After playing a Pathfinder Society Scenario a while back with my husband and children, I expected to be playing a few more in the near future. They’re short, fun, and don’t require a long-term commitment. Since my husband’s already playing in two other long-term campaigns with family (Reign of Winter and Mummy’s Mask), and a campaign with my children (Carrion Crown), I figured this would work out well.
And we had fun! So much fun my husband got an itch to start another new campaign. Just the other day he asked my kids if they wanted to play Shackled City with him. They said yes, obviously, and they started planning characters together.
Wait. Shackled City?
For those of you who don’t know, Shackled City is a HARD campaign. Awesome. But hard. We’ve played it before and gotten up to the end of of chapter one with a whopping six character deaths. SIX. And I have a crew of great players.
And there’s my children, chattering happily with my husband over character concepts.
This was going to take some work.
Now, I’d need to put a fair amount of work into running Shackled City anyway. It’s an adventure path written for 3.5 and these days we play Pathfinder, so there’s some conversion required. Not much, but some. Pathfinder characters are stronger than 3.5, so that should work in our favour. But it was written for a group of 4-5, and we would be running three. Of course, my kids enjoy it when I play with them, so perhaps I’d make a character to be their fourth party member. Still, this campaign would be tough and, as much as my children know that sometimes our characters die and that’s okay…. They’re five and six. I’d rather they not have their little paper dreams tattered and torn and tossed in the trash.
I spent some time thinking while my children and husband worked on their character concepts. What would our creation guidelines be? How could we make this work and have a reasonable chance of success? There’s plenty of ways to allow your player’s a bit of a boost for their characters, but I wanted to keep it simple. I decided to have them create level two characters (instead of level one) with a 25 point buy for their ability scores (we usually roll 2d6 and add 6). They got to take one of the Shackled City traits (which provide a benefit and a penalty) and two Pathfinder traits with the option to take a drawback to gain a third Pathfinder trait. I granted them background skills, which is essentially an extra two skill points each level that must be spent on less-useful skills like perform, profession and craft. Rules for background skills can be found in Pathfinder Unchained. They got 1,000 gp for their starting gold (which is the wealth expected of a second level character). And lastly, I made a character to join them and round up the party size to four.
In only two days my husband and both of my kids had their characters ready to go, complete with a reason to know each other. The reason?
They’re in a band.
But before I tell you about their characters, I’m going to tell you about what they’re going to play.
THE SHACKLED CITY
The Shackled City is an eleven-part adventure path printed in Dungeon Magazine from March 2003 through until November 2004. In 2007 it was compiled in a hardcover edition that included supplemental articles, a collection of maps and player handouts, and an entire additional adventure. Shackled City was created for 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons and is intended to bring characters from level 1 to 20.
The Shackled City takes place in Cauldron, a merchant metropolis built into the caldera of a long-dormant volcano. Located amidst jungles teeming with dinosaurs and demons, Cauldron is far from any other major urban centres, although a few small villages exist nearby. Shackled City is an urban adventure path that has a heavy amount of dungeon crawls and political intrigue. It’s an awesome, fun campaign with a lot of twists and turns but, as mentioned above, it’s very challenging for low-level groups.
Evil schemes are afoot in Cauldron. Driven by the dreams of an insane demon prince, bizarre cultists known as the Cagewrights are plotting something foul. Something they’ve been working towards for centuries. To prevent their agenda and save Cauldron, your player’s will have to explore cursed underground complexes, brave haunted jungle ruins, slay mighty dragons, and perhaps, even bind themselves to a layer of the infinite abyss.
The first adventure in the series, Life’s Bazaar, begins with a chance encounter that soon sees our characters investigating the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. But these children are not the only ones to go missing, dozens have disappeared over the last few months alone. And their fate lays entirely in your player’s hands…
Without further ado, let’s take a look at our band (literally) of brave characters!
Falco Rhiavadi is a member of the prominent Rhiavadi noble line. A rich and powerful family, the Rhiavadi’s are currently lead by Falco’s aunt, Thifirane. Unfortunately, Falco is clearly a bastard. His father was a foreigner by the name of Kenji Ozawa. Unable to hide his parentage, and refusing to give the boy up, Falco’s mother kept him close, and treated him as any other member of the family. Brazenly keeping Falco around caused no small amount of friction within the Rhiavadi family. Much of that anger was directed at Falco’s mother, while Falco was treated as an outsider and an embarrassment.
Despite this, Falco was given a thorough education at Bluecrater Academy, where he again disappointed his family by ending all of his practical studies and joining the music program. He made plenty of friends there, including Mick Frimfrocket (a gnomish pianist and comedian), Rabbity Castalle (a rabbitfolk dancer with a pet panther), and Valius (an artist and cleric of Shelyn). Valius inspired Falco to find faith in Shelyn, the goddess of love and art, while Mick and Rabbity eventually formed a band with Falco, named Boople Snoot. Recently the band’s name was changed to Dinorabbit. Falco plays the flute, and is an accomplished orator.
When Falco was a teenager, his father, Kenji, heard tales of a dragon outside the city and set out to pay homage to the proud beast. Unfortunately, dragons in the Inner Sea are not the same as dragons from Tian Xia, and Kenji was devoured. In grief, Falco called out for the power to keep those he cared about safe. A colourful thrush appeared to him–clearly a gift from Shelyn herself! The bird said its name was Ruby, and promised Falco the power to keep the people around him healthy. She even hinted at the possibility of bringing Kenji back to life. Elated, Falco took the bird home with him, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
Unfortunately, Ruby is a rude, cantankerous bird, who is very protective of Falco. She gets offended and complains whenever Falco prays to Shelyn instead of Ruby herself. Ruby acts like a normal songbird in public, sweetly whistling as an accompaniment to Falco’s flute music. In private, Ruby complains, demands fealty, and generally is a grouchy pain in the butt. Falco loves her dearly.
Now twenty years old, Falco is a well-groomed, handsome man with an easy smile and a winning personality. He lives in a small flat paid for by his family, and rarely ever attends noble gatherings or does anything practical. Instead he spends his time making music with his bandmates, visiting his friend Valius’ art studio, or socializing in the Tipped Tankard Tavern. He also volunteers to use his healing powers at the local church of Kurgess. His love of life, art and music is boundless, and Falco is the driving force behind his band’s performances and music. He is the heart and soul of
Boople Snoot Dinorabbit.
Mechanically, Falco is a shaman who has formed a lasting bond with the life spirit. Ruby is his spirit animal and conduit to these spirits. He’s a human of mixed Taldan and Tien descent. With the ability to channel positive energy, and the healing hex, Falco is a healer first and foremost. He selected extra channel, and selective channel as his feats to further enhance his healing powers. As a shaman, his spells prepared can change each day, but so far when expecting danger he’s prepared burning hands, entangle, obscuring mist, and his spirit spell: detect undead. His favourite orisons include detect magic, dancing lights, daze and stabilize. Though he prefers not to engage in violence, Falco began the campaign with an elaborate dagger, and a very fine walking stick which he is more than capable of using to defend himself. Falco is my husband’s character (and his third character to attempt the Shackled City Adventure Path).
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 grew up in the gnomish enclave of Jzadirune, located underneath Cauldron. He was brought to the surface when he was only a child, in order to escape a strange disease afflicting the enclave, called the Vanishing. Unable to remember much of anything from this time, but plagued with nightmares of people fading away to nothing in front of him, Mick is curious about his youth, and the family and home he cannot recall. Once he reached the surface, Mick was taken in by the poorly funded Lantern Street Orphanage. Due to his fondness for playing tricks on people and making jokes, he got into a lot of scuffles with the other kids, and quickly learned his way around a fist-fight. His time at the orphanage was happy, but LONG, as Mick was never lucky enough to be adopted (apparently prospective parents don’t like it when you put salt in their tea instead of sugar, trip them in the hallway, or make illusions of dinosaurs stomping through the adoption office…). Most of the staff he once knew who worked there have moved on now, or passed away.
Upon reaching adulthood and moving out into Cauldron on his own, Mick took the the street corners to tell jokes, play pranks, and generally have a laugh as a busker. He made enough coin to enrol in the music program at the Bluecrater Academy, where he learned to sing and play the piano. There he met Falco Rhiavadi, and Rabbity Castalle, an eclectic pair of people who soon became his best friends and bandmates. In addition, Falco also invited Mick to live at his luxurious flat with him, and they became room-mates.
Mick is an inspiring, funny, exuberant fellow who constantly tries new things. He’s worshipped at least four different gods, eats the strangest things he can get his mouth around, and is constantly insisting the band change their name. The most recent change was from Boople Snoot to Dinorabbit. An ironic change, since it was him who suggested they be named Boople Snoot in the first place. He likes to make fires when he’s bored, both illusory and real, and finds constant joy in the fact that no flame ever flickers the same. He has an obsession with pigs–though he’s never owned one–and collects every piece of art, or toy pig he can get his hands on. He’s also a fan of learning new languages, and currently can speak seven: Common, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Sylvan and Tien.
Mechanically, Mick is a multi classed monk and a bard (prankster). He’s carries no weapons, instead fighting with his fists or throwing whatever objects happen to be nearby as projectiles. He also carries alchemist’s fire, LOTS of alchemist’s fire, but has never had a chance to actually THROW any alchemist’s fire. This saddens him greatly, as he thinks it would be a spectacular sight! He uses his bardic performances to inspire his allies and mock his enemies. He makes use of his gnomish magic to make magical lights, phantom sounds, perform minor magic tricks and speak with animals. With his bardic magic he can detect magic, set flammable objects on fire, and summon his favourite piano. He can also cast cure light wounds and biting words, a spell that lets his words physically harm an enemy. He chose weapon focus (unarmed strike) as his feat, while monk granted him the feats improved unarmed strike, stunning fist and throw anything. Unfortunately, Mick’s not very clever, which doesn’t let him take advantage of the monk’s bonus AC ability. Despite this, Mick doesn’t wear armour. Instead he has a collection of potions he drinks to increase his AC, including mage armour and shield. Mick is my six year old son’s character.
Rabbity Castalle is a rabbit folk with soft white fur and a few patches of blue on the tips of her ears. She wears fancy clothes, and lots of beautiful jewelry, all in her favourite colour: blue. Sapphires are her favourite gemstone. She loves water and rain, and thinks its horrible that the government has let the lake at the centre of town become so stinky and polluted! She has a connection to water of all kinds and can make it obey her commands–most of the time. In addition to shooting it from her hands, and using it as a shield, she can create water, clean water, create mild currents in bodies of water, make extremely slippery puddles of water appear on surfaces or objects, and dry wet creatures. The heat never seems to bug her.
Rabbity is lucky, nimble and quick. She’s a beautiful dancer, and eventually saved up enough money to attend Bluecrater Academy. She joined the music program, and further honed her craft. There she met Falco Rhiavadi and Mick Frimfrocket whom she eventually started a band with.
Rabbity’s best friend is a panther named Panthy, who she has trained to let her ride on its back. Panthy can also act terrifying, follow Rabbity, and perform minor tricks like rolling over, shaking a paw, and dancing. Rabbity and Panthy typically perform together before the band goes on stage.
Rabbity works at the Tipped Tankard Tavern as a waitress. Because of this, the Tipped Tankard has become a meeting place for her bandmates, and they can often be seen there, eating, drinking, or performing in their band. Rabbity rents a room from her friend, Aeris (a local locksmith), and eventually Rabbity convinced Aeris to join their band as a drummer.
Mechanically, Rabbity is a kineticist tied to the element of water. Her panther is purchased and trained, but not an animal companion. She is my five-year old daughter’s character.
Aeris Caldyra is a locksmith born to the historic Caldyra family, and the business-minded Halar’s. It is said that the first Caldyra were brothers who accompanied Surabar, the founder of Cauldron, deep into the jungles in order to bless any settlements and boundaries he erected with the aid of their goddess Alseta. A respected but sparse family, the Caldyra name is still remembered fondly by historians. Aeris and her father, Edwin are the last of the Caldyra’s in Cauldron.
Her mother’s side of the family are successful merchants and businessmen from far off Qadira. Practically nobility, the Halar’s were rich beyond imagining and powerful, maintaining the ears of both the Satraps and extraplanar beings. Magical powers and the blood of elementals has long been recorded in their family histories. They have spread throughout the world, although the local Halar’s are little more than rich merchants and business-men. Unlike the Caldyra’s, the Halar’s are a vast family, with dozens of them living in Cauldron at the moment. Although Aeris’ mother, Kiriel socializes with them often, Aeris has always felt out of place among her extended family.
Despite being surrounded by a bustling family of merchants Aeris Caldyra has always felt less interested in business than she has in the gods. She felt like an outsider among the Halar family and with her parents. Only her Grandfather Marzio, a High Chamberlain of Alseta and the last of his faith, truly understood her. They were incredibly close, and despite her parents protests that she take up a worthy trade and get her head out of the clouds, Marzio trained Aeris in the ways of Alseta’s faith. She went with him on tours throughout the city to bless doorways, gateways and arches, to inspect the city walls for defects and repairs, and to ward peoples homes and businesses against danger. He knew a great deal about engineering, the history of the region, demons and, of course, religion. He was a good man and a good priest, but his focus was always more on helping people and Cauldron than it was on proselytizing and spreading Alseta’s worship. His followers were small in number, but many respected him and his work. He had working relationships with all four of the other churches in Cauldron as well as the Mayor’s office and the town guard. Alongside him, Aeris learned her religion and what it meant to be a good priest and a good person. Unfortunately, when she was only eight years old Marzio died. …And it was all her fault.
Aeris had accompanied Marzio on his rounds throughout Cauldron to inspect the walls and gates. By mid-day she was tired and begged her grandfather to take her for a treat at a local candy shop. He told her to wait until they were finished for the day, as he had packed them a picnic lunch, but Aeris had insisted, and Marzio never could say no to his beloved granddaughter. On the way to the candy shop they passed a mugger painted with a black and white face (a member of the criminal gang the Last Laugh) accosting a banker of Abadar. Marzio leapt in to assist the man, brandishing his holy symbol and attacking with his longsword, but he was ambushed by the muggers comrades. Stabbed in the back, Marzio fell, and faster than Aeris could blink the gang was upon him: beating, stabbing and stealing his coin. Aeris’ screams summoned the guard, but by the time they arrived Grandfather Marzio was dead, both he and the priest of Abadar had been robbed and the Last Laugh thugs had fled. Aeris snatched up his holy symbol and sword — the only valuables the thieves had left behind — and cried for days. Her grandpa was dead because she was a spoiled brat who wanted a candy! This was all her fault! Broken hearted, Aeris couldn’t bear to tell anyone he was dead because of her.
Life moved on. Aeris’ parents sold Marzio’s home and shrines to members of the Halar family. They were torn down and remodelled. The few followers of Alseta’s faith turned to Abadar for guidance, and soon the only place Grandpa Marzio’s religion lived on was inside Aeris herself. She was a poor excuse for a devotee and knew she would never be a Chamberlain like her grandpa had been. Aeris’ parents insisted she take up a trade and prepare for running her own business one day, so she studied to be a locksmith. Her locks could protect people. It was a trade her grandfather and Alseta would appreciate. When she became an adult Aeris was gifted a townhouse of her own, with a business space downstairs. She turned it into a profitable little locksmith’s shop. She rents out her spare room to Rabbity, a quirky little rabbitfolk who was in need of a home.
Now twenty years old, with blond hair, braided on one side, and mismatched eyes (one blue, one green), Aeris is a charismatic, cheeky woman. She’s always smiling or ready with a quip. She endeavours to be kind, honest and courteous. She doesn’t brag or lie (often). She’s strong of faith, but never proselytizes. She tries to keep up the duties her grandfather did. She blesses doorways (as she installs locks), prays to Alseta as she passes through thresholds of all kinds, inspects public archways and gateways for damage and repair work, and patrols the town walls looking for damage and wear.
Aeris never interacts with people she suspects of being criminals. When she discovers such people she always ends her interactions with them immediately and reports them to law enforcement. Most of the town guard think she’s a rubber-necker or a liar—another nosy citizen who makes fake and unnecessary reports. When she can stand it not more, Aeris takes the law into her own hands, seeking retribution against the criminals no one will punish. She sneaks into their homes and safe houses to rob them before slipping out again. She donates her stolen goods to fund civic projects, charities or local churches. Despite the good that comes of these misadventures she always feels horribly about it afterwards, believing her grandpa and Alseta are displeased with her actions. Her prayers the days following are always filled with promises to never steal again, which she inevitably breaks.
To this day Aeris has an intense hatred of the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild, and to a lesser extent other groups of gangs and organized crime. She’s always tries to step in and help stop crimes when she sees them (another reason the town guard is not fond of her). Despite her hope that she’ll be able to foil or disassemble the Last Laugh one day in honour of her grandfather, she is disregarded by them. A fact that hurts her more than she admits.
Aeris aspires to embody the four virtues of Alseta’s faith: Courtesy, Duty, Honesty and Humility. She believes that it is very important to protect people. She thinks that undeath and portals to dangerous planes are thresholds that should never have been opened and in the off chance she encounters such threats she would react strongly to stop or close them. As a follower of Alseta she also believes she must act as a fair arbiter to disputes. She tries to uphold the law.
Recently, Rabbity convinced Aeris to join her band as a percussionist. A fateful decision which caused her to meet Falco and Mick, and will inevitably set her on course to save her entire city….
Mechanically, Aeris is a suli bloodrager (spelleater and urban bloodrager archetypes). Instead of causing her to get out of control, Aeris’ bloodrage manifests as an unnatural calm, as she more fully embodies the will of her goddess. In addition to empowering her body, Aeris gains fast healing 1 while bloodraging. Aeris is the group’s trapfinder and main melee combatant. She has the destined bloodline, as she’s blessed by Alseta to achieve great deeds. Her suli blood, courtesy of the Halar side of the family, grants Aeris energy resistance to acid, cold, electricity and fire, the ability to speak a wide variety of exotic languages, and the ability to wreathe her weapons in the elements for a few rounds a day. Her feat is incremental elemental assault, which lets her use her elemental assault ability one round at a time instead of all at once. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City. Although strong, quick and skillful, nearly all of Aeris’ abilities only function for a certain number of rounds each day, meaning she’s likely to run out of them FAST. Especially in an adventure so combat heavy in the beginning.
With our characters created, and the campaign prepared, the members of Dinorabbit (the band formerly known as Boople Snoot!) head out to dinner to celebrate their one year anniversary at a fancy local restaurant, the Coy Nixie.
But fate has bigger plans for this quirky band of friends. Cauldron needs them!
I hope you enjoyed reading about our new characters who are going to brave the Shackled City. Check back soon to read about their continuing adventures.
Have you ever played the Shackled City? What kind of character would you make for this campaign?
Let me know in the comments below!
Until then, enjoy!
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 Number 97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here.
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.