A Writer’s Commentary: F. WESLEY SCHNEIDER on PATHFINDER: RUNESCARS #1, on sale NOW from Dynamite!

Issue #1 of the new Pathfinder series opens in Korvosa, a fantasy metropolis where all is not as it should be. Go read the book then come back and enjoy the footnotes!

Page 1
Runescars opens with a throwback to a tradition the series' original author, Jim Zub, started all the way back in Dark Waters Rising. We kick things off with a quote from the Pathfinder Chronicles (sort of a world travel guide for adventurers). The quote hovers over our first look at Korvosa, a gigantic city in Varisia, the same frontier land where the Dark Waters Rising, Hollow Mountain, and multiple other Pathfinder series took place. It's immediately obvious things aren't going great, though. There's smoke rising from neighborhoods and, as the perspective zooms in, we can see sick folks lying in the streets. Things are bad. For the details, check out Jason Keeley's "Troubling Times in Korvosa" article in the back of this issue.

We first see our heroes, Merisiel, Kyra, Valeros, and Seoni (in the lead) barging into a tenement. They're looking for someone. Seoni shouts a name as she enters—her brother's. But they're not alone.

Pages 2 & 3
Finding Hellknights—more on them later—tearing up the place, Seoni calls magical fire to her hands. She might be asking questions, but she's worried and pissed. Some Hellknight thugs look like the perfect punching bags to take her anxiousness out on. Seoni usually has the coolest head of the group, but I wanted her to start this fight as a way to put her frustration and worry center stage.

Immediately, we get that Hellknight are not to be trifled with.

Page 4
The whole team gets into the fray, but Seoni's not getting the answers she needs. She starts casting a more significant spell (fireball maybe? that seems like a good plan!). The spell fizzles mid-casting, though.

Page 5
This page introduces Signifer Lazku—the anti-Seoni. Like Seoni (usually is), Lazku's a cool head with powerful magic at her disposal. She enters with her hand ringed with whatever magic she just used to dispel Seoni's fire. She's also a signifer, a magic-using officer of the Hellknights and clearly the commander of those tearing apart the room. Lazku immediately calls for the heroes' arrest—which goes over real well with Valeros. Fortunately one of her troops steps in and, in a most un-Hellknightly fashion, asks the adventurers to step outside—"please."

Pages 6 & 7
Runescars picks up on several threads from an earlier Pathfinder comic that I wrote, Pathfinder Origins #3, That story recounts Seoni's first visit to Korvosa, and her first meeting with my favorite pretty-boy scoundrel, Seltyiel (from the Hollow Mountain series). It also introduced Seoni's family to Pathfinder lore, particularly her brother, Tiro (more on him soon) and saw her fending off a museum heist with the help of two Hellknights, one of who was Dalghad.

Dalghad's a good dude. He's also a Hellknight. While that doesn't preclude being a good dude, it can make things tricky. The Hellknights take inspiration from the military efficiency and relentlessness of Pathfinder's vision of Hell—not necessarily the whole evil part. They're a group obsessed with law and its merciless execution. Sometimes that means doing terrible things for their vision of the greater good. While the rank-and-file Hellknights often include idealistic law enforcers, the longer one lasts as a member and the higher one climbs in the ranks, the harder it is to keep a balanced perspective—as we'll see later in the series. Regardless, Dalghad's just looking to do what he can to keep the city safe and, currently, his old acquaintance Seoni.

As a more meta aside, Dalghad's skin color didn't come across quite as dark as I would have liked in Origins #3. Having him show up here gave us the opportunity to show that he's actually of Garundi descent. I know way more about Dalghad than I probably should, as he's also a character I play in the Kings of Absalom Pathfinder campaign that Worldscape author Erik Mona runs (every year or two!).

Page 8
A very different sort of lawman has overheard the heroes' discussion with Dalghad. He's a character familiar to many Pathfinder players, Quinn, the iconic investigator. In the comic series, we're pretty picky about what characters we include from Pathfinder game lore. We favor characters who we expect the audience to recognize, typically characters who have been around since the game's outset—not the most obscure faces from deep continuity. That's part of why our core group consists of heroes who have existed in Pathfinder from the very start. Quinn, however, is a much more recent addition to Pathfinder lore and immediately became a favorite of the Pathfinder team. My co-author, James Sutter, has been trying to get him into the series since Hollow Mountain, and with this more city-based story, he seemed like a perfect fit. We immediately dive into giving Quinn a no-nonsense, "I'm on the job" sort of personality.

Page 9
I'm really pleased with how Quinn's badge turned out here. The symbol in the royal seal of the city of Korvosa.

Kyra and Merisiel—Pathfinder's favorite couple—have gotten a lot of screen time over the last few series. We'll get more from them later in the story, but in this issue they take a bit of a back seat, playing group peacemaker and comic relief respectively.

Pages 10 & 11

A criticism we received after we developed back-stories for many of Pathfinder's iconic adventurers is that all of them were loners. None of them had a house or a job or healthy family ties. While being adventurers explains away the first two—simple perils of the profession—the last note is pretty legit. Introducing Seoni's brother, Trio, in Origins #3 was my attempt to address that concern. Seoni has a warm relationship with her younger brother, a roguish wanderer who still follows the caravanning Varisian lifestyle Seoni grew up a part of. But, like family matters do, some of his drama has now spilled over into her life and she and her friends are in town to help. We'll get more of Tiro later, but this scene sets up that his plight—and that of Korvosa's larger Varisian community—is what's brought the heroes to town.

Page 12
Merisial is Pathfinder's iconic rogue. Quinn is Pathfinder's iconic lawman. They're immediately friends.

Also, Valeros's line at the bottom of the page is part of a running joke Erik Mona suggested I slip in. The party keeps winding up in sewers—'cause adventure!—and they're getting pretty sick of it. Valeros made some mention of this early in Worldscape, I believe, but now the sewer fatigue is starting to set in.

Stay tuned for a future series where adventure leads into a city's bowels and the party just flat out calls it quits!

Page 13
Here we get our first look at Tanin, one of the queen of Korvosa's elite masked guards, the Gray Maidens. Ediano Silva's take on Eva Widermann's original Gray Maiden design is absolutely spot on. Silva's work has been fantastic, but particularly here I couldn't have been more pleased!

In Pathfinder continuity, playing with Gray Maidens is tricky, as they exist—for the most part—only within the time period of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path. They don't exist before that and they're largely in shambles afterward. That means, to include these awesome warriors at their height—which Sutter and I strongly wanted to do—we had to set the series during the events of that Pathfinder RPG campaign. Specifically, this story takes place in the days right between the end of the adventure Edge of Anarchy and the beginning of Seven Days to the Grave (which I also wrote!). The comic series doesn't overlap with the main events of those adventures, though. It's just one other story that's taking place in Korvosa during that time.

Oh, and I love how the "singing" starts slipping into the panels midway through the page.

Pages 14 & 15
Just your usual, everyday, giant singing otyugh. Merisiel reacts exactly as any Pathfinder player would to seeing her friend get scooped up by an out-of-tune stank-lord.

Pages 16 & 17
Funny things about otyughs: not only are they smart enough to talk (not well, but they can speak when they're not sewer-slurpin'), but they're also not evil. In other words, they can be reasoned with—if you use small words. Kyra's quick to notice potential converts to her faith (Sarenrae is the goddess of redemption, after all).

Hail the Dawn Slobber, Brother Kamewgamucus.

Pages 18 & 19
We finally catch up with Tiro, along with a bunch of Varisians. Varisians have lived in this region for a long time and know the best places to hide—even if they're not always the best smelling spots.

Page 20 & 21
Despite being utterly awesome looking, Gray Maidens—generally—aren't really nice people. Seoni tries to talk her brother and the Varisians down, but there's a lot of pent up anger in the community and there's not always time for discussion when lives are on the line. The Hellknights, however, have no real interest in discussion. It looks like Valeros is going to get the fight he's been waiting all issue for.

Page 22
The Hellknights are the only one with legal jurisdiction in Korvosa, though. Which masked lawbringer is taking in which? We'll find out from James Sutter is Runescars #2!