Happy Easter!

My daughter’s obsessed with rabbits.

Seriously.

So it should come as no surprise that Easter is her very favourite holiday. Stores that she would normally take no interest in are packed full of rabbit clothes, rabbit knick-knacks, rabbit pictures — rabbit everything! Add to that the chocolate, the treats, the family celebrations, and the high probability someone will give her a new stuffed rabbit, and she couldn’t be happier.

And then yesterday she got sick. Headache, nausea, stomach pain, fatigue. Nothing fun. The poor dear’s curled up on the couch whimpering on her favourite day of the year.

So we’re having a quiet Easter this year. I’m resting at home with my family, comforting my daughter, trying to prevent my son from gorging himself on chocolate, and tidying up the house.

But, we’re taking some time out of our (not) busy day to say thanks.

THANKS.

And thanks again.

Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, and however you celebrate, we’d like to take the time to wish you a Happy Easter. (Or as my daughter would say if she was feeling better: “HOPPY Easter! BOING BOING!”).

For those of you who don’t celebrate Easter, we’d like to wish you a wonderful day.

All the best!

Jessica
(and family)

Happy Easter!

Review: Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Starfinder Adventure Path #8: Escape from the Prison Moon! So hop aboard and get ready to rebel!

Against the Aeon Throne is a three part Starfinder Adventure Path that begins with Part One: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen, continues with Part Two: Escape from the Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron, and concludes with Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm. All together these three adventures should take your characters from level one through to level seven. You can also pick up the Against The Aeon Throne Pawn Collection.

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign than most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. It’s a great change of pace that will allow the folks at Starfinder to tell shorter, more personal stories. In addition, this three part length makes it easier to purchase and play through an entire adventure path. It’s awesome for gift giving and the budget conscious! Six books is a huge investment, but three? Well, that’s a lot more manageable for those of us without much extra cash laying around. On the other hand, with the three book format I feel like I blinked and the whole adventure path was over. I didn’t get my hands on the first book until the third came out and I missed the Signal of Screams Adventure Path completely. In general, it’s both easier to collect and easier to miss. Although I enjoy the three book format, I also enjoy the six book format, so I hope they continue to rotate between the campaign lengths.

Against the Aeon Throne

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon all about? In short, the PCs defeated an Azlanti military force that had annexed the small colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet of Nakondis. But saving the fledgeling colony is just the beginning. The PCs have discovered that an experimental starship engine and their friend, the android Cedona, were already transported off of Nakondis and back to the Azlanti Star Empire. Determined to rescue Cedona and retrieve the starship drive the PCs travel to the Azlanti Star Empire and attempt to rescue Cedona from the prison moon she’s being held on. Exciting stuff!

Now, let me take a moment to be clear. The Azlanti Star Empire is a pack of giant, pompous, jerks. They’re great villains for the PCs to clash with, but an overwhelming opponent. This adventure path does not send your PCs off to take down the entire Azlanti Star Empire. It’s much smaller in scale than that. And frankly? I love it. It lends a sense of suspense to the series and makes it feel like you’re playing real people in a living breathing world universe doing what they can, rather than heroes so powerful they change the whole world universe. It’s a wonderful change of pace and scope. It’s got a very Firefly / Star Wars feel to it.

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself. Starfinder Adventure Path 8: Escape from Prison Moon (Against the Aeon Throne 2 of 3)  is a softcover adventure written by Eleanor Ferron that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level three to level five. The adventure itself is around 35 pages long, and split into three main parts: A Distant Call, in which the players travel to the Azlanti Star Empire; Outpost Zed, in which the players explore a space station and plan their caper; and Jailbreak, in which the players infiltrate the Prison Moon to free Cedona. After the adventure there’s an eight page primer on the Azlanti Star Empire and an eight page primer on the non-human races of the Azlanti Star Empire. There’s also seven new creatures in the Alien Archive, and a short Codex of Worlds article on Outpost Zed. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier 3 starship: the Vanguard Parapet.

My favourite parts of this book are the large number of new player races (there’s six of them), the incredibly varied and quirky NPCs (Glest, Half-Red, Xaarb, and Talmrin are all great fun), and how free-form the locations are. Yes, you have to go to ‘A’ place, and accomplish ‘B’ goal, then go to ‘C’ place, and accomplish ‘D’ goal, but how you go about achieving your goals in ‘A’ and ‘C’ — the order and methods — are up to you. I really like that. Another minor thing I really enjoyed is that every enemy has a name. It sounds like a silly thing to enjoy in an adventure, but giving every villain a name allows for PCs to take approaches to dealing with them that amount to more than ‘attack’ and ‘loot.’ That’s incredibly important in this adventure, particularly in Part Three: Jailbreak.

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS.

You have been warned.

Escape from the Prison Moon

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read and the colours are easy on the eyes. The cover art is wonderful. It showcases Cedona, an android, retired Steward, and ally of the PCs, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind her is an awesome image of Raia (the iconic lashunta technomancer) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) fighting off Azlanti prison guards.

The starship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Parapet. This tier 3 medium transport is destined to be the final enemy the PCs face in this adventure. All in all it’s a well-built ship, that packs some serious firepower. I particularly like how it’s shield points are balanced, with barely any shields in the quadrants where they have the most guns, and the excess shields where they have the least guns. The art is nice and the ship layout is useful.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts a bit slower than its predecessor. It begins with some necessary bookkeeping. The PCs likely have some loose ends and social encounters to wrap up in Madelon’s Landing after the conclusion of Reach of the Empire (Against the Aeon Throne 1 of 3) and they’ll need to upgrade their starship to tier 3. Afterwards they receive a recorded transmission from The Stewards which should help nudge them on their way and get the adventure going. For many groups this transmission is unnecessary. PCs should already know their goals for this one: retrieve the drive and rescue their friend. But, for those groups that need a little more guidance, this recording gets the job done quick and efficiently. The PCs will need to fly to the Azlanti Star Empire, get their bearings, and find their way to the Prison Moon Cedona is being held at. On the way they run into a witchwyrd merchant ship where they’ll have a chance to make friends, barter, and pick up some valuable intel. This social encounter also gives them a destination where they can learn some more about the Azlanti: Outpost Zed.

Glest
Glest, a nervous screedreep from Outpost Zed.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Outpost Zed. In this section PCs will need to travel to Outpost Zed, a rebellious little space station on the fringes of Azlanti space, figure out where Cedona was taken, and determine a way to properly disguise their ship. This is done primarily through interacting with the locals. Of course, not all the locals are friendly or willing to talk to obvious foreigners. Other hurdles the PCs will come up against are learning how to communicate with the locals, and figuring out Outpost Zed’s societal structure. As previously mentioned, this section of the adventure is a little free-form. There’s plenty of people to talk to, a section of the spaceport to explore, some quick battles (some of which can be avoided), and the PCs can go about their socializing in any order. However, they can’t really stray outside this area or get too off track. Still, it’s fun and enjoyable. Many of the NPCs they’re destined to meet are from races the PCs know nothing about.  I particularly enjoyed Glest (a nervous, shifty screedreep), Half-Red (a tiny squid-like stellifera that floats in an orb of water), Xaarb (an agressive creature who’s mostly mouth), and Talmrin (a very useful NPC who looks like a weasel-person). This section does a great job of showcasing that your PCs are obvious outsiders, which is something they’ll need to address if they want to break their friends out of prison without fighting their way through the whole place. Overall, it’s a fun, flavourful place to explore, filled with plenty of memorable social encounters. Before you move on, the PCs will need to take what they’ve learned and concoct a plan to travelling to and infiltrating the Prison Moon Gulta, for rescuing Cedona, and for escaping alive. Good luck! Haha. In all seriousness, the pieces of the puzzle the PCs need should come relatively easily, and there’s an NPC around who can help with the planning in a major way if the PCs are in need of inspiration or assistance. The actual planning shouldn’t be too hard once they’ve got their ducks in a row.

Glimmshar pirate
One of the many denizens of Outpost Zed!

Which brings us to part three: Jailbreak. This is by far the longest and most challenging section of the adventure. As the PCs approach Gulta, the prison moon, they should already know that non-Azlanti are typically held in Cell Block J. With their destination narrowed down considerably, they’ll need to disguise their ship, approach Gulta, and dock in Cell Block J. From there it’s more free-form. Depending upon what races the PCs are they’ll need disguises to manage any kind of infiltration mission. They’ll also need a way to speak Azlanti, someone who’s decent at lying, and someone who’s handy with a computer or at engineering. Then they’ll need to explore Cell Block J without tipping off the guards or raising an alarm. Plus there’s the security cameras and patrols to worry about. PCs who choose to go in guns blazing will instead need to be quick and get the security feeds shut down as soon as possible. Either way, once the PCs manage to get Cedona free (and hopefully some other prisoners as well), they’ll need to find a way to escape with her — a job much harder than getting in. Finally, before they escape they’ll need to contend with this volume’s big bad — an Azlanti woman named Iolastrila — and the Zandamant, a prison ship that pursues the PCs as they make their escape.

This section of the adventure is incredibly well presented, but not easy for GMs to run. It lays out the entirety of Cell Block J, what security measures are in place, labels every security camera, and shows where guards are located. Every guard has a name and some information about them — all useful information for PCs attempting an infiltration. There’s also notes on what things the PCs can do to raise or lower the alertness of guards, and cause alarms to sound. It describes what changes throughout the Cell Block in such circumstances, and what the various guards do. It’s really detailed, and really well thought out. Which is incredibly important! Your PCs are going to go in there and going to make a scene. GMs will need to keep track of what cameras are in operation, who’s suspicious of them, what the various guards are doing, and so on. It’s complex, and a lot to track. But pulling off this caper — both for the PCs and the GM — is a rewarding, exciting, experience. This place is dynamic, detailed, and reacts to the PCs. It will be different for every group and I really, really enjoyed it.

EronesseBy the end of this chapter the PCs will have freed Cedona, made their escape from the Prison Moon, and retreated to Outpost Zed. But their mission’s not yet complete. The PCs and Cedona know they need to get back the experimental drive from the Azlanti before its too late.

Which brings us to the end of Escape the Prison Moon! But, that’s not the end of Against the Aeon Throne, or the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is an incredibly useful primer on the Azlanti Star Empire entitled Empire of the Aeon Throne. This eight page article provides a short history of the Azlanti Star Empire, information on the solar systems under it’s control (there’s twelve of them!), and information on their culture, and society. Finally, it’s got some new gear, including five new aeon stones, four new magitech augmentations, and two new weapons.

Talmrin
Talmrin, a gosclaw from Outpost Zed.

The second primer is entitled Citizens of the Star Empire. Also eight pages in length, this section describes a whopping nineteen races common to the Azlanti Star Empire, most of which are new. Six of these races is also given much more information and full racial traits to allow you to play these races. Playable races include the brakim, gosclaw, neskinti, screedreep, stellifera, and vilderaros. I really enjoyed all of these races, but the brakim and screedreep turned out to be my favourites. The brakim are also featured in Starfinder Society Scenario #1-27: King Xeros of Star Azlant.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, four of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: Aeon Stone Network, a CR 7 construct made from a swarm of aeon stones; Radiation Drake, a CR 9 drake; Iztheptar, a CR 6 shellfish-like humanoid that’s featured in both Escape from the Prison Moon and Starfinder Society Scenario #1-27: King Xeros of Star Azlant; Ooheo, a tiny CR 1 vermin with a long harpoon-like tongue; Paralith, a CR 4 aberration they’ll meet on Outpost Zed; Void Palm, a CR 7 gravity controlling plant; and Xaarb, an aggressive CR 5 magical beast they’ll meet on Outpost Zed.

Against the Aeon Throne - Escape the Prison Moon - Paralith David Franco
Paralith by David Franco. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on the Outpost Zed. Despite its short length, the information contained therein is useful for this adventure, and a must read for any GMs who expect their PCs to do a bit more exploring of the space port than is scripted in this adventure.

OutpostZed Mirco Paganessi
Outpost Zed by Mirco Paganessi. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

And with that, Starfinder Adventure Path 8: Escape from Prison Moon (Against the Aeon Throne 2 of 3) has come to an end. So where does it go from here?

Against the Aeon Throne: Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit is written by Larry Wilhelm and intended for level five characters. In it, the PCs head to a secret Azlanti science station in an asteroid where the experimental starship drive is being held. They’ll need to get inside, infiltrate or fight their way to the Rune Drive, and learn what the heck it is. Then they’ll need to find a way to steal it. Along the way they’ll fight Aeon Guard soldiers, rescue captive scientists, and face off against the man responsible for sending troops to Nakondis in the first place! Awesome!

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the second volume of Against the Aeon Throne much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Archives of Nethys to host Pathfinder 2e

Archives of Nethys, an online database for official Pathfinder and Starfinder content and rules, recently announced the launch of their new website: 2e.aonprd.com! This new site will be dedicated to Pathfinder Second Edition and will launch on August 1st, 2019, at 7:00 am (Pacific Time). That’s right! It’s coming out the same day that Pathfinder Second Edition launches in print!

Exciting news!

Through the Archives of Nethys players around the world will have all the rules and characters options for Pathfinder Second Edition at their fingertips, online and free. I am absolutely ecstatic! I know cost is a huge factor to consider when deciding whether I’ll be able to give Pathfinder Second Edition a try. Seeing that barrier removed is amazing.

Add your bookmarks now, folks! Archives of Nethys: Pathfinder Second Edition Database. I can’t wait to check it out!

Until then, be sure to head on over to Archives of Nethys: Pathfinder Database and Archives of Nethys: Starfinder Database. It’s my favourite website to look up Pathfinder and Starfinder rules questions and player options. You can also follow Archives of Nethys on Twitter @NethysArchives.

For more information on Pathfinder Second Edition, check out this blog post.

Enjoy!

Jessica

The Wayfinders: Part Three: Danger in the Drift

Last year I shared my family’s experiences creating their first Starfinder characters. We had a lot of fun making a kooky crew, and tried them out a bit before deciding they would join the Starfinder Society. There were some changes that needed to be made. Tucker was a halfling, which would have to change, but otherwise the transition went smoothly. Then we sat down and played Into the Unknown. Life got busy. We moved on to play Starfinder Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth, which was great fun (for details check out this blog post).

But, my kids have WAY too many characters and not enough focus.

I’m a fan of creating a character and playing them through consistently right to the end. I want to play them every week. I want them to accomplish something amazing over the course of a long campaign. And when their story is done I want to know what happened to them. Did they retire? Get married? Ascend to godhood? Go insane? When their story’s complete I’m ready to make a new character and start all over again.

But, my kids? My kids love making new characters. They like hopping from story to story. But they also don’t like letting characters go. They want to play them all at the same time. There’s tons of them. An unattainable goal if I ever heard one! Haha.

In short? We rarely have time to take our Wayfinders for a spin.

The other day my daughter informed me that she wanted to create her own adventure. This isn’t the first time. She’s GMed for us before and brutally slaughtered us all. It’s partly because she doesn’t have much experience determining appropriate CRs, but it’s also because she’s incredibly lucky. Too lucky. It’s great when she’s a fellow PC but when she’s the GM? Look out! Monsters have awesome aim, enemies are so stealthy they might as well be invisible, and no opponent ever fails a saving throw. It’s not that she’s cheating! We don’t use GM screens in my house so we can all see her rolls, and I help her every step of the way. She’s just that damned lucky.

So when she said she wanted to GM something everyone groaned.

She looked so sad.

“Oh, no! She’s going to kill us again!” my son wailed.

“Be nice!” I scolded my son. Then I whispered to my husband, “She totally is…”

But, I smiled at my daughter and said, “That sounds exciting. Let’s do it.” Because it is exciting. Of course I want my kids to want to imagine, create, and GM.

So my daughter and I went to my room and peered at my bookshelf. Making a one-shot would mean everyone would create more characters, which we didn’t really have time for at the moment, so I suggested she create a mini adventure for Starfinder. Our Wayfinders were in the middle of a journey through the Drift from the radioactive planet Elytrio to Absalom Station. The timing couldn’t be better!

But, they were SFS characters… We decided to play the entire scenario off the books, using the stats for our characters but leaving our actual SFS characters entirely untouched. And while we were at it? Tucker might as well be a halfling again (in appearance).

My daughter thought about the Drift a bit, pulled down the Alien Archive, and got browsing. She stopped on creatures she took a liking to and we chatted about them, brainstorming ideas together. Some she liked and some she didn’t. She wrote down notes in her little Pokemon notebook. When she hit the end of the book she narrowed down her ideas and made some more notes and drawings. An hour later we were picking out miniatures and prepping the table. It was game time!

I started off the session by reminding everyone what we were up to. Where we’d been, where we were going, and who we were with.

Our crew consists of four Starfinder Agents that belong to the Wayfinders Faction. Hoponisa (Hops for short), is a ysoki technomancer from the dark side of Verces who loves to dance. She’s on a mission to find herself the ‘perfect mate’ and is handy both in the pilot’s chair, the engineering bay, and at a computer console. She has a robot rabbit dubbed ‘Snowball’ who is a glorified computer with some minor mobility that she crafted herself, then wrapped in fuzzy faux fur for ultimate cuddle-ability. It’s also her spell cache. Hops has been a Starfinder for a long time and is the person who recruited the rest of the crew into the Starfinder Society (before that they were mercenaries who did work for the Starfinders on a regular basis). Together, the gang travels the Vast, deploying drift beacons for credits at the behest of the Wayfinders. After discovering new planets, collecting data on their environments, and deploying drift beacons, the group prepares a report on the planet for the Wayfinders, which allows the spacefaring faction to better prepare proper Starfinder teams for further exploration on these locations.

Hops and the crew of the Pegasus Class ship, Infinity, have gone on plenty of missions together. Led by their Captain Aya, a wise, enigmatic kasatha mystic who believes that every life is precious, they’ve charted planets and discovered new places. Their roles on the starship change a lot, with the rest of the crew rotating between pilot, engineer, science officer, and gunner as the mood strikes them. Aya and Hops are joined by Tucker Aetherfoot, a ysoki (originally a halfling) operative with the daredevil speciality who’s nimble, acrobatic, and full of boundless energy. He wears a t-shirt with a shirren design on it (to represent his long-time friendship with the shirren Vishkesh), and wears a racing helmet with a rose-tinted visor and stylized mouse ears on the side (which was given to him by Hops as a birthday gift). Tucker’s insatiably curious, and runs a blog in his spare time about his experiences exploring the Vast. He’s a devout Desnan from Absalom Station, prone to dancing when he’s idle too long. …Even in the middle of a mission. Lastly, there’s Vishkesh, a shirren mechanic with a little flying spy drone named Rijin. Rijin is trained to help Vishkesh with repairing starships, and is also outfitted with a flare thrower. He’s a chipper little thing, with a bubbly artificial personality. Vishkesh has a fondness to caring for (and rescuing) larval shirren, and currently has a dozen dangling off of him in their protective canisters at all times. Vishkesh is the proud owner of a pig stuffed animal — a rare creature he’s never seen in in the flesh! He’s also from Absalom Station, and is a long time friend of Tucker’s. Vishkesh worships Hylax.

When they joined the Starfinders the crew of Infinity decided they needed a helping hand. They hired two rookies to assist them and round out their crew: Gizdara, a half-orc technomancer who’s a whiz with computers, and Diggs Drifthopper, a burly ‘rabbitfolk’ whose planet was conquered by the Vesk years ago. Diggs was forced into the military, but was recently allowed his freedom and was looking for work. He’s good with a gun, but not much else (which he can’t use in SFS play, as a non-combatant hireling, haha). Still, my daughter insisted on hiring him because he was destined to be Hops’ mate. (Uhhh… Okay? Haha). Diggs’ job is mostly to watch the ship while we’re away from it.

There’s one other person on their ship at the moment: the Membrane Ghibrani Klarima who they were bringing from her home planet of Elytrio to join the Starfinder Society. For now she was a passenger, but the group was teaching her everything they could of the universe as they travelled the Drift.

Travel aboard the Infinity
The crew of Infinity soars through the Drift!

With the recap out of the way my daughter took over, explaining that we had been in the Drift for a few weeks. All of a sudden the alarm blared and there was a strange flash of red light nearing the ship. LAVA!

Wait, what? How could there be lava in space?

My daughter gleefully asked for a Computers check from our Science Officer — Vishkesh at the moment — revealing that a piece of the Elemental Plane of Fire had been torn off and stranded in the Drift (quite recently by the look of it)! We were about to do some more research on this phenomenon when there was a burst of light. Lava and powerful heat blasts from the shard of the Plane of Fire was flying at our ship! Our pilot, Hops (which I was running on behalf of my daughter since she was GMing), flew like a pro, dodging lava balls, and super heated waves of energy. But a few moments later Vishkesh identified that our air lock had been opened. Something was on the ship!

We turned for the elevator only have it DING pleasantly.

As the doors opened Captain Aya ordered Hops, Diggs, and Gizdara to remain at their posts. Gizadara took over as Science Officer while Diggs took on the role of gunner and blasted through the hunks of rock flying at our ship. Vishkesh, Rijin, Aya, and Tucker leapt to their feet — too late!

A trio of fire elementals roared off the lift and slammed into the kasathan captain — the nearest target.

“The elementals are so angry! They must be lost and confused!” my son (Vishkesh) pointed out. Unfortunately, his understanding did little to calm the creatures. The fire elementals tore into Aya and scored multiple critical hits — curse my daughter’s luck! Haha. My kashathan mystic went down before she even had a turn.

Captain down!!
Captain down!

“Sorry, Mom!” my daughter said a little guiltily.

“It’s alright, baby. Aya will be fine.”

The battle continued, and wow was it a tough one! The fire elementals tore into Tucker while Aya slowly recovered on the ground with her SP. By the time she rejoined the fight her healing magic was sorely needed! Tucker was hanging on by a thread and Vishkesh was in big trouble! Not long afterwards the group rallied and took down the last of the exceptionally lucky elementals. But not before Tucker suffered some luck of his own — bad luck!

Crit Fail for Tucker
A critical fail for poor Tucker!

With the fire elementals defeated Vishkesh hurried to the airlock to get it locked down while Aya healed the wounds of her crew. Hops flew us out of the range of the planar anomaly and the journey returned to normal.

For a time…

Not much further away we came upon a strange group of asteroids that looked like they were all part of some kind of large complex — a metallic castle of some sort. It was clearly another broken planar shard torn from another world and deposited in the Drift by Drift Travel. Hesitantly, the group scanned the planar wreckage and detected signs of life. Not wanting to leave anyone stranded in the Drift, Aya ordered the ship to investigate the asteroids.

They flew past chunks of reddish rock, through space strewn with shards of glittering metal. Suddenly they saw a ship! It looked like a hunk of junk cobbled together from — well, junk! They turned on the comms to hail the ship only to be fired upon!

Battle stations!

Hops sailed the ship through space, dodging meteors and make-shift torpedoes, Vishkesh boosted the ships guns, Tucker fired upon the enemy, and Aya encouraged her crew. Although the battle shouldn’t have been challenging, it was — once again my daughter’s good luck conspired to destroy us.

Suddenly Vishkesh noticed incoming projectiles from somewhere other than the ship! One of the chunks of broken castle was inhabited! They fired cannons at the Infinity. Cannons that held… goblins in weird globs of goo! The goblin bombs splattered against the hull of Infinity! Unfortunately for the goblins our ship’s shields were too tough for them to penetrate! Most splattered on impact like giant bugs! But, armed as they were with sharp implements and hacking kits, it’s likely the goblins would have attempted to breach the hull or hack into the air locks to gain entry had our shields been depleted.

Suddenly a voice crackled over the intercom. “AHA! You smart-heads are good! You foil our goo-guns good! But we goblin pirates! Goblins attack and goblins snack! Or…. goblins want to snack! We hungry! Hand over your food and we let you go!”

Snowball Easter Bunny Chocolate Soop
Image discovered on Pinterest and chosen to represent Snowball in my home game. Art by Canadian artist DaCosta! under the studio name Chocolate Soop. Click here to check out their website.

Aya sighed in a rare show of impatience. “All lives are precious…” It sounded like she was reminding herself of this, instead of teaching the others as was typical. “We came here to lend aid to any stranded in the Drift. Surrender, Goblin Pirates, and we will forgive your attack. We have food to spare and tools to repair your Drift Engines. …If you have any.”

The goblin pirate laughed. “AHA! We win! We no shoot and you give us food! Yes! Come! Come to our home and give us many many food!”

“…” Aya decided it was best not to argue with a goblin. “Yes. Exactly. We’re coming in for a landing.” Looking at Hops she ordered. “Hops, take us down.”

“Yes, Captain!”

The gang flew their ship to the strange broken castle and landed — as best as they could. Floated nearby was a better description. After a space walk, Aya, Vishkesh, Tucker, and Rijin set out to meet the goblins. They were greeted by a snivelling, friendly little goblin — not the goblin pirate from before — and given a tour. The castle was hollow and without gravity except around its outer walls. Along these outside walls were small rooms that had both air and gravity — an anomaly the goblins couldn’t quite explain. Up near the broken ceiling (and any holes in the walls) there was a massive makeshift net — to prevent any goblins from accidentally drifting off into space.

On the tour the group discovered that the goblins weren’t just hungry, they were completely out of food! No wonder they had attacked!

But, the goblin had a plan. “Oh, you look so fat and not starving! Oh! Yum! Uh… Yum to your food! Not yum to you!” The goblin laughed, but Tucker was a little nervous. “We have much money to give you! Yes! Lots of shinies! Came here to steal shinies from castle, but ship broke! And shinies not good to eat! Nope! We have tried!” the goblin nodded. “Our King has shinies! You go see him and kill him and take them! And his pet! Must kill it too! Very smart it is. Smarter than King I think!” The goblin nods. “Then you take shinies and give us many many food! Yes! YES! Good plan! See?”

Rijin Jessica Madorran
Image discovered on Pinterest to represent Rijin in our home game. Art by Jessica Madorran. Check out her website for more information.

“Did some of you want to come with us?” Vishkesh asked.

Tucker groaned. “Oh, I don’t like that plan…”

The goblins around all cheered. “Yes! Oh, give us ride! But first take shinies! You take for food! And if you not want we take it and use it to buy more food when you get to… where you go! Me not care! Me want FOOD!”

With a sigh the group headed up to bargain with the King. “All lives are precious,” Aya reminded everyone. “This need not come to a fight.

Unfortunately, Aya was wrong. It did come down to a fight. The quartet faced off against the goblin king and his (definitely smarter than him) tashtari pet. For once my daughter’s luck didn’t trump our own and we made quick work of the angry pair. With the shinies and a ton of goblins in tow, the group reboarded the Infinity for the longest, most irritating trip they would ever endure.

Words of wisdom: Never let a pack of starving goblins on your space ship!


Our family had a lot of fun playing my daughter’s Starfinder adventure. Best of all? My daughter was happy she didn’t kill everyone. (Yay!)

Space goblins and fire elementals are from Starfinder: Alien Archive while tashtari are from Starfinder: Alien Archive 2. Pawns for all the mentioned creatures are available in Alien Archive Pawn Box and Alien Archive 2 Pawn Box. The statistics we used for the goblin spaceship came from Starfinder: Core Rulebook.

Thanks for joining us today! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my daughters adventures in GMing as much as we enjoyed playing it.

Jessica

 

5-Minute Dungeon

Welcome to d20diaries!

5 Minute Dungeon

Today we’re taking a look at a board game my kids recently got for their birthday: 5-Minute Dungeon! This real-time card game tasks up to five players with working together to escape a dungeon in under five minutes. Each dungeon consists of a randomized deck of cards that features obstacles, monsters, people, and events to overcome. At the end of each dungeon is a powerful boss to defeat. To beat the game you’ll need to triumph over five separate dungeons.

This game is frantic, fast-paced, and more than a little chaotic! Communication and teamwork are essential to your success. Player’s win or lose as a team. 5-Minute Dungeon is intended for players ages eight and up. Although a single dungeon takes five minutes, playing through a whole game takes about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending how many times you fail to escape a dungeon.

Box Contents

Players take on the role of one of ten characters by selecting a character board. Each board is colour-coded and double-sided, with one male and one female character per board. Every character board makes use of one of five matching decks, and every character has their own unique ability which can be triggered by discarding three cards from your hand. That means that up to five people can play at a time.

Characters include the blue sorceress and wizard, green huntress and ranger, purple ninja and thief, red barbarian and gladiator, and yellow paladin and valkyrie. Most of the special abilities of these characters fall into two types: those that help get someone in your group extra cards and those that automatically defeat a certain category of card. There’s also the wizard’s unique ability to stop time. We found that it was very helpful to play with the wizard and a character who can help the group draw cards, with the rest of the players taking on abilities that can auto-defeat either monsters, obstacles, or people. Once you’ve got your character picked out you place the matching deck on their board.

Next you set up the dungeon. Start by selecting a boss. There are five to choose from and each is numbered 1 though 5. You simply start at Boss #1: Baby Barbarian and work your way up to Boss #5: Dungeon Master. Each boss also has a number of cards written on it. Baby Barbarian has 20, The Grime Reaper has 25, Zola the Gorgon has 30, and so on. This is the number of dungeon cards you’ll randomly select and place on the boss board. Then you’ll pick out two challenge cards per player and shuffle them into the deck of dungeon cards. This is the boss’s dungeon. You simply place the deck of cards into the space marked with the dotted line and you’re ready to begin.

Boss

Player’s begin by drawing a number of cards. This number is variable and determined by how many people are playing the game. Chances are you’ll start with three or four cards. Then you start the five minute timer, flip over the first card in the dungeon deck, and get adventuring!

Cactus wants a hug!
To reach ‘The Grime Reaper’ you’ll need to defeat the ‘A Cactus that wants a hug.’ Oh, no! I hope you’ve got some shields….

This game doesn’t come with a physical timer. Instead there’s a timer app you can download on your phone, tablet, and other handheld device. It’s a quick download and easy to use. You simply select a voice for the announcer (I love the ‘fearful’ voice, but my daughter’s a fan of ‘spiteful’) and click start. Sometimes you’ll need to pause the game (such as with the wizard’s ‘time stop’ ability) in which case you simply push pause. If you defeat the dungeon you click ‘We Won,’ if you lose you click ‘We Lost’ and if you run out of time you don’t need to click a thing. It’s an enjoyable, humorous little timer app and my kids really like it.

There are four major categories of dungeon cards: event, person, monster, and obstacle. Events are the simplest to resolve. They each have a sentence explaining what you need to do, you do it, then you move on to the next card. Examples of events are ‘Sudden Illness’ which forces every player to discard their hand, or ‘Trap Door’ which forces all players to discard three cards. The rest of the cards — monster, obstacle, and person — have circular symbols on them. These symbols match the cards that you must play to defeat them. These cards can be played in any order and by any player. There are no turns. As soon as all the needed cards are played you have defeated the card, it gets moved to the discard pile, and you flip over the next dungeon card. Once all of the dungeon cards are defeated you will see the symbols needed to defeat the Boss.

This makes gameplay fast and chaotic, with players slapping down cards, shouting out what they’re playing, and calling out what’s still needed to defeat the card. It’s the sort of game where everyone feels a sense of urgency and excitement, and get’s a thrill of triumph when a card is defeated.

Enemy Types
The four types of cards you’ll find in a dungeon.

So what the heck are all these symbols?

There are five major symbols in the game, which are colour coded. These same symbols are seen across all the boss cards and all character decks. Called ‘Resources’ they include the red sword, yellow shield, green arrow, blue scroll, and purple jumping person (which my family always calls ‘sprint’ or ‘dash’ but is probably called ‘leap’). Every deck will have cards of these five types, although they will have them in different combinations. The red barbarian/gladiator deck will have a lot of red swords, for example, while the blue sorceress/wizard deck will have a lot of blue scrolls. In addition to these single symbol cards there’s double symbol cards — cards that have two red swords, two blue scrolls, and so on. These are seen in much lower quantities than the single symbol cards, and not every deck will have them in every kind. While the sorceress/wizard deck may have a few double scroll cards, the huntress/ranger deck won’t. One of the decks — the red barbarian/gladiator has special double symbol cards which consist of a red sword and a second other symbol.

The rest of the cards found in the character decks are black bordered and have a special ability written on them. The most common are abilities that let you auto-defeat a certain category of dungeon card. ‘Fireball’ defeats a monster, ‘Backstab’ defeats a person, and ‘Mighty Leap’ defeats an obstacle. These are super useful cards which can be found throughout all of the different coloured decks in differing quantities. While the sorceress/wizard has a lot of ‘Fireballs’ the ninja/thief has more ‘Mighty Leap’ and ‘Backstab’ cards. Finally, every colour deck has some unique black bordered ability cards. ‘Enrage’ from the red barbarian/gladiator deck lets you choose two players who may draw three cards each. ‘Divine Shield’ from the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck pauses time until someone plays a card and lets every player draw one card. ‘Magic Bomb’ from the blue sorceress/wizard deck counts as one of each type of resource. My personal favourite card? ‘Heal’ which lets you select a player who can put their entire discard pile back on top of their draw pile. Awesome!

Card Types 2
The many card types found in 5-Minute Dungeon

As mentioned, every deck is different but equally useful. You’ll soon discover which play style you prefer and find a favourite, so I highly recommend trying each deck out. I love the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck best — particularly when played with the valkyrie character who can help her fellow players draw cards. The yellow deck has a lot of different healing cards, which I find can be incredibly helpful. My son, on the other hand, prefers the to play as the blue wizard. He’s a huge fan of the wizard’s ‘Time Stop’ ability — which is so helpful I’d go as far as to call it a necessity. He also loves the ‘Magic Bomb’ card which can only be found in the blue deck. Finally, my daughter prefers to play as the green huntress — solely because she loves the art. To each their own, I guess. Haha.

With all the decks in their places, cards in hand, and the timer started, play can begin. There’s a few other rules you need to know, but not many. Whenever you have less cards than your opening hand consisted of you can immediately draw cards to fill your hand back up to maximum. Discard piles do not get shuffled back into the draw pile once the draw pile is empty. This means that if your deck ever runs out you can no longer draw cards — unless someone plays a card that gives you cards from your discard pile or something similar.

Winning will take teamwork, speed, and luck. If you win you reshuffle your decks, select your character (you do not need to keep the same character throughout all the dungeons), set your boards back up, and build the dungeon for the next Boss. When everything’s ready you begin play again. If you defeat all five dungeons you win the game.

If you ever fail to defeat a dungeon you’re supposed to reset, going all the way back to the Baby Barbarian and his dungeon again, but my family didn’t like this rule. Instead we just replayed the dungeon we were on.

We’ve played this game quite a few times. Sometimes we finish it all the way through, and sometimes we only play a round or two. My kids and I really like it. They enjoy the teamwork aspect, and that they can always be playing. There’s no waiting for your turn or getting beat on by your friends. It’s fun and fast. It’s not a game for everyone, though. My husband doesn’t really like it. He’s a fan of strategic, complex games. Chances are whatever game we’re playing he’s going to be that player taking the longest turns. Unsurprisingly, the chaotic, real-time gameplay of 5-Minute Dungeon is not to his tastes. It’s also not the kind of game you can play anywhere. Players are going to get loud. Although you could bring to a party, family gathering, or friend’s house, it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to bring to play at the library, local coffee shop, laundromat, or airport. Finally, it’s not the sort of game you want to let the kids play late at night. Mine get antsy, excited, and leap and jump around. Not really a relaxing, winding-down sort of game.

All in all, we really liked 5-Minute Dungeon — especially my son. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and enjoyable. My only complaints? I wish the boss cards were double sided so you could choose which of the two to face off against and I wish there were more dungeon and challenge cards included in the game so the dungeons felt more varied. But, I suppose wanting more of a game isn’t much of a complaint. More like a wish list. Haha. 5-Minute Dungeon is a pretty easy game to find that currently retails for around $30 Canadian. Our copy belongs to my eight-year old son, and made an excellent gift. He loves it.

Happy gaming!

Jessica

Heroes from the Fringe

Hello adventurers! Today we’re taking a peek between the covers of Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes from the Fringe! This delightful softcover book from Paizo Inc. focuses on a variety of non-human cultures and societies. The races explored in this book are dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, and halflings — each of which has multiple heritages and cultures examined. There are also a few paragraphs on Tian ratfolk and the merfolk and sahuagin of Outsea.

Cover

Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes from the Fringe is a soft cover book that is 32 pages in length. As a book in the Player Companion line, it’s aimed at players, which means that you won’t find a ton of world lore or secrets inside. Instead you’ll find character options — things like archetypes, feats, traits, spells, and more. The cover features dynamic art by Setiawan Fajareka which depicts the Iconic swashbuckler Jirelle and the Iconic bloodrager Crowe battling a pack of yetis in a snowy mountain pass. Why does a book about non-human races show a picture of a human on the cover? I don’t know! Technically there are a few traits in this book which could be taken by humans from specific regions, but none of them are meant for Shoanti characters. Whatever the reasoning, the art looks cool so I’m not complaining.

The front inside cover features artwork of a single mundane cultural item from each race along with a short paragraph of flavourful information on each object. There’s an Ekujae wand (elf), Sandkin holy symbol of Sarenrae (half-orc), First World gnome mask (gnome), Pahmet axe (dwarf), shoreborn trident (half-elf), and — my personal favourite — the Segada pouch (halfling).

Heroes of the Fringe - Intro - Alyssa McCarthy
Illustrated by Alyssa McCarthy. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

After this is the table of contents, the rules index, and the introduction which contains nine new traits tied to specific regions and cultures. Many of these traits can be taken by a variety of races. I really enjoy ‘mechanical expert’ for characters from Alkenstar and ‘resourceful scavenger’ for characters from Numerica, but it was ‘cliff strider’ for characters from Arcadia that was my favourite. This trait allows you to climb five feet without provoking an attack of opportunity for your movement as a move action, even if you don’t have a climb speed. Awesome! I’m always a fan of characters who can climb, so it’s a trait that’s sure to see some use. Next time I make and Arcadian, anyway. …Okay, so it might take me a while to get around to using that one. Haha.

Heroes of the Fringe - Dwarf - Priscilla Kim
Pahmet psammokinetic. Illustrated by Priscilla Kim. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Moving on from the introduction we come to six pages on dwarves. Six dwarven heritages are explored: desert dwarves, Mwangi dwarves, Ouat Caste dwarves, Pahmet dwarves, Paraheen dwarves, and Sky Citadel dwarves. Each of these heritages also discusses which already printed alternate race traits they’re likely to select, and comes with a single new alternate race trait. I most enjoyed reading about desert dwarves and Mwangi dwarves, but it was the alternate race traits for desert dwarves (‘desert delver’) and Pahmet dwarves (‘death’s end’) that I liked the most.  After the heritages there are new character options intended for dwarves of some of these cultures (although most of these options can also be taken by non-dwarves). There are two archetypes, seven weapons, and nine feats. The ‘psammokinetic’ is a lawful, monk-like sand kineticist common among the Pahmet dwarves. Believing the desert can burn away their imperfections, a ‘psammokinetic’ lives an ascetic life in the desert. Capable of bending sand, earth, and super-hot air to their wills, they also gain access to some ki powers which they can use to empower their kinetic blasts, bolster their AC, and increase the speed. I love this archetype. Of course, I also love dwarves and kineticists, so that’s not too surprising. The ‘symbol striker’ is a bloodrager archetype common among Sky Citadel dwarves. Capable of using rune-based magic they can place spell runes on their weapons, or rune traps on the battlefield. They also have useful and thematic spell-like abilities and treat linguistics as a class skill. The new dwarven weapons are the axe gauntlet (available either heavy or light), giant sticker (a polearm), pellet bow (available either heavy or light), ram hammer (a one-handed weapon), and sphinx hammer (a two-handed weapon). Of the new feats its the ‘cloak of stone’ feat tree and ‘hammer throw’ feat tree that I liked best.

Mwangi Dwarf
A fire-breathing Mwangi dwarf.

ElfThe next six pages are all about elves. There are six heritages discussed, each with it’s own list of applicable alternate race traits and a new alternate race trait. Elven heritages include aquatic, Ekujae, Forlorn, Jininese, Spiresworn, and Snowcaster. I most enjoyed reading about the Jininese and Spiresworn elves. There are three archetypes in this section, but unlike the dwarven ones these are for elves only. The ‘calamity caller’ is a warpriest archetype intended for Ekujae elves that can call down the fury of nature and natural disasters at will but does not gain the focus weapon or sacred weapon abilities (this is my favourite elf archetype). The ‘twilight speaker’ is a skald archetype intended for Snowcaster worshippers of Findeladlara that grants access to some nifty raging songs  (improved devotion, song of understanding, and song of secrecy). The ‘warrior poet’ is a samurai archetype intended for Jininese elves which is a graceful, lightly armoured combatant that dances across the battlefield. All three are very cool! Other elven character options include the ‘Order of the Songbird’ samurai order which values beauty, art, and life; two new sanctuary-themed bardic masterpieces (Findeladlara’s refuge and hymn of sacred lands), and three new magical items crafted by the Spiresworn elves (northern star ioun stone, southern star ioun stone, and farspear).

Up next is four pages on gnomes and although there’s less content, it’s no less exciting. In fact, many of my favourite character options and both of my children’s favourite character options are for gnomes. There are three gnomish heritages discussed in this section with each getting two new alternate race traits instead of one: Bleachlings, First World gnomes, and Segada gnomes. I don’t know much about Segada gnomes (or Segada at all) so it was my favourite gnomish heritage to read about. There’s only one archetype up for offer, but it was my daughter’s absolute favourite. ‘First World Caller’ is a wizard archetype that grants your familiar the fey-creature template and later grants them fairy wings. ‘First World Callers’ can summon fey creatures with summon monster spells, and can warp the world around them. My daughter can’t wait to use this ability to make an area completely without gravity. Haha. She’s really excited and is planning on making her next Pathfinder Society character a gnome wizard (first world caller). Likely in conjunction with the ‘spark of the uncanny’ feat from Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins that gives your familiar the ability to speak. Other gnome options include the ‘whimsy’ emotional focus for phantoms (which is a ton of fun!), ‘bleaching’ psychic discipline, three new spells (pernicious pranksters is my favourite), and one new bardic masterpiece (wildsoul aria). Perhaps one of my favourite parts about the gnome chapter is a delightful piece of artwork that shows a bleachling spiritualist being teased by his whimsical phantom. Look closer and you’ll realize that the phantom isn’t the spirit of a dead gnome, but the spirit of the bleachling’s old self. His joy literally died. I love it! Haha.

Bleachling Spiritualist
A bleachling spiritualist with his whimsy phantom. But wait! Those two look awfully similar…

Half-elves are up next, followed by half-orcs. Both of these chapters have a lot in common. They’re both four pages long, both feature a vigilante archetype, and they both look at five different heritages. More than that, each of these heritages is one that has already been printed in Pathfinder Player Companion: Bastards of Golarion. Each has a paragraph of information on it and one alternate race trait. After that each has one feat. This feat and the rest of the character options are new additions.

The half-elf heritages examined are shoreborn (with the trait ‘child of the sea’ and the feat ‘gifts from the sea’), darkborn (with the trait ‘thinblood resistance’ and feat ‘strength in defeat’), wildborn (with the trait ‘jungle affinity’ and feat ‘sense allies’), spireborn (with the trait ‘Mordant envoy’ and feat ‘pinch time’), and snowborn (with the trait ‘cold-honed’ and feat ‘twilight words’). Other half-elf character options include the ‘half-elf double scion’ vigilante archetype which allows you to appear as a different half of your heritage (elf or human) in each identity, two new pieces of equipment (I love the poisoner’s buckler!), two magic items (seashell diving mask and soothing stole), two feats (be sure to check out ‘citystep’!), and two spells (false age and mark of spite).

Half-orc heritages discussed are gloomkin (with the trait ‘evader’ and feat ‘unraveler of secrets’), sandkin (with the trait ‘burning assurance’ and feat ‘dawn’s blessing’), rainkin (with the trait ‘warded skin’ and feat ‘great expectations’), cragkin (with the trait ‘cliffside charger’ and feat ‘precipice strike’), and frostkin (with the trait ‘unflinching valor’ and feat ‘frozen skin’). Unlike half-elf, there are two half-orc archetypes up for offer. The ‘ferocious hunter’ vigilante archetype allows a half-orc to pass for human in his social identity and then appears as a proud half-orc in his vigilante identity. ‘Terror weaver’ is a psychic archetype which is sort of like a scary enchanter. I think it would be a lot of fun. Finally, there are two half-orc feats: ‘lead by example’ and ‘solitary survivor.’

Terror Weaver - half-orc psychic
A half-orc terror weaver.

Halflings are next, but they have a very short (and not very exciting) chapter. Two heritages are included, each of which has two alternate race traits. Segadan halflings (with the traits ‘festive’ and ‘small quarter ally’) and Song’o halflings (with the traits ‘danger detection’ and ‘evasive nomad’). After this there’s four new magical items (check out the scatter sling!) and a series of four sling equipment tricks.

The last two pages of the book discuss a few other unique cultures. The ratfolk of Tian Xia are getting some love with a very cool ninja archetype called the ‘gunpowder bombardier’ and two new ninja tricks. And the residents of Outsea — both merfolk and sahuagin — get some new options. Merfolk have the alternate race trait ‘unexpected ally’ while sahuagin have the alternate race traits ‘sahuagin song’ and ‘stoic defender.’ There’s also a new combat style called ‘sahuagin blood frenzy’ which includes three feats.

And that’s it! The end of Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes from the Fringe! I’m a huge fan of learning about other cultures (real or imaginary), so I really loved getting to see details on and character options for a lot of non-human societies. It’s brief, but fun. Unfortunately, I do have one complaint about the book I’ve yet to mention: cover quality. My copy of Heroes from the Fringe has a cover that’s a tiny bit smaller on one side than the pages inside the book, which means the pages are going to get the heck beat out of them in a short time — particularly when my children flip through it. It’s not a big size difference, but it’s enough of a difference to be irritating. I’m sure if I complained I could send it back for a new copy, but I’m way too easygoing to go to all that effort for a  few millimetres. Haha. Even with the slightly shrunken cover it’s a good book and I’m happy to have it on my shelf.

Thanks for checking out d20diaries! I hope that taking a peek at what’s inside this Player’s Companion helped you decide if this is the right book for you. There’s plenty  of great books out there (and I know I’m not the only one who can’t afford them all!).

Shop smart!

Jessica

 

Shackled City: Part Nine: Return to Cauldron

It’s been a while since we talked about my family’s current home campaign, Shackled City. We haven’t stopped playing — far from it. But we’ve been so busy lately it’s hard to find the time to play anything at all, let alone write about it. So while I have a free moment let me welcome you back to Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path!

When we last left off our heroic musicians had finally returned home to Cauldron. They had saved a lot of people and brought down an underground slave ring, but they were ill at ease. Someone else knew about the slavers and had done nothing. Who were they? And what about the people they had failed to save? The people who were sold to unknown parties before our heroes were even hired to find them… Were they gone forever? Could four kooky members of an up and coming band possibly brave the Darklands to track them down? No! Surely they couldn’t do anything so foolish! ….Or could they…?

If none of this sounds familiar you can read this blog post, which details our characters, or continue on with this article to hear a quick summary and jump right into the action! You can also check out our previous adventures in Shackled City: Part OneShackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!Shackled City: Part Three: Jzadirune, Shackled City: Part Four: Enter the Malachite Fortress, Shackled City: Part Five: This Place is the Pits!, Shackled City: Part Six: KazmojenShackled City: Part Seven: Bad Luck, and Shackled City: Part Eight: Reunion.

The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.

shackled city adventure path d20diaries


The Heroes

Our eccentric heroes are all members of ‘Dinorabbit,’ a musical band that changes its name frequently and was most previously known as ‘Boople Snoot.’ The band’s lead singer and song-writer is Falco Rhiavadi, a foppish noble bastard of mixed Tien descent whose father was devoured by a dragon when Falco was just a boy. A well-groomed, handsome man with an easy smile and a winning personality, Falco’s a black sheep among his family. Mechanically, Falco is an oracle of life whose familiar is a jealous and demanding thrush named Ruby. Falco is played by my husband.

Mick Frimfrocket is a gnome with dark blue skin, bright pink hair that stands straight up on his head, and light blue eyes with flecks of red around his pupils. He’s energetic, bold, and loves nothing more than a good laugh! Mick acts as the band’s pianist and creative director. He’s the driving force behind the band’s constant name changes, and over-the-top performances. Mick was born in the gnomish enclave of Jzadirune but was brought to the city of Cauldron to escape the Vanishing. Orphaned by the mysterious events and with few memories of those early years, Mick was raised in the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same orphanage that recently had four children kidnpapped right from their beds! Determined to save those little scamps, Mick was very excited to take up this missing person’s case and follow it to its conclusion — particularly when he realized that it led through his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. Partway through exploring Jzadirune he came into possession of a broken magical construct. He’s played by my seven-year old son.

Rabbity Castalle is a rabbitfolk waitress who works at the Tipped Tankard Tavern. A dancer and singer for the band Dinorabbit, Rabbity also has a pet panther named Panthy. She’s lucky, nimble, and quick, but a little skittish. A co-workers of hers, Griffin Malek, was one of the recently abducted people, so she was very keen to solve this mystery and return him home. Rabbity is a hydrokineticist played by my six-year old daughter, using the rabbitfolk race. Rabbitfolk are a Pathfinder Compatible race created by my daughter (with some help) which will one day be published in the upcoming Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion by Sunburst Games. Rabbity recently ‘befriended’ (she thinks) a vicious howler named Prickles. What could go wrong?!

The final member of our party is Aeris Caldyra, a local locksmith who was cajoled by her roommate, Rabbity, to join the band as a percussionist and set designer. With few friends to call her own, Aeris relented to the rabbitfolk’s request and is the least talented member of the band. The last worshipper of Alseta in Cauldron, with more than a few secrets and regrets, Aeris is a suli bloodrager with a chip on her shoulder. Always one to lend a hand, like her Grandfather Marzio once would have done, Aeris was determined to rescue the missing citizens of Cauldron. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City Adventure Path.


shackled city cauldron
The jungle city of Cauldron, located in the bowl of a dormant volcano.

The members of Dinorabbit and their newly liberated Cauldronites arrived in Cauldron to little fanfare. They brought the people they had freed from slavery to the Church of Abadar — the group who had hired them to find four missing orphans — and spoke with it’s current leader, Jenya Urikas. The authorities were called and the group had just enough time to ask about Terrem Karatys, one of the four children they had been tasked to save. Terrem had been free by our heroes only a few moments before a monstrous beholder had appeared and stole him away again. They admitted their failings to the Priestess, who looked confused.

“Oh? You didn’t save Terrem? Well, he is here safe and sound. He arrived on our doorstep before any others.” She counted out the coins she owed the group for saving three of the four children and handed it to them with a smile. “A pleasure doing business with you.”

My family was more than a little confused. Why would a beholder go to the trouble of stealing an orphaned kid that they had saved from slavery just to bring the kid home? And this beholder… He wasn’t the only one interested in Terrem. The Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild also wanted the boy. In fact, they had gone as far as tasking the orphanage’s janitor, Patch, with keeping an eye on him. Strange… Our heroes tried to speak with Terrem, but the boy would say nothing.

Suddenly the town guard arrived and everyone — victims, heroes, and even some priests — were brought to the Garrison for questioning. The PCs were interviewed over and over by the authorities. The guards looked for holes in their story. Incongruities that might show they had something to do with the kidnappings… They were lectured on the legality and dangers of vigilanteism. Informed that the entirety of Jzadirune and the Malachite Fortress were off limits — it was an active crime scene, after all. The poor musicians were so busy they barely had a moment to stop and breathe. After a few days they received one last warning from Terseon Skellerang, Captain of Cauldron’s city watch, and were sent on their way.

On the way out they ran into Krylscar Endercott, a town guard who was among those that had been abducted from his home by dark folk and then saved by Dinorabbit. Although he was badly wounded when they found him, he grinned at the sight of them and asked for a blade. The stubborn fool was a big help in getting everyone home safe. They chatted with him a bit, and bid him farewell.

cauldron.jpg

Upon re-entering the city for the first time in days they were shocked to discover that although their deeds were well known, their identities were not. A heinous crime! While Aeris returned to work at her locksmith shop, the rest of the band spent some time spreading word of their triumphs and of an upcoming performance — which they had yet to schedule. The next few days were marked with frivolities — writing, practising, performing, rumourmongering, and so on. Falco took these responsibilities very seriously, intent on milking their newfound fame for all it was worth.

Rabbity discovered that Griffin, the friend she had worked so hard to save, was out of a job. He had been replaced as bartender and was now stuck waiting tables. Also, Rabbity had been fired. She hadn’t been into work in nearly a week and left no word as to why, so that wasn’t too much of a surprise. Still, my daughter was a little insulted. She also worried about her pet howler, Prickles, who was currently locked inside the Malachite Fortress, hopefully not killing (or being killed by) the investigating city guards. Deciding they needed to sneak into Jzadirune and save him before he got into trouble, Rabbity concocted a plan. She looked into the people who they hadn’t saved and picked out one whose home was close to Jzadirune — 52 Ash Avenue, the home of skinner Rikaldo Veskar. Rikaldo had a tiny, blood-stained, stinky home that had been abandoned 37 nights. Knowing that he had been sold to unknown buyers in the Darklands and wouldn’t be returning, my daughter set out to purchase the building from the city. She sought guidance from her friend Ruphus Laro at the Church of Abadar and determined the steps to take to buy the building. It cost more than she had, but she managed to convince the group it was important. They pooled their money and bought the house. Then Rabbity asked Falco to start using his stone shape spells to tunnel out a passage from their new junky home to Jzadirune. With some luck and planning they’d be able to get to Prickles before he killed anyone. Hopefully….

Mick was equally busy. He spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he could legally get his hands on Jzadirune. Deciding he needed help he sought professional guidance from the Church of Abadar, just as Rabbity had. With their legal advice he put together a plan to legally acquire the underground complex. And so he set out to track down the original ownership paperwork, and the living descendants of Jzadirune’s founders. There weren’t many of them. Only six. So Mick set out to barter with them over ownership, in the hopes they would turn it over to him. Hopefully, when all is said and done, he could legally claim the property from the city.

Aeris spent her time working, patrolling the town, and looking for a sign that matched the mysterious Kingfisher symbol they had discovered on a letter written to the slaver Kazmojen. She discovered nothing.

There was plenty the group did together, as well. They visited the orphanage, Church of Abadar, and all the other people they had saved, double checking they were safe, healthy, and reintegrating back into society. Patch was fine and back at work. Apparently he had managed to keep his affiliations with the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild a secret. The orphans were a little traumatized — all except for Terrem who seemed unconcerned over the entire ordeal.

Krylscar had returned home to find his parents hadn’t even been looking for him. Turns out they thought he had robbed them and fled the city — the jerks! He was trying to find himself a new place to live, but not having any luck. At work everyone treats him like a weirdo and he’s angry that they never saved him. In fact, he was generally an angry guy. Still, he had friends. He remained close with his pal Griffin, and often showed up to hang out with the members of Dinorabbit. They knew he wasn’t some shifty loser. They knew he was a good guy. (My family really grew to like this guy! Haha).

Jasper and Jeneer had gone back to work like nothing had happened. Jasper teaches math at Bluecrater Academy, and Jeneer is a jeweller’s apprentice. The group saw Maple, a suspected member of the Alleybashers gang, on the streets from time to time, but she never stayed to chat. And Coryston Pike, the retired adventurer, made it home, but hadn’t been seen around town since.

But, not everyone had recovered. Sondor (the dwarven cartwright), Deven Myrlzal (a teenage human lamplighter), and Irruth Mercadi (a chandler), were all traumatized by their experiences. They wouldn’t talk. They just sat still, scared, and sad. Currently they were at the Church of Abadar, but they would need to head home soon. As Priestess Jenya Urikas plainly pointed out, the Church of Abadar was not in the business of charity.

When the group discovered that Keygan Ghelve had been arrested they went to visit him. My kids were a little upset about his fate. Did he really deserve to be arrested? Out of fear he had helped the kidnappers and slavers, but he had also fought alongside our heroes to free them again. Of course, he had done that only because the group had forced him to… In time they realized that Keygan’s fate was out of their hands. Instead they offered to take care of his rat familiar, Starbrow, and his home. It took some bargaining and a signed contract, but Keygan agreed to transfer ownership of his home and locksmith shop to the members of Dinorabbit on the condition they took care of Starbrow, they did not sell any of his paintings or his grandfather clock, and they didn’t bring their meddlesome pets into his home. When he was released from prison, ownership of his home and shop would revert to Keygan. Keygan was grateful, and they began to feel a little better about this whole ordeal.

In time they discovered a vandalism problem in Cauldron. Someone had been painting words on buildings in goblin. Things like “Murrd wrote this!” “Snurk smells like dung!” and “Drakthar has bat ears!” Luckily, Mick could speak goblin and was pretty sure the culprits were a gang of goblins. Which was absurd! Everyone knew no goblins lived in Cauldron! Determined to prove he wasn’t crazy, the group stayed up late a few nights, attempting to catch the vandals red-handed. Although they came close, the only thing they managed to earn was a scolding from the guards for suspicious behaviour. Whoops!

One day the group received a summons from the Mayor’s Office. They hurried over and were told that the mayor — Lord Mayor Severen Navalant — wanted to host a ceremony in honour of their deeds. Although it was clear he was hoping to use their newfound celebrity status to bolster the public’s opinion of him, the band didn’t mind. They wanted to do the same to him, after all. Together they made some plans and the party was scheduled, with Dinorabbit making a headlining performance. The Mayor also asked about their experiences under Cauldron and their opinions on what should be done about Jzadirune, the Malachite Fortress, and the passages to the Darklands. Mick took this opportunity to share his plans to acquire full ownership of Jzadirune while Rabbity petitioned for her ‘beloved’ new pet Prickles to be returned to her at once! The Mayor smiled and assured them he would take it under advisement. The group was skeptical he would, but had little choice but to accept him at his word.

The days leading up to the festival were hectic, with even Aeris practising as much as she could. They put on a lot of other performances, both big and small. My family was happiest to earn themselves a performance at both the Cusp of Sunrise (a fancy social club that was for the nobility) and the Coy Nixie (a fancy restaurant where they first began their adventure). Before they knew it the party was upon them. Much to their surprise the mayor named them ‘Champions of Cauldron’ — a position which he later assured them had no real responsibilities to go with it — rewarded them the deed to Jzadirune, and gave them a new task: putting an end to the goblin vandals that have been irritating the town! Both shocked and pleased at this turn of events, the gang agreed. Not that they were given a choice…. Haha. After the ceremony the party began, and my family had a blast describing their performances and songs. The night ended with fireworks, and a few angry scowls from Captain Skellerang.

The next day would see them busy again. Plans had to be made for Jzadirune and Prickles had to be liberated. The Lord Mayor’s secretary informed them that the Malachite Fortress would be turned into a guard post for the Town Guard so that the entrance to the Darklands could be properly protected. This, of course, meant that they would need to have engineers remodel the entrances to both Jzadirune and the Malachite Fortress a bit. Both the members of Dinorabbit and the Town Guard had to be able to access different parts of the complex without traipsing through the others space. I handed my kids a map of Jzadirune and asked them for their ideas. They also got to make plans for the engineers to fix up some of Jzadirunes broken walls and tunnels while they were at it — courtesy of a small grant provided to them by the Mayor’s Office. A surprise my kids found very exciting! Even more exciting? The group got to visit Jzadirune and Rabbity retrieved Prickles. Happily he did not try to devour her. Yet.

By the time Dinorabbit left Jzadirune and began to walk home they were greeted by rain. More than that. It was a downpour. Fall had come to Cauldron, which meant the rains would continue for a few weeks more, at least. It was misty out. Cool and dark. There was a chilling howl on the wind — like that of a wolf. On the side of Aeris’ locksmith shop was more goblin graffiti.

“Who builds town in volcano? Stupid humans!”

The gang sighed.

Tomorrow they would need to put aside their ambitions and get to work. The had a gang of vandals to catch.


Behind the Screen

The Shackled City Adventure Path is a difficult to get your hands on adventure path published in eleven separate Dungeon Magazines, or available in hardcover from Amazon here or from Paizo Publishing’s website here. The first adventure, Life’s Bazaar is available in Dungeon Magazine #97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here. A copy of the premade player handouts is available from Paizo here.

Despite being a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Path, we’re running this campaign with Pathfinder (both the campaign setting and the ruleset). Our characters utilize content from many sources, some of which are listed below.

The shaman and the bloodrager classes, as well as the bloodrager archetype spelleater, can all be found in the Advanced Class Guide. The urban bloodrager archetype can be found in Heroes of the Streets. The Kineticist class can be found in Occult Adventures. The monk and bard are base classes found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook (or in a convenient travel-sized edition: Core Rulebook (Pocket Edition)  while the prankster archetype for bards can be found in the Advanced Race Guide.