Wow, it has been AGES since we’ve have a chance to write a new campaign update! Fear not, fellow readers, our campaigns haven’t come to an unfortunate end. They’re trekking along slowly, in between school, work, and everyday life. So where are we heading today?
Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path!
When we last left off our heroic musicians were investigating a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! If none of this sounds familiar you can read this blog post first, which details our characters, or continue on with this article to jump right into the action! You can also check out our previous adventures in Shackled City: Part One and Shackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!
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 he 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 bands constant name changes, and over-the-top performances. Mick was born in 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 to his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. 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. One of her co-workers is one of the people who was recently abducted, so she’s 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 soon be published in the upcoming Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion by Sunburst Games (Kickstarter coming in February!)
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 is determined to rescue the missing citizens of Cauldron. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City Adventure Path.
Although that’s the last of our PCs, that’s not the last of our party. The members of Dinorabbit are also travelling with two NPCs: Patch, the half-orc janitor, and Keygan Ghelve, a local locksmith.
Patch is a big, stuttering, fool who works at the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same place he was raised. Patch recently got recruited to the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild and was asked to watch over an orphan named Terrem. Unfortunately, Terrem was kidnapped on the very evening that Patch went out to meet with with the guild. Distraught over the boy’s disappearance, Patch was pressured by Falco and Mick into helping them rescue the kids. And so, the poor one-eyed janitor finds himself heading into danger.
Keygan Ghelve is a gnome locksmith and competitor of Aeris’. He’s also the reason people are going missing! Months ago strange creatures came up from Keygan’s basement — which leads to the abandoned gnomish enclave of Jzadirune — and kidnapped his rat familiar! They forced Keygan to forge them a set of skeleton keys that can open the locks he’d installed in Cauldron, and a list of all his customers. In the months since, skulks and dark creepers have used his home as a way station, heading out into the city, abducting people from their homes, and dragging them back underground through his basement. Keygan feel guilty, but he’s more worried over his rat than anything! The members of Dinorabbit followed clues that led to Keygan’s shop and discovered his role in the abductions. Although Aeris wanted to turn him in to the guard, the Falco and Mick insisted he come with them if he wanted to save his rat. He’d need to help rescue the kidnapped citizens of Cauldron and undo the damage he’s facilitated.
Aeris decided that after that she’d still have him arrested. She’s a stickler for the rules. …Usually.
And so our eclectic team of musicians, janitors, and locksmiths, descends through hidden passageways into the long-abandoned gnomish enclave of Jzadirune, on the trail of subterranean kidnappers!
Aeris and Falco led the way, with Mick, Rabbity, and Panthy travelling in the middle of the group. Patch and Keygan took up the rear, while the cowardly locksmith strongly debating running away when no one was looking.
They stepped foot into Jzadirune and explored a strange room where they heard birds chirping, gnomes laughing, and felt a breeze blowing on their skin. Massive masks hung on the walls. As they moved into to illusion-draped room to look around they discovered two strange doors –- like giant gears that roll into the walls, these were the ‘Doors with Teeth’ divinations had led them to! (See the riddle for more information). My children were thrilled! Beyond thrilled. They had obsessed over that riddle for days. But, seeing a glimmer of light coming from the cracks around one of the doors, Aeris and Mick went to peek inside, while Falco moved deeper into the room.
Suddenly the masks on the wall began to sing, welcoming them to Jzadirune and warning them against pilfering. Although my kids loved it, and asked me to sing the song to them over and over and over, it wasn’t so great for their characters. The illusory song caused the figures beyond the lit door to notice the heroes. Quickly camouflaging themselves, the skulks vanished. They lay in wait to ambush the PCs, but after only one round of battle they ran off, deeper into Jzadirune through makeshift, rough tunnels that had been drilled through the walls.
Our heroes gave chase, engaging in a series of skirmishes against a pair of skulks. Eventually they came to a room with a strange mechanical construct in it, clearly the source of the roughly drilled tunnels. There a dark creeper ordered the construct to attack the intruders, in gnome. Mick laughed and told it to stop. The pair argued and bickered, giving the construct contrary orders until the creeper gave up and fled. Mick was thrilled with his new, neat, half-broken construct, and the group was off again, charging blindly through the tunnels, deeper into Jzadirune.
One battle into this place and they were already super lost! Haha.
Our explorations continued over a whopping eight play sessions and over fifteen hours of gameplay! That’s a LOT, particularly when you take into account that half of our party is children under eight years old. I find that my kids are easily bored by long encounter-heavy dungeons, so I did my best to make it interesting. I combined multiple similar battles into one encounter, turning them into dynamic, constantly moving skirmishes. Other encounters we skipped completely, removing many of the extra enemies that served no immediate story purpose, like vermin. Those encounters that remained were a lot of fun, typically taking place in the most exciting and dynamic of Jzadirune’s rooms. Favourite locations included the previously mentioned giggling masks room, the theatre where you can watch illusory plays, the throne room where you could interact with an illusory gnomish king and learn hints as to what befell Jzadirune, and the underground forest. Since my son’s character spent his early years living in Jzadirune, I made sure to give him plenty of information and history he could discover. No empty room was just empty, there were hints to the room’s purpose and inhabitants, memories he might distantly recall, and places he’s been. His favourite discoveries included a door that had his family’s name on it, and a bedroom that contained a child’s bed and a long-discarded stuffed animal he’s pretty sure was once his. Finally, we played up the personalities and interactions of the NPCs Keygan and Patch, which everyone really enjoyed. Even Aeris was happy to see Keygan reunited with his beloved rat familiar, Starbrow.
My kids had a great time uncovering the mystery of Jzadirune and determining what caused it to become abandoned. And, while my daughter is happy that we’re finally leaving that spooky place behind, my son is a little sad about it. He’s decided that Mick Frimfrocket will reclaim this place once its done. He has big plans to clean it up, make it safe, and use it as a home and base of operations. Maybe he’ll even turn it into an orphanage. Whatever he decides to do, he’s loath to hide the signs of its previous inhabitants. He wants to keep every mural, nameplate, and bed. Preserve every memory he can of the gnomes who once lived and died here. It’s all he has left of his family.
In the end our characters discovered that Jzadirune was laid low by a curse that affected their magical objects, causing their users to vanish completely. Those few gnomes who survived the terrifying experience were children. The kidnappers had been using Jzadirune’s ruins as a base of operations, digging tunnels with old broken constructs through the walls to avoid traps and complex doors. And, although they battled the skulks and their dark creeper minions, my players never found any signs of the kidnapped citizens of Cauldron. What they did find was a door. The door led to a platform that, with the flick of a switch, descended down a shaft into the darkness. When the doors opened they found themselves someplace else. Someplace new. A place of dwarven construction, made from malachite.
My son and daughter gasped in shock!
“MOM! MOM! The riddle! The riddle says something about that mal-kite! We are almost there!”
My son read the riddle a few more times and double checked the notes that he keeps in his detective’s notebook (which is a copy of Detective Murdoch’s notebook from Murdoch Mysteries). “Hmmm… Yup! Those kidnappers must have been working for a duergar! He’s the true culprit!”
My daughter clapped her hands in glee. “Yes! We are almost there! I have to save my good friend Griffin who I work with! He was supposed to be married! His girlfriend is so sad she cries everyday! We must hurry! He could DIE!” She says the word ‘die’ with such drama. It’s adorable.
“And think of the children!” I joked.
My kids nodded. “YEAH! THE CHILDREN!” They were not joking. In fact, they were very, very, serious.
But, by then the weekend was over. It was time to get ready for bed, and prepare for the next week of school. The children would have to wait. But, you can bet that we’ll be playing again next weekend, when we begin our exploration of the Malachite Fortress.
Thanks for joining us, everyone! I hope you enjoyed getting to hear a bit about our crazy adventures. We’ll see you again soon!
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 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.