We carved pumpkins last week with my sister. My daughter carved a rabbit, and my son a cat. Or, more accurately, I carved a rabbit, and my sister carved a cat while my children bossed us around. Both of my kids shrieked when they had to put their hands inside and scoop out the pumpkin’s innards. Mostly they poked at it with a spoon. In fact, my kids didn’t do much at all. But, we had fun! We drew on some more pumpkins at home yesterday. Again, my daughter made a rabbit. My son went with a classic jack-o-lantern face.
This morning I packed up my kids costumes, and sent them off to school. They’ll have a party this morning, change into their costumes after lunch, and spend the afternoon at a school dance and haunted house. They’re absolutely over the moon. My son’s going to be a red dragon for Halloween. And my daughter? One guess.
Yup. A rabbit.
She might be obsessed.
My kids can’t wait to head out trick or treating.
To celebrate I’m taking a look at my five favourite Horror Adventures!
*cue the ominous theme music*
We’re starting off small with Starfinder Society Scenario #1-04: Cries from the Drift by Joe Pasini! This delightful little adventure is intended for Tier 1-4, features one starship battle, and tasks the player’s characters with exploring a derelict ship, uncovering what became of it’s crew (Spoiler Alert: NOTHING GOOD), and collecting the valuable intel they were carrying. This scenario does a great job of setting an ominous atmosphere right from the moment you step foot on the ship, and, with a solid GM, can be quite suspenseful. It’s got some surprises, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that this adventures features some body horror, so it’s not for the faint of heart!
Up Next? The Strange Aeons Adventure Path! Strange Aeons is a six part series of adventures that will have your characters questioning their past, their allies, and their sanity! Strongly inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, it’s spooky, macabre, and downright strange. With alien, unknowable entities, crazed cultists, and a whole heck of a lot of weird! I LOVE this adventure path. Seriously. Love it.
Strange Aeons begins with your characters waking up in an insane asylum with no idea who they are or how they got there. Oh, also, there’s some strange monster performing invasive surgery on someone else right outside your cell. Not the way you want to wake up! After your daring breakout you’ll have to explore the asylum, battle strange, shape-changing creatures, and find a way to escape — without being devoured by the… things outside. From there? Well, let’s just keep that under wraps for now. This is one of those campaigns where being in the dark is half the fun!
Next we leave behind the psychological terror, and head into some classic gothic horror! Curse of Strahd! This hardcover adventure path for Dungeons and Dragons takes place in the Ravenloft campaign setting’s country of Borovia and will take characters from levels one through ten. It’s a spooky, atmospheric, delightful piece of horror that features the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich himself! Play it with a good DM and you’re guaranteed to get chills! This campaign has some tough fights, and was the winner of THREE Ennies in 2016: Winner (Gold): Best Adventure, Winner (Gold): Best Art/Cover, and Winner (Silver): Product of the Year. Special player options are available to download here, untagged maps are available here, and some special notes for DMs are available here.
From Dungeons and Dragons, we skip back over to Pathfinder, with the Carrion Crown Adventure Path! Carrion Crown is a six part gothic horror campaign that is like a tour de force of classic horror beasts! The first volume, Haunting of Harrowstone, tasks the players with investigating a haunted prison, while later volumes feature carrion golems, werewolves, foul cults, strange beings, vampires, undead, liches, and more! The best part? You don’t always have to kill these beasts. Some have the potential to be allies (if you’re brave enough)! The plot? Stop the Whispering Way from freeing the Lich King Tar-Baphon! I ADORE this campaign!
So what’s my very favourite horror adventure? Carnival of Tears by Tim Hitchcock and Nicolas Logue! First of, let me point out this is a dark, gory, violent, disturbing adventure. Second, I loved it. Carnival of Tears (more properly known as GameMastery Module E1: Carnival of Tears) is a 3.5 adventure from Paizo Publishing intended for fifth level characters that takes place in the desperate little town of Falcon’s Hollow. Man, that place has gone through a lot! So what better way to relax than with a winter carnival? Right? WRONG! When dark fey take over the carnival they twist it into a nightmare, and use powerful illusions to hide the truth from the citizens. The PCs need to stop the fey, save what townsfolk they can, and try their best to survive the night! I find this scenario is particularly effective when played in a town the player’s have grown fond of (even if that means you don’t play in Falcon’s Hollow), and when they’re forced to help deal with the aftermath of the so-called Carnival of Tears. Just awesome. The horror!
And that’s it!
Or is it..?
There’s one last thing I want to talk about: the future! The horror adventure I most want to play (and read), but haven’t.
Signal of Screams!
Signal of Screams is a three-part adventure path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that starts at level seven. It begins with your PCs on vacation at a luxury resort on an asteroid when suddenly the staff and guests begin to get violent! They’ll need to protect themselves and the uninfected guests. But, what if they’re not immune to the madness? I can’t wait to find out!
My family spent the better part of last weekend preparing for winter. We dug out and washed all of our winter gear, tried on coats and boots, matched mitts (or shoved lonely mitts into mismatched pairs), donated what was too small to the homeless, and went out to buy new winter boots. Everyone in my house needed a new pair this year and with the amount of walking we do winter boots are a necessity for everyone, not just my kids. Which is unfortunate, I suppose, because they’re really expensive. It’s important they’re warm enough and waterproof to keep everyone nice and toasty throughout our chilly winters, so cheap fashion boots won’t cut it. They’ve got to be cold rated for -30°C at least. -40°C is better. Not easy to find for my daughter. For some reason boys boots are built for the cold, while a lot of girl boots look like they’re warm, but aren’t. Anyway it took us the weekend, but we all managed to find a pair. And just in time! We had our first real snow on Wednesday. I say real snow because we’ve had flurries before this. But this snow stayed. There was enough of it to get the kids all excited, and to make snowballs and tiny snowmen (or in my daughter’s case, tiny snow rabbits). I’m not sure how long the snow will stay. It might not go away until next spring, but there’s only a few centimetres, so if we get a warm day it might still melt away. We’ll see. My kids were thrilled for it, but after only a day of the damp and the (very, very mild) cold they’re already complaining.
Suck it up kids! We’re just getting started! It will get so much worse. Haha.
My toddler-aged niece that I watch on the weekdays hates getting in her winter clothes, so every trip outside and to and from school is a tear-filled struggle. Not to mention the time! It takes twenty minutes to get everyone properly dressed and out the door. (Once they get used to it I hope to cut it down to fifteen. Ten would be a welcome miracle). My niece keeps expecting me to give up on her and let her do whatever she wants, which is not going to happen. Clearly she has forgotten we had this same problem last winter. She did not win. She’ll grow accustomed to it in a few weeks. Hopefully sooner. Thankfully her older brother (he’s four) does remember last year’s winter. He knows he needs to bundle.
In other news, my family and I tried playing some more of Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn. We prepared our characters for ‘In Pale Mountains Shadow’ and got started. Unfortunately, by the end of the session they decided they were bored with it. They’ve officially given up playing through Doomsday Dawn and are ready to go back to their regular games. My son desperately wants to continue with the Carrion Crown Adventure Path (we’re about to start Carrion Crown: Book Two: Trial of the Beast), my husband wants to continue with The Shackled City Adventure Path (we’re nearly done book one), and my daughter wants to play some more of our Starfinder Society characters. Most of the other campaigns we’re playing together I moved online so we can play via play-by-post. Getting in a post a day lets us keep playing, so we can dedicate our one chance to play on the weekends to one of our three main campaigns.
Although it may sound like we’re done with the Pathfinder Playtest that’s not quite accurate. I’m playing through two different play-by-post runs of Doomsday Dawn, and we’re all playing in a play-by-post run of the Pathfinder Playtest Society Scenarios. We’re halfway through Rose Street Revenge right now and enjoying it. My son’s character is particularly hilarious. We’ll share more about that at a later date.
My son has been reading like crazy lately! Obviously, I’m very proud of this. I believe that reading is one of those incredibly important skills you really need to instil a love of young. I always encourage my kids to find something they love to read, and indulge in it. Even though both of my kids are good at reading I always push them to try reading something that’s a challenge everyday. Not absurdly hard for them, or anything, but something they do need to work at a bit. Anyway, both of my children are reading well above their grade level so their classrooms don’t have anything that’s a challenge for them. They both bring home books that are far too easy for them for home reading everyday. In fact my daughter can read her older brother’s home reading books without trouble, never mind her own. We have a ton of books at home for my kids to read, but only two books that are a challenge for my son to read that interest him (and he’s read both chapter books repeatedly already). We have plenty of chapter books that my son reads for fun — Geronimo Stilton, The Hardy Boys (Secret Files), Scooby-Doo! mystery novels, Minecraft books, the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom junior novelization, and so on — but he can read one of those in under a half hour. They’re a challenge for my daughter (and some are too hard), but not exactly a challenge for my son. Something must be done! Once a week after I pick my kids up from school we go for a walk to the local library and I let them each pick out one book that’s a challenge for them to read, and one book that they just want. I say one, but inevitably they come back with one challenging book and a ton of other books they want to read. This is expected and totally fine. A while ago my son brought home a massive book on ecology clearly intended for pre-teens or teenagers. This thing was huge! Anyway, he loved it, but this time he wanted a chapter book. He contemplated starting the Guardians of Gahoole books, so he picked up one of those. But for his fun book? Captain Underpants. My son LOVES Captain Underpants. So he pulled down not one book, but every single Captain Underpants chapter book the library had. There are twelve of them.
“Are you sure you’ll read all of them this week?” I asked my son. “They’re going to be heavy.”
“Uh, yeah, Mom. Of course! But, it might take me two weeks to read them.”
It took him three days. Which is great! But, also… not great. I now have to break it to him that there are only twelve Captain Underpants books. He just read them all. Meanwhile my daughter picked out three Princess in Black chapter books. She owns one of them: The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde, already, but the others are new to her. Although she’s disappointed they are not going to have any rabbits in them, she is enjoying them. So much so that she was inspired to write her own book. It’s called ‘Bunny’s Adventure.’ In it a rabbit named Pim journeys up the rainbow and finds another world. She makes some friends and is back home in time for bed. She worked on it for a few days and in the end gave it to her teacher as a gift. (Her teacher had just returned from surgery that week). It was adorable. She’s so proud of it.
I was recently invited to join a play-by-post game of Traveller, and gifted a digital copy of the rulebook by the overly generous Tarondor. (Thank you!) Traveller is a game I’ve never played before, so I’m super excited to give it a shot. I’ve given the book a skim, and have just embarked on a thorough read-through. The character creation rules look particularly interesting. Like a mini-game of its own. Very cool! I can’t wait to try it out. I’ve got plenty left to read though, so I’m not sure how soon that will be. Haha. This time of the year is quite busy around my house. But, I’m happily working on it.
This coming weekend is going to be just as busy as the last one. Busier, in fact. Yesterday was a day off from school, this morning is swimming lessons for my children (which is about a thirty minute walk away), then dentist appointments later today. I’ve got to squish in a trip to the grocery store and the laundromat. And tomorrow? Thanksgiving at my Mom’s! Monday’s another day off from school and more Thanksgiving celebrations, this time at my mother-in-laws. That’s actually pretty quiet for us for Thanksgiving, in all honesty. We usually also try to squish in visits to my grandparents and my Dad’s, but it’s not going to happen this year. We don’t own a vehicle, and frankly I’m too tired. Haha. We’ll be making time for less frantic visits with them soon.
Well, I’ve got to get cracking! Plenty to do and no time to do it in.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Or, for those of you who are not Canadian, have a great weekend! I wish you all the best.
Today on d20 Diaries the end is nigh! That’s right! We’re talking about Doomsday Dawn!
Pathfinder Playtest released a short time ago, and alongside it they launched a few adventures. There are three Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenarios out, which we’ll talk about later this week. But, the main playtest experience is an adventure called Doomsday Dawn. All four of these adventures are a free download on Paizo’s website.
More accurately, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is a series of linked adventures which, played all in a row, make a comprehensive storyline. It’s like a mini-adventure path. With a few differences. For starters, this is created for Pathfinder Playtest, not the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended not only to introduce players to the new Pathfinder rules, but also to playtest certain aspects of those rules. As such, each mini-adventure is focused on a different aspect of gameplay. Once you’ve finished a section of the adventure you’re invited to head over to Paizo’s website and fill out a survey about your experience. While you’re there, I highly recommend picking up the maps for this adventure: Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack. It contains two different flip-mats which feature the four major maps of this adventure. Other maps found throughout are more generic and can be drawn on a blank mat (Pathfinder: Flip Mat: Bigger Basic), or created with other flip-mats and map products you might have at home.
There’s a few other important things to note. Doomsday Dawn takes place over a long time. A decade to be exact! And it takes it characters all throughout the Inner Sea. Most importantly: this adventure is not always played with the same characters. That is to say, you’ll make a group of ‘Primary’ characters, who will play three parts of this adventure together: parts 1, 4 and 7. For the other four parts you will play different heroes who do tasks related to the primary character’s ongoing story. Each of these side groups will be created for a specific purpose and are only used once. These characters will play parts 2, 3, 5, and 6. Intrigued? Then read on!
Doomsday Dawn tells the story of the Aucturn Enigma, which was first introduced in the module Entombed With The Pharaohs, and was also featured in the module The Pact Stone Pyramid, both of which came out before Pathfinder had its own official rules set. No idea what that is? No worries. Neither do your characters. Basically this adventure involves Ancient Osirion, the Dominion of the Black, the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, The Night Heralds, the planet Aucturn, and nothing short of the end of the world. Yup, the stakes are high! For more information on Osirion, you can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Osirion, Legacy of Pharoahs.
In the year 4718 A.R. (later this year) the celestial bodies will align allowing the Dominion of the Black an opportunity to merge the planet Aucturn with that of Golarion. If this happens life as we know it will end. This doomsday is only possible with objects of power from Ancient Osirion which were put in place long ago in preparation for this time. A group of evil cultists called the Night Heralds seek to bring this end into being, while another group, the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, seeks to stop them. That’s where your many different characters come in.
The first part of Doomsday Dawn is entitled The Lost Star and is intended to introduce new players and GMs to the rules of Pathfinder Playtest. During this adventure you’ll get the hang of encounter mode, and generally get a handle on the new rules. The Lost Star is played by your primary characters, who will begin at level one. They will follow all of the regular character creation rules as detailed in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, except for their background, which will be chosen from the special backgrounds presented at the start of Doomsday Dawn. These special backgrounds include: Budding Osirionologist, Esoteric Scion, Family Friend, Goblin Renegade, Mind Quake Survivor, and Pathfinder Hopeful. Each of these backgrounds is much more specific than the generic backgrounds in the Playtest Rulebook, and is meant to not only tie your primary character to adventure’s story, but also provide them with lore skills that will be of use. There are no other special considerations you need to take into account when making your characters, although it is recommended your primary characters form a balanced party from a wide variety of ancestries, classes and backgrounds.
The Lost Star begins in Magnimar in the year 4707 AR, which is eleven years before Golarion’s present and a week or two before the start of Paizo’s first Pathfinder Adventure Path: Rise of the Runelords. It takes place in the Varisian city of Magnimar and involves a noblewoman by the name of Keleri Deverin. Keleri is a relative of Kendra Deverin, the mayor of Sandpoint. With the upcoming Swallowtail festival to to begin in Sandpoint soon, Keleri headed down into her family’s vaults to pick up a family heirloom known as the Star of Desna, in hopes of getting it blessed at the festival. Unfortunately, she found the vaults robbed by goblins. And one was left behind! She questioned the brute, only to discover that the little goblin’s tribe (the Mudchewers) had been conquered by a nasty hobgoblin by the name of Drakus the Taker. Poor little goblins! Sensing opportunity, Keleri sought outside help. She hired a group of adventurers — your Primary PCs — and sends them down into the sewers of Magnimar to both obtain the Star of Desna and, possibly, to forge an alliance with the remains of the Mudchewers. But unforeseen events are at work, and clues discovered under Magnimar will lead to greater adventures after this. The Lost Star makes use of one side of the flip-mats in the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack.
My family has already had a chance to play The Lost Star. We found it great fun, although it was not without difficulty. We had a tough time with Drakus the Taker, having multiple characters fall unconscious, and one die. We also had some trouble with our alchemist running out of resonance in the first battle. She had to overspend her resonance for the rest of the adventure, which was dicey at best. On an upcoming playtest where I get to make a character, I’m going to make an alchemist of my own, to see how it works in other hands. About the same, I expect. Lastly, we had trouble identifying treasure. It takes an hour to identify a magical item and, since my family’s character’s weren’t forced to retreat and rest, that means they never had a chance to identify or utilize a single piece of treasure throughout the adventure. Obviously, this is disappointing. That said, it’s not the fault of the adventure, so much as a part of the Pathfinder Playtest rules itself. In addition, there are some ways for characters to shorten this timeframe down. Alternatively, this can be solved by your players retreating to rest, recover resources and study objects. However, I didn’t really find this adventure suited that tactic very well. It’s not so much that you don’t have the chance. You do, if you want to, but that my players had no reason to. They were comfortable pressing on.
All in all, I rather enjoyed the Lost Star. It’s a fun introduction to the game, with some very intriguing elements. My family particularly enjoyed the polluted fountain, and the glimpse of the future. In an effort not to spoil the adventure too much, I won’t say much more on the topic. Just know that we enjoyed it. In fact, my kids had so much fun, they turned the title of the adventure (Doomsday Dawn) into a song that they’ve been singing around the house. My daughter also made a delightful little sign that reads ‘We Be (GOOD) Goblins!’ She gleefully made a goblin as her primary character.
The second part of Doomsday Dawn is called ‘In Pale Mountain’s Shadow.’ It takes place two years after the end of the Lost Star. During that time, Keleri Deverin and the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye have been hard at work looking into the clues uncovered by the Primary characters during their foray into the goblin caves. They’ve recently learned of an Ancient Osiriani object of power called a countdown clock, which is counting down to a time when the world will come to an end. Believing that having one of these countdown clocks (there’s a lot of them) in their possession will give the Primary Characters and the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye an advantage in foiling the apocalypse, they have been hard at work attempting to track one down. Thankfully, they’ve succeeded. Unfortunately, there are others after the same countdown clock. In order to get at it in time the Esoteric Order will have to hire outside help. This is your second characters.
This second group is a team of adventurers or mercenaries who live in and around the recently liberated town of Kelmarane. Yes, you heard right. This adventure takes place in Katapesh, in between Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King, and Legacy Of Fire: Book 2: House Of The Beast. Legacy of Fire is one of my all time favourite Adventure Paths (as anyone whose visited my d20 Stories page may have noticed… Haha), so I was more than a little excited for this connection. My children are equally excited to play through this part of Doomsday Dawn, as they’re currently in a play-by-post Legacy of Fire campaign and are working their way up to liberating Kelmarane as we speak. (But that’s a story for another day!)
‘In Pale Mountain’s Shadow’ sees your new adventuring group hired by a noblewoman representing the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. She tasks your PCs with travelling through the surrounding wilds, to the slopes of Pale Mountain, where they will enter through a back-door to the tomb of Tular Seft. They must retrieve the countdown clock before another enemy group does (The Night Heralds), and may keep anything else they find in the tomb. Oh, and they’ll be well paid, of course. This adventure features a lot of exploration mode and travel through the wilds, so at least one of your group members should be capable of navigating and surviving in the wilderness (two is better!). In addition, it is built to test out how terrain, hazards, and other difficulties affect battle. They’re interested in if such battles are still fun to play, or they drag out too long. They’re also interesting in seeing if the terrain makes battle too difficult. So once you’re done playing through this section be sure to give your feedback. It will directly help them hammer out this aspect of Pathfinder’s new ruleset.
The characters you will be making will be brand new fourth level characters made following all of the character creation and level up rules found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. In addition, three uncommon languages are available for your characters to select with their languages known: Auran, Gnoll, and Ancient Osiriani. Knowledge of these languages can open up new opportunities throughout the adventure, it is not necessary. As for gear, each character gets one 3rd-level item, two 2nd-level items, one 1st-level item, and 300 sp to spend on additional items.
Overall, ‘In Pale Mountains Shadow’ looks like a lot of fun. It has an actual introduction, which Lost Star didn’t, and is a relief. The exploratory portion has interesting encounters which I think will play well at the table. These travel encounters all occur on maps you’ll be drawing yourself, or creating with your own map products at home. There are detailed instructions for drawing these maps, and feedback is desired if this was handled adequately in the surveys you’ll be filling out. After the exploration portion (which will likely take a single play session for my family), we get to the Tomb of Tular Seft himself. This portion of the adventure includes an image of a custom map which is not included in the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack so you’ll have to draw it yourself. It’s an awesome looking tomb, with a lot of nifty features. It’s my kids favourite map in the entire Doomsday Dawn Adventure, for sure, and has them quite intrigued. The tomb also has some interesting role-playing opportunities which your group may or may not be able to capitalize on. At some point, your players are bound to run into their rivals — the Night Herald cultists who have been sent to acquire the countdown clock before you can. When this occurs is entirely up to your group and will vary from table to table. There’s even a chance they might slip in and out without ever meeting the Night Heralds (though the chances of that are infinitely slim). The battle looks tough, and like a lot of fun. Particularly because it allows your players to interact with the Night Heralds for the first time. It think it’s going to be a lot of fun. That said, this battle involves multiple different, complex, NPC stat blocks, and GMs should prepare accordingly. In fact, I think that this chapter is actually my favourite adventure within Doomsday Dawn. Whether that will be the case after running it at the table next week remains to be seen. Haha.
Our story continues in a few years later in part three of Doomsday Dawn: ‘Affair at Sombrefell Hall.’ The Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye has a been researching the strange cult known as the Night Heralds, and their plans to bring about the end of the world. Thanks to the efforts of mercenaries the Order has acquired a countdown clock, and have a timeline for the apparent coming end. They’ve discovered enemies, allies, and even discerned that this ‘doomsday’ involved the Dominion of the Black. They’ve gleaned all they can on their own, but now is the time to call on outside help. Your third group of characters will be a team hired by (or a part of) the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye who are sent to Ustalav to contact the foremost expert in the study of the Dominion of the Black, Dr. Verid Oscilar, and obtain his assistance in determining the plans of the Night Heralds. Upon arriving they discover that the good doctor is currently taking a break from teaching, and is relaxing at his personal manor in the countryside. Your characters will head to the manor, and try to obtain his help. Unfortunately for both your characters and Dr. Oscilar, the Night Heralds are more than aware of his expertise, and seek to make him one of their own. …Sort of. We’ll leave that a surprise for now. Haha. It doesn’t make use of any flip-mats, so be sure to have a blank map and your markers ready. You’ll be doing a lot of drawing!
This section of the adventure takes place in Ustalav during the events of the Pathfinder Adventure Path: Carrion Crown: Book One: Haunting of Harrowstone. That said, they take place in completely different parts of the country and aren’t going to have any effect on each other. It’s meant to be a survival horror adventure, which will feature a lot of combat against a lot of undead with minimal preparatory time in between. This is meant to test out the healing resources of a group that includes multiple healers against undead forces. GMs will need to track not only how long each battle takes, but also how much healing is used in each fight. Your group must include at least two clerics capable of channeling energy. The other members of the group must be characters capable of healing to some extent (which can include bard, druid, paladin, or a sorcerer that has divine spells and, to a lesser extent, the alchemist). These new characters will be level seven. They will follow all of the character creation and level up guidelines for characters found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. For gear, they will begin with one 6th-level item, two 5th-level items, one 4th-level item, two 3rd-level items, and 125 gp to spend as they see fit. One character in the group also starts with one +2 magic armor. Good luck deciding who gets that bit of treasure! Haha.
‘Affair at Sombrefell Hall’ is a dark, difficult adventure that takes place at an interesting location. It makes wonderful use of the locale, giving players a chance to explore well before the danger starts. This can give them some really interesting combat options once the battles do begin. The adventure itself begins with some interesting (and probably suspicious) social encounters, and some good old fashioned snooping around. I’m a fan of the survival horror genre in my d20 games, but, due to the nature of the playtest, this one is going to be particularly difficult. You’re going to take a lot of damage, use a lot of healing resources, and probably lose a party member or two. Hopefully, you all come out alive in the end. And, if not, at least some of you survive and secure the aid of Dr. Oscilar to enlighten your Primary Characters. Even if you don’t, you can continue Doomsday Dawn and move on to the next chapter. Perhaps the most important part of this section of the adventure is giving your players a glimpse of the evil that the Dominion of the Black is capable of. And man, oh man. They’re just so… evil! Haha.
Part four of the Doomsday Dawn, ‘Mirrored Moon,’ reunites your players with their Primary Characters. This are the same characters who played the Lost Star. They will be levelled up to 9th level, following all of the levelling rules from the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. They begin with all of the gear they acquired during the Lost Star, plus they get to purchase one 8th-level item, two 7th-level items, one 6th-level item, and two 5th-level items. They also get 250 gp to spend on extra gear. These characters are now considered to be either agents or members of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, and have been off doing tasks and missions together for the last few years. Currently, they’re in a section of the River Kingdoms known as Thicketfell, on the hunt for a mystical lake known as the Moonmere, where they hope to find ancient ruins that were once used by a villain (and possibly founder of the Night Heralds) named Ramlock. There, they will scour the ruins for information on what the coming apocalypse will bring, in order to stop it. Unfortunately, the Night Heralds are already there, and the trouble they’re up to could destroy a nation (at least). Finding the Moonmere will be the least of their troubles!
This adventure heavily uses exploration mode, and is meant to test out what kinds of challenges the characters can handle when they only get in one battle per day. The battles are difficult, so expect to go all out during each fight. That said, you’ll also very often have opportunities to scout out locations ahead of time, which should allow for some clever planning and preparations from players. This adventure makes use of one of the flip-mats from Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack, as well as three other flip-mats: Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Forest, Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Giant Lairs, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Hill Country. These maps aren’t necessary, and can easily be replaced by hand-drawings on a blank map. This adventure also makes use of a terrain hex map featuring the Thicketfell region, much like those used in the Kingmaker Adventure Path (which begins with Kingmaker: Part One: Stolen Land).
I’m not a huge fan of sandbox-style explorations like those found in Kingmaker. It’s just not my cup of tea. That’d not to say its not fun. It is. It’s just not my favourite genre for d20 games. I point this out for context. I’m heading into this one pretty sure that the actual exploration itself isn’t going to be my favourite part of this adventure (or Doomsday Dawn as a whole). Far from it. That said, I always try to put aside my biases, or at least point them out. I intend, as always, to head into playing this section of the adventure with an open mind. After giving it a thorough reading I can safely say that the Mirrored Moon has the most eclectic, enjoyable cast of NPCs found throughout the entirety of Doomsday Dawn, which is going to make it quite fun. Throughout the adventure there will be plenty of opportunities to explore, roleplay, forge alliances, and gain intelligence, which should make for an interesting adventure. The gnomish citizens of Korlabablin were a particular favourite of mine. All in all, I think this is going to be a fun, challenging adventure.
Part Five of Doomsday Dawn is entitled ‘Heroes of Undarin,’ and may turn out to be the most controversial part of the playtest adventures. Why? Well, in short, it keeps a secret from its players, which I honestly believe should be shared. More on this later, but for now, we’ll take a look at the adventure itself.
‘Heroes of Undarin’ takes place in the Worldwound, after the events of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path (which begins with Wrath of the Righteous: Book 1: The Worldwound Incursion). It assumes that the Worldwound has been closed, the Fifth Crusade is winding down, but that demons still infest the region and are being slowly battled. It will probably take a decade or so to make the region safe for travellers again, so for now, it’s still a dangerous, post-apocalyptic type place, infested with demons and other evils. Your players will be making brand new level 12 characters who are all members of the Crusade. They’ve fought battles against demons many of times before and are well-prepared for this mission. They’re hardy, brave, self-sacrificing folks who won’t flee from a fight. They’re… hardened. To create them you’ll be following all of the standard character creation and levelling up rules found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. As for gear, there’s a specific list of magical items they’ll have access to. In addition, they’ll get 100 gp to spend on anything they want. Its highly suggested you create a balanced and diverse party. This adventure is intended to test the limits and capabilities of mid/high level characters.
So who the heck are these people, and what do a bunch of crusaders have to the with Doomsday Dawn? In short, your Primary Characters are in need of information housed in an ancient ruin in the region and your Crusaders have been tasked with escorting them to the site, and protecting them while they’re there. These Crusaders have no idea whats going on with the overall plot line, which will be a bit of a refreshing change of pace. Upon arrival, the Primary Characters descend into the ruins to discover the information they need isn’t mobile. It’s not a book or a tablet. It’s all over the walls. They’re going to have to copy it. Your Crusaders will have to defend the ruins from demonic intruders while the Primary Characters are out of sight doing whatever that entails. It’s a difficult and thankless job. Note that you will NOT be playing your Primary Characters during this adventure at all. Only the Crusaders.
Now, onto the potential controversy. Note that the next paragraph after this contains SPOILERS. If you don’t want to know, don’t read it. It should be noted that the adventure specifically asks that GMs not tell their players the following piece of information. I totally understand why this is, but I disagree with the necessity for secrecy. I can honestly say that if I ran this for my family, without telling them the secret, the session would end with everyone very angry and upset. My kids would literally be in tears. No joke. I’m a firm believer that games should be fun. Tears and anger? Not what we’re aiming for. Because of this, I have one further piece of information to share with our readers. If you don’t want to know, definitely skip the rest of this section on the ‘Heroes of Undarin’ and head on down to the nice big words I’ve added that say ‘Spoiler over.’
As mentioned, this adventure is meant to test the limits of mid/high level characters. Most specifically, its designed to determine how much is too much. Your characters will fight wave after wave of demons. And in the end? It’s entirely expected they’ll die. All of them. Dead. It’s been stated that knowledge of this tidbit will cause players to create characters who are purposely made to ‘survive’ which could throw off the results of this playtest. Throwing off this calibration will do no one any good. That said, I personally believe that if a player knows what they’re getting into, and what’s at stake, they’ll play fair. Roleplaying games are a game about trust, and I trust my players, just like players should trust their GMs. Sending players into a certain death scenario without their knowledge is a breach of that trust. Therefore, I’m telling you. And when my family plays, I’m telling them. Your characters will die. I suggest you embrace the spirit of that. Embrace that self-sacrifice during character creation. Embrace your death scene and make it epic! Don’t make characters made to ‘win.’ Winning isn’t fighting to the end. Winning, in this instance, is making sure that the playtest receives accurate results. It’s being an honest player. So make yourself a team of crusaders, and enjoy pushing them to their limits and beyond. And when your doomed character meets their end, be happy you’ve had a chance to ensure that mid/high level play during Pathfinder Second Edition will be of a fair and challenging difficulty.
The sixth (and second last) adventure in Doomsday Dawn is a definite change of pace. Entitled ‘Red Flags,’ this adventure is meant to test how fun and engaging social encounters, espionage, and skill based adventures can be at high levels of play. That’s not to say that there’s no combat in it. There is. But, that’s neither the point, nor the focus. The focus is on your skills, subtlety and guile. To that end you’ll make powerful level 14 characters who are members of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. Its recommended that they be characters whose role among the Order is to act as one of the following; archivist, diplomat, historian, researcher, spy, or something similar. Don’t make a character who’s geared towards combat. This is an interesting challenge that I’m very excited for. The gear they can utilize is a mix of gold, and specific magical objects, but it’s long, so I won’t write it all here.
These Agents of the Order are sent to a fancy gala on a volcanic island in the Shackles held by a white feathered tengu Free Captain by the name of Whark the Alabaster, the lord of Plumetown. They’re tasked with obtaining an important book from Whark’s treasury called The Last Theorem. Its hoped that the information contained in this book can help the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye (and your Primary Characters) stop the coming doomsday for good. The stakes are high! This adventure takes place after the end of the Skull and Shackles Adventure Path (which begins with Skull & Shackles: Book 1: The Wormwood Mutiny). It utilizes a neat custom map which is not included in the flip-mats. It looks like a lot of fun, but due to the nature of espionage style adventures, I’m going to refrain from saying any more on the matter than that.
Which brings us to the end. The climax. The final chapter of Doomsday Dawn. It’s called ‘When The Stars Go Dark‘ and it is a finale in every sense of the word. It will be played by your Primary Characters, although they’ll be levelled up all the way to 17th level. They’ll have a chance to stop the Night Heralds and the Dominion of the Black, thereby preventing an apocalypse that would destroy all of Golarion. Perhaps they’ll triumph. And perhaps they’ll fail. Whatever the outcome, this is one fun, challenging adventure. It takes place in the present time (for Golarion) on a demiplane known as Ramlock’s Hallow. The purpose of this final playtest is to have fun! They want to know if the game is still enjoyable and challenging at high levels. So get in the game, and have a blast! Oh, and try to save Golarion while you’re at it.
The adventure itself is complex. I can say for certain that my kids will pretty much have no idea what’s going on. Haha. For them it will be more of a ‘point them at the bad guys and they’ll fight’ kind of scenario. That said, they’ll still enjoy it. Those of you who understand what’s going on will obviously get a lot more out of it than that. There’s a good variety of encounters, and getting to the end will involve more than just muscles. You’ll need to put on your thinking caps. I particuarly enjoyed the flavourful encounter with the Ashen Man.
I don’t want to give away too much more about this adventure. But, I will say, that I think it’s an epic conclusion to the Doomsday Dawn.
It’s definitely a different style of ‘campaign’ than I expected. It’s longer, and more… disjointed. That said, it’s a lot of fun, and an imperative aspect of the Playtest. This adventure allows the folks over at Paizo to test out the aspects of the game they need help to calibrate. It allows all of you to have a say in the final product, while simultaneously helping them fine-tune the game balance.
I highly recommend that players interested in the Playetst find a group and play through Doomsday Dawn together. It’s my hope that this article can help people get excited about Doomsday Dawn, and head into it with appropriate expectations.
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on both the Playtest and your experiences playing Doomsday Dawn. If you’ve had a chance to play, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how it went!
Well, Spring has finally sprung here on d20 Diaries. In the last few short weeks we saw our last snowfall of the winter, we’ve watched the sandy snow melt, and we’ve seen the grass begin to green. My children went from complaining it’s too cold, to whining it’s too hot and bemoaning the lack of prepared swimming pools all within the same two weeks. We had our first sprinklings of rain, and the line-ups for slurpees have officially tripled.
My kids are very interesting in making our planet a brighter, healthier place, so they took to our apartment’s patio at the first opportunity, insisting we spend ‘just a little bit of money’ on some potted plants.
“It will help bring back the bees, Mom!” (Thanks for that tag line, Cheerios, by the way).
“It will bring beautiful butterflies!” (which will leave their cocoons splattered all over my patio walls)
“The rabbits can eat them!” (Not a very compelling argument…)
“They are great for smelling!” (I’m allergic).
“They help us breathe. Well, maybe not YOU, Mom, cause you are allergic to EVERYTHING. But it will help everyone else breathe great!” (Fair.)
Compelling (and not so compelling) arguments aside, I always encourage my kids to follow their passions. My daughter’s embraced her love of rabbits with wild abandon, while my son carries gardening gloves and extra bags in his school backpack, so he’s always ready to clean up the litter we pass by. So, I had every intention of helping my kids do some gardening, despite how ill it was going to make me.
Well, five trips to Rona, nine pots, four tiny bags of soil and infinitely more than ‘a little bit of money’ later, and my kids have transformed our dour little concrete slab into a riot of colourful pots and flowers. They planted three pine seeds they got from the Earth Rangers. (If you don’t know, the Earth Rangers is a Canadian kids conservation organization which challenges kids to help the environment and save endangered species one mission at a time. They have a kid-friendly website, mission lists that give kids easy to accomplish ways they can make a difference close to home, rewards for completing tasks, and nature themed games and articles the kids can play or read. You can also donate or fundraise on behalf of their various missions to save endangered species, but my kids don’t do that part cause I’m a big stick in the mud. For more information on the Earth Rangers, check out their website!). We’ve also got a lovely fern, plenty of flowers and an overpriced rabbit planter. We’ve got a bag of wildflower seeds to plant, as well, which we recently got free from the Cheerios Bring Back the Bees campaign. If you haven’t done so, check out their website, where you can get a free book for your kids and a packet of wildflower seeds (Note: I have no idea which countries can receive the free seeds and book, but it doesn’t hurt to try!).
Admittedly, some plants aren’t doing so well. My kids can be overly eager with the water, we don’t get much sun, it was still below freezing some mornings, and rabbits have been eating all the petals off of the yellow flowers (much to my daughter’s delight). But, that doesn’t really matter. My kids are thrilled to be doing their part to help our local environment, and they’re learning how to be responsible for another living thing. And hey, if it feeds a few rabbits and brings back a bee or two, that’s a bonus. It’s their smiles that really make it worthwhile.
On the gaming front, OutPost has finally come to an end. It was a lot of fun, and my whole family enjoyed themselves. Despite the many games I was a part of, I never managed to win one of the special convention boons, nor did my husband or any of my kids. Happily, what my kids did manage to win was respect. Both of their GMs from the convention were impressed with their crazy characters and their handle of the game. Not long after the end of their convention games they applied for more. My daughter easily scored herself a spot in another play by post, despite worries about her age, after providing a link to her last game to prove she was a decent player. One of the people who played alongside my kids during Outpost decided to GM a scenario and opened a sign up for prospective players which got a ton of interest. My son’s character earned a spot with ease, with an admission from the GM that he had enjoyed playing alongside my son’s character so much that he was the first person selected to play in his scenario. Suffice to say my son was pleased. Both games have been running for a few weeks now, and are going well.
Closer to home, my kids have been plugging away at the The Shackled City Adventure Path. It’s been six play sessions, and we’re still in Jzadirune. The end of their exploration is in sight, and soon we’ll be descending into the Malachite Hold! I’ve had to make some changes to the dungeon. After the first few play sessions my son was getting a little bored of all the fights and what felt like a lack of progress. I streamlined the encounters, removed the unnecessary ones, and added some flavourful fluff. We refocused slightly, and have been really paying attention to the things my son’s character recalls from Jzadirune. He did live there as a child, after all! Last session ended with my son discovering his family’s old home, and meeting the ‘King’. He’s grown to love this haunted little dungeon, and has every intention to fixing up when we’re done down there and living in it. What could go wrong?!
My daughter, meanwhile, has been on the edge of her seat, exclaiming after every session, “But, we have to finish it! 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.
We’re about to undertake a side quest in our Carrion Crown campaign (we’re currently on: Carrion Crown Book 1: Haunting of Harrowstone), but were stymied by an excess of laundry, and a need to purchase summer shoes. More details on these characters will come in an upcoming blog post.
Out in the wider universe, my family is currently one battle into the delightful Starfinder Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth! They’ve just fought their way past Elytrio’s automated defences, deployed their drift beacons, and are about to touch down on the surface. You can pick up this awesome scenario for a few dollars on Paizo’s website. You’ll need the Starfinder Core Rulebook to make characters and play.
My kids have been hard at work creating their own custom adventures, which they’ll be running through as GMs for our family soon. Not long after that they’ll be up on d20 Diaries for your enjoyment. We’re keeping it under wraps for now, but what I will tell you is that they both involve islands, and lost treasure. But, while my son’s gone for a pirate adventure, my daughter’s taken a different approach. And yes, before you ask, hers has some rabbits in it. Haha.
In other exciting news, I’ve cashed in my various gift cards left over from Christmas and have a delightfully tall pile of Pathfinder and Starfinder books to read through sitting on my dresser. I’ve recently finished reading through Pathfinder Player Companion: Legacy of the First World, and have just begun reading the highly anticipated (in my house at least!) Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Pact Worlds! My daughter’s particularly excited for the SROs race, for reasons we’ll go into another time.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for us to water the plants.