Cover by Tyler Walpole.
Even before finishing Queen of Thorns, I knew where the boys were headed next. I’d even set up one of their adversaries in the web story “Killing Time,” although I knew he wouldn’t be their ultimate adversary. What I did know was that they’d journey to the Worldwound, where they’d be a part of the campaign to drive back the demon horde after the events of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path.
One of the continuing struggles in writing tie-in fiction for a game line is to appeal to readers who don’t play the game while simultaneously satisfying those who do. Making connections to the Adventure Paths is an obvious way to do that, but there are some challenges. You can’t have characters in the novels usurping the position of players in the game. After all, the players’ characters are the heroes of the setting. On the other hand, the novel characters are heroes, too, and it’s not very exciting to feature protagonists who serve little more than to set up the story for the real heroes.
Thus, the first outline challenge was to come up with a sufficiently big story that intersected with the Adventure Path without usurping the players. Of course, that same story would have to introduce non-gaming readers to the Worldwound, or as I preferred to think of it, the land of Sarkoris.
The Pathfinder RPG Campaign books Lost Cities and Lost Kingdoms provided the foundation of my research material. Especially in the latter, I was able to loot the map for ideas. As with Prince of Wolves (to a lesser degree) and Queen of Thorns (to a greater one), a lot of the challenges the boys face came straight from the campaign material. Many of the characters in the novel come straight from the game.
You might think that would be limiting, since game characters have plot immunity, right? Not so! Mostly due to the generosity of Wes Schneider, I had permission to kill some of them. When it was more interesting to the story, I did just that.
One of the things I don’t especially like about writing in a game setting is the existence of resurrection magic. It’s convenient to pretend it doesn’t exist, but that’s not true to the world. At risk of spoilers, I’ll mention that reincarnation rather than raise dead makes the problem much more interesting, especially when the one casting the spell isn’t your friend.
Because King of Chaos is at its heart a war story, there’s a pretty big cast of secondary characters. Characters die in wars, and I wanted each death to matter more than ticking off numbers on an index card, so that meant giving the Kellid warriors and the Crusaders names and at least a little personality. The downside is that it was much harder for me to watch some of them die, because I get attached. The upside is that, by the time I finished the novel, I had a dozen story ideas for the survivors.
Another big difference between King of Chaos and the previous books is that there’s a third main character. While Arnisant had half as many POV chapters as Radovan or the Count in Master of Devils, Oparal is an equal third partner. I wanted to show her from the inside as a contrast to the way the boys saw her from the outside in Queen of Thorns. Also, I wasn’t done messing with the idea of a unicorn as a paladin’s steed, and Sarkoris was just the right place to take them for spoiler reasons.
After King of Chaos, the boys and I needed a little break. I had expected it to be longer, but when Paizo was ready to join forces with Tor to publish Pathfinder Tales, it was too good an opportunity to resist.
I like to keep the chronology of the Radovan & the Count novels lined up with real years. Thus, a book published in 2013 takes place about three years after the events of one published in 2010. Also, Varian has good cause to stay away from home (because of the events of “Hell’s Pawns”), and Radovan sticks close to the boss.
Thus, Lord of Runes picks up two years after the end of King of Chaos. In that time, Radovan, the Count, Arnisant, and the Red Carriage have traveled from Sarkoris, across the lands of the Hold of Belkzen, through Shoanti territory, past the dwarven stronghold of Janderhoff, and finally to the city of Korvosa in Varisia. There, Varian visits the famous Academae to demand answers about the magical disability he has only recently learned to overcome.