Today we’re going to take a look at the most recent Pathfinder Society Scenarios that are available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers then I recommend clicking on a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Pathfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So let’s get started!
Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-16: What the Helm’s Hide is a Tier 1-5 repayable scenario that consists of four short one-hour long quests. “Collection,” “Autumn,” “Dust,” and “Witness.” “Collection” should always be played first, “Autumn” and “Dust” may be played in any order, and “Witness” is the thrilling finale. Each quest is penned by a different author, including Calder CaDavid, Lysle Kapp, Kendra Leigh Speedling, and Nate Wright. While Speedling and Wright have written for Paizo before, this will be the first Paizo writing credit going to CaDavid and Kapp. Each quest also comes with its own player handout, which is always nice. Also, this scenario has a lot of great artwork in it!
The first quest, “Collection,” is written by Lysle Kapp and takes place in Korvosa’s Jeggare Museum. Here PCs will need to inspect relics discovered by the famous Pathfinder Helven Leroung and uncover clues about her history and character. You also get to delve into Helven’s relationship with the famous Montlarion Jeggare, for whom the museum (and much more!) is named. His descendant, Mercival Jeggare is curator of the museum and willing to lend you a hand. There’s a lot of information you can learn here, although groups are unlikely to get all of it, which I rather enjoyed. For more information on Korvosa you can check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to Korvosa.
“Autumn” is written by Calder Cadavid and takes places in Andoran’s Arthfell Forest. PCs investigate a sliver of the history of the Pathfinder Zaul Blystone. It has amazing art for an NPC, Adelyn Rhinon, which is my favourite art in the scenario. This is a fun quest although I do have one minor complaint. I feel like one of the characters gives up a bit too easily. For more information on Andoran check out Andoran, Birthplace of Freedom.
“Dust” by Nate Wright takes place in underground Dwarven ruins on the edge of Highhelm. There players get to dig a little deeper into the history of Veldrid Goldborough. I enjoyed the NPCs in this one and adore the art for Helga Silverbrew. She’s got such a great facial expression. I like enemies in this one a lot, and the… source of information. For further details on the Five Kings Mountains check out the The Inner Sea.
The finale, “Witness,” is written by Kendra Leigh Speedling and was an absolute delight! It takes place in the Grand Lodge of Absalom and involves the PCs enacting a sort of ritual to activate a secret cache hidden by the gnome Pathfinder Eylysia. As Master of Scrolls Kreighton Shaine and two members of the Decemvirate watch on your players get to experience an important event from Eylysia’s past. I won’t say any more to prevent too many spoilers, but I will say it was awesome. I loved the final battle and the revelations it uncovered. And Eylysia’s final line! So good. For more information on the Grand Lodge check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Seekers of Secrets and Pathfinder Society Field Guide.
What the Helms Hide is a really great series of Quests. So great, in fact, that it’s my favourite series of PFS Quests. All of it’s component Quests were enjoyable, but its the finale that really ties it all together and makes it exceptional. Really well done from the whole team of writers. Each Quest has a chance for battle, a social encounter, and to uncover clues regarding their respective mini mysteries. Overall I really enjoyed this scenario. I give it four out of five stars.
Like the three scenarios before it, On Sevenfingers’s Sails features Venture-Captain Calisro Benarry, a half-orc Pathfinder who has sent plenty of Pathfinders into the depths of the Gloomspires. It also features Benarry’s quartermaster Kakikko, and Hrethnar from Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-15: Hrethnar’s Throne. New NPCs introduced include the very disturbing Thael Shivers, Vashthrexa, Nightdrinker, and Sempet Sevenfingers himself. PCs will need to enter the terrifying tomb, contend with Captain Sevenfingers, and plunder everything they can. Of course, there’s some complications in this mission, and PCs will have to contend with far more than expected. This scenario features an optional Hard Mode for all those players out there who relish a challenge.
The scenario is wonderfully creepy, morbid, and ominous, although that sort of content is not for everyone. Players who have issues with body horror will want to give this scenario a pass. It’s definitely not an scenario for kids. Any characters who played the previous Gloomspires adventures are going to get a bit more satisfaction out of this scenario than their compatriots who haven’t, and will find they get a few extra bonuses along the way. This scenario is packed full of atmospheric environments, memorable characters, and foul villains. The battles are challenging and take place in dynamic locations. I particularly enjoyed the final encounter. Really well done! Overall I think this is a really great scenario that won’t be for everyone. It’s creepy, gory, and a great high level challenge. I give it five out of five stars!
Today we’re going to take a look at the two most recent Starfinder Society Scenarios that are available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers I recommend you check out a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Starfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So sit back, and get ready to explore the Pact Worlds!
Heart of the Foe begins when both First Seeker Luwazi Elsebo and First Seeker Jadnura task the PCs with travelling to a planet the jinsul are known to occassionally visit in order to discover actionable intel and information about the jinsul themselves. For those of you who don’t know, the jinsul are a violent race of aliens that conquered the Scoured Stars Trinary system while the Starfinder Society rescued their comrades during the #1-99: The Scoured Stars Invasion. The jinsul have been a thorn in the side of the Starfinder Society ever since and the First Seekers are worried at the threat they pose to the Pact Worlds. Your PCs will need to travel to the mysterious planet — alongside both First Seekers and three other Starfinder teams — investigate a few sites that show signs of life, and uncover what they can about the jinsul and their society. Neither the Starfinder Society nor the players know a whole lot about these insectile fellows, so I was thrilled to dig a little deeper into the history of the jinsul themselves. Exciting stuff! Throughout the course of this scenario PCs will get to learn about jinsul anatomy, culture, history, religious beliefs, and — oh yeah — fight a whole lot of jinsul! It’s an action packed, exciting scenario that’s going to be a lot of fun. The battles all serve a purpose, the chase scene is both exciting and complex, and the world itself is very atmospheric. The finale is exciting and challenging, with a lot of moving parts. It’s chaotic and really well done. Dare I say… epic? Yeah, I do. Haha. There’s only one real social encounter, but the character you get to interact with is really… enjoyable so it strikes a nice balance. I love their demeanour and attitude towards the PCs. So good!
But, it’s not all sunshine and roses radiation and bullets. I do have a few minor complaints with this one. First off, it’s tough to run. Now, this isn’t really a complaint. It’s an observation and potential warning. This is not the kind of scenario an inexperienced GM should attempt. There’s vehicle chase rules, modifications to the vehicle chase rules, environmental conditions, a whole lot of dice rolling during travel scenes, plenty of hopping around between pages for potential clues and intel, and complex battles with lots of enemies and allies to track. Not easy. Second, it has a bit of a slow start. Not the immediate start, but the… well let’s call it the travel scene. There’s a lot of dice rolling done every hour, which runs the risk of becoming a boring sort of routine if not handled right (particularly when you take into account the flipping between pages that might have to occur). That said, I do like the information your group could uncover about the jinsul along the way. Third, environmental protections. Chances are your characters have them. They protect us from a lot, but there’s also things it won’t protect you from. Fair. But in this one it feels like you get penalized for using them. You either use them and suffer X or don’t use them and suffer Y. Which is unfortunate. The scenario refers to snow clinging to your environmental protections’ helmet — when many armour’s environmental protections use a force field instead of helmets — and even if you are wearing armour that has a helmet, couldn’t you just wipe it off? And if you are wearing armour that has an environmental forcefield for it’s environmental protections, can it seriously not handle a bit of clingy snow? Sounds like that armour has a pretty big design flaw to me. I hope my Starfinder kept their receipt. Haha. It felt sort of arbitrary to me. I’m totally cool with some environmental hazards going through your protections, but this snow thing just wasn’t one of them. Contrariwise, if they wanted the snow to hamper visibility, I’m totally fine with that. I am no stranger to snow and yeah, it’s hard to see sometimes. And finally…. I love that baby jinsul on the cover! Except it’s not a baby jinsul at all. It’s a jinsul’s pet. I 100% thought it was a baby jinsul and was thrilled by it’s oddly adorable appearance. Jokes on me, I guess. Haha. Seriously though, I really like the creature, it’s stats, and it’s tactics. Overall, I thought this was a really great, exciting scenario that’s going to be a challenge to run — but well worth it! I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
Rasheen’s Riches sounds at first like a classic treasure hunt — in space! Which is only partly true. Radaszam recently discovered a treasure map said to lead to one of the last places the infamous space explorer Jelev Rasheen explored before disappearing. Presumed to house a treasure trove of unimaginable proportions, Radaszam’s taking a more measured approach. Although he doesn’t believe it’s actually the final resting place of Rasheen or her fabulous riches, he does hope that there you’ll find a claim beacon that she placed on planets she discovered but never fully explored. This beacon should be able to lead you to the next place Rasheen went. But, that’s another mission… Rasheen’s Riches is more accurately described as a treasure hunt where you’re aiming to find another piece of the treasure map. As long as this is clear to your players by the end of the mission briefing (which it should be) you won’t have a problem with any players feeling let down. However, if players think they’re off to find unimaginable riches they might be a little disappointed. I know my kids would say “That’s it? But where’s the treasure?!” Be sure to adjust those expectations a little. Haha. I enjoyed this scenario. It’s got some environmental challenges to overcome, an interesting investigation, illuminating player handouts, and a battle against some tragic enemies. It’s got the air of a mystery about it, which I liked. I absolutely adored the descriptions of this moon. The entire atmosphere of it — and the creatures that you encounter there — worked really well together. Definitely a highlight of the scenario for me. The starship combat was straightforward but enjoyable. I like the social encounter it begins with and the artwork of the ship! It looks like some kind of skeletal Batplane! Seriously cool. Overall I thought this was a really solid scenario that will — hopefully — lead to further adventures on the hunt for Rasheen’s riches! I give it four out of five stars.
Thanks for joining us today! Be sure to tune it again soon to check out our reviews on the newest Pathfinder Society Scenarios!
Today we’re taking a peek between the covers of Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins! If you’ve been reading d20diaries since its beginning you’ll know that my family and I adore Ultimate Wilderness. My kids love the races introduced — particularly the adorable vine leshys — and my entire family enjoys the shifter class. In fact, each of us have at least two shifters. Needless to say we were excited to get our hands on Wilderness Origins. My husband was hoping for more shifter options, my kids were hoping for more vine leshy options, and I was… Well, I was just hoping someone in my family would find something inside the book that they’d make use of right away.
We were not disappointed.
Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins is a soft cover book that is 32 pages in length. As a book in the Player Companion line, it’s aimed at players, which means that you won’t find a ton of world lore or secrets inside. You’ll find archetypes, feats, traits, spells, and more! Wilderness Origins features amazing cover art by David Alvarez, which showcases the iconic shifter, Zova, engaged in battle against an earth elemental.
The front inside cover features brief information on a few plants described in the book alongside some sketches. The entire page is presented as if they were entries in a scholar’s journal, which is a nice touch. Although no important information is contained here that can’t be found later in the book, it’s nicely showcased. Plants depicted include ambrosial lotus, cleanthistle, ghostblossom, and a ghoran seed. There’s also art of a gathlain’s wing and a leaf leshy.
After this is the table of contents, the rules index, and the introduction which contains eight new regional traits themed around different terrains. Each trait is printed alongside an example background for each terrain, that emphasize how you can embrace nature and your environment. Guerilla tactics and surefooted ascent are sure to be popular, but fruit merchant and strong stomach turned out to be my favourites. Environments covered by these traits include the desert, road, forest, jungle, mountain, swamp, tundra, and coast.
Moving on from the introduction we come to six pages of new shifter options. It features a whopping nine new shifter aspects, all of which are pretty cool. The new shifter aspects are boar, crocodile, dolphin, dragonfly, electric eel, mantis, octopus, scorpion, and spider. Electric eel is my favourite, but my son LOVES the boar aspect. He immediately made a gnomish boar shifter for Pathfinder Society Organized Play and was super excited to give it a shot. Unfortunately, we suffered a TPK that weekend and poor Sid’s career was cut short. Still, my son loved the character and made a ton of use out of the boar’s minor aspect, which gives you diehard as a bonus feat.
After the shifter aspects are three new archetypes, dragonblood shifter, feyform shifter, and swarm shifter. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, with the dragonblood shifter allowing you to take on the aspects and forms of a variety of dragons, feyform shifter granting you some tricky defences and the ability to transform into fey beings, and swarm shifter allowing you to turn into a swarm of bugs. They’re all really cool, but dragonblood shifter turned out to be my favourite. My husband’s a big fan of the swarm shifter, though, and he’s not going to be the only one. It’s a really useful archetype which is sure to see a lot of play.
Also in the shifter chapter are thirteen new favoured class options, seven new feats (be sure to check out chimeric aspect, greater weapon shift, and raking claws), and my favourite new option for shifters: alternate natural attacks. Each shifter aspect currently released (new and old) has a list of alternate attack forms they can select in place of claw attacks. Bears have a bite attack, for example, while boars have a gore and a hoof. Any time you activate your shifter claws you can choose to take an alternate natural attack from your animal aspect options in place of one of your claw attacks. This changes the damage type and the way your natural attacks look, but otherwise functions as the shifter’s regular claw attacks. It’s a really nice option I’m happy to see available.
Up next are two pages on each of the races introduced in Ultimate Wilderness — gathlain, ghoran, and vine leshy. The new gathlain options include five alternate race traits (arborealvitality, feyresilience, and whimsicaloutlook are my favourites), seven new feats (mighty boughs and strength of wood are my favourites), and one new archetype. Sworn of the Eldest is a Charisma-based inquisitor archetype that I really enjoyed. Particularly the magic of the Eldest ability, which swaps out teamwork feats for some extra spells and spells per day.
Ghoran options include four alternate race traits (check out intoxicating aroma and magicalabsorption), three feats (I love spell mirror), two new spells (pinecone bomb and woodland rune), and the new ninja archetype petal ninja, which lets you transform into a cloud of flower petals.
Vine Leshy options include four alternate race traits (lashvine and writhing eye are awesome!), four new feats (we like bounteous body best), and the cavalier archetype verdivant. This turned out to be both my kids’ favourite archetype — which came as no surprise since they both love vine leshys. The verdivant archetype lets you to have a plant mount, and enables you create effloresces, which are explosive plant growths that can be used a number of times per day and have some cool effects. While one might form a wall of vines to prevent attacks of opportunity, others can make you walk on air, or even give you and your allies fast healing. Effloresce replaces the cavalier’s banner and tactician abilities.
Up next in Wilderness Origins are two pages themed around flowers. It starts by introducing four new magical plants, ambrosial lotus, cleanthistle, ghostblossom, and gravebane petals. All four are surprisingly useful, but I think I like the cleanthistle best. It’s a great plant to add into my family game of Iron Gods. There’s also five awesome new witch hexes. I honestly had a hard time picking my favourite. My daughter loves leshy summoning, my son loves verdant familiar, and heralding bloom is going to be really useful for some characters. In the end its the floating lotus and iceplant hexes I’m most likely to use. Floating lotus conjures a flower that you can stand on to walk over water or gain a bonus on jump checks while Iceplant makes the witch and her familiar’s flesh harden, granting them a natural armour bonus and and the effects of endure elements. Finally, there’s a new alchemist archetype in this section: perfumer. This alchemist creates atomized perfumes in place of potions, an can distill pheromones that augment your Charisma, diplomacy, and bluff checks in place of mutagens. Very cool!
The next two pages are entitled Wardens of the Wild and involve kami. There’s a new kami eidolon subtype for unchained summoners, ward aspects for hunters to make use of, and the new spiritualist archetype ward spiritualist. This archetype allows a spiritualist to purposesly seek out a kami to bond with, and grants them a ward implement which can either be an object or their own body. With their ward implement they can gain occultist focus powers. They can also merge their kami with their implement to empower their implement in battle. I’m a huge fan of both spiritualists and occultists, so I’m totally biased to love this archetype. Haha.
The next four pages are packed full of options for our animalistic pals — animal companions, familiars, and mounts. It starts with two animal companion archetypes: apex species (which gives your companion benefits in certain terrains) and unexpected intellectual (which makes a vermin companion more intelligent). Then there’s three familiar archetypes: occult messenger, the super creepy parasite, and arcane amplifier (my personal favourite) which grants your familiar the ability to use some metamagic feats on touch spells they deliver. Following these are seven feats which can be taken by animal companions, familiars, and their owners. Three are relevant to familiars, three to animal companions, and one is relevant to both. I really like the animal companion feats curious companion and friendly face, but it was two familiar feats that turned out to be my favourite. Changeling familiar gives any familiar capable of changing shape the ability to transform into a child or teenager of their master’s race, while spark of the uncanny gives your familiar the ability to speak. Awesome! (My kids are absurdly excited for this one!) A few levels later you can swap it out for improved familiar. Next up are descriptions of five breeds of mounts along with a trait for each of them (these traits count towards their master’s total number of traits). Finally, there’s an expanded companion list for cavaliers paladins, and rangers.
The following two pages talk about the totem spirits of the Shoanti, with nine new totem rage powers geared at members of the Lyrune-Quah (moon clan), Shundar-Quah (spire clan), and any ancestor-revering character. There’s also a new shaman spirit, tribe.
Wilderness Magic is up next, with five new arcanist exploits, three disaster themed spells, and the psychic archetype Magaambyan telepath, which blends druidic magic and wilderness themed powers with the psychic. Wild stride and wooden flesh are my favourite arcanist exploits, while flash flood — a sixth level spell on the druid, shaman, and sorcerer/wizard spell list — is my favourite spell.
Similar to magic, the following two pages are all about elemental power — specifically fire. First up is the flame steed spell, which conjures a mount made of fire. Continuing this theme is a new archetype, the cinderlands adept, a fire-based kineticist that gains a loyal mount and is based on the Burn Riders of the Sklar-Quah (sun clan). Finally, there are eight new kineticist talents — one form infusion (elemental trap) and seven utility talents. My favourites included fire corridor and the fire steed tree. I’m a huge fan of both the Shoanti and kineticists, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover these new options.
By now there’s only a few pages left. Two pages of character options themed around the sea and sky. It starts with two more archetypes — a very interesting paladin archetype called champion of the cascade and esoteric starseeker, a psychic archetype based around Golarion’s constellations. Following this are two very cool (and disconcerting) oracle curses that have to do with decay: putrid and scourge. Finally, there’s three new ki powers: floating breath, racing current, and zephyr blow.
And that’s it! The end of Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins! My whole family loves this player companion. It contains a lot of fun options for all our favourite parts of Ultimate Wilderness — shifters, gathlain, ghoran, and vine leshys — and pays some loving attention to the many different pets you can acquire. It’s rare that we get to make in-game use of a d20 book right after reading it, but this one immediately inspired us to create something new. It was well worth the investment for my family.
Thanks for joining us today! I hope you enjoyed taking a peek behind the covers of Wilderness Origins.
My kids love games of all kinds. Not surprising, I know. Most kids love games of one kind or another. But mine REALLY love games. This year for their birthdays they decided that they have enough toys. What they wanted was some new board games.
“But, awesome board games, Mom. Really good ones.”
So they did some research, made lists, did some more research, discovered a love of Dice Tower, and revised their lists until they each had a (much too long) list of board games they wanted. Although our birthday celebrations aren’t over yet, they’ve both had a few parties with family and were thrilled to find they got some new games. Most of what they asked for are large, complex games. But a few are short, easy to learn card games. You can expect to see a lot of board game reviews in the coming weeks, but today we’re starting short and sweet, with Dungeon Mayhem!
Dungeon Mayhem is a Dungeons & Dragons card game for 2 to 4 players. Games are short and fast-paced, with a round averaging about five minutes. It’s a small, portable game, with the rectangular box about the size of my hand. It’s the perfect size to bring with you on the go or play in compact spaces. We bring it to the laundromat, for example. Intended for ages eight and up Dungeon Mayhem lets players take on the role of an iconic hero and battle it out.
The game is super easy to learn and surprisingly fun to play. First, you choose a character. Each comes with their own unique deck of cards, hit point card and tracker, and a reference card. Youngest player goes first and play continues clockwise. You start with three cards in your hand. On your turn you draw a card and play a card. You start with 10 hp and when you reach 0 hp you’re out of the game. Last adventurer standing wins.
There are four heroes to choose from: Sutha the Skullcrusher (a female half-orc barbarian), Azzan the mystic (a male human wizard), Lia the Radiant (a female elf paladin), and Oriax the Clever (a male tiefling rogue). Each adventurer has their own deck that plays differently, but with the same basic mechanics so it’s easy to pick up any one and just play. Each card features illustrations by Kyle Ferrin showcasing the different characters in a fun-loving, cartoony style. Many cards have clever, entertaining, or familiar names. The cards each have a variety of symbols on them which tell you what each card does. The symbols are all easy to understand and, if you ever forget what they do, each character has their own unique reference card to remind you.
There are five symbols that appear in every character’s deck. A swords deals one damage to an opponent, a shield blocks one damage dealt to you, a heart heals one hp, a card lets you draw one card, and a lightning bolt lets you play one extra card. Although some cards in the decks contain a single symbol on them, most have a combination or two or three symbols. These symbols appear in different combinations and quantities throughout the decks, making each one different. The paladin’s deck has a lot of healing, for example, while the rogue’s lets you play a lot of cards, and the barbarian is the only character who can do four damage at once to a single enemy. In addition, each deck has a few unique symbols and cards. Sutha the Skullcrusher can deal one damage to each enemy and then gain that much hp with her Whirling Frenzy while the wizard Azzan can swap life totals with another player by playing Vampiric Touch.
There’s a few other rules to the game, but not many. Typically when you play a card it gets discarded, but if you play a shield card it instead is placed on the table in front of you. For each damage it prevents it gets a damage counter, and when it’s been completely destroyed the shield card is removed from play and placed in the discard pile. If you happen to use up all the cards in your hand (you’ll need lightning bolt cards to do this, which let you play an extra card on your turn) you can draw two additional cards. And if your deck ever runs out you simply reshuffle it and keep playing.
While playing we found that this game was super simple to learn, teach, and understand. You get the hang of it quick, and games are fast and exciting. Since you’re battling each other there’s definitely a ‘take that’ feel to this game. Some rounds you’ll feel picked on if you get defeated quick, but others are more balanced. It just depends on the strategies of your opponents at the time. My kids often decided the best strategy was to kill me and then duke it out themselves, so I was brutally ganged up on a lot. Haha. They quickly realized this was a poor strategy when my husband also joined play, as he often teamed up with me so that he didn’t have to combat a pair of allied kids on his own. (How the tables have turned!) My daughter is an expert at the old ‘kick them when they’re down’ strategy, very often dealing ruthless finishing blows against whoever happens to be doing the worst. …Even if it might be against her brother who she was supposedly allied with. Clever girl. Haha.
The decks are fun, varied, and balanced. No one deck it better than the other, they’re just different. Although it’s not immediately apparent what the differences are between the decks it becomes clear pretty quick. Lia, the paladin, deals a lot of damage and heals a lot of her own wounds. Her special abilities include Divine Inspiration, which lets her put any card from her discard pile into her hand and then heal two hp and Banishing Smite which destroys all shield cards in play and then lets her play an additional card. This was my daughter’s favourite deck, and my second favourite deck. While my daughter prefers Divine Smite and her beloved steed Fluffy, I’m a big fan of the Finger-wag of Judgement and Divine Inspiration. This deck is tough to take down and enjoyable to play.
While my daughter and I loved the paladin, my son and I both decided the rogue, Oriax, was out favourite deck. Packed full of cards that let you take extra actions, this deck often lets you play more cards than your opponents. It’s also got some enjoyable tricks, particularly with Clever Disguise, a card that prevents you from being targeted by any cards until the start of your next turn. It’s particularly great for forcing your allies to duke it out at the start of the game, which is likely to result in them retaliating against each other in subsequent rounds. A nice little start! We also really like using Pick Pocket to play a card from someone else’s deck. Need healing? Grab a card from the paladin. Want to wreck your opponent? Snag a card from the barbarian. Want to get a nice full hand or play something tricky? Take a card from the wizard. Sure, it won’t always be what you were hoping for, but I’ve never seen it not be useful. One downside to the rogue is that he only has one way to heal himself: Stolen Potion. Although it lets you heal one hp and play another card (which is great) it does mean that when you’re low on health it’s hard to save yourself. One hp once in a while doesn’t do much. I also love Sneak Attack. It’s art and theme bring a smile to my face every time. Haha.
It should come as no surprise that the barbarian’s deck deals a lot of damage. In fact, they have the only card in the game that can do four damage against one enemy (Rage). They also have the awesome Whirling Axes, which we mentioned earlier. What might be surprising is how balanced it is. It’s got some solid shield cards (my daughter loves the dogs Riff and Raff), ways to draw cards (Open the Armory and Snack Time), ways to heal (Snack Time and Whirling Axes) and ways to destroy a shield with one card (Mighty Toss). Although none of us named this deck as our favourites, it also turned out to be the most played deck and both my son and husband’s second favourite decks. Sutha is a fearsome foe!
Which leaves us with the wizard. At first glance, Azzan’s deck is the most balanced. He can do everything well, but doesn’t have the most of anything either. Burning Hands and Lightning Bolt are some of his most reliable damage dealing cards. Magic Missile is my favourite, as it lets you deal one damage and play an extra card. Stoneskin and Mirror Image are great shield cards. Knowledge is Power gets him a lot of extra cards while Speed of Thought helps him play those cards fast. His one downside is a lack of healing cards. Eventually we came to realize he does have the most of something very important: TRICKS. His three unique cards include Vampiric Touch, which we already mentioned. This card lets him swap hp totals with another player — which can be game changing. Charm lets him take someone else’s shield card that’s on the table and use as his own — also awesome. And Fireball deals three damage to every player (including himself). My daughter’s prone to hoarding fireballs, using Charm to steal someone else’s defences, and then blasting a bunch of fireballs to kill everyone at once while she hits behind her stolen shields. Cheeky thing. Haha. Although Azzan’s deck is just as easy to use as everyone else’s, it’s also the deck that is most rewarding when played with some forethought.
We really enjoyed Dungeon Mayhem. It’s not a complex, tactical game like some of our others, but it’s a fun, quick, romp you can bring with you anywhere. We hope they come out with an expansion that contains another two or four decks. It’d be great to have more deck choices and play with more than four players. Happily, this deck was quite affordable. Our copy was only $18 Canadian. Well worth the money.
Today we’re taking a look at two delightful books released by Dungeons & Dragons for kids: The ABCs of D&D and The 123s of D&D. Intended for young children, these books offer kids a first glimpse at the world of Dungeons & Dragons while teaching the alphabet and counting to ten. Both books feature whimsical artwork by Caleb Cleveland, and catchy rhyming couplets written by Ivan Van Norman.
I recently picked up both of these books for my young nephew, who is soon to turn five. Not only does he adore them, but both of my children (a boy aged eight and a girl aged seven) also found them thoroughly entertaining. I was impressed by their quality and content. The art is perfect for kids, with colourful, whimsical illustrations that hide all kinds of secrets — clouds shaped like dice and towers made of books, for example. Delightful little tidbits that kids will discover as they get a bit older.
“I is for IMAGINATION. What’s YOUR favorite tale?”
“A is for ADVENTURE, our journey has begun.
B is for BOOK, the source of all our fun!
C is for CREATURES of every shape and size.”
Although I expected The 123s of D&D to be shorter than The ABCs of D&D, that wasn’t the case. Yes, the ABCs of D&D covers the entire alphabet, with typically a letter per page. And yes, the 123s of D&D covers the numbers one through 10, with one number per two pages. Technically that would make it shorter, but after counting to to ten there’s a lovely mini bestiary that features a sentence or two about the creatures depicted throughout the book — all written in rhyming couplets. What a pleasant surprise! I’m really happy they included it and all the kids loved it. It immediately inspired them to start making up stories of their own with the creatures. My daughter’s favourite was the almiraj, of course (she adores rabbits and rabbit-creatures of all kinds).
“We begin with ONE Dungeon Master telling a story of daring deeds, the adventure of TWO heroes and their brave and noble steeds.”
“All these monsters you can meet when playing D&D. So have fun on your adventures, and save a spot for me!”
My kids and I thought that The ABCs of D&D and The 123s of D&D were wonderful, entertaining, inspiring little books. Despite being written for young children, they’re of interest to any kids that still love a picture book. Really wonderful work!
Hello, and welcome to d20diaries! Today we’re taking a look at a dark and dramatic adventure path filled with political intrigue and horrifying monsters. Trade War for the Mists of Akuma campaign setting.
What is Mists of Akuma?
Mists of Akuma is an Eastern fantasy noir steampunk campaign setting that’s compatible with fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons. Created by Mike Myler and published by Storm Bunny Studios, Mists of Akuma is based in a fictional nation called Soburin which is very closely based on Japanese culture of… oh, the Sengoku period of the 16th century if I had to guess (but I’m no expert). Soburin’s many prefectures are locked in a tenuous peace, torn between tradition and new technology, and beset on all sides by the terrifying Mists of Akuma, which corrupt everything they touch. Capable of transforming the land into a poisoned wasteland, peaceful dead into undead monstrosities, helpful spirits into foul oni, family heirlooms into cunning living objects, and people into terrifying monsters, the Mists of Akuma are a malignant evil. The Mists of Akuma campaign setting also features a wide variety of new character options, rules, technological items, magical objects, and creatures.
It’s a sorrowful, rich setting that pays close attention to eastern traditions and culture, and brings it into an exciting fictional fantasy world. Manners, honour, and lack of, all play a part, as do kami, oni, and a variety of other Japanese myths and traditions. Mists of Akuma is a setting bursting with creativity, intrigue, mythology, and tragedy that fills a niche all it’s own. For more information on the Mists of Akuma campaign setting you can visit Storm Bunny Studios. To pick up a copy of Mists of Akuma you can visit the Open Gaming Store, Paizo, and Drive Thru RPG. There’s also a few FREE primers available. I highly recommend picking up Mists of Akuma: Soburin Primer for a glimpse at the world of Soburin and the Mists of Akuma campaign setting, Mists of Akuma: Primer for a sampling of character options, and Mists of Akuma: Tsukumogami for a collection of new creatures (objects transformed into fell beasts by the corrupting Mists of Akuma).
But, enough about the campaign setting. Let’s talk Trade War.
Mists of Akuma: Trade War is a 375-page adventure for the Mists of Akuma campaign setting written by Mike Myler, along with Christopher Rippee, Andrew Engelbrite, and Dirk van de Rijt. Intended for 4-6 players, Trade War should bring characters from levels three all the way to level twelve or so. Although Trade War contains everything you need to play the adventure path, I highly recommend picking up the Mists of Akuma campaign setting or downloading the free primers mentioned above. They really enrich the adventure and your players understanding of their world and the beings in it.
Trade War is a campaign focused on politics, intrigue, and tragedy, with it’s true plot is hidden under layers of other stories and adventures. Players uncover threads of the mystery and its villains right from the beginning of the adventure path, with time weaving these seemingly disparate tales into a wonderful, layered story. The adventures are all open ended, providing information on a variety of paths your players might choose to follow instead of just assuming one ‘ending’ occurs. There’s plenty of important NPCs to interact with — both allies and enemies — and monsters to battle, with the lines between good and evil becoming increasingly blurred. Alliances can be forged, loyalties swayed, promises betrayed, and throughout it all your PCs will need to make difficult choices. For doing the right thing isn’t always easy — if you can even determine what the ‘right thing’ is. These tough decisions, moral dilemmas, and pyrrhic victories are truly a highlight of the adventure path.
Before we get any further into this review it’s important to note that not all of the content of Trade War is new. In fact, Trade War consists of six previously released adventure modules bound together with new adventures, side quests, and connections, all culminating in a brand new, epic conclusion. And when I say ‘epic’ I truly do mean it. The final adventure is exceptionally well done.
The six previously published adventures contained in Trade War are Scourge of Róbai Shita Temple, Feud Primordial, Fangs of Revenge, Curse of the Scorpion Samurai, Yai Sovereign of Storms, and Revenge of the Pale Master. The finale is entitled Hone-Noroi Keep Ascends. There are also two side trek adventures (Golden Carp and Cursed Well of Itami) which have varying difficulty levels and are intended to be inserted by the GM when they need to get the players back on track (or whenever they feel is most dramatic). There’s also a series of five ‘Connections,’ which are basically a collection of short social and combat encounters which occur on the journey between adventures and all tie in with the various ongoing plots and events of the adventure path. In addition to these adventures and connections, Trade War contains a bit of important information on the Mists of Akuma campaign setting, some new rules, a wide array of new character options, a player handout, and a character sheet. Finally, Trade War contains some quick and simple instructions for those GMs who want to run Trade War without the steampunk components.
Because Trade War is a mystery I won’t get into the plot just yet. Instead, information on the adventure’s storyline and various adventures will all be contained at the end of this blog post after a large spoiler warning. So, without spoilers, what do I think about Trade War?
For starters, Mists of Akuma is a really great, atmospheric setting. I love it. Trade War is grand campaign that’s much more layered than it originally appears. Despite it’s rather tightly constructed meta-plot it leaves a lot of room for players to make their own decisions, managing to continue the events of the adventure path no matter how honourable or disreputable your players turn out to be. It’s got a lot of climatic moments, dynamic battles, moral dilemmas, betrayals, and surprises. All of the scripted social encounters matter, playing a role in either the meta-plot, current adventure, or foreshadowing other important events. Many NPCs — both ally and enemy — have chances to make return appearances, and players will often be surprised at the role some of the people they meet will come to have. There’s a variety of factions your players could ally themselves with throughout the course of the adventure, all of which are very different.
However, all that open-ended storytelling does come with a downside. This is a rather loosely scripted campaign, with plenty of decisions for GMs to make, NPCs for GMs to create, and plenty of downtime for GMs to fill. While many GMs will be thrilled with this, I do prefer my adventures have a tighter narrative. Why your characters are travelling from one region to another between adventures is left for GMs to determine in most instances and, although the journey and ‘Connections’ themselves are filled with engaging encounters, the motivations behind the journeys are lacking (until the later adventures). In addition to this, many of the adventures utilize the same opening plot hook: a bengoshi told you to. Bengoshi in Mists of Akuma are essentially government officials who have the power to deputize citizens into performing tasks on their behalf. Refusal is met with execution. Obviously “do this because I said so or you die” is not really an engaging motivator. Although for some of these adventures it makes sense that a bengoshi would hire your PCs, at other times it’s unnecessary. There’s plenty of other PCs who could have acted as quest givers and, in many instances, the plot of the adventure itself or a few social encounters could have done a better job.
As previously mentioned, many of the battles are dynamic and complex. Although thrilling and rewarding, they aren’t easy to run. If you’re a beginner GM this is not the campaign for you to start with. Trade War has a lot of cool new creatures, some of which can transform into more powerful forms. Overall, the battles in this adventure path are challenging, memorable, and very well-crafted.
Mists of Akuma is not for the feint of heart. There are strong themes of tragedy, decay, corruption, and sorrow. There’s also some rather gross, horrific depictions (particularly in the finale), and body horror (as the Mists of Akuma can transform even your PCs into terrifying monsters). Although I thoroughly enjoyed the atmospheric, mature tone, it’s not for everyone. And certainly not a child-friendly or family campaign.
Mists of Akuma utilizes many Japanese terms throughout its length, which I really enjoyed. Particularly for names of people, locations, monsters, weapons, and titles. That said, I found that some terms are used but not explained, so I had to stop and look them up. In a few instances the Japanese version of an English loan word is used, instead of just using the English word, which was both jarring and a strange choice. I’m a fan of using culturally appropriate terms and naming conventions whenever possible, but in my opinion Trade War took it a bit too far. It hindered my comprehension of the material on more than a few occasions, which in turn made it less useful for me as a GM and less enjoyable for me as a reader. This adventure would have greatly benefitted from a glossary.
All in all I thought this was a wonderful, challenging, dramatic campaign that mature players are going to really enjoy. It’s set in an atmospheric fantasy world filled with tragedy, desperation, and corruption, wherein players get to make important, complicated decisions — and live with the consequences. I really enjoyed Mists of Akuma: Trade War.
Be warned! The following section contains information on the plot and component adventures of Trade War. If you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading!
Trade War‘s metaplot involves an ancient necromancer called the Pale Master, whose minions are working to bring him back into the world of the living. Fortunately for the world of Soburin, a powerful figure (who I won’t mention by name to prevent too many spoilers) has foreseen the return of the Pale Master and set events into motion that they hope will allow the people of Soburin to have a future. It’s the machinations of both the Pale Master and this other figure that drive the events of the Trade War adventure path. Set amongst this turmoil is a variety of other groups and factions which become embroiled in the growing conflict, either as allies, enemies, minions, pawns, or victims. PCs will have the chance to interact with members of all of the above mentioned groups on multiple occasions and forge relationships with them as they see fit (for good or ill).
Throughout this adventure PCs will face off against scheming humanoids, dark magic, ancient evil, corrupting fog, terrifying oni, powerful demons, unquiet spirits, animated dead, ninja, samurai, dragons, and even the undead army of a necromancer.
Trade War begins with Scourge of Robai Shita Temple, an adventure for third level characters. Tasked by a bengoshi to investigate the village of Shibai, PCs will need to determine why the village — which was mystically protected from the Mists of Akuma — has suddenly become overrun by the mists, the monsters that stalk within it, and a powerful wind demon named Fukō. This mystery is fun and pretty free-form, although I think having a bengoshi give your PCs their task is unnecessary. The various NPCs (or even just the events of this adventures) could have motivated the PCs just as easily. I particularly enjoyed the interactions with another group hired to protect the town, the boisterous Mubō Brothers. My only complaint is that there are a lot of battles with tsukumogami in this one (a bit too many, in my opinion).
From there your PCs travel East over the course of the winter, having a variety of adventures on their journey. Some important events in the adventure path are foreshadowed with social encounters, which was nice to see, and important rumours are already flying. I particularly enjoyed the encounters with the elemental oni Kumo-Rui, an ice-themed spider-like monster who has brought about an unnaturally cold winter. In this section the PCs also meet another bengoshi, Akia the Iron Shell, who tasks them with tracking down an oni-touched sorcerer who has formed his own cult and bringing her anything of value in his possession. This task is trickier than it seems, continuing on into the next adventure, Feud Primordial. It should be noted that the inclusion of Akia the Iron Shell is one I support, as she is important to the ongoing plot line and the next adventure, and it makes sense for her to hire the PCs in order to see her goals accomplished.
Feud Primordial is intended for fifth level characters, and begins with the PCs already in the middle of tracking down a cult-leader. Unfortunately, he has way too many possessions for the PCs to easily carry, making them unable to bring everything back to Akia the Iron Shell. They need to determine what’s valuable and sell the rest. Unfortunately, turns out the object Akia most wanted — in fact the whole reason she sent you after the cult-leader — was to fetch a specific object that was valuable to her, but not actually valuable. An object PCs have either sold (most likely) or was stolen from them (less likely). Furious, the bengoshi sends your PCs back out to hunt down the missing object. This adventure leads the PCs to a town where a murderer stalks the streets, and eventually casts them as pawns locked in a power struggle between two incredibly powerful ancient beings.
After finally appeasing Akia the Iron Shell the PCs accept work as a caravan guard and travel north. Along the journey they get involved in some interesting events, my favourite of which involves a corpse-eating oni.
In time the PCs arrive in Samon, home of the Tazuki Rail Company, where they become embroiled in the events of the next adventure, Fangs of Revenge. Once again, they’re hired by a bengoshi, although this time they’re asked to investigate a growing unrest among the labourers of Samon, discover the leader of the workers growing rebellion, and put and end to their uprising before it begins. This leads to a complex web of intrigue and a large cast of interesting characters. PCs will soon discover that there’s more going on in Samon that meets the eye as they clash with shapeshifting snake-folk, and dark rituals.
Leaving Samon behind the group travels south, working as guards for two different groups at different times. By now they’re likely catching wind of a smuggling operation that’s apart of this campaigns meta-plot, although they won’t necessary understand all the movers and shakers behind it. The PCs actions will continue to affect how a few factions see them later in the campaign.
The next adventure, Curse of the Scorpion Samurai, is intended for 7th-level characters and begins when the PCs are hired by a bengoshi from Fuson prefecture to sneak into Fuson, investigate a series of grisly murders, and lay a trap for the killer using his intended victims as bait. But their enemy, the Scorpion Samurai, was once a local folk hero with a tragic past. PCs will need to be exceptionally canny to prevent the people of Shinjitsu from informing the Scorpion Samurai of their presence lest they go from the hunters to the hunted.
From Fuson prefecture the PCs take a mountainous journey at the behest of a poor woman. Although their mission does not reach its conclusion, they do make some important discoveries related to a series of black torii gates that have been popping up throughout Soburin since the start of Trade War.
The next adventure, Yai Sovereign of Storms, is intended for 8th-level characters and takes place in a mountainous region of the GMs choosing, likely the same mountains that PCs were just travelling through. The PCs find themselves ambushed by a fearsome oni bengoshi who wants to hire them (this marks the second instance where I thought using a bengoshi quest giver was particularly important to the story). Xiqzoxix has heard of the PCs recent exploits and needs their aid to oust a powerful storm demon who usurped the throne from the previous warlord that ruled the oni city of Tsukisasu. Unfortunately, the storm demon is a hate-filled beast who gets more powerful by the day. PCs will need to sneak into the city of monsters in disguise, undo the storm demons magic circles, and defeat him before he becomes too powerful. In the end they’ll get to decide who will rule in the storm demons place — the original oni warlord or Xiqzoxix himself.
Leaving the magically hidden city of Tsukisasu behind the PCs suddenly find themselves in a forest near a newly laid rail track. In this series of connections they’ll have to battle an enemy atop a moving train, punish the oni behind the corrupted black torii gates, and discover that the various factions of Soburin are preparing for war.
Revenge of the Pale Master begins in the city of Kizaki immediately before the annual Festival of Falling Hawks. Intended for 8 – 10th level characters, this adventure once again sets the PCs on the trail of an infamous murderer. This time the murderer has come back from the dead to sacrifice six children whose relatives he tried to sacrifice in life exactly ten years ago. Although the local government has already placed three of these children in protective custody, the other three were kidnapped and need to be rescued. Except… that’s not really what’s going on at all. Haha. This adventure is full of twists, surprises, and betrayals. Whether the PCs ever figure out what’s really going on is entirely up to them. Revenge of the Pale Master is my favourite adventure in Trade War.
Which brings us to the all new finale to Trade War: Hone-Noroi Keep Ascends. In this adventure intended for 12th level characters the Pale Master’s bone tower rises from the earth and towers above Soburin, disappearing into the clouds. Undead march from the tower, the land becomes tainted, and dark magic is seen roiling in the skies. Villagers are evacuated by the government and the various factions met in this adventure path put their brewing war on hold to combat this ancient evil. The PCs may be able to ally with one or more of these armies and gain advantages (and disadvantages) based on how they treated the various groups. Some may be trusted allies, while others may be bitter enemies. Together with these armies your PCs will assault the Pale Master’s undead armies, storm the tower, ascend to the top, and defeat the Pale Master. It’s a gross and horrific gauntlet that’s packed full of challenging encounters and foul enemies. Such a great conclusion to this campaign!
Although that’s the end of the adventure path there are two more adventures in this book. Each is a short side quest intended for varying level difficulties. The first, Cursed Well of Itami, is best played at 5th level, and fits well between Feud Primordial and Fangs of Revenge. In it the PCs find themselves in a village whose well has been corrupted and now holds only blood and other vile substances. PCs need to descend into the well — and the hidden chambers connected to it — in order to cleanse the well and save the town. The second adventure, which is my favourite of the side quests, is Golden Carp. Intended for 7th-level characters, this adventure fits well between either Fangs of Revenge and Curse of the Scorpion Samurai or between Curse of the Scorpion Samurai and Yai Sovereign of Storms. In this adventure the PCs find a magical golden carp who begs them to prevent a noblewoman from catching him in her fishing net. If they choose to save the little fish from the woman — who’s actually an oni in disguise — they discover it is a powerful dragon on a pilgrimage back to its home. The dragon must undertake the journey in the humble form of a carp once every century in order to maintain is powers. They’ll need to protect the fish on it’s trip up to it’s mountain shrine without physically interfering in its journey.
Which brings us to the end of Mists of Akuma: Trade War!
Thanks for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed checking out the dark fantasy world of Mists of Akuma as much as I have.
Today we’re going to take a look at the two most recent Starfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers I recommend you check out a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Starfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So sit back, and get ready to explore the Pact Worlds!
Starfinder Society Scenario #1-32: Acts of Association is a Tier 1-4 repeatable adventure written by Scott Young. It takes place on Absalom Station, and tasks the PCs with taking a visiting dignitary a tour of the space station. This scenario features the repeatable tag, meaning it can be played once per character instead of once per player. It doesn’t directly continue any ongoing storylines, although it does build off of previous events. The Scoured Stars Invasion has come to an end, and the Starfinder Society has begun to rebuild their once stellar reputation. Acts of Association does not feature starship combat. It makes use of Starfinder Flip-Mat: Urban Sprawl, Starfinder Flip-Mat: Jungle World, Starfinder Flip-Mat: Cantina, Starfinder Flip-Mat: Starship, and Starfinder Flip-Mat: Space Station. A lot, I know, but you won’t need all of them at the same time. Some of the events in this scenario are randomly determined, so you’re going to need three or four of the flip-mats depending on which events you roll. Acts of Association makes use of the Starfinder Core Rulebook, Armory, Alien Archive, and Alien Archive 2. All of the necessary stat blocks are included in this scenario, although one randomly altered stat block allows GMs to apply select race grafts onto it (if desired), which are found in Alien Archive and Alien Archive 2. These grafts are not included in the scenario and are entirely optional. This scenario features only one returning character, Chiskisk, who was previously featured in the Dead Suns Adventure Path and Starfinder Scenario #1-25: Beacon Code Dilemma. There’s no specific boons you should slot for this scenario, nor are any factions invested in this mission more than the others. However, thematically it fits well with members of the Acquisitives and Wayfinders factions.
Acts of Association begins in Absalom Station’s Lorespire Complex, base of the Starfinder Society. With the Scoured Stars Incident behind them and some prominent successes under their belt, the Starfinder Society is seeking to expand its influence back into Near Space and the Vast. To that end they’ve entered into negotiations with a variety of distant civilizations in order to acquire exploration rights in their territories. Many ambassadors and dignitaries have made the journey to Absalom to negotiate with the Starfinder Society, and one of them needs a break. They want a tour of Absalom Station. That’s right! Chiskisk is calling on your PCs to act as tour guides. Although it may sound mundane, this is actually a pretty important. They’ll need to take the dignitary to multiple locations, ensure they are safe and entertained, all while making a good impression of the Starfinder Society. As a repeatable scenario, this adventure has some randomized elements to it. There’s a series of seven different pre-made dignitaries, as well as an eighth dignitary which is created entirely by the GM. In addition, each dignitary has randomized personality traits, values, taboos, and attractions they want to see. These attractions will determine the locations your PCs visit.
I really enjoy the pre-made dignitaries and the random personality traits. They’re all unique, memorable, and are going to be great fun to interact with. As a lot of this scenario involves social interactions, playing the scenario through with different dignitaries will make each play through unique. As an added bonus, playing through the scenario with the same dignitary can also have its own surprises, as they may not be the same person or value the same things the second time through. I enjoyed the rather mundane tourism destinations that all seem to go awry — either this poor dignitary has the worst luck or Absalom Station is the worst place to go on vacation! There’s a lot of opportunity for clever use of skill checks and combat, and how you handle each situation can affect what the dignitary thinks of you — although how it affects them depends entirely on your actions and their personality traits. Their outlook matters, and you can’t just leave all the social interactions to your most charismatic PC — which is great! The downside to all this randomness is how loosely scripted the social interactions are. The reactions of the dignitaries is entirely up to the GM to determine (based on their randomly rolled traits), which puts a lot of work into the GMs hands — particularly when you take into account how much of this scenario is social interactions. It’s definitely going to take some prep work or some great improv. Still, in the hands of a decent GM Acts of Association is going to be a lot of fun and really memorable. Another minor downside is the number of attraction options. There’s only six locations, and on each playthrough the dignitary will want to visit four of them. That means that on your second playthrough you’ll already have some overlap. That said, it’s more variable than the other repeatable scenarios out there, so I think it’s going to be a popular one. Acts of Association has some nice player handouts — dossiers on each of the dignitaries (although you’ll only get one on a playthrough). Unfortunately, one has a typo. After labelling one of the dignitaries preferred pronouns He/him he’s referred to as she/her throughout the rest of the dossier. Overall, I think it’s a really fun scenario that’s sure to create some memorable moments when run by any GM willing to embrace the roleplaying and social interactions. I give it four out of five stars.
Data Breach continues an ongoing storyline that began in #1-07: The Solar Sortie and continued in #1-14: Star Sugar Heartlove!!! I highly recommend playing those two scenarios before this one, although it’s not necessary. It’s also assumed that #1-99: The Scoured Stars Invasion has taken place, although that has little effect on this scenario for players. If you have the ‘Tip of the Conspiracy’ ally boon from Star Sugar Heartlove!!! now’s the time to slot it. The events in this ongoing storyline are sure to continue on in future scenarios, including the upcoming #1-38: The Many Minds of Historia. Recurring characters in this scenario include Historia-7, leader of the Dataphiles, Hira Lanzio, a mysterious businessman first introduced in #1-14: Star Sugar Heartlove!!!, and a cameo from Venture Captain Naiaj. New characters introduced include Xatina Marcos of the Stewards, and two Dataphile technicians, Kaizel and Xarafo. It should be noted that Computer and Engineering skills are integral to this scenario, so select your characters wisely. It’s important to ensure your team has at least one tech-savvy character (preferably more than one!). If you don’t, slot one of the ‘Hireling Access’ boons. You’re gonna need it!
Data Breach begins in Absalom Station, where players are tasked with breaking into a secure facility on Verces and obtaining all the information they can from the site. Although there’s good reason for this heist, I won’t get into the details of it here, as it involves mild spoilers from some previous scenarios. Rest assured: it’s important! Before heading off on their mission the Starfinders have a chance to question a prisoner being detained by the Stewards at their base of Absalom Station, Bastion, and potentially uncover more information on the facility and its defences. From there we head right to Verces and the infiltration of the top-secret facility. Admittedly, computers and hacking aren’t my favourite parts of Starfinder. But, that said, I love a good heist. So I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this scenario. Turns out, I loved it! I really like the mission premise and its importance to the overarching events of this season. I like the complex itself, it’s set up, and it’s defences. I really enjoyed that many of your actions as players can have consequences in this one (including past the end of the scenario), which aren’t always immediately obvious. It was nice subtlety. Although it isn’t the major focus of the scenario, I liked the opportunity for social encounters at the beginning and end of the mission. The battles were complex and layered, particularly the final combat, which is going to be a really nice challenge. All in all, I think Data Breach is a great, guilt-free romp that I think a lot of players are going to enjoy. I give it four out of five stars. (Although, if you particularly enjoy computers, hacking, and intel-themed missions, consider it a five!)
Cuvacara by Pixeloid Studios. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.
Cuvacara map by Damien Mammoliti. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.
Thanks for joining us today. We’ll see you again soon when we take a look at the newest Pathfinder Society Scenarios.
For Valentine’s Day my seven-year old son received the D&D Starter Set. He was pretty proud of this turn of events, as it marked the very first d20 product he has ever personally owned. He has some hand-me-down books, of course. And he reads my books all the time, but this one? This one was HIS.
Today we’re going to take quick look at the contents of the D&D Starter Set, and let you know what we thought. For more information on our experiences playing through the D&D Starter Set, tune in later this week!
The D&D Starter Set comes in a high quality, really nice looking box that is deeper than necessary. Although this might seem like a waste, at first, it’s not. The box is the perfect size to also place a D&D Player’s Handbook in, which any fan of the D&D Starter Set is going to want to do pretty quick. You can also fit in a notebook and a few pens, which is also a must have. Being able to pack all of that up in the box is great.
D&D Starter Set
D&D Starter Set and the dice that come with it.
Inside the box you’ll find a set of beautiful little dice, swirled in shades of vibrant blue, with bright white numbers. The dice are really nice looking and incredibly easy to read — which is a must! I despise dice you have to squint at just to figure out what they say. Not that it matters what I think, since the dice belong to my son. Happily, he loves them, ranking them as his very favourite set of dice (he owns two sets and a variety of extra dice of all kinds). There are six dice total: a d20, d12, d10, d8, d6, and d4. There is no percentile dice in this set, or extra d20, which is a little unfortunate. It’s always nice to have a second d20 for all those advantage and disadvantage rolls.
Beneath the dice is the D&D Starter Set Rulebook. 32 pages long, this 8 1/2″ by 11″ booklet contains all the rules needed to play and run a game of Dungeons and Dragons. The first seven pages explain how to play D&D, the six ability scores, and their uses, as well as advantage, disadvantage, and so on. After that there’s six pages on combat, six pages on adventuring (including equipment), four pages on spellcasting, a description of all the spells mentioned in the D&D Starter Set, and finally, the back page is an appendix that lists conditions. The book does it’s job well, providing enough information without overwhelming players too much. That said, it doesn’t contain any information on creating your own characters, so anyone who wants to move on from the Starter Set into regular D&D will need to pick up the D&D Player’s Handbook.
The second booklet in the D&D Starter Set is an adventure: Lost Mine of Phandelver. This adventure is a whopping 64 pages long — much longer than I expected from a starter set! I was really impressed. The adventure is split into four major parts: The opening ambush and a small dungeon crawl, time socializing and solving problems in the town of Phandalin, a sandboxy exploration of the surrounding wilds where your players can further investigate the quests they may have taken on, and the finale, a final large dungeon crawl. Before the adventure is an introduction, which gives a quick run down of how DMing works, and explains how to go about it. At the end of the adventure is an appendix containing all the magic times found in the adventure, and a second appendix which contains details on all the monsters and enemies found in the adventure. Finally, the back page of the booklet is a rules index, which lists different rules and the page numbers that they can be found in the Starter Set Rulebook.
Lost Mine of Phandelver is a fun adventure. It’s got a simple opening premise that’s easy to attach a wide variety of characters to, and has a good balance of combat, exploration, investigation, and social encounters. The plot line is easy to follow, and contains a few twists. It’s not overly complex and will appeal to a wide audience. Throughout the adventure there are plenty of notes for DMs, which give further guidance, rules references, and advice. This is super handy for new DMs and was really well handled.
The town of Phandalin was interesting, but I found it a bit brief. The only locations detailed are those where the PCs can pick up quests, which is unfortunate. That said, this adventure isn’t made for me, it’s made for new DMs. And for new DMs? There’s more than enough details, information, and NPCs to work with. Plenty of the townsfolk have tasks and information they can give players, links to other organizations (which can be used for continuing the campaign after you’re done with the Starter Set), plus there’s some trouble in town the players can stumble into on their own. Many of these quests can be completed in the region surrounding Phandalin, in Part Three of the adventure.
There’s some nice maps in Lost Mine of Phandelver, and art representing all of the monsters that need it (although not all of the monsters total). A few humanoid enemies are also illustrated, although none of the NPCs are. I really wish there was art for at least one of them — Silas Hallwinter, for example — but despite lacking art, each NPC in the book has a line or to about their physical appearance and behaviour, so DMs aren’t adrift.
Overall, Lost Mine of Phandelver is a fun beginner’s adventure with lots for player’s to do. It showcases the major types and styles of D&D, and weaves it all together in an entertaining and coherent story. I was really pleased with the adventure’s length. Groups will get more than a few play sessions out of this one, which is really nice to see.
Contents of the D&D Starter Set
This brings us to the final components contained in the D&D Starter Set: pre-generated characters. This box contains five already made characters. A neutral good hill dwarf cleric soldier, a lawful good human fighter folk hero, a lawful neutral human fighter noble, a neutral lightfoot halfling rogue criminal, and a chaotic good high elf wizard acolyte. The character sheets are easy to read and understand. Abilities are explained right on them, with more information on each one’s race, class, and background on the back of the sheet. Each of these characters has their own personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws which is simple to understand and really useful for roleplaying the characters. As the adventure will allow you to get multiple level ups, the back also has detailed information on what each character gains at each level. The best part? Each of the characters feels unique and fun, and none of them have names or genders. Which is great! Each player gets to decide their personal identity, and add those finishing touches themselves. I thought the characters were all really nicely done. The only downside? Whoever plays the wizard will need to make use of the Starter Set Rulebook to find information on their spells.
Contents of the D&D Starter Set
Pre-generated characters from the D&D Starter Set
Which is it! The entire contents of the D&D Starter Set! This little box is packed full of fun, with everything you need to get started playing D&D. The dice are gorgeous, the rulebook is useful but not overwhelming, the adventure is fun, varied, and much longer than I expected, and the characters are well-made and enjoyable to use. The only thing this starter set lacks? A play mat and minis, but technically you don’t need those to play D&D. They really add to the game, though, so player’s who continue on to play D&D are likely to wish they had some. But, the best part of the D&D Starter Set? The cost! This box is an amazing value! We picked ours up for only $15 Canadian, which is only a few dollars more than the cost of a set of dice. Getting the rules and a good sized adventure in there, as well, makes this a great deal. I highly recommend the D&D Starter Set for anyone interested in learning how to play D&D, or for anyone who just wants a nifty new adventure and some cool dice. Well worth the investment!
Thanks for joining us today. We’ll talk again soon when we discuss our experiences playing through the D&D Starter Set adventure: Lost Mine of Phandelver.
Today on d20 Diaries we’re taking a peek between the covers of one of the wonderful new products that came out at the end of last year: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. If you’re a follower of this blog you’ll know this was a book I was thrilled to get my hands on this past holiday season, and I was not disappointed.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook is a thick softcover book that is 64 pages long. Although the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line typically contains world lore (for all players) and some extra material for GMs, this book is a bit different. Equally geared at both players and GMs, it contains detailed rules on creating constructs, class archetypes, magic items, and a lot of new golems and golem templates. The cover features some atmospheric artwork by Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, which depicts the iconic arcanist Enora giving commands to her adamantine golem, as it battles a quantium golem. (Talk about epic career goals! Haha).
The front inside cover shines a light on some famous construct innovators, providing an image and a paragraph of information on each. The crafters showcased are Sidrah Imeruss, founder of the Technic League and an expert in the robots of Numeria; Toth Bhreacher, founder of the prestigious Golemworks in Magnimar; and Hadia Al-Dannah, a world renowned Qadiran mathematician, former scholar of the Clockwork Cathedral in Absalom, and expert on clockwork construction. The information is brief but lends a face to the construct trade, which is really nice. It also serves to give any characters interested in crafting golems a famous mentor or role model to live up to. A nice bit of fluff and backstory for any characters interested in seizing it.
After that we have the table of contents, and then we hop right into the introduction. In addition to touching on what’s going to be in this lovely little tome, the introduction also discusses how the general populace of Golarion views golems and their crafters (both positives and negatives), and the difficulty in obtaining appropriate raw materials to craft a golem (which can often become an adventure in and of itself!). The Construct Handbook primarily focuses on clockworks, golems, and robots, but explains that there are may other kinds of constructs. For each of these major kinds of contracts it doesn’t touch upon, it contains a paragraph of information that lets you know where those constructs were first introduced, how compatible they are with the templates in this book, and where you can look for further information on them (if applicable). Constructs mentioned in this way are animated objects, colossi, and homunculi.
Leaving behind the introduction we hop right into the first chapter: ‘Crafting Constructs.’ This section of the book is six pages long and is really, really useful for anyone who wants to make a construct. Not sure I can stress that enough! Haha. It starts by taking a look at every step in the construct crafting process and explaining it fully and clearly. That includes everything from the requirements, cost, and finding materials, to time, and skill checks. It then details other methods that you could use to craft a construct, such as the use of the infamous golem manuals, purchase, and theft. After that it talks about construct modifications, which were first introduced in Pathfinder RPG: Ultimate Magic. It offers four new basic modifications (I particularly liked the movement and resistances modifications) and six really cool new complex modifications (be sure to check out construct shelter, mind link, and self-repair).
The next chapter is six pages in length and contains eleven new archetypes. Some of these archetypes fell into expected themes: those that create or destroy constructs, but others I found quite surprising. My favourite archetype was definitely the clocksmith, a wizard archetype that falls solidly in the ‘create construct’ category. This delightful archetype lets you create a magical clockwork familiar in place of your regular familiar, and gives you craft construct as a bonus feat at level one instead of scribe scroll. In place their arcane school powers, clocksmiths gain a bonus on saving throws against effects created by constructs, and increase their effective spell level when casting spells that target constructs. At later levels they can tinker with their clockwork familiars, granting them eidolon evolutions. Super cool and thematic! I love it!
Other archetypes that fall solidly in the ‘create construct’ category include the construct caller, an unchained summoner archetype that allows your eidolon to be a construct; the cruorchymist, an alchemist archetype that gives up its poison abilities and mutagen to have a homunculus familiar which he can heal or alter on the fly with his own blood. Although I enjoy the construct caller, I find the cruorchymist is really rough on your CON score, with one ability dealing CON drain and another dealing CON damage to your character. Ouch!
Of the archetypes that focus on destroying constructs, I found that I liked the construct saboteur best. This rogue archetype swaps out knowledge (dungeoneering) and knowledge (local) as class skills in exchange for knowledge (arcana) and knowledge (engineering). They gain arcane strike at first level instead of trap finding, and gain a special kind of ability called an arcane sabotage, which is essentially construct hindering rogue talents accessible only though this archetype. My favourite of the arcane sabotage options are diminish senses (which can blind a construct for a turn) and magic vulnerability (which replaces a construct’s magic immunity with spell resistance instead). Most of the arcane sabotage options also allow you to extend of bolster their effects by giving up any sneak attack damage that you would deal. Super cool!
I was pleasantly surprised by the Forgefather’s seeker paladin archetype that enables pious worshippers of Torag to destroy dangerous artificial creations. They can smite constructs, cut through their DR with ease, and, at level 20, they even have a chance to automatically destroy a construct with a single blow. Not only was this archetype really solid and thematic, it was not something I expected to see. Construct killing paladins? I like it! The final ‘construct killing’ themed archetype was an arcanist archetype called the arcane tinkerer.
After reading the archetypes in this chapter, another theme became apparent: archetypes that can hijack or otherwise assume control of enemy constructs. Here you’ll find the construct collector occultist archetype, and the voice of Brigh bard archetype. The voice of Brigh was an interesting archetype. They have the ability to effect constructs with their bardic performances, which is very cool. But, most of it’s offensive performances have changed so that they only effect constructs. Essentially this means that you can use your bolstering music on allies of all kinds, including constructs, but that your hindering ones, like dirge of doom, fascinate, and frightening tune can only affect constructs. It’s a balanced trade if you’re going to be facing off against or allying with constructs on a regular basis, but otherwise is a rather large negative. However, their new bardic performance, Brigh’s Spark, allows them to reanimate a destroyed construct and force it to fight on your behalf. Each round they use this performance the construct regains more hp, and if it ever reaches full hp before they stop performing, it remains animated and under their control for 24 hours. So worth it!
I rather enjoyed the construct collector, as well, particularly because it gives up my least used of the occultist abilities for some cool new powers. They sacrifice magic circles, outside contact, binding circles, and fast circles, for the ability to temporarily halt a constructs destruction and control it for a turn (at the cost of some mental focus). At higher levels this ability’s duration is extended to a few rounds, and then a few minutes. They also gain the ability to harvest parts from broken constructs, which hold a point of generic focus. They can use the generic mental focus stored in these parts to fuel their focus powers on a one-for-one basis, which renders the parts useless. A nice touch!
The last few archetypes are much less focused and more easily used in a wide variety of games. The engineer is an investigator archetype that creates mechanisms that can aid them in a specific task for a few minutes. These mechanisms cost an inspiration point to create, grant the inspiration dice to the check it was made for throughout its duration, and can be shared with allies. They also gain a bonus on identifying constructs and on engineering checks. The scrapper is a fighter archetype that scavenges the parts from armour or broken constructs and uses them to augment their own armour. How much the makeshift modifications help and last depend on how powerful their source was. I found that archetype one of the most surprising I read! Really wasn’t expecting it, but I like it! Finally, there’s the wild effigy, a shifter archetype whose aspects and wild shape take on the appearance and consistency of stone instead of flesh and blood.
Chapter three is four pages of magic items, all with a very strong construct theme. It’s mostly golem manuals, but eight other magic items exist as well. I particularly like the chirurgeon cube and the oculus of magnetic fury.
Which brings us to our last and largest chapter: the bestiary. This thing is a forty three pages long, making it well over half the length of the book. In this chapter you’ll find fifteen new constructs and nine construct templates (each of which includes one sample stat block). Five of these constructs are a new intelligent kind of construct with ties to the Jistka Imperium, called an automaton. There’s also four new clockworks, three new robots, and three new golems. My favourite new constructs were the champion automatons (who can grab an enemy in their pincers and then whack another enemy with them! Hahaha! I love it!), clockwork songbird, dragonhide golem, and sand golem. My favourite construct templates include the energized golem, haunted construct, and recycled construct.
Which brings us to the end of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s got some cool archetypes and a lot of awesome new enemies. New beasties for your players to battle against is always a great investment as a GM, so it was worth my money based on creatures alone. It’s an invaluable book for anyone who want to get into construct crafting. That said, it is very tight on its theme. Chances are if you’re a player who isn’t planning on crafting constructs or playing in a construct heavy campaign, you won’t find much of use in this book. It should be noted that although I’ll get the most use out of this book (as a GM), all of my family — my husband and my two young children — read this book and got inspired by the class archetypes. The three of them are now begging me to make them a construct themed campaign. (Do we not have enough campaigns?! Pretty sure we do!). I suppose it’s more use for players than I thought! Haha.
All in all, we’re happy to have this lovely little book on our shelf!
Do you own the Construct Handbook? Got some favourite creatures from it or stories about construct crafting you want to share? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!
Last night marked the first episode of the exciting new fantasy role-playing game series: Relics and Rarities! Hosted and DMed by the delightful Deborah Ann Woll who you might (should!) recognize from the shows True Blood, Daredevil, Defenders, and Punisher, or the new movie Escape Room, this show features the talents of Julia Dennis, Tommy Walker, Xander Jeanneret, and Jasmine Bhullar. In addition, each episode features a special celebrity guest which includes Sam Richardson, Janina Gavankah, Simone Missick, Kevin Smith, Matthew Lillard, and Charlie Cox. Relics and Rarities is presented by Geek & Sundry and streams weekly on Alpha (ProjectAlpha.com). They’ll be playing Dungeons & Dragons, set in a world created by Deborah Ann Woll.
Honestly? I’ve been excited about this show since it was announced! And with the recent reveal of the special guest line-up? Well, how could I resist?
“I’m so excited to finally announce my new show, Relics and Rarities,” Woll said in a statement. “We’ve assembled a stellar creative team, along with amazingly intricate set design, props and puzzles, a hilarious and surprising cast – and an original world and campaign of my own creation.” She added, “You’ll have to watch to see what tricks I have up my sleeve.”
“Welcoming fans who have not yet experienced collaborative storytelling is an established mission of Geek & Sundry,” said Legendary Digital Networks (LDN) SVP of Production and Programming, Jason Corey in a statement. Corey added, “Partnering with Deborah Ann Woll has been a dream come true for us. We’re thrilled to be able to elevate and broaden the platform for a female Dungeon Master and to expand the fandom for this unique and exciting genre.”
Relics and Rarities begins in the town of Bellbrook when four adventurers receive a mysterious letter and are summoned to an unassuming curio shop, Relics and Rarities, by Professor Roundland. The good professor informs the team that strange occurrences have been plaguing Bellbrook, and she’d like to hire them to investigate. The first stop? Professor Roundland contacted a seer who has recently helped the R&R (Relics and Rarities) Brigade before only to discover that she was plagued by something… supernatural. The team is dispatched to visit the seer at her home, Benthem Manor, and hopefully put things right. But, the mystery behind this manor is just the beginning. By the end of the episode it’s clear that our heroes will need to foil an unholy prophecy before it can come to fruition. They have their work cut out for them!
The first episode, Haunting at Bentham Manor, was absolutely amazing! The set was spectacular, the adventure was both enthralling and suspenseful, and the props were above and beyond what I imagined they would be. Deborah was a wonderful Dungeon Master, full of enthusiasm and a love of the game. She was an absolute joy to watch. The cast is great. They’ve got enjoyable characters, great chemistry, and every single one of them was hilarious. Guest star, Matthew Lillard, was a wonderful choice for the first episode. As the owner of Beadle & Grimm’s Pandemonium warehouse he’s no stranger to role-playing game, of course, but honestly, he was also just… amazing. Engaging, amusing, the whole deal.
Relics and Rarities was well-planned, inventive, and atmospheric. There was mystery, suspense, problem solving, and some delightful puzzles (my young kids and I particularly loved the puzzle door). The props made my kids gasp in jealousy at every single one (and there were a lot!). The cast was entertaining, and the set was very rich in detail. Best of all, the story was engaging — we laughed a lot, shed some tears (yes, I cried), and my daughter ran away in terror during the first battle. Oh, that creative ghost sound use. Way to give her nightmares, guys! Poor thing. Haha. As for my son, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so amazed with anything he’s watched before. He was amazed and literally captivated the entire time. We were absolutely blown away! Not sure I can stress that enough, actually.
But, in summary: it’s awesome. I honestly can’t think of a single thing to complain about.
Want to check out Relics and Rarities yourself? You really, really should! Episodes air Mondays at 6pm PT on Alpha, but its also available on demand. Not a member of Alpha? Neither was I! New members can sign up for a free seven day trial with the code RELICS. After that Alpha membership costs $4.99 American per month, or $49.99 every 12 months.