For many, Pathfinder is the go-to D20 roleplaying experience. New worlds, new races, new monsters and new adventures. Your average gaming table, building an adventure out of words only, can take the players only so far as they let loose their characters on an unsuspecting fantasy world. Pathfinder: Spiral of Bones #3, brings to visual life a fantasy adventure that skilfully mixes high adventure with affecting character development.
Writer: Crystal Frasier
Artist: Tom Garcia
Colorist: Morgan Hickman
Letterer: Thomas Napolitano
Editors: Joe Rybandt and Anthony Marques
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Release Date: May 30, 2018
Previously in Pathfinder: Spiral of Bones: Beneath Kaer Maga – the fabled City of Shadows – lies a vast network of ruins and complexes, a veritable honey trap for any adventurer. Our fearless friends, Valeros (or is he?!) Seoni, Merisiel and Irijka plunge deeper into an underground realm full of traps, monsters, and adventure. Meanwhile, in a heavenly courtroom, their warrior companion, Valeros (yes, him again!), is on trial for his immortal soul.
We open with our beloved warrior, Valeros, seemingly confused after triggering a magic trap at the end of the previous issue. Writer Crystal Frasier depicts his uncertain state well, with an internal monologue that reveals something very untoward has happened to him. While Valeros comes to terms with his new situation, his companions, the elves Seoni and Meriisiel and green-skinned Imrijka the Pharasmin, trade witty banter as they delve deeper into the secret underworld beneath Kaer Maga.
Meanwhile, Valeros, or at least, his displaced soul, awaits judgment on a far higher plane of existence. By triggering the trap, Valeros’s body has succumbed to the essence of a far older being, Zelador the Animator, who is now coming to terms with his new lot in life. This is the more amusing portion of the story, as a devilish advocate and a heavenly lawyer dicker over whether Valeros ascends to Nirvana, or ends up getting toasted in Hell.
For the most part, Pathfinder: Spiral of Bones #3 is a courtroom drama that isn’t as dry as the idea suggests. When the Judge states he’s immortal, not infinitely patient, after yet another diversion by the legal advocates, you know the writer is not entirely taking proceedings seriously. But there is also enough character development for Valeros to know that his lighter side masks a deep vein of honor that should hold him in good stead later in the series.
EARNING XPs ONE FIGHT AT A TIME
The action and adventure part of the story takes place in the vaults beneath Kaer Maga as Valeros’s friends, oblivious to the body swap, continue their descent into the ancient ruins. While Seoni spends some time coming to terms with the mortality of her human friends, there’s a well-staged fight scene that represents the sort of good, clean dungeon bashing fun we all loved on those fabled Friday night gaming sessions of yore, to leaven out the sadder elements of her struggle.
Artwork by Tom Garcia is very solid, with very good use of panel layout, particularly in the dungeon scenes to suggest movement and action. Colorist Morgan Hickman’s work complements the story location, with lots of shadows and moody colors to suggest an environment where the sun has never shone.
Pathfinder: Spiral of Bones #3 is rounded out by the next installment of the Starfinder backup story. It’s Pathfinder, but in space! Where Dungeons and Dragons went with Spelljammer, Paizo has recently ventured into similar territory. By its nature a short story, this is a decent mixture of info dump and flashback that advance the story sufficiently into the next issue. Slight, but with some nice art.
BOTTOM LINE: SOLID
Pathfinder: Spiral of Bones #3 doesn’t upset the applecart in terms of storytelling. If at times it’s a little dry during the court scenes, there’s still plenty of that trademark Pathfinder action to keep the rest of the story barrelling along. It retains the momentum of the earlier issues, balancing action with character development. Full of fascinating ideas that any DM worth his salt will immediately lift and insert into their own games, this book is definitely worth buying.