Smogon Pathfinder: A Brief History

By vonFiedler. Art by paintseagull.
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What is Pathfinder?

In 1974, Gary Gygax invented Dungeons & Dragons. What he didn't know at the time was that he had created the first customizable element game, decades before other CEGs like Magic the Gathering or Pokémon. Gary Gygax wasn't worried about game balance; he just wanted a multi-person storytelling device. In his mind, no one would want to play as the rank and file Fighter, and the Wizard was of course the most powerful because that is how it worked in the Lord of the Rings.

However, Dungeon & Dragons captured the hearts of pre-video game nerds everywhere. Over 35 years and 7 revisions, the game became much more balanced and interesting. Games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 only attempt to capture the thrill of tabletop gaming, an immersible experience where you are totally in control. Then, Wizards of the Coasts made 4th Edition D&D with the primary intent of selling collectible miniatures; everyone hated this.

But, like the end of the Two Towers when Gandalf appears with a ton of guys on horseback to save Helm's Deep, the gaming company Paizo used the Open Gaming License to create Pathfinder, now hailed as the spiritual successor to Dungeons & Dragons. Come friends, whether you be an Elven Sorcerer, Dwarven Paladin, Gnomish Rogue, or so on, come slay dragons with us! Fame and treasure are on the horizon!

The Philosopher's Stone War

Philosopher's Stone War is a Pathfinder battle royale game. It is inspired by the franchise Fate/Stay Night, and based on a prototype board game I was working on at the time. The idea was for eight Wizards to run around a modern city, each controlling radically different Champions from history and myth. It is a fight to the death with one player standing at the end, but it was also a very friendly environment focused more on roleplay than competition. Each player has three Order Spells, which are used as lifelines but can also be used offensively to achieve impossible feats.

God Tyr: The First Philosopher's Stone War

PSWI was punctuated by quite a bit of murder. Genghis Khan the Rider (Quagsires) slew a church full of people in the hopes of performing some necromancy, but was kicked out the same day by Isaac Newton the Caster (Agape), who had the same plan. Hercules the Berserker (HD) hopped from house to house after much harassment from other players, and Tyr the Knight (LightWolf) basically bluffed Newton into burning down a hospital he had been using as his base of operations.

The major turning point in PSWI was a big battle between Isaac Newton and Saint Anthony the Monk (Aura Guardian) on one team, and Tyr and Robin Hood the Assassin (ginganinja) on the other. Now going into this event on Day 7, Agape had long been most players' pick to win the game, as he was the only experienced D&D player and an infuriating munchkin, if I do say so myself. However, early stealth on Robin Hood's part took an Order Spell from Newton, leaving him with only one left. Saint Anthony fired back, tactically repositioning his teammate to a much more advantageous rooftop and then critically injuring Robin Hood. LightWolf, who had no climbing ability, relevant spells, and a fleeing teammate, seemed to be screwed. Then he had a great idea. He used his first Order Spell and bull rushed up through the building. Charging through the building diagonally up like a monster, he tackled Isaac Newton and dropped him down five stories. Newton was not finished yet, though. He used his power over gravity to create a forcefield, knocking away the melee-minded Tyr. Here is where everything goes wrong for Agape; he uses Vampiric Touch, a spell to do great damage to Tyr and also heal himself. What he doesn't know is about Tyr's one time special ability; once per game, Tyr negates one attack at the cost of his arm. The result also has the potential to cause enemies to run in fear. Newton ran straight out of his forcefield, and it was about this time that, at great danger to himself, an injured Robin Hood had second thoughts and hobbled back just in time to get the killing blow.

Throughout the game, Sun Shang Xiang the Archer, played by notoriously bad teammate imperfectluck, had already screwed over two players by leaving them to die in a fight. With three players left, LightWolf and imperfectluck made the most unlikely team to hunt down Aura Guardian. Aura Guardian cast the OP spell Feeblemind on LightWolf in that fight, costing him his second Order Spell. It was at this point that we all thought imperfectluck would win. After Aura Guardian was dead, all imperfectluck needed to do was reposition his Archer to a faraway distance and rain arrows down upon Tyr. Instead, they fought at point blank range, with Sun Shang Xiang backed up by her handmaidens. The fight was so close that the two champions literally knocked each other out! I like to look on this fight and think that the two Wizards still standing then fist fought to the death, but LightWolf still had one Fireball spell and so became the first winner of the Philosopher's Stone War.

Of Dragons and Pegasi: The Second Philosopher's Stone War

PSWII was a more comical fair. We had a bigger emphasis on backstory, and when players were forced to think about their upbringing and their motives, most decided that they would rather be good people. Most, but not all. In this game, jumpluff played Hervor the Berserker. With the cursed sword Tyrfing, which grew more powerful the more players she defeated, she actually went out of her way in time to be as bloodthirsty as possible. Not that she made no friends; ginganinja returned as Leonardo da Vinci the Caster, who used his flying machines to enact terrorist attacks throughout the city. Yet somehow, they are not remembered as the biggest villains of that game. PSWII was won by a ringer, icecoolblue as Bellerophon the Rider. Players knew he was a badass when on Day 2 he killed Agape, who had been using an odd spell choice that left him vulnerable throughout the day. Bellerophon mostly won through the use of several OP spells like Feeblemind, Mind Fog, Dominate Person, and especially Phantasmal Killer. This did lead us to sweeping spell balance changes, so there is some good in it. He faced off against LightWolf as Tripurantaka Shiva the Archer in the finale, taking the game.

What people remember ginganinja the most for, however, is the Dragon incident. As Da Vinci is an obvious expert on transmutation spells, ginganinja begged me for the transmutation spell Form of Dragon. I allowed him to use it once per game. Now the other prominent power team was Hermes the Assassin (Aura Guardian) and Mogh Ruith the Savior (Raikage). Mogh would use powers of prophecy to ensure that another player was in one spot at a certain time, then Hermes would assassinate them. On that day I told ginganinja, who was busy trying to poison the city's water supply, that for one ingredient he would need to go out into the forest. He doesn't think this over. He doesn't even tell jumpluff. He just leaves. When he realizes he has been ambushed, he uses his other once per game spell Stop Time. All he can do with this is set up an Instant Fortress (as Da Vinci is also a great crafter) and call Hervor to come quickly. He bides his time but his enemies finally break through the tower. Then he casts Form of Dragon just to get away. As he flies away he reflects on what he lost from this. He lost his Instant Fortress. Both of his once per games spells have been used. He gets pissed off, and he turns back around raining fiery death on his foes and then landing on top of Aura Guardian's Wizard. Now Hermes's special ability enables him to pull off one master illusion per day, allowing him to trick other players in any way he wishes. He uses this to pretend that his group Teleports away. Of course, this is just pretend. So while ginganinja sits there furious about his failures, Aura Guardian and Raikage are frantically trying to figure out how to get him to move because he is still crushing the Wizard to death.

Where Do We Go from Here?

PSWIII is currently in its final days, and I can't speak much about it myself as I am a player. We do, however, have some exciting changes going into PSWIV, which will be co-hosted by veteran Circus Maximus resident Aura Guardian and veteran PSW player Agape. I am personally completely retooling the magic system, making it much simpler and more balanced. Spells now have only one power level, which is easier for beginners to understand than the five levels as before. New defensive spells protect Wizards better than the shaky rules we had before, and ritual spells provide a boost in mana while giving other customizable bonuses. Aura Guardian is creating a brand new map, as well as premade maps for every area to battle in. Probably the most anticipated change is that players now heal to full at the end of each day, reducing downtime and camping. Finally, we are adding two new classes. The Monk returns, retooled to detect other player's ritual spells, while the Monster is a might and magic class with a scary debuff aura. This puts the number of players at ten now, so while we love our old players, we always want to see new faces.

Pathfinder Society

The Pathfinder Society is a sort of guild for adventurers and scholars. Pathfinders are sent on missions by their Venture-Captains. They work for the good of the society, but also accrue fame and fortune for themselves in the process. So far we've delved dungeons, crossed treacherous mountains, gone deep undercover as evil mercenaries, snuck into a devil-worshiper embassy, escorted goblin prisoners, and so on. While the Pathfinder Society is playable worldwide, here on Smogon we have developed out own little mythos. Players have bonded, made enemies, and sometimes had to mourn those that did not make it back. Here are just a few of the prominent characters to emerge so far:

Caliniel Aldanae (General Spoon) is an Elven Grenadier. She sees herself as something of a switch hitter, throwing bombs from afar then pulling out her sword. Caliniel worries about the danger Pathfinders face on a daily basis. For this reason, she joined the Shadow Lodge, a faction intent on holding the Venture-Captains accountable. Unfortunately for her, she has already seen two comrades die on her watch.

Alexander Skye (Maxim) is an Aasimar Cavalier. He's a bit of a bookish type, but his distant relationship to angels compels him to work for the good of others. To that end he has aligned with the country of Andoran, a land devoted to spreading freedom and democracy. The only trouble is that whenever he opens his mouth, he tends to put his foot in it. His steadfast companion is his horse Sora, though getting her to follow him into any dark dungeons has proven to be a trial.

Pullum Inferni (LightWolf) is a Human Sorcerer. He gets his powers from the smallest trace of Infernal blood, which probably explains why he is such a curmudgeon. One day he will have power over fire, brimstone, and even the minds of his opponents, but for now he worries that all he ever does is grease up opponents. Pullum sees himself as a fashionable person, which is probably why he associates with the high society of Taldor.

Berry Frenzu (Agape) was a Human Street Performer. "Was" is the key word here. Over only a few months, she had gained a huge reputation for being something of a fool. She'd make up inappropriate and obvious lies, antagonize enemies with her sock puppets, and once she even allowed a mission to fail by intentionally letting her quarry escape. Recently, when her group was retreating from a nasty encounter with a Ghast, Berry decided that she could take it on herself. She was wrong.

There are many more great characters to interact with, so come on over to Circus Maximus and make your own legend. Pathfinder Society is perfect for players who do not want permanent commitments. Just try out a scenario or two; there are pre-generated characters for players new to Pathfinder. We hope to see you soon.

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