Tuesday, June 24, 2014


If you ever wonder how committed Golarion’s designers are to genre bending, look no further than the Inner Sea Bestiary, where the very first monster is the android.  Clearly this is not your father’s fantasy role-playing.

(…Except it is, because even the most cursory review of the pulp forebears of Pathfinder and the world’s oldest role-playing game (once again I’ll plug Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode’s Advanced Readings in “Dungeons & Dragons” series) reveals that fantasy worldbuilders of the past were plenty comfortable mixing lasers, robots, and aliens in with their sword & sorcery.  The Chinese wall separating fantasy and sci-fi is largely a recent (1980s?) invention…albeit one that feels older than it is (probably because Tolkien’s discomfort with modernity gave this separation a certain historical heft).)

Anyway, androids make great NPCs and even great player characters.  Their stat bonuses and penalties line up exactly how you’d suspect, the nanite surge is a nice special ability with the potential for facilitating some really cinematic/heroic moments, and blue circuitry is always cool.

The big question is how prevalent you want your androids to be and how much they have to hide (or not) to fit in—and what the consequences are when they don’t.  They might be rare beings who come from only one region, as in Golarion, or they might be as common as droids (or at least Rodians) in Star Wars.  As always, it’s up to you.

An android joins a new adventuring party incognito, hiding his circuitry beneath sailor’s tattoos and blaming his stilted manner on his “foreign” heritage and years away at sea.  Unfortunately, one of his old shipmates saw the android use his nanite surge to rescue a comrade during a boarding action, and now he stalks the android, hoping to carve off a limb to sell to a wealthy buyer for study.

Androids in Pellerin may look alike, but their characters vary widely depending on their mother forge’s programming.  Promise Keepers keep their race a secret while toiling to unearth a crashed alien vessel.  The Tribe of Rule has discovered the Plane of Law; craving the approval of the axiomites, they have begun creating inevitable-like robots of their own. The Midwives bring organic creatures back to their home forge to be rendered and reconstructed (“reborn”) into cyborgs.  Finally, every Bladeborn has a list imprinted within its operating code.  Who knows what the list was originally for, but centuries of bit rot have convinced the Bladeborn that this list is a hit list, and everyone named on it must die.

The Far Home of the Elves is not some mystical isle or magical realm, as is often supposed, but another planet entirely.  Moreover the elven race, long rumored to be in a sort of shambolic decline, is actually nearly extinct.  Most “elves” one meets on the road are androids vat-grown to serve as interlocutors between real elves and the outside world.  The charade has been going on so long that many common stereotypes of elves—their legendary aloofness and reputation for rune magic, for instance—are actually just side affects of android silicon and circuitry.

Inner Sea Bestiary 3

Numeria: Land of Fallen Stars arrived at the close of last week, and since a) I was excited for it and b) it had caused a debate on these very pages, I raced through it.  Golarion fans will be pleased—it has everything you expect: a short gazetteer; some technological hazards up to and including radiation, parasitic nanite infestations, gray goo, and mysterious fluids that will have you rolling on a pretty scary random results table; major organizations and important adventure sites; and 18 pages of monsters.

That said, if you’re not a Golarion fan, this book doesn’t drop quite as effortlessly into a generic campaign the way, say, Isles of the Shackles or Into the Darklands might.  In part this is because it bridges several other Pathfinder publications.  Certain key monsters (androids and gearsmen in particular) appear not in this book but in the Inner Sea Bestiary; we’ll be getting a closer look some of Numeria’s cities in future Pathfinder Adventure Path issues; and the juicy my-character-gets-a-jetpack bits are coming in the Technology Guide.  So the full pleasure and potential of this book is likely to unfold in stages from August to January.

My advice for fence-sitters: Browse it in your local game store.  Check out the Numerian Fluids Side Effects table, the robot and mutant-filled Bestiary, and the really, really pleasing Adventure Sites section on pages 34–43.  That should tell you everything you need to know, and you’ll be supporting your brick-and-mortar retailer to boot.

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