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Exclusive: Pathfinder Adventure Path: Sky King’s Tomb preview

Senior Pathfinder developer John Compton uncovers details for Mantle of Gold, the dwarf-heavy first volume in the upcoming Sky King’s Tomb Adventure Path

Pathfinder Sky King's Tomb preview - Paizo sketch of a dwarf character

Pathfinder publisher Paizo announced a new Adventure Path at the close of November: Sky King’s Tomb, a dwarf-heavy, three-part campaign that shows off the ancestry’s great cities, grand history, and subterranean tombs. Though brief, the original product description revealed players will be busy treasure-hunting and monster-fighting – as well as tackling “millennia-old injustices”.

Paizo tells Wargamer the Adventure Path is made up of three adventures: ‘Mantle of Gold’, ‘Cult of the Cave Worm’, and ‘Heavy is the Crown’. The first volume is currently scheduled to release on July 26, 2023, and local game stores or the Pathfinder Adventure Path ongoing subscription will apparently be the easiest ways to pick it up on launch day. Wargamer also had the chance to chat with senior developer John Compton about what we can expect to unearth in the first volume, Sky King’s Tomb: Mantle of Gold.

Before we descend into the dwarven mines (and this interview), here are some other Pathfinder goodies you might want to check out. Wargamer recently shared an exclusive Lost Omens: Highhelm preview for the setting book that’s also all about dwarves. If you’re after more evergreen TTRPG titbits, we can also give you pointers on various Pathfinder classes and Pathfinder ancestries.

Pathfinder Sky King's Tomb preview - Paizo cover for Sky King's Tomb: Mantle of Gold

WG: Could you give us an elevator pitch for this Adventure Path?

JC: On a surface level, people are going to look at it and be like, ‘oh my gosh, it’s the dwarf Adventure Path!’ And to an extent, that is true; there’s definitely a lot of delving into dwarven history.

In our setting, dwarves experienced this big migration called the Quest for Sky that took them to the surface. Players are going to be following the lead of some important history and relics that tie into that Quest for Sky migration. As they are trying to find the first High King’s tomb, they’re going to be finding that they’re not the only ones after it – and everybody’s after it for different reasons.

The entire adventure has these ongoing undertones of what the events of the past were, and how we as heroes can be approaching some similar obstacles, threats, and challenges with a different perspective.

Pathfidner Sky King's Tomb preview - Paizo art of the dwarven city, Highhelm

This apparently won’t be a dwarf-only kind of adventure. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Even though you are exploring a dwarven story, there are a lot of inroads for non-dwarves. Each Highhelm clan (whose members are primarily dwarves) has a theme – typically something they have a track record for being good at over the last 10,000 years.

In the adventure, you’ll be working with the ‘history’ clan. It’s like they are living history: they do a lot of reenactment and performances, and they recruit people from around the world who have ties to history or have other approaches to understanding or presenting history. They basically want to share notes, and they have a kind of travelling scholar’s programme. We have done a lot of work on a Player’s Guide with a list of classes and ancestries that might have been called in [to work with the clan].

In the course of the adventures, there will be moments where dwarves will perform a little better, but there are also others where being a dwarf could be a disadvantage – whether that’s because it’s what your foes are expecting, or something else.

Pathfinder Sky King's Tomb preview - Paizo sketch of adventurers fighting Myceloids

What can you tell us about Mantle of Gold, the first instalment of the Adventure Path?

It takes place almost entirely in Highhelm, and you do a little bit of exploring into the shallower levels of the Darklands. It’s very much an urban sandbox adventure to begin with. You are there to attend a clan family festival, which is a street festival, family reunion, historical presentation, and more. You’ve arrived a little bit early, so you’re encouraged to go out and make a name for yourselves, because history is all about having your own stories to tell.

There’s a lot of flexibility in that initial sandbox to explore all of what Highhelm has to offer. Once you start to make a name for yourself, you’re going to find that some additional leads open up that start to bring you more into the story. By the end of that first adventure path volume, you will have made some really strong connections. You will have established your name in Highhelm, and you will have found some relics that will point you towards the Sky King’s Tomb.

And then it will start to head underground?

Much deeper underground.

If you talked to people from Paizo eight years ago, the Darklands would have been synonymous with danger. It’s less so now, but it’s still one of the more dangerous areas in our setting. Once you’re level five or so, and you’re heading into the Darklands itself, you’re going to find there’s a lot of danger out there waiting for you. The adventure path is, like, 99% underground. You almost never see the sky.

Pathfinder Sky King's Tomb preview - full-body Paizo art of a dwarven character

How much can you tell us about the rest of the adventure path at this stage?

The second volume is written by Scott D. Young, and it’s called ‘Cult of the Cave Worm’. There’s one cave worm that’s very important to the ongoing story that you’ll be investigating in volume two, and that will lead to a lot of underground Darklands exploration. It also takes you to two very different settlements from the one you started in – both of which are visually spectacular but also intrinsically dangerous. That’s going to take you from level five to level seven.

That takes you to level eight for the final instalment, ‘Heavy is the Crown’, which is written by Jessica Catalan. By the third volume, we have a really good sense of who our main rival is in finding the Sky King’s Tomb. We now know what they’re trying to accomplish and why that’s bad news, but we also have a sense of how we can stop them. Here, you’re going to be dealing with a larger-scale conflict, and you’re going to uncover some really fun nuggets of our setting’s lore.

You keep using the word danger during this discussion – would you say this is a more dangerous than average Pathfinder adventure?

There’s a certain balance that needs to be struck, as super deadly adventures just don’t appeal to a wide enough audience. And frankly, they don’t appeal to me. I increasingly like to play for the sake of being in a story and getting to play some sort of goofy character. I don’t need to be fearing for my poor PC’s life and hoping every single action is used in the most optimal way. So let’s tell some stories. There’s definitely some challenge, but it’s also about telling the right stories for the players.

What is it about this adventure you’ve been most excited about as the designer?

For me, it’s been going through the preliminary text for Lost Omens: Highhelm and being able to draw upon all of the cool little cultural seeds and traditions that show up in that book, in order to inform what I was writing for Mantle of Gold, because I really love working on urban sandbox adventures. To write that volume has been a blast. Dwarves have such a rep as an ancestry that’s stern, bearded, and boring. Anything we can do to shake that up is really exciting.

No boring dwarves in Highhelm, then?

Absolutely not. That’s a rule.