Working on this piece was a remarkable challenge. When I approached James Sutter, editor extraordinaire for Paizo, to talk about writing tie-in fiction, I had to admit with some embarrassment that I have never played a single RPG. (My friends are now probably looking at me with dismay.) You'd think that would disqualify me from writing in the field, but when I also admitted I had a tie-in fiction addiction, it seemed to ease our conversation a little. (That's right--if it says "Forgotten Realms" on the cover, I've probably read it.) But still: I had a lot to learn.
My first step in writing this piece was to catch up with the Pathfinder universe. No sweat, right? How big can one world be?
I can't even figure out how many books Pathfinder has. There are three bestiaries, a core rulebook, advanced player guides, creature guides, multiple wikis, web fiction, almost a dozen novels, and probably a lot of other material I've managed to overlook, let alone read. I spent about three weeks plowing through the basic information before I even knew enough to get ideas for a story. And then once I sent a list of story ideas to James, I learned how little I really knew, because a lot of my ideas didn't actually work in the world! I had to go back and revisit the historical timeline and bestiaries and sort out a few things. Then I worked up a solid story idea and drafted it.
I sent the story to James, who kindly helped me learn more about the monsters -- goblins -- that I'd chosen to write about. It turns out that goblins are really interesting characters in the Pathfinder world. In fact, if I was going to play a campaign, I'd definitely want to stumble into a pack of goblins. I mean, if I had quality weapons and some badass friends to back me up. These little guys are vicious and scary! I had to rethink "small" and turn it into "terrifying." Then I had to rewrite my piece. My original story made the goblins out to be trouble, but now I wanted to make them the kind of big trouble that could make a bunch of Viking-like guys crap their pants. (Errr ... breeches?)
To find out if it works, you'll have to read the story. Let's just say that the first draft of the story took a week to write. The second draft didn't get turned in until three months later. (Well, there was a lot of life going on in there, including going to World Fantasy and actually meeting James!) I'm pretty pleased with the results, and I hope to write more fiction in the Pathfinder universe. Why? Because it's such a cool place!
Now if only there were a Pathfinder board game for me to play...