Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Terra-Cotta Soldier

The original terra-cotta soldiers were funerary art to honor an emperor.  Pathfinder’s terra-cotta soldiers naturally have to take a much more active role in tomb defense, what with fantasy adventurers and necromancers having such casual attitudes about grave robbing.

Of course, imperial tombs aren’t the only place one might stumble upon terra-cotta soldiers.  Here are three slightly less standard places to find these constructs.

A terra-cotta troop was programmed to follow a certain battle standard, fighting as directed.  The vagueness of this request and the tenacity of the ceramic soldiers have led to them fighting across nearly two centuries of local wars, rebellions, and upheavals.  Currently they defend the halfling town of Shen from gnoll attacks…or they did until the battle standard was stolen.

An eccentric wizard’s life was once saved by an errant terra-cotta soldier, somehow separated from its troop by a whole continent.  Now confined to bed, the elderly wizard asks his adventuring friends to make an old man happy and return the strange construct to its home.  After a continent’s worth of adventures, they succeed…but the second the soldier is reunited with its peers, the entire army animates to fulfill its original mission: defend the throne from all usurpers—including the current emperor.

The pueblo-building oreads and gnomes of Aznakar guard their burial vaults with terra-cotta soldiers made from the same glossy black pottery as their famed pots.  These warriors are shaped like dragon-men—not for any spiritual reason, but to prevent the region’s superstitious kobolds from robbing the grave goods.

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I always enjoyed the terra-cotta army cameo in Terry Pratchett’s Interesting Times.

I got to see the real terra-cotta soldiers in a museum exhibition.  ’Twas very cool.  I also happened to be lucky enough to be in Sydney at the time (the event actually gets a mention here), so after leaving the museum I got to look at flying foxes in the trees as a bonus.

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