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Watchtower Balleron

You would be forgiven if you were not aware that the kingdom’s forced still operated out if Watchtower Balleron long after the hobgoblins took it over. Few in the kingdom did, including the hobgoblins. The lower level had a secret door to a staircase that led to the caves below. The Stone Breakers, the Queen’s elite dwarven commandos, listening (aided by magic) to the hobgoblins plans from below, slipping into the watchtower itself when vital to the mission, and stealing maps and committing various acts of sabotage.

Because of the kingdom’s internal politics, the kingdom could not strike openly against the hobgoblins so the reigning queen took steps to make sure they were ineffective. She let them operate out of Watchtower Balleron as a concession to the local Lord since he was taking bribes from the hobgoblins. However, the queen had her people to think about and detached a small force to serve as an information source. So frequently when the hobgoblins go out on raids, away from the lord’s lands, they mysteriously found the local guards prepared for an attack.

Since the queen cannot act openly against the aggressors, she hopes a group of adventurers show up and handle the problem for her. One of her advisors suggested holding a fighting competition to attract such persons but to do so they need enough advanced warning to advertise the competition so they can attract such seasoned adventurers. As things stand, they fear that only new adventurers will be present and answer the call and will likely die in the fight. She may not have much choice, however, as keeping up current operations costs more than the kingdom’s treasury can afford.

Even then, once the hobgoblins are dealt with, the lord that was backing the hobgoblins will be upset and may have against the royal court or he may run away. To catch the lord, the queen knows she’ll need the help of the adventurers to keep her hands out of it. She may have to have the Stone Breakers leave evidence of the lord’s collusion with hobgoblins and escape before the adventurers show up. But then again, they are elite troops, specializing in information gathering, stealth, and subterfuge over combat. Should the queen’s roll in all of this be made public, there could be considerable complications for her.

Watchtower Balleron

LE large fortification
Government military overlord
Population 1,300 (1,000 hobgoblins; 100 dwarves; 200 other)

Notable NPCs


Captain Teurik Deathaxe, military overlord (LE male hobgoblin fighter 5 [13A: 3rd level leader])
Lieutenant Ooknar Bloodvengence, lead raider (LE female hobgoblin ranger 3 [13A: 2nd level archer])
Iknix Flamecloak, priest of goblinoid god (NE male goblin cleric 2 [13A: 1st level caster])
Lieutenant Harnask Silverheart, leader of the Stone Breakers (LG male dwarf rogue 6 [13A: 3rd level spoiler])

Be sure to also check out Fort Strange and let us know if you want to see more locations like this.

Support our efforts to bring you more awesome material like this by downloading our Pathfinder RPG, D&D 5e, 13th Age, and Swords and Wizardry books directly from the JBE Shop.

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Pathfinder: Playtest at Origins

Yesterday I got my first chance to play the demo of the Pathfinder Playtest, and I couldn’t be more excited to have been apart of it. I played in a 2 hour demo with pregen characters. So I would like to share with you my impressions of the game.

Before I begin, I would like to say that I am not going to talk about the adventure itself since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that is going to play it. I am only going to limit my remarks to my thoughts on the game itself.

Have you ever played a sequel to a video game you loved and realized from all the changes and upgraded that this was for all tense and purposes that this is a completely different game (none of the original programming code reused whatsoever), but the design loveingly took the time and effort to make sure that the new game still look and felt like it was a successor to the original. Like those working on it loved the original game but knew the code needed to rewritten for modern audiences. That is exactly how this felt, only with a tabletop game. It is undoubtedly a different game than Pathfinder 1e, but it felt the same. That is without a doubt a good thing.

I played the Kira the cleric (my apologies to Paizo if I got her name wrong). The character had the Fire domain, giving her a bolt of fire as an attack. I was able to cure one person in the group with a touch and the whole group with a burst. The fighter moved and attacked. Traps were disarmed and on and on. All of this sounds familiar to Pathfinder 1e fans, but the way it happened is different in 2e. That fire bolt was launched from my pool of spell points instead of X uses per day. The fighter had a specific 2-action option for moving and attacking. Disarming the trap was assisted by the paladin because she had a background that helped in this matter.

All those differences are good and all, but what do I think of it? And more importantly, is this the 5e killer? Well, I like it. It currently appears to be a solid game from the little I saw of it. Is it a 5e killer, I think that is the wrong question to ask. The right questions is, are they going after the same audience? To me, that is an unquestionable, “No.” Fifth edition is an elegant game. It is fun and easy for new players to pick up and learn. It also has painfully few choices for an individual character. Sure you get a subclass in the early levels and can choose to upgrade an ability or take a feat every so often, but that is it. It is all to easy to make one elf rogue look exactly like another elf rogue in that game. Add in the fact that the number of books they sell that are not tied to a specific campaign that contain new player options can still be counted on one hand several years in, and it becomes obvious that Wizards designed their game to be played by casual gamers. They wanted someone that only had the core book five years after launch to not be intimidated by someone with the gym bag library at the table.

That is not the audience Paizo is going after. One year of Pathfinder 2e will see more pages of player options published than 5e has from their respective companies outside of their core books by the same date. Where 5e is covering the basic ideas for you to play, Pathfinder 2e is going to cover all the options, allowing you to make exactly the character you want to play. Between classes, class options, feats, skill feats, archetypes, and more, choices for your character are something you will not be hurting for in Pathfinder 2e.

That is where I see Pathfinder 2e finding it’s home, among gamers that want their character the way they want it and not having characters that are highly similar. Where 5e is the Basic Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder 2e is the Advanced game.

I just want to take a moment to thank Mark Seifter. He ran an awesome game for our group and took the time to answer all of our questions about it after the game. I am sure he had to do that a million times at PaizoCon and he was still fresh and engaging with us at Origins.

Be sure to check out all our Pathfinder and 5e options at the JBE Shop.

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Fort Strange

Officially known as Fort Vanderwalten, many refer to it as Fort Strange because of the numbers of non-humans and less common demi-humans present here. When Kortrill Nightfeather was appointed captain of this frontier fort and military governor over the sparsely-populated region until a noble can be entrusted with this land, she took with her many other non-humans with her—both military and civilian alike. In her new position, she made sure that all under her care have been treated equally and prejudicial actions are prosecuted. It did not take long for word of her commendable action to spread and non-humans that want to live in peace to start flocking to live here. Today, Blacktooth Blacksmith and Glittering Foundry—owned by the orc Gathic Blacktooth and hobgoblin Miktar Deathblade, respectively—may be rivals but their rivalry plays out with them pushing the other to make better blades and other wares, instead of slaughtering each other’s families as many humans would expect of their their kind.

Fort Strange is home to many hagborn, catfolk, gnomes, everborn, tengu, lizardfolk, and even a few umbral kobolds. The majority of them came since Captain Nightfeather took command of the post. Previously, the region was inhabited mostly by humans and elves. Those that stayed when a tengu was appointed commander have been far more receptive of their new neighbors. A small yet vocal minority, however, have been voicing their opposition to so many “weird” creatures living among them. While the military-police force protecting this region have made it clear that voicing such concerns will be tolerated, that is the limit; any hostile actions against another law-abiding citizen will be met with swift justice. A number of attacks against non-humans has baffled investigators considering the military forces are not set up to handle such investigations and Lieutenant Gronk Bloodaxe is looking to hire adventurers to assist in this investigation.

The majority of the humans in this region are serfs, living in the work-farms adjacent to the fort. Their owners—mostly human—are not happy with the current regional government. Normally they hate each other and actively plot against one another, but they are united in their prejudice. If they could be turned against one another, their petitioning to speed up the appointment of a noble (preferably one of human ancestry) would fall apart.

Fort Strange

LG large town
Government military overlord
Population 3,500 (1,000 humans; 400 elves; 350 catfolk, 250 hagborn, 1,500 other)

Notable NPCs


Captain Kortrill Nightfeather, military governor (LG female tengu fighter 9 [13A: 4])
Lieutenant Gronk Bloodaxe, head of special operations (LN male orc fighter 4 [13A: 2])
Faixgrop, Crafter’s Guildmaster (LN female umbral kobold rogue 3 [13A: 2])
Darren Rimeheart, Farm owner and serf master (NE male human bard 6 [13A: 3])

If you want to see more locations like this detailed, please let us know in the comments below.

To find out more about the races mentioned here see the Book of Heroic Races collection for Pathfinder, Fifth Edition, and 13th Age here at the JBE Shop. You can also find out titles at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo.

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What Kind of Monster Artwork Do You Prefer?

Earlier this week, we showed off a monster that a druid or wizard can summon with the conjure minor elemental spell. I really like that monster, but there’s something I have been wondering about with the artwork: the style. It is a beautiful color image. The problem is is that I don’t have a massive library of color images. I have a much larger library of black and white image. So as I continue to work on monster books for Fifth Edition, 13th Age, Pathfinder 2e (possibly), and other systems, I want to stay consistent as much as possible throughout the entire project. So that leads me to ask, what do you prefer?

Adding a parchment background to a black and white image is quite easy and rather fun. Not only that, it gives the image a distinctive feeling of being from an ancient tome that time forgot, in keeping with the fantasy theme. However, I do love looking at the color images in monster books. So I am asking you to help me make up my mind.

Tell me what kind of image would you like to see in a monster book from us. Vote in the poll below and as always, elaborate in the comments below.

What Style of Monster Artwork Do You Prefer?

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See our monster books we have published so far for Pathfinder and Fifth Edition at the JBE Shop.

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Pathfinder Playtest: My 4 Predictions

A few hours ago, the public playtest of Pathfinder Second Edition was announced. My guess was always the Gen Con 4 years after the launch of Pathfinder Unchained, which looks to be spot on (2 years to gather feedback from that book, 2 years to incorporate). My second clue that I was on the right track was when the point person on several of the RPG books was given to James Jacobs, a gentlemen more closely associated with the setting development instead of system development. This told me the RPG team had other priorities. The most likely guess to me was Pathfinder Second Edition.

With the core engine of the game nearly 20 years old, it is time for an overhaul, in the way that Wizards did with 4th and 5th editions in that time span. So what kind of changes should we expect to see in the new edition and what should stay the same. These are my predictions as to what we will see in the Pathfinder Playtest. Mind you: I have absolutely no more insider information than you; this is just the mad ramblings of someone else on the internet, except that I do have the perspective of being a publisher and I know how that affects certain decisions. So without further ado, here are my thoughts.

1. The Game Will Feel Familiar

A decent amount of the game will be something that you know already. Dwarven fighters wielding axes will join forced with half-orc barbarians and elven wizards to save the day. You will still have levels for characters and spells and of course they will not be the same thing. Your hat of disguise will still be your halfling rogue’s favorite accessory, and gnomes will still only be taken by gnome fans. You will all break down doors, kill monsters, and take their stuff all while rolling a d20 as the core die for the game. I do not see any need to fear here.

2. Some Classes Will Get an Overhaul

The cleric is a great class, really. However, its design is really showing its age. Both the oracle and warpriests are exceptional healers and have many more class options that the cleric lacks. Then there are secondary healers like the bard, druid, shaman, and witch which can heal as well but do so with considerably more versatility than just healing. For the cleric to be anything but an undead killer and healing wand, it needs much more in the way of class options.

Then there’s the rogue. The alchemist has trapfinding, and the ninja has sneak attack. Both of these have considerably more versatility than the rogue, and there are other classes do something similar to the rogue. It lacks abilities that it can call its own. Expect the rogue to be more distinct.

Other classes like the fighter and maybe even the wizard are could be considerably enhanced.

3. Borrowing Ideas from Starfinder/D&D 5e

I do not believe it a stretch to say that Pathfinder took the idea of alternate class options and ran with it more than any other before. They did such a good job with it, that design idea is evident in D&D 5e with their subclasses, hard-coding it into each class instead of bolting it on at a later date. Starfinder refined it even further by having the sub-classes/archetypes at the same levels, allowing a fighter or a wizard to take the same subclass. This idea, I expect to see in Pathfinder as well, if not exactly as in Starfinder, then the next evolution in the idea—whatever that may be.

In both Starfinder and 5e there are far less types of bonus to be applied to skills and consolidated skill lists; it seems only natural to see that in PF2e as well.

The last idea taken straight from Starfinder (originally from Pathfinder Unchained) is the monster creation system. As someone that built many monsters, I can say that the Unchained/Starfinder rules are the way to go.

4. Pathfinder Setting is Inseparable from the System

This is where my concern starts to show. As a compatible publisher, books that mix setting and system make it more difficult to separate one from the other. While I not have any doubt that I can accomplish this without any real issue, I do see this as a reoccurring issue for new publishers. Even still, it will be harder for me. I may be allowed to refer to a new spell called ray of light, but if it is listed in the spell section under D because the spell refers to a certain goddess that flowers at dawn, then it will only make my books that much harder to use. While I doubt this will be much of a problem for the core book, I do this as an issue for future expansion books down the road.

Like I said above, these are only guesses. It will be interesting to see come August how close those guesses are.

Visit JonBrazer.com for monsters, races, and other ideas you can use during the playtest (if we are allowed).