The Inclusive Fantasy World of Pathfinder

Pathfinder05

Pathfinder #5 arrived in stores Wednesday. It’s an important issue in our first story arc and includes something I wanted to post a few extra thoughts about. The fact that it’s also Valentine’s Day today makes it extra-appropriate. Let’s talk about love, people!

Pathfinder is easily the most inclusive tabletop RPG setting on the market. Strong characters of both sexes, characters of color and characters of different sexual orientations are all positively represented in many of the game supplements Paizo has released over the years. It’s a robust fantasy world that incorporates classic themes and tropes while allowing including progressive elements at the same time. It’s one of the many things I really like about Pathfinder when compared to a lot of the white-washed and stereotype-ridden fantasy settings of old. It’s something the developers at Paizo paid special attention to and I think it’s one of the many reasons why their game has sold so well around the world.

When we were choosing the six characters who make up the core group in the comic we made sure there was a gender balance and overall mix. These characters are the iconic representation of each ‘class-type’ from the game and they should appeal to a broad readership. Once we finalized that group it was my job to build their personalities and define the attitudes, strengths, flaws, speech patterns and push and pull for how each one regarded the other. The gang at Paizo asked me if I was comfortable writing emotional sparks between characters, and that included possible same sex relationships. In the world of Golarion same sex couples aren’t seen as an exception, but here in the real world it’s still a subject many people are coming around to. Without hesitation, I told them I was up for it.

The world is growing closer thanks to technology and a global culture that embraces the broadest possible diversity is a positive and hopeful future worth striving for. People deserve happiness and love whatever they look like and whoever they choose to be with. I firmly believe that from the bottom of my heart. I’m happy to include that in my writing, not as some kind of politically-motivated agenda, but because it’s the world we live in and our entertainment should reflect that.

Fans have wondered for years about whether any of the ‘iconic’ Pathfinder heroes are interested in members of the same sex and issue #5 finally answers that question during a flashback sequence. It’s a small moment, one that readers might miss, but it’s one I’ll be following up on in our second story arc (issues #7-12). It isn’t the focal point of the story to come, and I don’t think it should be. Pathfinder is a sword & sorcery adventure comic and that’s my first priority. Action, adventure and excitement are what readers expect and that’s what we’ll be delivering with each issue. This relationship is just one among others that are developing as the characters interact and grow.

That being said, here’s why it’s important- More than ever before people want to see themselves in their escapism. Having a same sex relationship in a fantasy comic series is not a β€˜big deal’ but it is a reflection of real gamers, Pathfinder fans, fiction readers and the world at large.

When Paizo and Dynamite approached me about writing the Pathfinder comic they wanted big action and strong characters to play a role in the story. I’m thrilled they’re letting me explore that further in a tasteful and engaging way. Entertaining characters help build great stories and a diverse cast has the potential to grab hold of an even wider audience. If you’ve been reading along so far, I hope you enjoy the group dynamic we’re developing and look forward to future adventures.

  1. Jim, congratulations on the release of Pathfinder #5. My gaming group and I have greatly enjoyed Paizo’s work. You’re involved in true excellence.

    It’s therefore a little ironic to hear such praise for diversity. By itself diversity is neither good nor bad. It affords a wide range of choices but can’t tell you if they’re beneficial.

    In fact, promoting diversity and inclusiveness for their own sake is a form of relativism that can obscure excellence.

    On the other hand, stereotypes can not only be positive but necessary. What are character classes if not benign stereotypes? Preconceptions should be discouraged if they’re negative, but not all of them are.

    I second your noble assertion that everyone deserves happiness and love. A relativistic outlook impairs our ability to discern what those things mean. We cannot reduce happiness to, “whatever one chooses”. Nor is love subjective. Real happiness can only be found by first determining what is true and using that as our measure of the good.

    I agree that writers shouldn’t gloss over contentious social realities. Since the goal is verisimilitude, care should be taken to reflect reality as it is; not as one wishes it to be (which would be a politically-motivated agenda).

  2. Fantastic! Just another reason to love Pathfinder! It’s very appreciated by those of us who love roleplaying and fantasy and just happen to be gay. πŸ˜€

  3. I actually really appreciate the diversity Paizo brings to fantasy. At 16, I stopped reading fantasy novels because there were no hispanic characters I could relate to. When I got back into gaming some twelve years later, I didn’t choose Paizo because of diversity, but was glad and surprised to find out that Paizo acknowledges that people of all stripes and colors exist and play role-playing games and that Golarion, to be based in reality, should reflect this. In all seriousness, thanks! πŸ˜€

  4. Reading Pathfinder #5 today I was quite pleasantly surprised to see that it was revealed Kyra wasn’t straight. I’ve always liked how Paizo has made much more of an effort to include diversity than most western fantasy, and I’m glad to see you’ve continued that in the comics. As a lesbian myself, I can’t help but really appreciate it when I see non-straight characters portrayed in media.

    It’s also admirable to see people who aren’t members of a particular minority themselves to include non-white/non-straight/non-cis characters in their works. I don’t think doing so for any reason should be dismissed as “politically-motivated agenda”, and tend to be distrustful of anyone who tries to argue that. So “bah!” to Brian, diversity isn’t “neutral” and capable of “obscuring excellence” – it’s realistic and great to see.

    I’m looking forward to next issue and the arc that follows, so thanks for your great work so far Jim!

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