Wilderness Origins

Wilderness OriginsReady to get wild?

Today we’re taking a peek between the covers of Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins! If you’ve been reading d20diaries since its beginning you’ll know that my family and I adore Ultimate Wilderness. My kids love the races introduced — particularly the adorable vine leshys — and my entire family enjoys the shifter class. In fact, each of us have at least two shifters. Needless to say we were excited to get our hands on Wilderness Origins. My husband was hoping for more shifter options, my kids were hoping for more vine leshy options, and I was… Well, I was just hoping someone in my family would find something inside the book that they’d make use of right away.

We were not disappointed.

Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins 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. You’ll find archetypes, feats, traits, spells, and more! Wilderness Origins features amazing cover art by David Alvarez, which showcases the iconic shifter, Zova,  engaged in battle against an earth elemental.

Wilderness Origins - Plant Journal
The inside front over of Wilderness Origins.

The front inside cover features brief information on a few plants described in the book alongside some sketches. The entire page is presented as if they were entries in a scholar’s journal, which is a nice touch. Although no important information is contained here that can’t be found later in the book, it’s nicely showcased. Plants depicted include ambrosial lotus, cleanthistle, ghostblossom, and a ghoran seed. There’s also art of a gathlain’s wing and a leaf leshy.

After this is the table of contents, the rules index, and the introduction which contains eight new regional traits themed around different terrains. Each trait is printed alongside an example background for each terrain, that emphasize how you can embrace nature and your environment. Guerilla tactics and surefooted ascent are sure to be popular, but fruit merchant and strong stomach turned out to be my favourites. Environments covered by these traits include the desert, road, forest, jungle, mountain, swamp, tundra, and coast.

Moving on from the introduction we come to six pages of new shifter options. It features a whopping nine new shifter aspects, all of which are pretty cool. The new shifter aspects are boar, crocodile, dolphin, dragonfly, electric eel, mantis, octopus, scorpion, and spider. Electric eel is my favourite, but my son LOVES the boar aspect. He immediately made a gnomish boar shifter for Pathfinder Society Organized Play and was super excited to give it a shot. Unfortunately, we suffered a TPK that weekend and poor Sid’s career was cut short. Still, my son loved the character and made a ton of use out of the boar’s minor aspect, which gives you diehard as a bonus feat.

Wilderness Origins - Feyform Shifter
A half-orc feyform shifter from Wilderness Origins.

After the shifter aspects are three new archetypes, dragonblood shifter, feyform shifter, and swarm shifter. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, with the dragonblood shifter allowing  you to take on the aspects and forms of a variety of dragons, feyform shifter granting you some tricky defences and the ability to transform into fey beings, and swarm shifter allowing you to turn into a swarm of bugs. They’re all really cool, but dragonblood shifter turned out to be my favourite. My husband’s a big fan of the swarm shifter, though, and he’s not going to be the only one. It’s a really useful archetype which is sure to see a lot of play.

Also in the shifter chapter are thirteen new favoured class options, seven new feats (be sure to check out chimeric aspect, greater weapon shift, and raking claws), and my favourite new option for shifters: alternate natural attacks. Each shifter aspect currently released (new and old) has a list of alternate attack forms they can select in place of claw attacks. Bears have a bite attack, for example, while boars have a gore and a hoof. Any time you activate your shifter claws you can choose to take an alternate natural attack from your animal aspect options in place of one of your claw attacks. This changes the damage type and the way your natural attacks look, but otherwise functions as the shifter’s regular claw attacks. It’s a really nice option I’m happy to see available.

Up next are two pages on each of the races introduced in Ultimate Wilderness — gathlain, ghoran, and vine leshy. The new gathlain options include five alternate race traits (arboreal vitality, fey resilience, and whimsical outlook are my favourites), seven new feats (mighty boughs and strength of wood are my favourites), and one new archetype. Sworn of the Eldest is a Charisma-based inquisitor archetype that I really enjoyed. Particularly the magic of the Eldest ability, which swaps out teamwork feats for some extra spells and spells per day.

Ghoran options include four alternate race traits (check out intoxicating aroma and magical absorption), three feats (I love spell mirror), two new spells (pinecone bomb and woodland rune), and the new ninja archetype petal ninja, which lets you transform into a cloud of flower petals.

Wilderness Origins - Leshy - Nathanael James
Vine leshy verdivant. Illustration by Nathanael James. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Vine Leshy options include four alternate race traits (lashvine and writhing eye are awesome!), four new feats (we like bounteous body best), and the cavalier archetype verdivant. This turned out to be both my kids’ favourite archetype — which came as no surprise since they both love vine leshys. The verdivant archetype lets you to have a plant mount, and enables you create effloresces, which are explosive plant growths that can be used a number of times per day and have some cool effects. While one might form a wall of vines to prevent attacks of opportunity, others can make you walk on air, or even give you and your allies fast healing. Effloresce replaces the cavalier’s banner and tactician abilities.

Up next in Wilderness Origins are two pages themed around flowers. It starts by introducing four new magical plants, ambrosial lotus, cleanthistle, ghostblossom, and gravebane petals. All four are surprisingly useful, but I think I like the cleanthistle best. It’s a great plant to add into my family game of Iron Gods. There’s also five awesome new witch hexes. I honestly had a hard time picking my favourite. My daughter loves leshy summoning, my son loves verdant familiar, and heralding bloom is going to be really useful for some characters. In the end its the floating lotus and iceplant hexes I’m most likely to use. Floating lotus conjures a flower that you can stand on to walk over water or gain a bonus on jump checks while Iceplant makes the witch and her familiar’s flesh harden, granting them a natural armour bonus and and the effects of endure elements. Finally, there’s a new alchemist archetype in this section: perfumer. This alchemist creates atomized perfumes in place of potions, an can distill pheromones that augment your Charisma, diplomacy, and bluff checks in place of mutagens. Very cool!

The next two pages are entitled Wardens of the Wild and involve kami. There’s a new kami eidolon subtype for unchained summoners, ward aspects for hunters to make use of, and the new spiritualist archetype ward spiritualist. This archetype allows a spiritualist to purposesly seek out a kami to bond with, and grants them a ward implement which can either be an object or their own body. With their ward implement they can gain occultist focus powers. They can also merge their kami with their implement to empower their implement in battle. I’m a huge fan of both spiritualists and occultists, so I’m totally biased to love this archetype. Haha.

Wilderness Origins - Scorpion - Beatrice Pelagatti
Scorpion familiar. Illustration by Beatrice Pelagatti. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The next four pages are packed full of options for our animalistic pals — animal companions, familiars, and mounts. It starts with two animal companion archetypes: apex species (which gives your companion benefits in certain terrains) and unexpected intellectual (which makes a vermin companion more intelligent). Then there’s three familiar archetypes: occult messenger, the super creepy parasite, and arcane amplifier (my personal favourite) which grants your familiar the ability to use some metamagic feats on touch spells they deliver. Following these are seven feats which can be taken by animal companions, familiars, and their owners. Three are relevant to familiars, three to animal companions, and one is relevant to both. I really like the animal companion feats curious companion and friendly face, but it was two familiar feats that turned out to be my favourite. Changeling familiar gives any familiar capable of changing shape the ability to transform into a child or teenager of their master’s race, while spark of the uncanny gives your familiar the ability to speak. Awesome! (My kids are absurdly excited for this one!) A few levels later you can swap it out for improved familiar. Next up are descriptions of five breeds of mounts along with a trait for each of them (these traits count towards their master’s total number of traits). Finally, there’s an expanded companion list for cavaliers paladins, and rangers.

The following two pages talk about the totem spirits of the Shoanti, with nine new totem rage powers geared at members of the Lyrune-Quah (moon clan), Shundar-Quah (spire clan), and any ancestor-revering character. There’s also a new shaman spirit, tribe.

Wilderness Magic is up next, with five new arcanist exploits, three disaster themed spells, and the psychic archetype Magaambyan telepath, which blends druidic magic and wilderness themed powers with the psychic. Wild stride and wooden flesh are my favourite arcanist exploits, while flash flood — a sixth level spell on the druid, shaman, and sorcerer/wizard spell list — is my favourite spell.

Wilderness Origins - Fire Steed
The iconic kineticist Yoon riding a fire steed.

Similar to magic, the following two pages are all about elemental power — specifically fire. First up is the flame steed spell, which conjures a mount made of fire. Continuing this theme is a new archetype, the cinderlands adept, a fire-based kineticist that gains a loyal mount and is based on the Burn Riders of the Sklar-Quah (sun clan). Finally, there are eight new kineticist talents — one form infusion (elemental trap) and seven utility talents. My favourites included fire corridor and the fire steed tree. I’m a huge fan of both the Shoanti and kineticists, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover these new options.

By now there’s only a few pages left. Two pages of character options themed around the sea and sky. It starts with two more archetypes — a very interesting paladin archetype called champion of the cascade and esoteric starseeker, a psychic archetype based around Golarion’s constellations. Following this are two very cool (and disconcerting) oracle curses that have to do with decay: putrid and scourge. Finally, there’s three new ki powers: floating breath, racing current, and zephyr blow.

And that’s it! The end of Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins! My whole family loves this player companion. It contains a lot of fun options for all our favourite parts of Ultimate Wilderness — shifters, gathlain, ghoran, and vine leshys — and pays some loving attention to the many different pets you can acquire. It’s rare that we get to make in-game use of a d20 book right after reading it, but this one immediately inspired us to create something new. It was well worth the investment for my family.

Thanks for joining us today! I hope you enjoyed taking a peek behind the covers of Wilderness Origins.

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Mantisbane Pact: Release

One of the play-by-post campaigns I am lucky enough to take part in is run by the wonderful GM Zek on Paizo’s messageboards. The campaign is called the Mantisbane Pact, and it takes place in Golarion, the world of Pathfinder. Mantisbane Pact involves an alliance of powerful monarchs and rightful rulers who come together to destroy the Red Mantis Assassins and their god, Achaekek. Our players would act as their agents, travel to Ilizmagorti (a city firmly in the grasp of the Red Mantis Assassins), and work to bring the entire organization crumbling down.

A few weeks ago I shared a short story I wrote as part of the application process to get to play in the Mantisbane Pact. In it we met my character, a smart-ass, jaded slayer named Kilarra Calvennis. Throughout the course of this campaign the GM and players have had the opportunity to write a variety other vignettes and flashbacks, often from the perspective of our shaman, who can view moments from the past by using the Akashic Record.

Today I’m sharing with you a flashback from Kilarra’s life I wrote when our shaman (Talia) attempted to discover why Kilarra was out of prison, despite being sentenced to life in jail for patricide. After today it will be available on the d20 Stories section on our website. Enjoy!

Jessica


Release

Its dark.

Cold.

Talia feels like she’s laying on something hard and rough. A stone floor?

There’s sounds. Women crying, wailing voices, a distant scream of pain. Breathing close by — Kilarra perhaps — it’s hard to tell in the dark.

Time passes. There’s the sound of something falling to the ground and tumbling around. It sounds like a dice, but it’s likely a stone. There’s a bit of a slapping sound, then a scraping, as if whoever dropped it was picking it back up.

It falls again. Slap. Scrape. Silence.

It falls again. Slap. Scrape. Silence.

In the distance the crying continues. Different voices, the same sounds. A sigh, a scream, denials, and tears.

“Please! I’m innocent!” someone can be heard to call above the din. A young woman by the sounds of it. “I didn’t kill him!”

Nearby someone scoffs. Talia recognizes it as Kilarra. “No one cares,” she mutters under her breath.

“Yeah, I’m innocent, too!” a different voice calls out. It’s deeper, and clearly mocking the crying woman. “I didn’t kill nobody!” The voice breaks out into a cackling laugh.

The young woman devolves into sobs.

The stone falls. Slap. Scrape. Silence.

Eventually something changes. There’s a lightening of the room. It’s subtle at first, but soon becomes light enough to see vague shapes.

Kilarra’s pale and thin. Her lip is cut and swollen, and a poorly healing wound on her face is clearly going to become the familiar scar she bears to this day. Kilarra lays on her back in a bare, stone cell, staring up at the ceiling. She fiddles with a tiny dice in her fingers, dropping it on the floor, covering it, and picking it back up again. Her other fingers tug on the hem of her ‘dress.’ She wears a filthy sack with a few holes cut in it for her arms and head that looks like it once held potatoes. The fabric’s rough and little bugs scurry around amongst it’s loose fibres.

Behind her is a wall of bars. Outside there are other cells, filled with women of varying ages. Some cry, some speak to themselves, but most sit in resigned silence. The other woman across the hall wears pants and a shirt, has a pallet of hay, a blanket, and a chamber pot — luxuries Kilarra’s cell does not possess.

The world continues to brighten. The walls turn red and the flickering of an open flame can be heard. The light suddenly spills into Kilarra’s cell, and stops.

From her place on the floor Kilarra raises an eyebrow. She rolls onto her stomach, pushes herself up to standing and stalks over to the bars. She grabs hold of them, her knuckles bloody and bruised, and leans her face up against the bars.

Outside her cell is a man in shining armour. He holds a torch in one hand, and a bag in the other. Kilarra’s eyes drift to his belt where she sees a keyring and an empty scabbard — the sword is nowhere to be seen. She smirks, apparently finding that funny.

As Kilarra grabs hold of the bars the guard — a young man, really — steps back quickly. He’s jumpy and nervous.

“You forgot your sword, kid,” Kilarra remarks with a curled lip. “Better go get it before the warden finds out. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I’ve got nowhere else to be.”

The man shifts uncomfortably, then straightens himself. “It’s not lost. I — “

Kilarra chuckles then nods at the package. “You bring me a gift?”

The young guard clears his throat. “Step back,” he orders.

Kilarra smirks and takes a few steps back. She leans against a nearby wall and crosses her arms. The man steps closer, pauses, and looks at her, then quickly shoves the bag between the bars and steps back.

“You finally returning my chamber pot?” she asks.

“What? No, its…”

As the guard stutters Kilarra opens the bag and pulls out a blouse. She scoffs in disgust and shoves it back in the bag. “What’s the matter? Warden tire of his other whores?” She tosses the bag on the floor. “Tell him I bite. Hard.”

The fresh-faced guard looks confused for a moment, either unsure what Kilarra’s talking about or unsure why she’s angry. “No, it’s… You’re free.”

Kilarra scoffs aloud. “Free. Seriously?” She scoffs again and shakes her head.

The man nods. “By order of the Warden, you’re to be set free.”

“Why?” she asks skeptically.

“Good behaviour.”

Kilarra bursts out laughing.

The guard shifts uncomfortably. “Could you… put on your clothes? You can’t go outside like that. It’s unseemly.”

Kilarra’s laughter fades to silence. She watches the guard for a moment, wary and on edge. Eventually she takes off the rough sack and tosses it to the ground, then empties the bag out and starts getting dressed. There’s a blouse, pants, boots — familiar looking clothes Talia’s seen Kilarra wear every day.

The guard blushes and turns around, giving her privacy — an act which causes her to let out another cackling laugh.

“This place is going to eat you alive, kid.” She laughs some more, then approaches the bars. “Ready.”

The guard unlocks the cell. “Follow me.”

Taldor
The flag of Taldor. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Kilarra slips out behind him, following the guard down the hall. His torch illuminates the cells they pass — some of which are as spartan as Kilarra’s, but most of which have hay, pallets, chairs, simple beds, blankets, one even has a flickering candle and a pile of books. The prisoners are all female of varying ages, some cry, some beg, but most simply watch with tired, hopeless eyes. A few of the prisoners give Kilarra a nod as she goes. A few others step back in fear.

At the end of the hall is a pair of barred doors flanked by armoured guards. Above them is a massive painting of Grand Prince Stavian the third. Words underneath it read: A crime against the empire is a crime against yourself. Repent, Obey, Serve.

Unlike the guard walking with Kilarra, these men are hardened and unafraid. They each draw their swords at her approach. One sports a broken nose and a missing front tooth. He snarls at the sight of her.

She smirks. “Love the new look.”

“Listen up, you bit—“

Kilarra’s laughter drowns out the man’s words as the young guard quickly unlocks the door and ushers Kilarra through it.

They travel through more corridors and gates, up stairs and through a few checkpoints. Wherever Kilarra was being held, it was a long ways underground. The sort of place where the prisoners are never expected to leave alive.

As they travel the halls get lighter, and the torch is left behind. Kilarra squints into the dim light as if she were looking into the sun. In time they reach a large room. One final gate blocks the way to the prison’s main hall. One final gate to freedom.

A rotund man wearing nobleman’s finery and a deep sneer scowls at her. “I don’t know what strings you’ve pulled, but it won’t last.”

Kilarra smirks. “Hello, Warden. Fancy seeing you here.”

“You’re a degenerate!” the man spits. “You may be free now, but you’ll be back. Scum like you always comes back.”

“Aww,” she replies with a sarcastic pout. “I’ll miss you too.”

The warden stands seething in front of the gate. He takes a deep breath, nods at the guards, and clenches his fists. As the guards unlock the doors he speaks in a grand voice. “Kilarra Calvennis. In the name of Grand Prince Stavian the third, long may he rule, you are hereby released for… good behaviour…” he spits at Kilarra’s feet then straightens himself. He waves his arms through the air, clearly deciding she’s not worth reciting the rest of the words. “I hereby release you. Now go, before I arrest you for loitering.”

Kilarra strides out of the gate, hurries through the waiting room and bursts out of the doors onto the busy streets of Oparra. She squints into the sun and takes a deep breath. Slowly, a smile spread across her scarred face.

“Kilarra Calvennis?” a voice calls out.

Blinded by the sun, Kilarra’s smile slips. A fleeting look of panic crosses her face. A moment later it’s replaced by a look of determination.

“Who wants to know?” she calls back.

But before the voice can reply the vision blurs and fades, leaving Talia back in her own body.


Want to read more about Kilarra? Be on the look out for more vignettes and flashbacks in the coming weeks!

Want to learn more about Golarion, Taldor, Grand Prince Stavian III, Kyonin, Ilizmagorti, Mediogalti, and the Red Mantis Assassins? Check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea and explore Golarion for yourself! For more information on Taldor you can also check out Pathfinder Companion: Taldor, Echoes Of GloryPathfinder Campaign Setting: Taldor, The First Empire, or play the War for the Crown Adventure Path which begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path 127: Crownfall (War for the Crown 1 of 6).

Dungeon Mayhem

My kids love games of all kinds. Not surprising, I know. Most kids love games of one kind or another. But mine REALLY love games. This year for their birthdays they decided that they have enough toys. What they wanted was some new board games.

“But, awesome board games, Mom. Really good ones.”

So they did some research, made lists, did some more research, discovered a love of Dice Tower, and revised their lists until they each had a (much too long) list of board games they wanted. Although our birthday celebrations aren’t over yet, they’ve both had a few parties with family and were thrilled to find they got some new games. Most of what they asked for are large, complex games. But a few are short, easy to learn card games. You can expect to see a lot of board game reviews in the coming weeks, but today we’re starting short and sweet, with Dungeon Mayhem!

Dungeon Mayhem

Dungeon Mayhem is a Dungeons & Dragons card game for 2 to 4 players. Games are short and fast-paced, with a round averaging about five minutes. It’s a small, portable game, with the rectangular box about the size of my hand. It’s the perfect size to bring with you on the go or play in compact spaces. We bring it to the laundromat, for example. Intended for ages eight and up Dungeon Mayhem lets players take on the role of an iconic hero and battle it out.

The game is super easy to learn and surprisingly fun to play. First, you choose a character. Each comes with their own unique deck of cards, hit point card and tracker, and a reference card. Youngest player goes first and play continues clockwise. You start with three cards in your hand. On your turn you draw a card and play a card. You start with 10 hp and when you reach 0 hp you’re out of the game. Last adventurer standing wins.

Contents 2
Box contents!

There are four heroes to choose from: Sutha the Skullcrusher (a female half-orc barbarian), Azzan the mystic (a male human wizard), Lia the Radiant (a female elf paladin), and Oriax the Clever (a male tiefling rogue). Each adventurer has their own deck that plays differently, but with the same basic mechanics so it’s easy to pick up any one and just play. Each card features illustrations by Kyle Ferrin showcasing the different characters in a fun-loving, cartoony style. Many cards have clever, entertaining, or familiar names. The cards each have a variety of symbols on them which tell you what each card does. The symbols are all easy to understand and, if you ever forget what they do, each character has their own unique reference card to remind you.

There are five symbols that appear in every character’s deck. A swords deals one damage to an opponent, a shield blocks one damage dealt to you, a heart heals one hp, a card lets you draw one card, and a lightning bolt lets you play one extra card. Although some cards in the decks contain a single symbol on them, most have a combination or two or three symbols. These symbols appear in different combinations and quantities throughout the decks, making each one different. The paladin’s deck has a lot of healing, for example, while the rogue’s lets you play a lot of cards, and the barbarian is the only character who can do four damage at once to a single enemy. In addition, each deck has a few unique symbols and cards. Sutha the Skullcrusher can deal one damage to each enemy and then gain that much hp with her Whirling Frenzy while the wizard Azzan can swap life totals with another player by playing Vampiric Touch.

Contents

There’s a few other rules to the game, but not many. Typically when you play a card it gets discarded, but if you play a shield card it instead is placed on the table in front of you. For each damage it prevents it gets a damage counter, and when it’s been completely destroyed the shield card is removed from play and placed in the discard pile. If you happen to use up all the cards in your hand (you’ll need lightning bolt cards to do this, which let you play an extra card on your turn) you can draw two additional cards. And if your deck ever runs out you simply reshuffle it and keep playing.

Pretty simple!

While playing we found that this game was super simple to learn, teach, and understand. You get the hang of it quick, and games are fast and exciting. Since you’re battling each other there’s definitely a ‘take that’ feel to this game. Some rounds you’ll feel picked on if you get defeated quick, but others are more balanced. It just depends on the strategies of your opponents at the time. My kids often decided the best strategy was to kill me and then duke it out themselves, so I was brutally ganged up on a lot. Haha. They quickly realized this was a poor strategy when my husband also joined play, as he often teamed up with me so that he didn’t have to combat a pair of allied kids on his own. (How the tables have turned!) My daughter is an expert at the old ‘kick them when they’re down’ strategy, very often dealing ruthless finishing blows against whoever happens to be doing the worst. …Even if it might be against her brother who she was supposedly allied with. Clever girl. Haha.

The decks are fun, varied, and balanced. No one deck it better than the other, they’re just different. Although it’s not immediately apparent what the differences are between the decks it becomes clear pretty quick. Lia, the paladin, deals a lot of damage and heals a lot of her own wounds. Her special abilities include Divine Inspiration, which lets her put any card from her discard pile into her hand and then heal two hp and Banishing Smite which destroys all shield cards in play and then lets her play an additional card. This was my daughter’s favourite deck, and my second favourite deck. While my daughter prefers Divine Smite and her beloved steed Fluffy, I’m a big fan of the Finger-wag of Judgement and Divine Inspiration. This deck is tough to take down and enjoyable to play.

Paladin
Some of the paladin’s cards.

While my daughter and I loved the paladin, my son and I both decided the rogue, Oriax, was out favourite deck. Packed full of cards that let you take extra actions, this deck often lets you play more cards than your opponents. It’s also got some enjoyable tricks, particularly with Clever Disguise, a card that prevents you from being targeted by any cards until the start of your next turn. It’s particularly great for forcing your allies to duke it out at the start of the game, which is likely to result in them retaliating against each other in subsequent rounds. A nice little start! We also really like using Pick Pocket to play a card from someone else’s deck. Need healing? Grab a card from the paladin. Want to wreck your opponent? Snag a card from the barbarian. Want to get a nice full hand or play something tricky? Take a card from the wizard. Sure, it won’t always be what you were hoping for, but I’ve never seen it not be useful. One downside to the rogue is that he only has one way to heal himself: Stolen Potion. Although it lets you heal one hp and play another card (which is great) it does mean that when you’re low on health it’s hard to save yourself. One hp once in a while doesn’t do much. I also love Sneak Attack. It’s art and theme bring a smile to my face every time. Haha.

Thief
Some of the rogue’s cards.

It should come as no surprise that the barbarian’s deck deals a lot of damage. In fact, they have the only card in the game that can do four damage against one enemy (Rage). They also have the awesome Whirling Axes, which we mentioned earlier. What might be surprising is how balanced it is. It’s got some solid shield cards (my daughter loves the dogs Riff and Raff), ways to draw cards (Open the Armory and Snack Time), ways to heal (Snack Time and Whirling Axes) and ways to destroy a shield with one card (Mighty Toss). Although none of us named this deck as our favourites, it also turned out to be the most played deck and both my son and husband’s second favourite decks. Sutha is a fearsome foe!

Barbarian
Some of the barbarian’s cards.

Which leaves us with the wizard. At first glance, Azzan’s deck is the most balanced. He can do everything well, but doesn’t have the most of anything either. Burning Hands and Lightning Bolt are some of his most reliable damage dealing cards. Magic Missile is my favourite, as it lets you deal one damage and play an extra card. Stoneskin and Mirror Image are great shield cards. Knowledge is Power gets him a lot of extra cards while Speed of Thought helps him play those cards fast. His one downside is a lack of healing cards. Eventually we came to realize he does have the most of something very important: TRICKS. His three unique cards include Vampiric Touch, which we already mentioned. This card lets him swap hp totals with another player — which can be game changing. Charm lets him take someone else’s shield card that’s on the table and use as his own — also awesome. And Fireball deals three damage to every player (including himself). My daughter’s prone to hoarding fireballs, using Charm to steal someone else’s defences, and then blasting a bunch of fireballs to kill everyone at once while she hits behind her stolen shields. Cheeky thing. Haha. Although Azzan’s deck is just as easy to use as everyone else’s, it’s also the deck that is most rewarding when played with some forethought.

Wizard
Some of the wizard’s cards.

We really enjoyed Dungeon Mayhem. It’s not a complex, tactical game like some of our others, but it’s a fun, quick, romp you can bring with you anywhere. We hope they come out with an expansion that contains another two or four decks. It’d be great to have more deck choices and play with more than four players. Happily, this deck was quite affordable. Our copy was only $18 Canadian. Well worth the money.

Jessica

Dungeon Mayhem Contents
Some of our favourite cards for each deck.

 

The ABCs and 123s of D&D

Today we’re taking a look at two delightful books released by Dungeons & Dragons for kids: The ABCs of D&D and The 123s of D&D. Intended for young children, these books offer kids a first glimpse at the world of Dungeons & Dragons while teaching the alphabet and counting to ten. Both books feature whimsical artwork by Caleb Cleveland, and catchy rhyming couplets written by Ivan Van Norman.

The ABCs and 123s of D&D

I recently picked up both of these books for my young nephew, who is soon to turn five. Not only does he adore them, but both of my children (a boy aged eight and a girl aged seven) also found them thoroughly entertaining. I was impressed by their quality and content. The art is perfect for kids, with colourful, whimsical illustrations that hide all kinds of secrets — clouds shaped like dice and towers made of books, for example. Delightful little tidbits that kids will discover as they get a bit older.

I is for Imagination

“I is for IMAGINATION. What’s YOUR favorite tale?”

B is for Book

“A is for ADVENTURE, our journey has begun.
B is for BOOK, the source of all our fun!
C is for CREATURES of every shape and size.”

Although I expected The 123s of D&D to be shorter than The ABCs of D&D, that wasn’t the case. Yes, the ABCs of D&D covers the entire alphabet, with typically a letter per page. And yes, the 123s of D&D covers the numbers one through 10, with one number per two pages. Technically that would make it shorter, but after counting to to ten there’s a lovely mini bestiary that features a sentence or two about the creatures depicted throughout the book — all written in rhyming couplets. What a pleasant surprise! I’m really happy they included it and all the kids loved it. It immediately inspired them to start making up stories of their own with the creatures. My daughter’s favourite was the almiraj, of course (she adores rabbits and rabbit-creatures of all kinds).

123s of D&D

“We begin with ONE Dungeon Master telling a story of daring deeds, the adventure of TWO heroes and their brave and noble steeds.”

Bestiary

“All these monsters you can meet when playing D&D. So have fun on your adventures, and save a spot for me!”

My kids and I thought that The ABCs of D&D and The 123s of D&D were wonderful, entertaining, inspiring little books. Despite being written for young children, they’re of interest to any kids that still love a picture book. Really wonderful work!

Jessica

Many Happy Birthdays!

My kids have a birthday this month.

Both of them.

It’s on the same day (although they’re not the same age) but that doesn’t mean their birthday is over quick. My husband and I have a small house but a big family, so it’s not just one birthday party for the pair of them. It’s one birthday party for the pair of them at least four times. Add to that a convention, work dinner, and parties with their friends, and suddenly the whole month is gone. Plus there’s my brother, grandpa, niece, and nephew, who all ALSO have a birthday this month.

March is crazy around here.

But today I’m taking the time to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to the two goofiest, sweetest, most imaginative kids I know. Why on my blog? Because they wanted the world to know they are now the very dignified ages of seven and eight.

Milestones, I know. Haha.

While we’re at it, why not spread the cheer further? My birthday kids want to wish a Happy Birthday to all of you, no matter where you are or when it falls.

All the best!

Jessica
(and family)

Birthday Cake 1
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Adventures at RetroCon!

My family and I don’t often have the chance to attend conventions. We don’t usually get to play Pathfinder Society or Starfinder Society games in person. We play a lot via play-by-post (which is a ton of fun) and we play a lot in small family groups. But to actually play in a public venue? That’s a new experience for us.

So, when we discovered that there would be a convention just down the road from our home how could we say no?

I wasn’t sure my kids would behave. Would they remain focused in a noisy room? Would they sit still long enough to get a whole game in? My son’s a fidgeter, and he fiddles with everything, so I was more than a little skeptical. Would we drive our poor GM bonkers?

Most likely.

But, my kids wanted to go, and my husband wanted to go, and of course I wanted to go. So we went.

In the week leading up to RetroCon we decided to make new characters. We have plenty of PFS characters to choose from but my kids wanted to make some that actually matched the minis we own. My son picked out a snazzy little halfling mini and rolled up a gnome shifter to match it — with the new boar options from Wilderness Origins (more on Wilderness Origins in an upcoming blog post!). My daughter chose one of the only minis she personally owns and created a hunter (her first one!). Determined to make use of an adorable little badger mini she owns she selected one as her animal companion. Yes, you read that right. She finally made something that does not involve a rabbit! GASP! My husband made a dwarven warpriest of Cayden Cailean with a mini we picked up from the flea market this past summer. And I was determined to use of one of my painted minis — which means there aren’t many options! Haha. I’ve only painted minis once and, although I had intended to use the four minis I painted right away, none of them ever saw use. I hummed and hawed a bit until I picked up my wealthy looking noblewoman mini and I created an over-enthusiastic librarian who has spent her life reading about the world and was thrilled to finally go out and experience it.

RetroCon Team

We spent the morning packing and double checking our game time. My kids were practically bouncing off the walls in excitement (which is both a good and bad sign! Haha!). It’s a quick walk down the road, but the sidewalks are an icy, rough mess, so that slowed things down a bit. Luckily no one took a spill or got soaked. We had more than enough time to get settled and say some hellos before our GM arrived and the game got started.

Our GM was really great. He had my kids laughing a lot and was super patient. My kids weren’t the most attentive players, my son kept fixating on off-mission activities, and my son made some of the worst tactical decisions of his short PFS career. We probably drove the GM crazy. Haha. Anyway, my kids had a ton of fun. People were saved, villains were defeated, fish were thrown around, my daughter uttered the battle cry ‘nibble nibble,’ and my arcanist finally left the library.

And then we died.

Yup! Total party kill in the final fight. My kids were both in tears.

My son cheered up a bit when he won a special boon — he’s pretty sure he’s going to apply it to Fuzzzy (his forgetful wizard). My daughter didn’t win anything, but someone was walking around handing out bee folders which she assumed was a prize and happily  claimed. She seriously loves this folder. She’s been cooing over it all evening.

By the time we were packed up and on our way home both of my kids decided that — despite having to suffer through their first character death, first PFS character death, and first TPK all in the same afternoon — they had fun. By the time they got home they were already discussing their next characters and when we would get to play next. (I guess we’ll be attending another Game Day in the future). It turned out to be a good first convention for them — tears and all.

Jessica

Near death
We had a good start. The final boss went down quick! Unfortunately, his undead minion did not. A few rounds later and it was the only one still standing. 

The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guides

A new series of Dungeons and Dragons books aimed at children is scheduled to launch this summer! The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler, and published by Ten Speed Press (a part of the Crown Publishing Group). The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures‘ and ‘Warriors and Weapons,’ both of which are already available for pre-order. There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series are intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D.

Dungeons & Dragons - Monsters & Creatures - A Young Adventurer's Guide
Monsters and Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide

Monsters and Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated guide to the many beasts of Dungeons and Dragons. Featuring one-of-a-kind entries for some of its most memorable monsters, and over 60 brand new illustrations, this book is sure to ignite the imagination of young readers (my kids can’t wait!). Creatures are sorted by the regions they call home, beginning with underground creatures, moving up onto the surface with aquatic, field, graveyard, forest, and mountain dwelling creatures, and finally ending with airborne monsters. Each monster profile contains information on the size of each beast, its danger level, and tips for how to survive an encounter with one. This book also features “introductory ‘Encounter’ stories so readers can practice the problem-solving skills they’ll need to fight these monsters when they play a D&D adventure of their own.” Awesome!

Dungeons & Dragons - Warriors & Weapons - A Young Aventurer's Guide
Warriors and Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide

Warriors and Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated introductory guide to the many kinds of warriors you can create in Dungeons and Dragons, along with the weapons, armour, and adventuring gear that they’ll make use of. Featuring one-of-a-kind content and over sixty new illustrations, this book gives young adventurers the information and inspiration they need to create their own characters. It includes “sample profiles, a flowchart to help you decide what type of warrior to be, and brainstorming challenges to start you thinking like an adventurer whether on your own or in the midst of an exciting quest with friends and fellow players.” It’s important to note that this book is NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbookand does NOT contain game mechanics or rules. It lays out the major concepts in a way that easy to understand, approachable, and engaging. It’s meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules.

“These books have beautiful art, concepts, and stories to engage readers and get them thinking first and foremost about their character and the places they’re going to adventure in without any rules for them to worry about. It’s a creative toolkit focused on character and story,” Jim Zub was quoted as posting on twitter. “Give these books to a new player, get them excited about the possibilities, and then bring them to the gaming table to show them how those concepts and ideas flourish with a roll of the dice. […] We really hope that experienced Dungeon Masters will embrace these books as a way to introduce D&D to their kids or their friends and that schools/libraries will see them as a fun and engaging way to encourage creative writing!”

My kids are thrilled with this news. (Yet another reason for them to look forward to the summer! Haha!). I can’t wait to see what they look like up close.

Jessica