Urge to Dirge

Dwarven Forge, creators of high quality dungeon and gaming terrain, recently launched a new video series entitled ‘Build of the Month.’ Once a month the folks over at Dwarven Forge post a video on youtube showing off a build created with their products, then post a fully detailed description of the room for gamers to check out free on their website. It’s hoped that these encounter areas inspire gamers to create new builds, traps, and puzzles for their players, while showcasing the versatility of Dwarven Forge.

The first ‘Build of the Month,’ Urge to Dirge is a multi-stage, musical trap room that my kids and I think is amazing. Haha. Urge to Dirge makes use of pieces from three Dwarven Forge Sets: Starter Dungeon, Passages-Intersections, and Double Doors. To see the build in action, check out the video below. To get the full build instructions and encounter details click here.

Enjoy!

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Grimmerspace

It’s rare that we shine a spotlight on crowdfunding campaigns, but May’s turning out to be one heck of an awesome month for RPGs! Earlier this month we talked about Pathfinder’s Kingmaker Campaign, and today? We’re talking Grimmerspace!

Grimmerspace is a Starfinder Compatible Sci-Fi Horror RPG setting by Iron GM Games. (And by horror, we do mean HORROR. It’s a mature setting and is not intended for children or families). The Grimmerspace team includes Rone Barton, Lou Agresta, and Sean Astin! Launching on May 22nd 2019, the Grimmerspace Kickstarter funded in a few short hours. The main products in the Kickstarter are three books: Grimmerspace: Settings & Adventures, Grimmerspace: Xeno Files, and Grimmerspace: Player’s Guide. These books contain the Grimmerspace campaign setting, horrifying enemies and monsters, five new classes, new character options, and a large number of stand-alone horror adventures. All three books are available in PDF or print form. In addition, backers had the chance to pick up the Starfinder Player’s Guide, Starfinder Beginner’s Box, Immersive Battle Maps by Yarro Studios, Denizen Deck, Xeno Deck, gaming paper, and more through backer tiers and add-ons. Although the stretch goals haven’t been detailed, a digital map pack and a poster are already unlocked at the time of writing.

Grimmerspace takes place in the Gliding Rim Galaxy, an alliance of five technologically advanced polities plagued by terrifying alien abominations. From a purple tear in the sky comes the warmongering Sundermages, magic users from the default Starfinder setting who have travelled for centuries across time and space. The sundermages have become something inhuman, and bring magic and devastation to the magic-less Gliding Rim Galaxy, which they intend to conquer. Teaming up with the monstrous Hodrak’s of the Gyre, the Sundermages are a force to be reckoned with. A battle of magic versus technology has come to Grimmerspace!

Grimmerspace adventures are stand alone modules sorted by horror genre, intensity, and the time they take to play through. They are location specific, so they can easily be dropped into any campaign.

There are five new character classes in Grimmerspace, ARCop, Crypto-Monk, Quantum Seer, Recombinator, Voti Marine. ARCop’s are police officers who bond with a special gun that contains the memories of a dead ARCop. These guns, known and an ARCop PIECE, are intelligent, capable of firing multiple types of ammunition, and grow in power with your PC. Which is super cool! Crypto-Monks are conspiracy theorists that believe an unknown alien presence is controlling all of Grimmerspace. In order to combat this unseen threat they hone their bodies, create weapons out of everyday objects, and learn how to combat and destroy aliens. Quantum Seers can manifest monstrous versions of themselves around their physical bodies. Recombinators are bioengineers capable of creating unique lifeforms that serve them, much like a Starfinder Mechanic creates their own drones. Voti Marine’s are strong warriors that wield shoulder cannons and other powerful arms. In addition to these classes there are new races, archetypes, themes, polities, and factions that players can join and combat.

If you’re even remotely interested in sci-fi horror and RPGs I highly recommend you give Grimmerspace a look-see. It’s going to be amazing!

For more information on Grimmerspace’s Kickstarter Campaign click here.  To download a free Grimmerspace adventure, Abattoir 8 by Richard Pett, click here.

Best of luck to the whole Grimmerspace team!

Jessica

Enter the Dungeon of Doom

My kids love Dwarven Forge.

They’re obsessively browsing the Dwarven Forge website, and watching their many youtube videos. My son takes every opportunity to bring it up, attempting to convince me I should buy him some for his birthday, or for my birthday, or maybe my husband’s Christmas gift.

So when my son asked if he could download the free Dungeon of Doom Adventure a while back, I let him. And when he asked me over and over if I had read it yet, I pushed it up a little higher on my to-read list.

You see, I like Dwarven Forge, but when it comes to adventures, I tend to prefer a sweeping story over a classic dungeon. And the Dungeon of Doom adventure? Seemed like one big deadly dungeon.

Which it is. But, turns out, it’s also awesome! Haha.

I finally got around to reading the adventure and was pleasantly surprised. Every encounter area is well planned, well executed, and exceptionally creative –– all things I expect from Dwarven Forge. There’s some basic plot hooks to get the adventure moving, but not much else. On the surface, at least. There’s much more going on in this dungeon delve than anticipated, as the PCs will uncover as they adventure.

If they survive.

Dungeon of Doom is packed full of layered, multi-stage traps and puzzles that work to create a deadly challenge for the PCs. It’s smart, clever, and surprisingly funny! There’s a wide array of NPCs you can meet and interact with in the dungeon, from ghostly spirits, to chatty gargoyles and, my personal favourite, a talking door. The PCs have plenty of secrets and history to uncover through their exploration, and a lot of powerful treasure to claim. But, as previously mentioned, this is definitely a deadly dungeon! For starters, the dungeon itself drains your PCs life force, making taking a long rest impossible. PCs will need to complete the entire dungeon with relative speed or they’ll run out of resources. In addition, characters that die have their souls trapped within the dungeon and rise as an undead spirit known as a maerghast. Not a desirable end! Along the way the PCs will need to collect magical artifacts known as glyphstones, which are powerful semi-intelligent artifacts which affect the PCs personality and behaviour, but grants them potent magical powers –– some of which can allow players to heal or gain the effects of taking a long rest. But, the greatest challenge is definitely the dungeon itself. As I previously mentioned the encounter rooms are packed full of well-utilized, challenging puzzles and traps which I absolutely adored. It’s deadly, but a lot of fun.

The Dungeon of Doom Adventure is a free download here, and is intended for characters between the levels of 1 and 10. Each challenge is written for three difficulty levels, based on your party’s APL (average party level). APL 1–4, APL 5–7, and APL 8–10, with the variable numbers (DCs, Damage, and so on) separated by a slash. For example DC 12/14/16 or 1d8/2d8/3d8 damage. It’s easy to understand and efficient. Monsters are instead listed on a chart, with the composition of each encounter being determined by your party’s APL. Level 1 parties might face off against a quasit while a level 10 party might face a nalfeshnee in the same location. The adventure is written for 5e Dungeons and Dragons, but has rules in the back for running it for the Pathfinder RPG (which is awesome!). Those of you interested in investing in Dwarven Forge’s Dungeon of Doom products can buy the pieces needed to make the Dungeon of Doom on a room by room basis on their website, while the adventure contains detailed build guides to show you how to set it all up. You can also watch Dungeon of Doom played or see a run-down of the rooms on youtube.

Dungeon of Doom is a deviously deadly dungeon full of interesting puzzles and traps, perfectly suited to challenge players of a variety of levels. I found it absolutely inspiring! I highly recommend you give it read!

Jessica

Starfinder Critical Fumble Deck

Recently we took a look at the Starfinder Critical Hit Deck, but today our luck’s taking a dive! Bring on the 1s! We’re taking a peek at the Starfinder Critical Fumble Deck!

Critical Fumble 2

Like its counterpart the Starfinder Critical Fumble Deck is the size and shape of a deck of playing cards. It retails for around $10.99 USD (or around $15 Canadian dollars). There’s a space goblin with a shattered d20 on the box and card backs, with some product information on the back of the box.

The cards inside are high quality and easy to read with a colour scheme matching the Starfinder Core Rulebook and the Critical Hit Deck. There’s fifty-five cards inside. One contains product information, the open game license, and cites Owen K.C. Stephens as the author and Taylor Fischer as the illustrator. The second card lists the rules of using the Critical Fumble Deck. And the other 53 cards are Critical Fumble Cards.

Critical Fumble 3

All of the cards follow a specific set of rules laid out on the rules card. You’ll also need to decide ahead of time how to use the Critical Fumble Deck. There’s three methods presented although its suggested you use the first, which sees critical fumbles occur rarely. I prefer to get a lot of use out of my cards, though, so we use the third option in my house: a natural one is a critical fumble if is also misses the targets AC.

The cards themselves work just like the Critical Hit Deck. When you roll a critical fumble you draw a card. Each card has four different critical fumble effects. One for energy attacks, one for kinetic attacks, and one for spell attacks. The fourth critical fumble effect is an ‘extreme blow’ and lists a single specific damage type (such as bludgeoning or fire). You simply read the card, select the critical fumble effect that matches your damage type, and carry out the effect listed. If you happen to deal the exact same type of damage as the extreme blow you use that critical fumble instead.

There’s lots of entertaining critical fumble effects. Some of my favourite effects include burn out (energy), look at the pretty colours (energy), unscheduled dance-off (energy), so much blood (kinetic), spectacularly stubbed toe (kinetic), caster’s block (magic), not what I meant to do (extreme grenade), sword in the stone (extreme melee), and nailed in place (extreme piercing).

Critical Fumble 1

Got a favourite critical fumble card? Let us know in the comments!

Enjoy!

Jessica

Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

Baldurs Gate - Descent Into Avernus
Cover for Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

Wizards of the Coast has just announced its newest Dungeons and Dragons campaign, Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus! The announcement was made during its D&D Live: The Descent event in L.A. Beginning in the incredibly popular town of Baldur’s Gate and descending into Avernus (the first level of Hell), this 256-page campaign takes players from level 1 to level 13. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus is scheduled to make its debut September 17, with the Beadle and Grimm’s Platinum Edition scheduled for release in October.

For more information on this diabolical campaign, check out the video below, or click here for a full list of the D&D Beyond interviews regarding this campaign on youtube.

For more information on Beadle & Grimm’s Platinum Edition of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, click here. Only 1000 copies of the Platinum Edition will be made, and yes, it’s expected to sell out. This weekend only (May 18th – May 19th 2019), the Platinum Edition is on sale for $449.00 USD (from it’s full retail price of $499.00 USD).

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Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

HABA Game Design Contest

HABA USA is hosting its 3rd Annual Game Design Contest, which is exciting news for all you aspiring board game designers out there!

HABA USA is the exclusive importer of HABA, a German toy and game company well known for it’s high quality children’s games (including Animal Upon Animal Orchard, and Rhino Hero) that feature wooden pieces. In 2015 HABA branched out into the family game market, producing delightful games such as Adventure LandKaruba, and Meduris.

The HABA USA Game Design Contest runs from May 5th, 2019 through to July 13th, 2019. To enter, participants from Canada, Mexico, and the USA can purchase a design kit for $5 USD (shipping to Canada and Mexico is extra). Only 200 kits will be sold. Each kit will contain a random assortment of pieces from HABA games. Contestants then use some of the pieces from their kit to create a brand new game. The games must be a children’s / family game for 2 – 4 players that lasts between 15 – 45 minutes. When your game prototype is ready you write up a rulebook and send your completed entry back to HABA USA. All contestants who submit a game will get a $5 coupon for HABAusa.com

A panel of judges will play all the submitted games, with the top 3 – 5 submissions earning their creators a HABA games bundle. In addition, the winning games will be shown to the Director of New Game Development at HABA Germany corporate office. Some may even be published by HABA.

Exciting stuff!

For full game rules click here.

Best of luck to all the entrants!

Jessica

Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit! 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.

To read our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne click the links below:

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: The Rune Drive Gambit all about? In previous adventures, 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 was just the beginning. The PCs discovered that an experimental starship engine and their friend, the android Cedona, were transported off of Nakondis and back to the Azlanti Star Empire. Giving chase the PCs made some allies and rescued Cedona. All that’s left is to find the experimental starship engine, steal it or destroy it, and escape with their lives. 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! No problem! …Right?

the-rune-drive-gambit-against-the-aeon-throne-book-3-of-3-e1557809255646.jpgNow, 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 #9: The Rune Drive Gambit (Against the Aeon Throne 3 of 3) is a softcover adventure written by Larry Wilhelm that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level five to level seven. The adventure itself is around 39 pages long, and split into three main parts: With Friends Like These, in which the players upgrade their ship and figure out where the heck they’re going; Within Enemy Territory, in which the players travel to and explore the upper levels of a secret research facility located in an asteroid; and Scientific Theories, in which the players finish exploring the research facility, track down the rune drive, and decide what to do with it. After the adventure there’s six pages of ideas on how to continue the campaign after it’s conclusion, with eight short ideas, and two detailed ideas that include a stat block or two. After that there’s an eight page primer on the Stewards, including two character archetypes. There’s seven new creatures in the Alien Archive, and a short Codex of Worlds article on New Thespera, heart of the Azlanti Star Empire. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier 5 starship: the Vanguard Regnant.

My favourite parts of this adventure are the layout, enemy tactics, and defences of the research facility, and the NPCs you unexpectedly discover along the way.

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

You have been warned.

Rune Drive

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 Sardat Zolan Ulivestra, an Azlanti nobleman and enemy of the PCs, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind him is an awesome image of Obozaya (the iconic vesk soldier) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) fighting off Azlanti soldiers.

Azlanti Aeon Guard
Azlanti Aeon Guard. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The starship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Regnant. This tier 5 small light freighter is destined to be the final (or second last) enemy the PCs face in this campaign. It’s a well-built luxury ship that’s fast and maneuverable, but still packs a punch. I particularly like the ship layout.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts in Outpost Zed where the PCs (and Cedona) will need to get their ship upgraded by their friend Hasshachir, who they met in the previous adventure. While they wait they’ll run into trouble, which will ultimately provide the PCs with the clues they need to determine their next destination. We won’t talk about these events any further, as it would ruin the surprise for those of us reading this who ignored my spoiler warning. (You know who you are! Haha). What I will say, is that I enjoyed this section of the adventure.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Within Enemy Territory. In this section PCs will need to travel to Aurelos, the secret laboratory the rune drive was taken to, find a way inside, and explore the upper levels. Along the way they’ll have to take on the base’s defences and protectors. As previous mentioned, I was really impressed with the layout of the Aurelos base, both the upper levels featured in this section, and the lower levels featured in the next part of the adventure. It’s functional and easily defensible, and is populated with enemies who know how to use their surroundings. There’s a few complications and other defences to round out these encounters, and an enemy is introduced that I rather enjoyed.

Oliviana Jakub Bazyluk
Oliviana. Illustrated by Jakub Bazyluk. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to part three: Scientific Theories. In this section the PCs finish their exploration of Aurelos, fighting off further enemies and surmounting further challenges. Along the way they’ll have the chance to meet quite a few NPCs (potential friends and enemies), question scientists, explore science labs, and try to figure out what the heck the rune drive is and why it’s so important. Then they’ll have to figure out what to do with it and attempt to make their escape. They’ll face off against the mastermind of this whole debacle, Sardat Zolan Ulivestra, alongside some of his loyal (or not so loyal, depending upon your PCs actions) minions. Finally, they’ll have to engage in a starship battle to make their escape!

Part Three is fun, dynamic, and exciting, with plenty of people to interact with, challenging encounters, and a dilemma or two. I really enjoyed Evandrian, an Aeon Guard the PCs are destined to combat multiple times, and the Sardat’s statistics and tactics. He’s the perfect mix of pompous and skilled. I think PCs are going to really hate him. Haha. He’s a great villain. Finally, I like that some of the encounters in this section are open ended. There’s more than one potential outcome, and the choice ultimately rests in the hands of the PCs, either knowingly or through their actions. On the other hand, Part Three is also where I have some issues. There’s really only one thing to do with the rune drive. It’s cool, and it makes sense, but there’s clearly no real alternatives to the option presented. Which is unfortunate. Also, that option? Wow, it’s… complex? It’s logical, both in terms of the story and in terms of Pact Worlds implications. But I was also left wondering why it also does… some other stuff that seems tacked on. Cool stuff! But odd. I’m being vague, I know, but you’ll understand when you read it.  Haha.

Which brings us to the end of The Rune Drive Gambit and the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path. But, that’s not the end of the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is a lot of ideas for how to continue the campaign. There’s eight minor ideas here, some of which will lead to short adventures, and others which could form the basis of long, epic campaigns. I know my family will want to head back to Nakondis to help out the colony there, so it’s nice to see a few options that deal with the Madelon’s Landing. Other ideas involve the Stewards, the Azlanti Star Empire, and even transitioning into the Signal of Screams Adventure Path (definitely not the option my family will be using, but it’s nice to see it in print). There’s also two longer campaign ideas. One is a direct continuation, which makes a lot of sense, and I’m very likely to make use of. The other is both awesome and out there! I love it! But, it’s way too confusing to run with my kids (which is who I’m currently running through Against the Aeon Throne). If any of you make use of Kellixtrian I’d love to hear about it.

Following this is an eight page primer on the Stewards. Basically the peace-keeping force of the Pact Worlds, the Stewards are warrior diplomats that are organized into four main branches and run by a Director-General. The branches are Constabulary (the police force), Ops (the spies), Overwatch (the starship fleet), and Conclave of Legates (veterans who act as a council and advisory board). This section describes the Stewards origins, history, structure, leadership, purpose, bases, training regimen, and interests. It also presents two new archetypes, the Stewards infiltrator (an ops agent) and Stewards stalwart (self-sufficient agents that often work alone). Both of the archetypes are useful and very cool! I’m really glad the Stewards are getting some attention, as they are a powerful organization that can be utilized and interacted with in a wide variety of campaigns. They’re very usable.

BattleRobot Alexandur Alexandrov
Azlanti Battle Robot. Illustrated by Alexandur Alexandrov. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, three of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: power archon, a CR 5 outsider tasked with destroying corrupting technology; carnivorous crystal, a CR 11 ooze that can turn you to crystal; comanide, a very creepy looking CR 7 fey; entropy slug, a CR 4 magical beast the PCs will face in part one of this adventure; hulsa, a CR 10 fey; Azlanti battle robot, a CR 6 robot the PCs will face in part three of this adventure; and twinsoul, a very strange CR 8 creature also featured in this adventure.

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on New Thespera, the heart of the Azlanti Empire and seat of the Aeon Throne. It’s an incredibly useful article, but very brief. New Thespera’s the sort of important place you could write pages of information on.

And with that, Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit (Against the Aeon Throne 3 of 3) has come to an end.

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

Until next time,

Jessica