Investing In: Howl of the Wild Lore

When Almas University Press approached me to publish the tale of the expedition that fills these pages, the tale of the Wardens of the Wild, I was honored, of course. The journey I and my companions undertook was wondrous beyond even my most hopeful boyhood imaginings. Yet I felt hesitant as well; it feels wrong to profit from or risk sensationalizing what we were so fortunate to behold. In the midst of this dilemma, I sought advice from the expedition crew that had become my new family. In return, they simply asked what a story such as this—a true story!—would have meant to me as a child…1

Maybe I’ve come to truly enjoy the Iruxi from the interaction of the tribe in the Kingmaker Adventure Path that the heroes of our game have incorporated into the Kingdom without any violence, only understanding and diplomacy, but seeing Baranthet’s opening to Howl of the Wild immediately endeared me to the tale woven around the new sourcebook. I love that they’ve included numerous in-character written pieces by Baranthet, or at least from him and/or his crew. I did say in my last article about Howl of the Wild we’d weave through any lore pieces! There’s more in-character pieces than just chapter sections, woven into them and presented as sidebars that inform while giving a nice frame of reference whether you’re a GM or a player. Let’s see what we can learn from the crew of the Zoetrope!

The Zoetrope’s Quest

What is the Zoetrope? Well that first chapter is entitled The Zoetrope and its Crew for a reason. It’s the airship the team will use in their explorations and seeking. What are they seeking? The Wardens of the Wild. The foreword I quote above goes on to discuss the what and why of this quest. Basically, Baranthet’s grandmother told him the tale of the four colossal beasts that were stewards of the four biomes of Golarion: land, sea, sky, and all that is underground. Eventually the time would come for these Wardens to pass their mantles in a ceremony called the Migration, where all would come together with numerous animals and other creatures. Baranthet never quite acted on it, only briefly attending school, before taking up a quiet job back at home. But now that brief university stint and a professor that believes in Baranthet’s work has arranged for an expedition and the funds necessary to find the Migration. Off they go, with beautiful artistic detail of the airship amidst Barantet’s recounting of first coming aboard and exploring it. Such information would really be useful for describing such for any players, especially if a 3d model or flip map is made.

The Crew

That each further member of the crew is of an ancestry detailed in this book is perfectly done. Even the Iruxi will have Remaster rules provided in the forthcoming Player Core 2. But we get a page for each crewmember, and they’re almost like iconic NPCs. I hope they’re listed in the NPC Core Codex that was announced during PaizoCon. Charileia is a minotaur, an eager traveler, and the scribe. I wonder how much of the written detail we see from Baranthet is actually touched up or recorded by her in theory. Grefu the cook is an Athmaru and it occurs to me reading again through his write up that they are written as if the expedition had already happened, or at least his is. And it seems Grefu is a writer of sorts too since he has his own cookbook. Dr. Pom is indeed a medical doctor and an Awakened Animal who loves tea! 

Lythea is the navigator and also a Mermaid. She was swept up in a storm, found refuge on a ship called the Horizon Seeker, and has been working as a navigator ever since. I do love that she has a supramarine chair in order to get around and stay hydrated. Their scout is Telero, a centaur, and he’s got Cayden Cailean energy but maybe that’s just the youthful exuberance and an eagerness to prove his capabilities. I think we’ve all been there. The final member of the crew is Ten, or Whose Antenna is Askew (they/them). They’re the mechanic and a member of the Surki ancestry. While normally a people found underground, Ten has been exploring the surface ever since they found something of distinct magical variety and taste that was a cookie, though why it was heavy with enchantment energies is a good question. I appreciate the introduction of them as while they aren’t really featured for about 40 pages after that intro, they set the tone and create insight along the way, showing the purpose of this tome. Exploration and learning!

Ancestry Lore

Before we go on to that next section, I wanted to call out a few sidebars in the ancestry entries. Each has a bit on adventures of that ancestry, which I think is great to give either some typical tales of inspiration for players or something to play against type. There’s suggested classes. I am tempted by a centaur Druid (Greenspeaker) or witch! The Athamaru teach us about their metamorphosis to grow larger. In Awakened Animal it’s recommended to have NPCs be surprised – sure, they’re rare – but have them adjust and recover so it’s not too burdensome. We also learn of Outsea, which I hadn’t heard of whatsoever. This is a magically maintained lake of saltwater in the River Kingdoms. There’s merfolk but also other aquatic species like naga and azarketi. We also learn of an exiled minotaur prince living in Absalom, at least that’s what he’s referred to after saving the primarch there. Very valuable insights and info. I”ll be sure to bring Outsea up for our Kingmaker game.

Mechanics Reflecting Lore

Every chapter – like Techniques and Tricks – has Baranthet reflecting on their adventure as well as some section areas – like Warden Spells & Ranger Options. Be sure to read them all. It’s actually in that section we see our first Zoetrope character sidebar. Baranthet talks on the nature of the word warden as I mentioned in my last article. I like the theory that the abilities of these Wardens – the beasts – influenced the magical abilities that rangers use now. While nothing particularly noteworthy to the Age of Lost Omens is mentioned on page 64’s Zoophonic Bards, it’s a lovely tale of the crew escaping violence with a creature due to an Orc with such musical talents calming the dangers. I really, really want to see that battle Disney princess…

I mentioned the Thlipit Contestant (seen above) also in my last article, but I felt it worth mentioning again from a lore perspective. We get almost a half page detailing how the martial art started as that wager between bored tripkees and then details of the fluid movements used in the whip-like dance and fighting style. There’s mention of the tripkee migration to Vidrian and so there’s many in that Mwangi nation who’ve been exposed to such. Here we see mention again of Iruxi, who have picked it up though they’ve added to the tradition as they don’t have a tongue or tail. Baranthet even has a sidebar mentioning he had a lasher league in his youth!

Dangerous Equipment

Once into the equipment you have to consider where companions are coming from, like the Sotalashu I mentioned last time. That of all the companions has the clearest impact on the lore of the world. However, I’d love to know where Kangaroos are common! Professor Baranthet’s notes at the start of Grafts reveals it was venturing for an island in the Arcadian ocean where they spotted people with the medical ingenuity of grafting. Shark fins, gills, luminescent skin, and even flying squirrel membrane, which is only level 3 at the start so reasonable for an early adventurer. Considering the invention of some Arcadians, I’m not too surprised. With Beast Armor and Armaments there’s a note about beast guns not using normal ammunition as well as Baranthet’s sidebar on ethically sourced horns and other natural resources on page 103. I found the idea of killing a Nightmare dangerous enough, but then using its bones to make the Nightmare’s Lament pistol is pretty badass. I agree with Baranthet – who’s going to care about that harvesting. There’s definitely a delicate balance to over-resourcing and should be considered with any of the nature-based adventures. While I didn’t note any lore finds amongst the alchemical or adventuring gear, there’s still a lot to unpack there! Or pack there! Ha, I’m sorry! I had to.

A Menagerie of Creatures

Once we get into the Golarion’s Menagerie. i.e. bestiary, we start to see that sidebar used for the Zoetrope’s crew to speak on various creatures. On page 125 is the Almiraj and Telero has a lovely in-character and here you get that humor as he jokes the Baranthet would chide him from being too close to a cliff, eating toxic berries, etc. You might not think it related to the Almiraj but he jokes about the “Professor” stopping in his tracks for seeing a hare. Well, it wasn’t. It was the Almiraj! The opening line even refers to it as a yellow hare, and I can see why (see below). The very next creature – the Apothecary Bee – impresses Ten with its brewing ability, but it’s also a hilarious bit of commentary. Why use punctuation indeed! I mean, I will, for our readers, and hopefully Ten will learn to do so. This just continues with each creature. Dr. Pom wisely advises using some poisons to the benefit of the injured like basilisk venom to petrify someone to isolate while they are moved. The Chimera gets a lengthy write-up by Baranthet and we get not only an understanding of their partnership and child development, but also their social structure: they form prides! Happy Pride by the way! I do love the mechanics provided for different heads we might find on Chimera including a snake, a wolf, a dragon, a cave worm… They can get pretty dangerous! As Baranthet discussed with Dr. Pom, it’s even possible one of the heads might be undead! Meanwhile we learn more about the Okaiyo Ocean in the Decapod Dinghy, a gargantuan beast that like massive crabs that people ride. Lythea even recounts riding one as a young girl. 

A number of dinosaurs are included including the terrifying Thruneosaurus Rex, a level 17 creature. Guess who’s responsible for that? If you guessed Cheliax, you guessed right! Sounds like a Diabolic Jurassic Park went wrong, cause now the creatures are loose in the Whisperwood. Good luck all! There’s gorgons, hydras, gold-eating marps, seals, sharks, and gem-eating cave squirrels. Basically, the wildlife will eat your treasure or eat you, possibly with multiple heads so double good luck all. I also appreciate the variant unicorn especially the undead pale horse. Gee, who’d kill a unicorn… Certainly no one in Kingmaker… A number of werecreatures appear, with a couple of pages by Baranthet describing their forms, the impact of silver, etc. But let’s leave off with the beautiful Virtuosic Lyrebird, that got Lythea’s attention too. They’re beautiful (see below) and they cast spells through song. Lythea explains how a secondary trill to their song replaces any somatic casting. It sure looks like it’d sound exquisite. I challenge ever GM to perform as one when encountered. We don’t get any special detail of where they might be found but do learn a small group of apprentice mages created the first lyrebirds as part of their graduating thesis. They were supposed to be familiars, but the apprentices improved the lyrebirds skills too well and soon they were teleporting away or vaporizing classrooms. I’m sure there will be some in the Stolen Lands because I want there to be!

After all those chance encounters, the tales told, the information gleaned from exploration, the Zoetrope’s journey was nearing end but thankfully (spoilers) but they found the Wardens of the Wild and we get a lovely short story in the Dark Night on page 198 that rolls right into the beautiful art below. Each is a unique, gargantuan, level 22 beast tied to one or more elements. We don’t get a specific location for where the MIgration is meeting but we learn the site must have ties to each element and be accessed by sea, sky, and underground. This easily allows for numerous possible quest ideas. Maybe your heroes are academic seeking them out. Maybe that choice location is close to where your heroes will be. Maybe devious forces are seeking out the Wardens to stop the Migration from happening, or one vile individual wants the mantle(s) for themself. You could go with a corrupted environment, a blight, etc. quest line and have your heroes needing to battle the mighty creatures. It does make me wonder if some of the forthcoming War of the Immortals storylines will include these Wardens seeking to protect or find chosen guardians to help. Clearly they aren’t part of the Kingmaker adventure path, but I’m very eager to weave them in. There’s so many other great details and ties in this book that I’ve just got to!

The Journey’s Conclusion is a nice literary in-character piece from Baranthet’s perspective. Where the Foreword ends with a reference to him as a naturalist, by the end here at the Epilogue, he is referenced as an adventurer. That’s because he’s no mere Professor now, and like any good group of adventurers is eager to go out and explore, learn more. I encourage you to invest in Howl of the Wild and join the Zoetrope’s crew on their adventure of discovery and learning! Visit your local library but get out and see the world, as I’m sure Baranthet would encourage!

Investing In:

I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!

I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!


Banner Howl of the Wild cover, Paizo, art by Wayne Reynolds

  1. My Quest for the Wardens foreword excerpt, Howl of the Wild, Paizo
  2. A Journey’s Conclusion closing banner or “Light writer plate of crew upon returning from their journey, from official Zoetrope expedition logs”, Howl of the Wild, Paizo, art by Ivan Koritarev
  3. Ghost Bull Minotaur, Howl of the Wild, Paizo
  4. Thlipit Contestant, Howl of the Wild, Paizo
  5. Almiraj, Howl of the Wild, Paizo
  6. Virtuosic Lyrebird, Howl of the Wild, Paizo
  7. Wardens of the wild double page banner, Howl of the Wild, Paizo

Rob Pontious

You may know Rob Pontious from Order of the Amber Die or Gehenna Gaming's first series of Monster Hearts 2. He currently writes Know Direction's Investing In blog as well as a player for the Valiant podcast and Roll for Combat's Three Ring Adventure. He's been a lover of TTRPGs for over three decades, as a gamer, and a GAYMER. You can find him on social media as @silentinfinity.