Dwarven Forge

I watched a strange little documentary last night on Netflix called Dwarvenaut that follows a little company called Dwarven Forge. Dwarven Forge isn’t new, they’ve been around for twenty years, in fact, but their product is new to me. They make game terrain. But not just any terrain! Oh, no. They make AMAZING game terrain.

The pieces look awesome, are easy to build with, are super durable and come entirely painted. The downside? Price! These are super expensive. Take into account the exchange rate and the absurd cost of delivery (they’re American, and I’m Canadian), and WOW! That is SO outside my budget.

Still, they look amazing. It’s definitely going on my Christmas List. Or birthday list. Or, the ‘when I win the lottery’ list…

My daughter and I spent a bit of this morning checking out their website, watching the videos and tutorials, and generally geeking out over them. Her solution? Buy them for my son for his birthday! Haha. Way to get what you want, without giving up your own gift, my dear!

Cheeky little thing.

You can check out these nifty products on their website: Dwarven Forge. Let me know what you think!

Already own some Dawrven Forge products? Cool! Let me know how you like it in the comments below!

Until next time,

Dream big!

Jessica

Iron Gods Adventure Path

As you may have already read, my husband and I are about to start a campaign for just the two of us, to play in the evenings when my children are going to bed. I own a lot of cool campaigns, but my husband has also played a lot of them. From among the ones he hasn’t played we debated for a while between two choices: Wrath of the Righteous and Iron Gods. In the end we chose Iron Gods.

So what IS Iron Gods, anyway?

Iron Gods is a six-part Pathfinder Adventure Path that fuses sci-fi and fantasy into one awesome campaign. Obviously a ton of inspiration spread out across all kinds of media that clearly influenced this campaign, but all in all if I had to name a few things this campaign feels like, I’d mention the Borderlands Video Games (Borderlands Triple Pack – PlayStation 3, Borderlands – Xbox 360), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Blu-ray), Outlander (the film about vikings and aliens, not the tv show about time travel) and the old classic: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This campaign has an aged, grungy sort of atmosphere about it, and does an excellent job of blending sci-fi themes and worn out advanced technology with typical fantasy fare. This campaign isn’t Starfinder, or some kind of new Sci-FI d20 game. It’s the Pathfinder you know and love, with a some sci-fi themes and loot mixed in for your players to encounter.

This campaign takes place in Numeria, a land of insular barbarians that was struck by strange objects falling from the sky in the distant past. These objects are considered cursed by locals, but are sources of wealth, wonder and knowledge to foreigners. Over time, scholars, treasure hunters and adventurers moved to Numeria, intent on taking all the relics from the sky as they could. Now, Numeria is run by the Black Sovereign, a barbarian King, and the Technic League, a group of unscrupulous, tyrannical scholars who are determined to keep all the lore and technology within the country to themselves. Within this volatile nation lays the town of Torch, the starting place of the campaign and home (or temporary home) to the PCs of Iron Gods.

Torch is known for its bright purple flame that burns constantly atop a massive hill the town is built around. This flame is perfect for smelting sky metals, and is the town’s major source of income and tourism. Recently, the Torch has sputtered out. Knowing this spells disaster for the town, various groups have looked into the matter and only one had any success: Khonnir Baine. Khonnir is a town councillor and wizard who returned a while ago with a deactivated robot he discovered under the town of Torch. Believing that the source of the purple flame also lay under the town, he dropped the robot off at his home and returned underground. He never came back. In desperation the town council has offered a sizeable reward to anyone who can restore the purple flames or find Khonnir Baine. And the PCs happen to be the next group to accept the challenge!

The way I see it, there’s two basic kinds of characters you can make for Iron Gods: characters who accept technology and characters who don’t. Characters who accept technology are probably going to be interested in using technology or figuring out how it works. Whatever their reasons for doing so–greed, curiosity, convenience–they’re the kind of character who’s going to pick up a laser gun and either use it or sell it. Characters that don’t accept technology are going to do the opposite. They’re not going to use the tech they find and chances are, they’re going to try to break it.

Obviously, for either type there’s a ton of characters you can make, and these characters are likely going to have different attitudes and outlooks regarding technology. But for us? We’re going to be a small party, so I would prefer to make a character with the same outlook as my husband. So what was he going to play? I’d have to wait and see…

I set about perusing the many classes archetypes and character options available to me and came up with a few ideas that really tickled my fancy.

First up? The sorcerer. A native Kellid who manifested a bloodline tainted by nanites, this sorceress would have been cast from her tribe when her powers manifested. Left to wander the wilds, she reached Torch and stayed out of desperation. Now working as a scrapper, this sorceress is strong and fit. She knows about technology and hates it with a passion, just as she hates her own powers. Bitter, rude and blunt, I would have a blast playing this character. The nanite bloodline has some cool powers. At low levels you can use the nanites inhabiting your body to coat your weapon and poison your enemies, or use the nanites to improve your skills. At later levels you can use the nanites to heal your own wounds, avoid critical hits, and even become a living swarm yourself. Cool!

Second, a character who loves technology so much it borders on worship. A cleric with the iron priest archetype. This character believes that the Rain of Stars which brought technology falling from the heavens was a divine event. The gods intended these objects as a gift for the people of our planet to use as they desire. You know that dirty, crazed weirdo sitting on the street corner preaching about the end times? THAT’S who this character would be. Minus the whole end-times thing. Haha. With the ability to cast make whole and greater make whole spontaneously, and the ability to channel energy that harms or heals constructs instead of undead, this would be one weird cleric. And if there’s anything I love playing, it’s an eccentric! Although worshipping Brigh would be tempting, I think I’d prefer to worship Nethys, and take both the Destruction and Protection domains, believing that the technology was a gift from Nethys–just another form of magic!

The third character concept I’m interested in is the gunslinger. more specifically, the tech slinger archetype. There’s not much description needed here, really. I mean, if you’re going to play a gunslinger, there’s no better time than during a game that’s bound to give out a few guns! The techslinger archetype swaps out some of the gunslinger’s deeds with new deeds that involve using technological guns and gear instead. It’s quirky, it’s thematic, and it’s a chance to finally play a gunslinger! I’m seriously tempted.

The fourth character concept I’m contemplating–possibly my favourite–is an investigator with the scavenger archetype. Scavenger’s make tiny gadgets to deliver their spells instead of brewing potions and extracts. They give up their poison abilities to get some cool thematic abilities that make them good at making, controlling, harming and healing constructs. Finally, instead of using their inspiration for free on knowledge checks, linguistics and spellcraft, they can use it for free on disable device, appraise and knowledge engineering. This archetype is just… awesome! I love the flavour and abilities and I think it would be a great fit for the town of Torch and the Iron Gods campaign as a whole.

But there’s one concept left I’m super excited for… A psychic! Psychic? Yup! More specifically, a psychic with the mindtech psychic discipline who specializes in using psi-tech. In short, this psychic can communicate with electronic machinery and technological devices. They can amplify and focus their powers through the technology around them, and can essentially mind-control constructs and override their programming at higher levels. There’s a host of cool psi-tech abilities which they can take in place of phrenic amplifications or feat, including the ability to shoot lasers, make force field, and even upload their consciousness into technological devices like robots in order to become an AI. Weird. Cool. Awesome. My only problem? Since Iron Gods doesn’t start with technology in the hands of its players, it could be a while before her powers see good use in the game.

So, while I contemplate my character options, I’ll give my player’s guide a read. I’ll crack open my adventure path volumes and ready the awesome Iron Gods Pawn Collection I got for Christmas.

Let me know your thoughts on Iron Gods and your character ideas below! I’d love to hear them!

Jessica


Sources and Products

Iron Gods is a six part Pathfinder adventure path by Paizo Publishing. The Player’s Guide is a free download, available here. The campaign consists of: Part 1 – Fires of CreationPart 2 – Lords of RustPart 3 – The Choking TowerPart 4 – Valley of the Brain CollectorsPart 5 – Palace of Fallen Stars, and Part 6 – The Divinity Drive. The entire campaign is easy to get your hands on, and each volume is available (at the time of writing this blog post) for between $20 and $30 Canadian on Amazon. There’s plenty of supplemental material written for the campaign, two of which I highly recommend: Iron Gods Pawn Collection, which has a ton of unique pawns for use in this campaign, and The Technology Guide, a book which is packed full with rules and loot you’ll be using throughout the course of the Iron Gods Adventure Path, and some nifty archetypes. Although the Pawn Collection is a steal of a deal, the Technology Guide is currently out of print and costs a pretty penny. It’s available for much cheaper as a PDF download on Paizo’s website, here.

What classes did I talk about today? Clerics and sorcerers are from the Core Rulebook or the Core Rulebook (Pocket Edition). Gunslingers are from Ultimate Combat. Investigators are from the Advanced Class Guide and the Psychic is from Occult Adventures.

The nanite bloodline is from People of the River, a book about the River Kingdoms and Numeria and the people who live there. The iron priest archetype for clerics was published in The Technology Guide, as was the techslinger archetype for gunslingers. Scavenger was from Blood of the Beast, a wonderful little player’s book about animal-inspired races including catfolk, grippli, kitsune, ratfolk and more. Finally, the mindtech discipline for psychics is from Occult Realms.

 

Maps, Jzadirune and Laundry–Oh My!

Another weekend has come and gone, and this one was busy! Between swimming classes, birthday parties, errands, and the weekly trip to the laundromat, there wasn’t much time for other activities. We played some board games with my daughter, my son started work on an ambitious dinosaur puzzle, and I posted in the horde of play-by-post games I’m involved in.

My family and I had a bit of time to play Shackled City. Aeris, Mick, Falco and Rabbity headed deep underground through forgotten secret passages and stairwells with Patch and Keygan (very unenthusiastically) accompanying them. They stepped foot into Jzadirune and explored a strange room where they heard birds chirping, gnomes laughing, and felt a breeze blowing on their skin. Massive masks hung on the walls. As they moved into to illusion-draped room to look around they discovered two strange doors–like giant gears that roll into the walls, these were the Doors with Teeth. My children were thrilled! But seeing a glimmer of light coming from the cracks around one of the doors, Aeris and Mick went to peek inside, while Falco moved deeper into the room.

Suddenly the masks on the wall began to sing, welcoming them to Jzadirune and warning them against pilfering. Although my kids loved it, and asked me to sing the song to them over and over, it wasn’t so great for their characters. The illusory song caused the figures beyond the lit door to notice the heroes. Quickly camouflaging themselves, the skulks vanished. They lay in wait to ambush the PCs, but after only one round of battle they ran off, deeper into Jzadirune through makeshift, rough tunnels that had been drilled through the walls.

Our heroes gave chase, engaging in a series of skirmishes against a pair of skulks. Eventually they came to a room with a strange mechanical construct in it, clearly the source of the roughly drilled tunnels. There a dark creeper ordered the construct to attack the intruders, in gnome. Mick laughed and told it to stop. The pair argued and bickered, giving the construct contrary orders until the creeper gave up and fled. Mick was thrilled with his new, neat, half-broken construct, and the group was off again, charging blindly through the tunnels, deeper into Jzadirune.

One battle into this place and they’re already super lost! Haha. But by then we were out of time, so further exploration would have to wait. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

In other news, Pathfinder recently announced a new product coming out soon. A new style of flip map tiles, which honestly look awesome. Similar to their old flip-tiles, these are double-sided, can be used with dry erase markers, and connect wonderfully to one another. The differences are in size (these are a bit bigger, and are square), and in number (these have a whopping 42 tiles per pack, as compared to the old ones which had  18). The tiles look great, and I’m curious to see how they’ll look and handle in person. The map tiles are due out in April.

PZO9488The other exciting release is for a book called ‘Disciple’s Doctrine‘ Like the other ‘Faith’ books before it (Faiths of Balance, Faiths of Purity, Faiths of Corruption, Faiths & Philosophies, etc.), this book is a soft cover intended for players that takes a look at a dozen complex philosophies that are found throughout Golarion. Including the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, Magnimar’s mystery cults, and the Oracular Council of Po Li, this book is filled with a wide variety of doctrines. The one I’m most excited for? The Prophets of Kalistrade! FINALLY! What are they? I have no idea! What I do know? They’ve been name-dropped since way back in the first Pathfinder release, they’re important, they follow strange taboos, they wear white and gold, they wear gloves, and they like making money. Anything else? Nope! I’ve got no clue! I’ve been curious about this ‘faith’ for years, so I’m excited to find out. Like all the player intended soft covers, this book has a lot of traits, feats, spells and archetypes in it to make use of. I’m curious to see what it contains!

One final bit of excitement happened around my house this week. My husband decided he’d like to play a campaign with just me and him. So I named him the ones I have that he hasn’t played (not a very long list, haha) and he thought about it for a while. He narrowed it down quick, but was torn between Wrath of the Righteous and Iron Gods. So while he debates between two awesome campaigns, I’m going to crack out my first volume of each and give them a reread. It never hurts to be prepared!

That’s all for today. Thanks for checking in with us here at d20 Diaries. We’ll talk again soon.

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Reign of Winter: Part One (ish)

d20 gaming happens plenty in my house, but Friday nights is special. Friday night is for adults only! While my kids and my brother’s kids run around, eat popcorn and have a movie night together, we parents play some Pathfinder. If all four of us are free we play Mummy’s Mask, and if only three of us are free we play Reign of Winter.

And this week? Reign of Winter.



The Campaign

Reign of Winter is a six-volume Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo Publishing. The campaign begins in the village of Heldren in the nation of Taldor during mid-summer. A blizzard appears out of nowhere, blanketing the nearby Border Wood with snow. When a wounded caravan guard delirious with frost-bite and fatigue staggers into town telling crazy stories about ice fairies, mass slaughter, and a kidnapped noblewoman, the village leaders urge the PCs to investigate his claims. Tasked with finding the missing noblewoman, discovering what happened to the guard’s caravan, and investigating the cause of this unnatural winter, the heroes set out to the Border Wood. Deep in its depths they discover a magical portal to the frozen land of Irrisen, whose supernatural winter will soon engulf all of Golarion unless the PCs can discover the fate of the otherworldly witch Baba Yaga. But following her trail of bread crumbs will take them far from home… Through the eternally frozen lands of Irrisen, and into even stranger lands beyond.

Though the premise is simple–find Baba Yaga and end this unnatural winter before it freezes the whole world–this campaign has a ton of twists, turns, and surprises. Each and every adventure in the series is well-written, fast-paced, and loads of fun. It features a lot of awesome locations, some of which are bound to take your players completely by surprise (parts four and five, here’s looking at you!). One of my favourite parts? Reign of Winter doesn’t always assume what your players do. It leaves it up to them. Although they have destinations to reach and a task that must be completed in each volume to keep them working towards their goals, how they go about achieving it, and who they decide to help or hinder is almost always up to them. This is awesome to see in an adventure path, and really lets the player’s be in control of their destiny, despite being in a pretty tight, ‘on-the-rails’ style of campaign.

In terms of supplemental material, this campaign works well with nearly everything Pathfinder. It’s particularly well-suited to the addition of occult classes and mythic tiers. Surprisingly, gunslingers will also have some distinct advantages during part of the campaign. The only class I don’t recommend is the paladin. Although mechanically they will have a ton of opportunity to shine, and they’re not forced to commit evil acts, the players will not always be able to fight the evil they see. In addition, this campaign’s major goal is to find and save Baba Yaga, an evil witch of tremendous power. Most paladin’s would have a hard time justifying this. Although it can be done, this campaign is much more enjoyable for everyone involved without being constrained by such a strict moral code.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is almost entirely a cold-weather campaign. Your characters will need to find ways to deal with the winter’s chill as soon as possible. But, that doesn’t limit character choices. In fact, as much as playing winter-themed characters can be fun, it’s more beneficial to go in the opposite direction. You are fighting against winter’s spread, after all. In a practical sense, many creatures native to frozen climates have resistances to the cold and weaknesses to heat. Preparation and adaptation to the cold is more important than being at home in cold climates.

I have read a lot of adventures and campaigns over the years, and I can honestly say that Reign of Winter is one of my all-time favourites. Top three, for sure! If you ever get the chance to play, read or run it, I highly encourage you to do so!


The Characters

My group of players for Reign of Winter is incredibly small. I GM it, while my husband and my brother play it. That’s it. Three people, with a two-person party. Obviously, this brings up some challenges, which will be discussed later. But for now, let’s meet the heroes of my Reign of Winter Campaign: Huxley Rangvald and Aesir Havelok.

Aesir Havelok

KRIS
Art chosen to represent Aesir Havelok. For artist information check out Kimberly80 on deviantart.

Aesir Havelok is a hunter and fisherman of Ulfen descent. During the summer months he lives in the Taldan town of Heldren. During the fall he travels north by ship to meet up with his cousins, and during the winter months he joins his cousins in their longboats, hunting great sea-beasts. He is a cleric of the agathion Ylimancha, the neutral good empyreal lord of seafarers, coastal waters, and creatures that fly. Aesir is particularly good with a bow, and has a way with animals. In addition to summoning creatures to aid him in combat he began the campaign with two beloved pets: his dog, Bjorn, and his seahawk, Bronna. Along the way he also became the proud master of a combat-trained warhorse, Ulbricht, and a wild, giant weasel, Brigga. For a time he was master of a glorious white stag he dubbed Loki.

Aesir is friendly and likeable, but not around Heldren much. He’s not quite considered a local, and is more of a welcome outsider. He’s brave and bold, and tries to inspire others to be the same. He dreams of hunting epic sea monsters, and making a name for himself that his ancestors and future descendants can be proud of! Aesir is my brother’s character.

Huxley Rangvald

Mike
Art chosen to represent Huxley Rangvald. Art is by Kent Hamilton, features the Iconic Occultist Mavaro, and is from Pathfinder’s Monster Hunter’s Handbook

Huxley Rangvald is a man of contrasts. Raised in a museum with an Ulfen father who longs for adventure, a Taldan mother with a head for business, and a horde of siblings and cousins, Huxley has become a fusion of cultures. Descended from an Ulfen warrior who once protected Taldan royalty and earned all the wealth he could carry as his pay for a decade’s work, Huxley’s great-grandfather used his eye for quality to fill his arms and backpack with priceless relics, valuable antiques and historic artifacts. But instead of heading home, he founded a museum, married a wealthy woman and lived a life of leisure.

Huxley himself grew up well-educated and wanting for nothing. But, living among the relics of legends and heroes, surrounded by history, he yearned to do more. He loves hunting for relics and bargaining for new acquisitions, and has managed to expand his family’s collection tremendously. Huxley is an occultist who uses historic artifacts to unlock and channel his own psychic powers. He is my husband’s character.



The Story so Far…

My group is currently on book one of Reign of Winter, The Snows of Summer. Having set out from the town of Heldren into the Border Wood, the duo fought against strange creatures, frigid icy fey, and the ever-encroaching cold to rescue a missing noblewoman from a group of bandits. But clues discovered in the forest led them to believe that the source of the arctic weather lay within the woods itself. After returning the noblewoman to Heldren and resupplying, Huxley and Aesir returned to the depths of the frozen woods and travelled to its centre, deep in the Somir Valley. Along the way they met a strange doll in a small house within a haunted ice maze. Made from the soul of a child by someone foul, the doll seemed an oddity at first. But as the doll began to act of its own volition, they believed it was haunted, and finally, alive. Aesir though it was creepy and should be destroyed, but Huxley thought it was amazing! He treated the doll kindly and befriended her, learning that her name was Thora. With the creepy doll in Huxley’s care they soldiered on. The cold intensified, and more strange creatures foreign to the woods appeared. After combating terrifying foes amidst a howling blizzard they followed the impossible storm to its centre and found a portal. Suddenly the doll screamed and fought like crazy to prevent them from entering.

Guardian Doll port final
Thora the Guardian Doll. Art by Miguel Regodon for Paizo Publishing.

Huxley had learned much about the doll during the journey, not only from speaking with her, but from examining her with his occultist abilities and vast arcana knowledge. He knew that whoever had killed the human Thora had captured and used it’s soul to create a dangerous construct known as a guardian doll. Such dolls much follow their creators commands, and can be given tasks to carry out, but are intelligent and cunning. In addition, they lash out against those that they loved in life. But, the dolls are still influenced by the soul used to create them, and as evil as its commands might be, the child inside the doll–little Thora–was a good girl. Huxley had finally discovered the dolls purpose: to prevent anyone from approaching the portal. Knowing Thora would attack them to the best of her ability, he bound her and blindfolded her, and stuffed her inside his bag. Although it was cruel, he hoped that upon leaving the portal behind, the doll would no longer be compelled to harm him. Then her actions would be her own again.

And if she still wanted to harm him? Well, that was her right. He did tie her up and stuff her in a bag….

Just as they were about to approach the portal a nearby tree moved, revealing itself to be a moss troll, the final guardian of the strange portal. Dealing with Thora and the troll at the same time proved a challenge, but Huxley and Aesir triumphed and moved to examine the portal. Huxley determined that the portal was the cause of the unnatural winter, and by closing it they could return the local weather to normal. Unfortunately, the source of the portal wasn’t here, it was on the other side of the portal. Knowing they would be stuck on the other side, wherever that was, they decided to pass through. Only to have something come out of the portal!

A tall figure in black armour, bleeding from many wounds, and clearly near death. The armoured knight removed his helmet and fell into the snow, revealing himself to be an incredibly old man. But this was no mortal… This was Dark Midnight, the Black Rider and one of three Heralds of Baba Yaga’s return. As he was dying, the man drew the others to him and imparted upon them both wisdom and knowledge.

Every hundred years the Great Witch, Baba Yaga, returns to her country of Irrisen to place a new daughter upon the throne. But this year, something went wrong. Queen Elvanna, ruler of Irrisen, did not wish to give her throne to another. Forgetting that the throne was not hers to give, it was Baba Yaga’s, Elvanna set out to kill the Heralds of her return, kill all those loyal to Baba Yaga, and take the entirety of Golarion as her throne. To this end, she has placed magical portals throughout the world, with the intent of spreading endless winter across the globe. Millions will perish, and Elvanna will rule over the frozen world that remains.

The source of this portal was close, within a few days travel once they passed through the portal, in a place called the Pale Tower, but the other portals throughout the world? They were farther, and they were many. Huxley and Aesir would not be able to shut them all down alone, and with even one remaining, the eternal grip of winter would continue to spread.

But Dark Midnight offered them hope.

Baba Yaga is always prepared for betrayal. She set a contingency in place–left a trail of breadcrumbs for the Herald’s to follow. But death was coming for the last of her Heralds, and the PCs would have to take up his cause. After saving their home by destroying the portal in the Pale Tower, they would need to travel to Whitethrone, the capital of Irrisen. There Queen Elvanna had imprisoned Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut as a symbol of her power. If they could free the Hut and step inside they could travel anywhere–even across planes and to other worlds. But to do so they needed the keys to the hut. Objects mundane in appearance but attuned to different locations. Combining these objects provides navigational direction for the Hut to follow. Elvanna had deactivated the keys, but Baba Yaga had already placed a few keys in hiding for her Heralds to find, and Dark Midnight has done so. With these keys, they can follow Baba Yaga’s trail, rescue her from whatever prison she is trapped in, so that Baba Yaga can destroy the portals–all of them.

But Baba Yaga has a way of testing even those who she desires to aid. The keys are but the first in a series of trials. Where they will take the heroes, Dark Midnight doesn’t know, but he does know that there will be more. More keys to find, more clues to follow, and more trials to face. In the end, they will find Baba Yaga and Baba Yaga will put an end to Elvanna’s foolishness. But until then, they would need a final boon from him. For only Baba Yaga and her Heralds can enter the Dancing Hut. To save their world, they would need to become Her Herald in Dark Midnight’s place. They would need to usher in the return of Baba Yaga.

They hesitated only a moment. Huxley needed no incentive to accept a mission involving a MAGICAL LEGENDARY HUT! While Aesir was bound by honour to save the town of Heldren. Accepting Dark Midnight’s offer, the Herald gave them the keys to the hut, and then passed onto them, his powers. The man in the armour had died. But Dark Midnight lived. Huxley Rangvald and Aesir Havelock took on the mantle and responsibilities of the Black Rider, and with it came great power. They achieved their first mythic tier, and charged through the portal only to come out… in Irrisen.

Eventually, Thora stopped screaming and trying to murder Huxley, which made him very happy, but he did not release her from the bag. Not yet. He needed to be sure she was under no further orders before allowing her more freedom.

Nadya Petska.
Nadya Petska, from Reign of Winter Part One: The Snows of Summer.

In time they heard screams on the wind, and hurried off to find the source. Finding a caravan of dogsleds and their riders under attack by a massive praying mantis–a creature native to the Border Wood back in Taldor. Huxley and Aesir helped fight the beast off and introduced themselves to the people they had saved. Turns out it was a group of importers, returning to the nearby town of Waldsby after weeks away acquiring supplies. They thanked Huxley and Aesir, but had no time for chatting. A storm was coming, and they hoped to reach shelter before becoming trapped in it. Together, they all rode off. But they could not outrun the storm. It came upon them before arriving in Waldsby, and they sought shelter in a cave. There they settled in for the night and had a chance to socialize. Huxley and Aesir shared their tale, and their goal to visit the Pale Tower to save their town, but left out all mention of Thora, Dark Midnight and being Heralds of Baba Yaga.

The caravan was run by a woman by the name of Nadya. It had once been her husband’s business, but his death a few years ago left her in charge of the supply runs. Her husband’s business partner and good friend, Laszlo, stayed on to help her, and was here as well. The third member of their group was Inuq, a foreign woman who was the owner, breeder, and trainer of the dogs they used to pull the sleds, as well as owner of the sleds themselves. Typically, the three were the only ones in the caravan, but this last run had been long, and a few more hands had volunteered to join them. Laszlo’s son, Andrei, who had almost been eaten by the mantis, and Nicholai, Nadya’s neighbour, who was a friendly fellow, but didn’t seem comfortable this far from town. As the night wore on, they settled in to sleep, only to have a visitor arrive–a forlarren musician on her way from Waldsby to the Pale Tower. The group begrudgingly let the fey join them in the cave, but clearly the mood was tense. Nadya covered for Huxley and Aesir, lying about their purpose and claiming they were distant relatives of hers. They went along with the lies, knowing something was off, and managed to avoid confrontation with the ice fey. But as she played some local music for the group, she watched the PCs keenly, curious if they knew the words and clearly trying to discover what part of their tale was lies.

Lazlo Negevi
Art chosen to represent Laszlo Negevi, Nadya’s business partner.

The evening was tense, but in time everyone went to sleep. When they awoke it was to the sounds of Nadya screaming in pain. Something had hurt her! Huxley and Aesir charged in to see what had happened to find the forlarren gone, and Nadya wounded from intense cold–a magical spell most likely. The group muttered and worried over the attack, and wondered how the forlarren could slip away so quickly, but Huxley felt a nagging worry. He checked his bag to find Thora there, but unbound, and her tiny footprints heading toward Nadya’s tent. At the back he found a small section of canvas cut away by a sharp object, just large enough for a doll to peek through.

It wasn’t the forlarren that had attacked Nadya. It was Thora. But why?

Huxley kept this news to himself and chatted with the others. They set out for the day and Huxley continued his prying. Eventually he discovered that Nadya had three children. Two boys and a girl named Thora. While Nadya was away on a supply run the Lady of the Pale Tower and her Guard had come through Waldsby on a surprise visit. Thora had been heard making a joke about the witch, and dragged back to the Pale Tower as a prisoner. Her babysitter, Nicholai and his wife, was distraught, and told Nadya what had happened as soon as she returned home. Nadya rode for the Pale Tower, begging for her daughter back, and was promised that if she could bring back more than double her typical shipment of goods to the Pale Tower, her daughter would be released. Nadya agreed and hurried back to Waldsby. Laszlo and Inuq prepared to join her, but to bring back double would be a long trip, and they would need more sleds. Inuq had plenty of sleds and dogs, but they would need others to drive them. Nicholai volunteered out of guilt, knowing that little Thora had been in his care. Laszlo’s son volunteered out of pride and excitement, hoping to join his father on an important journey. Now Nadya was returning to Waldsby, and then on to the Pale Tower to get Thora back.

Inuq (Dogbreeder)
Art chosen to represent Inuq, a Varki dogbreeder.

But she wouldn’t get Thora back, would she? For the witch of the Pale Tower, Nazhena Vassiovna, had killed Thora, captured her soul, and turned her into a guardian doll, sending her through the portal to the Border Wood to stalk and kill all who attempted passage.

Huxley had Thora. And as a guardian doll, Thora would be compelled to lash out and kill all those who she had loved in life. Including her mother, Nadya, and her brothers… Worrying over what to do, Huxley kept his theories (and Thora) to himself. The journey continued, and they triumphed over the dangers of the frozen woods and plains.

But as Walsby came into sight, Huxley made a decision. Taking Nadya aside he told her about Thora’s death, and her rebirth as a doll. Nadya didn’t believe him, and was angry, but as Huxley pulled out Thora, Nadya broke down in tears. The doll wore her daughter’s clothes, and her daughter’s real hair had been used in the doll’s creation. After crying over the fate of her child, Nadya lashed out at the doll, tossing it into the snow. That abomination wasn’t her daughter. Her daughter was dead. That thing needed to be destroyed.

Aesir agreed, but Huxley and Inuq did not. And as Huxley cradled little Thora in his arms, he vowed he would not let anyone harm the girl, whatever form she might be in. Meanwhile, Aesir convinced Nadya that they would seek vengeance against the White Witches on Nadya’s behalf–or alongside her, if she desired.

Setting out to Waldsby with grim determination, the group entered town in order to resupply and rest. Huxley and Aesir would set out for the Pale Tower the next morning, with–hopefully–someone to guide them there.

But Waldsby was not what they expected. It was strange. A mirror image of Heldren in both layout, and its citizens, Aesir and Huxley were both creeped out. They resupplied and socialized, but found the people here hard, and cold where the citizens of Heldren had been welcoming and warm. Huxley determined that the two towns likely lay along the same ley lines, which made the town connected by both magic and psychic powers despite the distance between them. Things occurring in one place would echo across the ley lines and affect the other. Intrigued, Huxley explored the town. Although they made a few friends, more often than not these interactions ended poorly.  In the end they decided to leave their animals in Inuq’s care for the night, and sleep in Laszlo’s tiny house.

But the evening was interrupted by the sounds of guards approaching. The Pale Tower Guard were here! Deciding they didn’t want Laszlo to be punished for harbouring them, Huxley and Aesir slipped out a back window and waltzed into the town square. They were immediately approached by the Pale Tower Guard who ordered them to see their commander for questioning. Aesir loudly refused, causing a loud ruckus. Although both groups resorted to intimidation and threats for a while, it ended with violence. Aesir and Huxley defeated the first few guards, but more were on the way. Aesir whistled for his animals, and Huxley used his magic and sword skills. But soon the rest of the Pale Guard were upon them–all nine–as well as their Sergeant. The battle was hard, but together, the group triumphed. With the bodies of the Pale Tower Guard around them, bleeding in the streets, Nadya insisted they leave. More guards would come, and if they were to get vengeance for the death of her daughter, they would need to leave now. Inuq and Laszlo also offered to join Aesir and Huxley on their battle at the Pale Tower.

While Huxley stripped the dying guards of their gear, and the townsfolk yelled at the outsiders to leave, Aesir called the town to arms. Surely SOME amongst the citizens of Waldsby would fight back against the oppression of the Pale Tower Guard and the White Witches? Some seemed convinced, and to these people he bestowed the weapons and gear of the Pale Tower Guard. These people would be the town’s defenders!

Huxley was pretty sure these people would die.

With all the goods they could carry, Huxley, Aesir, and Aesir’s many pets set out with Inuq, Nadya and Laszlo by dogsled to the Pale Tower. The time had come to destroy the winter portal, kill Thora’s murderer and save the town of Heldren.

If they can…



The other side of the screen: 

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

So what’s different in this session?

At its core? A bit. In the details? A lot.

For starters, it’s NOT expected that anyone will try to keep the soul bound doll containing Thora’s soul as a companion. Most groups would have left the creepy doll alone. Those that understood what she was would likely consider destroying the soul gem inside her a way to set Thora’s soul free into the afterlife–which it is. Even those groups who kept her with them for a while would likely turn on the doll the first time she tries to attack, harm or hinder the group.

Mine didn’t. No matter how many times the Thora doll tried to hurt, enchant or thwart the PCs progress, Huxley was there to stop her non-violently. He understood Thora, her impulses and her limitations. Plus, she’s a freaking magical doll! Huxley LOVES things like that. This meant that I had to put a lot of thought into what exactly, Thora’s orders were, who she was compelled to listen to, and who she was compelled to attempt to kill if she met them. It’s also important to keep in mind that guardian dolls are subtle, disturbing creatures–not straight up combatants. This turned out to be great fun, and through it all, Huxley still managed to keep her. How much longer he’ll manage when Thora’s mother is travelling alongside them–a person she is compelled to murder–we’ll see. But honestly? I’m rooting for Huxley and Thora! If they can get her through the Pale Tower, destroy her creator and keep her away from the people she loved in life, Thora has an opportunity for growth and a second chance at life. And if they can’t? It will be a heart-breaking climax to a budding friendship between a creepy soul-bound doll and a kindly eccentric.

The second minor change to this campaign so far, was characters. There’s a great primer in the Snows of Summer for both Heldren and Waldsby, which can be used to great effect in the campaign. It’s honestly my two of my very favourite towns to play in. If done well, it will be both memorable and disconcerting for your players. To compliment this collection of quirky townsfolk, everyone was given face pictures to represent them, and characters who had no names (like Nadya’s four helpers) were given identities, personalities and families. Of all the townsfolk in the campaign so far, my players have felt the most connection with Yuln Oerstag, the wounded caravan guard who initially set the PCs out on adventure back in Heldren; Nadya Petska, Thora’s mother and the importer destined to be your guide to the Pale Tower; Laszlo, Nadya’s business partner and a grizzled old hunter; and Inuq, the Varki dog breeder who supplies Nadya with her dogs and dogsleds. Of these, only the first two had names and images in the published adventure.

The major change I instituted was the mantle of Dark Midnight. In the book, accepting the position as a Herald of Baba Yaga grants you a permanent increase to an ability score, a few boons that will come up throughout the campaign (like the ability to enter the Dancing Hut) and a compulsion that makes your characters want to save Baba Yaga. However, shortly after the printing of this book, Mythic Adventures was released. In fact, Baba Yaga herself was one of the first stat blocks I had ever seen printed who had mythic tiers. Taking into consideration that I had a group of only TWO characters, I decided that this would be a great time to try out the mythic rules in one of our campaigns. And thus, taking on the mantle of the Black Rider granted the PCs their first mythic tier. Throughout the course of the campaign I expect them to get a few more. I’m very excited to see how this change affects the campaign. I think it’s going to be a wonderful fit!

Reign of Winter is a six part Adventure Path by Paizo Publishing.  It’s player’s guide is available as a free download here. The first volume, The Snows of Summer, is currently out of print and can only be found for a lot of money on Amazon. However, it is available for much cheaper as a PDF download on Paizo’s website, here. The other volumes in this series are all quite affordable on Amazon, at around fifteen to twenty-five dollars (Canadian) each, which is an awesome deal! For those of you interested, the rest of the Adventure Path includes, Part 2 – The Shackled HutPart 3 – Maiden, Mother, CronePart 4 – The Frozen StarsPart 5 – Rasputin Must Die, and Part 6 – The Witch Queen’s Revenge. To further complement this awesome adventure path quite a few game supplements were released. I highly recommend picking up the Reign of Winter Pawn Collection. It’s a steal of a deal, and provides a bunch of unique minis to use in the campaign.


That’s all for now! Thanks for joining us on our continuing adventures in the Reign of Winter Adventure Path. This one’s going to be a wild ride!

What do you think of the campaign? Is it one you’d like to play in? More importantly, what would you PLAY if given the chance to make a character for Reign of Winter? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Shackled City: Game Aids (Parts One & Two)

Looking for Game Aids related to the Shackled City Adventure Path? Look no further! What follows is a compiling of the player’s handouts, and necessary maps for the beginning of the first adventure in the series, Life’s Bazaar.

If you haven’t read about our ongoing adventures in the Shackled City, check out our characters in this blog post, our first session here, and our second session here.

Enjoy!


The Riddle

Given to the group by Jenya Urikas of the local Church of Abadar, this riddle is the result of divinations that enquired “Where are the children who were taken from the Lantern Street Orphanage?”

The riddle reads:

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

You can also find an image of it here.



The Abduction Victims

There have been a lot of missing people in Cauldron over the last few months. And whether your player’s get a list of them from the town guard or the Church of Abadar, they’re sure to ask an important question: “Who exactly went missing?” Be sure to look through this listing ahead of time and choose a few people on it that a PC or two knows either well, or in passing. Perhaps an old friend, a co-worker, or a shopkeep whose store closed suddenly. The missing persons are:

Tiervan Wispwort – male gnome, age 91: A local alchemist, lived with two cats and ran a marginally successful business. Disappeared from his home 88 nights ago.

Jorl Seerkin – male gnome, age 72: A law clerk who worked for a local gnome barrister named Aeryk Gylbar. Disappeared from his home 83 nights ago.

Azmi Dresker – female human, age 19: A known prostitute who plied her trade at the Slippery Eel Tavern, she disappeared from her residence 81 nights ago. She and a coworker, Shellen Rycah, rented the house from an old woman named Martira Hathaway, who was asleep in the house that night and didn’t hear or see anything.

Shellen Rycah – female human, age 20: Another prostitute who frequented the Slippery Eel Tavern and shared a house with coworker Azmi (above) and their landlord. Disappeared 81 nights ago.

Krylscar Endercott – male human, age 24: Kicked out of the local militia for drunk and disorderly conduct, he vanished from his parents’ home 74 nights ago. Neither parent saw or heard anything suspicious, but they believe Krylscar may have robbed them and fled town in disgrace.

Callum Sunnyrush – male halfling, age 37: He groomed horses and ponies for the Lathenmire noble family. He vanished from his room at the Laughing Horse Inn 69 nights ago.

Gryffon Malek – male human, age 33: He worked as a barkeep at the Tipped Tankard Tavern. Disappeared 66 days ago, three days before his planned wedding to tavern barmaid Imelie Deranti.

Szordra Callagher – female human, age 35: A self-proclaimed sage, she ran her own small bookstore. She was last seen 60 nights ago by her 18 year old son, Leagan, a mason’s apprentice.

Tembor Kalavan – male human, age 25: A local minstrel of some repute, he vanished 52 nights ago from his room at the Laughing Horse Inn.

Irruth Mercadi – female human, age 36: A local chandler who disappeared from the apartment above her shop 47 nights ago.

Deven Myrzal – male human, age 18: A lamplighter who vanished 45 nights ago. Guards found his pole (used to unhook lanterns) in the street a few blocks from his home (which was not robbed).

Jeneer Everdawn – female halfling, age 42: A jeweler’s apprentice who did volunteer work at Bluecrater Academy. She disappeared 40 nights ago.

Lorthan Ironfold – male dwarf, age 125: A skilled cartwright. He and his wife, Sondor, vanished from their home 35 nights ago.

Sondor Ironfold – female dwarf, age 127: Wife of Lorthan (above). Assists her husband in his labours.

Rikaldo Veskar – human male, age 34: His ransacked home contained blood droplets and blood-encrusted knives—not surprising as he works as a skinner. He disappeared 31 nights ago.

Lestor Coldwater – male human, age 22: A trained scribe and struggling poet. He and his girlfriend, Jelluth, vanished from her home 26 nights ago. His home was no robbed.

Jelluth Sirlana – female half-elf, age 33: A struggling shoemaker who inherited her father’s failing business. She vanished (along with Lestor, above) from her home 26 nights ago.

Elethor Ashstaff – male half-elf, age 58: A wizard and trickster who occasionally performed minor feats of prestidigitation at birthday parties for upper-class children. A dead rat—possibly his faimliar—was found in his home. He vanished 22 nights ago.

Maple – female halfling, age 32: Last name unknown. Rumoured to be associated with the Alleybashers (a small street gang). She disappeared 18 nights ago.

Corystan Pike – female human, age 35: A retired adventurer who was living on stolen loot. She walked with a cane and disappeared from her modest home 16 days ago.

Jasper Drundlesput – male gnome, age 74: A reclusive and eccentric mathematician who worked at Bluecrater Academy. Believed to have vanished 9 days ago. Pieces of parchment covered with numbers and symbols litter the floor of this ransacked house.

Deakon Stormshield – male dwarf, age 20: A bright dwarf, Deakon was taken from the Lantern Street Orphanage three nights ago. he orphanage took him in when he was six years old when his parents failed to return from an adventure.

Evelyn Radavec – female human, age 9: A quiet, sullen girl, she was taken from the Lantern Street Orphanage three nights ago. Her father and mother succumbed to the filth fever plague that struck Cauldron seven years ago.

Lucinda Aldreen – female human, age 8: A gregarious but superstitious child given to the Lantern Street Orphanage at age four by her poverty-stricken mother. Lucinda was abducted three nights ago.

Terrem Kharatys – male human, age 9: A dour and temperamental lad taken from the Lantern Street Orphanage three nights ago. His parents died shortly after his birth (circumstances unknown).


Ghelve’s Locks

Ghelve’s Locks is the first major location that has a map in the Shackled City Adventure Path. For information on the rooms and building, check out the adventure itself. The hardcover edition is available here, while the first adventure in the adventure path, Life’s Bazaar is available here. You can find the map for Ghelve’s Locks here.


The Map of Jzadirune

The final player’s handout we’ve come across so far, is an old map of Jzadirune. This image is for giving directly to your players! Let them pore over it all they like. It’s no longer accurate anyway…


That’s all the player’s handouts we have for you today. See you again soon!

Jessica

shackled city adventure path player handourts

Shackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait… What?

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

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

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

The plot thickens!

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

Keygan Ghelve
Keygan Ghelve. Official Shackled City artwork.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish them luck!

shackled city player handouts


The other side of the screen: 

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

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

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

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


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

Jessica

 

Shackled City: Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The young priest begged for help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer came back in prose:

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

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

The characters conferred amongst themselves for a moment…

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

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

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

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

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

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

They had a lot to contemplate…



Note from a GM:

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

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

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

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


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

Jessica