Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game

Quite a few months ago a fellow gamer recommended my family give Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game a try. I looked into the game, and told my daughter and son all about it. They were extremely excited. The problem?

Finding it.

Although I was able to find a copy of the rulebook on some American and European retailers websites, I could not find this RPG in Canada. None of the local game shops had it, Amazon had only German language copies in stock, and Indigo was sold out completely. We’ve been keeping our eyes open in the months since and, although I did see a copy turn up once or twice, it was never for long (or affordable!).

And then Christmas came. My daughter, in a stroke of brilliance, asked our only relatives that live in the States for My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game for Christmas. She typed out the title of the book she needed to play, and then all of the other supplement books she wanted, and assured me that YES, she would definitely be happy with a big pile of books as a Christmas gift, and YES, she was sure that’s what she wanted.

Grandma and Grandpa came to the rescue. This past Christmas my daughter opened up not one, but three RPG books. My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game (which is the Core Rulebook and essentially all you need to play), Tails of Equestria: The Festival of Lights (which is a published adventure), and Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game Starter Set (which contains an adventure, dice, and all kinds of accessories).

My daughter was thrilled. So was my son. And honestly? So was I. I had heard wonderful things about this game and, although it wouldn’t become my favourite game anytime soon, it looked like a ton of fun. Definitely something my kids would enjoy.

After squealing in glee and obsessing over some of the cool pictures inside she put down the books and moved on with the rest of the holidays. She tried out new toys and video games. We learned how to play our new board games. And at the end of that first weekend after Christmas she held up her books and gave me a big grin.

“Will you read this with me now, Momma?”

I was about to head out for a trip to the laundromat, so it wasn’t exactly the ideal time. But, I’ve never been one to say no to a kid with a book, so I put aside all the work I was going to bring with me and packed up my kids and our hardcover book instead. Clothes in the wash and water bottle in hand — reading an entire RPG core rulebook aloud is thirsty work! — we settled in to learn a new d20 game together.

my litte pony tails of equestria storytelling game

The book is bright, colourful, and engaging. It’s simple to understand but doesn’t talk down to you. It is perfectly written for its audience. Seriously. My daughter is in grade one and not only did she follow along with everything I was reading to her (and pay attention!), she understood the game and its rules immediately. I never had to stop and explain anything further than the book already had. I never had to give her an easy example to illustrate a rule. Nothing. She listened and understood. My son, who is only a year older than her, could have read the entire book by himself and understood it. In fact, my daughter probably could have read it herself too, but that’s not typical for kids her age (both of my kids are very strong readers). We weren’t done the rulebook by the time we were done at the laundromat, but after we got home my daughter sat down beside me on the couch and we finished it. Cover to cover in few hours. She was practically bouncing in excitement.

“Can we make our characters now?”

So we printed off some fancy character sheets, called over my son, and got creating! The entire process took us around an hour, which included drawing and colouring our ponies. Follow-up ponies we made took much less. About fifteen minutes from start to finish.

We were ready to play!

…sort of. We still had to convince my husband to make a character so he could join in on the game. Haha. I’ll share more details about our first gameplay experience in an upcoming blog post later this month, but for now, we’re going to talk about the rulebook itself. Interested? Read on!

Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game is an easy to understand pen and paper roleplaying game featuring the world and characters of the hit TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The game is aimed at children, but is definitely fun for the whole family. A hardcover book 151 pages in length, this tome is packed full of artwork, and is written in an easy to read font (and font size). Licensed by Hasbro, published by River Horse Games (in Europe) and Shinobi 7 (in the USA and Canada), and written by Alessio Cavatore, Dylan Owen, and Jack Caesar, this book’s suggested retail price is 25 pounds, 30 Euros, 35 American dollars, or 40 Canadian dollars. Of course, that cost will vary a lot depending where you pick it up. I found forty five is more typical online in Canada (if you manage to find a copy in stock at all). The book is sturdy and well made — a must have for kids books! The front cover features an image of the three iconic Tails of Equestria ponies navigating the wilds with a castle in the background. Firebrand, the iconic unicorn takes the lead, with Thrilly Filly the pegasus flying above, and Strong Oak the armoured earth pony alert at the back of the group. My kids love the art, which is drawn by Amy Mebberson, but its the back of the book that really shines for me.

I remember when I was in junior high there was a Chapters nearby that I went to constantly. On one visit I passed by the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook and stopped in my tracks. I picked it up and flipped through it. I knew in my gut I wanted it, but I had no idea what it was. None. Eventually I put it back and moved on. Every visit afterwards I passed by that book and picked it up. But I never bought it. Not until many years later when someone actually explained to me what the heck D&D was. By then the book store wasn’t even open anymore. I would have liked to buy it from there. But this? This book doesn’t have that problem. Right there on the back cover it explains what this book is, how you use it, and what it’s for. It’s written in simple language that any kid or parent (or grandparent!) can understand. It’s simple, clear, and concise. I love it.

Seriously.

I love it so much I’m going to let you read it for yourself.

What is this book?

Hey there! So I imagine you’ve picked up this book knowing a little bit about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. You’ve probably had a quick flick through the book and are wondering exactly what it is.

This book is a manual for a storytelling game, which allows you and your friends to create your very own pony characters to explore the amazing and magical world of Equestria — will you be a dynamic adventurer like Daring Do or a bold treasure hunter like Rarity?

Wait, wait, wait! You said this is a game, but this is clearly a book!

You’re right, but it’s actually both a book and a game. This book contains rules and a story. Rules that will tell you how to make a strong, clever, or charming pony. A story that you and your friends will enjoy, where the choices you make will change the story itself until you are telling the story as much as the book or the GM.

GM… what is that?

A GM (gamemaster) is a player at the table, but instead of playing as a pony, he or she will play as a storyteller, impersonating all of the ponies you meet, the beasts you face, and the challenges you have to overcome. Think of the GM as a narrator in a movie — it is his or her role to tell the players exactly what is happening in the story and what the outcomes of their actions are, depending on their choices.

Cool! How do I win?

Winning a storytelling game is very easy; you just need to have fun! Tails of Equestria is not about getting to the end of the board or having the most points, but all about having fantastical adventures and using the magic of friendship to overcome any obstacle that stands in your way, You and your friends, including the GM, are all on the same team — as long as everypony is having fun, everybody wins!

So open up Tails of Equestria and be prepared to enter a world of magic and friendship.”

See what I mean? Simple, approachable, and understandable. This isn’t just a book for RPG gamers. In fact, most of the kids who pick up this book won’t have played a pen and paper RPG at all. This is a book that can guide kids to becoming RPG gamers in a way that’s fun, cool, and tailored to them. It’s really well done.

Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game is split into fourteen sections: twelve chapters, an adventure module, and the appendix. The chapters are each colour coded, which makes the book super easy to navigate and has the added bonus of making it look like a pleasant rainbow. Even better, the chapters are well ordered. One naturally progresses into the other in a way that just makes sense. It’s perfect.

The book starts off by explaining what a roleplaying game is, how to play them, what you need to play, what kind of dice the game uses, and some other supplemental material that some people like to use but isn’t mandatory. It mentions other Tails of Equestria products (like dice sets, gaming screens, and ‘tokens of friendship’), but also offers free solutions. It suggests using beads, buttons, and other small objects as ‘tokens of friendship’ and recommends free dice rolling apps. It also has dice charts in the back of the book so that all you need to do is flip to the proper chart, close your eyes, and point, to figure out what you’ve rolled. Offering these free alternative options in a way that makes it seem normal and acceptable is really important. Parents don’t want to be shelling out a ton of money after already having paid for a rulebook. Also, kids who do use buttons and the dice chart don’t need to feel like they’re left out or ‘making due.’ It makes it clear that you don’t need fancy supplies. You just need this one book. There’s also a short section intended for parents, which explains some of the benefits of roleplaying games.

Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game then moves on to character creation, which takes up the majority of the book. The first thing you need is a character sheet. One is provided in the back of the book, which you can photocopy. You can also go here to download a variety of character sheets for free. They have blank sheets and ones with male and female ponies, pegasus, and unicorns pre-outlined. My whole family loves those ones, so I highly suggest you give them a gander. Once you’ve got your pony sheet ready you need to choose your pony type.

my litte pony tails of equestria the storytelling game character sheet

Players can choose to be an earth pony, pegasus, or unicorn. Earth ponies are hardy and strong. They gain the stout heart trait, which allows them to really push themselves to accomplish a physical task once a day. They also have higher Stamina (which is your hp) than the other pony types. Pegasus and Unicorns are less hardy than earth ponies, but have special abilities of their own. Unicorns can use magic. They begin the game with telekinesis and can make their horns glow. As they level up you can select more magical powers with them (if you want) such as force fields, stun rays, and teleportation. Pegasus can fly and walk on clouds. As they level up you can even learn to control the weather. There is a fourth type of pony in My Little Pony, the alicorn, but it’s off limits to players. Although kids will likely be a bit sad about that, the book explains quite clearly why, which was more than enough reason for my kids. After all, only Princesses of Equestria can be alicorns, and those thrones are all currently taken.

Once you know what kind of pony you want to use you write down your level, which is one. Then you select your Element of Harmony. This doesn’t have a mechanical effect. It acts more like a a guide to help you and your fellow players know what personality trait your character is most tied to. The Elements of Harmony are generosity, honesty, kindness, laughter, loyalty, and magic (which is a balance of all of the others). Once you’ve chosen your Element of Harmony you allocate your statistics.

Before we get into that, though, let me give you a little context about how this game works. Every pony has three main statistics: Body, Mind, and Charm. Each of these statistics will have a dice type associated with it. In this game your lowest statistic and traits will use a d4, but will increase as you level up, moving on to a d6, d8, d10, and so on. Low dice are bad, and high dice are good. Simple.

If you come across an obstacle — things like kicking down a door, untying a knot, or climbing a cliff — this is called a Test. Your GM selects the Test’s difficulty from a simple chart. Then the players roll a dice for the stat most applicable. Kicking down a door or climbing a cliff would be a Body check, discovering a clue or solving a riddle would be a Mind check, and making friends or telling a joke would be a Charm check. If you beat the DC you pass and if you’re under the DC you fail.

If you happen to have a skill that could also apply to whatever you’re trying to do, like bucking to kick down a door, or keen knowledge (geography) to find your way in the wilds, you get to roll that dice also and keep the better result. For example, if a pony with a Body d4 and Bucking d6 wants to kick down a door, they roll both a d4 and a d6, then they choose which die result they want to keep.

If you’re making a check against a different pony or an opponent, this is instead a Challenge. Examples of this include a baking competition, a race, or a debate. In this case the ponies and opponents involved roll the appropriate dice and the highest outcome is the winner.

Battles are a special type of challenge called a Scuffle. This works just like a regular challenge, except that the loser loses an amount of Stamina equal to the score rolled by the winner. So, if a pegasus and a timberwolf get into a scuffle, they each roll a Body check. If either of them has an additional trait that would be useful they roll that as well and keep the better of their rolls. If the pegasus rolled a 4 and the timber wolf rolled a 6, the timberwolf has won the round and the pegasus loses six Stamina. When you start the game your ponies will have either 10 or 12 Stamina, so battles tend to pass quick. Its a fun and simple way to handle combat. However, it should be noted that scuffles aren’t a major part of Tails of Equestria. Its much more likely ponies will avoid combat with clever roleplaying, creative thinking, and teamwork.

There’s a bit more to rolling than that. Rolling a 1 results in an automatic fail and is called Bad Luck. Beating a Test by double its difficulty is called an Amazing Success, and means something wonderful happens. Rolling maximum on your dice is called an Exploding Hoof and allows you to immediately roll on a dice one step higher (from d4, to d6, to d8, and so on). If you roll higher than your previous roll you can use the higher result, otherwise you keep your previous die roll. And if you roll maximum again? You go up another dice step and keep going. These all turned out to be fun additions to the game. My kids particularly enjoyed the Exploding Hooves. Haha.

Now that we’ve got the basics covered we can jump back into character creation.

All ponies begin with a d6 in Charm (which is your social statistic). Then you get to allocate a d4 and a d6 to the other two stats, which are Body (the physical trait) and Mind (your mental stat). Smart and clever ponies will want to put their d6 into Mind and their d4 into Body, while tough or nimble ponies will want to put the d6 into Body and the d4 into Mind. Earth ponies are a special exception and instead count their Body as one dice type higher, meaning an earth pony’s starting statistics will either be Body (d8), Mind (d4), Charm (d6) for strong ponies, or Body (d6), Mind (d6), Charm (d6) for brainy ponies.

Once you’ve chosen your statistics you calculate your Stamina. This acts as your hp, and is the sum of your Body and Mind stats. This means that pegasus and unicorns will have 10 Stamina to start with, while earth ponies will have 12. Failing Tests, Challenges, and Scuffles can lower your Stamina, as can lack of sleep or a poor diet. You can recover Stamina by resting, eating a good meal, or using Ponybalm (which is like a healing potion).

Now its time to select your Talents, which are sort of feats, special abilities, and skills all rolled into one. Each pony type starts with their own Talent. Earth ponies have Stout Heart (d6), pegasus have Fly (d6), and unicorns have Telekinesis (d6). At level one you also get to select one other Talent from a list, which is tied to your Cutie Mark and is your specialty. This Talent should be a huge part of your character and shape their outlook, personality, name, and so on. There’s a decent sized list of Talents to choose from, many of which have an unlimited number of subtypes. Keen Knowledge, for example, is knowing a lot about a specific topic, but what topic is entirely up to you. Similarly, Creative Flair is something creative that you’re particularly good at, such as baking, comedy, or painting, and Special Skill is something physical that you’re talented in, like bucking, gymnastics, or sneaking. Other Talents are more specific. Healing Touch, which was my personal favourite, allows you to heal an ally, while the Stare allows you to fascinate or command someone to do something. Finally, some talents can only be taken by a specific type of pony. Only unicorns can use magic, for example, and only pegasus can fly. Although the list is nice and allows for a lot of variance between characters, I found myself wishing it was a little longer. Fortunately it’s mentioned that players hoping to create something not on the list can do so with approval from their GM. Although my family has made a few ponies already, we haven’t had the need to do this yet. So far the written Talents have been more than enough.

Whichever Talent you select at level one begins at a d6. Throughout the game you’ll have the chance to upgrade the dice types of your various Talents, and learn more. Any Talents learned later begin as d4s though, so choose wisely.

Once you’ve decided on your Talents you get to pick out a Quirk, which is a character flaw. Again, there’s a decent array of options and, again, I found myself wishing there were more. Fortunately, some of them can be incredibly varied. Fear, for example, is a fear of a specific thing (like spiders or heights). Allergies and Oooohhh… Shiny! are equally variable. The others, such as asthma, blunt, messy, and overconfident are much more specific. Again, as with Talents, players have the freedom to create their own Quirks with GM approval. So why would your pony want a flaw, anyway? Quirks will influence your character’s personality and make them unique. It gives kids something fun and often comical to role-play, and teaches us that no one is perfect. But it has an in game effect as well. Every time your ponies face their fears they get rewarded by the GM. My kids loved this and really embraced their ponies Quirks. It turned out to be a lot of fun.

By now your pony is nearly complete. You’ll need to design their Cutie Mark, draw your pony, and give them a name. Some of the ponies my family created included Soothing Heart the over-prepared earth pony mother, Flying Recall the mystery solving pegasus with a sixth sense for trouble, Bunna the stuffed animal seamstress unicorn who can talk to animals, Nugget the unicorn artist who hopes to draw every magical creature in existence, and Thunderhoof the kung-fu fighting earth pony who wants to be an action star. All in all, this game allows you to make unique ponies with only a short amount of work. It’s a fun, streamlined process that everyone enjoyed.

What’s left? Gear. Now, most ponies don’t need to pick up any gear to start. But some, such as adventuresome ponies or those who have a goal or job in mind, will want to spend some of their money — called Bits — on gear before they begin the game. There’s a solid list of equipment you can purchase in the game, with enough variability that nearly all characters should find the things they need (or a similar item whose cost they can use). Whether you decide to spend your bits or not, each pony begins with 400 bits. In between adventures your ponies can earn 200 bits per month plus or minus d20 bits, as determined by the GM. All in all we found that bits and gear were a nice and important addition, but not integral to gameplay.

Finally, players determine how many ‘Tokens of Friendship’ they begin the game with. These are special crystals (or beads, buttons, and so on) which you can use to reroll dice, automatically pass a failed roll, or slightly change the storyline (depending on how many you spend). You begin the game with Tokens of Friendship equal to the number of people you are playing with (including the GM). You also gain more at each level up. If you decide to use your tokens to help out someone else, you reduce the cost of spending Tokens of Friendship. In very rare circumstances, players and characters who are particularly kind can also be gifted a bonus Token of Friendship by the GM. We found that this was a really fun aspect of gameplay that everyone got into the spirit of.

As you adventure your characters will learn and grow. Tails of Equestria does away with experience points, instead allowing ponies to level up after every adventure — or in between sessions if an adventure is particularly long. When a pony gains a level they increase one of their Statistics (Body, Mind, or Charm) by one die type (a d4 becomes a d6, a d6 becomes a d8, and so on). If they choose to increase Body or Mind this also creases their Stamina accordingly. For every Talent that you used in the previous adventure you increase it by one die type as well. Then you either select one Talent you didn’t have a chance to use and increase it by one die type, or you select a new Talent to gain at d4. Finally, your characters gain a number of Tokens of Friendship equal to the number of players (including the GM) who participated in the last adventure. very rarely you can select a new Quirk if you want, but it has to be for something that happened during your adventure, and each pony should do this only once or twice. For example, if your earth pony fell in a pit full of snakes and you role-played them being horrified by the events they might take the Quirk fear (snakes). This approach is simple and easy to understand, but you’ll soon see your PCs all branching off in different directions the more they level up.

With character creation and the basics of the game out of the way, Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game goes on to further explain gameplay for players and GMs. Which should bring us to the end.

Only it’s not the end!

This book also comes with an adventure for first level characters called The Pet Predicament. I cannot express how happy I was to discover this. Particularly after I read it! It is honestly the perfect start adventure for this game. And, it’s not a short or cheap adventure, either! It’s forty pages in length if you count the stat blocks it comes with. It took my family two sessions to play through, though my kids were so engrossed they wanted to play it in one. But, alas! It was bedtime. Haha.

my litte pony tails of equestria the storytelling game in game

In a practical sense, this adventure is incredibly important. It provides a first adventure for players to use, and teaches them how a game should be run by example. For experienced players it also serves to alter our preconceptions about RPGs, and really shake things up. That’s because Tails of Equestria isn’t the same kind of RPG as Pathfinder or D&D. It downplays battle, and really encourages players to use creative thinking, kindness, teamwork, and roleplaying to overcome obstacles. This game requires a different mindset than other RPGs. Happily it’s a mindset that kids and young players will naturally settle into and flourish. I honestly cannot be happier with how this game played.

So what is the Pet Predicament? I mentioned it was the perfect starter adventure for this game and I meant it. It’s well written, engaging, and fun. There’s plenty of opportunity for Scuffles, but just as many chances for players to completely avoid Scuffles with Tests an Challenges. It features the Mane Six (main characters) from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as initial NPCs, and leaves the PCs as their pet-sitters. Any kids who has seen the show will be absolutely thrilled at this turn of events. Getting to meet such famous characters is enough to make many kids squeal in glee, and finding themselves the caretakers of all six of their pets? I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love animals! Both my son and daughter got super into this adventure. They did their best to take care of the animals, feed them their favourite things, pamper and play with them, and so on. Unfortunately for your pet-sitters, not all of the pets are well behaved. Fluttershy’s rabbit, Angel, is a menace (as fans of the show will know!). My daughter, who adores rabbits, had a ton of fun dealing with the fluffy little terror. But, like all good adventures, something goes wrong. And this time? There’s definitely a rabbit to blame! The pets soon get lost in the dangerous and spooky Everfree Forest, and its up to your PCs to rescue all the pets, brings them back to Fluttershy’s cottage, and clean up. Their adventures will present them with all kinds of obstacles, Tests, and Challenges. Rescuing each pet will take creative thinking and teamwork. How each task is accomplished is incredibly open ended, which really allows your group of PCs to use their own unique approach to get things done. I’ll refrain for spoiling any more of the adventure, but I will say that it’s a delight to read, GM, and play. Everyone in my family had a blast (including my husband).  The ending also had my kids hooked, as it leads directly into the Tails of Equestria: The Curse of the Statuettes adventure (although the book also encourages kids to create their own adventure with the cliff hanger ending as an opening plot hook).

In the end, my entire family loved Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game. It’s fun, fast-paced, and simple, but offers everyone at the table plenty of opportunities to role-play and work together. I had a blast sharing this game with my kids. And my kids? They couldn’t be happier. In fact, my daughter is sitting in her bed with a little notebook and her rabbit pen creating another character as we speak.

Absolutely a wonderful game.

 Jessica

 

Our Favourite Things of 2018

To celebrate the New Year we’re taking one last look back at our favourite things of 2018! So what made the cut? Read on and see!

Favourite d20 Bestiary: Alien Archive
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite Dungeons and Dragons Book: Dungeons and Dragons: Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica
(Dungeons and Dragons meets Magic: The Gathering!!)

Favourite Pathfinder Book: Ultimate Wilderness
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite Starfinder Book: Pact Worlds
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite d20 Book (Other): Realms of Atrothia: Legacy Races Revisited
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite d20 Adventure: Skitter Shot
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite d20 Campaign: Return of the Runelords Adventure Path
(for more information check out this blog post and be on the look out for another blog post early this year)

Favourite Pathfinder Society Scenario: #9-10: Signs in Senghor
(for more information check out this blog post as well as this one)

Favourite Starfinder Society Scenario: #1-14: Star Sugar Heartlove!!!
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite Kid’s Game: Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game
(for more information be on the lookout for a new blog post later this month!)

Favourite Board Game: Dinosaur Island
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite Family Movie: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
(now playing in a theatre near you!)

Favourite Movie: Ready Player One
(if you haven’t seen this movie or read this book yet, you REALLY SHOULD!)

Favourite Upcoming Kickstarter: Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion
(Kickstarter coming in February 2019!)

I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

Jessica

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

We carved pumpkins last week with my sister. My daughter carved a rabbit, and my son a cat.  Or, more accurately, I carved a rabbit, and my sister carved a cat while my children bossed us around. Both of my kids shrieked when they had to put their hands inside and scoop out the pumpkin’s innards. Mostly they poked at it with a spoon. In fact, my kids didn’t do much at all. But, we had fun! We drew on some more pumpkins at home yesterday. Again, my daughter made a rabbit. My son went with a classic jack-o-lantern face.

This morning I packed up my kids costumes, and sent them off to school. They’ll have a party this morning, change into their costumes after lunch, and spend the afternoon at a school dance and haunted house. They’re absolutely over the moon. My son’s going to be a red dragon for Halloween. And my daughter? One guess.

Yup. A rabbit.

She might be obsessed.

My kids can’t wait to head out trick or treating.

And me?

To celebrate I’m taking a look at my five favourite Horror Adventures!

Ooooooh!

*cue the ominous theme music*

Cries from the Drift, Joe Pasini, Starfinder 1-04,
Starfinder Society Scenario #1-04: Cries from the Drift by Joe Pasini.

We’re starting off small with Starfinder Society Scenario #1-04: Cries from the Drift by Joe Pasini! This delightful little adventure is intended for Tier 1-4, features one starship battle, and tasks the player’s characters with exploring a derelict ship, uncovering what became of it’s crew (Spoiler Alert: NOTHING GOOD), and collecting the valuable intel they were carrying. This scenario does a great job of setting an ominous atmosphere right from the moment you step foot on the ship, and, with a solid GM, can be quite suspenseful. It’s got some surprises, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that this adventures features some body horror, so it’s not for the faint of heart!

Up Next? The Strange Aeons Adventure Path! Strange Aeons is a six part series of adventures that will have your characters questioning their past, their allies, and their sanity! Strongly inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, it’s spooky, macabre, and downright strange. With alien, unknowable entities, crazed cultists, and a whole heck of a lot of weird! I LOVE this adventure path. Seriously. Love it.

Strange Aeons, Part One, In Search fo Sanity, F. Wesley Shneider
Pathfinder Adventure Path 109: In Search of Sanity (Strange Aeons Part 1 of 6) by F. Wesley Schneider.

Strange Aeons begins with your characters waking up in an insane asylum with no idea who they are or how they got there. Oh, also, there’s some strange monster performing invasive surgery on someone else right outside your cell. Not the way you want to wake up! After your daring breakout you’ll have to explore the asylum, battle strange, shape-changing creatures, and find a way to escape — without being devoured by the… things outside. From there? Well, let’s just keep that under wraps for now. This is one of those campaigns where being in the dark is half the fun!

Strange Aeons begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path 109: In Search of Sanity (Strange Aeons Part 1 of 6) by F. Wesley Schneider. Following that is #110: The Thrushmoor Terror (Part 2 of 6) by Tito Leati, #111: Dreams of the Yellow King (Part 3 of 6) by Ron Lundeen, #112: The Whisper Out of Time (Part 4 of 6) by Richard Pett, #113: What Grows Within (Part 5 of 6) by John Compton, and it finishes with #114: Black Stars Beckon (Part 6 of 6) by Jim Groves. I also highly recommend picking up Pathfinder Pawns: Strange Aeons Pawn Collection to go with it if you intend to play this wonderfully creepy campaign. The Player’s Guide is a free download!

Curse of Strahd, D&D.
Curse of Strahd: A Dungeons & Dragons Sourcebook

Next we leave behind the psychological terror, and head into some classic gothic horror! Curse of Strahd! This hardcover adventure path for Dungeons and Dragons takes place in the Ravenloft campaign setting’s  country of Borovia and will take characters from levels one through ten. It’s a spooky, atmospheric, delightful piece of horror that features the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich himself! Play it with a good DM and you’re guaranteed to get chills! This campaign has some tough fights, and was the winner of THREE Ennies in 2016: Winner (Gold): Best Adventure, Winner (Gold): Best Art/Cover, and Winner (Silver): Product of the Year. Special player options are available to download here, untagged maps are available here, and some special notes for DMs are available here.

Carrion Crown Haunting of Harrowstone
Pathfinder Adventure Path 43: The Haunting of Harrowstone (Carrion Crown 1 of 6) by Michael Kortes

From Dungeons and Dragons, we skip back over to Pathfinder, with the Carrion Crown Adventure Path! Carrion Crown is a six part gothic horror campaign that is like a tour de force of classic horror beasts! The first volume, Haunting of Harrowstone, tasks the players with investigating a haunted prison, while later volumes feature carrion golems, werewolves, foul cults, strange beings, vampires, undead, liches, and more! The best part? You don’t always have to kill these beasts. Some have the potential to be allies (if you’re brave enough)! The plot? Stop the Whispering Way from freeing the Lich King Tar-Baphon! I ADORE this campaign!

Carrion Crown begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path 43: The Haunting of Harrowstone (Carrion Crown 1 of 6)by Michael Kortes. It continues with volume #44: Trial of the Beast (Carrion Crown 2 of 6) by Richard Pett, #45: Broken Moon (Carrion Crown 3 of 6) by Tim Hitchcock, #46: Wake of the Watcher (Carrion Crown 4 of 6) by Greg A. Vaughan, #47: Ashes at Dawn (Carrion Crown 5 of 6) by F. Wesley Schneider, and concludes with #48: Shadows of Gallowspire (Carrion Crown 6 of 6) by Brandon Hodge. The Player’s Guide is a free download on Paizo’s website.

Carnival of Tears
GameMastery Module E1: Carnival of Tears by Tim Hitchcock and Nicolas Logue.

So what’s my very favourite horror adventure? Carnival of Tears by Tim Hitchcock and Nicolas Logue! First of, let me point out this is a dark, gory, violent, disturbing adventure. Second, I loved it. Carnival of Tears (more properly known as GameMastery Module E1: Carnival of Tears) is a 3.5 adventure from Paizo Publishing intended for fifth level characters that takes place in the desperate little town of Falcon’s Hollow. Man, that place has gone through a lot! So what better way to relax than with a winter carnival? Right? WRONG! When dark fey take over the carnival they twist it into a nightmare, and use powerful illusions to hide the truth from the citizens. The PCs need to stop the fey, save what townsfolk they can, and try their best to survive the night! I find this scenario is particularly effective when played in a town the player’s have grown fond of (even if that means you don’t play in Falcon’s Hollow), and when they’re forced to help deal with the aftermath of the so-called Carnival of Tears. Just awesome. The horror!

And that’s it!

Or is it..?

There’s one last thing I want to talk about: the future! The horror adventure I most want to play (and read), but haven’t.

Signal of Screams, Diaspora Strain
Starfinder Adventure Path 10: The Diaspora Strain (Signal of Screams Part 1 of 3) by Chris S. Sims.

Signal of Screams!

Signal of Screams is a three-part adventure path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that starts at level seven. It begins with your PCs on vacation at a luxury resort on an asteroid when suddenly the staff and guests begin to get violent! They’ll need to protect themselves and the uninfected guests. But, what if they’re not immune to the madness? I can’t wait to find out!

Signal of Screams begins with Starfinder Adventure Path 10: The Diaspora Strain (Signal of Screams Part 1 of 3) by Chris S. Sims, which releases in a few more weeks. It continues in December with #11: Penumbra Protocol (Signal of Screams Part 2 of 3)by Jenny Jarzabski, and culminates in January with #12: Heart of Night (Signal of Screams Part 3 of 3) by Saif Ansari.


Got a favourite horror adventure? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear about it.

Happy Halloween!

Jessica

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

By feather, fur, and scale!

My kids are Earth Rangers. No idea what I’m talking about? The Earth Rangers are a kids conservation organization which empowers Canadian children to embark on missions to save local ecosystems, endangered animals, and do their part to reduce pollution, waste, and climate change. It’s free to join, and in addition to missions, videos and games there’s also an educational blog my kids enjoy reading. Both of my children are members, but, because of my son’s dedication to saving the planet, he set out at the start of this school year to accomplish two things:

One: start a litter collecting club to beautify the school yard and neighbourhood parks.
Two: get the Earth Rangers to come to his school.

It should be noted that he’s seven years old.

While his litter club is still in the works (he had to wait until he snow melted before his teacher would help him get it started), just this afternoon the Earth Rangers came by his school to put on a presentation. Now, this isn’t super strange–they do school assemblies across the country–but it’s never happened at my son’s school before, nor any of those nearby. He’s been trying his best to get this to happen all year long, so you can imagine how excited he was that they came. And man, did they put on a show! In addition to an energetic, fun assembly, they also brought along a quartet of awesome Animal Ambassadors to show off. My favourite? The barn owl that they sent soaring through the gym right over the crowd! My son’s? The three-banded armadillo which we got to see scurry around, roll up, and nibble on some mealworms. My son got mentioned during the opening, and at the end both of my children and I got to go behind the scenes to meet all the animals personally, and chat with the presenters.  Surprisingly, once my daughter got up close it was the ball python that stole her heart.

They honestly made my kids day month year.

Which brings us to the topic of todays blog: animals!

PZO1110
Rules for familiars and animal companions can be found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook, or Core Rulebook: Pocket Edition.

I have yet to meet a player of d20 games who has NEVER made a character that has a pet. Perhaps it’s a familiar, an animal companion, or a mount. Whatever the case, animals are a huge part of most d20 games–as both companions and enemies. I find that among children, they’re an even bigger draw. My daughter’s first character had so many pets I took to calling the entire party the ‘Animal Crew.’

Everyone’s got a favourite animal. Chances are everyone’s got a favourite choice for familiars and animal companions, as well.

My daughter? Easy! Rabbits are her favourite familiar by far, and that’s not even taking into account that they grant their masters +4 initiative! She’s also a huge fan of the arctic hare. And animal companions? Parasaurolophus, of course! Particularly if you let them ‘sing.’

My son prefers pigs as his familiar of choice–mostly because he thinks they’re adorable. They also grant their masters +3 diplomacy, which is handy for those of you who want to make friends. For animal companions, he favours the boar, although he’s also pretty partial to owls and eagles on occasion.

PZO9429_500
Rabbits were originally introduced in the Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive,alongside a ton of other animals and archetypes.

My husband’s top choice for familiars is the raven, which can speak any one language. Awesome! And his favourite animal companion, hands down, is the wolf. Love those free trip attacks!

And me? The fox is my favourite animal by far, so choosing my favourite familiar is a simple decision. Fox, fox, and fox again. Maybe toss in an arctic fox for a bit of variance… Haha. Those lovely little fennecs grant a +2 on reflex saves.

But animal companions? Wow, tough choice! I’ve always been a big fan of the grizzly bear. But then there’s the crocodile… Who doesn’t want a badass beast who can go on land OR water? But, when it comes down to it, I’m a big sucker for the ankylosaurus. SO COOL! Unfortunately, every time I’ve made one it’s master died a horrible death within a session or two. Haha. I’m cursed!

But, in my opinion, it’s not what animal you choose that makes your pet important, but how you choose to play them. Big or small, they can be living breathing characters and allies–not just a pet you give a scratch here and there.

My daughter has a druid with a pet parasaurolophus who loves to sing and dance. She dresses her in bows and fluffy tutus, and always gives her hugs. She spends time comforting her pet, and always plays that little dinosaur as a young, skittish, easily scared little (big) thing. When battle starts, she doesn’t just tell good old Paras to attack, she tells her to strike up a battle tune, which sets her dear tooting, and bellowing, and shaking her tail. That’s not to say that Paras never enters the fray–she does. She whips that tail around with a vengeance whenever her master’s hurt. But, it is to say, that Paras is a character, more than just an extra attack form.

PZO9454_500
Familiars of all kinds–as well as some nifty archetypes–can be found in the Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio.

I have a meek, shy wizard who fell in love with a vicious, man-eating dog during a session, and ended up taking it home with her. Barely able to control her big, snarling brute, clearly it’s Prickles the dog who’s the alpha in that relationship. Unfortunately, that same wizard hates killing things and, knowing she won’t be able to stop her dear dog from devouring something once he gets a taste of blood, she never orders him into the fight. That said, Prickles is a territorial pup. With the awesome bodyguard archetype, from Ultimate Wilderness and the Animal Archive, if there’s one thing he won’t abide is someone harming ‘his pet’ (my wizard). I have a ton of fun roleplaying these two and their weird, unbalanced dynamic.

My husband’s most memorable pet is a rat familiar named Rothmhar, who is a direct conduit to the foul god Mhar. Rothmhar and his master, Haji both devour rocks during their communion, which causes Rothmhar to froth at the mouth and engulf itself in a transformative, rocky, cocoon. Upon hatching he not only grants Haji magical powers, but he also has his ugly flesh pierced by sharp rocks. Also? He hates Haji’s girlfriend. You can read more about Rothmhar in my Iron Gods blog posts: Iron Gods: Character Focus: Haji and NixIron Gods: Part One: Into the Weeping PondIron Gods: Part Two: Bring Out Your Dead!Iron Gods: Part Three: GremlinsIron Gods: Part Four: The Dead Desert and Iron Gods: Part Five: High Times in Torch.

In another campaign, when we played the Second Darkness Adventure Path (which starts with Part One: Shadow In The Sky), my husband’s character befriended a sleazy scumbag named Bojask, and made him his cohort. Later, Bojask got a horribly stupid and overly friendly swamp barracuda, named Gulper, for his animal companion. This dopy thing was hilarious and a total blast to have in the party, especially as he licked and tried to ‘hug’ his grumpy, cussing owner. Half-way through the campaign, poor Gulper died. So heartbroken was the party we used resources to have the goof reincarnated, only to have him come back as a ram. As lovable as he was before, Gulper was even funnier trapped in the body of a completely different animal. He kept trying to bite when he should headbutt and swim when he couldn’t. But the best part? The first time the poor thing found himself in water and had no idea he couldn’t breathe water. HILARIOUS. In time, he died again, and this time was brought back as a spider. Admittedly, that didn’t last long. The poor thing kept trying to lick people with a non-existent tongue, and only ended up poisoning them with his mandibles. In the end, we paid a ton of money to have him returned to his proper form, only to have poor Gulper–who had finally gotten used to being a spider–adjust all over again! You haven’t laughed until you’ve seen a swamp barracuda try to figure out why he can’t shoot webs and climb up walls. Priceless!

s-l300
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness alsoreleases some great new familiar and animal companions, as well as archetypes for both!

But my favourite pet of all time? It belongs to my seven-year old son. In a previous blog post we talked about the creation of a character of his, Fuzzzy. Fuzzzy is paladin of Iomedae who died battling demons in the Worldwound alongside his brother. Luckily, Iomedae rewarded them for their service, seeing them brought back to life in new bodies. Unfortunately, Fuzzzy found himself in the body of an old man, with no memories of his past life. Or any memories, really. He barely recalls what happened two minutes ago. Now a wizard, Fuzzzy is accompanied by an intelligent little owl, who keeps him on track and safe. This little owl, Bobby, ranks as my favourite pet by far! Seriously! They have such a wonderful relationship. Take a peek at any of his play-by-post adventures and you’ll see what I mean.

Now, I know all of you have beloved familiars and animal companions! You’ve got funny stories and heartfelt ones. And plenty more of you have preferences. So let us know YOUR opinion in the comments! Share your picks for favourite animals companions and familiars! Tell us about the most memorable ones you’ve created or played. Did you ever see someone else with a pet you wish you’d thought of? By all means, let us know!

Whether they’re feathered, furred or scaled, we want to hear from you!

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

images
Kubo and the Two Strings (DVD & Blu-ray)

Have any of you seen the film Kubo and the Two Strings? I watched it with my children and husband recently, and was literally amazed by it.

Kubo is wonderful stop-motion movie that follows a boy named Kubo on a journey to protect himself from the dreaded Moon King. But Kubo is no ordinary boy. Kubo can make magic happen by playing his samisen. On his journey he’s accompanied by an origami samurai, a talking monkey, and a samurai beetle who has amnesia.

It’s a samurai film and a fantasy film, lovingly made with puppets and gorgeous scenery. Not only was it a joy to look at, the story was well-developed, the characters were lovable (or terrifying) and everyone was… well-rounded. Whole, believable people. No one thought they were the villain, not everyone got along, and not everything came down to killing things. It was a touching tale, and admittedly I was sobbing my face off near the end, but at the same time, it was heartwarming and hopeful.

Although an American movie, Kubo is clearly a Japanese story, and a ton of research went into making it as historically accurate as possible–considering the story, haha. For those of you who haven’t given this movie a chance, I STRONGLY recommend you do.

Watching Kubo made me want to play some of the awesome adventures I have kicking around my house that have an Eastern feel to them, but since I have way too many campaigns on the go as it is, today we’re going to celebrate them on d20 Diaries! Presenting my five favourite d20 adventures that are inspired by Eastern cultures. Whether they’ve got samurai, ninja, monasteries of contemplative warrior monks seeking enlightenment, or a fusion of many places and cultures, these adventures celebrate, embrace, emulate or are inspired by the Far East!

So sit back, and enjoy!


The Winding Way

The first adventure we’re taking a look at is The Winding Way. Written by Nicholas Logue, and Published by Paizo in Dungeon Magazine Volume 117, The Winding Way is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure intended for 14th level characters. Although it was written for a ‘neutral’ campaign setting and is meant to be dropped into any fantasy world, The Winding Way is clearly inspired by contemplative warrior monks like the Shaolin of China. That being said, it’s a horror adventure first and foremost, so don’t expect to be achieving enlightenment, or making friends with this one.

The Winding Way takes place at a secluded temple monastery which was built on the slopes of Darkmoon Mountain. During construction the Master, Marik Draven, discovered an ancient stone door, sealed for untold generations. Marik and his students were unable to decipher much of the text, but what they did translate was ominous: words like death, darkness and plague. Marik halted construction of his temple and meditated in contemplation. Eventually he decided that the door should be left untouched, and that his temple would be built around and above it. In addition to being a school for martial arts and enlightenment, the Temple of the Winding Way would become a guardian of this unholy doorway, ensuring it remained sealed for all time.

But it was not to last. Out of jealousy and greed, a rebuffed student sought to steal the riches of the temple for himself, and discovered the graven door. He picked the locks, disabled the door’s defences, and opened it, sealing the fate of those within the temple. For death was behind the door, and its spread is unstoppable!

This adventure has the PCs explore the Temple of the Winding Way for a variety of reasons, only to find that everyone inside has been turned into undead monstrosities. In order to put an end to this evil, they’ll have to defeat a wide variety of undead including bhuts, dread wraiths, forsaken shells, vampires and–my personal favourite–a pennaggolan monk! That’s right, an undead monk that’s going to use unarmed strike to fight with his own lungs and entrails. It’s going to be AWESOME! In addition, they’ll have to pass through the trials of the Winding Way itself, not all of which can be accomplished with brute strength or agility, and discover the source of the undead plague.


PZOPSS0309E_500The Quest for Perfection

The second adventure we’re taking a look at today is actually a three-part trilogy of Pathfinder Society Scenarios entitled the Quest for Perfection. All three scenarios are Tiers 1-5. Scenario #3-09: The Quest for Perfection Part 1: The Edge of Heaven is written by Jerall Toi, and takes place in Tian Xia, a continent on Golarion strongly inspired by Chinese cultures. This adventure tasks the Pathfinders with travelling through the Wall of Heaven, the tallest mountain range on Golarion, on a journey to reach the Clouded Path Monastery and obtain an ancient relic, the Braid of a Hundred Masters, from the monastery. The trip is dangerous, and has a lot of wonderfully designed encounters where terrain plays a huge part. In addition to the perils of the mountain itself, the players are clearly on a pilgrimage trail, and there’s a lot of neat shrines, and other monuments along their journey. Upon reaching the monastery itself, they find it the lair of violent yetis who make excellent use of their surroundings. Their leader throws relics and nearby objects at the group including foo lion statues (of which there’s a picture)! In addition to enemies, the group can also meet a former monk of the monastery, currently a statue capable of tactile telepathy, who can share much of the history of the monastery with the group. After obtaining the Braid of a Hundred Masters, the Pathfinders discover it’s powers have gone dormant, which leads us into part two.

250px-On_Hostile_WatersScenario #3-11: The Quest for Perfection Part 2: On Hostile Waters is written by Benjamin Bruck, and sets the Pathfinders on a quest to reactivate the Braid of a Hundred Masters by bringing to the last remaining descendant of its rightful owner, a woman from the town of Nesting Swallow by the name of Je Tsun. The journey is a long one, down the Tuunma River and into the Sea of Eels. The river is surrounded on all sides by political turmoil, as it passes through the warring successor states of Lingshen, Po Li and Quain. In addition to the dangers of the river, and banditry, the players have to defend the Braid from soldiers and naval ships from Lingshen who desire to claim its power for themselves.

PZOPSS0313E_500Scenario #3-13: The Quest for Perfection Part 3: Defenders of Nesting Swallow is written by Sean McGowan, and finally sees the Pathfinders arrive in the small town of Nesting Swallow, only to discover it has been under attack from tengu bandits. Je Tsun agrees to aid them in reactivating the Braid of a Hundred Masters–and will even let them keep it–if they can defend Nesting Swallow from the villains who prey upon them. The rest of the adventure allows the players to organize the defence of the town, train the villagers, and set up barricades or whatever else the group might think of. When the bandits finally come, they get to see how their work has paid off (or not!) as the villagers and the Pathfinders fight alongside one another to drive off the bandits. Wave after wave attacks the town, and whether anyone survives is up to your players. In the end, the bandit leader himself joins the battle, the tengu samurai mounted atop his axe beak mount: Khwankonu! This is the adventure’s finale, and is a ton of fun! If Je Tsun lives she makes good on her word and reignites the magic of the Braid, bestowing it upon the Pathfinders for saving her village.


The Palace of Plenty

TSR82130_500The third adventure we’re taking a look at is the Palace of Plenty, a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure written to complement the Oriental Adventures: Dungeons & Dragons Supplement book. This adventure was written by Tito Leati, and was published in Volume 130 of Dungeon Magazine. It is intended for 10th level characters.

This is a wonderful, atmospheric adventure that has the players explore the frozen wastes of Kisarimuke, with the purpose of finding the Amata Goten–the legendary Palace of Plenty–which was said to be a magical palace that once was connected to the city of Okabaimura. After making the journey through Kisarimuke, the group can explore the ruins of Okabaimura, a sombre, mysterious experience. Events in the ruins can give the group clues as to the nature of the Palace of Plenty, and how to get there, but it does so in a very subtle, wonderful way. After eventually finding the way to Amata Goten, the players find a beautiful palace, lush with greenery, that is frozen in time. Within are spirits and ghosts, and many more mysteries. I’ll refrain from giving anything else away about this adventure. But, I will say that I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this adventure hints at the backstory, and the stories and lives of the ghosts and spirits within it, without just giving away information. It’s subtlety is spectacular.


The Ruby Pheonix Tournament

images-1.jpegThe fourth adventure we’re looking at is The Ruby Phoenix Tournament, a Pathfinder adventure written by Tim Hitchcock and intended for 11th level characters. This adventure brings us back to the Wall of Heaven on the continent of Tian Xia. Here, on the island of Xielan, a prestigious fighting tournament takes place, which allows the winners to claim any one object from the treasury of Hao Jin, the Ruby Pheonix. This tournament attracts combatants from all over the world, including from nations inspired by real-world Japan, China, India and many more. The matches the players are going to engage in are varied, with the terrain often playing an important part in the battles. Some places the players might find themselves fighting in are: flooded mud pools, hot coals, atop multiple towers and rope bridges, and even fighting horizontally on the side of a cliff (literally standing on the cliff face with slippers of spider-climb)! Your players are bound to be continually surprised. In addition to the tournament battles, the players can join in extra matches and challenges. But as the tournament proceeds it becomes clear that something is wrong. From entrants being poisoned and assassins attacking, the players will have to work fast to figure out who’s trying to put an end to the Ruby Pheonix Tournament and stop them, before it’s too late!

Although this adventure has a simple premise, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a great, exciting adventure that can be a ton of fun!


Tide of Honor

images-2.jpegThe final adventure we’re talking about today is my very, very favourite. Jade Regent Part 5 – Tide of Honor by Tito Leati. Now, the Jade Regent is a Pathfinder campaign where the last three books take place in Minkai, Paizo’s Japanese inspired nation in Tian Xia, but volume five of the series is my all time favourite. This adventure was clearly written with such LOVE and RESPECT. It’s honestly astounding how clearly that shows in the final product. But enough about the writing, what about the adventure?!

Tide of Honor has the PCs arrive in Minkai with their friend Ameiko Kaijitsu, true heir to the Imperial Throne of Minkai. …But they have no army! Minkai is currently ruled by the Jade Regent, a vicious tyrant who claimed the throne by murdering the emperor. In order to overthrow the Jade Regent the players are going to need allies. A LOT of them. The players single out an honourable Ronin and his small band of masterless samurai as a likely ally, knowing that they were expelled from the capital and are opposed to the Jade Regent. If the players can make contact with the ronin and ally with them, they will gain not only a number of trained warriors, but also allies who know the country, and may be able to help the group get other allies–or at least in contact with them. The leader of the ronin, Hirabashi Jiro attempts to test the PCs character and, if he finds them trustworthy, gives them a task. There is a group of bandits terrorizing the villagers and farmers of the region, but as they operate in two units, the ronin do not have enough warriors to defeat both groups at once. If the players can attack and conquer the bandit fortress, then Jiro and his men can take out the raiders before they harm any innocents. This opening battle is very adaptable and mobile, featuring a lot of ways the players can go about attacking, and organic ways in which the inhabitants respond to attacks. This encounter can benefit a LOT from good planning and scouting, and it’s a great location. To make it better? If the players can defeat the bandits, not only does Jiro agree to join your cause, but he also sets up the fortress as a base of operations for your group and your allies. This fortress is YOURS.

After some deliberation and discussion, Jiro can give the group a list of important political players and potential allies throughout the nation: the ninja clans of Enganoka, the merchants of Minkai who can be contacted by the geisha of Sakakabe, and the samurai of a cruel daimyo! But success isn’t as easy as simply meeting these groups, the players will have to earn their trust, and prove themselves worthy. But, if they can? The players will have an army at their disposal, one which will help them take on the Jade Regent himself and restore the throne to its rightful heir!

But the Jade Regent has many spies, and will not let the players operate without opposition! I hope you’re ready for some fearsome Oni!


And that’s all for us today! I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some of my favourite Eastern styled adventures! What are yours? Did I miss any you think deserve to be on my list?

At the very least, I hope you have a chance to watch Kubo and the Two Strings. You won’t regret it!

Until next time,

Sayonara! Zaijian! Bayartai and alavida!

Jessica

 

Appreciate a Dragon Day

January 16th is Appreciate a Dragon Day. A day that encourages everyone to explore the cultural significance of the dragon in your society and history. Dragons are a powerful symbol in mythology, from Europe, to Asia and throughout the world. So whoever you are and wherever you’re from, take a second and give a little love to these awesome mythical creatures.

Here at d20 Diaries, we’re celebrating Appreciate a Dragon Day by sharing our top five dragon adventures, because what would Dungeons and Dragons be, without dragons?

Answer? A lot less awesome!

So without further ado… my five favourite adventures that showcase dragons!



Guardians of Dragonfall

Guardians Of Dragonfallis a 3.5 adventure intended for level 11 characters.

Guardians Of Dragonfall is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons written by Anson Caralya and printed by Paizo Publishing. Intended for 11th level characters, this adventure takes the characters to a legendary dragon graveyard on behalf of an aging gold dragon who has spent the last fifty years living as a human scholar. Upon arriving they discover something has gone horribly wrong. The eternal guardians of Dragonfall have abandoned their posts, leaving the graveyard unprotected–an event unheard of in the history of Dragonfall! This adventure takes the group through a wide variety of cool locations including the labyrinthine trenches of the Bonefield, the Emerald Shrine where green dragons deliver their sacrifices, the Throat of Shearphorus at the centre of the graveyard, and the Hall of Guardian’s Rest. This adventure has a few cool draconic characters, including the ghost of the previously mentioned gold dragon, and an insane bronze dragon. It also has a variety of draconic enemies including draconic skeletons, a tribe of half-dragon satyr’s, and even a draconic mohrg. This adventure is big, bold and tons of fun. Most importantly, it makes the player’s feel awesome. After all, sometimes even dragons need a hero!

The Black Egg

The Black Egg is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure written by Steven Montano for Issue #106 of Dungeon Magazine. Intended for 12th level characters, this adventure begins with a meteor falling from the sky which completely obliterates a small town. Investigation sets the characters on a collision course with a mad wizard, a cult of half-dragons, and a powerful artifact that can summon and army of fiendish dragons to conquer the nation–perhaps the world! With some cool side characters including a group of mercenaries also intent on investigating the crater; some great twists and turns, and a ton of unique half-dragon enemies, this adventure’s sure to be a blast. To make it even better, make sure the town destroyed is a place your characters have been before (preferably more than once!) or a place they needed to visit. And what’s in the depths of the crater? I won’t give away much more, but I will say it’s called the Fane of Scales, and within is the mysterious Black Egg. An egg that’s nearly ready to hatch…

The Dragon’s Demand

The Dragon’s Demand a Pathfinder Adventure for 1st level characters.

The Dragon’s Demand is a Pathfinder module written by Mike Shel. Intended for 1st level characters and meant to bring them all the way to 6th, or possibly 7th level, this is a mega-adventure! It sets the player’s characters up to be heroes of the small town of Belhaim, only to have their efforts interrupt the plans of a fierce green dragon. The dragon eventually makes his displeasure known by attacking the town and demanding a massive amount of gold and treasure as tribute. Unable to pay, the characters are given one final job by the citizens: kill the dragon! But killing a dragon is no easy feat–especially not for low-level characters! They’ll need to prepare themselves, use their wits, and pray for some luck before taking on this bad-boy! With cool side locations including a deceased wizard’s home and secret laboratory, the tomb of a dragon-slayer, and a dragon’s lair (of course!), The Dragon’s Demand does an awesome job of showcasing what a dragon should do (or at least a classic villainous D&D dragon!): make plans, amass treasure, scare the heck out of everyone, subjugate entire tribes and towns, and kill whoever fails to obey! It makes dragons feel dangerous and powerful, something that’s often missing when dragons are used in adventures. With theatrics and a great use of build-up and suspense, this dragon feels like a challenge too tough to handle. It’s sure to get your player’s quaking in their boots! I highly recommend this module to anyone who wants to enjoy a great dragon adventure at lower levels.

Into the Wormcrawl Fissure

One of the highest level adventures on this list, Into the Wormclaw Fissure is intended for 19th level characters. Seriously! It’s the second last instalment of the Age of Worms adventure path put out by Paizo publishing back in 2006. Like The Dragon’s Demand, this adventure makes awesome use of foreshadowing, build-up and suspense to make the biggest, baddest, coolest dragon possible–Dragotha, an incredibly powerful dracolich. By this point in the campaign, the player’s have known their characters are going to have to oppose Dragotha in order to stop the Age of Worms for quite a while. They’ve curried assistance, cashed in on favours and done all they could to learn about her–which paid off. The previous adventure is spent hunting down and destroying her phylactery in the Citadel of Weeping Dragons (an awesome dragon adventure in itself!). With that taken care of, the characters can finally enter the Tabernacle of Worms to confront this terrifying undead dragon, and put an end to her for good. …If they can! This wicked foe is protected by huge undead chimeras, an awesome derro psycho mounted on a fierce wyvern, gargantuan worm beasts, and an entire cult to do her bidding. And if they do manage to defeat this terrifying CR 27 beast, her treasure trove is astounding! This adventure is awesome! If you ever get a chance to play the Age of Worms adventure path, I highly recommend you take it!

The Frozen Stars

Note: If you’re playing in my Reign of Winter Campaign, do NOT read this next entry!

The Frozen StarsPart 4 of the Reign of Winter Adventure Path.

The final adventure on this list is filled with as many dragons as you could possibly imagine–and more! Taking place on a wintery planet of dragons, in the middle of a war between the Drakelands and the Skyfire Mandate, The Frozen Stars is part four of the Reign of Winter Adventure Path. So what’s up with this war? The Drakelands are a tyranny of dragons of all kinds and colours as well as their draconic brethren (like wyverns, kobolds, and half-dragons) who believe that dragons should dominate the planet. The Skyfire Mandate is a coalition of Triaxians (furry elves primarily) and their Dragonkin allies (large sized, intelligent dragons who can wield weapons and objects in their front limbs, and who form life-long bonds with their riders). That’s right: it’s an evil dragon country versus a bunch of knights mounted on weapon wielding dragons! AWESOME! The characters land amidst this chaos in their Dancing Hut on the trail of Baba Yaga’s keys. One key lays with each side of the army, and they must determine how they’re going to get them. They can choose to ally with the Skyfire Mandate, earning themselves the chance to bond with a dragonkin of their own and fly through the skies on dragon back to oppose the draconic armies of the Drakelands! Or they can instead choose to ally with the mighty armies of the Drakelands and oppose the other, weaker races of Triaxus. Or they can try anything else they can think of: allying with both, double-crossing either side, double-crossing both sides, siding with none… The list goes on! The players get to discover this awesome conflict on this wicked planet and come up with any plan they want to obtain the keys they require. But, whatever they choose to do, your player’s characters are sure to fight or fight alongside dragons, dragon-kin, and a ton of draconic and winter themed beasts. The most powerful foes of all? Commaner Pharamol, the stalwart leader of the Skyfire Mandate’s Dragon Legion of Spurhorn, mounted atop his gold dragonkin Amerenth; the terrifying General Malesinder, a silver dragonkin and commander of the Drakelands army besieging Spurhorn; and finally, Yrax: Lord of the Howling Storm, one of the most powerful dragon warlords of the Drakelands! Come on! You know you want to play it! I know I DO!


And that’s all for today! Do you want to play any of the adventures listed above? What’s your favourite d20 adventure featuring dragons? Did I miss it? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you discover the wonder of a dragon today!

Jessica

d20diaries dragon

Bright…

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

In short: I loved this movie. 

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

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

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

My picks for top five d20 adventures that feature prejudice:

#5 – War of the Wielded by Michael Kortes

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

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

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

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

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

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

TSR82137_500
‘Siege of the Spider Eaters’ by Tim and Eileen Connors. Art by James Ryman. Printed in Issue 137 of Dungeon Magazine, August 2006.

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves

PZO9538_500
Pathfinder Module: Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves . Art by Dave Allsop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 – Steel Shadows by Keith Baker

cover_500
‘Steel Shadows’ by Keith Baker. Art by Jonathan Hill. Printed in Issue 115 of Dungeon Magazine, October 2004.

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

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

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

Finding justice is entirely up to your players.

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

#1 – River Into Darkness by Greg A. Vaughn

PZO9510_500
‘River into Darkness’ by Greg A. Vaughan (2008-04-22). Art by Ben Wootten. Paizo Publishing. 

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

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

Answer: hard.

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

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

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

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

Now go get those dice rolling!

Jessica