The problem with working full time, having two kids, then doing Nerds on Earth on the side, is that when I find time to sit down to write an article, I have to write it fast. I don’t have the luxury of musing thoughtfully about these articles, I just jam a maple syrup tap into my ear and let whatever grey matter is left in there rush out onto the keyboard.
But I want to do better with this post, because I really, really love the Pathfinder RPG, nerds, and I want to do a good job of telling you about their fictional world. You see, I need to be selective with my limited free time, so when I say that getting into the world of Pathfinder might be worthy of your precious nerd time, then know I do so with love.
Are You Looking for a Good Fantasy Series? A Look at Pathfinder Tales
First, the basics. Pathfinder is a role-playing game that spun off from the 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons about 10 year ago. So it feels very much like D&D, but has developed its own flavor over the years as more and more material has been written for it.
The bread and butter of Pathfinder are its Adventure Paths, which are adventures written to level your character from 1-20. The Adventure Paths are set in the world of Golarion, the official setting for Pathfinder.
Now we’re getting to brass tacks, as Golarion is the setting of the Pathfinder Tales novels that are written as an accessory to the Pathfinder RPG, and are what I want to focus on, dear nerds.
There have been about 30 Pathfinder Tales novels written thus far, and new ones are released roughly every two months. Here are some key things that make Pathfinder Tales are good option for a nerd who is looking for some fantasy reading:
1. The Pathfinder Tales line is eclectic. Golarion is what is oft referred to as a “kitchen sink” setting, meaning there is a little bit of everything represented. Asian-themed, Viking-themed, pirate-themed, what have you, it’s in Golarion.
And that is on top of elves, dwarves, and the like. The Pathfinder Tales line mines from each of these rich viens, then licks the gold dust of its sleeves. If you are in the mood for fantasy set in the north, then Pathfinder Tales has you covered. If you are looking for lizard folk in a jungle setting, then Pathfinder Tales has you covered. And on and on it goes.
2. Pathfinder Tales novels stand alone. Whereas many fantasy lines make you feel like you have to buy 13 consecutive books simply to figure out what is happening, you can simply mix-and-match Pathfinder Tales books.
While setting of Golarion grounds all the stories so they feel familiar, and certain iconic characters may appear in multiple books, you don’t need a complicated reading order to keep up with continuity. Simply hop in and jump around book-to-book, reading whatever you like without any compulsion to be a completionist.
3. Pathfinder Tales novels are consistently solid. Series editor James L. Sutter has done a masterful job of keeping the consistency of the individual stories to a solid B+ or higher. Pathfinder Tales routinely produces solid stories, so whichever book you happen to pick up, you can be confident you’ll get a pretty good story.
Sure, there is an occasional dud. Ed Greenwood’s contribution was a stinker, despite him being a legend in the RPG world. And I read one–Master of Devils–that had interesting characters, yet kept them in separate locales for much of the book. It was the novelized version of “splitting your party” and it didn’t really hit with me.
But those are rare exceptions. Truly, most Pathfinder Tales get an easy 4 out of 5 stars and make for enjoyable recreational reading.
Let me turn this article into the driveway by sharing a brief recap of a few of my favorite Pathfinder Tales novels:
Lord of Runes Famous investigators, Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn bodyguard Radovan are characters that have appeared in multiple Pathfinder Tales. Lord of Runes has them on the trail of a necromancer bent on becoming the new avatar of one of the legendary runelords.
It’s the story of a crime-solving duo that has roots in Sandpoint, the legendary small town of the world of Golarian. As a bonus, this is the first printed in the new format by publisher Tor. You can get it here.
Beyond the Pool of Stars This is my current favorite Pathfinder Tales novel. It stars Mirian Raas, a young woman who comes from a long line of salvagers—adventurers who use magic to dive for sunken ships off the coast of tropical Sargava. Mirian takes over one of her dead father’s jobs: a dangerous expedition to help a tribe of lizardfolk reclaim the lost treasures of their people.
The book does a good job at placing a mirror up to colonial rule of indigenous people and to Mirian’s half-native heritage, while first being an extremely fast-paced and entertaining swashbuckling fantasy adventure story.
It was written by author Howard Andrew Jones, and I immediately got his other Pathfinder tales books after reading this one. You can get Beyond the Pool of Stars here.
Pirate’s Promise is about a pirate captain, Torius Vin, who sails the Golarian’s Inner Sea with his snake-bodied navigator and one true love, Celeste. But you know a money wrench gets through in there.
There are great characters in this book and the relationships between them are done well. You can get it here.
Skinwalkers Jendara left the cold northern isles to find her fortune, only to later return home in search of a simpler life, where she can raise her young son Kran in peace.
But she needs to grab her axes once again, as a strange clan of shapeshifting raiders pillages her home.
Skinwalkers has vikings, lycanthropes, and motherhood. Check it out.
You can find all 30+ of the Pathfinder Tales here. If you are looking for entertaining fantasy that allows you to mix-n-match the tropes you like without buying into complicated continuity, you might want to give Pathfinder Tales a go.
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