Saturday, February 25, 2012

49-54 = One Gross of Good Oriental Fantasy

The wallpaper from the JR1/AP49 cover by Wayne Reynolds

Paizo's Pathfinder Adventure Path subscription is, dollar-for-dollar, one of the best buys on the market today for the fantasy gamer, crammed with art, setting material, a bestiary, and serial fiction along with the adventure itself.  On top of that, your subscription gets you discounts and a free PDF in addition to the print volume.  The just completed AP has a real treat inside when it comes to the fiction.*

When I heard that Dave Gross was penning the fiction for volumes 49-54, Jade Regent, giving us a prequel to his Master of Devils novel, I knew that I had to set the volumes aside and wait until the final copy to read them.  (Yes, marvel at my six months of Iron Will.)  Sometimes I can wait a month between episodes and sometimes I can read them on-screen instead of waiting for the USPS, but this time I knew I had to read them all together in one sitting and off the sumptuous pages put together by Paizo's excellent art department, led by Sarah Robinson, as I held their slick, sensual, eye-dazzling goodness in my greedy pickers.  Bloody, flavorful, and fast -- I can still feel the soy/mustard/MSG sizzle on my tongue from Teppanyaki master Gross throwing some of everything you want on the griddle and stirring in his heroic duo with his usual aplomb.  Set in Minkai before the events of Master of Devils, this will satisfy your yen for some Japanese analogue adventure before setting sail for Golarion's China analogue.  If you are wanting something to help tide you over until Gross' next novel or are just looking for fun oriental fantasy, you've found it.  Follow master and man (and dog) as they are confronted with a mystery that stands between them, their mission, and their return home.  The recasting of classical detective and noir conventions in a fantastic East is a formula that I loved in the novel, and that I love here as well.  In short space, Gross does for samurai, geisha, ninja, and yakuza what he did for three varieties of Chinese cinema in Master of Devils.

Fire Yai by Jim Nelson

For a recent interview of Dave Gross with a rather different view of his characters than my own, head over to Flames Rising.

PLEASE NOTE: The winners of the Follower Drive/Book Giveaway have been announced and need to respond by email ASAP.  See HERE!

* This feature is called "The Pathfinder's Journal," and is written by a different author in each six-volume AP.


  1. I don't pay attention to Pathfinder, but this sounds pretty awesome!

    Is it like most of their adventure paths, starting at level 1 and going up to 10+?

    AP's aren't my thing these days, a little too scripted, but I could see myself making an exception for a well-done OA series.

  2. Beedo: Level-wise, approximately, yes. If run according to normal progression, Jade Regent will take characters from level 1 to level 16 at the end of the AP.

    Jade Regent starts in "the West" and journeys to the Orient, getting progressively more oriental in flavor as the party travels.

    Paizo has tried to vary over the course of their nine complete APs the way these are written. Having read them (I've only run two of them so far) and listened to others running them, I really feel that the main issue is GMs learning how to use APs, more so than APs, as a whole/in-and-of-themselves, being too scripted. For me, it's just the same issue of pre-written adventure modules written larger: does the GM digest them and make them live or just woodenly read through them?

    To put it in other terms, the world/setting exists independently and these NPCs have their own personalities and intentions. If the PCs didn't exist, this is where they would be and what they would be doing. What difference do the actions of the PCs make to what you're calling the script is totally up to them and must be dealt with by the GM who has digested the setting elements and NPCs as presented in the AP. No writer can do that for you, but they can give you awesome raw materials to supply that interaction, and this Paizo does.

    To determine whether any volume or complete AP would meet your needs or preferences, I'd check out the discussions on the Paizo forums. Also, Chronicles, the Pathfinder podcast does an AWESOME job of going over the APs with a fine-tooth comb and a critical eye.