There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

More time passes and more people are showing interest in this. It’s somewhat encouraging. I’ve only seen a few that are actually vocal about Terah, but I’ve noticed quite a few “lurkers.”

Playtests and Runes: On a more interesting note. Things are plugging forward with the playtests, mostly with local groups, but input on the Paizo forums is always welcome. All of the stuff that’s been put out so far has been off the desk of our lead designer. I didn’t even know exactly what runeworker feats were doing until I saw the initial post for the playtest. They were just some kind of vague idea I was trusting Anthony to handle. I envisioned something closer to Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss’s use of runes in The Deathgate Cycle.

Psionics:  The psionic feats were an idea that came from chatting with other gamers. I’m not positive, but I think it was Karelzareth that originally made the argument for having psionics in a steampunk world and it was Chris Baker and Liz Courts that suggested it be done with feats. I hope I’m attributing that right. If someone remembers better than I do, I’d be happy to give the credit, since the only part I know for sure is: it wasn’t my idea. All I thought of was the initial question: should there even be psionics in a steampunk world? Anthony’s got some good answers for that question and will be blogging about it later.

The Charlatan: What I’m about to describe of my character, Simon, is only possible in first edition. I already know that. But I wanted to talk about the charlatan and where the idea comes from, and all the blathering really is part of the story. <sarcasm>Yeah, I know, gamers just love to hear other gamers talk about their characters. </sarcasm>

Simon’s first campaign was from the irreverant Castle Greyhawk set of adventures. I’ll key the people familiar with it in to the adventure that has to do with the Master of the Hunt and Raven. I don’t remember the name of it and don’t want to give away too much. But one point has the adventurers trying to gain access to a private club with a truly Ultimate reputation: it was a hangout for Gods. Simon was not deter4ed by the fact that it would probably cost his little first level rear more than the party’s weight in gold for a single admission. He strode boldly up to the bouncer guarding the door and did a bow so low his hands and the tip of his beard swept across the floor. “Hello, I am Sir Simon Francis of the house of Vesve and we” he announced with a flourish toward the rest of his companions, “are the entertainment.”

It worked. The DM made us come up with a routine, which we did on the spot. In my college days, my friends and I would sarenade lonely looking girls in the cafeteria with “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.” It wasn’t hard to convert it over. Add a description of some fancy fangled stuff from pyrotechnics and dancing lights and viola: instant show. The charlatan was born.

Time passed and levels came and went. Simon isn’t very good at rolling for hit points and doesn’t get any kind of constitution bonus. He does get a dex bonus to armor, but by 12th level, my magic-user only had 22 hit points. By 12th level there aren’t many things that can’t hit for 22 points a shot. The DM made a suggestion that I’m sure he’s regretted on almost every encounter since then. He suggested that I dual class. Academics don’t turn around and often become fighters or even thieves, but illusionists… ah…

I’d never played the class before, but I was hooked. Oh, the versitility, the utility, the chance to do something totally insane just because the spell description said you could and the DM was good enough to wing his way through it just for the laughs.

We didn’t play second edition even though it’d been out for a long time and now I was glad. It had killed off the class. There was a brief hope we’d see more of it when third edition came out, but it was not to be. Asking around, it was most likely the versatility that killed it in future iterations.

First edition had enough holes in the rules that you were used to just filling in the gaps. By third edition, so many things had been well-defined that a class that lacked any kind of real definition in how it’s spell functioned, didn’t have much of a place. Things were changing in other ways too. If the rules had gotten you in a real bind when I first started playing, you were lucky if you could get your game question answered by Skip Williams in Dragon Magazine’s “Sage Advice” column. Things that seemed obvious to my group were now being asked via the internet. Players expected answers. Why would a developer want to have a class that could easily double the amount of questions s/he already got?

Before Terah was even out, I began work on recreating the illusionist. The original intent was to bring back the basic feel of the class, but give it a lot more defining structure. I considered that if it went well, I’d submit it to Wayfinder. The first time I mentioned it to fellow gamers they looked confused, “There’s already an illusionist in Pathfinder.” Yes, I understood the concept of a specialist wizard, but what I wanted was an illusionist. “There’s already an illusionist in Pathfiner.” I get that concept ok? I want a first edition style illusionist. “There’s already an illusionist in Pathfiner.” Ack.

The first thing I had to do was change the name. I considered a few names. Charlatan has been used a lot. In my group there’s even a phrase that goes with, but that’s another story. I hoped I’d find something better, but every time I considered it, I found myself going back to the line: “we’re the entertainment.” Monteback, deceiver, mist-weaver, shadow-mage… they all touched what I was trying for, each in a different way. But charlatan had panache. It had flaire. To me the word just screams: “I am one of the most dispicable people in the world, but there’s a good chance you’ll love me anyway.”

With the start of the Terah Project, Simon has found a home. The Victorian Age brought a huge change in people’s thinking. It was a little like a late Renaissance. People were escaping from the droll drudgery of the common and even old things were suddenly new and invigorated. Science could take common earth and turn it into a cure for ulcers. And people were anxious for what was new and different.

And just as it is often with hackers today, there’s always someone willing to mingle excitement with culpability and gullabilty to achieve profit.  Call him a snake oil salesman. Call him in a con artist. Call him a master of the flim flam. Call him a forger. Call him a scoundrel. Call him a villian. Call him a criminal.

I call him the charlatan.

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