Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Magic items in Pathfinder games, as in its D&D 3.5 source, often become rather bland and forgettable: another longsword +1 or ring of protection +1 doesn't inspire great excitement and memorable gameplay. What I really enjoyed about The Cloak of Belonging, a four-part series of free web fiction (available here) is how it really puts the *magic* back in magical items. In this story, a washed-up, down-on-his-luck itinerant musician stumbles upon a cloak that makes him seem to others far more impressive than he really is, and this sets him on a really fun adventure. The writing, by author Chris Willrich, is subtle but stylish and engaging. The story is set in Cassomir, and makes good use of the rivalries between Cheliax, Taldor, and Andoran. Although never silly, it's a little bit lighter in tone than some of the extremely dark Pathfinder fiction, which is a nice change of pace. I really enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from the author.
The main character, Gideon Gull, finds a gaudy cloak (with a knife hole) on a dead body that has washed up on shore. Once he puts it on, he finds that people start to treat him much better than his unkempt appearance, bad reputation, and general impecuniousness would indicate: they treat him like he belongs there; whether the "there" is a rough dockside tavern or an elegant nobleman's party (of course, not everyone is susceptible to the cloak's effect, like an old flame, Corvine Gale, pictured to the right).
When Gideon realizes that the body was that of an assassin who was possibly sent to murder a high-ranking Admiral, he gets swept up with a secret group loyal to Taldor to stop the plan. I thought the ending was quite original, in that the the grand threat that motivated Cheliax to launch their evil scheme was something that seems as mundane as a printing press! It's a clever twist to realize that the "assassin" is really more of a saboteur, and I like how Gideon Gull is realistically reluctant to get involved in such dangerous escapades. The character appears again in a Pathfinder novel The Dagger of Trust, and I'll be glad to see him there again.