthroat is even more like Ezio, losing outdoorsy skills for city-based powers and skill bonuses that will help you leap off buildings instead of out of the shadows. The grave warden goes back to my intro quote with a kickass undead slayer, gaining an at-will self-only death ward at level 7 (it does cost 4 holy waters) and the ability to death attack an undead. But I'm sure you've been wondering "Mark, when are you going to get to that glowy purply shadow guy. He looks awesome!" That, my friends, is the stygian slayer, a killer imbued with the darkest shadows. He can cast invisibility, use wands and scrolls of a few thematic spells without a Use Magic Device Check, and turn into an inky black cloud that obscures vision. And that's just 5 of the 8 slayer archetypes in the final book! But wait—people have been asking for a thrown weapon ranger combat style for a while, right? Yeah, we have that too!

So you've got the rogue. You've got the ranger. Why should you be excited about the slayer class? Because those other classes serve a few masters when it comes to their design, but the slayer unashamedly serves only one—he wants to be the best at slaying, eliminating a chosen foe or foes. And he serves his master well. Even a fighter's offense can't keep up with the slayer, so if you prefer a style that emphasizes guile, stealth, and strong offense over defense, the slayer is the class for you.

As I'm typing this last paragraph, I've noticed that the slayer has some kind of a curved dagger to my throat, and he's made a few demands, so I want you to know, completely not under duress, that the slayer is my personal hero and is the best at all things. In fact, we're going to put out an entire book dedicated only to slayer options, and—aaaaaargh.

Mark Seifter
Designer

Editor's Note: After shooing the raptors away from the scene, we found this blog on a USB drive clutched in the hand of the remains of designer Mark Seifter. After a resurrection spell, he's fine now and back at work on Pathfinder Unchained, but he's still jumpy any time anyone mentions the slayer class. He defies anyone who claims that if he was dying, he wouldn't have bothered to have typed "Aaaaargh", he'd just say it.

Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Ramon Puasa Jr, Slayer

paizo_blog July 22 2014, 00:29

Gen Con Nostalgia: Accidental Hardcore

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgbf?Gen-Con-Nostalgia-Accidental-Hardcore


Gen Con Nostalgia: Accidental Hardcore

Monday, July 21, 2014

As the date for Gen Con closes in, everyone here at Paizo is still chugging away, making sure we're contributing our fair share to the best four days in gaming. But as our annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis gets closer, we often start wondering, "What's it going to be this year?" As in, what's the one story—or, more likely, bunch of stories—we'll be telling everyone upon our return home? Things happen at Gen Con that can only happen at Gen Con, so there's always some unbelievable tale to tell. Dozens of examples leap to mind, but, among those of which I haven't been sworn to secrecy, I find myself constantly coming back to one story in particular from nearly a decade ago.

In another life—one that was a lot like this one, but far quieter—I helped make an awesome magazine. Occasionally, as part of that business, wonderful people would send us wonderful things, either for review, or by way of thanks, or simply because they thought we too were wonderful people. As the editor in charge of news and previews, I held down the landing desk for many significant parcels.

From the contents of one of those packages, the staff of Dragon and Dungeon magazines wound up with preview tickets to True Dungeon at Gen Con 2006.

If you don't know about the singular awesomeness that is True Dungeon, a deliberately placed click can solve that. As it stood, none of us had previously had the pleasure of partaking in this immersive dungeon experience. The promise of what we expected to be an intricate fantasy funhouse was more than enough to get the entire crew signed on, but none of us had any actual idea of what lay in store.

As it was, our tickets were for Wednesday night, only a narrow few hours after landing in Indianapolis. Perhaps predictably, delays left us racing for our evening reservation. We arrived before True Dungeon's faux stone gates with whole seconds to spare and presented our hostess with our golden tickets, which were, quite literally, golden. (Let it never be said that those True Dungeon folks don't know a thing or two about ostentation.)

After giving us a generous moment to catch our breaths (editors are sprinters, not distance runners), our hostess sunnily asked if we were "hardcore."

That was the point when our bravado caught up with us: "My friend, don't you know? We are the creators of Dragon and Dungeon magazines. Few in gaming come more hardcore." Confident nods—and one indulgently arched eyebrow—followed, and that was that.

We received basic instructions about the sorts of puzzles and dangers we'd soon face, along with a variety of character options, equipment tokens, and other wonders I can't recall. Finally, our hostess handed me a plastic ball and, giving it a solid knock, demonstrated that it lit up.

"Lit up" might actually be a bit of an overstatement for what it did. Rather, think of the light shed by the screen of your classic 1989 Nintendo Game Boy... when it was about 8 minutes from running out of batteries. Remember that drowning electronic green? That. The ball did that.

So! "Light" in hand, we marched through the convincing stone-board gates, ready to face challenges none of us could anticipate...

Our psyches were left shattered and our memories drained from what we encountered that day. Whether such psyche-obliterating effects were the result of the horrifying dungeon-come-to-life itself or the binding non-disclosure agreement we signed afterward, none are sure. All I can admit with any certainty is that the dungeon's authenticity was like no other—right down to the oppressive dimness that left us scouring encounter rooms for overlooked clues and secrets hidden in the shapes of shadowy statues. And finally, against not-inconsiderable odds and with acceptable loss of life, we emerged into a room easily mistook for a trap chamber. It turned out to just be the discharging area.

Squinting against the light but knowing we were victorious, we gave our accounting and returned our somehow-diminished light source to the attendant, who held a plain cardboard box. The attendant looked somewhat surprised at our faded glow-ball. "Oh! You went hardcore!"

There was that word again, this time said like a term. "Yes?" we collectively acknowledged, realizing our bravado was among the wounded.

"Well that means you get these AMAZING TREASURES instead!" Our host extracted his hands from the common cardboard box and reached into the container next to it, fishing our rewards from a platinum chest trimmed in panda belly-fur and studded with the gems diamonds cry. Among these were pins emblazoned with the True Dungeon logo and a stamp that read "Hardcore."

"What does 'hardcore' mean?" Fearless Leader Erik asked.

Our beaming host cocked his head. "Didn't they..." he began, but shrugged, realizing he had the rapt attention of the thoroughly confused. "It means you don't get a torch."

Laughing, victorious, we walked out into the steamy Indianapolis night—utterly despite ourselves—hardcore.

That's exactly the sort of unlikely adventure that only happens at Gen Con.

F. Wesley Schneider
Editor-in-Chief

Tags: Conventions, Gen Con

paizo_blog July 19 2014, 17:36

Clockworks and the End of the Emerald Spire, with Rich Baker and James Jacobs

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgaz?Clockworks-and-the-End-of-the-Emerald-Spire


Clockworks and the End of the Emerald Spire, with Rich Baker and James Jacobs

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Cartography by Rob Lazzaretti

All good things must come to an end, and this week we look at the end (or at least, the lowest level) of the Emerald Spire. Of course, the end of a superdungeon is something a lot of players never get to see (as Erik Mona discussed a bit in his teaser last week), so we also thought we might expand this sneak peek to include two maps from the adventure.

When discussing the fact that every dungeon level had to fit on a Flip-Mat, Erik briefly mentioned that this requirement drove our authors to find creative ways to get the most out of the space available. One good example of this is The Clockwork Maze, which has sections likely to initially confuse the players and that are certain to force players to work harder than a typcial ten foot wide corridor. We don’t want to give away the whole secret of the level, but a glance at the map is a pretty big hint why the level has "clockwork" in its title.

Other levels use the available space on a Flip-Map in a more traditional way, but include multiple environments, hazards, and unusual geometry to increase the variety available in the dungeon experience. The final level of the dungeon, The Emeral Root, is a good example of this kind of creative map.

Of course even a great map isn’t very useful if you don’t have enounters to fill it with. To learn a little more about these levels and how they came to be, we we spoke to the CEO and Publisher of Sasquatch Game Studio LLC, Richard Baker, and our own Creative Director, James Jacobs.

How do you define a "Superdungeon"? What is your favorite dungeon or superdungeon experience in your personal gaming history?

Rich To me, a superdungeon is any adventure that you could reasonably base a whole campaign around. It will provide months and months of play, characters will level up a good 8 or 10 times in the course of the game, and the players are up against an epic threat or fighting their way through a truly amazing setting. I suppose I might further refine that by saying that a super-dungeon does that all in the context of a single sprawling underground maze (you can certainly have super-adventures that do the same thing but across multiple locales). So, it's a particular flavor of super-adventure, I guess.
My personal favorites were Undermountain—really the gold standard of superdungeons, even if a lot of the map was left for the DM to populate—and more recently City of the Spider-Queen, which is probably more of a superadventure. When I was developing that adventure, we had James Wyatt (the adventure author) run it for us with a great group of players, and we had a blast.

James I define a Superdungeon as a dungeon that you can run an entire campaign in. My favorite superdungeon is Greyhawk’s Maure Castle, which was featured several times in Dungeon magazine back in the day. On Golarion, though, my favorite superdungeon is Hollow Mountain, and I hope to some day get to personally design and develop that site into a significant adventure location. At which point I can see it supplanting Maure Castle as my favorite. Unless I do the same for the Crimson Citadel first, that is.


Illustration by Jorge Fares

What is your level of the Emerald Spire Superdungeon called? What theme, if any, does the level have?

Rich My level of Emerald Spire is the Clockwork Maze. This is the lair of the first major villain in the Spire, the Numerian wizard Klarkosh. As you might expect, it has a strong clockwork theme—the entire dungeon configuration can be altered by using control levers in different spots. In fact, the players will have to do just a little bit of puzzle-solving to figure out how to change the dungeon geometry to navigate through the level. The monsters are mostly constructs of different kinds, since Klarkosh was previously described as a master of making constructs.
I also wrote the description of Fort Inevitable that begins the adventure, and did most of the coordination and direction for the whole project. I got to see each author's contribution as they came up with it!

James My level of the Emerald Spire is the final one—the "Emerald Root." It’s theme is hard to divulge without revealing a lot of spoilers, since it contains the source and reason and history of the Emerald Spire itself, but it goes beyond that and reveals some key bits of information about the Darklands—particularly the vaults of Orv. In fact, the opportunity to explore some of the mysteries of these vaults is the primary reason I pounced on designing the lowest level of Emerald Spire in the first place.

What where the inspirations you drew on for your Emerald Spire level, and what are you hoping players get out of it?

Rich My primary inspiration was really just delivering on what had already been said about the Spire. In the Thornkeep sourcebook we mentioned a few key facts about the Spire, so I took it upon myself to make sure the Emerald Spire superdungeon delivered on those teasers. For the villain, I admit I was thinking of Tharok, the half-robot leader of the Fatal Five, the arch-enemies of the Legion of Superheroes. Klarkosh is kind of a magical version of Tharok.

James There’s a fair amount of Lovecraft inspiration in my level of Emerald Spire, both in the monster mix and in the story beyond what’s going on in that level, but that also ties in to some of the deep continuity of the history of Orv and the Darklands themselves. And by "Lovecraft" in this case, I’m not talking about Cthulhu and tentacle monsters, but about the idea that humanity was not the first to rise to power on this ball of dirt (Earth) or that ball of dirt (Golarion) hurtling blindly through the uncaring gulfs of space.

We really appreciate our Creative Director and the Chief Sasquatch (Editorial Note, Rich told me to call him this) taking time out of their busy schedules to share some of the Emerald Spire with us!

Owen K.C. Stephens
Developer

Tags: Emerald Spire, Interviews, Jorge Fares, Pathfinder Modules, Rob Lazzaretti

paizo_blog July 19 2014, 00:03

Friday Publisher Preview: Three Giant Reveals

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgb8?Friday-Publisher-Preview-Three-Giant-Reveals


Friday Publisher Preview: Three Giant Reveals

Friday, July 18, 2014

With the recent PaizoCon announcement of next year’s Giantslayer Adventure Path, it’s safe to say that we have giants on the brain here at Paizo HQ. November’s The Lost Coast set of prepainted fantasy miniatures from our partners at WizKids gave us the perfect opportunity to add a few more giants to the growing ranks of Pathfinder Battles Large monsters. The set is technically “generic” in that it does not support a specific Adventure Path, but as I’ve mentioned in previous Friday blogs, the Lost Coast location gives us plenty of opportunity to revisit some familiar characters and concepts.

First up this week we have Conna the Wise, a semi-major character in the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path and our first ever female stone giant miniature! Conna is an interesting character in that she is presented as either a friend or a foe, and I always wanted to include her back when we did our dedicated Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder Battles set, but there just wasn’t room (or, at the time, an appropriate illustration). I think she goes very well with her stony brethren in that set. I hope to eventually produce female giants of all of the standard giant types, and Conna is just the beginning of that trend (or maybe more of the middle, if you consider the Storm Giant from Rise of the Runelords). Conna the Wise is an uncommon, Large figure.

Here we have the Fire Giant King, a mega-impressive figure I’ve been waiting to unleash on the world since he was cut from the Shattered Star set due to too many awesome Larges. Ironically, the image we used as reference for this figure did not appear in the Shattered Star Adventure Path, but from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Giants Revisited. Specifically, he is Orynox Marchelin, king of the fire giant realm of Kragnaroth in the Mindspin Mountains east of Varisia. The figure is cast in clear plastic, giving his hair a cool “on fire” effect. The Fire Giant King ended up at the uncommon rarity, meaning those of you buying cases might want to consider him more of a “Fire Giant Noble.” He is, of course, a Large figure.

This Hill Giant Chief originally appeared in the Kingmaker Adventure Path, where he is a wandering giant called Munguk. I like to think his political fortunes increased as he traveled west to the Lost Coast, to the point at which he now rules a small, dim-witted tribe of fellow Hill Giants. The actual story is that I fell in love with the picture and didn’t really care that this NPC doesn’t really live in the Lost Coast region of Varisia. If you don’t tell anyone, I won’t, either. Because, hey. Sweet mini. The Hill Giant Chief is a Large, uncommon figure.

And that’s it for this week’s previews! Please join me next week as we take a look at some more exciting images from The Lost Coast!

Erik Mona
Publisher

Tags: The Lost Coast, Miniatures, Pathfinder Battles

paizo_blog July 17 2014, 17:31

Meet the Iconics: Kess

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgay?Meet-the-Iconics-Kess


Meet the Iconics: Kess

Thursday, July 17, 2014

She was raised to be Lady Kessilandrie Anicia Vlastos, but the thousands of cheering fans that fill the arena's seats when she fights shout her preferred name—Kess the Bull.

Kess never squared herself with the life of pomp and nobility. As a kid growing up in an estate in the Westpark District of Oppara, she spent her time in opulent gardens, tipping over rocks to look for bugs, climbing the massive oaks, coordinating mock battles against imaginary monsters with her sisters and brothers in the plum orchard, and generally getting into trouble.


Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

It was during these pretend adventures that she started learning how to fight. Her brothers and sisters were snobbish, bullying brats that never left the awkward young girl alone. Never one to just take abuse, Kess ended many of those make-believe bouts in flat-out fistfights. It wasn't the wooden swords and staves the kids played with that she mastered in these brawls, but rather a solid left jab, a well-placed kick, or a leg sweep. Her height gave her good reach, letting her even get in a good strike at her oldest brother to silence his bullying.

After too many busted lips and bloody noses, Kess's parents tried to send her to dueling masters in order to teach her the art of swordplay, hoping to channel her energy into a safe and respectable form of combat—something of which nobles could be proud.

As far as Kess was concerned, fencing was for dandies and duels were just tiresome ego dramas. This affluent instruction just didn't stick. After losing too many matches by dropping her training rapier and socking her opponent in the jaw, she was nearly expelled. An older student, sympathetic to her fighting style, tipped her off to an underground fighting ring in a seedy part of the city.

Her first night in the pit was exhilarating. The organizers paired her up with a brawny farm boy whose jaw jutted out as far as his forehead sloped back. He hit hard, but he didn't know a thing about technique. Using her skill and rangy frame to her advantage, Kess had him mewling on the ground in less than a minute.

Using the ruse of attending fencing class, Kess made her way to the underground rings every chance she could get. It was there that she discovered real honor—not that bogus social contract she grew up under. In those pit fights, she learned focus and found her calling. The roar of the crowd charged her, and she pushed her body, testing herself.

Kess learned a multitude of styles and forms from the various fighters and promoters that flowed through the ring, as well as the worship of Kurgess, god of bravery, competition, and sports. She also began to dream of bouts in the far-off nations from which many of her colleagues hailed. In particular, she focused on the gladiator nation of Tymon in the River Kingdoms, from which her coach had won a medal.

Yet everything came apart the night her older brother—eager to gamble on the fights—stumbled into the secret venue and noticed her in the ring. Her father was furious, and her mother worried. This was no way for a proper, highborn lady to act. What if she were hurt or killed? What would happen if other families were to find out? Which of them already knew?

For her own safety—and to quash a scandal—her parents threatened to send her off to their country estate, or even to a boarding school. In no way eager to have her destiny decided for her by others, Kess beat her parents to the punch and snuck down to the docks, boarding a Taldan merchant vessel headed up the Sellen River. With her wits, her skill, and a purse bulging with her winnings in the ring, she set off for Tymon. Once there, she fought enough bouts in the arena to get noticed by the masters of the Valknar Gladiatorial College, using the prize money from her Opparan fights to pay for tuition.

Yet Tymon is small, and Kess easily bored. While still one win shy of being considered “bloodied,” she was lured away from the city by the call of new arenas in distant locations, taking up the life of an adventurer not for treasure, but for the fun of it. Every so often, Kess attempts to alleviate some of her mother's worry by sending letters home telling of her adventures, yet has learned to obscure where they're sent from, lest her father send agents to track her down and try to bring her home.

Kess wears her bruises and scars as proudly as she wears the medals adorning her outfit—prizes from various fights, as well as a short stint with a mercenary company. Even though she tries to be positive and upbeat, she knows that she's often aggressive and sarcastic. Kess isn't afraid to say what's on her mind, especially when facing authorities who try to tell others what to do. She doesn't pay much mind to complicated bureaucracies and outdated social mores, and tends to live her life the way she wants. The only time Kess shows a strong respect for rules is during a competition—she doesn't tolerate cheaters. Kess is competitive, though she encourages others in their own tasks. She keeps her body fit, and trains every chance she gets—a crucial counterbalance to her love of good food, strong drink, and long nights of celebration after a fight.

Adam Daigle
Developer

Tags: Brawler, Iconics, Meet the Iconics, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Wayne Reynolds

paizo_blog July 16 2014, 17:00

Queen Sacrifice by Steven Savile Chapter One: Lord of Summer Caron...

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgax?Queen-Sacrifice-by-Steven-Savile-Chapter-One


Queen Sacrifice

by Steven Savile

Chapter One: Lord of Summer

Caron looked on as Keir pushed the wooden piece the length of the board. Keir had carved it himself, fashioning the likenesses of kings and queens and knights so he could teach his boy the game, which represented so much in life.

The boy was improving. It wouldn't be long before he beat his old man.

The thought pleased Caron. She wasn't the boy's real mother, but motherhood was about more than just bringing a child into the world, wasn't it?

Keir moved his queen, placing it where it could be taken by Caleb's black knight. The boy looked up at him with a bright smile and took the piece, not suspecting for a moment that his old man was devious enough to set him up for a fall. It would be a lesson, even if it came at the cost of that wonderfully innocent smile.

Caron studied the board. Moving the knight away from its defensive position allowed Keir to push his bishop into place, which in turn would force Caleb to move his king into a position where check mate was only a couple of moves away. It was all about looking ahead, seeing the possibilities and permutations the game presented.

The boy stepped unwittingly into the trap.

Keir was merciful, ending the game in a couple of minutes.

"Lose a fight, win the battle," Keir said.

Caleb nodded. He was a quick learner and wouldn't fall into the same trap twice.

Keir rubbed one of his huge hands through the boy's mop of hair.

Caron felt the familiar prickle at the back of her neck. It was irrational, of course, but she envied them their closeness.

In the morning they would move on. There were miles left to patrol before they rested again. Then, at least she could concentrate on what she had been trained to do, instead of watching the two play and feeling maudlin for a life not lived.

∗ ∗ ∗


Caleb's innocence is outweighed only by his optimism.

It was easy to see why the range was known as the World's Roof. Even here, far from their loftiest heights, the snowcapped peaks were spectacular to behold, intimidating as they clawed up at the sky. Some of the mountains, like the Mhar Massif off to the east, pierced the clouds and kept on climbing until their summits were far out of sight. There was something primal, elemental, about the mountains' presence in the world. They seemed to taunt the fleeting nature of humanity and promise that no matter what, the land would abide.

It had been a long journey skirting the Kodar Mountains along the borders of Varisia and Belkzen. On the way, the travelers had seen things that could never be unseen. But at night it had been the sounds rather than sights that would never leave Caron, especially the gentle, low moaning of the willow-'o-wisps. She knew the dancing lights were the last echoes of the great sacrifice the marsh had seen, and she had been unable to differentiate those ghostlights from the lost soldiers who had given their lives in that desperate blood ritual to deny the orc devastation so long ago. Caleb was both old enough to understand the implications of those flickering lights and impressionable enough to imagine there was some kind of glory to be won through self-sacrifice. The world would batter that out of him in time, but until then it was Keir's and her job to love, nurture, and protect the lad.

She paused, mopping the sweat from her brow, and looked up again through the thick forest lining the lower slope. The trees thinned out as the incline steepened, leaving roots exposed and clinging to the bedrock where the soil had slid away. In a month, the leaves would turn to golden brown, crumple, and fall, but for now the forest was in the last bloom of summer.

They pushed on. Gradually, the trees thinned around them, the sounds of the forest giving way to the whistle of the wind as it swept down through the mountains and the crunch of scree underfoot.

There were risks that went with any patrol, especially one that had lasted as long as this one, but there were rewards, too. One of those was contact—with the world, with the good people and glorious creatures that brought it to life.

She turned the patrol in the direction of the huddle of buildings in the distance.

Smoke rose from the main house.

She was hungry, and she knew Caleb would be, too. The boy was always hungry. He'd inherited his father's larger-than-life appetite.

"One night won't hurt," she told Keir. She knew the road weighed on him more than it did her. It had been her choice to live like this. When his world fell apart, he had fallen in love with her, slowly, one day at a time, but she was never going to be Neve, who would always be his first love. During those first days and weeks on the road, it was painfully obvious that Keir had come with Caron to escape the ghost of his departed love. Neve was everywhere in their old village, in every stone and every window. He'd see her in the river, her reflection bathing even if her memory could never be washed away. So Caron had made the offer: "Come with me. Her ghost will still be here when you return, but maybe you'll be better able to cope with it." That had been so long ago now, and more and more he'd talk to the boy about home, about teaching him skills in the forge, and the life they had waiting for them. Going home wasn't something she looked forward to in the same way. For them it was a beginning; for her it was an end. An end to this life they shared where they were the entire world to each other.

"Then we move on," he agreed, thinking she was as keen to be moving again as he was. "We don't want to be out here when winter arrives."

Sometimes ignorance was bliss.

She nodded.

As they neared, people emerged from their houses. One woman, draped in a thick shawl, leaned in close to a muscular man who stood head and shoulders taller than the others. Her voice didn't carry. Caron put a smile on her face. She took in the people and the surroundings. There were obvious signs of preparation for some sort of celebration, though she couldn't think of any holy days they might be observing. Perhaps it was a coming-of-age ceremony?

A big burly man stepped forward, his arms spread wide. "Welcome, welcome," he said, grinning broadly. "Come, join us. You must be hungry. Thirsty. Please, be welcome."

"Thank you," Keir said. "The promise of a decent meal is music to my ears."

"I'll have beds made up for you. Rest."

Keir took the man's outstretched hand. "There's no need to trouble yourselves."

"It's no trouble," the man said. "What's ours is yours. Today is a good day—the Festival of the Sun. Please. We may not have much to offer, but what we have we will gladly share with you."

Curious faces watched as the newcomers walked between the rundown houses. The locals' clothes were patched and poor, their skin etched with the shapes of the bones beneath. It was painfully obvious these people were living on the edge on starvation, and yet they were willing to share what little they had.

The man showed them to a tiny house that was bare save for the essentials and reeked of cold and damp. It was a small village. An empty house felt like a greater tragedy than it might have in a bigger town. Who had lived here? Why was it empty now? Caron ran her fingers across the wall, wondering what stories the stones might tell.

They were supplied with water and soap to wash themselves, and given time to change out of clothes smeared with the grit and grime of their journey. "I'll send someone to scrub them for you," the man said, and then closed the door behind him.

Caleb, exhausted, was sprawled out on the simple cot that lay in the corner of the room, his eyes closed. Caron admired his unerring warrior's talent of being able to catch a nap whenever and wherever the chance arose.

"The boy's got the right idea," Keir said, and within minutes was fast asleep himself.

For a few minutes, Caron tried to follow suit, but no matter how she tried to let her mind drift, sleep would not come. Reluctantly, she rose and went out for a walk.

"Hello again." It was the man who'd shown them into the house. "I hope you're hungry," he said with a smile.

"You really shouldn't trouble yourselves."

"It's no trouble, really. We don't see many travelers these days, and it would mean the world to us if you'd stay, enjoy the celebration." He looked down at his feet, then up at her, obviously uncomfortable. "You might have noticed when you arrived... We don't have any children of our own. We won't be here much longer. We weren't blessed. Our little community is dying." He raised his hand to fend off Caron's look of sympathy. "It's just a fact of life," he went on, "and no great tragedy to be honest. We've got a good life here. However, and feel free to say no, it just struck me that it would be a great honor if your boy could take part in the festivities?"

"How?"

He smiled softly. "It has been a long time since youthful laughter filled these hills. The feast calls for a Lord of Summer... do you think he would like to be our Lord of Summer?"

"Lord of Summer. I don't think I've come across that before." Her words were not quite a question but invited an answer just the same. The question she really wanted to ask was where had all of the villagers' own children gone—or had none ever been born? An entire barren generation seemed unlikely, even in such a small community. Had the children died? Disease was always a threat. They were a long way from any help. Her mind raced with the possibilities, trying to fasten on the most obvious one that would explain the sadness she felt from the villagers. Something had happened to the children, a sweeping sickness had taken them, something like that. If so, that was a sorrow she could share, and it would explain so much.

"For generations we have celebrated the arrival of autumn," the man said, "and given thanks to the mountains for the shelter and protection they afford us. It goes back to when I was a boy, and when my father was. The Lord of Summer represents the best that the village has to offer. Even though your son is not one of ours, he would still represent so much of what we were and want to be again. All he needs to do is take his place on the Briar Throne and smile."

She'd come across plenty of towns and villages that clung onto long-held beliefs and rituals. Some were no more than explanations of natural phenomena like the rise and falls of river levels, the coming of the new moon, or the changing of the seasons. Giving thanks to the mountains was no stranger than any of those. She smiled. "I'm sure he'd love that."

"Wonderful. Wonderful. We'll need to go through the ceremony with him, of course, practice the few lines he'll need to say, but that'll take only a few minutes. First, we should see about getting you fed." He smiled and led her back to the house.

As he closed the door behind her, she realized she hadn't seen anything of the village.

∗ ∗ ∗

The sun sank lower in the sky, casting a gloom inside the room.

People came and went, bringing with them food and questions about the world outside. Everyone was so friendly. She went outside. She could see Caleb dressed in a costume of leaves and vines. He waved to her, clearly delighted to be the center of attention. So like his mother, Caron thought, and so unlike herself. But that was blood for you: it couldn't be denied.

The man who'd greeted them came over to meet her at the door. He smiled warmly. "Thank you so much for doing this. Your boy is having the time of his life."

"I'm sure he is." Caron looked across at Caleb as he was fussed over by half a dozen women old enough to be his grandmother. By the time they were finished with him he'd be every inch the young, virile Lord of Summer they needed. Looking at him there she didn't see the boy; she saw his father the day she'd lost her heart to him. The boy was his double. She couldn't help but smile, remembering the man who'd stolen her heart. But of course that meant remembering everything else, too: the naming ceremony, and the fact Keir hadn't chosen her no matter how desperately she'd wanted him to just say her name and take her hand and dance together into the sunset.

They followed the man between the houses, to the green in front of the main communal house. The entire village had gathered. She could feel them holding their collective breath as a Caleb stepped forward, dressed in the lush colors of summer. His costume was completed with a crown of leaves that had been picked that morning and were already beginning to brown and curl. The crown was a reminder that summer couldn't last forever, no matter what rituals or ceremonies you performed.

The boy walked slowly, his footsteps caught in the rhythm of a softly beating drum. She hadn't noticed the drummer. The sound seemed to be emanating from within the huddled buildings.

At the edge of the settlement, a path lit by fiery brands led the way up into the mountains. With the sun lowering in the sky, the brands created a path of light. Caleb led the procession, walking slowly up the mountainside.

He didn't look back at them once.

∗ ∗ ∗

The villagers began a slow, rhythmic chant. Their voices rolled across the mountainside. They weren't raised in joy. This was a dirge. Mournful, melancholy, like the mountain itself was grieving.

"This isn't right," she whispered fiercely.

Keir said nothing.

They walked side by side up the path of light, leaving the village far behind on the lower slopes. The path wound up through scree and loose rock toward the bare face of the mountain. She could see dark black scars in the face, deep crevices eroded into the mountainside by centuries of harsh weather. Some of the scars rose high above their heads, but were so narrow it would have been hard for a rat to squeeze through.

The path of light opened out into a broad, flat expanse high above the valley below. In the center, surrounded by more blazing torches and a circle of scuffed footprints, was a wooden throne fashioned from intertwined branches and living vines. This time Caleb did look back for approval before he climbed into the chair. He took his place center stage and waited while the others chanted. The pounding of the drum increased, in volume and tempo, counterpoint to the melancholic song.

And then suddenly it stopped.

There was movement within the cracks of the mountain face.

She stared at the dark fissures in the rock as slowly shadows began to detach from the blackness. There was something wrong about the way they moved—too fluid, too supple, hunched and scuttling almost like spiders rather than walking proudly down the hillside like actors—that twisted her gut.

Only they weren't shadows at all.

They looked almost human in the way they moved; their skin was sickly, almost translucent in the faltering light of the path's torches. She could see the bright, bloody colors of the organs beneath the surface and the hard ridges of ivory bone. In its hand she saw a hideous double-bladed sword that gleamed sickly in the moonlight. The shadow man saw her staring at him, and turned to stare back at her, his wide mouth stretching ear to ear as he bared razor-sharp teeth.

This wasn't a ceremony. It was a sacrifice.

Caleb sat proudly on his throne, the Lord of Summer's crown of leaves firmly in place on his head, the daemon spawn closing in on him, hungry to take the villagers' offering.

"Caleb!" she screamed, reaching for her sword and trying to push and shove her way through the crowd of onlookers. But as fast as she moved, they were faster. The shadow men spilled out of the cracks in the mountain and rushed down the slope.

The entire mountainside was locked in eerie silence.

She felt arms grab at her and hold her tight, then saw the same smiling man who'd gone out of his way to make them feel welcome pull Keir down.

They fought desperately, but it didn't matter. There was no way they could fend off an entire village long enough to reach the boy on his briar throne.

Caron screamed and twisted, bucking and thrashing against the hands holding her, but it didn't matter. The sheer weight of bodies overwhelmed her. Something slammed into the side of her face repeatedly—fist or rock, it made little difference—until she stopped fighting and her entire world grew dark.

Coming Next Week: Into the darkness in Chapter Two of Steven Savile's "Queen Sacrifice."

Steven Savile is the internationally best-selling author of almost twenty novels and many more short stories, set in both original worlds and those of Primeval, Stargate SG-1, Warhammer, Torchwood, Dr. Who, and more. He won Writers of the Future in 2002, has been a runner-up for the British Fantasy Award and shortlisted for the Scribe Award for Best Adapted Novel, and won the Scribe Award for Best Young Adult Original Novel. For more information, visit his website at stevensavile.com.

Illustration by Dion Harris.

Tags: Dion Harris, Pathfinder Tales, Queen Sacrifice, Steven Savile

paizo_blog July 15 2014, 20:22

Advanced Class Guide Preview: Brawler

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgav?Advanced-Class-Guide-Preview-Brawler


Advanced Class Guide Preview: Brawler

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The monk is a disciplined martial artist who spends years of practice to perfect his body and mind. A lawful paragon, the monk has strange and mysterious ki powers. But sometimes you don't want to play Bruce Lee. Sometimes you want to be Chuck Norris. No rules, no discipline, just a headbutt, a kick in the face, and a sucker punch. Bloody, ugly, but effective. If that's what you want, the Advanced Class Guide has the class you've been waiting for.

From the very first playtest version, the Brawler has also possessed some key features. She had full base attack bonus and rocked the monk's unarmed strike damage. She kept all her abilities in light armor (so appropriately, she is brutal in brawling armor). And she had a unique key feature all her own, martial maneuvers, now with a new name in the final version that better carries the awesomeness of the ability—martial flexibility. Martial flexibility is the brawler's answer for the disciplined abilities that the monk learns from all those years of study and perfection. With her flexible mind and intuitive grasp of close-quarters combat, the brawler has seen pretty much every trick in the book throughout her many bar brawls, arena fights, and adventuring combats. Martial flexibility allows her to spontaneously gain access to just the right combat feat (or later feats!) for her situation. Did someone splash ale in your eyes? Gain Blind-Fight. A spellcaster giving you the blues? Try Disruptive and Spellbreaker, maybe with an added dash of Step-Up. Giant enemy archer? Just take Deflect Arrows and they can kiss their Manyshot goodbye (after which you hit their weak point for massive damage).


Illustration by Ramon Puasa Jr

During the playtest, we were all out on the forums bringing back our data, which revealed a few things. Mainly, we all discovered that martial flexibility was awesome, but the brawler could use some more tricks that she could rely on consistently and that are unique to her. Have you ever wished you could hit that weakling wizard right beneath the jaw in just the right spot to knock him out in one hit? As of the second playtest version, the brawler gained the ability to dish out an instant knockout blow starting at level 13 with a devastating DC based on the brawler's Str or Dex score (your choice!). Furthermore, she gained the ability to use Awesome Blow without being size Large, eventually gaining the ability to dropkick the tarrasque 10 feet, knocking it prone, despite being size Medium.

As of the end of the playtest, the brawler was already awesome, and she seemed to have found a good place, but there were still a few observations from playtesters that led to some tweaks for the final version. First of all, the final brawler can deal increased damage with the close weapon group (growing at a slightly reduced rate from her unarmed damage), letting her brawl with everything at her disposal. Second, the knockout ability appearing at level 13 and then growing to 3 uses per day at level 16 seemed rather late and sudden. So the final version? She can start her instant knockout attacks at level 4! And just wait until you see the frankly mind-boggling feat novas you can pull off with her new capstone!

If standard brawler flavor isn't enough, brawler has some of the most evocative archetypes in the book. Instead of using unarmed strikes, the Exemplar can inspire allies like a bard and teach them teamwork feats. If you want a brawler like Bane who is at her best due to chemical enhancements, the Mutagenic Mauler has your back. And the Shield Champion throws her shield like Captain America. I mean look at that Shield Champion. It seems like she's about to punch you in the face right after the shield hits you and leaves you reeling. How cool is that? And that's only the first half of the archetypes in the book!

So to recap, the brawler is the monk's rowdy cousin, more interested in kicking ass than contemplating koans. The brawler is the Chuck Norris base class, and she's not afraid to get her hands dirty. Are you?

Mark Seifter
Designer

Tags: Brawler, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Ramon Puasa Jr

paizo_blog July 14 2014, 22:51

New Options

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgau?New-Options


New Options

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Year of the Sky Key, Season 6 of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign, is approaching, and that means the new Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play is on its way. It's still a few weeks before we preview the new guide, but we can share a few new options available at the start of Season 6. In fact, there's something for players and something for GMs and organizers.

I imagine you've already spotted the art and guessed that expanded race access is one announcement—spot on. Just as non-standard race access is a hot topic on the messageboards, it's a common talking point during our meetings. It's tough to balance the lure of race boons for conventions against letting as many people as possible play the types of characters they want. Add to that the heated discussions about whether or not some non-standard races are overpowered and the concerns about the so-called "cantina effect." That's a lot to juggle when making a decision, but we decided that introducing a few new options would be best for the campaign. Beginning August 14th 2014 at Gen Con, three new races will be available for play without requiring a special Chronicle sheet: kitsune, nagaji, and wayang. These races have been in circulation through extra Chronicle sheets for nearly three years now, and even though some players have had an opportunity to create these characters, we want newer players to have new options to enjoy. Like other race options, it is still necessary that a player have a book or watermarked pdf reference for the race, such as from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Dragon Empires Gazetteer, Pathfinder Player Companion: Dragon Empires Primer, Pathfinder RPG: Advanced Race Guide, or Pathfinder RPG Bestiary: Bestiary 4.


Illustration by Eva Widermann

So let's see... seven core races plus three Bestiary races plus three Dragon Empires races. That equals 13, right? Well, there's one piece missing from that equation. We're also removing two races.

For several years, aasimar and tieflings have enjoyed a prominent role in the Pathfinder Society, but as the organization concludes its work in Mendev—where numerous pit-born fight for recognition and heaven-blooded warriors wage holy war—it's time for them to step back. Beginning on August 14th, creating an aasimar or tiefling character will require a special Chronicle sheet, as was the case years ago. The exception is any aasimar or tielfing character with at least 1 XP; these characters are grandfathered into the campaign.

Does this mean you can create several new characters, play a scenario with each, and have several native outsiders waiting for when you need them? Well, we debated long and hard whether to require 4 XP per character, as at that point one is past the free rebuilding stage. However, we also recognized this as unnecessarily punitive to casual players who may only be able to play once or twice in the next month. To answer your question, yes, you can make 10 aasimars and play The Confirmation an equal number of times, but we're trusting you'll exercise some good taste and respect a decision made with the larger community in mind.

Now that we've covered the more controversial news, let's wrap things up with something outright awesome.

We (both Mike and John) both have experience as venture-officers and event coordinators, and we understand that sometimes it's tough to convince a new player to commit to a full 4-5 hour experience. Some events just are not conducive to running a full game, whether that's because it's a weeknight with lots of folks who need to get to bed early or because the location is only open for a few hours. What do you do when a scenario just isn't short enough?

For years the answer has been quests, one-hour mini-adventures intended to last an hour or less. They're great little adventures, but they're a little difficult to schedule for a few reasons. First, there's no easy way to tell a bigger story by connecting a few quests together. Second, the quests—though replayable—offer no gold, XP, or Prestige Points, giving them a reputation of risk for little reward. The most difficult hurdle is that there are only two of them in print (not counting the Goblin Attack demos or Beginner's Box Bash demos).

This year at Gen Con, we're debuting six new 1st-level Pathfinder Quests that take place in and around the River Kingdoms. Each one is a standalone adventure, but they are all loosely tied into a common plot thread, allowing a GM to combine anywhere from two to all six to make a larger adventure as suits the needs of the group and event location. Play them in any order—one can even play the finale quest early—and earn a Chronicle sheet with rewards that scale based on the number of adventures you played.

John Compton and Mike Brock
Developer and Global Organized Play Coordinator

Tags: Eva Widermann, Pathfinder Society

paizo_blog July 12 2014, 00:19

Friday Publisher Preview: Of Strong Character

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgam?Friday-Publisher-Preview-Of-Strong-Character


Friday Publisher Preview: Of Strong Character

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's hard to believe that PaizoCon is just a week behind us. In the mad rush to ship files for the product catalog and the Pathfinder RPG Monster Codex to the printer by the end of the day today, this week has been every bit as busy as the one preceding the convention, if not a little bit busier.

But, as I've said many times before, being busy is no excuse for not showing off some Friday afternoon goodness, and this week we've got some VERY good things to show off, or at least three figures that could very well have "good" in their alignment.

All three are from November's upcoming The Lost Coast set of Pathfinder Battles prepainted fantasy miniatures. It's a set that's shaping up to be one of my favorites, as the general theme allows me to simply select miniatures based on fantastic art and the potential for lots of use at the table. After several sets based on specific characters from our Pathfinder Adventure Paths (which I obviously also love), it's a refreshing change.

Enough preamble. Let's take a look at this week's reveals!

Here we have the fantastic Haughty Avenger, from page 113 of the Pathfinder RPG NPC Codex. This remarkable half-elf makes a perfect player character for any well-dressed Medium female adventurer, and she's "generic" enough that she could also work as a guard or rank-and-file mook in a group of upper-class enemies. The Haughty Avenger is an uncommon, Medium figure.

That sound you hear is the crowd cheering for the Shoanti Barbarian, whose earthbreaker weapon is ready for service against friends or enemies, depending on the whims of the Game Master. This particular race/weapon combination has been on our personal wishlist for a long time, as Shoanti show up in several Pathfinder products, particularly those set in the realm of Varisia. He works great as a player character or as an enemy (in the arena or otherwise). The Shoanti Gladiator is a Medium, uncommon figure.

This gentlemen prefers to be called "The Forest Shadow," the name under which he appears as a sample NPC in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. When I was putting together the set list for this set, my boss Lisa Stevens asked that I make sure to include some elves—so I included perhaps my favorite elf image we've produced to date. This figure is amazingly three-dimensional and awesome, and I think you're going to love him. I predict many, many, many players using The Forest Shadow as their player character. The Forest Shadow is a Medium, rare figure.

And that's it for this week. I still don't have an update on WizKids' plans to address the "Sad Feiya" issue from Reign of Winter, but I do know that they are moving forward with an equitable solution that should please just about everyone who was underwhelmed by that figure (which I imagine is just about everyone). The details of how to pull off what they're planning are complicated, however, and they've asked me to keep them hush-hush until they are absolutely certain with the details. I urge you to be patient—I think you'll find that patience will pay off in this case.

Until next week's preview, I remain...

Erik Mona
Publisher

Tags: The Lost Coast, Miniatures, Pathfinder Battles

paizo_blog July 10 2014, 17:48

Meet the Iconics: Hakon

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lgac?Meet-the-Iconics-Hakon


Meet the Iconics: Hakon

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

Past the Ironbound Archipelago, across the Steaming Sea, lies the Broken Bay, haven of scoundrels, raiders, cutthroats, and killers in the bloodiest viking traditions of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. As a youth, Hakon waited impatiently to come of age and join the seasonal southern raids of his countrymen, eagerly absorbing the tales of distant lands they brought back with the plunder. The proud raiders boasted of desperate battles at sea, of ceaseless storms and sea monsters and foreign towns cloaked in sheets of cascading flames. Hakon committed these stories to memory, adding his own embellishments to create an oral history for his people—vowing to one day make a place for himself within it.

Key to Hakon's youthful mythology was Hrolf Harfargr, one of the few honorable huscarls of Broken Bay's despicable King Ingimundr the Unruly. Hakon's account of Harfargr's victory over the ice troll Rimeclaw became something of a phenomenon in the Bay's capital settlement of Bildt. Other skalds tried to outdo Hakon's telling, adding ever more fantastic feats to the story, increasing Harfargr's reputation and influence. Nevertheless, even the embellishments acknowledged the original tale as Hakon's as much as that of Hrolf Harfargr, and the young storyteller became a minor celebrity in Broken Bay. When he turned 15 later that year, Harfargr claimed him for his crew and appointed Hakon as his personal lorekeeper and legend-spinner.

Hakon composed epic poems of Hrolf Harfargr's encounter with the brine dragon Kelizar, his crushing victory at sea over Styrbjorn Threefingers, and his romance with his greatest rival, the viking hero White Estrid. Hakon stood beside the two lovers as Harfargr and his men joined forces with Estrid on her legendary run through a Chelish blockade at the Arch of Aroden to find harbor in the distant city of Absalom, at the heart of the Inner Sea. On that months-long journey, Hakon recorded the tales of heroes like White Estrid, Runewulf the Unbeliever, Molgard Swordhand, and the twins Bolgi and Bjarni, slayers of the frost wolf Kuldnir.

To keep the memories fresh in his mind, Hakon embroidered representations of the stories into cloth badges sewn along the hem of his long coat. As he moved from badge to badge, Hakon added to the legend of his shipmates, who looked on in excitement with each of his tellings. The smiles and encouragement of heroes stung Hakon in his heart, however, and what should have been pride was instead replaced with regret and shame. For Hrolf Harfargr intended that his personal skald would survive to tell his legend, and thus kept Hakon as far from danger as possible. Over the years of his time in service to White Estrid, Hakon observed the great deeds of heroes triumphing over enemies again and again, but always as a witness, and never as the participant he so wanted to be.

Upon their return to the Lands of the Linnorm Kings from the extended Absalom expedition, White Estrid and Hrolf Harfargr had a falling out that separated Hakon from the band of heroes that had so inspired his imagination. As Estrid and her crew went on to defeat a linnorm dragon and claim the kingdom of Halgrim, Hakon followed Hrolf Harfargr back to the Broken Bay. Over the next several years, Hakon watched as Harfargr's legend faded. King Ingimundr openly undermined him and tempted the fading lord to strike against him. The final humiliation sentenced Harfargr to serve upon the crew of a longship captained by a spiteful viking named Girt Bearwearer, a hated enemy. Worse, the king ordered Harfargr to sea without his official lorekeeper and the recorder of his legendry deeds. Instead, Ingimundr assigned Hakon's younger brother, Ostog, to his place at the oars.

Hrolf Harfargr, Ostog, and Hakon's old companions Bolgi and Bjarni set out on Girt Bearwearer's ship among a great armada of raiders with hungry eyes on the rich lands of the distant south. They never returned to the Broken Bay, but soon stories made their way to Hakon of a mutiny at sea in which Hrolf Harfargr and his allies attempted to take the longship from its wicked captain. Their heroism was rewarded with sword thrusts and blood eagles. A victorious Bearwearer had his slain enemies thrown overboard, food for sea birds and the ravenous beasts of the deep.

But other stories made their way back to Bildt, too. Tales of a brash young warrior named Ostog the Unslain, a survivor of treachery at sea who somehow washed ashore in the Varisian town of Sandpoint and who immediately set about creating a legend of his own. Hakon had to know if the tales of Ostog's distant deeds were true, so he set off on a ship of his own to Sandpoint in an attempt to reunite with his brother. He arrived only to find Ostog had already departed, leaving behind him the mangled corpses of twisted monsters and wicked men. Hakon began work on a new series of badges for his coat in Sandpoint—the Saga of Ostog the Unslain.

Hakon and a band of companions followed Ostog all the way down Avistan's western coast, tracing his brother's footsteps in the drying blood of the young barbarian's dismembered enemies. His travels took him into the deepest deserts of Osirion, back to Absalom, and to a dozen ports in between. Though Hakon has not yet caught up with Ostog, the skald's journeys have brought him his own measure of renown. In Nisroch he slew the dark druid Roverud. His twin axes—Hagrum's Keel and Limbrender—struck down the marsh giant Fogulnur, gaining Hakon the legendary Horn of Valenhall, a mystical artifact he only partially understands. Tales of these victories fill his companions with unparalleled battle spirit and combat prowess, further cementing Hakon's growing legend. Now the badges of Hakon's own exploits stand beside those of the true heroes of the Broken Bay, but the skald knows that his journeys must continue until his deeds shine like those of Hrolf Harfargr, White Estrid, and Ostog the Unslain. Only then will the Saga of Hakon be complete, daring those who come after him to even greater feats of bravery and legend.

Erik Mona
Publisher

Tags: Iconics, Meet the Iconics, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Skald, Wayne Reynolds

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