As I have said elsewhere, though I had been intrigued by Pathfinder for some time and had purchased a number of materials, I didn’t finally get a game going until one of my sons motivated me one Sunday morning to bring all my materials down to River Quest Games and see if we could get some more interest. The night before, my son had convinced El Gibbs to join us the next morning, but in truth I felt that her agreement had been one of best intentions and that we actually wouldn’t see her the following day. I was wrong: we saw her, and two others joined our company.
My son wanted to play a Sorcerer, so he made Ross Windhaven. He wrote his own backstory, shared it with me via Google Drive, but, since it’s his own, I won’t repost it here. Instead I will say that — I don’t know how it came to me, exactly — I began the campaign with a major structure in mind, and I nudged his character creation into something that would dovetail neatly with my own macro-plot. My son’s backstory works fairly well for my ends: Ross is an Ulfen orphan (of course). He saw his whole family killed. And demons seem to be involved. (I believe my son was watching a lot of Supernatural at the time of character creation.)
El Gibbs plays Gish Gallup, a Gnome Poisoner. She recently has joined the Blackravens for no better reason than that her good friend, the Dwarf Druid Duf, has joined. Gish’s goal is simple: she wants to collect poisons.
Crixus is a Shoanti Gladiator. This character had HUGE promise for major set pieces to circle around him, but unfortunately his player no longer participates all that much. Here is his backstory:
You’re not certain who your original people were, but the best guess appears that you are Shoanti, originated from one of the seven tribes of native “savages” in Varisia. You were taken when you were just a child, and you don’t even have memories of your original owner, but you are told that you were too savage for the first owner to keep for his purposes and, at the slave block, you naturally caught the eye of your penultimate owner, a Shoanti gladiator who calls himself “The Skull”. He has tattooed a skull over his existing face, somewhat in the manner of the actual Shoanti clan Shoan-Quah, and you have ignored some of the whispers you have heard that Skull is not really part of this clan but is a sell-out, a fool, a charlatan, an entertainer capitalizing on a true tribal tradition. And yet everything you know about fighting you have learned from Skull.
Things have been going poorly. Skull has grown old, and his “skull-routine” that once amazed and terrified spectators has now become thin, particularly now that awareness of the Shoanti plight and customs have grown thick. You wanted to help out, but unfortunately you were not ready to command the kind of attention and money that was required. At a meet in Trollheim your owner entered into a hushed and secretive discussion with a half-orc who, judging by his raven-feather cloak, clearly was a member of the Blackravens. The short of it is, you were sold to this captain of the Arrowstone Ravens and you traveled north with him.
Kolbern seems like a good enough owner. He doesn’t expect anything more of you than he does of the other recruits and volunteers, with the exception that, because he bought you and because you are a slave, he expects an immediate and absolute response from you to his commands, whereas the others appear to have a fair degree of leniency and flexibility in which duties they are assigned. This has resulted in a strange advantage, though: you seem to have greater influence over Kolbern than any of the others. He seems to trust you most of all, and you are confident that Kolbern will grant you any favor that you require.
Cyris is a Human Monk following an Order of his player’s own creation — The Temple of the Stalwart Stone. Cyris’s player provided his own backstory, one, for now, that I won’t repeat here, but his reason for being with the Blackravens right now is to oppose a perceived imbalance in the form of never-ending winter attempting to increase its influence. Members of the Temple of the Stalwart Stone have foresworn the use of manufactured weapons.
These were our first four players. In time, two more joined. The first was Davven, a Half-Elf Trapsmith. I gave this player the following backstory:
What you know…
Is that once you were relatively happy. You had a father and a mother and you all lived together in the City of the Moon, Nithveil, which actually resides in the fey First World, the city only appearing in the Material Plane somewhere in Grungir Forest on the new moon of each month. Your time in Nithveil is obscured in hazy memories. You have a dim understanding that your father was the human of the couple, a woodsman who spent so much time in Grungir Forest that he became fey-touched. On the night of one new moon, he found himself entering Nithveil. There he encountered an elf maiden, your mother, and he never again returned to the Material Plane. In time, you were born.
You know that Nithveil was a beautiful city, full of wonders and delights befitting the world of the fey. But it also held eldritch darkness and danger, likewise befitting the world of the fey. As such it wasn’t so different from the Material World, with its own beauties and dangers. But when, one morning, after a night of the new moon, as a mere child of eight – or perhaps somewhat older, considering your elven heritage – you unaccountably awoke cold and dewy in a hollow of Grungir Forest, you realized just how much you preferred to live in that city of magic and dreams. Somehow, this time, when the city passed on, you had been left behind in the Material Plane.
At first you thought it must be a mistake and that surely your parents – or the city itself – soon would come back to the spot in which you remained to reclaim you. But when the sun rose high, when you grew hot and thirsty and then hungry, you recalled that Nithveil was not known to return to the same spot. You wondered how your abandonment might have happened. You recalled that there was something called court intrigue, something that your eight-year-old mind had difficulty comprehending, and that your mother often had been the target of petty plots and “practical jokes.” Perhaps someone had played a trick on her by vanishing her child.
In time the need for survival made you move. You had little experience foraging, particularly in the Material World, but your elven heritage probably helped guide you to the near-surface tubers and edible mushrooms and bramble-berries. It wasn’t long until next you craved fats and meat, but you never seemed able to snatch the occasional rabbit or squirrel or even freshwater fish or frog that came your way.
That’s when you realized that maybe you could construct something that would snatch them for you. So you began to build snares, pits, cages, and you set them up all over the forest. Soon much of your day was devoted to checking your various traps, and you ate well. In time, you suppose, you even became happy, but not as happy as you had been in Nithveil with your parents.
One day you caught a red fox in your snare. When you came on him, he was busily trying to bite through the hempen cord around a back ankle. To your surprise – but not too great of a surprise for, after all, this was Grungir Forest – the fox spoke.
“Ah, child of Nithveil,” the fox said. “Set me free and I will give you good advice.”
“I need none,” you said in Sylvan, “for as you can see I can feed myself, clothe myself, and catch the likes of you.”
“But what if the advice leads you to your first home, to the City of the Moon, to your mother and father?”
You hesitated at this.
“Or are you going to eat me? I assure you I won’t make a fine meal. I’ll be tough and stringy and I’ll curse myself so that you can’t hold anything down for a week.”
“Fine.” You slashed out with a flint knife and cut him free. “What advice do you give?”
“No longer seek your will here in this forest of snares and deceits, but go to the Blackravens of Hagreach. Go to Arrowstone, and there you may find passage back into the First World and to Nithveil. For you – and only for you – all doors in Grungir have been barred.”
Pretty sweet, huh? This is one of those times, that happens all so often in roleplaying, wherein I am tempted to take this person’s original character and weave an epic around him.
I did some good work on the following character, too. Bo Monro, a Dwarf Arctic Druid, is now with the party. Why is he with the Arrowstone Ravens? Well, he found cause to join them while he was visiting the grove in Deadeye Rock looking for the subject of the following folktale:
One day, in the spring of the world, Old Deadeye was hunting. He spied a many-pointed stag and loosed an arrow at it, but he missed. This might have been the only time that Old Deadeye had missed anything. When he came riding up to ken the shot, he found the arrow lodged deep in a stately old oak. Old Deadeye felt the pain of the oak, with the arrow deep in its flesh, and Old Deadeye was sorry for his miss. So he said to the oak, “Let this arrow be not a point of pain but a point of pleasure, a balm-spreading fungus that benefits both you and all those around.” Because of this, only oaks are blessed with the fungus called Deadeye’s Shot. It grows out of the trunk as if it is a great arrowhead lodged in its flesh. It is of great benefit to the oak. It is said also to have many good qualities for other living things.
In search of this, Bo arrives in Deadeye’s Grove:
Deep in the Grove of Deadeye Rock, the trees grow tall, and the air grows still. Moss hangs thickly from the branches, like curtains. Toadstools sprout at your feet. All seems to be waiting, watching.
At last you came to the thunder oak, a magnificent tree that seemed to serve as the central pillar of the entire forest. You guessed that on it acorns must grow to be the size of a man’s fist, if not larger, judging by the green leaves that were almost the size of your own body.
And there – there – that must be it: Deadeye’s Shot, a large blade of fungus jutting out of the base of the trunk and climbing up it like so many steps. You recognized it by the sheen of its gray texture. Its “tang” was ridged with red. You walked towards the tree, already reaching – perhaps just a sample.
But suddenly a woman stood before you – where had she come from? – of course: there was a hollow over there between two roots. Obviously, she was a Norn.
She laughed, and somehow her laugh was like thunder; it quivered your heart.
“Not yet, my devotee, not yet. Erastil does not give his gift to just anybody. He wants something first. You are now drawn into something large, something that might threaten his favored people, the Ulfen. Serve the Blackravens first, for a time. Find his Chosen and wake her. Then might you have his favor. Then might you obtain Erastil’s Shot.”
Alas, as I already mentioned, the player once playing Davven decided he wanted to play a Half-troll. There’s no “canonical” template for this in Pathfinder, so I bought Advanced Race Guide that very day and stat’d the following:
Half-Troll (RP Range 20+, Traits per Category 5); Medium Monstrous Humanoid; Darkvision 60, Scent; Base Spd 30; +4 Str, +2 Con, -2 Cha; Languages: Common, Troll; Special: Natural armor +1 AC, Fast healing 1 hp per rd., Scent; Feats and Skills: Cave Dweller +1 KS Dungeoneering and Survival (Underground), +2 Intimidate, +2 Perception; Bite 1d3, Claws 1d4; Weakness: light blindness (dazzled for 1 rd. in bright light). (26 RP)
You might agree with me that Rahjin (as the character is called) is a pretty weak “troll.” This is because he was the runt of a litter. Rahjin’s backstory is that Kolbern and his Rangers discovered, in the Stormspear Mountains, an alchemist’s factory devoted to improving Trolls for the White Queen’s armies (yep, much like Saruman and his Uruk-hai Orcs). All of the half-breeds were slaughtered, but for one: Kolbern intervened personally for the weakest of the litter. His act was perhaps motivated by empathy through his own “half-monster” status.
For some time Kolbern has kept Rahjin for study and safekeeping in the deeps of Arrowstone. Only recently has he deemed it safe to reveal this “ally” to the rest of the Blackravens. Kolbern’s hope, of course, is to use what was considered a weapon for Irrisen against that icy nation.