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GenCon 2014 – Part 3: Pathfinder, Pathfinder, and More Pathfinder

GenCon 2014 – Part 3: Pathfinder, Pathfinder, and More Pathfinder

PathfinderAdvancedClassGuideEvery year, one of the most enjoyable booths to attend at GenCon is the Paizo booth. And I’m certainly not alone in that belief. Last year, the massive rush at Paizo to get copies of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords base set (more on this later) resulted in a line that snaked its away across a massive section of the Exhibit Hall. This year, they had to actually have a line out in the hallway to even be admitted into the booth, to avoid cluttering up the Exhibit Hall itself with all the desperate Pathfinder fans. And there were certainly a lot of great products to inspire a spending frenzy this year.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

The flagship product coming from Paizo Publishing is the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Pathfinder always has a ton of great releases coming out on an extremely aggressive schedule – a range of adventure modules, player companion supplements, campaign setting supplements, and so on – but here are some main hardcover rulebooks slated for the next few months that are of particular interest to anyone who plays Pathfinder.

Advanced Class Guide (Amazon, Paizo)

This new book provides details on 10 new hybrid classes, which are designed to meld together traits from two of the core and base classes from previous supplements. For example, the hunter is a hybrid of the ranger and druid, a martial character who is able to channel animal powers and bond more closely with their animal companion, but still wield spells. The bloodrager mixes the combat features of the barbarian with the mystical bloodlines of the sorcerer. The brawler is a fighter who gains several of the unarmed combat benefits of the monk, but without the spiritual aspects.

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Black Gate Interviews James L. Sutter, Part Three

Black Gate Interviews James L. Sutter, Part Three

dragonsofautumntwilight_1984originalThis week concludes Black Gate‘s interview with author and editor James L. Sutter with a discussion of the pros and cons of media-tie in fiction, the Before They Were Giants anthology which collects the first sale short fiction of many big name writers, and a look at what James is working on now. Be sure to check out parts one and two of this interview, as well as our review of James’ new novel Death’s Heretic.

You recently wrote an informative guest post at Inkpunks about the pros and cons of media tie in fiction from a writer’s perspective. What are your thoughts on media tie in books in general, from a reader’s perspective? They seem to be more popular than ever in stores, but would you say some of the reluctance or distrust many readers seem to have for tie in work is still an obstacle in the marketplace?

I think that science fiction and fantasy readers (the only genre I really feel qualified to comment on) have a love/hate relationship with media tie-in books. Many of us start out there–I know I read plenty of Star Wars and Dragonlance and Indiana Jones books as a kid. Tie-ins are a natural entry point into the genre, because those books deal with something you already know you like–movies, games, etc. Yet as we read further into the genre, I think many of us begin to associate those books solely with our humble beginnings. We fancy ourselves more sophisticated, and begin to define ourselves by our less mainstream tastes. Books with logos on the cover start to seem too lowbrow, or like blatantly commercial cash grabs rather than true art.

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Black Gate Interviews James L. Sutter, Part Two

Black Gate Interviews James L. Sutter, Part Two

city-of-strangers-sutterLast week we were just getting started in our conversation with writer James L. Sutter; this week we talk more about James’ role at Paizo, the balance between editing and writing, and his early history as a writer and gamer.

Tell us a bit about your role at Paizo — not only are you shepherding the fiction line, but, as you mentioned, you’re the guy that makes sure the world stays consistent.

I’ve been at Paizo for about 7 years now, so I’ve worn a lot of different hats. At the moment, I’m the Fiction Editor, which means I’m the guy in charge of finding authors, commissioning stories and novels, developing them, solving any continuity issues, and doing much of the editing (though I’m backstopped by several other excellent editors). In addition to that, however, I still do a ton of development for the game products, usually as they relate to the world and continuity–I had the good fortune to already be on the creative team when we started Pathfinder, so while the company’s grown since then, there are a few of us who have followed and shaped the world’s expansion since the beginning.

Last but not least, I also get to do a fair bit of straight-up design work for Paizo: not just editing and developing freelancer content, but writing books and articles as a freelancer myself, which gives me a wonderful chance to create sections of our world out of whole cloth. Probably my favorite books that I’ve worked on are the two that I’ve done solo, a book called City of Strangers, which was essentially a travel guide to an anarchic, Mos Eisley cantina-style city that I invented, and Distant Worlds, which comes out in February and details the other planets in our world’s solar system. (The latter was a nice chance for me to kick back and indulge my blatant love of science fiction within the bounds of our fantasy setting.)

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Black Gate Interviews James L. Sutter, Part One

Black Gate Interviews James L. Sutter, Part One

sutterrockI recently caught up with Paizo’s James Sutter for a conversation about his work heading up Pathfinder’s new fiction line, as well as his own writing and influences.  In part one of our conversation James tells us about his new novel for Pathfinder, Death’s Heretic, and sheds a little light on one of fantasy’s gray areas. Over the next two weeks we’ll be covering a range of topics as James divulges on media-tie in fiction, early reading, assembling the killer lineup of the Before They Were Giants anthology, working in the game industry, and turning off the ‘editorial eye.’

A Conversation with James L. Sutter

Death’s Heretic is your first published novel, so that seems like a pretty good place to begin the conversation. Tell us a bit about the book and about Salim, Death’s Heretic’s protagonist.

First off, Death’s Heretic is a Pathfinder Tales novel, which means that it’s set in the campaign setting for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Fortunately for me, while it’s a shared-world novel, it’s a shared world that I’ve been helping to create over the last several years, and I had a lot of free reign with regard to the book’s setting.

The book is a fantastical mystery set in the desert nation of Thuvia, where folks with enough money can bid on an extremely rare potion which acts like a fountain of youth. A lot of people will do anything for a few more years of life and youth, so it’s not too surprising when one particular merchant wins the annual auction and winds up assassinated. The surprising part comes when the priests of Pharasma, the death goddess, go to resurrect him, only to find that his soul’s been stolen from the afterlife by an unknown kidnapper, who’s offering to ransom the soul back for the merchant’s dose of the elixir.

That’s where Salim comes in. A former priest-hunting atheist, Salim hates the death goddess with a passion, yet is bound against his will to act as a problem-solver and hired sword for the church. In this case, he’s in for even more aggravation than usual, as the investigation is being financed by the merchant’s headstrong daughter, who demands to accompany him. Together, the two of them end up traveling all over the various planes of the afterlife in a race to uncover the missing soul, interacting with demons, angels, fey lords, mechanical warriors, and more.

At the risk of spoilers, to me the book is actually three stories: the mystery of the stolen soul, the story of how a staunch atheist ends up working for a goddess, and the colliding worlds of the hard-bitten warrior and the wealthy aristocrat.

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A Review of Master of Devils

A Review of Master of Devils

master-of-devils-pathfinder-fiction-dave-grossMaster of Devils
Dave Gross
Paizo Publishing (400 pp, $9.99, August 2011)
Reviewed by Bill Ward

Pathfinder’s new line of novels are making a good impression among fantasy readers, accessible as they are to fans of Paizo’s game world and the uninitiated alike. If you are not familiar with Pathfinder it is essentially Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, but with its own world that differs from existing D&D settings in various ways both large and small. The world of Golarion itself actually predates Pathfinder as a game system, and the wealth of detail and world-building that have gone into making it a fully-fleshed environment is impressive. And, while there are scads of Pathfinder supplements available at the time of this writing, the fiction end of things for Golarion is just getting started — Master of Devils representing the fifth novel set in the Pathfinder world.

Dave Gross has quickly distinguished himself as the go-to guy for Pathfinder fiction (be sure to check out Black Gate’s interview with him), having written two novels and co-written another, as well as having penned numerous Pathfinder Tales short stories available free at Paizo’s website, he has been fairly prolific. Gross’s signature characters are the adventuring duo Count Varian Jeggare and his bodyguard Radovan, a classically counter-balanced odd couple whose tales are told in alternating first person segments, allowing for the voice of the characters to emerge in interesting ways.

Master of Devils sees the pair in Tian Xia, Golarion’s equivalent of a politically-fragmented Ancient China, a realm as mysterious to the inhabitants of the continent of Avistan, from which Jeggare and Radovan hail, as it is to fans of the Pathfinder game, which has produced very little material on Tian Xia. Gross shows what he can do with this blank slate and admirably fills the gaps in the Pathfinder record with all manner of appealing details that bring the realm of the far east to life.

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Black Gate Interviews Dave Gross, Part Two

Black Gate Interviews Dave Gross, Part Two

the-hobbit-tolkien-ballantineLast week in part one of our interview Black Gate sat down with Forgotten Realms and Pathfinder author Dave Gross to talk about writing, gaming, and his latest Pathfinder novel, Master of Devils. This week Dave tells us more about his early influences and his transition from gamer to game fiction writer.

Chicken or egg time: what came first for you — gaming or storytelling?

Definitely storytelling. I was learning to read around the time I was learning to walk.

My first geekdom was ghost and horror stories, collections of which I’d order every time the Scholastic Books flyer came around our grade school. I can’t remember when I was first writing stories, but I’m sure it was in homeroom with a half pint of milk nearby. Later I burned through all the SF at our city library, and one day my cousin Francis handed me a copy of The Hobbit, and fantasy became my favorite. After burning through the Tolkien trilogy I devoured everything I could find by R.E. Howard and his clan. It was around that time that a classmate and his elder brother introduced me to D&D. They taught me the game from the original saddle-stitched books. Once the boxed game came out, I began DMing. Which, of course, is its own sort of storytelling.

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Black Gate Interviews Dave Gross, Part One

Black Gate Interviews Dave Gross, Part One

dg-photoAuthor Dave Gross is perhaps best known for his Forgotten Realms novels such as Black Wolf and Lord of Stormweather. He has also worked as an editor of several gaming publications, including the one-and-only Dragon Magazine, and has most recently become one of the core authors for Paizo’s new Pathfinder Tales line of fiction. I recently had a chance to talk to Dave about his writing, and about his newest Pathfinder novel, Master of Devils.

A Conversation with Dave Gross

Before things get too tangential, Dave, I’d like to ask you about your latest Radovan and Jeggare novel for Pathfinder, Master of Devils. For readers perhaps unfamiliar with Pathfinder, how would you describe the world of Golarion, and the story of Master of Devils in particular?

Golarion is a big, varied world. While many of its countries are intentional reflections of real-world places (Ustalav draws on Eastern Europe, while Osirion is a fantasy version of Egypt), others are complete fantasy inventions with little or no connection to historical sources (The Worldwound, Numeria, or Nex). That combination of the familiar and strange is one of the things that draws me to the setting. It lets you pull details out of real-world cultures and history while allowing plenty of freedom for invention and extrapolation from other fantasy tropes.

The protagonists I introduced in Prince of Wolves come from an area of Golarion’s Inner Sea region that is roughly analogous to Earth’s Southern Europe. Master of Devils takes place in Tian Xia, Golarion’s equivalent of East Asia. Since the journey takes Radovan and the Count completely out of their element, they must learn how to survive in this unfamiliar land at the same time as the readers discover it. Count Jeggare is a scholarly sort who’s read and heard much about the place, but he’s never actually experienced it. Radovan is a complete fish out of water, having left the country of his birth for the first time only a few months earlier. The third progatonist … well, let’s just say the third POV character has a completely different perspective than the others. My hope is that readers who might not otherwise snap up an Asian-based sword & sorcery novel will find Master of Devils an easy and fun journey into the distant lands of Tian Xia.

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Black Gate Interviews Howard Andrew Jones, Part Three

Black Gate Interviews Howard Andrew Jones, Part Three

Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows, by Howard Andrew Jones. Coming February 2011In part one of our interview Howard talked about one of his new novels, The Desert of Souls, and about historical fantasy; in part two we discussed the works of Harold Lamb and Howard’s efforts to collect and republish Lamb’s fiction; for our third and final installment Howard tells us about yet another newly released novel, and his experience with gaming:

We’ve talked about historical fiction and historical fantasy, but you also have a history with gaming. Tell us a bit about your new Pathfinder novel, Plague of Shadows.

James Sutter, the editor of the Pathfinder line, is pretty selective about what he buys, so when I was invited to submit ideas I had to throw several his way before one finally took. I think the line in the pitch that hooked him was “Jirel of Joiry crossed with Unforgiven.” I made it clear that I wasn’t going to lift the plot or character, but that I was going to strive for a similar feel. As for the subject matter, I think that James described it pretty well in a blurb he posted recently: “It revolves around the exploits of not one but two bands of adventurers journeying in eastern Avistan, two decades apart. The parties are connected by Elyana, an elf seeking to cure her former adventuring partner (and former lover) Stelan from a curse that’s connected to events — and people — from their shadowy past. Elyana’s journey will take her and her companions from Taldor to Galt, into Kyonin and to the Vale of Shadows, where the consequences of events decades before will affect Stelan’s future.”

I wanted a story that started out with a linear feel so that it could move forward with momentum, then added complications as the adventure got under way. I think there are some nice character moments and well-motivated, though unexpected, plot turns. Personality wise Elyana didn’t end up being a Jirel of Joiry knock-off, although she’s definitely a kick butt protagonist, so she has that in common with the famous character. She’s also seasoned and clever, and she’s relentless — she simply never gives up. I had a lot of fun writing her.

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