(I’ve gotten approval by the Paizo guys to do this in a completely different way. So, I’m gonna take advantage of that and restart this little project. Enjoy!)
I was recently approached by The Enemy (Sean K. Reynolds) to write a whole bunch of NPCs for the forthcoming Pathfinder NPC Guide. And by "a whole bunch," I mean about eight of them.
Now, I can write up NPCs all day long, but designing 8th-10th level characters for the Pathfinder system isn’t easy. You see, Pathfinder inherited the legacy of the d20 system. (I have a vague notion of making a Freemasons inheriting the Templar legacy analogy. After all, negotiating the labyrinthine complexity of Freemason rituals is about as challenging as learning the d20/Pathfinder system.) And so, to entertain myself as I use the Paizo-provided Excel spread sheet to make sure I don’t make any flagrant mistakes, I decided to put on some music. I usually turn off music when I write, but this isn’t writing. This is math. Advanced math. And I need music to trudge through advanced math. This lead to the conclusion that each NPC should have their own theme song. Another tool to help me focus on the theme of the NPC and another way to have fun with the project.
And, because there are so many NPCs, I decided to make each of them a different alignment. Not only that, but I wanted to drive each of these alignments to their logical conclusions… at 400 miles per hour and with no breaks.
(My apologies for the repeated analogy. It’ just such a good one, I had to use it again.)
Just today, I also got permission to do reveal teasing details about each NPC. This not only gives me an opportunity to write about the NPCs I’m writing about, but plug the book I’m working for, and–hopefully–get other people excited about it, too.
And so, without further delay, the first NPC. The one I’m calling, "The Violin Assassin."
Sean asked for an assassin. The picture in the Pathfinder book was a half-ork with Warhammer/Warcraft style armor and a big poison blade. Okay. That’s covered. No need to go there. In fact, why don’t I do something completely different. The exact opposite. Male half-ork? How about a female elf. And instead of big, nasty weapons, why don’t we do small weapons. The smallest. Easy to hide.
And neutral evil. Here’s what the Pathfinder wiki says about the alignment…
Well, assassin is a prestige class, so my female elf can’t start off that way. She has to go through another class first. Not fighter. That’s boring. And not thief–I mean "rogue"–because that’s cliche. I’d need Stealth and Disguise. Tough to get through wizard or warlock…
And that’s when I noticed that the fine folks at Paizo removed the alignment requirements on the bard.
I smiled. I’d found my hook. Bard/Assassin.
My little assassin started off life as a bard. The most mistreated and abused character class in the system. Everybody takes the bard for granted. Everybody groans when a player says, "I’m gonna play a bard!" And so, I used that little bit of meta, putting it right into her history. Overlooked and taken for granted, she wandered with an adventuring crew, playing pointless, insipid songs to "inspire" her fellows. And, instead of a lute, I gave her a violin. The most uncomfortable instrument in the book. May as well be carrying a tuba.
So, she wanders around with her buddies until something goes wrong and she has to put away the violin and pull out her knives. And, in the clamor and alarum of combat, she thrusts the blade through some ork’s heart… and as blood gushes over her fingers and wrist, she hears music she’s never heard before. Music that fills her ears and head and eyes and heart.
Murder brings her music.
Shortly thereafter, she murders her happy crew, weeping with joy as she cuts their throats, one-by-one. And the music that fills her heart…
That’s where I started. Where I ended… well, you’ll just have to buy the book to find out.
I had a theme song for her before, but I found another. One that more accurately reflects the kind of macabre beauty I want to install in the character. The moment of murder is a moment of pure intimacy. With my knife through your heart, with my eyes and yours locked, no-one in the world is more intimate than you and I.
I love you. More than anyone who has ever loved you. Only I.