Crown of the Kobold King: Part One

A few days ago my son decided he wanted to make a villain to join me and my daughter’s evil characters on their dark and shady adventures. We spent some time together, and Professor McMaan was born! But where, oh where, would a bunch of villains hang their hat? And what kind of adventures would they go on?

A good question!

When my daughter first told me she wanted to make an evil girl, instead of another hero, I thought long and hard about where she would live, and what she could do. Would she live in a large city and try to hide her misdeeds amongst the masses? Would she live on the outskirts of a secluded village and hide her evil under a cover life of lies and deception? Would she live someplace where no one cared what she did, and shady dealings were considered normal? For answers, I turned to my daughter.

“Who are you?” I asked her. “What kind of evil girl are you going to be? What does she like to do that’s so bad?”

“Oh, Mom!” she exclaimed happily. “I was a nice doctor lady, who lived near the woods and made medicine and stuff.” Suddenly she switched to her ‘spooky voice.’ “And one day I was out in the woods and I found a rabbit! Oooooo! But it was not a normal rabbit, it had wings like a fairy and it looked very… very… adorable!” She wiggled her fingers in an ominous fashion and make more spooooooky sounds. “Oooooo! So I took the little rabbit home and it made whispers in my head! It taught me magic! But ya’ know what?! It was a demon rabbit! And the demon rabbit told me to do mean things like make zombies! And I liked it! And now I am a necra– necROmancer!”

“Oh! I almost forgot!” she exclaimed. “I am also very nice and pretty, and that is a LIE! I am pretty and very mean! But I act nice because the demon rabbit taught me how to lie really good. Oh! And I can shoot fire at people.” She made some expert fire blasting sounds for emphasis: “WHOOOOOOSH! Burny burn!”

Absorbing this for a few moments, I concluded. “Dear… That’s awesome.”

We ended up making her character an aasimar witch with the grave walker archetype and a flying rabbit familiar tied to the elemental patron. Witches have a variety of spells that let them create undead, including zombies, skeletons, and (later) more powerful undead like ghouls and ghosts. The elemental patron would add some damage dealing spells to her list including the level one spell: burning hands, which will let her shoot a cone of flames at her enemies. The gravewalker archetype, found in Pathfinder’s  awesome hardcover: Ultimate Magic, would allow her some nifty death themed spells in addition to the elemental spells granted to her by her patron and two awesome abilities: aura of desecration, which empowers negative channeled energy and makes undead harder to harm with positive energy, and bonethrall, which lets her take control of any undead within her aura of desecration that isn’t hers. The only downside: gravewalkers have creepy dolls made of skin for familiars instead of animals.

Farris
Artwork chosen by my daughter to represent Farris, her demon rabbit familiar. Artist unknown. (If you know who created this let me know in the comments below so proper credit can be given).

With big teary eyes (my daughter can cry at will), and her bottom lip stuck out sadly, my then four year old daughter tried her best to convince me it would be alright if she had a demon rabbit instead of a demon rabbit doll. Knowing it was only us playing–and mostly verbally on walks to and from kindergarten–I caved. Besides, she’d already found some artwork she wanted to use as her familiar (pictured on the sidebar) and decided on a name: Farris.

With her class decided, my daughter chose an alternate racial trait for aasimars, which grants them sharp nails or claws. She chose the cauldron hex, granting her a witches cauldron and the ability to brew magical potions. She finalized her spells, feats and traits, chose her gear and named her: Lorelei.

Then it was my turn. But before I made a best friend for the good doctor, I needed to know where we lived.

Lorelei
Artwork chosen to represent Lorelei, a gravewalker witch. Artist unknown. If you recognize the signature let me know in the credits below so proper credit can be given.

Taking into account her backstory, we decided Lorelei and Farris lived on the outskirts of a secluded village. She hides her evil deeds and necromancy behind a public life as a doctor, midwife and herbalist. Her maxed out ranks in bluff and diplomacy should keep her ‘friendly’ cover intact at low levels, and as long as she didn’t do anything too absurd she should be able to successfully lead a convincing double life–for a while at least. But where, exactly would this small village be?

Since Pathfinder’s my favourite RPG and Campaign Setting, it would be in Golarion, of course. But Golarion’s a large place and there are plenty of little villages that could fit the bill. I ended up choosing one that has a special place in my heart: Falcon’s Hollow. As the old Dungeon magazines published by Paizo came to an end back in 2007, Paizo launched a series of modules and variant rules for Dungeons and Dragons which would eventually become their own ruleset, Pathfinder, while Dungeons and Dragons branched off into 4th edition. With no desires to relearn the rules to 4th when I had only recently accomplished mastering 3.5, I decided to give the budding Pathfinder campaign setting a try. The first adventure I got my hands on was the very first one they printed: Crown of the Kobold King. This dark little adventure took place in the awful, horrible town of Falcon’s Hollow, and its surrounding forest, the Darkmoon Vale. With a free prequel adventure, Hollow’s Last Hope available for download online (STILL a free download, give it a try!), a sequel, Return of the Kobold King, due out shortly thereafter (ALSO a free download), and a supplement book (Guide To Darkmoon Vale) available for purchase, I had plenty of time to grow to love the little town and its dreary desperation.

Falcon’s Hollow is better understood as a lumber camp run by a greedy, amoral lumber company known as the Lumber Consortium. The lumberjacks work long hours in the dangerous, fey-filled forest and live in dismal shacks provided by their employers. All the shops that sell gear and food are controlled by the Lumber Consortium–who charge massive fees for basic necessities–as are the law courts, and the town guards. Even the hardest working and thriftiest lumberjacks soon fall so deep into debt to the Consortium they have no chance of getting out of it. These people work non-stop just to get by in this hopeless, dreary town. Their families find what work they can, either working as lumberjacks or in the few shops and bars around town. The Consortium in Falcon’s Hollow is run by a corrupt, mean fellow named Thuldrin Kreed, and his right hand man is Boss ‘Payday’ Teedum, a pug-nosed man as vile as his employer. The only source of justice is the sheriff–who refuses to bow to the Lumber Consortium despite threats of violence and worse.

Against this backdrop I placed Lorelei’s herbalist shop, replacing the town’s original herbalist with her (for now…). And her first adventure? Hollow’s Last Hope. It was perfect! So when a mysterious sickness made more than half the town ill, and Boss Teedum came knocking on her door to bully her into curing this plague–or else!–even my daughter’s evil girl was moved to finally find a cure.

It’s been quite a few short adventures since then, and Lorelei and Farris have had a blast. With burning hands and grasping corpse her go-to level one spells, and boneshaker her level two spell of choice, she’s had a lot of fun shooting fire, making dead bodies trip and grapple her enemies, and painfully grabbing peoples skeletons and dragging their bodies around the battlefield. She keeps a collection of corpses, carried around in a cauldron by her skeletal minions, for the inevitable time when her current undead minions are destroyed (always keep some raw materials laying around!).

In addition to saving her town from illness, she’s gone grave robbing, treasure hunting, and visited cursed locations in the hopes that more powerful undead can be researched there–and that she can learn the secrets to crafting them (or at least mind control some!). As for undead under her control, she’s had zombie crows, human skeletons, kobold zombies and her current favourite: the ghost of a cannibalistic druid.

Blood Kineticist
The wonderful art that inspired Kilarra Bloodborn, a blood kineticist with more than a few disturbing habits. (If you know the artist let me know so proper credit can be given)

She’s made friends along the way (and killed others!), including her best friend, Kilarra Bloodborn. A tiefling kineticist (blood kineticist archetype (from Occult Adventures, one of my favourite d20 books of all time) and dark elementalist archetype (from Horror Adventures)) who sacrifices humanoids to her demonic patron, Shax, in order to gain dark powers. When she shoots blasts of blood at her enemies the howling faces of her sacrifices can be seen in its depths, bound to her in their torment. With a skeletal hand that loses flesh the more she uses her powers, and regains flesh each time she rests, shrunken heads woven into her hair, and the habit of painting cards with the images of the people she’s sacrificed, Kilarra’s one disturbing room mate. She was heavily inspired by this amazing art shown in the sidebar.

The first time I described the very creepy Kilarra with her skeletal hand walking through Falcon’s Hollow, my daughter smiled.

“Oh, Mom! My girl runs right up to her and looks at her hand. She takes it and she tells the scary lady: ‘You’re beautiful!’ Because I think her IS beautiful. My girl wants a skeleton hand! But, I don’t think people would like doctors with skeleton hands much.”

It was a friendship forged in blood and corpses.

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Beautiful art by Redreev George that inspired the creation of Kiyla, a young ranger who loves to dance. And hunt. And combine the two.

There’s other’s she met along the way. Kiyla, a little girl who fights with a unicorn’s horn as a sword and loves to dance. The only problem? The music she loves best is the cries of tortured, wounded animals. I swear I didn’t make that up. It was my daughter. And let me tell you, it is creepy as heck when this pretty little girl starts to dance ballet whenever an animal’s in pain.

And now, Professor McMaan, my son’s mad scientist who likes to trap souls inside the bodies of the dead or dolls that he’s created. His piece de resistance is his pig familiar, within which he trapped the soul of his rival, Professor Piggs.

But on what adventure would the newly expanded four person party embark upon?

An old favourite: Crown of the Kobold King.

Having made a name for herself saving Falcon’s Hollow, Lorelei, Kilarra and Kiyla recently returned from an extended vacation where they visited haunted locales in the area. Coming back to Falcon’s Hollow to find a new herbalist has moved into town in her absence–Laurel (that witch!)–Lorelei decides she needs to make this backwater town remember why they need her!

Meanwhile, another new face recently arrived in the area: Professor McMaan, a foul scientist from Sandpoint who was forced to abandon his research and flee before the law caught up with him. Newly arrived to Falcon’s Hollow he spent the last of his savings on building a new secret laboratory, underneath an old hut in the woods outside town. After settling in he went to check on his nearest neighbours, expecting lumberjacks or thugs, he was surprised to discover a herbalist’s shop–with strange moaning sounds coming from it’s basement. After sneaking into Lorelei’s home and discovering the necromantic experiments hidden in her secret lair, Professor McMaan has been biding his time, anxiously awaiting the moment his delightful new neighbours return home from their trip!

As soon as Lorelei, Kilarra and Kiyla get back home, Professor McMaan’s at their door, knocking happily and introducing himself as “a fellow bad guy and professor of dead things!”

Lorelei was intrigued and insisted Kilarra NOT sacrifice him. Yet.

My kids had a blast introducing themselves to each other, sharing dinner at Lorelei’s home, and giving each other tours of their secret labs. By far, the majority of our session was spent on them talking and play acting as their characters, showing off drawings they’d made of their homes and pictures they’d discovered on Pinterest of their furnishings. Professor McMaan had a particularly dashing shelf of pickled eyeballs and brains to share that my son found on a halloween board.

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Crown of the Kobold King,a 3.5 adventure easily adaptable to the Pathfinder rules set. Written by Nicolas Logue. Printed by Paizo Publishing in 2007.

Unfortunately, their dinner party was interrupted by a rude knocking. Boss Teedum was back, demanding that Lorelei get her things together. Five kids in town–Mister Kreed’s son included–have gone missing, and they’re sending guards to get him back (him, not them, because all Mister Kreed really cares about is his own son). They’re expecting the kids to be hurt–the stupid brats!–and they’re going to need a doctor in case Kreed’s boy is hurt.

Realizing this is her chance to make the folks of Falcon’s Hollow remember why they need her, Lorelei graciously accepts the Boss Teedum’s ‘offer’ (orders) on one condition: her friends accompany her.

Not caring whether or not Lorelei’s weirdo friends die, Boss Teedum accepts, telling Lorelei that the guards set out in only a few hours. Then he stomps off.

Lorelei is thrilled. She quickly hurries to her necromancy lab to pick some of her weaker, more lively-looking undead. She selects two zombie rabbits and two zombie crows from her collection, each kept in cages (they’re not under her control right now, and are very dangerous) she picks them up carefully and puts them in her cauldron (it’s an animated object now, and can walk around on its own. Usually she rides inside it). With some backup undead ready to go, and her handy ghost cannibal creepily haunting her every step, Lorelei’s excited to set off for the Darkmoon Vale.

The guards are creeped out by their new travelling companions, but it matters little. The cannibal ghost kills them in their sleep, and soon the four heroes villains are by themselves.

They follow the trail of the children (Kiyla’s a magnificent tracker) to a burnt down orphanage long thought to be haunted. It seems the children dared each other to spend the night camping nearby. After exploring the campsite they decide to check out the ruins in case any delightful new undead are lurking in its halls. They’re not, but they do find signs that whatever fire claimed the orphanage was not what it seems. They find a secret torture chamber made to contain and harm a werewolf. A werewolf that seems particularly small sized… The werewolf is nowhere to be seen–burnt in the fire, perhaps, but the orphanage matron is there, long dead with her throat torn out.

Lorelei decides she doesn’t want that body, and uncharacteristically leaves it behind. Why? We’ve accidentally stumbled upon one of my daughter’s recent fears: lycanthropes.

Jeva
Jeva, a werewolf from Crown of the Kobold King, by Nicholas Logue.

Nervous and jumpy, my daughter expressed fear. Now, this might seem normal, but my daughter’s encountered lycanthropes in D&D before, and never had a problem with it. The last one she met was a wereshark by the name of ‘Bloody Frennick’ who she made friends with and insisted join her pirate crew.  In all honesty, I thought she’d welcome a little werewolf girl into the group as a friend! Deciding it was best to let my children fight the mysterious werewolf and put an end to the suspense rather than leave it out and have them nervous and paranoid the rest of the adventure, we took a short snack break. When we continued they met a young girl, who tried to trick them into the deep, dark forest, with promises of how she and her friends were ambushed and dragged into the woods. She gestured to the trail that… yes, it did seem to belong to the five children, but Lorelei knew better. This girl was NOT a child from Falcon’s Hollow! She was a werewolf!

A battle ensued with Lorelei hatefully exclaiming: “She’s lying! I think she’s a werewolf! Kill her just in case!”

Although it should have been a tough fight, Lorelei’s cannibal ghost made quick work of her, and she was unable to escape. Lucky for my daughter’s conscience, it was a werewolf, as she proved when she transformed during the fight.

With the terrifying werewolf dealt with we wrapped up for the night.

But not before Professor McMaan scooped up the girl’s body for his experiments.

Concluding our first session of Crown of the Kobold King, we packed up our dice and minis and put our villains aside for a while. Even undead need a rest sometimes. The children of Falcon’s Hollow would have to wait for rescue for another day.

Soon it was dinner, and my kids moved on to play Pokemon in the other room while I cooked.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Werewolves are terrifying. Weresharks are not.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be WAY more scared of the shark.

Signs in Senghor: Part Two

My family and I recently finished playing Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-10: Signs in Senghor, a delightful adventure written by my brother. This marks my husband and both of my children’s first official Pathfinder Society adventure. We made their characters the other day, registered them, and played through the adventure in two sessions; the first yesterday evening after dinner, and the second this morning after breakfast.

Adventures always take a bit longer when my children are playing, as their tactics aren’t always… the most effective, and social encounters and small details always gets expanded by their actions. There’s nothing my kids love more than having conversations in character with NPCs and describing extra fun activities their characters to–whether it be dancing, singing, or playing with their pets. That being said, we finished Signs in Senghor in about five hours, which is the high end for a scenario session, but not exceptionally slow. As mentioned, we split that into two days of play. Not because they ran out of patience or got bored, but because it was their bedtime. Haha. They REALLY wanted to stay up late to finish it last night, but bedtime prevailed and we continued in the morning.

Signs in Senghor begins in Eleder, a colonial port city in the hot and humid country of Sargava. There they meet their Venture Captain for this adventure, Finze Bellaugh. Finze is a scholarly, portly fellow who comes off as educated but personable. Written into the text during his mission briefing are lots of colourful, humanizing actions that my kids really related to. He circles sections of map, rubs his chin in thought, crosses his arms over his big belly, and waves his arms around to calm the group’s excitement. During this part of the adventure my kids really enjoyed introducing themselves to each other, and their Venture Captain. My daughter acted out her shy rabbit-breeding druid (Bunny Paras) and her goofy parasaurolophus who likes to perform tricks at her command (Paras). My son shivered with cold despite the heat, with his ranger, Senton, more commonly known as Mr. Ice. And my husband shared his occultist’s vast knowledge with the group, providing them with all kinds of background on their upcoming mission.

The Pathfinders and their rivals, the Aspis Consortium are constantly butting heads and fighting over control of discoveries throughout the world. Although the Pathfinders are by no means a virtuous organization, the Aspis are most certainly a foul group. Known for exploiting their workers and locals, using slave labour, and caring more for profit than anything else, the Aspis Consortium are a thorn in the Pathfinders side, and a blight upon Golarion. Recently, the Aspis Consortium has started up a suspicious mining operation which doesn’t seem to be netting them any profits. When word reached the Pathfinders of the strange occurrences happening near the mines (which never happened before the Aspis arrived) they were understandably suspicious about what the Aspis Consortium are really up to. Unfortunately, in the Mwangi Expanse, the Aspis Consortium have a lot more power than the Pathfinders. In order to move against the Consortium, the Pathfinders are going to need allies. And while other, more experienced Pathfinders begin to investigate the mines, my group of players gets tasked with making those allies.

Nearby the mining operation is the port city of Senghor and my lovely little group of players are tasked with proving to the ruling council of Senghor that the Aspis Consortium are exploiting the nearby ruins of Boali for profit. Boali is considered taboo and haunted among the citizens of Senghor, and is off limits. Unfortunately, the council of Senghor isn’t just going to take your word for it. You need evidence. And what better place to get evidence than in Boali itself!

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Mirian Raas, Captain of Daughters of the Mist, and star of Beyond the Pool of Starsby Howard Andrew Jones.

After the mission briefing, Bunny Paras and her pet parasaurolophus, Paras, along with the ever cold Mr.Ice, Enzo the Chelaxian occultist and (because all PFS scenarios require at least four players) Amiri, the iconic barbarian from Pathfinder, all socialized a bit. Mr. Ice played up his shivering, despite the hot and humid weather, Bunny Paras made Paras dance and ‘sing‘ by making annoying sounds with her crest, Amiri played up her strong and gruff demeanour by doubting the other weaklings around her would be any help, and Enzo put his noble upbringing to good use by taking charge of the group. They travelled down to the docks to meet Mirian Raas, a sailor and Pathfinder who is scheduled to bring our Pathfinders from Eleder into Senghor on her ship, Daughters of the Mist. Mirian is also the main character in one of the Pathfinder Tales novels, Beyond the Pool of Stars by Howard Andrew Jones.

After a quick sailing summary, they make port in Senghor without difficulty. From there, the group had a chance to traipse around the city, speaking with locals and looking for information about the Aspis Consortium’s work in Senghor. Enzo and Bunny Paras (along with Paras) took advantage of the opportunity, and discovered a lot of information about Boali. Mr. Ice did the opposite, instead using his free time to find a patch of sunlight to sit in. He sat there for a full hour (in game time) shivering in the sunshine while bundled up in his furs. Amiri mocked him. Haha. My son had a blast. He was chattering his teeth and shaking to act out his character.

After an hour in Senghor (in game time) the group returned to the docks where Mirian had procured a fishing boat for them to use to sail to Boali. She offered them a sailor to help, but Mr. Ice insisted he could sail them there. Of course, he has no ranks in profession (sailor), so whether or not he would succeed was entirely up to lucky rolls. Fortunately, luck was on their side, and they made it to Boali in only eighteen hours, a full six hours faster than the expected travel time. My son was extremely proud of himself and took to insisting he was a master sailor.

Upon arriving in Boali they looked around for signs of the Aspis Consortium, eventually discovering their old camp and some muddy, discarded boots with a hole in the toe. Mr. Ice took extreme care in approaching the camp stealthily. An effort which Bunny Paras handily thwarted by telling her parasaurolophus to ‘sing’ loudly and dance. Despite the foiled stealth attempts, the group was unmolested. They found the camp empty. My son thought the holey boot was particularly suspicious, but finding no real troubles, they followed the Aspis’ trail into the ruins of ancient Boali, a city in the jungle now partly-flooded with swamps.

Eventually they came upon a flooded section of the ruins, where they found an interesting statue toppled over in the water–a statue which proved entirely suspicious to my son. He spent a solid five minutes interacting with the statue. Examining it, and offering many, many theories about why it might have toppled over and what it might mean. Listening to my six year old son talk about erosion, and how swamp water might affect a marble statue was thoroughly entertaining. His theories ranged from people knocking it over, to earthquakes, and erosion. But wait! Why, oh why, is the statue irregularly eroded? Why can we still see its helmet clearly?!? Cue another stream of suspicious theories from my son.

Boggard_Champion_by_ilkerserdar
Boggard, as seen in Pathfinder’s Bestiary

Fortunately, boggards hiding in the deeper parts of the flooded ruins ambushed the Pathfinders, putting an end to the many conspiracy theories being put forth by Mr. Ice. The boggards quickly wrapped up Mr.Ice and Amiri with their sticky tongues–preventing them from escaping–but they had less luck actually striking either of the Pathfinders with their morningstars. Mr. Ice took great glee in shouting insults at the frog-people and attempting to chop their tongues off with his short swords, while Amiri laughed. Escape was the furthest thing from her mind. She swung her massive great sword at the boggards and dealt a ton of damage. Bunny Paras made an exceedingly useful tactical decision: she made her parasaurolophus dance and trumpet loudly. Yup. Another wonderful use of a turn from my daughter. Enzo proved far more practical, using a ancient stone figurine of a dog to summon a magical dog, which attacked the boggards on his behalf. The group made quick work of their enemies, but over the sounds of Paras’ loud saurian ‘singing’ they heard something else: a man calling for help from a nearby building.

Curious, the group hurried to the sound. Once inside the building in question they split up: Mr. Ice and Amiri checked one room for dangers, as Mr. Ice was incredibly paranoid this was a trap, while Enzo led Bunny Paras and Paras to the cries for help. Mr. Ice and Amiri found a weird room which Enzo later determined was an arcane laboratory, while Enzo and Bunny Paras discovered a man calling for help. With the lower half of his body stuck in the stone from a magical trap (quick application of transmute stone to mud and then transmute mud to stone made him sink into the floor and then get stuck) and the upper half of his body stuck in a half triggered mechanical trap he only managed to stop from slicing him in two by shoving his metal gauntleted hands into it’s gears, this fellow found himself in a tight spot.

“It’s about time you–” the man exclaimed angrily as Enzo and Bunny found him–only to realize they were not who he expected. “Hi!” he exclaimed with a smile, downplaying his predicament. “The name’s Gideon Wren! What brings you fine folks to my humble home?”

And thus entered my son’s favourite part of this adventure: Gideon Wren. A freelancer for the Apis Consortium who was left for dead by his colleagues, Gideon’s a fast talking, fun NPC to run at the table. With melodramatic, mournful tales of his friends leaving him behind and the boggards who were tormenting him by tossing leeches at him while he was stuck, and promises of telling you everything he knows about the Aspis’ work in Boali and Senghor, if only you’ll get him to safety back in Senghor, Gideon provided a wealth of role-playing opportunities. My son took great pleasure in threatening and intimidating the fast-talking Aspis agent, thinking of a ton of ways in which he could threaten and torment the fellow. Meanwhile my daughter regarded him with worry and suspicion, squeaking with worry at the table, and running around whispering to my husband and son the results of her sense motive checks. Enzo really latched onto the idea of bringing Gideon to safety in order to learn everything he knows. After eliciting promises of not only sharing information with them, but also testifying against the Aspis Consortium in front of Senghor’s ruling council, Enzo finally disabled the trap that threatened Gideon’s life. He then left Amiri to dig the fellow out of the ground, while he explored the other rooms in this building. Bunny Paras spent her time dancing happily to Paras’ irritating and loud ‘musical’ calls. Mr. Ice kept guard over Gideon, informing him of the many ways he would hurt him if Gideon backed out on his promises.

A few hours later Gideon was free, and the Pathfinders moved out into the city in search of more evidence. Unfortunately, the boggards who call Boali home found them soon after, led by their massive ‘Great Queen’, a frog-monster known as a mobogo, which was chasing a group of Aspis Consortium agents through the streets. None of our Pathfinders managed to identify the creature, but they all realized it was incredibly powerful. As the mobogo magicaly makes an eight foot tall wave of water chase the Aspis Agents, carrying rubble and smashing buildings as it goes, they all decided to do what any brave hero would do! Like the great, brave, Sir Robin, they ran away.

Mobogo
The Great Queen, a mobogo, found in Pathfinder’s Bestiary 3

So began what I thought would be one of the most fun, and the most difficult parts of the adventure for my lowly level one players: a dramatic chase through the ruined city of Boali with a powerful creature hot on their trail. The DCs for this chase are quite high, but after modifying it as necessary for their level, I was hopeful they’d have a good chance. Fortunately for them, their early arrival to Boali via Mr. Ice’s masterful sailing, and Enzo’s good luck with disabling the trap that held Gideon, meant that Gideon would be helping the Pathfinders during this chase, instead of being in need of their assistance from horrible wounds.

After escaping the waves of water, the Pathfinders had to suffer through the mobogo’s terrifying croaks and a stampede of terrified Aspis Agents, only to have the monster frog leap upon the road and crush most of those same Aspis Agents. After narrowly avoiding being squished by a mobogo bum, they ran from his hurricane-like breath, and got tangled in poisonous vines. After escaping the vines they managed to pick up a few stone tablets the remaining Aspis Agents dropped, dove through a crumbling archway and reached the beach–only to have the mobogo flick its tongue out at them and wrap up Gideon. As Gideon was dragged back towards the gaping maw of the mobogo, the others panicked.

“Not Gideon!”

They hacked and slashed at the ‘Great Queen’s’ tongue until it let go of Gideon, then escaped with him on their ship. Deciding they’d had enough of Boali, the Pathfinders sailed back to Senghor.

Despite the difficulty of the chase, my group did awesome, only failing against the poisoned vines, which still allowed them to escape with time to spare.

Upon arriving in Senghor the next day, back in good time thanks again to Mr. Ice’s masterful sailing (luck), they probed Gideon for information. Mr. Ice threatened the poor ex-Aspis agent with bodily harm in many ways (seriously: never underestimate a child’s creativity!) while Bunny Paras listened to everything with great suspicion, and Enzo took thorough records. After learning much about the Aspis Consortium’s purpose in Boali, and their operations in Senghor, Enzo decided he’d like some further evidence before going to the Senghor’s Council. They agreed to head for the Aspis Consortium’s local warehouse from which Gideon’s boss, Shinri Dells, leads the operations in Boali. Unfortunately, there’s no way Gideon was going to fight Shinri. By his account, she’s a terrifying woman.

Enzo and Bunny Paras tried to convince him to wait for them in safety with diplomacy, but Mr. Ice and Amiri decided to threaten his life instead. Shaking in his boots, Gideon waited for the others to finish up at the warehouse at a nearby restaurant–or at least he said he would…. Would he really wait for Mr. Ice to come back and threaten him some more? My children were unsure.

After casing the warehouse (and with some help from the intel they got from Gideon) they decided to split up. Enzo and Amiri went in the front door to speak to the Aspis agent masquerading as a secretary whose job it is to shoo nosy visitors away. Knowing the guard was going to try to warn the others in the warehouse if the Pathfinders didn’t leave, Bunny Paras, Paras and Mr. Ice wait at the loading doors, listening intently for the alarm to be sounded by the secretary, which will also be their signal to enter the warehouse.

The plan goes off without a hitch. As the secretary drops pottery on the floor and loudly bemoans how much trouble he’ll be in, my children’s characters rush into the warehouse, effectively splitting up the guards and getting the jump on them. Facing off against these two, they make poor progress. It doesn’t help that Bunny Paras’ first turn is spent telling her parasaurolophus to ‘sing’ and dance instead of attacking. Still, Mr. Ice gets in a hit with his short swords, while the guards put up a fight. Back in the front room, Enzo slips past the guard as he loudly looks for a broom, and hurries into the warehouse. Angrily, the secretary charges after Enzo and throws a dart at him. Lucky for Enzo his aim is poor. Also lucky for Enzo? The secretary turned his back on Amiri. It’s not a mistake he lived to regret long. She knocked him unconscious with one swing of her massive sword, and finished him off on her next turn. Enzo summoned another dog to battle the remaining guards, while the fight continued. Eventually, Bunny Paras ordered Paras to swing her tail at the enemies–missing, but hey, she tried!–and shoots a few stones at the guards with her sling.

As the Pathfinders triumph over the guards, Enzo hurries to the side door, hoping to catch the fearsome Shinri Dells unaware. Unfortunately the door opens right before he goes through, revealing Shinri herself. Not very scary looking, Enzo knows better from Gideon’s many accounts of her battle prowess. He immediately orders his dog to get in her way. It misses her, and Shinri retaliates, destroying the dog with two quick punches.

“You shouldn’t have come here,” she taunts.

Alone in front of a woman who’s bound to kick his ass, Enzo remarks cleverly: “Eeep!”

Now, this fight is tough. In addition to being a CR 3 enemy, Shinri’s got the monks flurry of blows ability, which lets her make two attacks every turn, and the ability to deliver her sorcerer’s corrupting touch with one of her punches, which can scare her victims. That’s not even taking into account the monk’s handy stunning fist ability. Things are not going to go well for Enzo.

Or so we thought.

Amiri went next, charged at Shinri with her sword raised, and scored a critical hit. Dealing a massive 33 damage in one hit, Shinri Dells fell to the ground, dying.

They are SO lucky! Seriously. I was expecting at least one of them to fall unconscious, but to come out unscathed? I was honestly flabbergasted.

LUCKY.

Enzo quickly stabilized Shinri, which prevented her from dying, then stuffed her in a big sack with the intent of brining her to Senghor’s Council as proof against the Aspis Consortium’s presence in the city.

But first? Investigating! My kids LOVE clues. As fans of Scooby-Doo and Murdoch Mysteries, they set out to find clues, clues and more clues–also loot!–on the bodies of the Aspis Agents and the warehouse. Happily, they found lots. Including, that Shinri Dells is in communication with some kind of evil fiend during her daily meditations. This fiend gave Shinri magical powers, new fighting techniques and knowledge of an ancient relic. Known as the Twelve Rites, these stone tablets were what Shinri had her agents searching for in Boali. And our heroic Pathfinders have six of them. Armed with that important bit of information (and lots more that we won’t go into here), the Pathfinders leave the warehouse and look for Gideon.

Who is waiting for them, as promised.

They leave together for an audience with the ruling council. Along the way they meet a poor child, begging for food and coins. Although Amiri rudely ignores the child, the others are all suckers, giving the urchin over five gold. A healthy sum in Pathfinder! As they turn to leave, Bunny Paras suddenly exclaimed in pain. She turned to find the child was not a child after all–he was a tiny asura demon who used illusions to mask his appearance. The asura jabbed her in the back with his poisonous stinger.

Woozy and afraid, Bunny Paras exclaimed “Help! I am poisoned! I’m dying!” and fled down the road in hysterics, with Paras hot on her trail.

Leaving the vicious little assassin fiend to the rest of the group, Amiri and Mr. Ice slaughtered the creature in one turn. Considering the creature was a CR 3 challenge, they are very luck–again! After working together to help the frantic Bunny Paras overcome her poisoning, they set out again for the Council offices, this time arriving without further incident.

They easily earned themselves an audience using their Venture Captains’ letter of introduction–Thanks, Finze! After arriving in the waiting room they are offered dried fruit and water–which Bunny Paras suspiciously checked for poison. It comes out clean, so they eat and socialize with the other guests. Enzo sought out gossip and information about the council members they’ll be meeting with, discovering their identities and how best to influence them.

Soon, they enter the last stage of this adventure: presenting their case to the representatives of the Council of Senghor, and winning them to their cause in the hopes of driving the Aspis Consortium out of Senghor, and gaining the Council’s aid in the Pathfinders efforts to shut down the Aspis Consortium’s suspicious mining operations.

Now, this part is going to be difficult for my players. None of them are well trained in diplomacy, and intimidation won’t work for them here. Other than one of the nature-loving council members who can be influenced by Mr. Ice and Bunny Paras’ knowledge of the natural world, the other methods to get the council on their side are not skills my players are trained in. Fortunately they presented a good case–bringing Gideon to testify, the paperwork and clues from the warehouse, and the six clearly evil tablets of the Twelve Rites–as well as the fiend-tainted Shinri Dells herself–all granted them bonuses on their attempts to influence the council. Even with these bonuses some of the rolls were tight, but the Pathfinders managed to get the entire council on their side!

Happy at their successful first mission, the Pathfinders are dismissed. They bid Gideon farewell, only to have Mr. Ice–the same Mr. Ice who has been tormenting him and scaring him the entire mission–tearfully bid farewell to Gideon.

“Goodbye.” he waved sadly. “I’ll miss you.”

Gideon looked incredibly surprised. He gets only a few steps away before my son decides he couldn’t possibly say goodbye to the shifty ex-Aspis agent. He decides to try to fulfill one of his faction missions, by recruiting a named NPC scholar, archaeologist or similar character to join his faction: the Scarab Sages. Unfortunately, the DC to do this is a 16, and my son’s modifier on his roll? A zero. Zilch. Nothing. He needs to roll a 16 or higher on his d20 to pass. Still, he grabs his dice, and looks incredibly nervous.

“Wait, Gideon! You should join the Scarab Sages!”

“You want to give me a job?” Gideon asks suspiciously.

My son nods vigorously. “YES!”

He rolls his dice…. getting a 16.

My son jumps for joy and exclaims happily, proud to have brought Gideon into the Pathfinder Society.

And so our session came to a close.

We filled out our paperwork, spent their earned coins, and wrapped the session up, bringing their first Pathfinder Society Scenario to an end.

The verdict?

They loved it.

My daughter and husband’s favourite part was the chase scene where they fled from the “frog-bat.” My son’s favourite part was his interactions with Gideon Wren. And mine? I loved how excited they got during this session. I loved seeing their eyes light up in excitement, and their super, creative roleplaying.

Also? I loved this adventure!

So thanks to my family for playing with me. Thanks to my brother, for writing this adventure. And thanks to Paizo, for making scenarios affordable!

I’m sure we’ll be off on another PFS scenario soon!

Joining the Pathfinder Society

After deciding to make proper Pathfinder Society characters so that my children and husband could enjoy my brother’s recently released Pathfinder Society Scenario as it was intended to be played, I spent part of the day helping my children create their new characters and register with the society.

As mentioned in the previous post, my daughter made a rabbit-breeder with a parasaurolophus as her animal companion. She decided to make herself a kitsune–an irony which thoroughly amuses me–and chose the archetype Saurian Shaman, a pretty straight-forward option from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Magic, that makes her better at summoning dinosaurs, interacting with dinosaurs, and lets her take on the aspects of–you guessed it–dinosaurs.

Rabbit Shaman wasn’t an option. *hint hint, Paizo*

She didn’t have many skill points, but those that she did have she dropped into handle animal, knowledge (nature), acrobatics and–her personal favourite–profession (rabbit breeder). That’s a well spent skill point, alright!

She surprised me by choosing Magical Tail for her feat, a quirky racial feat available only to kitsune that not only causes her kitsune to grow a second tail, but also give her new magical abilities–in this case the ability to cast disguise self twice a day. I expected her to take a feat that makes her parasaurolophus better, but thoughts of the many tricky things she could do with an illusory disguise won out.

She spent her gold after that, on important camping gear like a pink sling, leather lamellar armour–also pink, a large tent painted with images of rabbits and a parasaurolophus frolicking in a meadow, and a stuffed rabbit for cuddling at bedtime. Once the necessities were out of the way she splurged on frivolous things like: food.  She named her character Bunny Paras, and her beloved dinosaur Paras. I’m sure by tomorrow she’ll have names for all the rabbits on her farm.

My son went next. Heavily inspired by Legolas from the Lord of the Rings, he decided to make a ranger who fights with a bow, and dual wields daggers. That’s where the similarities end. Deciding his character was from the frozen north, he explained that his character is very pale, and covered in old frost bite. He’s constantly feeling cold, and made friends with Bunny Paras while training at the Pathfinder Lodge. After asking why his character would be heading to the jungle, instead of going on a mission in the north, my son immediately replied: “He’s cold. The jungles hot.” then he laughed as if it were the dumbest question he’d ever been asked.

Touché.

Soon he decided his character would have the trapper archetype, also from Ultimate Magic, which lets you quickly make and deploy traps instead of gaining spell casting abilities. He uses these traps to protect the rabbit farm from animals and intruders. (Rabbit thieves are a huge danger, you know…)

And what masterful name did he come up with this time? Senton. Although everyone calls him ‘Mr.Ice’ because he’s always shivering cold.

My husband went last, deciding to make a Chelaxian occultist of noble birth who spends a some of his time pursuing philanthropic endeavours, and the rest attempting to improve his magical powers. Capable of minor divinations and conjurations, Enzo Jeggare prefers to summon animals to do his bidding.

With characters in hands it was time to choose factions. Enzo surprised no one by joining the Dark Archives, a faction of Pathfinders who collect, curate, study and learn from powerful artifacts and evil relics. My kids, on the other hand, were very surprising. Both of them chose to join the Scarab Sages. Soon to be retired from Pathfinder Society play, the Scarab Sages are a faction of Pathfinders who are seeking ancient magical stones which can impart the wisdom of ancient Osirion (essentially ancient Egypt, in Pathfinder) upon their users. These Sages will lead Osirion into a new golden age.

WHY did a rabbit-breeder and a trapper care about ancient jewels from the desert? Good question. Mr.Ice is feeling cold, I guess, and what better place to warm up than a scorching desert? As for Bunny? Jewels are pretty.

And then came the last step: registering their characters. We signed into the Paizo website, made them their own accounts, and signed each of their characters up for the Pathfinder Society.

Prepared, registered, and very excited, my kids are thrilled to get to play their quirky new characters through my brother’s adventure, Signs in Seghor. And me? I’m thrilled to help them.

I can’t wait for game day!

Happy New Years, guys.

To new beginnings!

 

Signs in Senghor: Part One

Big news around my house today! Some new Pathfinder Society Scenarios just released and one of them–Signs in Senghor–is written by my brother.

That’s right! Exciting!

For those of you who don’t know, the Pathfinder Society is a world-wide organized play program. It’s like playing Pathfinder in short sessions with a rotating group of people. All of your characters are members of the Pathfinder Society, which is like a organization of adventurers, explorers, scholars and archaeologists. You just make your character by following the Pathfinder Society Guidelines, take your nifty character and all their paperwork with you to your local game shop, a convention, or to play with your pals, and play a game together. One person GMs, as normal, but they have to use specific, short affordable (five bucks and under!) adventures, called scenarios–and follow them. After a few hours your session’s over, you fill out some more paperwork and show up again whenever you find the time. The GM sends records of the game to Paizo, and voila! Game done. You and some fellow Pathfinders completed a mission together. Maybe you’ll play with those people and their characters again, and maybe you’ll play with a whole new group.

Now, I’ve never played a PFS scenario in person before. Recently, however, I got addicted to Paizo’s message boards. Here, you can play by post. Join the message boards and play your characters–for regular Pathfinder or for PFS–online by posting their actions with your gaming group. Once you find a gaming group, that is. Although competition’s tight for most play-by-post campaigns, it’s quite easy to join a PFS game. They’re short, fun, and you get to play with people from all over the world. It’s a blast.

But, back to the topic at hand: my brother!

PZOPSS0613E
Of Kirin and Kraken‘ by Kris Leonard. Pathfinder Society Scenario for tier 7-11

Now, this isn’t the first PFS scenario my brother’s written for Paizo. He wrote one other back in Season Six. Of Kirin and Kraken. Intended for play between levels 7 and 11, I haven’t had a chance to play it yet. As a newcomer to the Pathfinder Society I’ve got a bunch of characters, all still enjoying their first level. I’ve a long way to go before I can play through that beauty! So I read it, instead. A lot. Involving ancient sunken ruins, a magical instrument, weird cultists, a tribe of boggards and a spell-casting squid, it’s a fun, memorable romp with a surprising number of opportunities for role-playing with a colourful cast of NPCs. I really enjoyed it.

But his new scenario? Ahh! THAT one I can play right away. Intended for characters from levels 1 through 5, Signs in Senghor isn’t just going to be purchased. It’s getting played. Immediately.

So I bought it last last night, and read it this morning, and as I finished it I told my children: “Uncle Kris wrote an adventure for Pathfinder, and I have it. Do you want to play it?”

They shrieked out “Yes!” in a variety of ways, and jumped around a bit.

“It’s a Society scenario.” I told them. “Do you want to play it by all the proper Society rules? Or should we play it with some characters you already have, just for fun?”

They decided on the Society rules. And when I mentioned they would get to make new characters, no one was more excited than my daughter. She jumped in glee and immediately shouted: “I’m making a rabbit breeder!”

“…A rabbit breeder?”

“Yes! I raise rabbits! I have a whole farm of them! I’m a druid, you know.”

It should be noted, my daughter REALLY loves rabbits. This character concept did not surprise me at all.

“Why did you join the Pathfinders?” I asked her.

“I want to find treasure from the people who used to worship rabbits. Cause I think they’re holy. Oh! And also, Mom, I will be a fox-person!”

I laughed. “You’re a kitsune who raises rabbits? Do you eat them?”

NO!” she shrieked, clearly offended at the idea. “I am a vegetarian fox-girl. I never eat rabbits. Or other animals. I cuddle them.”

Well, alrighty, then. A kitsune rabbit-breeder it is. And what did she pick for her animal companion? A parasaurolophus. BY NAME. She actually said: “Mom, I want a pet parasaurolophus.”

Seriously.

If you don’t know your dinosaurs as well as my daughter, you can learn about parasaurolophus here.

Looks like we’ve got a lot of (fun) work to do before we play tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what else they create.

Character Focus: Professor McMaan

Today I got to use some content from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness. That’s right! And what content, you might be asking? A nifty little archetype for familiars. And why? My son.

My kids are young, only five and six, but they play a lot of Pathfinder. Usually, we play verbally, on the half hour walks to and from school. But on the weekends or the holidays, we have a chance to pull out the battle mat and play a proper game. Quite a while ago, my daughter decided she wanted to play a campaign for only the two of us. Something to play on the walks home from kindergarten, when my son’s still at school. Girl’s only.

“That’s great.” I told her. “What kind of characters should we make this time?”

“Oh, Mom,” she told me. “I do NOT want to be a hero this time. I have a lot of heroes. I want to be… a villain! A really, REALLY evil girl!”

So we created two horribly evil females. And my son’s been jealous ever since.

Today, as my daughter was trying to convince me to play a session of ‘evil girls’ with her, my son decided he’s finally had enough. He too would make a villain, and join us on an adventure.

But what kind of villain? Who would really want to hang out with a blood kineticist who feeds on the souls of others, and a doctor who’s more fond of the undead than the living? A mad scientist of course!

“Mom, I want to make a scientist, who is really good at making things, and knows about peoples bodies and things. And he likes to take things souls and stick them in special bodies. Maybe dead ones, or live ones, or ones he made! And he has a secret lab! Oh! And he’s nice and friendly!”

A nice and and friendly mad scientist who meddles with souls? Sure, why not! And so Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan was born. Why the nickname ‘Bigpants’? He was inspired by this amazing artwork we discovered on Pinterest. He even made himself old and sucked up the age penalties in order to be true to the image.

My son decided he would make an investigator. And, after some time spent glancing through archetypes he decided upon a bonded investigator. Giving up all of their poison capabilities for a familiar which gets better over time, my son was thrilled to find this little gem in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Intrigue. And what’s the perfect familiar for our soul-meddling Frankenstein-inspired investigator? A pig with the soulbound familiar archetype! Thank you Ultimate Wilderness! By giving up the familiar ability alertness, his adorable little pig gets a soul gem stored inside it with the spirit of a humanoid trapped within. This grants his pig skill focus in any one skill his soul excelled at in life. Choosing skill focus (craft constructs), my son decided Professor McMaan’s pig was enhanced with the soul of his rival, Professor Piggs, making his familiar capable of helping him out in the laboratory with his many experiments.

To make his quirky little pig even more thematic, he chose to take evolved familiar as a feat, allowing him to scientifically enhance his pig’s body — in this case, to give it a swim speed, “cause pigs are real good swimmers, Mom!”

With his familiar ready we settled in to finalize the rest of Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan himself. With an old, frail body, but a powerful brain, my son decided to equip the good professor with a nifty sword cane (topped with a silver skull!) and a host of acid and alchemist’s fire. But, starting as he was at level three, he had a lot more wealth to go around. He insisted we check into crafting constructs, despite that I promised him that required being level five, only to discover ‘craft poppet’ on d20pfsrd. Apparently, poppets are tiny and small, weak constructs which you can make right off the hop, at level one, and are relatively affordable. In addition, each poppet can be modified with enhancements. Recently published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Adventurer’s Armory 2, a sourcebook which I do not own, but seriously wish I did, these poppets made his day. He happily spent the rest of his three thousand gold coins on building a combat poppet, modifying the small sized wooden doll with armour, extra health and strength improvements; and a sneaky poppet, modifying the tiny doll with enhanced agility, stealth, and a faster move speed.

Thrilled to pieces, Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan and little Professor Piggs are ready to take their miniature poppet minions out on an adventure with some seriously bad girls. Now, if only I could decide what that adventure would entail…

Have a great night, everyone! I hope you enjoyed reading about my sons new character as much as he enjoyed making it.

Jessica

Ultimate Wilderness

Well, Christmas has come and gone, along with a variety of other holidays you might be celebrating, and while I wait for my shiny new copies of Starfinder and the Alien Achieve to arrive in the mail, I’ve been entertaining myself by delving into another great new d20 product, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness.

For those of you who don’t know, Ultimate Wilderness is a new hardcover release from Paizo Publishing, put out for Pathfinder. Pathfinder, as previously noted, is my favourite d20 game by far, and I recently received a copy of Ultimate Wilderness for my birthday (thanks, Kris and Crystal!). Like most of Pathfinder’s hardcover releases, Ultimate Wilderness comes with new class options and some new mechanics for GMs to add to their games, all themed around, you got it, the wilderness. This book introduces one new base class, tons of new archetypes, some new feats and spells, and quite a few rules subsets. Unlike most hardcover releases, this book also drops three new player races, and a ton of new options for familiars and animal companions.

Now, this book’s not cheap. None of the hardcovers for Pathfinder are, so I thought it might be worthwhile to share my two cents about the book, what you’re getting, and whether it’s worth it.

Ultimate Wilderness starts by introducing us to three new race options for players, two of which were previously released in other books. The gathlain, a lovely little fey creature with wooden wings who first was released in the very back of another one of Pathfinder’s hardcovers, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide. Found in the race builder section, gathlain originally had no details provided about their race other than the race entry itself. Now, these delightful little tricksters are given pages worth of information, including some special gear, feats and spells. There’s also a trio of archetypes, including one of my favourites from the entire book, the Season Sage, a druid archetype that got me desperately wanting to play a gathlain. Definitely a favourite of mine, you know you’re going to be producing some quirky characters with this race when the entry points out that ‘gnomes often find gathlains too flighty, foolish and undisciplined for their tastes’ (Ultimate Wilderness, page 9). Seriously. Gnomes think these guys are flighty. As a fan of the absurdity of Pathfinder’s gnomes, I’m going to have a blast with these little guys. I love it!

The second race to get some love in Ultimate Wilderness are the ghorans. Ghorans first appeared in one of Pathfinder’s skinny, softcover books, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Bestiary. They entered the scene with a bang, tempting us with tales of the ghoran’s origins. Magically created as an fast-adapting food source, ghorans achieved sentience and became a race all their own. Now the secret of their creation has been lost, and ghorans have shaped their bodies into a humanoid form, in the hopes that people will be less inclined to consume them, despite how delicious they taste, if the ghoran’s look more like them. Yup. Delicious. Like the gathlain, ghoran’s also come with an array of options, including a few feats, a magic item and a spell. They introduce a new bloodrager bloodline and two new archetypes, including the delightful aromaphile–a mesmerist archetype.

This third and final race introduced in Ultimate Wilderness is brand new. At least as a player race. Although leshy’s were first introduced in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 3, they have only now entered the game as a player race. Vine leshy’s are what you’d come to expect from these adorable little plant spirits. Hardy and clever, with some quirky camouflage capabilities and the ability to speak with plants, vine leshy’s are a fun, colourful addition to the game.   Like the gathlain, vine leshy’s have a lot of character options offered alongside them, including some new feats, spells, magical and mundane gear, three archetypes and the addition of the leshy subdomain for all those clerics and druids out there who wish they could summon these little fellows.

Following the races, Ultimate Wilderness gets into what I was most excited for: the Shifter. This new base class is a shapeshifter who can transform parts of their body–and later their entire body–into animal features. It has a full base attack bonus, but suffers from the same armour restrictions as the druid class does–a small price to pay for a chance to make yourself a chimera of animal parts. They gain a nice array of wilderness abilities that are familiar, in addition to unique abilities, including wild empathy, woodland stride, track, trackless step and wild shape–although their wild shape is a weaker version of the druids, allowing them to only transform into animals they have a connection with (you start with one, and can have four by the higher levels of the class progression). As far as new abilities go, it’s the shifter’s claws and shifter aspects abilities which are going to see the most use. Shifter’s claws gives you a claw attack with each hand, dealing 1d4 damage each to start, these claws increase in power as you level up. With an unlimited uses and the ability to extend them as a swift action, these claws are an awesome combat option for the shifter, making it unlikely you’ll need to invest in a melee weapon at low levels. The second major ability of the shifter is shifter aspects. Usable in one minute increments for a number of minutes per day equal to three plus your level, shifter aspects allow you to gain a physical benefit which changes depending upon which animals your shifter is spiritually attuned to. As with wild shape, you only start with one animal aspect, so you’ll need to choose wisely, but you gain more aspects as you level up and can later manifest more than one aspect at a time, making you a chimera of sorts. My personal favourite aspect is the bear, a sturdy choice which can improve your constitution at low levels and lets you transform into a dire bear with wild shape. Other gems include the bat, which grant you darkvision out to great distances and later blind sense, and the mouse, which grants you evasion and allows you to transform into a tiny mouse with wild shape–letting you sneak into tight spaces and the ability to climb, swim and sniff your way around the environment. All in all I really like the shifter class and I’m positively desperate to play one. Now if only I could convince my husband to play a few sessions with me…

After the new classes comes the archetypes, of which there are a TON. Now, not all of the archetypes presented in Ultimate Wilderness are brand new. Some are reprints from their line of softcover books, including the bold Thundercaller bard (originally published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends) and my favourite witch archetype, the green-thumbed Herb Witch (originally published in one of my favourite player companions, Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of the Wild). Now, admittedly I was a little miffed at first, to discover some archetypes here that I’ve already been playing for a while, but after reflection, I’ve changed my tune. I like having the archetypes related to the wilderness that came from the skinny, softcovers collected in Ultimate Wilderness–presuming there are a lot of new archetypes alongside them. Which there are. Tons. Sixty pages of them, and at more than one archetype per page, that’s a lot of archetypes. I had quite a long list of favourites, but I’ll share a few with you.

Topping that list is the already mentioned gathlain archetype, the Season Sage which, thankfully, can be taken by other races with GM permission. Season Sage is a druid which gains the ability to change the seasons of the world around him, using his powers to make plants bloom, animal’s get their warm winter coats, and the weather to change. They can bring their companions the growth of spring (making them grow to twice their size), the might of summer (making them robust and healthy), and harm their enemies with the decay of autumn, and the icy cold of winter. They can literally change the world and the weather around them. And who doesn’t want to travel with a guy who can make it nice and warm in the middle of winter, or hide you in a blanket of fog? Far from over-powered, but filled with cool visuals and some neat new powers, Season Sage is my favourite archetype in the entire book.

My second favourite is a shifter archetype. Now, being a new class, shifter has quite a few cool archetypes going for it, including the elementalist shifter (which lets you harness different elements and fusions of them), the fiendflesh shifter (which lets you harness the power of evil outsiders), and the verdant shifter (which lets you take on the aspects of different plants). But, my personal favourite? The oozemorph. A shifter archetype that lets you become like the T-1000 from ‘Terminator 2’.  Seriously. It’s awesome. You want to be made of shiny goo? Check! You want to transform your arms into different weapons? Check! You want to squeeze through tiny holes and compress your body? Check! You want to take on the appearances of different people? Check! How about a climb speed or damage resistance? Check and check! This archetype is awesome, super nostalgic, and has great visual potential. As long as you don’t mind being a protoplasmic blob…

There’s a ton of other awesome archetypes in the pages of this book, and if you pick it up be sure to give some of my favourites a read, including the horticulturist alchemist (who can create seeds that rapidly grow into summoned animals and plants, and who can alter his bombs to affect everything, only plants, or only things that aren’t plants), the saurian champion cavalier (who can ride gigantic dinosaurs: cause who doesn’t want to be a knight that rides a t-rex?), the viking fighter (it’s about time!), the star watcher investigator (who uses horoscopes and astrology to tell the future for his companions and make magical effects), the wood kineticist (blast away with vines, tree limbs and stinging leaves or flower petals), the geomancer occultist (who can use the terrain he’s in as an implement), the flamewarden ranger (who explodes in a burst of fire upon his death, damaging his enemies and healing his allies, and can rise from the ashes a round later), and the avenging beast vigilante (cause the only thing better than being a batman, is being a bat man who can also turn into a dire bat!).

Like all Pathfinder hardcovers, there’s a chapter for new feats and spells. These parts of the book aren’t as vast as some of the others. It’s certainly no Ultimate Combat where feats are concerned, nor does it have the spells of Ultimate Magic. Still, there’s some good options for both sections contained inside. Lots of the feats are very thematic, or specific. For shifters there’s extended aspects and extended animal focus, both of which are going to be staples for most shifters. There’s a new combat style that caught my fancy: beastmaster style, which lets you make handle animal checks to negate attacks that hit your animal companion–presuming you’re beside your beloved pet–much like mounted combat works for mounts. Continuing in this feat progression also lets you substitute your handle animal check in place of your companion’s saving throws. My choice for the best feat in here (that’s more universally useful) adds onto the Spring Attack feat progression. Yes, spring attack’s already an investment, but improved spring attack and greater spring attack add great value to this build by letting users gain an extra attack, or two, with each spring attack, as long as they target different enemies with each subsequent attack.

As for spells, there were a good array of nature based spells spread out among lots of classes. You won’t just find new spells for rangers and druids here, you’ll also find some neat new spell choices for arcane and psychic casters. A few of my favourites include tamer’s lash, a level one bard, bloodrager, magus and ranger spell that creates a sonic whip that damages your enemy and can cause animals to back down for a few rounds in fear. Explosion of rot is a nice level four damage dealing druid spell that makes everything around you rot and decay (living or otherwise!). Rounding out my favourite spells from this book are the various polymorph spells: magical beast shape, ooze form (one through three) and fey form (one through four), all of which allow a wide variety of classes to take on all kinds of new forms.

There are a lot of new mechanics and rules subsets introduced in Ultimate Wilderness, some of which will find more use than others. The new discovery and exploration rules are sure to find  home in many exploration games, the new hazards are sure to trip up more than a few characters (look out for spellgorging plants!), and information on the Green Faith and the First World are always welcome. But, it’s the rules for foraging, harvesting poisons, harvesting trophies, herbalism, and wilderness traps that made me the most excited. Finally, a way to make a snare trap in the wild without a weeks worth of work and a sack of gold! (And there was much rejoicing).

The last section I want to touch on in Ultimate Wilderness is a huge part of the book and, in my opinion, a massive draw: familiars and animal companions. Taking up over forty pages of the book, this section collects stats for some of the more obscure animal options you may have missed in the many softcover releases they’ve been spread across, as well as new choices (including the anglerfish, archaeopteryx, dodo, koala, panda, sabre-toothed cat, plenty of plants and vermin, and my daughter’s personal favourite: the rabbit). It also provides a huge host of archetypes, tricks and feats for them to make use of. Most important for me? A nice concise listing of which animal forms have access to which magical item slots. Now, it’s worth noting, some of the information in this section was previously printed in some other softcover releases from Paizo, including Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio and Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive. But, much of the content is new and, in all honesty, I like having it compiled into an easier to access source.

For my money, Ultimate Wilderness is worth it. It provides a lot of fun new options for players and some decent new mechanics for GMs to enrich their games. One of the biggest draws for this release is going to be the many new options for our furry (or scaly or feathered) friends, the familiars and animal companions. If you don’t have this book yet you can pick it up at the link below, and if you do, let me know in the comments what you’re most excited for from Ultimate Wilderness!

Until next time, get those dice rolling!

Jessica

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness

 

Bright…

Those of you with Netflix might have noticed an interesting film that just recently released on our televisions: Bright. If you haven’t watched the film–or even the trailer–I highly recommend you give it a chance. This movie’s an urban fantasy buddy-cop film revolving around a dangerous magic wand in a city populated by humans, elves, and orcs–with plenty of other wonderful weirdness. Yes. I’m serious. And it stars Will Smith.

In short: I loved this movie. 

Now, this is not a movie review. This is a blog about d20 games. But watching Bright got me thinking. See, in addition to being a fantasy movie and a comedy movie, Bright cast a glaring light on some important topics. Chief among them: racism and corruption. Now, I’m not going to spoiler any more of the film than I already have, but I am going to say one last thing: Bright handled these topics very well. And to celebrate that we’re going to make a short list.

Now lists are likely something you’re going to see a lot of on d20 Diaries. I’m a fan of a good list. So today we’re looking at my five favourite d20 adventures that deal with prejudice.

You will not find adventures about wanton destruction or wiping out ‘evil races’ or anything like that in here. These aren’t orc-hating, demon-hunting or goblin-slaying tales. Here you’ll find adventures that have environments heavily tainted by prejudice, mysteries where killers prey upon the downtrodden and social encounters where the player’s may wonder whose side they should really be on. So without further ado:

My picks for top five d20 adventures that feature prejudice:

#5 – War of the Wielded by Michael Kortes

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‘War of the Wielded’ by Michael Kortes. Art by UDON. Printed in Issue 149 of Dungeon Magazine, August 2007.

Although many of the top five adventures I’ve chosen are serious in tone, the first one is anything but. It’s an unabashedly absurd, fun little adventure printed in Issue 149 of Dungeon Magazine, back in 2007. War of the Wielded, by Michael Kortes focuses on a centuries old fight for dominance between two rival thieve’s guilds, The House of Oquon, and the Cabanites. The descendants of these groups despise each other with a passion reminiscent of the Montague’s and the Capulet’s from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s a fifth level 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure, but can easily be adapted to Pathfinder or other systems.

The adventure begins with the player’s stumbling upon a violent battle between the rival factions, and by the end has the player’s wondering which side of the war they should throw themselves behind. But, wait! There’s a twist!

The Oquons and the Cabanites are long gone. Dead. Caput. Only their intelligent blades remain, still battling each other to this day by possessing the people who happen to touch them, and using everyday people in their never ending war. That’s right. You heard me. The prejudice and hate featured in this adventure is perpetuated by two rival factions of magical swords.

It’s insane. It’s wonderful. I love it. Your player’s will love it. And by the end they’ll be torn between greed–come on, who doesn’t want a magical sword that can talk–and the need to save the people being used by these powerful blades. So give this adventure a whirl and see if you side with the Oquons or the Cabanites. Or perhaps, put an end to the hate and battle them both! I hope you’ve brought a rust monster…

#4 – Siege of the Spider Eaters by Tim and Eileen Connors

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‘Siege of the Spider Eaters’ by Tim and Eileen Connors. Art by James Ryman. Printed in Issue 137 of Dungeon Magazine, August 2006.

This next entry is an interesting adventure that in a lot of ways feels like classic dungeons and dragons, but has a neat twist. Siege of the Spider Eaters is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure made for 1st level characters, that can easily be transferred into any other fantasy world. It was printed in Issue 137 of Dungeon Magazine. Siege of the Spider Eaters takes place in a secretive little village called Haven-Fara founded by pirates. When the players get there they find the entire town carpeted by a blanket of thick spider webs and more than half the townsfolk are missing. Of course, the player’s need to save the townsfolk, right? You can’t just let them get eaten by the spiders who’ve clearly dragged them away! And so they set out on a spider-squishing mission. But this adventure’s got some twists in it, and things aren’t going to be nearly that simple.

Now, Siege of the Spider Eaters has some cool things going for it. First of all: the town, Haven-Fara. This village is built around a beached pirate ship. Yup. Right there in the middle of the town, taking up a solid sixth of the entire village. A big, freaking, pirate ship. What makes that even better? The interior’s a pub. Haven-Fara’s also got ramshackle huts made of driftwood and scavenged ship parts, it’s surrounded by jungle, and it’s covered in thick spider webs. This town has atmospheric written all over it.

The beginning of this adventure is an investigation, and leads into a simple monster-killing mission, but when the locals you need to befriend and save are shifty, scuzzy, pirates, scuttlers, sailors and the descendants of thieving buccaneers, even small social encounters are memorable. And when a walk down the road is through massive spider web tunnels, it’s not the kind of adventure that will not soon be forgotten.

Once the player’s get to the spider’s den, though, things take a bit of a turn. For the spiders aren’t all what they seem. Some are aranea–intelligent spiders who can also turn into human-like people–and are in fact, the missing townsfolk. Yup. Spider people. Let’s hope the group didn’t kill too many of their pets on the way here… But if the missing townsfolk are spider people, why web up the town? Well, I’m not going to give the whole adventure away, as the surprises are part of the fun, but let’s just say it involves, spider-eaters, pirate treasure, secrets and greed.

As the players navigate the secrets of Haven-Fara’s aranea population they’ll be making plenty of choices. Who to help, who to hinder, and what secrets to keep and expose. The players actions can save Haven-Fara, or see it torn apart by hate and mistrust.

#3 – Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves

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Pathfinder Module: Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves . Art by Dave Allsop.

Murder’s Mark is a Pathfinder murder mystery intended for level one characters. It’s a fun, solid adventure that keeps moving along even if the players get stuck thanks to well-timed events and flavourful encounters.

Murder’s Mark takes place in the city of Ilsurian, an independent trade town in Varisia (a part of Pathfinder’s Golarion campaign setting), whose citizens are mostly foreign colonizers (Chelaxians) who harbour deep distrust and resentment towards the native Varisian population (a very gypsy-like peoples). The adventure begins when a traveling carnival comes to town, and the player’s pay it a visit.

The opening is a fun, light-hearted romp, where the players get to engage in games of skill and chance at the carnival, and end up distinguishing themselves as heroic and trustworthy when trouble breaks out.

But trouble’s brewing in Ilsurian. People begin turning up dead and the locals suspect a member of the traveling carnival–an enigmatic sphinx said to be tame. With tensions mounting between locals and performers, and the body count rising on both sides, the player’s have to discover what’s really going on before Ilsurian erupts into ethnic violence.

Murder’s Mark does a great job of using the rampant racism found in Ilsurian, and making it a focus of the adventure. With the townsfolk being Chelaxians and the carnival folk being Varisians, every encounter has the potential to take a violent turn due to prejudice, fear and stupidity. Players have a real chance to change Ilsurian, and save a lot of lives. But they also can fail. And when lives are in the balance, failure can be a huge disappointment–and an instigator of even greater violence.

Murder’s Mark is a great, well-written adventure filled with wonderful twists and turns, and social encounters that really matter. When your players finally discover the architects behind this string of murders, they’ll be dying to give them a whooping! I guarantee it.

For those of you that don’t own this little gem, you can pick it up online at one of the two links below.
Pathfinder Module: Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves
Pathfinder Module: Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves

#2 – Steel Shadows by Keith Baker

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‘Steel Shadows’ by Keith Baker. Art by Jonathan Hill. Printed in Issue 115 of Dungeon Magazine, October 2004.

Another great murder mystery, Steel Shadows was published in Issue 115 of Dungeon Magazine. It’s a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure intended for level seven characters and set in Sharn, a city in the Eberron Campaign Setting.

Steel Shadows takes us on an adventure in the seediest, poorest districts of Sharn, where a murderer is preying upon the city’s most oppressed citizens: it’s warforged. Warforged are essentially golems given life, souls and sentience by magic. They’re like robot men, or droids, but made by magic instead of technology. Warforged were made by rich people in order to fight their wars, but when the wars finally came to an end, the government made the surviving warforged citizenship. Unfortunately, these naive new peoples were taken advantage of. Many of them are poor, live in horrible conditions, suffer through tremendous racism, and were tricked into taking jobs that are little more than indentured servitude. It is on these people, that a killer is preying.

While investigating the murders, the players don’t just need to confront the dregs of society, and the dangers and sadness of the slums, but they also need to battle indifference. Why? No one really cares about a few dead warforged.

Finding justice is entirely up to your players.

Steel Shadows has some twists and turns, plenty of interesting characters, and a good deal of red herrings. It’s a great, unique adventure and I highly recommend it to anyone that manages to get their hands on it.

#1 – River Into Darkness by Greg A. Vaughn

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‘River into Darkness’ by Greg A. Vaughan (2008-04-22). Art by Ben Wootten. Paizo Publishing. 

River Into Darkness is a Pathfinder Module made before their ruleset came out, which means it’s technically a 3.5 adventure. It’s intended for level four characters and takes place in the Mwangi Expanse, a vast jungle dotted with newly settled colonies and commercial ventures found in Pathfinder’s Golarion Campaign Setting. This adventure is not your typical fantasy fare. It’s darker than most, not because of violence or horror, but because this adventure does not take a simple view of the world. It is not black and white, good and bad. It’s mostly written in shades of grey. But that’s what I love about it. It’s fluid, and adaptable. And what the player’s decide to do is entirely up to them. Honest! This adventure doesn’t assume your players choose one ending, it acknowledges (and even better, plans for) multiple possible endings.  So get ready to pick a side–or flip flop a lot–cause the River Into Darkness is here!

This adventure begins with the players in the port city of Bloodcove, a tropical town built around a massive mangrove tree. After battling one of the city’s more natural hazards the player’s are offered good paying, simple work: protect a river boat owned by the Aspis Consortium as it travels to its destination deep in the country’s jungle interior. How hard could it be?

Answer: hard.

The hazards are simple at first. Dangerous animals, bad weather, ship trouble and sickness. Players can triumph (or not) and get to know the ship’s crew. In time, the dangers begin to involve a group of jungle elves known as the Ekujae. As the players finally get their ship to its destination they are offered further work, protecting the colonial trade station from incursion and attack. But as the skirmishes with the Ekujae continue, and the players get a chance to explore this trade station they’ll begin to wonder why the elves are so intent on destroying the Aspis Consortium. And how far both sides are willing to go to put an end to the other. However deep your players are willing to delve into the mysterious rivalry, one thing’s for sure, choosing a side won’t be easy–if they decide to at all. As the violence escalates, the players could be major players, or get caught in the crossfire. Should they side with the Aspis? The Ekujae? Try to broker peace? Abandon them both? Only protect themselves? This module leaves that decision firmly in the hands of the players. And the hardest route of all? That of peace.

Not an easy module to run (and not an adventure for everyone), River Into Darkness tops my list for the five best d20 adventures that heavily involve or focus on prejudice. If you don’t own it, you can pick up River into Darkness by clicking the link below.

‘River into Darkness’ by Greg A. Vaughan (2008-04-22)

What did you think of the adventures? Have you played any? Did any tickle your fancy? Do you have a favourite adventure that would fit that I missed? Let me know what you think of d20 Diaries or this article in the comments below!

Now go get those dice rolling!

Jessica