Shackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!

Hello! Welcome back to Cauldron, home of the Shackled City Adventure Path! When we left off our heroic musicians were retiring to their homes to contemplate a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! (If none of this sounds familiar, read this blog post first.)

shackled city cauldron
The city of Cauldron, an important location in the Shackled City Adventure Path.

Although the time between reading Part One and Part Two of our adventures is only a moment away for you, it was not so for my son. We paused here for a few days, and let me tell you, my son’s imagination went WILD! He spent two days straight CONSTANTLY working out theories and suggestions about the riddle they received from Jenya Urikas, and coming up with possible connections between the missing persons (for a full list of missing persons, click here). On the walks to school, during dinner, at bedtime… CONSTANTLY. And there were A LOT of theories. Surprisingly, some of his ideas were pretty close to accurate. Still, I said nothing aside from: “Mick will have to wait and see.” and “You think so?” He got out his detective’s notebook–a copy of Detective Murdoch’s notebook from Murdoch Mysteries that he adores–and began writing all of his ideas and theories down with a big red crayon.

Dark blue skin
Art chosen to represent my six-year old son’s gnome bard (prankster), Mick Frimfrocket. Mick has dark blue skin and red eyes. For image information see Pinterest.

Obviously, my son was insistant that the locks and keys were very important. He had a ton of theories about why, all of which were crazy, but whatever the reasoning, he settled on them being literal locks and keys. He alto took the curtain and cauldron part of the riddle literally, insisting everyone check behind their curtains at home, and at the orphanage, and that everyone look underneath every cauldron they own or come across.

He had no idea what was up with the doors with teeth, but was pretty sure he would recognize a giant mouth door when he found one, so he wasn’t too worried about that. My daughter was though, and had a few-hour-long fear of doors, worried as she was that they might grow teeth and chomp on her.

My son was very excited with the next part of the riddle: descend. He knew that meant going down, and he was very hopeful that would lead us to his character’s birthplace: Jzadirune. An underground enclave of the gnomes, Jzadirune was hit by a mysterious vanishing plague, and shut down when Mick was only a child. Many people died, and although Mick made it to the surface, he was orphaned by the experience. Nearly all of his madcap theories involved Jzadirune in one way or another. He was pretty sure that whatever was going on, Jzadirune was either a secret base for the bad guys, or a way to get to their secret base. He didn’t know what the bad guys might be, but he was hopeful it was invisible evil gnomes.

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My five-year old daughter’s rabbitfolk kineticist, Rabbity Castalle. Art is by Shadify and is Armello fanart. For more image information see Pinterest.

My son does understand the concept of slavery, so he was pretty sure that was involved because of the next line in the riddle. After giving it some though he decided it probably wasn’t invisible evil gnomes after all, but duergar. He’s got a decent knowledge of the races and monsters of D&D and not only does he know that duergar are evil underground dwarves, he also knows they’re slavers. With those his current suppositions, he made a TON of crazy ideas about what’s going on, why it’s going on, and how it’s going on. Magic showed up in his detective’s journal a lot. How’d they get in? Magic. How’d they stay silent? Magic. How come there were no footprints? Magic. Also, the doors with teeth? Were they a real toothy door? Or a monster’s mouth? Was it magic? He thought it might be a literal monster’s mouth we’d have to enter, which would be pretty awesome…

The next time we sat down to play the Shackled City, the PCs had breakfast together, chatted a bit, and headed out to the Lantern Street Orphanage to begin their investigation. The headmistress, a halfling by the name of Gretchyn Tashykk, was suspicious of the group–and rightly so! But Mick and Aeris managed to earn her trust. Aeris often donated money (from her occasional midnight criminal activities) to the orphanage, and Mick had grown up here. Although Gretchyn hadn’t been there to raise him, she did recognize him.  Occassionally he came by to tell jokes to the children.

Aeris Caldyra
Artwork chosen to represent Aeris Caldyra. Artwork is from the illustrated novel, Caldyra, by Suzanne Helmigh.

After explaining their purpose, the characters asked for information on the abductions, and for permission to interview the staff. Gretchen agreed. She told them everything she knew, and gave them a tour, then introduced them to each member of the staff in turn. They learned a bit from Gretchyn–which is listed below:

  • The children who are missing are Deakon, Evelyn, Lucinda and Terrem. Two boys and two girls.
  • The orphanage has two common bedchambers on the second floor: one for boys and one for girls. Two children were taken from each room.
  • None of the children slept nearest to the windows or door. They did not sleep beside each other. No one saw or heard anything.
  • The orphanage has lockable windows and doors. In addition to the orphanage locking during the night, the bedchamber rooms are locked as well.
  • There were no signs of forced entry and nothing was broken.
  • The PCs aren’t the only ones to investigate the children’s disappearance. The day the children were discovered missing the town guard came by, looked around and spoke with everyone. Two days ago a pair of half-elf investigators sent by the Mayor’s Office came by to look around and speak to Gretchyn. Yesterday that young priest came by offer help  and speak with the children (Rufus Laro). And today the PCs arrived.

Aeris set out to inspect the locks on the doors and windows, while the characters asked further questions of Gretchyn, and spoke to the children. Mick ran a ton of crazy theories past her, but Gretchyn had no insights to offer.

Falco Rhiavadi
Sima Zhao from Dynasty Warriors 7. Art was chosen to represent Falco Rhiavadi.

Shortly, Aeris had confirmed that there was no signs of a break in. The locks were of fine quality and were in working order. There was no sign they had been picked. She decided to check the other locks in the building, while the others started interviewing the staff.

They started with Jaromir Copperbeard, the dwarven gardener who seemed to genuinely love the children despite his gruff demeanour. He also informed the group that one of the children, Terrem, was a troublemaking brat. He couldn’t imagine HIM going quietly. He confirmed he had found no signs of a break-in that night, and found no prints in his flower beds or scuffs along the outer walls.

Then they visited Neva Fanister, the old human nurse. Neva was always busy tending bruises, cuts and wounds. Kids were rough and rambunctious. She knew the kids quite well and confirmed that Terrem was a handful and was often in her care for scrapes and bruises he received in fist-fights and play-wrestling. The others were very different from him. Deakon was a smart, hard-working dwarf boy who had been with them a long time (dwarves grew up slowly), Evelyn was a sullen, quiet girl, and Lucinda was a happy but superstitious child. They didn’t have much in common with one another. Although, they did have their good health!

The characters tried to visit the half-elf schoolteacher, Willow Atherfell, next, but finding her overwhelmed with trying to handle the children, they moved on to see the cook, Temar Flagonstern, instead. Temar was a relatively new addition to the orphanage, having only worked there three years–the same as Willow. He complained about the huge amount of labour he had to do, and told the characters that he barely knew the children. He spent all his time cooking for them, washing their dirty dishes and cleaning up after their messes, only to do it all over again. Clearly a grumpy fellow, Temar seemed to be telling the truth. In addition, he confirmed that one of the children, Terrem, was a hall-raiser and was constantly making huge messes in the dining hall. Temar was NOT impressed.

Patch
Patch, janitor at the Lantern Street Orphanage. For image information check out Pinterest.

Then they went to speak with the janitor, Patch. Patch was a strong half-orc with an eye patch over one eye, a nervous demeanour and a stutter. It was immediately clear that Patch adored the children and knew his way around the place well. In fact, Patch had grown up here and took work as a janitor when he was too old to stay any longer. Of course, it was also clear he was stupid. My son was immediately suspicious of the poor half-orc and soon Falco, Mick and Rabbity began asking questions about the orphanage, the children, the Last Laugh and the night of the abductions. Eventually, the nervous, stuttering fellow admitted he did know something but that he couldn’t speak about it here. Falco responded by doing what any fine gentleman would do: he invited Patch for tea at his flat.

Aeris rejoined them before they left the building. She had discovered that all the locks were in fine working order and great quality. In addition, she recognized the maker’s mark. It was a competitor of hers, Keygan Ghelve. As the others headed off with Patch to Falco’s flat, Aeris decided to separate from them for a while. She took the list of missing persons and visited all the places she thought she would be able to gain access to in order to examine their locks. If the locks truly were the key to finding the missing people, as the riddle had suggested, then perhaps there was something in common between them.

After inviting Patch inside and giving him a tour of the house, Falco, Mick and Rabbity sat down for tea with the awkward fellow. Patch was wary at first, and clearly had information to share that he wasn’t sure he should. But working together, the characters diplomacy was through the roof, so Patch soon believed he could trust them. Patch told the group in his stuttering, nervous way, that the Last Laugh wasn’t responsible for the kidnappings. A few years ago, when Terrem came to the orphanage, a man approached Patch while he was drinking away his earnings at the Slippery Eel Tavern. He was a halfling who was missing both of his pinkies and introduced himself as Regis Two-fingers. Patch and Regis became pals, and soon, Regis told Patch that he had a favour to ask him–as friends. Patch accepted (having not many people who he could call friends) and learned that Regis was a member of the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild, a group that had a very keen interest in ensuring that a young orphan named Terrem was kept safe and in the orphanage’s care. Patch was confused. How did Regis even know about that little human child? But, he agreed to watch over Terrem and keep Regis informed of his health. Patch promised, more than a little scared for his life, that Regis would be the first to know if anything happened to Terrem. The day that Terrem and the other orphans went missing, Patch had slipped out to tell Regis as soon as he could. And Regis was furious! Patch swears that the Last Laugh wants to protect Terrem, and get him back, not hurt him or take him someplace else.

Wait… What?

The PCs were a little confused. They asked Patch some clarifying questions and discovered that Patch was out drinking the night the kids went missing, and returned late. He slept like the dead, and felt horribly guilty that he didn’t hear anything happen at all that night!

The group pressed him further, using his guilt and his love of the children against him, until Patch had told them everything he knew (which wasn’t much more) and promised that if they found out who had taken the children, Patch would go with them to help save  the children. Satisfied, they took Patch back to the orphanage, asked the overwhelmed school-teacher Willow a few questions, and bid everyone farewell.

Before heading out to regroup with Aeris, the PCs decided to pay a visit to the Mayor’s Office in the hopes of pooling their information with the half-elf investigators that had been sent to the orphanage. Upon arriving the secretary, Lucia Reynald, asked their business. When they inquired about the Lantern Street Orphanage investigation she told them that she was not privy to which guards were placed on which cases. That was up to the guard Captains. When they pressed for information about the Mayor’s special investigators she informed them they were mistaken–the Mayor’s Office employs no investigators at all. Certainly not a pair of half-elven ones!

The plot thickens!

On the way out of the Town Hall and Lord Mayor’s Office the characters ran into a chipper, young woman named Cynarra Navalant, who turned out to be the mayor’s daughter. Falco introduced himself politely, but Mick was too scared! He didn’t want to get in trouble for talking to important people like the mayor’s daughter! He ignored her completely and hurried out into the streets. The others followed him–after a polite farewell.

Keygan Ghelve
Keygan Ghelve. Official Shackled City artwork.

Regrouping with Aeris after a hard day’s investigating, the players shared information with each other. Aeris was skeptical about the Last Laugh’s ‘benevolent’ involvement, and Patch, but there were more pressing things to consider. She had checked the locks at six other sites of disappearances and discovered none of them had been tampered with. In addition, they were all crafted by the same locksmith–Keygan Ghelve. With a new suspect (or at least accomplice) in mind, the group set off straight for his shop, Ghelve’s Locks.

Arriving late-afternoon they found Ghelve’s Locks open for business and went right in. Keygan was there on a pair of stilts covered by long pants. He strutted around the place comfortably, and wandered over to ask how he could help his new customers. And then he recognized Aeris (his competition).

With a scowl, he asked her to wait while he handled his customers, but Aeris cut in and assured him they ALL had business with him. Business regarding the recent disappearances. Surely he must know something about them, right? They all used his locks!

Keygan told the group to get out, but Falco stalled, using diplomacy to try to get some answers. Keygan looked nervous, and began gesturing with his head and eyes to a curtained back-room. Mick was pretty sure that Keygan wanted to hug and kiss him or something, but Falco understood his meaning: Keygan wasn’t alone, and whoever was with him was back there…. Beyond the curtain.

Unfortunately for Keygan, the group proved less keen on playing along and pretending to leave than they did with tearing through the shop to get past the curtain. Mick seized a pile of what he hoped was stinky, smoky leaves and tossed them onto the fireplace’s flames, while Rabbity hopped on Panthy, Aeris pushed her way past the curtain, and Falco moved to follow her. Keygan had had enough! He cast a spell at the trio, just as Mick summoned his piano and began to taunt the little locksmith with his mock ability. Solely focused on Mick now because of his rude insults, the gnomes battled it out with wits, words and magic spells in the shop front while Aeris charged into the darkness of the storage room. Three steps into the room and she recoiled in pain. Looking down in shock she realized she had been shot by a crossbow bolt.

“Someone’s… here!” she grunted through the pain. Rabbity and Panthy charged into the room, Falco healed Aeris and then moved to open the window curtains, revealing their attacker was up on the landing of the stairs to the second floor. An unnatural calm came over Aeris as her goddess’ will and purpose overtook her. Replacing her fiery temper and impulsiveness with an eerie calm and righteousness, the now bloodraging Aeris stalked up the steps to engage her enemy.

Her companions soon joined the battle, and in a few short rounds it was done. The mysterious, grey skinned figure was unconscious, and the trio rejoined Mick and Keygan–who promptly surrendered.

shackled city adventure path d20diariesAeris scolded the man and began blaming him for his crimes, causing Keygan to break down in sobs. Keygan explained that a few months ago strange humanoids had come up from his basement and attacked him! They stole his rat familiar, Starbrow, and asked him tons of questions about the city. Keygan told them everything they wanted to know, and they left–but they took Starbrow with them. In addition, one of them stayed behind in his home to ensure he never spoke about them to the guard. Keygan was a prisoner in his own home and his beloved pet was their hostage! Not long afterwards they demanded Keygan make them a set of skeleton keys which could open any lock he had crafted. He did so, and worried in silence as they began rifling through his records. Every few nights since they’ve taken a few addresses from his books and headed off into the city, only to bring unconscious Caudronites back down into the tunnels below his home…

Keygan was ashamed, and regretful, but not truly sorry. He would do it again to save Starbrow. Aeris was disgusted and wanted to turn both Keygan and the gray-skinned man over to the town guards, but Falco had a different plan. Falco told Keygan that they were going to go underground and rescue the missing people (and rats!) but that Keygan would have to come with them. Seeing no other choice, Keygan agreed.

They tied up the gray-skinned man, tossed him in a trunk, and then tied up the trunk from outside with thick ropes, before sitting down to speak. They had some questions, and Keygan would have to tell them everything he knew if they were going to succeed. Luckily, Keygan had plenty of information.

  • In his basement are old tunnels that were sealed up long ago and lead to Jzadirune. (At this news my son jumped for joy). This is where he assumes the kidnappers are currently lairing.
  • The doors in Jzadirune are gear-shaped and designed to roll to one side or the other. Most of them had traps that only the gnomes could safely bypass. Unfortunately, Keygan was too young to remember much more than this. He knows they had keys that looked like long sticks. He also knows his father had a leather map that showed the layout of Jzadirune (though whether or not it’s accurate he has no idea).
  • The kidnappers took Starbrow someplace dark within one mile. Through his empathic link with the rat, Keygan can tell he is hungry and scared.
  • There are two kinds of people who come up from his basement: ‘tall ones’ and ‘short ones’. Neither of them seem to like the sunlight. The tall ones resemble naked, hairless, genderless humans with blue pupilless eyes, and grey skin that changes colour, allowing them to blend perfectly with their surroundings. They are usually encountered in pairs or threes and often leave the shop wearing cloaks. They carry repairs and light crossbows.
  • The short ones are sinister gnome-like creatures with pallid skin, large noses and black hooves for feet. They wear black cloaks and cowls that help them hide in the shadows. The wield filthy looking daggers.
  • The kidnappers share a common language that Keygan doesn’t recognize.
  • If the kidnappers have a leader, Keygan hasn’t seen it. They seem to get along fine without one.

With this information, Rabbity, Panthy and Mick stayed behind to keep an eye on Ghelve and study the map of Jzadirune, which was old, faded and unlabelled. Aeris went home to fetch a backpack no one had seen her wear before that contained a surprisingly large number of objects useful for breaking into places and adventuring in the dark… Falco also left. First he did some shopping (he was rather ill-equipped for adventuring!) and then he went by the Lantern Street Orphanage to get Patch.

Together, this motley group of heroes, cowards, crooks and musicians are about delve beneath Cauldron to a gnomish enclave abandoned for over 75 years, braving the dark, the unknown, and the myserious disease known as the Vanishing, to find the missing citizens of Cauldron or die trying.

Wish them luck!

shackled city player handouts


The other side of the screen: 

Welcome to the other side of the screen, a place where you’ll find GM notes related to the recent game sessions you’ve read, and links to the adventures themselves. If there’s something different in the adventure, or things I’ve changed and added, you’ll find it here!

So what’s different in this session? Not much!

The major change came right near the end: Patch and Keygan Ghelve are not intended to join the player’s on their quest below Cauldron. However, Falco’s diplomacy checks came out absurdly high, and the characters managed to leverage the things those NPCs cared about to their advantage (Starbrow, guilt, and the fate of Terrem and the children). This coupled with the deadliness of their upcoming adventure, the PCs small group size, and the likelihood of my children making poor tactical decisions during combat, caused me to decide that instead of offering other types of aid, Keygan and Patch would join them. However, that meant that their statblocks would need to be updated. Although using their 3.5 stat blocks included in the Shackled City Adventure Path is fine for a battle or two, if they were joining the party they’d need to be proper Pathfinder characters. Patch was originally written as a commoner 1/rogue 1, while Keygan was an expert 3/wizard 1. While converting them to Pathfinder I streamlined their levels, making Patch a rogue (acrobat) 1, and Keygan an illusionist wizard 1. Despite these changes their tactics, gear and the general build and feel of the stat blocks remained true to their original intent.

The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.


Thanks for joining us on our adventures in Cauldron! Tune if later this week for an update on an ongoing Reign of Winter campaign, and a review of Paizo’s Iron Gods Adventure Path!

Jessica

 

Shackled City: Part One

With our characters made, minis picked out, and some free time on our hands, the members of Boople Snoot Dinorabbit set out to try their luck at the deadly Shackled City Adventure Path! (No idea what I’m talking about? Check out this blog post for more details).

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The city of Cauldron, a major location in the The Shackled City Adventure Path by Paizo.

Our story begins on a dreary evening, near sunset. The clouds are dark, the sky is red, and the first fat raindrops begin to fall from the sky on the city of Cauldron. Despite the gloomy atmosphere, tonight is a special occassion! For tonight is Dinorabbit’s one year anniversary! To celebrate, Falco Rhiavadi has insisted the entire band join him for a fine dinner at the Coy Nixie (on his family’s tab, of course!). Always happy for a new experience, Mick Frimfrocket agreed immediately, and soon they were off.

The characters showed up underdressed, and had a fun opportunity to role-play their way through the restaurant. Falco convinced the snooty greeter, Odell, to escort them to a table by name-dropping his relatives. The whole group managed to befriend the waiter, Relveth, with an astoundingly high diplomacy check led by Falco. They ordered fancy sounding meals, and settled in to eat. During the meal they realized they could hear beautiful music, but couldn’t find the band–a mystery which set my son’s imagination ablaze. They also discovered the murals on the wall were like massive search and finds. Each painting was of a different aquatic scene and had a number of nixies hiding within. As they ate and examined the paintings they also got to eavesdrop on the other patrons and socialize.

Falco Rhiavadi
Sima Zhao from Dynasty Warriors 7. Art chosen to represent Falco Rhiavadi.

The manager, Narissia Delacour, was curious which Rhiavadi was dining at her establishment and paid them a courtesy visit. Although she was disappointed it wasn’t anyone important, Falco made a good enough impression that they were allowed to stay and given good service.

Nearby guests included Tabitha Aslaxin, a studious business-minded woman who once attended school with Falco–before he dropped out to join the music program. Tabitha sat with her younger sister, Averil, who had only recently come of age and seemed extremely excited to be present in her finery. The Aslaxin family owns the Coy Nixie and many other establishments in Cauldron. Although the curious members of Dinorabbit took notice of these noble ladies, they chose not to attempt to speak with them.

Other nearby notables included a trio of sisters from House Taskerhill. Mick and Falco managed to overhear that the younger sisters, Monette and Carmine, were scolding the eldest sister, Annah, for her dangerous ways. Bored with life among the nobility, Annah had joined up with a group of other nobles and was spending her free time ‘adventuring’ for the good of Cauldron. As the sisters worried over Annah’s health and their family’s reputation, Annah assured them no harm would come to her. That’s what her companions were for…

Aeris Caldyra
Artwork chosen to represent Aeris Caldyra. Artwork is from the illustrated novel, Caldyra, by Suzanne Helmigh.

Lastly, Falco recognized a few familiar faces at a nearby table: his cousin Venser Rhiavadi, and his Uncle Hasserton Rhiavadi. Falco greeted them warmly, but received a rude, disinterested greeting from his uncle. In his uncle’s defence, Hasserton was his mother’s husband’s brother (and therefore not truly related to Falco at all). Falco’s cousin was equally cold, though he did take the time to make fake-pleasant conversation (for a few minutes). When his patience was worn out Venser bid Falco a curt farewell and returned to his meal.

With their dinner at the Coy Nixie complete, the members of Dinorabbit headed out into the rainy, dark streets. Rabbity tossed her leftovers to Panthy, her beloved pet black panther, and then danced and played in the rain for a while. As the group began to move down they road they heard a scream for help. Rabbity hopped on top of Panthy and urged her forward, followed closely by Aeris. As the two turned a corner they caught sight of a man, with his face painted half-black and half-white with the grinning visage of a jester, blocking the way into a nearby back alley. And from that alley issued the cries for help.

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Rabbity Castalle bending water to her will. Art by Shadify. For more image information check it out on Pinterest.

Aeris recognized the strange face paint as the signature of the local Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild, and immediately drew her blade. The Last Laugh had killed her beloved Grandfather Marzio, last High Chamberlain of Alseta, and she’d be damned if she let this hoodlum get away with whatever he was up to!

Rabbity and Aeris were the first into battle, but Mick and Falco weren’t far behind. Rabbity launched blasts of water at the Last Laugh thief, urging the puddles in the street to surge forward and smash into her enemy. Aeris used some of her elemental assault ability to make her sword crackle with electricity as she fought. Shockingly, the thug didn’t fall. Instead he drew a greataxe and swung it at Aeris, nearly cutting her open completely. Falco was there in a flash, healing Aeris’ wounds. Mick hurried to the fight as fast as his little legs would carry him, then used his magic to summon his favourite piano. His inspiring songs filled the streets, echoing over the sounds of the heavy, pounding rain.

As Rabbity and Aeris knocked the thug unconscious, Falco caught sight of a man down he alley–a priest by the look of him–getting beaten and bullied by two more Last Laugh thugs.

asault
A fateful encounter! The Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild attacking a priest in the dark of night.

“Leave the orphanage alone, priest, if ya’ know what’s good for ‘ya!” they growled.

The young priest begged for help.

The characters all ran in to help him, of course, and with Panthy’s fangs, Rabbity’s water blasts, Aeris’ sword, and Mick’s grooving tunes, the battle was quick, but hard. Aeris took a decent amount of damage that fight and tore through half of her daily rounds of blood rage, all of her rounds of elemental assault and all of her uses of destined strike.

Falco healed the priest, and together they ensured the thugs weren’t in danger of dying. Once everyone was safe, Aeris and the priest suggested they turn in the Last Last Thieve’s to the town guard. The other characters agreed, so they hoisted the thugs up over shoulders and onto backs, and began the long, slippery trip uphill to the Garrison. Along the way the characters chatted with the priest.

The priest’s name was Rufus Laro, and he was an acolyte at the local church of Abadar. He was sent to the Lantern Street Orphanage earlier that day to check on the children and offer aid–only three days ago four children were kidnapped in the dead of the night from the orphanage. On the way home he was ambushed and set upon by thugs! He had thought they were going to rob him, but their threats were clearly meant to keep him from further interference at the orphanage. Though why any thieves would be interested in a run-down orphanage he had no idea… The young priest was quite shaken by the ordeal, and asked his saviours to escort him back to his church after they all finished giving their statements to the guard.

Ruphus Laro
Rufus Laro. Priest at the Church of Abadar. For image information check it out on Pinterest.

My kids had a blast talking with Rufus. My son, especially. They asked him questions and bragged about their various gear, music and pets. Rufus found Panthy quite intimidating, which Rabbity thought was hilarious. She tried to prove to Rufus that Panthy was well trained, but her handle animal checks all failed, and Panthy chose that time to ignore her commands completely. This did little to set Rufus at ease…

As the group arrived at the guard post with unconscious men thrown over their shoulders, the guards came out to accost them. The guards sighed and rolled their eyes when Aeris informed them that she had apprehended some criminals–clearly they know her and don’t like her very much. Aeris is in the habit of reporting all the crimes she witnesses to the guard, while the guard in turn thinks Aeris is a lying, busy-body.

Rufus’ account of the group saving his life did get them motivated, though, as did the tell-tale face paint marking the thugs as members of the Last Laugh. The entire group of characters was ushered into the offices to give their statements. During the interviews, Falco managed to overhear some exclamations of surprise from the jail cells. Apparently the Last Laugh thugs they brought in were also members of the town guard! Falco was more than a little intrigued. Unfortunately, no further information was forthcoming, and the group left with Rufus to escort him to the church of Abadar.

It was another wet trip through the pouring rain, although this time the reception was kinder. The group was ushered into the elaborate church and offered dry towels, snacks and refreshments. Rufus gave the heroic musicians his heartfelt thanks and asked them to stay awhile. He was sure his superior would like to reward them! Then he disappeared deeper into the building. While the characters waited they had a bit of time to eat, warm up, and chat with a pair of low-level acolytes in Abadar’s clergy. Tiefling sisters, named Tirabeth Drissant and Orellia Drissant. Despite her more obvious fiendish traits, Orellia was the more social of the two sisters, while Tirabeth was more insular and studious.

Jenya Urikas
Jenya Urikas, Priestess of Abadar. Official Shackled City Artwork.

It wasn’t long before the group was brought before Priestess Jenya Urikas, the acting head of the Church of Abadar in Cauldron–at the moment. Her superior was off at a meeting in the far-away city of Eleder and wouldn’t be back for some time. Jenya introduced herself and thanked the PCs for rescuing Rufus. The characters introduced themselves in turn, and they all made a good impression. Jenya hesitated only a moment before offering them a job.

She explained that recent kidnappings and disappearances have plagued Cauldron for the last few months. In that time twenty-six people have been abducted in the dead of night, without witnesses or leads. The last four were all children at the Lantern Street Orphanage. Feeling for the children, and worried that the town guard were getting nowhere in their investigations, Jenya decided to have the Church of Abadar get involved. To that end she compiled a list of all the missing persons, and sent a few of her priests out to get what information on them and their disappearances  they could. Rufus was sent to the Lantern Street Orphanage. In addition, she used a holy relic of her church, The Star of Justice, to get more information. This holy mace was capable of using a sliver of Abadar’s wisdom in order to divine the future. In the hands of the faithful it could answer a question, though its responses were often difficult to comprehend. The Star of Justice was only supposed to be used by the head of their church in times of great need, but Jenya felt justified on calling upon its powers in order to save the lives of four innocent children. She prayed to Abadar, took the Star of Justice from its altar and asked it:

“Where are the children who were abducted from the Lantern Street Orphanage?”

The answer came back in prose:

“The locks are key to finding them. Look beyond the curtain, below the cauldron. Beware the doors with teeth. Descend into the malachite ‘hold where precious life is bought with gold. Half a dwarf binds them, but not for long.”

Jenya shared this information with the characters and asked for their help. Would they be willing to take up the investigation into the children’s disappearance on behalf of the Church of Abadar? If so, she would provide them each with a potion of healing as an act of good faith, and she would pay them a small fortune upon completion of the investigation. over 2,000 gold pieces.

The characters conferred amongst themselves for a moment…

Dark blue skin
Artwork chosen to represent Mick Frimfrocket. Note: Mick has dark blue skin and red eyes. For artwork information check it out on Pinterest.

Mick was always up for new experiences! He had never been a hero before, or a detective, or saved children, so he was very excited to get started! And THAT RIDDLE! Oh, boy was he excited about that riddle! Plus, those poor kids… Mick had grown up at the same orphanage they were taken from! So sad…

Rabbity sadly recounted that a friend of hers from work, Gryffon, was among those missing persons. He had been abducted from his home three nights before his wedding to another of Rabbit’s co-workers, Imelie. Poor Imelie hadn’t smiled since… Hoping to find Gryffon, Rabbity also accepted the mission.

Aeris had no hesitation and accepted immediately. She kept up with local news and was well-aware of the kidnappings. Despite only being a locksmith, she aspired to be like her grandfather–a heroic leader of the community and paladin of Alseta. He had always fought against injustice and crime. Aeris always attempted to do the same. Plus… the Last Laugh seemed to be involved. She had promised her grandfather at his funeral that one day she would put an end to the gang of thieves that had killed him. She wanted to discover how deep they were wrapped up in this!

And Falco? Well, Falco was a good man who was more than a little too confident for his own good. Of course he wants to help the orphans!

With the group all in agreement for one reason or another, they accepted Jenya’s offer, were given a potion of cure moderate wounds each, a copy of the riddle, and a list of all the missing persons. Of course, it was too late to begin the investigation NOW, the Lantern Street Orphanage was all closed up for the night. So they headed home and spent the evening stewing over the information that had been given to them.

They had a lot to contemplate…



Note from a GM:

The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.

Very little has changed from the adventure as written to our game table so far. The most noticeable change is the campaign opening. As printed, The Shacked City takes place in Cauldron, and begins with the characters walking down the road in the rain, late at night, when they hear someone call for help. Although I’ve got no problem with coincidental openings such as this, my children love roleplaying with NPCs and I’ve found that giving them opportunities to have dinner at a restaurant, shop, or make a new friend in character adds a lot to their gaming experience. To this end I began the campaign at a fancy dinner at the Coy Nixie, instead of on the street. This turned out to be a fun role-playing encounter for our whole family, and really let my children have a chance to try out their characters before hopping right into a fight.

The second change made so far wasn’t so much a change as an expansion. Plenty of NPCs were given names and faces in order to make the surrounding city and the people in it come to life. This is an easy to do addition that really adds a lot of depth to the gaming experience, and is definitely going to continue throughout the campaign.

Lastly, some changes were made due to setting. Cauldron was placed in Pathfinder’s world of Golarion, in the Mwangi Expanse. The nearest major settlement is Eleder. All instances of the god Abadar and his church were used to replace the 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons deity, St. Cuthbert. Their functions and beliefs are similar, making it a simple, seamless change.


Thanks for joining us on our adventures in Cauldron today! I hope you enjoyed the ride. Another update for Shackled City is coming later this week, followed by our first glimpse at an ongoing Reign of Winter campaign. Stay tuned!

Jessica

 

Creating Races: Rabbitfolk

My daughter loves rabbits. To those of you who know her, this is no surprise. She wears rabbit clothes every day, cuddles rabbit stuffed animals, plays with rabbit toys, reads rabbit books, wears a rabbit toque, has rabbit costumes, and makes drawing after drawing of rabbits. When she says goodbye to my husband every morning she puts her fingers up in a peace sign and says “Rabbit, Dad!” possibly followed by the words “Boing” or “Hop, hop!” This is because peace signs are NOT peace signs. They are rabbit ears. And in addition to being an adorable animal, apparently ‘Rabbit’ is a perfectly acceptable greeting, conversation starter, and farewell.

She. Loves. Rabbits.

It will come as no surprise then, that when she’s making characters for Pathfinder they almost always involve rabbits. She’s had rabbit familiars, rabbit-demon familiars, rabbit non-combat pets, insisted on having a massive rabbit as a mount instead of a pony, and even played an almiraj sorceress who took up adventuring in order to protect her warren of baby almiraj. When she buys gear you can bet it’s not just a tent, it’s a tent with a rabbit painted on the side, or a backpack stitched with a rabbit face, or a cold weather outfit with fake rabbit ears on the hood. She has no problem paying extra to add a rabbit motif to her equipment.

Eventually, since my son was tired of my daughter constantly trying to play an awakened bunny rabbit whose combat tactics only involved running away, we decided to make her a race for Pathfinder: Rabbitfolk.

Amber_(Armello)
A rabbitfolk. Artwork is of Amber, a rabbit from the digital board game Armello, by League of Geeks.

The Advanced Race Guide for the Pathfinder RPG has a TON of new races inside (in addition to old favourites) as well as alternate race traits, archetypes, feats, spells, and gear–all intended to be used with a single specific race found inside. Probably one of the most used books in my household, Advanced Race Guide is a bunch of awesome stuffed between hard covers.

But we wouldn’t be using any of that to make our Rabbitfolk, we would be heading straight to the back.

The final chapter of the Advanced Race Guide is entitled ‘Race Builder,’ and that’s exactly what it is. A series of short easy steps and decisions to make any kind of race you want. The system runs on points (called race points, or RP), which makes it easy to use, and easy to compare to other races to help determine how powerful yours is. With these rules we would make our Rabbitfolk.

To start with you need a race concept–for us that was pretty straightforward–and then you need to determine their category. Standard (which uses 1-10 RP), Advanced (which uses 11-20 RP) and Monstrous (which uses over 20 RP). Using the point system in the race builder, the core races vary in strength from 9 to 11 RP, with a few other commonly used races: the tiefling and the assimar, coming in at 13 and 15 respectively. Deciding there’s no way a rabbitfolk should be stronger than an aasimar, I gave her a hard limit of 15 points, placing her in either the standard or advanced category depending on how many RP she actually used, and let her get to work.

Once you know the category you’re aiming for and the concept for your race you need to determine their racial qualities. This is a fancy way of saying their type and subtype, speed, size, and ability modifiers.

First we chose the type. Humanoids are the baseline for this and cost 0 points to select. Other types cost more depending on how powerful their extra qualities are. For example, fey costs only 2 RP to select while giving your race the plant type would cost 10 RP and the construct type would cost 20 RP. Rabbitfolk are clearly humanoids with the rabbitfolk subtype.

From there you choose your race’s size, then speed. My daughter decided rabbitfolk would be small, which costs 0 points, and be really fast. She chose normal speed, which is 30 ft. and costs 0 points. However, she was adamant that they be even faster, so we modified it with racial traits, bringing their total base speed to 40 ft. (more details on this later).

Finally it was time for the ability scores. For this you choose what kind of modifiers you’ll get by selecting an array, and then you choose what abilities will receive those modifiers afterwards. Deciding to keep her rabbitfolk on par with most of the core races she gave them the standard array, which costs 0 race points. The standard array grants +2 to a physical ability score, +2 to a mental ability score and -2 to any other ability score. My daughter decided rabbitfolk are very nimble and clever, but not very strong. They get +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Strength.

Finally, you select a language quality. She chose standard for 0 RP, allowing rabbit folk to begin the game speaking Common and Rabbitfolk. You then choose up to seven languages that they can choose to learn from having a high intelligence modifier. She selected Sylvan, Halfling, Gnome and Elven for these optional languages, deciding that rabbitfolk would feel most comfortable with these small or nature loving races, as well as Terran, the elemental language of the earth.

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Rabbitfolk. Art discovered on Pinterest.

Once you’ve got your racial qualities completed, it’s time to move on to the final step: spending RP to purchase racial traits. Racial Traits are split into categories, including: Ability Score, Defence, Feat and Skill, Magical, Movement, Offence, Senses and Weakness. Each of these categories is further divided into tiers: Standard, Advanced and Monstrous. These tiers coincide to the race’s total RP, as mentioned back in step one. If you are a standard race you can only select racial traits from the standard tier and can have no more than three traits from each category. Advanced races can select from standard or advanced traits and may have up to four from each category, while Monstrous races can select from any tier and may have no more than five from each category.

Depending on what traits my daughter chose she would either be placing her rabbitfolk in the standard or advanced category. To decide where she would end up I asked her what she wanted the rabbitfolk to be able to do the most. If any of those abilities fell into the advanced category we would be spending between 11 and 15 RP so that she could select it, and if they all fell into the standard category then which category rabbitfolk ended up in would depend solely on how many points she spent.

She decided she wanted her rabbitfolk to be even faster, and to be able to burrow. After looking through the options we discovered both of these abilities were in the Movement category under Advanced Traits. Now we knew we’d be in the Advanced category for sure. She selected the Burrow ability for 3 RP, and the Fast ability for 1 RP, granting her a burrow speed of 20 feet, and increasing the base speed to 40 feet.

Rabbitfolk
Official d20 Diaries rabbitfolk artwork by my daughter.

Having spent only 4 RP total so far, she had plenty of room to add on other abilities if she was going to make it into the Advanced races. My daughter decided she didn’t want the rabbitfolk to have flashy powers. No magical spells or exotic abilities here! She wanted them to rely on their natural, physical advantages. They were alert, nimble, quick, quiet and have great hearing. We gave the abilities a read and came up with list of options. In the end, she decided to give them Quick Reactions, an advanced feat and skill trait that grants them Improved Initiative as a bonus feat at a cost of 2 RP and Skill Bonus, a standard feat and skill trait that gives them a +2 racial bonus on a single skill check at a cost of 2 RP. She decided to select skill bonus three times, for a total of 6 RP, granting the rabbitfolk a +2 racial bonus on acrobatics, perception and stealth. Finally, she gave the rabbit folk their flashiest ability of all (and no, it’s not very flashy, haha): Cat’s Luck. Renaming this standard defence racial trait Hare’s Luck (as a play on those lucky rabbit feet people sometimes use as keychains) this ability is usable once per day and lets them roll a single reflex save twice and keep the better result.  With a cost of 2 RP, that brought the rabbitfolk’s abilities up to 13 RP, and made our rabbitfolk complete.

Now all there was left to do was write it down and keep it somewhere safe. But where would that be?

We taped it to the inside cover of the Advanced Race Guide, so rabbitfolk could sit alongside the other races of Golarion, right where they belonged.

So without further ado:


Rabbitfolk

Quick, clever and quiet, the skittish rabbitfolk keep careful watch on their warrens. More likely to wait in silence and hope enemies pass them by than to needlessly provoke danger, rabbitfolk are cautious and rarely seen. When roused to defend themselves, rabbitfolk prefer ambushes and fast-paced skirmishes, attacking from hiding with lightning fast movements before darting out of sight, only to repeat the process all over again. 

+2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -2 Strength: Rabbitfolk are physically weak, but nimble and clever. (0 RP)
Small: Rabbitfolk are Small creatures and gain a +1 size bonus to their AC, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, a -1 penalty to their Combat Maneuver Bonus and Combat Maneuver Defence, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks. (0 RP)
Fast Speed: Rabbitfolk are incredibly fast, with a base speed of 40 feet. (1 RP)
Burrow: Rabbitfolk have a burrow speed of 20 feet. (3 RP)
Agile: Rabbitfolk receive a +2 racial bonus on acrobatics checks. (2 RP)
Hare’s Luck (Ex): 
Once per day when a rabbitfolk makes a Reflex saving throw, she can roll the saving throw twice and take the better result. She must decide to use this ability before the saving throw is attempted. (1 RP)
Keen Senses
: Rabbitfolk receive a +2 racial bonus on perception checks. (2 RP)
Quick Reactions: Rabbitfolk gain Improved Initiative as a bonus feat. (2 RP)
Stealthy: Rabbitfolk receive a +2 racial bonus on stealth checks. (2 RP)
Languages: Rabbitfolk begin plays speaking Common and Rabbitfolk. Rabbitfolk with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Sylvan and Terran.

Total RP: 13


Thanks for checking out Rabbitfolk today! My daughter and I hope you enjoy it!

For more images of rabbitfolk, check out our Pinterest board, here.

Jessica

Mummy’s Mask: The Shrine of Wadjet

Welcome back to d20 diaries! I hope you had a great weekend. With the start of this new week also comes a return to school for my children, a return to normalcy to many of my play-by-post campaigns and for us… a return to Wati.

That’s right! Our second game supplement is here!

Mummy’s Mask is a six part adventure path for Pathfinder, published by Paizo. Throughout the course of the the first two books, The Half-Dead City and Empty Graves, Wati acts as the players home base. This city is a colourful, quirky, fun locale, and I highly recommend making the most of it. Players who become invested in this city, and who make connections with its citizens right from book one will get much more enjoyment when Empty Graves comes around, than those who don’t.

Like most Pathfinder Adventure Paths, the back of The Half-Dead City has a great primer on its urban locale–in this case, Wati (of course). This article has all kinds of great locations, personalities and plot hooks. As is the case with any good adventure, there’s a ton of cool stuff! Unfortunately, that mean there’s not enough room to explore all the locations mentioned in the primer on Wati with any kind of detail. That is the job of the GM, and one I highly recommend GMs embrace. In order to help out with this, I’ll be posting a list of short social encounters and sights for your players to see throughout the city in the future, but today, we’re just going to focus on one: The Shrine of Wadjet.

After returning from their final foray into the Necropolis during Wati’s tomb lottery, my players were left with a stone tablet that makes mention of an ancient relic hidden in the ‘new city where the Asp and Crook join.’ Identifying this city and the age of the tablet was easy for them. Wati is the city where the Asp and Crook rivers join, mingling together to birth a new river, the Sphinx, the life-blood of Osirion. In fact, that’s why Wati was founded. To mark the birthplace of this holy river. As for the age, since the city is referred to as ‘new,’ clearly it’s referring to Wati’s founding, long before disaster struck the city.

Not content to assume that the location they found the tablet in was also the location of the ancient relic, my players rightly asked me a question: “What in Wati that survives today was part of its original construction?”

The answer? Lots.

Sort of.

With the lottery coming to a close, my players will no longer have access to the Necropolis. And it’s the Necropolis which contains Old Wati. The historic parts, the ancient parts… That’s all in the Necropolis.

Almost.

Ammending the question to include only what they can access at the moment, they were left with only three locations: The Shrine of Wadjet, Ubet’s Folly, and the Whispering Stone. Knowing that two of the locations–the Shrine of Wadjet and Ubet’s Folly–are located on the banks of the River Sphinx itself, they seemed to be prioritizing these two locales.

Now, all three locations are mentioned in the primer on Wati, but none are detailed fully, leaving me with an opportunity to fill in these quirky locations.

So today we’re going to take a look at one of them, The Shrine of Wadjet.

The Shrine of Wadjet


Located upon the riverbank, just past the bustling Sunrise Market, is a small stone shrine with a single gold brick at it’s centre. Stairs lead from the shrine down into the river itself, disappearing underwater at the place where the Asp and Crook rivers conjoin, to birth the river Sphinx. Here you’ll find people from across Osirion bathing and praying, while countless locals draw their water from this site. Though faded and worn with age, ancient carvings of birds, snakes, scales and feathers can be seen upon this humble shrine, hidden beneath the grime of centuries.


Any of the locals nearby can provide your players with the following information:

  • This Shrine is ancient, and marks a holy site.
  • The River Sphinx is considered holy by citizens of Osirion. It’s birthplace–here, at the confluence of the Asp and Crook Rivers–is doubly so.
  • Locals of Wati draw their water from the base of the Shrine, if they live close enough.
  • Pilgrims come from all over Osirion to visit this holy site.

Unfortunately, more details on this Shrine are harder to come by. The following information can be discovered with the appropriate skill checks.

Knowledge (local) or Diplomacy to gather information:

  • DC 12 – All festivals in Wati begin or end at this shrine.
  • DC 15 – Wati’s temples all draw their water from the shrine and use it to make holy water.
  • DC 20 – Although created to celebrate the birthplace of the River Sphinx, this shrine is dedicated to an ancient river goddess, long since fallen into obscurity. Whoever she was, no priests in Wati remember her, and no clergy tends her holy shrine. Apparently her holy animals were birds and snakes.

Knowledge (history):

  • DC 15 – No incidents of crocodile or snake attacks have ever been reported near the ancient shrine.
  • DC 20 – When Pharaoh Djedert II ordered Wati’s construction he laid a gold brick where the Asp and Crook meet to form the holy Sphinx River. The Shrine was built around this brick, by the cult of Wadjet.

Knowledge (religion):

  • DC 15 – Water drawn from the base of the shrine’s stairs under the sun of the summer solstice is said to have healing properties.
  • DC 20 – The shrine is holy to an ancient river goddess known as Wadjet.
  • DC 25 – Wadjet was worshipped in ancient Osirion and was considered to be the living embodiment of the River Sphinx. She was a teacher, a giver of wisdom and a protector of all peoples–from Pharaohs to commoners, and everyone in between. She was depicted in art as a snake-headed woman with wings. Her holy symbol was a uraeus, a two-headed cobra with feathered wings.
    • Players who pass this knowledge check can attempt to learn more about uraeus with a knowledge (arcana) check, the results of which are found later in this article.

Players who choose to inspect the shrine can discover the following with a perception check.

  • DC 15 – In addition to bird and snake imagery, there’s a strange symbol shown repeatedly in the shrine’s carvings–a two-headed cobra with feathered wings.
  • DC 20 – The gold brick that lays near the water line is covered in ancient hieroglyphs.
    • Players who speak Ancient Osiriani can read that the heiroglyphs are prayers marking the birth of the River Sphinx at the joining of the Crook and the Asp, invocations to Wadjet, and requests for Wadjet to bless the city founded in her honour at this holy site–the city of Wati. They also can see Pharaoh Djederet II’s name on the brick and the date it was placed: ’10th year of the rule of Pharaoh Djederet II, Summer of the Boiling Lake, Summer Solstice.’ This equates to the year -1608 AR, which is the year Wati was founded.
  • DC 25 – Within the shrine, directly above the golden brick, is a particularly prominent winged-snake carving. This carving conceals a hidden compartment. By pressing in the wings of the carving and succeeding at a DC 10 strength check, the entire snake body pops up a few inches. This twenty pound, thirteen inch long piece of stone can then be lifted up and out of the floor of the shrine. Inside is a hollow cavity that is four inches wide, two feet deep and shaped like the stone which was removed. Forgotten for centuries at the bottom of this hidden compartment is a magical amulet holy to the faith of Wadjet–a Uraeus Amulet.

Spellcasters using detect magic cannot discern the aura of the amulet while the compartment is closed, as there is more than one foot of stone surrounding the object on all sides.

Knowledge (arcana) can be used to learn more about uraeus’ after any player discovers carvings of them, discovers the amulet, or learns about them from the knowledge religion check found earlier in this post.

  • DC 15 – A uraeus is a magical beast native to Osirion’s rivers. They are intelligent and quite rare. They measure seven feet long and have a wingspan of approximately the same length. They weigh 150 pounds.
  • DC 20 – Both heads of the uraeus can spit venom from their mouths at a range of thirty feet and are particularly fond of aiming for their enemies’ eyes. This same venom is injected into their victims through their bite.
  • DC 25 – Uraeus are capable of speaking Aquan, Celestial, Common and Osiriani. They speak with a single voice that emanates from both heads at once. It is said that with proper offerings and a dedicated disposition a uraeus will take a supplicant on as a student, teaching them how to use the river’s bounty and serve their society.
  • DC 25 – Uraeus are protectors of rivers and waterways said to be birthed by the Ancient Osirion goddess Wadjet herself. They are highly territorial and protect their rivers from those who would harm them or make them unsafe for travellers.

The Uraeus Amulet
Aura moderate abjuration; CL 6th; Slot neck; Price 5,500 gp; Weight 1 lb.
Attached to a gold chain, this gold and blue glass amulet is cast in the form of a uraeus–a two headed winged cobra. Whenever its wearer is affected by a fear effect, she may attempt a new saving throw at the end of her turn each round to end that effect. Furthermore, once per day on command, the amulet grants its wearer an aura of courage that lasts for 1 minute. This aura is otherwise identical to the aura of a 3rd level paladin.
Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, bless, remove fear Cost 2,750 gp


NOTE: The uraeus amulet was originally published in Wayfinder: Volume 12: Osirion: Ancient Sands as the ‘djed pillar amulet’ in an article entitled ‘Heroe’s Hoard: Bajaba’s Beetles and Reeds,’ by Joe Kondrak. Wayfinder is a fanzine available as a free pdf download on Paizo’s website (some are available in print but are no longer free). Volume 12 is available here. I highly recommend downloading this one if you’re going to be running Mummy’s Mask, as there are plenty of useful articles, items, and even a few short adventures that can be easily added into the campaign. And if you’re not running Mummy’s Mask? Download it anyway! It’s free and a great read.


I hope you’ve enjoyed our little trip into Wati today. We’ll visit again in the future.

Jessica

Mummy’s Mask: Game Aids

I love to GM. As mentioned already on this blog, I do it a lot, but mostly for my children. Playing d20 games with a five and six year old is considerably different than playing with a group of adults. Currently, there’s only two games I play face-to-face that do not involve my kids: Mummy’s Mask and Reign of Winter. I GM both.

It’s been weeks since we’ve played, but that’s understandable. November and December are a time full of birthdays and holiday events in my family. Add to that all of us suffering through a weeks-long illness and it’s no wonder my beloved games have been put on a bit of a pause.

We play on Friday nights: Reign of Winter when my brother’s free to join my husband and I, or Mummy’s Mask when both he and his wife are available. Our kids spend the evening playing and watching a movie before heading to bed for the night, and we have a few rare hours of adults-only d20 gaming.

And tomorrow, FINALLY, we’re playing Mummy’s Mask! Needless to say I’m excited.

One of the things I enjoy about GMing and playing is the environments you can create. With a simple description and a series of short social interactions it’s easy to make each city and town feel different and memorable. But a city’s not just buildings and climate, it’s also the is people who live there. Not just the few NPCs who hold plot-hooks, but all of them. From the lowly baker to the mayor’s foppish cousin, I love making an eclectic cast of NPCs for my players to interact with. Shopkeeps have names and families, minor social encounters occur when travelling through cities, and even that random urchin who tries to con you out of a few coppers has a name and a friend or two. I don’t expect the group to interact, befriend, or get into deep conversations with all of them, but I find it’s enriching for them to be able to. To know that they can. Every once in a while there’s an NPC who becomes special to them. Maybe it’s the baker’s daughter who’s been dumped by her boyfriend, the crime-lord’s bodyguard who they try to entice into switching sides, or the down on his luck priest whose temple is in need of repairs. And nothing makes side characters more memorable than a few lines of dialogue and an image to represent them.

Mummy’s Mask is a campaign bursting with opportunity for NPCs. Right at the beginning of the campaign the group stays at a local inn, the Tooth and Hookah. Run by a husband and wife duo, this hookah bar and watering hole is also home to tables staffed by merchants, and a tiny crocodile who lives in the well named Toothy. Now, what player’s NOT going to want to talk to the innkeeper when he’s got a croc in his well? Answer: none.

Beyond their base of operations, the PCs join a lottery put on by the church of Pharasma. Run by it’s High Priestess, a woman with green painted lips known as Sebti the Crocodile, even this distant personality is bursting with interesting quirks. There’s also gate guards and patrols of Voices of the Spire, militant Pharasmins who patrol the Necropolis the tombs are found within.

And the most fun, exciting NPCs to make in the early days of this campaign? The other lottery entrants. See, this campaign is special. Your players join a lottery where the right to explore ancient tombs is handed out to registered groups of adventurers by draw. Some of these groups have a chance to interact with your PCs. And what’s more fun than making a bunch of adventuring parties for them to socialize with?

Playing, obviously, but making adventuring parties is pretty cool, too.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post: GM Aids.

Periodically I’ll post supplementary information, images, encounters, locations and side-trek adventures intended to be used in published campaigns. Today’s focuses on the many NPCs–especially the rival adventuring groups–found in the first book of Mummy’s Mask. Please note that none of the following images are my property. Some belong to Paizo Publishing, and others were discovered on Pinterest and belong to the artists who created them (signatures are on many of the images).

PZO9079
The Half-Dead City,by Jim Groves. Book One of the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path.

So without further ado: let’s get rolling!

Mummy’s Mask is an adventure path printed by Paizo Publishing which takes place in the town of Wati, within the desert nation of Osirion. A six-part adventure path, the first of these volumes is entitled The Half-Dead City and is written by Jim Groves. Additional details on the city of Wati are included in this book, written by Crystal Frasier, while a short story in the back of the book that uses the Tooth and Hookah as a backdrop is written by Amber E. Scott. A player’s guide for this campaign is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here.

The Tooth and Hookah

One of the places players of Mummy’s Mask are going to visit most often is the Tooth and Hookah. This affordable little establishment will become their temporary home. A place for them to sleep, eat, rest, get out of the sun and to plan. Owned by a Garundi fellow named Farhaan, the Tooth and Hookah, its owner, and it’s delightful little crocodile mascot, Toothy, are given a bit more detail in the short story found at the back of the Half-Dead City. For my version of this campaign we gave Farhaan a wife, Maatkare, a meek but hardworking woman who busies herself around the Tooth and Hookash as a cook and waitress.

Along one wall of the Tooth and Hookah are a few tables available for rent by merchants and peddlers. These merchants aren’t detailed, so I got to make some additions. At the start of the campaign these tables are staffed by Mila Ansretti, a friendly Varisian traveller who loves the vast deserts of Osirion and makes a living selling maps, books, herbs and scarves of all kinds; and Ishpi, an awkward young man who (poorly) sells hand beaded jewelry created by his ailing grandmother. Later in the book Jarha Psenmin joins the merchants here, loudly shouting at patrons and acting like your typical pushy, market haggler–though this one deals in potions! Jarha doesn’t last long at the Hookah, and moves on to the Sunburst Market after only a single evening. If no one’s given Mila a reason to stay at the Hookah, she moves on by the end of this book, finding a new location to sell things in Wati.

For entertainment, the Tooth and Hookah features performances by Wahka, a sleazy half-elven bard who secretly lusts after Maatkare, and Senja Messeniah, a streetwise, lesbian belly-dancer who is good friends with Farhaan.

The Grand Mausoleum

Wati’s temple of Pharasma is incredibly large and has a lot of political power. It’s called the Grand Mausoleum, and is the organizer of Wati’s Necropolis lottery. Each day of the lottery sites are drawn and announced by High Priestess Sebti, pictured in the sidebar. Sebti is detailed thoroughly in the Half-Dead City adventure and the article on Wati later in the book. She’s helped by some acolytes which are undetailed. In my campaign these acolytes are Henna, a scribe who handles all the lottery’s record keeping and can sometimes be found working as a secretary at the Grand Mausoleum, and Ammon, a charismatic mysterious fellow who handles inquiries and explains the details of the lottery and their site with the PCs while Sebti continues with the lottery.

Other NPCs added into the Grand Mausoleum are Elder Neferaba, one of the oldest and most respected clerics in the temple, and Inet, a young woman with no formal education who works as Sebti’s personal secretary.

There’s one more member of the Grand Mausoleum who is written directly into Mummy’s Mask. Introduced with full character art and given a thorough backstory, Ptemenib is found in the second book of this adventure path, Empty Graves, he’s a colourful character your players are bound to love. I highly recommend introducing him right from the start. In addition to being found at the Grand Mausoleum, Ptemenib could also be spotted at the Tooth and Hookah spying on a suspicious patron he suspects of being a member of the Silver Chain (a local gang of smuggler’s who operate within Wati and it’s Necropolis). Ptemenib is joined by his (invisible) friend, a  nosoi psychopomp by the name of Qasin.

The Voices of the Spire

The Necropolis is under the control of the Voices of the Spire, a militant wing of the Church of Pharasma, led by the Commander of Voices, Nakht Shepses. Nakht is a character written into books one and two of Mummy’s Mask (though no art was provided for him), and is destined to butt heads with Sebti and the player characters in book two, Empty Graves.

Only one member of the Voices is given a name and artwork, Bal Themm, a woman who guards the front gates to the Necropolis and is introduced in book two, Empty Graves. Bal is easy to include right from the start, as the players walk right by the gate guards twice a day while they’re in the lottery. Starting professional, Bal can grow to respect the group for their accomplishments in the Lottery and even become a friend and source of information. By the time she needs their aid in the second book she’ll already be a companion–or at least remembered–and her fate will have more of an effect on the group.

The Half-Dead City makes mention of Voices of the Spire patrolling the Necropolis and performing inspections during the lottery. However, no other Voices are detailed. In my campaign we added in Shenanda, an experienced Voice who is professional and serious. She’s also Bal’s superior, and Nakht’s lover. Working with Shenanda is a nervous new recruit to the Voices, Menes. Although Menes looks up to Shenanda, he thinks that Commander Shepses is too proud, and needs to treat his lower-class subordinates better. Other Voices on patrol in the Necropolis include the young dwarf Ankhet, the stern female oread Faiza, and the charming and flirtatious Sebkay (Sebkay’s art is from a soldier token in Magic: The Gathering’s Amonkhet set, available in booster packs here.).

The Scorched Hand

There’s a lot of adventuring parties mentioned in the Half-Dead City. Most are little more than a title and a sentence or two of information, but one of them, the Scorched Hand, are destined to play a major role in this adventure. A group consisting of three followers of Nethys and their sword for hire, the Scorched Hand are introduced in a scripted social encounter that takes place after the first day spent in the Necropolis. I recommend utilizing them at least once more, either before or after that encounter as a social interaction. Make Velriana brush against them while passing by your players in the streets and demand they apologize to her for the insult! Or have them show up at a market stall while your players are trying to purchase an item and insist upon buying that same object–for a bit more coin. Small clashes like this will make the Scorched Hand a group to remember. By the time your players spot Velriana’s feathered hat in the final part of this adventure, they’ll know exactly who they’re about to butt heads with–again.

The Scorched Hand is lead by a pompous, Taldan noble who worships Nethys, Velriana Hypaxes, a wizardess with attitude to spare and ostentatious fashion sense. Her second in command is Khelru, a cleric of Nethys who began life as a peasant and slowly worked his way through the clergy. Khelru’s the only member of the Scorched Hand that Velriana respects. Khelru’s lover is a spoiled, nobleman by the name of Azaz Arafe. Azaz is infatuated with Khelru and converted to Nethys’ faith in order to impress the clergyman. Azaz is a wizard–a poor one–and has a scorpion familiar. Velriana thinks he’s useless–and isn’t shy about showing her feelings. Idorii is a half-elf mercenary hired by Velriana to protect her, then the rest of the Scorched Hand. Idorii sympathizes with Azaz, and thinks Velriana’s stuck-up, but business is business, and Velriana’s the one paying her.

 The Cryptfinders

Another group conceptualized in the book but lacking details are the Cryptfinders. They’re a group who met in Absalom, the City at the Centre of the World, and joined up specifically for the purpose of entering Wati’s lottery. Including members from throughout the world, the Cryptfinders are lead by a roguish, womanizing bravo by the name of Falto. Falto is joined by Ilpatrus Nexonus, a Nexian summoner who looks down on other magic users (and barely notices non-magic users). Hesham ibn Gathbiyya is a Qadiran cleric of Sarenrae and the group’s healer. He hates undead and tries to convert everyone he meets to his faith–an unpopular habit in a town so controlled by the Pharasmin clergy. Their final member is Vittoria Etrovain, a Chelaxian cavalier that worships Asmodeus and despises every woman Falto interacts with. The Cryptfinders are present at a single scripted social encounter and, like the Scorched Hand, benefit from additional social interactions. A fellow wizard could study alongside Ilpatrus, the players could come across Falto making a scene as he duels a few local men over his recent dalliance with their sister, or they can help Hesham talk his way out of an angry crowd of locals that he’s tried to convert to his faith.

Daughters of the Desert

This entirely female adventuring party is led by Sigrun Firehair, an Ulfen skald from the Land of the Linnorm Kings who claims to be descended from a genie. Joined by Firadora Fal-Shiek, a paladin of Iomedae exiled from Rahadoum for daring to have (and spread) faith; Sati, a Thuvian desert nomad with no tongue who looks fierce and is constantly splattered with blood stains; and The Twins, Rua and Naat, mysterious Osirian witches who refuse to speak or socialize with outsiders and seem to communicate with glances. These adventurous women make their sole appearance in the same scripted social encounter that the Scorched Hand and the Crytfinders appear in. Sigrun takes the lead for this group, telling epic tales of their adventures in the Necropolis. These women, Sigrun especially, are incredibly easy to add to the campaign further. Sigrun can often be found boasting about her many accomplishments at a variety of drinking establishments, hawking her newly acquired treasures in a market and haggling with the best of them. My favourite location to add them is immediately outside the Necropolis, Sigrun works up the crowd, telling tales about their adventures that day and waving around the treasures they acquired. She then immediately attempts to sell the goods to the crowd. The Twins stand by mysteriously silent, Sati roars and brandishes her bloody blade for the crowd and Firadora poses dramatically. Sigrun is also a great choice to use again in book two, representing the Daughters of the Desert alongside the Twins at the auction at the Canny Jackal.

Dog Soldiers

The Dog Soldiers are an all halfling adventuring group whose obnoxious leader, Mad Dog Marrn, fights alongside his pack of trained Katapeshi hunting dogs. Joined by his ‘bitches:’ Rita, a flirtatious and curvaceous warrior; Madge, a trapsmith who doesn’t care at all what you think of her; and Ninette, a sorceress who’s quite likely insane. The Dog Soldiers are scheduled to appear in the same scripted social encounter as the previously mentioned groups. Unfortunately, half of Marrn’s dogs die that day fighting a gelatinous cube. I highly recommend making the Dog Soldiers stay at the Tooth and Hookah in a suite upstairs, alongside the PCs. This gives your players plenty of time to interact with the bombastic group before Mad Dog and the girls are in mourning over their dogs. The next morning be sure to place Mad Dog in the Sunburst Market, sadly trying to find replacements to join his remaining pack.

It’s noted in the next book that not all of the groups who entered the lottery return. Some lose members to death, while others never return at all. I chose to make the Dog Soldiers one of these unfortunate groups. Tasked with clearing out Tahetep’s Dance Hall the day after losing most of his dogs, Marrn, Rita and Madge were all killed in the haunted ruin, while Ninette survived, driven mad by her experiences. Have the players go through dinner that evening, then breakfast the next day, without any sign of the noisy halflings at the Tooth and Hookah. That evening Farhaan can ask if you’ve seen any sign of them. After hearing they haven’t Farhaan sighs and remarks ominously “They’ve still got a bit of time.” After another day with no word from the Dog Soldiers Farhaan places their personal possessions out for sale at his merchant’s tables. This can be a poignant sign to the group that their line of work is more than just dangerous, it’s deadly. The next time the players are in the Necropolis they should discover something of the Dog Soldiers–perhaps it’s Mad Dog’s medium +1 longsword engraved with his name or, if you’re feeling really cruel, they can discover one of his dogs–now an undead ghoul hound–gnawing on Mad Dog’s rotting arm. During the second book, while the players are in the Necropolis on other business they can discover that not all of the Dog Soldiers are dead–the insane wreck that Ninette’s become still resides in the haunted dance hall. Mute, deaf and blind, she dances to a song that only she can hear.

Sand Scorpions

This all-rogue group of adventurers is on the hunt for an arcane combatant to assist them before the lottery starts, but by the morning of the first draw they’ve filled that role. To best showcase this I highly recommend making the Sand Scorpions the second adventuring party to stay at the Tooth and Hookah. This group is led by Black Kiss, an assassin who specializes in poisons that I made mysterious, aloof and literally deadly–her skin is coated in a paralytic poison that she’s immune to. Joined by Briggs, a trapsmith party girl who’s secretly in love with her best friend and other member of the group: Tama. Tama’s a gruff, half-orc locksmith who–along with Briggs–lives in the floating slums of Bargetown. Their newest member is Atticus Bant, a magus who tries his best to get along with all his new female companions, and is failing horribly. He’s terrified of Black Kiss and attracted to Tama. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of letting Briggs seduce him after the first day in the Necropolis and he’s only recently realized she’s both conniving and manipulative. Briggs soon spends her free time bad mouthing Atticus to Tama, while Atticus tries to woo Tama, and Tama poorly ignores the both of them. Desperate for less needy companionship, Tama’s very likely to try to socialize with the player’s characters. An act which is guaranteed to draw both Briggs and Atticus to the conversation in short order. Allowing your players to get involved in the drama of this catty, dysfunctional group can be amusing, and can drive home how important teamwork is. Near the end of the lottery, have fun showcasing Atticus’ desperate final attempts to get Tama to go on a date with him–only to find him later, drunk and mournful at the bar, wailing about his unrequited ‘love.’ Tama and Briggs are also good choices to use as contacts in the second book of Mummy’s Mask, when the players are looking for information about Bargetown and the Veins.

One of my players got obsessed Black Kiss, insisting that his character was destined to be with her (he’s a firm believer in fate). A chubby catfolk who looks like an overgrown housecat, the many, many ways he tried to prove his love to the toxic, aloof woman provided endless entertainment for us. Even more so were her challenges–the most daring of which was taking shots of poisoned drinks with her at the bar. Unfortunately for the smitten catfolk, he was so busy playing coy with her that he missed his chance to say goodbye. After the lottery, Black Kiss heads off to Tephu on the search for ancient alchemical secrets. They’ll have a chance to meet her again in book three.

Amethyst Dragons

This adventuring party is detailed in the random encounters section of the Half-Dead City. Consisting of an Osirion enchantress, Melu, and her charmed companions, each of the men in this group vies for her attention and would give their lives for her. Originally consisting of Ahotep, a warrior who’s been charmed so long he can’t imagine life without her; Djaal Sidrim, a young and inexperienced ranger; and Karem Afir, a streetwise cutpurse; this group’s membership is destined to be shuffled around a bit. The first time you meet the Amethyst Dragons, Melu attempts to charm the strongest looking player’s character, while the other members of the Amethyst Dragons sit jealously by. If Melu survives this encounter, be sure to show her a few days later with all new companions–she had to replace them after they gave their lives to allow her to escape the dangers of the Archives of the Ibis.

Flickering Four

This adventuring party is also detailed in the random encounters section of the Half-Dead City. Intended to be encountered in the Necropolis, they’re found sitting outside a tomb. Their leader, a halfling sorcerer by the name of Fergrim Flame, toys with a ball of fire, while their studious wizard, Verichi Denger, studies a few tomes on the side of the road. Verichi is wary, but claims that the group needs to wait just a while longer while he memorizes some necessary spells. Lirgana Ahmose, an optimistic half-elf bard, tries to pass the time happily, while the group’s half-orc fighter, Kha, loudly complains about Verichi’s obvious cowardice and picks apart Lirgana’s every suggestion and comment. Verichi is a great choice to use in book two, representing the group alongside Lirgana during the auction at the Canny Jackal.


There’s plenty of other colourful characters kicking around Wati. Patrons of the Tooth and Hookah, the Abadaran Marketwives, merchants, students of the Hall of Blessed Rebirth, and even a thief or two, but those will come in time. For now, I hope you enjoyed–or even better: make use of–the colourful characters I’ve shared today.

Our next Mummy’s Mask game aids will be entirely different. Featuring details on the Shrine of Wadjet, Ubet’s Folly and the tattered remains of a drug-addled cult found within, as well as the lots up for auction at the Canny Jackal in book two.

Until then, have fun, and keep gaming. I wish you plenty of criticals!

Jessica