Saturday, March 4, 2017
I thought Certainty, a four-part piece of web fiction available for free (here), was fantastic. The story is set in and around Kenabres (a fortified city in the nation of Mendev) that serves as one of the bulwarks for the forces holding the demonic taint of the Worldwound at bay. The author, Liane Merciel, captures the "feel" of being near the Worldwound perfectly. A grim desolation is the prevailing mood of the area, but connected to it is an underlying determination on behalf of those who serve to contain the danger. The main character, a former paladin named Edarras, has come to seek a sort of redemption by joining the armies there, something she knows verges on suicide. I could connect with her as a character (especially having played a former paladin myself), and I knew from the tone of the story that there would be no guarantee she or her new allies would come back from their mission alive. Certainty is one of my favourite Pathfinder Tales stories so far, and I'm looking forward to reading the novels written by the same author. For GMs trying to convey to players in a new campaign the mood and atmosphere of a darker sort of campaign, this story would be a perfect introduction.
Edarras and her companions are set to investigate why several deaths have been reported in a small village near the border. The concept of the "Burners", a renegade sect of Iomedae-worshippers who relentlessly (and over-zealously) try to destroy anyone they believe has been infected with the taint of a demon, was quite well-done and effective. The twist was great though: unlike real-life witch hunts in history, sometimes the Burners get it right! I also liked that the madness spreading through the village had a mundane explanation: tainted grain. Finally, it was really cool to see in fiction a "fish out of water" character of the type I've been tempted to play; in Certainty, it's a spellcaster from a desert homeland adapting (impressively well) to life in winter climates.