Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy

I’ve always loved interactive books that let the reader make decisions, so last year when Dungeons & Dragons released a series of four ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style children’s books, successfully relaunching the ‘Endless Quest’ series, I picked them up for my children right away. Written by Matt Forbeck, each of these four books cast you in the role of different classes, explored different iconic locations, and tied in with other Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. They were fun, exciting, filled with colourful characters, and featured a bigger sized font perfect for my children. My kids and I were impressed with the quality and content of these books.

Currently consisting of four books — Big TroubleEscape the UnderdarkInto the Jungle, and To Catch a Thief — the Endless Quest series is expanding on September 3rd, 2019 to include two more releases, Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy! We are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

But first, what is Endless Quest?

Endless Quest 2

Endless Quest is a series of six ‘choose your own adventure’ style novels aimed at middle-grade readers (eight to twelve year olds). My kids are seven and eight years old, placing them at the young end of the intended audience. To Catch a Thief lets your kids (or you!) be a halfling rogue, Into the Jungle casts you in the role of a dwarf cleric, Escape the Underdark lets you play as a human fighter, Big Trouble lets you play as an elf wizard, Escape from Castle Ravenloft lets you play as a cleric, and The Mad Mage’s Academy lets you play as a rogue. While reading the book your character’s gender — and often their race — has no bearing on perspective or story. It’s invisible, honestly. Only the image on the front reveals your gender. Which is awesome! Both of my kids immediately assumed the character was just like them, irrelevant of the cover image, slipping into the role without hesitation.

Each book is exactly 122 pages long. Most of the pages are filled completely with text and images (no wasted pages here!), and both of my kids found the font size comfortable. All of the books contain a lot of awesome artwork. Some images are in full colour — typically locations or a main character/villain — while the rest are in sepia tones. You’ll find images of allies, enemies, items, equipment, scenery, and locations. Some of the images in the earlier books are even tactical maps, which everyone in the house enjoyed examining, although the two newest books do not contain any maps. Some of the images are on the gory or creepy side, and both of the new books are quite suspenseful.

Each of the Endless Quest books follows a different kind of story, features different main characters with unique motivations and personality traits, involves different situations and enemies, and takes place in vastly different locations. You’ll get to visit actual places from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, both on a large and small scale, which fans of D&D will love. Each book also has cameos from known D&D personalities (including Elminster, Volo, and Xanathar, to name a few, with the new books featuring Count Strahd von Zarovich and Halaster, the Mad Mage). The decisions you get to make are important. Common choices include deciding which way to go, how you choose to deal with other characters, and how you react to situations. Each of the books has ways to ‘win,’ to happily survive but fail, to survive but fail horribly, and to die. The number of these outcomes varies between each book, with the most deadly having more than half of its endings fatal. None of the deaths are graphic, and many are suggested more than described. Some of the endings are quite abrupt, and if you make poor decisions right from the start your story could be over in only a few pages. But, that’s to be expected in books of this kind. The first four books in the series feature some very hard to pronounce names, although the two newest didn’t, which my kids found an improvement. In the earlier books battle was nearly always fatal, although the two newest books allow you to fight and win at least half the time, which made your adventurer seem much more capable. My kids loved this! Particularly because one of the two newest books are the spookiest of the series, and being able to overpower some of the opponents made my kids feel more in control, and less scared.

endless-quest.jpg

Escape from Castle Ravenloft is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Adam Paquette, Autumn Rain Turkel, Ben Oliver, Brynn Metheney, Chris Seaman, Claudio Pozas, Conceptopolis, Baarken, Eric Belisle, Jedd Chevrier, Jesper Ejsing, Kiernan Yanner, Lake Hurwitz, Lars Grant-West, Mark Behm, Milivoj Ceran, Richard Whitters, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Vincent Dutrait, Vincent Proce, Wayne England, Zack Strella, and Zoltan Boros. Cover illustrations are by Eric Belisle, Mark Behm, and Ben Oliver.

Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts you in the role of a cleric of Tyr, god of justice. Originally from Waterdeep, you character finds themselves in the mist-shrouded, gothic realm of Ravenloft where you catch the eye of the infamous vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich. The story begins with you awakening in a bedroom in his castle, bereft of all your gear except for your holy symbol. Count Strahd welcomes you to his castle, informing you that you’ll be staying indefinitely as his guest. Not wanting to become his vampire spawn or dominated thrall, your character will need to find a way to escape Castle Ravenloft alive. This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Curse of Strahd.

My kids both agreed that this was the spookiest of the books. They were on the edge of their seats the entire time, slinking through eerily silent halls, peeking into dark chambers, and desperately hoping they don’t run into any vampires or werewolves. They squealed in surprise quite a bit — in a good way — and decided they did not want to read this book near bedtime. Haha. It’s a light horror story that my kids really enjoyed. However, it is definitely the scariest Endless Quest book to date, so it will not be for everyone.

This was a bit of a deadly book, but also had quite a few ‘successful’ endings. The majority of the endings involving dying trapped within the castle, a good number involving dying during or after your escape, a few endings leave you trapped within the castle but alive, and a good number result in your escape and survival. Despite its lethality, both of my kids adored it.

There’s a few different characters for you to interact with during the course of the book, two of which my kids really enjoyed — the clockwork jester Pidlwick and a naive young woman called Gertruda. Most of the time my kids were invested in trying to save themselves and figure out which characters were trustworthy and which would betray them. But, after the introduction of Gertruda, their priorities changed, and they became determined to save both her and themselves. Some of the endings involving Gertruda give you difficult decisions to make, such as putting yourself in danger and potentially missing your chance to escape in order to save an innocent — or not! My kids agonized over that a bit, but never chose to abandon the girl — unless they were sifting through the book to try to find the endings they missed.

Although there’s a lot of cool places to explore in this book, it all takes place in and around Castle Ravenloft, meaning there is very little drastic changes of scenery. My son’s favourite part of the book involved combating minor undead with his holy symbol and strength of faith, which always made him feel very proud. He also really liked an ending where you escape the castle but get transformed into a werewolf. My daughter, who has a terrible fear of werewolves, did NOT like that ending at all. Instead, her favourite parts of the book involved interacting with the traitorous Pidlwick!

The Mad Mage’s Academy is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Allen Douglas, Andrew Mar, Bryan Syme, Chris Seaman, Christopher Moeller, Clint Cearley, Conceptopolis, Cynthia Sheppard, Cyril Van Der Haegen, David Palumbo, David Vargo, Emily Fiegenschuh, Eric Belisle, Ilya Shipkin, Jason Juta, Jim Pavelec, John Stanko, Kiernan Yanner, Kurt Higgins, Michael Berube, Olga Drebas, Scott Murphy, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Wayne England, and Zelda Devon. Cover illustrations are by Cynthia Sheppard, Jesper Ejsing, and Titus Lunter.

The Mad Mage’s Academy casts you in the role of a thief tasked with stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself, Halaster Blackcloak. You’ll need to pose as a student at Halaster’s magic academy, locate and steal the spell book, and escape — all without getting caught! This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

This book involves a lot of subterfuge, interacting with other characters, lies, and betrayal — both from you and the people you meet along the way! My kids really enjoyed this, and were often surprised at the results of their choices. There were lots of interesting characters to interact with, including the mind flayer Cephalossk, tiefling sisters Violence and Turbulence, and the night hag Wormriddle. Both of my kids favourite character was Spite, a child wizard protected by a half-ogre named Dumara (or so they first appear…).

Of all the Endless Quest books to date, The Mad Mage’s Academy felt like the least deadly. Although over half of the endings left you dead and without one of the multiple spell books hidden throughout the academy, the rest all involved your survival, with about half of those also letting you escape with one of the spell books. Much like Escape from Castle Ravenloft, this book all takes place within a single complex, so there’s not much variation in the locations you can visit.

My son’s favourite part about this book was interacting with Cephalossk, and seeing all of the cool traps and magical defences you can come up against your quest for the spell books. My daughter’s favourite parts of this book was interacting with Spite, a wide variety of the ‘escape with the spell book’ endings, and an ending that allows you to take over the academy, which she thought was amazing.

Both my kids and I really enjoyed the Endless Quests books. I highly recommend them for any kids who have an interest in fantasy novels, adventure novels, choose your own adventures, or tabletop RPGs. They’re engaging, variable, and a ton of fun, with each book very different from the others. Fans of D&D will particularly enjoy all the famous places you can visit and people you can meet. Best of all? My kids have read and re-read these books over and over again. They’re going to see a lot of use.

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and Endless Quest: The Mad Mage’s Academy are scheduled for release on September 3rd, 2019.

My family and I would like to give a special thank you to Penguin Randomhouse Canada, for providing us with advance copies for review.

Jessica

 

August New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! August 2019 is a crazy month for d20 releases, so buckle up! We’re in for one exciting ride!


Dungeons & Dragons

Although there’s no big D&D releases this month, highlights from last month include the first two releases in the Young Adventurer’s Guide line: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons! Both of my kids are huge fans of these books. For more information check out our review on the Young Adventurer’s Guides here.


Pathfinder

Last month marked the finale of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path with Pathfinder Adventure Path 144: Midwives to Death by John Compton. This was the final Pathfinder First Edition adventure to be released. But, as First Edition comes to an end, Second Edition begins. And WOW, there is a LOT of Pathfinder Second Edition products coming out this month!

First and foremost: The Core Rulebook (also available in a Deluxe Edition). This massive 638 page tome contains (almost) everything you need to get started playing Pathfinder Second Edition. With a highly intuitive gameplay system, and incredibly varied character development choices that can be made at every level, Pathfinder Second Edition is shaping up to be absolutely awesome. We’ve just finished reading the rules and can’t wait to get started playing some mini-adventures. GMs, like myself, will also need one other book to play: Bestiary! The Bestiary (also available in a Deluxe Edition) is 357 pages long and contains over 400 creatures with dynamic and diverse abilities. Coming out later this month is another hardcover I’m particularly excited for, Pathfinder Lost Omens World Guide, which advances Golarion’s timeline ten years and shows us what’s happening throughout ten mega-regions of the Inner Sea Region. There’s plenty of changes coming, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.

The start of this month saw the launch of the first Pathfinder Second Edition Adventure Path: Age of Ashes! The first volume, Pathfinder Adventure Path 145: Hellknight Hill, is written by Amanda Hamon, while the second volume, Pathfinder Adventure Path 146: Cult of Cinders, is written by Eleanor Ferron. The first stand-alone Second Edition Adventure, The Fall of Plaguestone, is written by Jason Bulmahn.

Other Pathfinder Second Edition releases include Pathfinder GM Screens (available in landscape or portrait), Pathfinder Character Sheet PackPathfinder Combat Pad, and Pathfinder Condition Cards.

Maps this month include Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Urban Sewers Expansion, Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Hamlet, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: The Fall of Plaguestone. Fans looking for a deluxe gaming experience can check out Dwarven Forge’s Plague Stone series of terrain, which just went up for pre-sale.

Finally, this month brings us five Pathfinder Society Scenarios! Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-00: Origin of the Open Road, written by Ron Lundeen, is an introductory adventure that takes place in Quantium and is intended for level five pregenerated characters. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-01: The Absalom Initiation, written by Lyz Liddell, is a repeatable scenario designed for Tiers 1–4 that takes place in Absalom. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-02: The Mosquito Witch, written by Eleanor Ferron, is a Tier 1–4 scenario that tasks the PCs with tracking down a cryptid in the River Kingdoms. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-03: Escaping the Grave, written by Adrian Ng, is a Tier 1–4 scenario that sends the PCs on a rescue mission to the Gravelands. Finally, Pathfinder Society Quest 1A: Sandstone Secret, written by Linda Zayas-Palmer, is a short, one-hour repeatable quest that takes place in Osirion.


Third Party (Pathfinder 2e) Releases

It may be new, but there’s already plenty of exciting Third Party Publisher releases for Pathfinder Second Edition. Although we haven’t had a chance to read many, below are a few we’re particularly excited for.

Everybody Games

Everybody Games has two issues of their ‘Files for Everybody’ line out. Issue 1: Nashi, by Alex Augunas, brings raccoon-folk to Second Edition, while Issue 2: Acrobatics Feats, by Dustin Knight, contains ten new General Acrobatics Skill feats.

Fat Goblin Games

Fat Goblin Games has two great looking products already out. Fellow Travellers: Animal Companions by Taylor Hubler contains over fifty new animal companions, while Game Changer: Alchemical Tools by Matt Roth contains over one hundred new or expanded alchemical tools from levels one through twenty.

Rusted Iron Games

Rusted Iron Games recently launched Tombstone, a gritty alternate history wild west setting compatible with Pathfinder Second Edition rules that pits PCs against monsters, magic, and The Blight, a terrifying infection from beyond the stars. A mixture of western, fantasy, and occult horror, it’s shaping up to be a fun and quirky twist on RPGs. Current releases in this line include Ancestries of Tombstone: Chupacabra by Joshua Hennington, Ancestries of Tombstone: Jackalope by Jacob W. Michaels, and Ancestries of Tombstone: Rougarou by Dennis Muldoon, all of which are available on DriveThruRPG. Upcoming releases include more ancestries, and class feats. My daughter has decided to make at least five jackalope characters — one for each heritage — so my PDF is proving well worth the money.


Starfinder

Although Pathfinder Second Edition is drawing a lot of attention, the Starfinder team is not to be outdone! This month’s releases include Starfinder Adventure Path 18: Assault on the Crucible (finale to the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path!), Starfinder Adventure Path 19: Fate of the Fifth (beginning of the Attack of the Swarm! Adventure Path!), and Starfinder RPG: Alien Archive 3, which contains over 100 new aliens, and over a dozen playable races.

Other Starfinder releases include Starfinder Pawns: Tech Terrain and Starfinder Flip-Mat: Ice World. Starfinder Society Scenarios include #2-05: Meeting of Queens, a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Kiel Howell that involves the formians of Castrovel, and Starfinder Society Scenario #2-06: The Stumbling Society, Part One: Sangoro’s Lament, a Tier 5–8 scenario written by Mike Kimmel that delves into abandoned Exo-Guardian’s fortress of Sangoro’s Bulwark.


WizKids

And finally, WizKids! This month saw the launch of the Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures Preview Pack, an 8 miniature sneak peak of the upcoming Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures miniatures. Later this month D&D: Icons of the Realms: Baldur’s Gate: Descent in Avernus is scheduled to launch! This set of random booster boxes features 45 different plastic pre-painted miniatures.


And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

Custom Creations: Scintrix

Hello, and welcome to d20 diaries!

Early in July I participated in a mini-competition on Freelance Forge (a very welcoming private forum for freelancers in the tabltetop RPG industry that I highly recommend aspiring freelancers join!) that challenged participants with creating a Starfinder creature themed around the phrase ‘Red, White, and BOOM!’ — a topic meant to bring to mind Independence Day but, as a Canadian, I immediately thought of Canada Day (happily they both involve fireworks! Haha). The goal of the competition is not to win, but to get inspired, practise making creatures, and to give and receive feedback on each others creations, so that we improve our skills. It was a lot of fun — both the act of creating, and getting to read everyone else’s entries. With the competition over I decided to incorporate some of the feedback I received and post my newly-polished, explosive little creature on d20 diaries.

Introducing… the scintrix!


SCINTRIX
CR
5                       XP 1,600
CN Medium fey
Init +5; Senses low-light vision; Perception +11

DEFENSE
HP 70; RP 4
EAC 17; KAC 19
Fort +9; Ref +9; Will +4
Defensive Abilities vanishing trick

OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft., Climb 20 ft.
Melee bite +13 (1d6+8 P)
Ranged brilliant bolt +10 (1d6+5 E & F)
Offensive Abilities explosive entrance
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 5th)
At will—dancing lights

STATISTICS
Str +3; Dex +5; Con +1; Int +0; Wis +1; Cha +2
Skills Acrobatics +11, Stealth +16, Survival +11
Languages Common, Sylvan
Other Abilities aglow, compression

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Aglow (Ex) A scintrix increases the light level by one step out to a radius of 10 feet. This glow is suppressed while the scintrix is invisible.

Brilliant Bolt (Su) As an attack, a scintrix can shoot a brightly colored bolt of energy from its body at a single target, which explodes upon impact in a shower of sparkling rainbow-hued light. This attack has a range increment of 60 ft. and the aurora weapon special property.

Explosive Entrance (Su) A scintrix that uses its bite attack while under the effects of vanishing trick reappears with an explosive bang and a flash of scintillating colors. Any creature within 10 feet, other than scintrix, must succeed at a DC 13 Fortitude save or be blinded for 1d3 rounds; on a successful save the creature is instead dazzled for 1d3 rounds.

Vanishing Trick (Su) As a standard action a scintrix can cause its body to disappear, leaving only its eyes and mouth visible. This functions as if the scintrix were invisible. The scintrix can maintain this invisibility as long as they desire, though it ends immediately if the scintrix attacks, sleeps, falls unconscious, or dies. By spending 1 Resolve Point, a scintrix can instead activate vanishing trick as a move action.

ECOLOGY
Environment any forest, jungle, or plains
Organization solitary, pair, or flare (3–7)


Scintrix are the fey embodiment of shock, surprise, and sudden excitement – a burst of vibrant energy given life and shifting form. At home in forests, jungles, and plains, throughout the universe, scintrix are most commonly found on planets with particularly vibrant colors, wild magic, unpredictable weather, or thin planar boundaries. Where nature, physics, or magic defy logic, scintrix are sure to appear.

Scintrix are animalistic quadrupeds with a stocky, thick-set body, gleaming eyes, and a wide grinning mouth filled with white sharp teeth. Their bodies are a kaleidoscope of brightly colored, shifting streaks of light that crackle and burst with energy. Only their eyes, mouth, paws, the tips of their short, pointed ears, and the ends of their frazzled, bushy tail remain stable. Despite appearing as bursts of light and color, the body of a scintrix is squishy and pliable, capable of squeezing through spaces much smaller than their size suggests.

Cunning and clever, with an appetite for fun as well as meat, scintrix are pranksters that take great glee in surprising their prey before devouring them. Stealth hunters, scintrix can become unnaturally quiet and still at a moment’s notice, vanishing from sight almost completely, with only their eyes and mouth remaining visible. They stalk their prey, leaping out to attack only when their prey is completely unaware. Their appearance is marked by a loud bang, blinding flash of light, and bursts of scintillating color.

Vain and talkative, scintrix prefer to hunt intelligent beings. Playful, they enjoy toying with their food, bursting in and out of a fight with crackling laughter, only to vanish and surprise their prey again later. When faced with particularly entertaining prey, scintrix are known to draw their hunts out over weeks, engage their foe in conversation, or take their prey captive as pets. Unfortunately for such prisoners, scintrix are easily bored.

Summer in Summary

Hello, and welcome to d20 diaries!

Gosh, it’s been a busy month!

It’s summer vacation here, so my kids and I are trying to fill our time with as much swimming and trips to the park as possible. They each set themselves a few goals this summer, so we’ve been working on that. My son wanted to learn about robotics and make himself a robot. My daughter wanted to learn how to sew, make herself a stuffed rabbit, and learn how to bake. My son has had a lot of fun checking out books from the library, and trying to put together a robot from a little kit. He’s discovered that making robots takes precision and attention to detail — both of which he’s decided to needs to practise. There were a lot of points where he noticed he’d done something backwards because he wasn’t paying close enough attention. Still, with some help he made himself a cute little spider robot that can motor around a bit. It drains the battery like CRAZY though, so he’s decided the next one needs a better power source. He wants me to teach him about solar panels, which I am not afraid to admit is not my forte. Sounds like another trip to the library is in order! Haha.

spider-robot.jpg

My daughter’s sewing and baking lessons are going better. I told her we would not have time to make a stuffed rabbit this summer, but I have been teaching her sewing safety and some basic stitches. She’s constantly looking around the house for socks and clothes with rips in them so she can mend them herself. It’s adorable. She always loves helping with baking, but this summer she wanted to make something (almost) all on her own. She’s made a few batches of cookies that turned out well. She adores watching Nailed It, Sugar Rush, and Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix, so she was determined to enter a baking competition this summer. This past weekend she challenged some of our extended family to a bake-off for a family birthday party.

Everyone had to make a LEGO-themed cake. It had to include a bit of real LEGO on it somewhere, but otherwise, whatever you baked was up to you. She was positively thrilled everyone agreed, and set to work drawing cake plans. In the end she made a vanilla rainbow-chip cake with chocolate icing that she decorated to look like mud covered in grass. Then she stuck a big LEGO rabbit she built on top of it. My son baked a chocolate cake with chocolate icing that was in the middle of being demolished by LEGO construction workers, and I made a strawberry shortcake-style cake that was dyed inside to look like the cake was made of LEGO. So tasty. Other cakes were made to look like LEGO blocks, while my mother made a massive three-tiered cake covered with fondant work. Everyone had a great time and my kids were thrilled when some people voted their cakes the most creative, or tastiest. They really enjoyed tasting all the cakes and giving it their nit-picky judge’s remarks. They had a blast.

But, my kids aren’t the only ones with goals this summer. I’ve been working on not one, but four different freelancing assignments (currently top secret!), all of which are going really well. And of course, there’s the release of Pathfinder Second Edition! The game is highly intuitive, which makes it wonderfully easy to learn, but the Core Rulebook is a massive tome! It definitely takes a while to read through. Plus there’s the Bestiary, Hellknight Hill (Age of Ashes 1 of 6)The Fall of Plaguestone, and a whopping five Pathfinder Society Scenarios available already, which I’ve been trying to find the time to read.

We’ll be participating in an online gaming convention via play-by-post soon, which is hosted on Paizo’s message board. There’s a really welcoming community of people playing there, so if any of you are considering playing a game via play-by-post I highly recommend you sign up for the convention and give it a try. Play-by-post Gameday VIII begins on August 26th and runs until November 3rd. There’s still some room for players to join games, but there won’t be for long. For more information or to sign up for games, check out the announcement thread here! If you need guidance, assistance, or information about playing via play-by-post, stop by the Flaxseed Lodge, check out the helpful links at the top of the page, and make a post in the Discussion thread, letting everyone know what you need help with. There’s always people willing to lend a hand and help a new players get started.

Closer to home, this coming weekend my family and I will be attending Convocation, an annual Pathfinder and Starfinder Society convention in Winnipeg. We’ve signed up for a short demo game of Pathfinder 2e and PFS Scenario #10-16: What the Helms Hide on Saturday afternoon, followed by PFS #10-12: Breath of the Dragonskull on Sunday afternoon. Last time we played Pathfinder Society in person at a Con we all died a horrible death, so we’re hoping we have better luck this time! Haha. My kids are bringing some of their favourite characters, so wish us luck!

And after that…? My kids and I will be starting work on submissions for the upcoming issue of Wayfinder. For those of you who don’t know, Wayfinder is a digital magazine full of fan-created content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that releases each year at PaizoCon. Over the years they’ve made an astounding 19 issues of Wayfinder, as well as a Bestiary! Nearly every issue has a theme, with this latest one being Starfinder’s Absalom Station. This years topic is the Diaspora! Previous issues are all a free download on Paizo’s website. Everyone is welcome to submit an article to Wayfinder — a fact my children were thrilled to take advantage of last year — and I highly recommend any of you interested in getting into freelance RPG writing give it a shot. Just download a few back-issues, give them a read to see what kind of content they’re looking for, then head over to the Call for Submissions for full details. This year, my kids have decided to submit more than one article, so they’re already wracking their brains for ideas. My daughter, in particular, is thinking of more ways to include rabbits without actually being obvious about including more rabbits. This, of course, should surprise no one.

Well, I’ve got to run. My daughter is currently waving my new Core Rulebook at me, and mouthing the words ‘GOBLIN.’ Something tells me we’re making characters today…

Until next time,
Jessica

Pathfinder 2e is here!

It’s the morning of August 1st, 2019 and Pathfinder Second Edition is finally here! Time to pick up our gorgeous new books (or wait patiently for them to arrive in the mail), give them a read, and get creating!

Those of you who don’t have a copy of the rulebook in hand can head over to the Archives of Nethys. On the brand new Pathfinder RPG 2e Database you’ll find all the rules for Pathfinder Second Edition, for free. The new website is 2e.aonprd.com. Bookmark it!

Enjoy!

Jessica

Paizo and Geek & Sundry partner for Knights of Everflame

Pathfinder - Knights of Everflame

Earlier this week it was announced that Paizo has partnered with Geek & Sundry to release a Pathfinder Second Edition show! Pathfinder: Knights of Everflame is an eight episode series that premieres at 4 pm Pacific on Tuesday, July 30th on Geek & Sundry’s twitch stream.

Pathfinder: Knights of Everflame will star Jason Bulmahn, Game Designer for Paizo Inc., as Game Master. Jason is also the Game Master for Oblivion Oath, a Pathfinder Second Edition liveplay starring Paizo staff members that streams live every Thursday at noon Pacific on Paizo’s twitch stream.

Pathfinder: Knights of Everflame stars an exciting cast of players, including Aki (@MxGiniInABottle), Erika Fermina (@astylepixie), Gina DeVivo (@PocketGina), Jeremy Steven Walker (@JWalkerScene), and Rachel Seeley (@sunnyseeley)! 


UPDATE:

More information on Pathfinder: Knights of Everflame and its cast was revealed on  Paizo’s blog. Click here to get details from the source!


My family and I can’t wait to tune in!

Pathfinder Second Edition launches on August 1st, 2019 and is currently available for preorder.

Enjoy!

Jessica

 

Custom Creations: Sky Bunnies

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

My kids love playing roleplaying games and, on occasion, they take the time to create monsters, locations, and adventures of their own. Yesterday I shared a critter created by my son for the Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game called Mini Notes. Today, we’re taking a look at a creature made by my daughter: Sky Bunnies!

Tails of Equestria is a family-friendly RPG that’s accessible, engaging, and fun to play. Based on the popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show, Tails of Equestria emphasizes teamwork, kindness, and friendship. For more information on Tails of Equestria check out this blog post.


Sky Bunnies

Body: D6         Mind: D4          Charm: D4         Stamina: 10

Talents: Consume (D8), Fly (D8)

Quirks: Animal

Cute and cuddly but vicious, the nimble sky bunnies dance from cloud to cloud. They are constantly hungry and even though they love to eat ponies best they’ll swoop down from the sky and eat everything they see! They move around a lot, flying off to new places as soon as food or animals are running out.

Sky Bunnies


My daughter hopes you love her ‘vicious cutie pie.’

Thanks for stopping by!

Jessica
(and family)


UPDATE: My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria has officially adopted my daughter’s Sky Bunnies for their Creature Feature!

Sky-Bunnies

Custom Creations: Mini Notes

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

My kids love playing roleplaying games and, on occasion, they take the time to create monsters, locations, and adventures of their own. Over the next two days we’re going to share a pair of critters they created for Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game, a family-friendly RPG that’s accessible, engaging, and fun to play. Based on the popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show, Tails of Equestria emphasizes teamwork, kindness, and friendship. For more information on Tails of Equestria check out this blog post.

Today we’re showing off my son’s creation. He’s hopes you enjoy it!


Mini Notes 

Body: –         Mind: D8          Charm: D4         Stamina: 6

Talents: Teeny Tiny (D6), Creative flair: music (D6), Special skill: dancing (D6)

Quirks: Unliving

Special: Must sing instead of speak

Mini Notes are tiny creatures that love to sing and dance. Especially brainy, they are quick, clever, and always sing instead of speak. Their love of music usually brings them to towns and cities with lots of music and festivals. In the wild they are often found near birds or whales.

Mini Notes


He’s very proud.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jessica
(and family)


UPDATE: My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria has officially adopted my son’s Mini Notes for their Creature Feature!

Mini Notes

ENnies 2019: Voting now open!

Voting for 2019 ENnies is underway!

For those of you who don’t know, the Gen Con RPG Awards (better known as the ENnies) is an annual award ceremony that recognizes excellence in tabletop roleplaying games. Publishers of all kinds can submit a product for consideration, the judges evaluate the products, then put together a list of nominations for a wide array of categories. Then fans  head online and vote for their favourites. Determining the winners is up to all of us.

To view the full list of nominees click here. To cast your vote click here.

The winners will be announced at Gen Con on August 2nd at the ENnies 2019 Ceremony at the Union Station, Indianapolis, Indiana. The event will also be live streamed on the ENnies Youtube Channel.

Want to have your say? Get voting!

Jessica

Review: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons!

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

A new series of Dungeons & Dragons books aimed at children is scheduled to launch next week and we are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

The Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler. The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures’ and ‘Warriors and Weapons.’ There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and Spring 2020 (Wizards & Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D. The American cover price for each of the books is $12.99, with the Canadian cover price $17.50. Each book is 105 pages long.

Young Advendturer's Guide

Before we take an in depth look at each of the books individually, let’s talk first impressions…

These books look and feel great! They have high quality hard covers, sturdy glossy pages, tons of unique full colour art, and a design aesthetic that’s in line with the adult D&D releases. These books feel like they’re a part of the Dungeons & Dragons line — which is absolutely awesome! It makes my kids feel like these books are just as important as the rest of our D&D books, which in turn makes them feel included and a part of the hobby.

Taken on their own, the Young Adventurer’s Guides have a nice layout, easy to read text, beautiful art, and are well organized. They’re approachable, interesting, engaging, and clearly written for kids, but, at the same time, the books don’t talk down to the reader. These books are written with care, and meant to provide younger audiences an easy to understand introduction to the world of roleplaying games and storytelling, as well as inspire them to make the world and stories their own.

Young Adventurers Guides

I have two children, a seven year old girl and an eight year old boy, making them on the young end of the intended audience for these books. Both of my kids have very good reading comprehension for their age. That said, both of my kids thoroughly enjoyed these books. My son had no problem reading the books and seemed to understand everything he read. My daughter, understandably, had more trouble, having to sound out a tricky word or two with each flip of the page, and often asking for definitions of words. Despite this, she was fully engaged with reading the books, and never got frustrated. As is typical with many fantasy books, the trickiest words are fictional names of characters and places. While many kids will stumble over these words once or twice before internalizing them, just as many will skip over them and move on. My son didn’t come across any content that he found inappropriate or too mature for him, while my daughter came across a few creatures she decided were a little ‘too spooky’ for her right now, so she skipped those pages and continued on enjoying the rest of the book. Considering the age and reading abilities of my kids, I think these books are well suited to the middle-grade reader level they’re advertised as. My kids loved them, and they definitely have room to grow with the books. We haven’t had them long and already my kids have read and re-read them more than a few times. They’ve already started utilizing information they picked up from the books in their play, storytelling, roleplaying, and gaming. These are the sort of books my kids get a ton of use out of, coming back to them often, and using different sections for inspiration at different times.

It’s important to note that these books are NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbook or the Monster Manual. The Young Adventurer’s Guides do NOT contain game mechanics or rules. They lay out the major concepts, roles, gear, and monsters in a way that is easy to understand, approachable, and engaging. They’re meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules. I highly recommend this series for for any kids who love adventure, fantasy, horror, monsters, roleplaying, storytelling, or who have exposure to RPGs.


Monsters & CreaturesMonsters & Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated guide to the many beasts of Dungeons & Dragons. Featuring one-of-a-kind entries for some of its most memorable monsters, and over 60 brand new illustrations, this book is sure to ignite the imagination of young readers. This book begins with a short, one page introduction which gives the book some context and explains the books ‘Danger Levels,’ which is a 0-5 point scale meant to show how tough a creature is. Although similar to Challenge Ratings in D&D, these numbers are NOT equivalent. Beginning at 0, which denotes a creature that is essentially harmless, moving on to 1, which is an acceptable challenge for low-level or beginning adventurers, and ending at 5, which is a difficult challenge for high level heroes. There is one Danger Level higher than this: EPIC, which denotes a creature so powerful only the most legendary heroes could hope to triumph over it.

Monsters & Creatures - Inside Cover

The creatures in this book are sorted by the regions they call home, beginning with underground creatures, which are found in ‘Caverns & Dark Places,’ moving up onto the surface with ‘Forests, Mountains, & Other Terrain’ dwelling creatures (which also includes a special sub-chapter on giants of all kinds). Following this is ‘Moors, Bogs, and Boneyards,’ a chapter which primarily focuses on undead creatures with a special sub-chapter on vampires, and ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways,’ which is packed full of aquatic creatures. Finally, airborne monsters can be found in ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky,’ which also contains a special sub-chapter on dragons. Each monster profile contains information on the size of each beast, its danger level, and tips for how to survive an encounter with one. There’s also lore, special abilities and powers, typical tactics, and a handy list of do’s and don’ts for dealing with these beasts. Finally, new art! This book is packed full of it!

Monsters & Creatures also features encounters, which are short, one page stories that introduce a famous D&D character, place them in a perilous situation involving one of the described creatures, and then ends, leaving each opening scene with a cliffhanger ending. Following this is questions that ask the reader what they think the characters should do next, what would happen in response to those actions, and what the characters should do afterwards. These encounters are meant to guide kids to roleplay their own endings to exciting stories, and question the ramifications of their actions. This problem-solving is a great way to introduce kids to RPGs as both a player and DM.

The book ends with a short chapter on how to use monsters to tell stories, and important questions to contemplate for kids who decide to make stories or engage in RPGs on their own. Things like, ‘who are your characters,’ ‘where does your story take place,’ ‘how do things change as the story proceeds,’ and so on. Finally, there’s a short blurb about Dungeons & Dragons, and how to get into the game.

So what creatures, exactly, are featured in Monsters & Creatures? Plenty! ‘Caverns & Dark Places’ includes the beholder, bugbear, carrion crawler, flumph, goblin, mind flayer, myconid, and the legendary Demogorgon. ‘Forests, Mountains & Other Terrain’ includes the centaur, displacer beast, owlbear, sprite, treant, unicorn, hill giant, stone giant, frost giant, fire giant, cloud giant, storm giant, and the legendary fire giant Duke Zalto. ‘Moors, Bogs & Boneyards’ includes the banshee, skeleton, vampire lord, vampire spawn, and the legendary vampire Count Strahd Von Zarovich. ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways’ includes the aboleth, dragon turtle, and merrow. ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky’ includes the griffon, pegasus, white dragon, green dragon, black dragon, blue dragon, red dragon, and the legendary Tiamat, Queen of Evil Dragons! Encounters are included for the frost giant, green dragon, myconid, skeleton, and unicorn. My son most enjoyed reading about unicorns, flumphs, blue dragons, and vampires. My daughter most enjoyed reading about the beholder, flumph, dragon turtle, dragons, and Tiamat. My daughter also came across a few creatures that she decided, either from the art or after reading the first few sentences, were ‘too spooky’ for her. She promptly skipped those monsters and moved on with the book. The monsters she skipped were the carrion crawler (she’s afraid of bugs), the aboleth (she thought it looked creepy), and the mind flayer (it had a giant brain behind it and she was pretty sure she didn’t want to know why).

The verdict:

As an adult reader, I was pleasantly surprised with the array of creatures featured in this book. There’s a lot of iconic monsters in here, a ton of fantasy staples, and some quirky creatures that most kids will be discovering for the first time. Some of the choices were a bit gutsy for a kids book — the mind flayer and demogorgon, for example — but I’m thrilled to see them included. I’m pleased to see that not all of the monsters are evil creatures, there’s plenty that can be befriended or negotiated with.  The information included in the monster entries is absolutely wonderful. There’s integral information, great advice, and enough engaging descriptions to get my kids interested and curious. The encounters were a definite highlight of the book, as was the beautiful new artwork found throughout. The book is high-quality and sturdy, which is important since our copy is sure to take a beating. I’m far from the intended audience for this book, but I really enjoyed reading it. Even more than that, I loved sharing this book with my kids. I loved watching them discover and wonder over the creatures inside. Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.

My daughter: “I loved this book. It was fun to read and the pictures were beautiful! I give it two thumbs up! I think I will read it again and again. I really loved the flumph! It was the best creature in the book. That’s what I think.”

My son: “I think that I love this book. All kinds of kids should read it. I think most would love it, too! Especially if they already like D&D and RPGs and things. I think that it is fun and I’m going to read it a lot!”

“Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.”

Warriors & Weapons


Warriors & Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated introductory guide to the many kinds of warriors you can create in Dungeons & Dragons, along with the weapons, armour, and adventuring gear that they’ll make use of. Featuring one-of-a-kind content and over sixty new illustrations, this book gives young adventurers the information and inspiration they need to create their own characters.

Warriors & Weapons begins with a quick introduction that makes it clear that this book is meant to help the reader and their friends make characters of their own. The rest of the book is divided into three major sections: fantasy races, character classes, and equipment. There’s a large array of fantasy races covered in this book — most I expected to see included, but a few were surprises that I knew of but didn’t expect to make the cut. Each race is covered in two side-by-side pages. It starts with new art and a few questions that can help kids figure out if they’ll like playing that race. You’ll also find information on their age, size, attributes, and a few paragraphs about the race and how they act or fit into the world. The races included in this book are human, dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, halfling, dragonborn, kenku, tabaxi, tiefling, and tortle.

Gnome

Warriors & Weapons is a book about warriors. It should come as no surprise then, that not all of the character classes are covered in this book. The martial classes are included. That means there are six classes covered in the chapter on classes: barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue. Each class entry contains a few questions that can help kids figure out if they would enjoy making a character of that class, information on the class, its major low level abilities, and the weapons, armour, and gear they’re capable of using. Many also include information on the various archetypes, paths, and specializations available to those classes. After each class entry is a two page spread that takes a look at a famous example of that character class. These ‘legendary heroes’ include Wulfgar the Warhammer, Bruenor Battlehammer, Whey-Shu, Redclay, Minsc the Mighty, and Shandie Freefoot. The class section also includes a little flowchart that can tell kids what class they’re most like, and a short section on character backgrounds, attire, details, inspiration, and flaws.

The Equipment section takes a quick look at weapons (swords, polearms, other melee weapons, ranged weapons, and special weapons), armour (light, medium, heavy, and shields), survival gear, adventuring gear, tools, and some special packs for more specialized endeavours (burglar’s pack, dungeoneer’s pack, explorer’s pack, and vampire hunter’s pack). All of the weapon and armour entries talk about the pros and cons of utilizing items of that types, and showcases a few popular versions. The other equipment entries talk about the purpose of different kinds of gear, being prepared for your adventures, and why selecting the right equipment for your character is important. Finally, this section also contains a quick monster entry about the terrifying… rust monster!

Survival Gear

The book ends with a few comments about how you can use your characters to tell stories of your own, and a quick blurb about Dungeons & Dragons and how to get involved in the game. Most of the information on these back few pages is the same as that contained at the end of Monsters & Creatures.

The verdict: 

My kids both adored this book. They love flipping through the races and classes, answering the questions, and making up characters. My daughter particularly enjoys the flowchart that helps you pick out the class you’re most like, and has spent a lot of time making up her own quizzes to determine our race and class. She often sits down beside me, flips open her book, and announces, “Mama! Pick a race!” I cannot stress enough how much she enjoys using this book to make characters and character concepts. My son really enjoys reading about the legendary heroes, with both of my kids agreeing Minsc the Mighty and his hamster Boo are the coolest characters in the book. (I’m pretty sure Boo the hamster would win in a popularity contest between the two of them around here, haha). When it comes down to it, I think they enjoy the sections on races and classes more than the section on equipment. Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.

My daughter: “I loved this book! Especially the little chart! It’s so much fun! It was a great book and I give it two thumbs up!”

My son: “Warriors & Weapons was pretty much as good as Monsters & Creatures, but I liked Monsters & Creatures better. I love how it lets you make your own characters with races and classes. The legendary characters were the coolest part. Especially Whey-Shu and Boo.”

“Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.”


My family and I had an absolute blast with these books. Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons have both been read a lot by my kids, and I expect them to continue to see heavy use in the future. My kids have already decided they would each like their own copies, so they’re saving up their money to pick up an extra copy of each book. We’re very excited to hear there’s more Young Adventurer’s Guides on the horizon, and will definitely be picking up a copy (or two) of Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells when they come out.

We’d like to give a special thanks to Penguin Randomhouse Canada for sending us advance copies for review.

Thanks for stopping by d20diaries! We’ll chat again soon.

Jessica