Today we see the release of Pathfinder: City of Secrets #2 from Dynamite and we’ve got a peer-to-peer interview as Troy Brownfield talks with series writer Jim Zub about the project and his experience as an rpg gamer.
JIM ZUB: I grew up reading earthy-dark fantasy novels like Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and Elric and those, along with copious amounts of Dungeons & Dragons with my older brother and cousins really shaped my love of sword & sorcery.
TB: Given “Pathfinder” (and “Skullkickers” naturally), I’ve got to ask what experience you had with role-playing games prior to your writing career (And of course, every rpg gamer has a great story of a particularly crazy session; do you have one you’d care to share?).
JZ: I started playing D&D when I was around 8 years old and it lead to a lifelong love of tabletop gaming. Being creative and building stories with my friends through RPGs started me on a path of storytelling and was a major contributor to me becoming a writer.
TB: The Pathfinder RPG features a rich world loaded with character types and potential adventure scenarios. Was it initially difficult to figure out what you wanted to focus on, given the fairly vast field to choose from?
JZ: Paizo, the company that makes Pathfinder, has a series of ‘iconic’ characters that represent each of the character classes in the game. Using those iconic characters for six of the most common classes seemed like the proper clasic group to start with. Building their personalities and the ways they relate to each other has been a real thrill.
TB: How closely do you work with Paizo itself?
JZ: They’re quite involved, but never in a heavy handed way. They’ve been great about making suggestions and ensuring the story fits the Pathfinder brand without getting too “game-y” or sidelining the character development ideas I have in mind. It’s been a great collaborative experience.
TB: In this issue, you present a couple of interesting dilemmas that have to do with the concept of personal freedom. Merisiel has an opportunity to join the Gallowed and presumably live a rich life of thieving and smuggling. Kyra can’t fathom that this is even a choice. What’s the emotional reality like for Merisiel right now?
JZ: Merisiel is an elf raised amongst humans and other races instead of her proper kin, a term which they call the ‘Forlorn’. She doesn’t quite fit in anywhere and that upbringing has given her a lot of conflicted feelings about where she belongs and her self worth. Her skills as a thief are quite advanced, but her social skills and navigating those inner fears are going to need more work as the series continues.
TB: Kyra has her own problems. In addition to her confusion over Merisiel’s situation, we have the fact that other clerics are being murdered quite horribly. How are these events affecting her, and does her own view of morality make it harder for her to be sympathetic to others?
JZ: Kyra’s intense faith is something I really enjoy exploring in the series. She’s not a passive priestess, she’s a cleic, a holy warrior for her goddess. Sarenrae is offers healing and rdemption, but for those who are evil beyond those bounds she can be a harsh protector or vengeful redeemer. Kyra will need to call upon both those apsects, healer and avenger, in order to survive this current story.
TB: Leandro Oliveira has an interesting style. A little anime here, a little Silverstri there… he also puts together some elaborate costuming and doesn’t stint on the little details. What does that level of art do for your process ?
JZ: The Pathfinder character designs orignally put together by Wayne Reynolds are intensely detailed and Leandro does a nice job translating that to the comic page. It helps ground some of the more fantastical elements and enrich the feel that this is a world that continues beyond the edges of the panels. It doesn’t change my storytelling/pacing but it does mean that I can feel confident to include smaller details and know that he’ll put them in there.
TB: Clearly, Pathfinder’s first audience is going to be fans of the game. What would you say to the casual comics reader or non-gamer to steer them toward this read?
JZ: When I came on board Pathfinder I made it clear to Dynamite and Paizo that I wanted to create a comic fans and new readers could both enjoy. Everything you need to know is included so that fantasy fans of all stripes can read Pathfinder the comic series and get a complete story. It’s high adventure, action-packed, and filled with fun and engaging characters in a rich setting. Classic fantasy with a modern storytelling edge.
For more on Pathfinder: City of Secrets #2, click here.