Signs in Senghor: Part One

Big news around my house today! Some new Pathfinder Society Scenarios just released and one of them–Signs in Senghor–is written by my brother.

That’s right! Exciting!

For those of you who don’t know, the Pathfinder Society is a world-wide organized play program. It’s like playing Pathfinder in short sessions with a rotating group of people. All of your characters are members of the Pathfinder Society, which is like a organization of adventurers, explorers, scholars and archaeologists. You just make your character by following the Pathfinder Society Guidelines, take your nifty character and all their paperwork with you to your local game shop, a convention, or to play with your pals, and play a game together. One person GMs, as normal, but they have to use specific, short affordable (five bucks and under!) adventures, called scenarios–and follow them. After a few hours your session’s over, you fill out some more paperwork and show up again whenever you find the time. The GM sends records of the game to Paizo, and voila! Game done. You and some fellow Pathfinders completed a mission together. Maybe you’ll play with those people and their characters again, and maybe you’ll play with a whole new group.

Now, I’ve never played a PFS scenario in person before. Recently, however, I got addicted to Paizo’s message boards. Here, you can play by post. Join the message boards and play your characters–for regular Pathfinder or for PFS–online by posting their actions with your gaming group. Once you find a gaming group, that is. Although competition’s tight for most play-by-post campaigns, it’s quite easy to join a PFS game. They’re short, fun, and you get to play with people from all over the world. It’s a blast.

But, back to the topic at hand: my brother!

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Of Kirin and Kraken‘ by Kris Leonard. Pathfinder Society Scenario for tier 7-11

Now, this isn’t the first PFS scenario my brother’s written for Paizo. He wrote one other back in Season Six. Of Kirin and Kraken. Intended for play between levels 7 and 11, I haven’t had a chance to play it yet. As a newcomer to the Pathfinder Society I’ve got a bunch of characters, all still enjoying their first level. I’ve a long way to go before I can play through that beauty! So I read it, instead. A lot. Involving ancient sunken ruins, a magical instrument, weird cultists, a tribe of boggards and a spell-casting squid, it’s a fun, memorable romp with a surprising number of opportunities for role-playing with a colourful cast of NPCs. I really enjoyed it.

But his new scenario? Ahh! THAT one I can play right away. Intended for characters from levels 1 through 5, Signs in Senghor isn’t just going to be purchased. It’s getting played. Immediately.

So I bought it last last night, and read it this morning, and as I finished it I told my children: “Uncle Kris wrote an adventure for Pathfinder, and I have it. Do you want to play it?”

They shrieked out “Yes!” in a variety of ways, and jumped around a bit.

“It’s a Society scenario.” I told them. “Do you want to play it by all the proper Society rules? Or should we play it with some characters you already have, just for fun?”

They decided on the Society rules. And when I mentioned they would get to make new characters, no one was more excited than my daughter. She jumped in glee and immediately shouted: “I’m making a rabbit breeder!”

“…A rabbit breeder?”

“Yes! I raise rabbits! I have a whole farm of them! I’m a druid, you know.”

It should be noted, my daughter REALLY loves rabbits. This character concept did not surprise me at all.

“Why did you join the Pathfinders?” I asked her.

“I want to find treasure from the people who used to worship rabbits. Cause I think they’re holy. Oh! And also, Mom, I will be a fox-person!”

I laughed. “You’re a kitsune who raises rabbits? Do you eat them?”

NO!” she shrieked, clearly offended at the idea. “I am a vegetarian fox-girl. I never eat rabbits. Or other animals. I cuddle them.”

Well, alrighty, then. A kitsune rabbit-breeder it is. And what did she pick for her animal companion? A parasaurolophus. BY NAME. She actually said: “Mom, I want a pet parasaurolophus.”

Seriously.

If you don’t know your dinosaurs as well as my daughter, you can learn about parasaurolophus here.

Looks like we’ve got a lot of (fun) work to do before we play tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what else they create.

Character Focus: Professor McMaan

Today I got to use some content from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness. That’s right! And what content, you might be asking? A nifty little archetype for familiars. And why? My son.

My kids are young, only five and six, but they play a lot of Pathfinder. Usually, we play verbally, on the half hour walks to and from school. But on the weekends or the holidays, we have a chance to pull out the battle mat and play a proper game. Quite a while ago, my daughter decided she wanted to play a campaign for only the two of us. Something to play on the walks home from kindergarten, when my son’s still at school. Girl’s only.

“That’s great.” I told her. “What kind of characters should we make this time?”

“Oh, Mom,” she told me. “I do NOT want to be a hero this time. I have a lot of heroes. I want to be… a villain! A really, REALLY evil girl!”

So we created two horribly evil females. And my son’s been jealous ever since.

Today, as my daughter was trying to convince me to play a session of ‘evil girls’ with her, my son decided he’s finally had enough. He too would make a villain, and join us on an adventure.

But what kind of villain? Who would really want to hang out with a blood kineticist who feeds on the souls of others, and a doctor who’s more fond of the undead than the living? A mad scientist of course!

“Mom, I want to make a scientist, who is really good at making things, and knows about peoples bodies and things. And he likes to take things souls and stick them in special bodies. Maybe dead ones, or live ones, or ones he made! And he has a secret lab! Oh! And he’s nice and friendly!”

A nice and and friendly mad scientist who meddles with souls? Sure, why not! And so Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan was born. Why the nickname ‘Bigpants’? He was inspired by this amazing artwork we discovered on Pinterest. He even made himself old and sucked up the age penalties in order to be true to the image.

My son decided he would make an investigator. And, after some time spent glancing through archetypes he decided upon a bonded investigator. Giving up all of their poison capabilities for a familiar which gets better over time, my son was thrilled to find this little gem in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Intrigue. And what’s the perfect familiar for our soul-meddling Frankenstein-inspired investigator? A pig with the soulbound familiar archetype! Thank you Ultimate Wilderness! By giving up the familiar ability alertness, his adorable little pig gets a soul gem stored inside it with the spirit of a humanoid trapped within. This grants his pig skill focus in any one skill his soul excelled at in life. Choosing skill focus (craft constructs), my son decided Professor McMaan’s pig was enhanced with the soul of his rival, Professor Piggs, making his familiar capable of helping him out in the laboratory with his many experiments.

To make his quirky little pig even more thematic, he chose to take evolved familiar as a feat, allowing him to scientifically enhance his pig’s body — in this case, to give it a swim speed, “cause pigs are real good swimmers, Mom!”

With his familiar ready we settled in to finalize the rest of Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan himself. With an old, frail body, but a powerful brain, my son decided to equip the good professor with a nifty sword cane (topped with a silver skull!) and a host of acid and alchemist’s fire. But, starting as he was at level three, he had a lot more wealth to go around. He insisted we check into crafting constructs, despite that I promised him that required being level five, only to discover ‘craft poppet’ on d20pfsrd. Apparently, poppets are tiny and small, weak constructs which you can make right off the hop, at level one, and are relatively affordable. In addition, each poppet can be modified with enhancements. Recently published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Adventurer’s Armory 2, a sourcebook which I do not own, but seriously wish I did, these poppets made his day. He happily spent the rest of his three thousand gold coins on building a combat poppet, modifying the small sized wooden doll with armour, extra health and strength improvements; and a sneaky poppet, modifying the tiny doll with enhanced agility, stealth, and a faster move speed.

Thrilled to pieces, Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan and little Professor Piggs are ready to take their miniature poppet minions out on an adventure with some seriously bad girls. Now, if only I could decide what that adventure would entail…

Have a great night, everyone! I hope you enjoyed reading about my sons new character as much as he enjoyed making it.

Jessica

Ultimate Wilderness

Well, Christmas has come and gone, along with a variety of other holidays you might be celebrating, and while I wait for my shiny new copies of Starfinder and the Alien Achieve to arrive in the mail, I’ve been entertaining myself by delving into another great new d20 product, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness.

For those of you who don’t know, Ultimate Wilderness is a new hardcover release from Paizo Publishing, put out for Pathfinder. Pathfinder, as previously noted, is my favourite d20 game by far, and I recently received a copy of Ultimate Wilderness for my birthday (thanks, Kris and Crystal!). Like most of Pathfinder’s hardcover releases, Ultimate Wilderness comes with new class options and some new mechanics for GMs to add to their games, all themed around, you got it, the wilderness. This book introduces one new base class, tons of new archetypes, some new feats and spells, and quite a few rules subsets. Unlike most hardcover releases, this book also drops three new player races, and a ton of new options for familiars and animal companions.

Now, this book’s not cheap. None of the hardcovers for Pathfinder are, so I thought it might be worthwhile to share my two cents about the book, what you’re getting, and whether it’s worth it.

Ultimate Wilderness starts by introducing us to three new race options for players, two of which were previously released in other books. The gathlain, a lovely little fey creature with wooden wings who first was released in the very back of another one of Pathfinder’s hardcovers, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide. Found in the race builder section, gathlain originally had no details provided about their race other than the race entry itself. Now, these delightful little tricksters are given pages worth of information, including some special gear, feats and spells. There’s also a trio of archetypes, including one of my favourites from the entire book, the Season Sage, a druid archetype that got me desperately wanting to play a gathlain. Definitely a favourite of mine, you know you’re going to be producing some quirky characters with this race when the entry points out that ‘gnomes often find gathlains too flighty, foolish and undisciplined for their tastes’ (Ultimate Wilderness, page 9). Seriously. Gnomes think these guys are flighty. As a fan of the absurdity of Pathfinder’s gnomes, I’m going to have a blast with these little guys. I love it!

The second race to get some love in Ultimate Wilderness are the ghorans. Ghorans first appeared in one of Pathfinder’s skinny, softcover books, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Bestiary. They entered the scene with a bang, tempting us with tales of the ghoran’s origins. Magically created as an fast-adapting food source, ghorans achieved sentience and became a race all their own. Now the secret of their creation has been lost, and ghorans have shaped their bodies into a humanoid form, in the hopes that people will be less inclined to consume them, despite how delicious they taste, if the ghoran’s look more like them. Yup. Delicious. Like the gathlain, ghoran’s also come with an array of options, including a few feats, a magic item and a spell. They introduce a new bloodrager bloodline and two new archetypes, including the delightful aromaphile–a mesmerist archetype.

This third and final race introduced in Ultimate Wilderness is brand new. At least as a player race. Although leshy’s were first introduced in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 3, they have only now entered the game as a player race. Vine leshy’s are what you’d come to expect from these adorable little plant spirits. Hardy and clever, with some quirky camouflage capabilities and the ability to speak with plants, vine leshy’s are a fun, colourful addition to the game.   Like the gathlain, vine leshy’s have a lot of character options offered alongside them, including some new feats, spells, magical and mundane gear, three archetypes and the addition of the leshy subdomain for all those clerics and druids out there who wish they could summon these little fellows.

Following the races, Ultimate Wilderness gets into what I was most excited for: the Shifter. This new base class is a shapeshifter who can transform parts of their body–and later their entire body–into animal features. It has a full base attack bonus, but suffers from the same armour restrictions as the druid class does–a small price to pay for a chance to make yourself a chimera of animal parts. They gain a nice array of wilderness abilities that are familiar, in addition to unique abilities, including wild empathy, woodland stride, track, trackless step and wild shape–although their wild shape is a weaker version of the druids, allowing them to only transform into animals they have a connection with (you start with one, and can have four by the higher levels of the class progression). As far as new abilities go, it’s the shifter’s claws and shifter aspects abilities which are going to see the most use. Shifter’s claws gives you a claw attack with each hand, dealing 1d4 damage each to start, these claws increase in power as you level up. With an unlimited uses and the ability to extend them as a swift action, these claws are an awesome combat option for the shifter, making it unlikely you’ll need to invest in a melee weapon at low levels. The second major ability of the shifter is shifter aspects. Usable in one minute increments for a number of minutes per day equal to three plus your level, shifter aspects allow you to gain a physical benefit which changes depending upon which animals your shifter is spiritually attuned to. As with wild shape, you only start with one animal aspect, so you’ll need to choose wisely, but you gain more aspects as you level up and can later manifest more than one aspect at a time, making you a chimera of sorts. My personal favourite aspect is the bear, a sturdy choice which can improve your constitution at low levels and lets you transform into a dire bear with wild shape. Other gems include the bat, which grant you darkvision out to great distances and later blind sense, and the mouse, which grants you evasion and allows you to transform into a tiny mouse with wild shape–letting you sneak into tight spaces and the ability to climb, swim and sniff your way around the environment. All in all I really like the shifter class and I’m positively desperate to play one. Now if only I could convince my husband to play a few sessions with me…

After the new classes comes the archetypes, of which there are a TON. Now, not all of the archetypes presented in Ultimate Wilderness are brand new. Some are reprints from their line of softcover books, including the bold Thundercaller bard (originally published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends) and my favourite witch archetype, the green-thumbed Herb Witch (originally published in one of my favourite player companions, Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of the Wild). Now, admittedly I was a little miffed at first, to discover some archetypes here that I’ve already been playing for a while, but after reflection, I’ve changed my tune. I like having the archetypes related to the wilderness that came from the skinny, softcovers collected in Ultimate Wilderness–presuming there are a lot of new archetypes alongside them. Which there are. Tons. Sixty pages of them, and at more than one archetype per page, that’s a lot of archetypes. I had quite a long list of favourites, but I’ll share a few with you.

Topping that list is the already mentioned gathlain archetype, the Season Sage which, thankfully, can be taken by other races with GM permission. Season Sage is a druid which gains the ability to change the seasons of the world around him, using his powers to make plants bloom, animal’s get their warm winter coats, and the weather to change. They can bring their companions the growth of spring (making them grow to twice their size), the might of summer (making them robust and healthy), and harm their enemies with the decay of autumn, and the icy cold of winter. They can literally change the world and the weather around them. And who doesn’t want to travel with a guy who can make it nice and warm in the middle of winter, or hide you in a blanket of fog? Far from over-powered, but filled with cool visuals and some neat new powers, Season Sage is my favourite archetype in the entire book.

My second favourite is a shifter archetype. Now, being a new class, shifter has quite a few cool archetypes going for it, including the elementalist shifter (which lets you harness different elements and fusions of them), the fiendflesh shifter (which lets you harness the power of evil outsiders), and the verdant shifter (which lets you take on the aspects of different plants). But, my personal favourite? The oozemorph. A shifter archetype that lets you become like the T-1000 from ‘Terminator 2’.  Seriously. It’s awesome. You want to be made of shiny goo? Check! You want to transform your arms into different weapons? Check! You want to squeeze through tiny holes and compress your body? Check! You want to take on the appearances of different people? Check! How about a climb speed or damage resistance? Check and check! This archetype is awesome, super nostalgic, and has great visual potential. As long as you don’t mind being a protoplasmic blob…

There’s a ton of other awesome archetypes in the pages of this book, and if you pick it up be sure to give some of my favourites a read, including the horticulturist alchemist (who can create seeds that rapidly grow into summoned animals and plants, and who can alter his bombs to affect everything, only plants, or only things that aren’t plants), the saurian champion cavalier (who can ride gigantic dinosaurs: cause who doesn’t want to be a knight that rides a t-rex?), the viking fighter (it’s about time!), the star watcher investigator (who uses horoscopes and astrology to tell the future for his companions and make magical effects), the wood kineticist (blast away with vines, tree limbs and stinging leaves or flower petals), the geomancer occultist (who can use the terrain he’s in as an implement), the flamewarden ranger (who explodes in a burst of fire upon his death, damaging his enemies and healing his allies, and can rise from the ashes a round later), and the avenging beast vigilante (cause the only thing better than being a batman, is being a bat man who can also turn into a dire bat!).

Like all Pathfinder hardcovers, there’s a chapter for new feats and spells. These parts of the book aren’t as vast as some of the others. It’s certainly no Ultimate Combat where feats are concerned, nor does it have the spells of Ultimate Magic. Still, there’s some good options for both sections contained inside. Lots of the feats are very thematic, or specific. For shifters there’s extended aspects and extended animal focus, both of which are going to be staples for most shifters. There’s a new combat style that caught my fancy: beastmaster style, which lets you make handle animal checks to negate attacks that hit your animal companion–presuming you’re beside your beloved pet–much like mounted combat works for mounts. Continuing in this feat progression also lets you substitute your handle animal check in place of your companion’s saving throws. My choice for the best feat in here (that’s more universally useful) adds onto the Spring Attack feat progression. Yes, spring attack’s already an investment, but improved spring attack and greater spring attack add great value to this build by letting users gain an extra attack, or two, with each spring attack, as long as they target different enemies with each subsequent attack.

As for spells, there were a good array of nature based spells spread out among lots of classes. You won’t just find new spells for rangers and druids here, you’ll also find some neat new spell choices for arcane and psychic casters. A few of my favourites include tamer’s lash, a level one bard, bloodrager, magus and ranger spell that creates a sonic whip that damages your enemy and can cause animals to back down for a few rounds in fear. Explosion of rot is a nice level four damage dealing druid spell that makes everything around you rot and decay (living or otherwise!). Rounding out my favourite spells from this book are the various polymorph spells: magical beast shape, ooze form (one through three) and fey form (one through four), all of which allow a wide variety of classes to take on all kinds of new forms.

There are a lot of new mechanics and rules subsets introduced in Ultimate Wilderness, some of which will find more use than others. The new discovery and exploration rules are sure to find  home in many exploration games, the new hazards are sure to trip up more than a few characters (look out for spellgorging plants!), and information on the Green Faith and the First World are always welcome. But, it’s the rules for foraging, harvesting poisons, harvesting trophies, herbalism, and wilderness traps that made me the most excited. Finally, a way to make a snare trap in the wild without a weeks worth of work and a sack of gold! (And there was much rejoicing).

The last section I want to touch on in Ultimate Wilderness is a huge part of the book and, in my opinion, a massive draw: familiars and animal companions. Taking up over forty pages of the book, this section collects stats for some of the more obscure animal options you may have missed in the many softcover releases they’ve been spread across, as well as new choices (including the anglerfish, archaeopteryx, dodo, koala, panda, sabre-toothed cat, plenty of plants and vermin, and my daughter’s personal favourite: the rabbit). It also provides a huge host of archetypes, tricks and feats for them to make use of. Most important for me? A nice concise listing of which animal forms have access to which magical item slots. Now, it’s worth noting, some of the information in this section was previously printed in some other softcover releases from Paizo, including Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio and Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive. But, much of the content is new and, in all honesty, I like having it compiled into an easier to access source.

For my money, Ultimate Wilderness is worth it. It provides a lot of fun new options for players and some decent new mechanics for GMs to enrich their games. One of the biggest draws for this release is going to be the many new options for our furry (or scaly or feathered) friends, the familiars and animal companions. If you don’t have this book yet you can pick it up at the link below, and if you do, let me know in the comments what you’re most excited for from Ultimate Wilderness!

Until next time, get those dice rolling!

Jessica

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness

 

Bright…

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

In short: I loved this movie. 

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

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

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

My picks for top five d20 adventures that feature prejudice:

#5 – War of the Wielded by Michael Kortes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 – Steel Shadows by Keith Baker

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

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

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

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

Finding justice is entirely up to your players.

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

#1 – River Into Darkness by Greg A. Vaughn

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

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

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

Answer: hard.

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

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

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

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

Now go get those dice rolling!

Jessica

Welcome to d20 Diaries…

Welcome to d20 Diaries!

Here it is… my first post. You might be wondering what’s coming. You might expect me to start with a BANG! A big, bold first post sure to grab your interest and hook you!

You’d be wrong. Haha. I’m going to be starting far humbler than that. I’m going to be giving thanks.

Firstly, thank-you to my husband. Without his unwavering faith in me, and his belief that what I have to say is worth hearing, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be doing this. d20 Diaries wouldn’t exist. Thanks, babe.

Second, thank-you to my GMs. The game masters. The story-tellers. The people who make a game that you can play. This is not an easy job. More often than not, this person is me. But when it’s not there’s only been a few of you who’ve taken the entire world on their shoulders. My husband–the craziest GM you’ll ever have the pleasure of playing with. He’ll come up with ideas that will surprise you, entertain you, and leave you talking for years to come. He hasn’t GMed much, but everything he’s done has been memorable. Dear: you’re a blast. My brother: there’s not person I know who’s better at this than you. You’re constantly crafting campaigns, and though I rarely have a chance to play in them, I hear about them constantly. I wish I knew my game mechanics half as well as you do! My son! Six years old and he’s constantly telling tales and forcing everyone with a voice to play his adventures. I wish I had as much energy as you! I’m very proud. And lastly, the first GM who ever crafted a game for us: Rene. If you ever read this know that even though our time together as players was short, you changed all of our lives more than you’ll know! Seriously. Massively. Thank you!

Third, thank-you to my players. d20 games take more than one person. No matter who you are, you cannot play alone. (Well, technically you can, as I’ve proved on more than one occasion when very, very bored; but that’s a discussion for another time…). To properly enjoy a d20 game, you need a team of players. I’ve GMed a lot, but my players have been a pretty small group. Family, friends, and friends of friends. To all of you who’ve been there and played alongside me: this one’s for you. Thanks to my children and my siblings. It’s you who’ve played with me most (excluding my husband, of course, who must put up with me constantly begging him to play just one more session…). Thanks to the friends who’ve played alongside me, and the friends of friends. If you’ve played with me, then thank you!

Fourth, to the many, many online player’s I’ve recently joined on Paizo’s play-by-post boards: thanks for letting me join you and keeping the games rolling! I’m loving the community, and the games.

Lastly, thanks to all of you. The new readers of d20 Diaries. Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride! We’re just getting started.

Now, without further ado…

Let’s get rolling!

Jessica