Shackled City: Part Three: Jzadirune

Wow, it has been AGES since we’ve have a chance to write a new campaign update! Fear not, fellow readers, our campaigns haven’t come to an unfortunate end. They’re trekking along slowly, in between school, work, and everyday life. So where are we heading today?

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The Shackled City Adventure Path is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure originally printed in Dungeon Magazine by Paizo Publishing.

Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path!

When we last left off our heroic musicians were investigating 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 you can read this blog post first, which details our characters, or continue on with this article to jump right into the action! You can also check out our previous adventures in Shackled City: Part One and Shackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!

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


The Heroes

Our eccentric heroes are all members of ‘Dinorabbit,’ a musical band that changes its name frequently and was most previously known as ‘Boople Snoot.’ The band’s lead singer and song-writer is Falco Rhiavadi, a foppish noble bastard of mixed Tien descent whose father was devoured by a dragon when he was just a boy. A well-groomed, handsome man with an easy smile and a winning personality, Falco’s a black sheep among his family. Mechanically Falco is an oracle of life whose familiar is a jealous and demanding thrush named Ruby. Falco is played by my husband.

Mick Frimfrocket is a gnome with dark blue skin, bright pink hair that stands straight up on his head, and light blue eyes with flecks of red around his pupils. He’s energetic, bold, and loves nothing more than a good laugh! Mick acts as the band’s pianist and creative director. He’s the driving force behind the bands constant name changes, and over-the-top performances. Mick was born in Jzadirune but was brought to the city of Cauldron to escape the Vanishing. Orphaned by the mysterious events and with few memories of those early years, Mick was raised in the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same orphanage that recently had four children kidnpapped right from their beds! Determined to save those little scamps, Mick was very excited to take up this missing person’s case and follow it to its conclusion — particularly when he realized that it led to his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. He’s played by my seven-year old son.

Rabbity Castalle is a rabbitfolk waitress who works at the Tipped Tankard Tavern. A dancer and singer for the band Dinorabbit, Rabbity also has a pet panther named Panthy. She’s lucky, nimble, and quick, but a little skittish. One of her co-workers is one of the people who was recently abducted, so she’s very keen to solve this mystery and return him home. Rabbity is a hydrokineticist played by my six-year old daughter, using the rabbitfolk race. Rabbitfolk are a Pathfinder Compatible race created by my daughter (with some help) which will soon be published in the upcoming Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion by Sunburst Games (Kickstarter coming in February!)

The final member of our party is Aeris Caldyra, a local locksmith who was cajoled by her roommate, Rabbity, to join the band as a percussionist and set designer. With few friends to call her own, Aeris relented to the rabbitfolk’s request and is the least talented member of the band. The last worshipper of Alseta in Cauldron, with more than a few secrets and regrets, Aeris is a suli bloodrager with a chip on her shoulder. Always one to lend a hand, like her Grandfather Marzio once would have done, Aeris is determined to rescue the missing citizens of Cauldron. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City Adventure Path.

Although that’s the last of our PCs, that’s not the last of our party. The members of Dinorabbit are also travelling with two NPCs: Patch, the half-orc janitor, and Keygan Ghelve, a local locksmith.

Patch is a big, stuttering, fool who works at the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same place he was raised. Patch recently got recruited to the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild and was asked to watch over an orphan named Terrem. Unfortunately, Terrem was kidnapped on the very evening that Patch went out to meet with with the guild. Distraught over the boy’s disappearance, Patch was pressured by Falco and Mick into helping them rescue the kids. And so, the poor one-eyed janitor finds himself heading into danger.

Keygan Ghelve is a gnome locksmith and competitor of Aeris’. He’s also the reason people are going missing! Months ago strange creatures came up from Keygan’s basement — which leads to the abandoned gnomish enclave of Jzadirune — and kidnapped his rat familiar! They forced Keygan to forge them a set of skeleton keys that can open the locks he’d installed in Cauldron, and a list of all his customers. In the months since, skulks and dark creepers have used his home as a way station, heading out into the city, abducting people from their homes, and dragging them back underground through his basement. Keygan feel guilty, but he’s more worried over his rat than anything! The members of Dinorabbit followed clues that led to Keygan’s shop and discovered his role in the abductions. Although Aeris wanted to turn him in to the guard, the Falco and Mick insisted he come with them if he wanted to save his rat. He’d need to help rescue the kidnapped citizens of Cauldron and undo the damage he’s facilitated.

Aeris decided that after that she’d still have him arrested. She’s a stickler for the rules. …Usually.

And so our eclectic team of musicians, janitors, and locksmiths, descends through hidden passageways into the long-abandoned gnomish enclave of Jzadirune, on the trail of subterranean kidnappers!

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The team!

Aeris and Falco led the way, with Mick, Rabbity, and Panthy travelling in the middle of the group. Patch and Keygan took up the rear, while the cowardly locksmith strongly debating running away when no one was looking.

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’ divinations had led them to! (See the riddle for more information). My children were thrilled! Beyond thrilled. They had obsessed over that riddle for days. 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 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 were already super lost! Haha.

Our explorations continued over a whopping eight play sessions and over fifteen hours of gameplay! That’s a LOT, particularly when you take into account that half of our party is children under eight years old. I find that my kids are easily bored by long encounter-heavy dungeons, so I did my best to make it interesting. I combined multiple similar battles into one encounter, turning them into dynamic, constantly moving skirmishes. Other encounters we skipped completely, removing many of the extra enemies that served no immediate story purpose, like vermin. Those encounters that remained were a lot of fun, typically taking place in the most exciting and dynamic of Jzadirune’s rooms. Favourite locations included the previously mentioned giggling masks room, the theatre where you can watch illusory plays, the throne room where you could interact with an illusory gnomish king and learn hints as to what befell Jzadirune, and the underground forest. Since my son’s character spent his early years living in Jzadirune, I made sure to give him plenty of information and history he could discover. No empty room was just empty, there were hints to the room’s purpose and inhabitants, memories he might distantly recall, and places he’s been. His favourite discoveries included a door that had his family’s name on it, and a bedroom that contained a child’s bed and a long-discarded stuffed animal he’s pretty sure was once his. Finally, we played up the personalities and interactions of the NPCs Keygan and Patch, which everyone really enjoyed. Even Aeris was happy to see Keygan reunited with his beloved rat familiar, Starbrow.

My kids had a great time uncovering the mystery of Jzadirune and determining what caused it to become abandoned. And, while my daughter is happy that we’re finally leaving that spooky place behind, my son is a little sad about it. He’s decided that Mick Frimfrocket will reclaim this place once its done. He has big plans to clean it up, make it safe, and use it as a home and base of operations. Maybe he’ll even turn it into an orphanage. Whatever he decides to do, he’s loath to hide the signs of its previous inhabitants. He wants to keep every mural, nameplate, and bed. Preserve every memory he can of the gnomes who once lived and died here. It’s all he has left of his family.

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The map of Jzadirune and my son’s new construct.

In the end our characters discovered that Jzadirune was laid low by a curse that affected their magical objects, causing their users to vanish completely. Those few gnomes who survived the terrifying experience were children. The kidnappers had been using Jzadirune’s ruins as a base of operations, digging tunnels with old broken constructs through the walls to avoid traps and complex doors. And, although they battled the skulks and their dark creeper minions, my players never found any signs of the kidnapped citizens of Cauldron. What they did find was a door. The door led to a platform that, with the flick of a switch, descended down a shaft into the darkness. When the doors opened they found themselves someplace else. Someplace new. A place of dwarven construction, made from malachite.

My son and daughter gasped in shock!

“MOM! MOM! The riddle! The riddle says something about that mal-kite! We are almost there!”

My son read the riddle a few more times and double checked the notes that he keeps in his detective’s notebook (which is a copy of Detective Murdoch’s notebook from Murdoch Mysteries). “Hmmm… Yup! Those kidnappers must have been working for a duergar! He’s the true culprit!”

My daughter clapped her hands in glee. “Yes! We are almost there! I have to save my good friend Griffin who I work with! He was supposed to be married! His girlfriend is so sad she cries everyday! We must hurry! He could DIE!” She says the word ‘die’ with such drama. It’s adorable.

“And think of the children!” I joked.

My kids nodded. “YEAH! THE CHILDREN!” They were not joking. In fact, they were very, very, serious.

But, by then the weekend was over. It was time to get ready for bed, and prepare for the next week of school. The children would have to wait. But, you can bet that we’ll be playing again next weekend, when we begin our exploration of the Malachite Fortress.

Thanks for joining us, everyone! I hope you enjoyed getting to hear a bit about our crazy adventures. We’ll see you again soon!

Jessica

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Life’s Bazaar is the first adventure in the Shackled City Adventure Path.

Behind the Screen

The Shackled City Adventure Path is a difficult to get your hands on adventure path published in eleven separate Dungeon Magazines, or available in hardcover from Amazon here or from Paizo Publishing’s website here. The first adventure, Life’s Bazaar is available in Dungeon Magazine Number 97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here.

The shaman and the bloodrager classes, as well as the bloodrager archetype spelleater, can all be found in the Advanced Class Guide. The urban bloodrager archetype can be found in Heroes of the Streets. The Kineticist class can be found in Occult Adventures. The monk and bard are base classes found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook (or in a convenient travel-sized edition: Core Rulebook (Pocket Edition)  while the prankster archetype for bards can be found in the Advanced Race Guide.

 

Dawn of Flame Adventure Path

Today we’re leaving our chilly Manitoba winter behind and turning up the heat! Gaze into the future with us as we check out the upcoming Starfinder Adventure Path: Dawn of Flame!

Dawn of Flame is a six part Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game which is currently available for pre-order. The first volume, Starfinder Adventure Path 13: Fire Starters (Dawn of Flame 1 of 6), comes out in February and is written by James L. Sutter. The entire campaign takes place around, on, and IN the Pact World’s sun, with a focus on the Burning Archipelago and the sun’s interior. The campaign should take characters from levels 1 all the way through to levels 12 or 13. In a recent interview on Starfinder Wednesday, Chris Simms explained that this Adventure Path is not as dark as the previous ones — putting it in direct contrast to the previous Starfinder Adventure Path, Signal of Screams (which begins with The Diaspora Strain). Much lighter in tone, Dawn of Flame is intended to get back to the heart of Starfinder — that space opera science fantasy mix of fun. This adventure path is full of mystery, surprises, and interesting discoveries. The further you delve into the mystery, the deeper into the sun you’ll travel, making your physical journey a mirror of your intellectual discoveries.

Which is awesome! As a mother of mystery-loving kids, I’m thrilled that this is a campaign my whole family can get excited about.

The Sun? How can I adventure there?!

A-ha! Good question! In a lot of ways the sun of the Pact Worlds is just like ours. It’s an incandescent ball of burning gas and plasma, with intense pressure and heat. Not very hospitable! But, because Starfinder is a science fantasy game, magic has allowed the folks over at Paizo to do a lot of cool things! The Pact Worlds sun has mystical connections (and magical portals) to both the Plane of Fire and the Positive Energy Plane. Plenty of strange beings live within the depths of the sun, such as the starship-sized flame whales that can be seen swimming and breaching through the sun’s plasma. Outsiders from the Elemental Plane of Fire are also known to live within the sun, including sentient beings such as efreet, and azers.

Upon the surface of the sun floats a settlement called the Burning Archipelago. Multiple districts make up this Pact Worlds Protectorate, each of which is contained within it’s own magical ‘bubble’ of unknown origin. These mysterious bubbles keep the neighbourhoods within protected from the harmful effects of the sun, and provide artificial environments that allow many forms of life to thrive. Although all of these bubbles are connected to one another via magical tunnels, only one bubble allows access from outside the Burning Archipelago. This entrance was originally discovered by devotees of Sarenrae (goddess of the sun) who noticed the mysteriously abandoned bubble settlements and attempted to fly as close to them as they could. Miraculously, they stumbled upon the entrance and claimed the settlement for their own. To this day the Church of Sarenrae has influence over most of the Burning Archipelago, including the only entrance. In the time since its founding, many people have come to the Burning Archipelago, including corporations, scientists, beings from the Plane of Fire, and citizens of the Pact Worlds. Each district has become home to different groups, communities, and industries, and serves different purposes. Each has its own security force, with the Sarenite Dawn Patrol, and the Pact Worlds Stewards acting as other over-arching police forces. Neighbourhoods of the Burning Archipelago include Asanatown, Chroma, Corona, Dawnshore, Fireside, Stellacuna, and Verdeon. The sun has many structures and life forms for its citizens to marvel over and study, and plenty of mysteries to unravel. For more information on the Pact Worlds Sun and its many secrets you can check out Starfinder: Pact Worlds.

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Entrance to the Burning Archipelago, as seen in Starfinder: Pact Worlds

Dawn of Flame

At its core, Dawn of Flame is about mystery and discovery. About unravelling secrets, and going places no one has gone before. Your characters will discover new settlements and people, strange creatures, and powerful enemies. After uncovering the machinations of a semi-divine being they’ll need to work fast to protect the sun from extraplanar conquest! The fate of the Pact Worlds Sun in is their hands!

Fire Starters

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Starfinder Adventure Path 13: Fire Starters (Dawn of Flame 1 of 6)

The Dawn of Flame Adventure Path begins in the Burning Archipelago, and involves Far Portal — a structure that, like the Burning Archipelago itself, is far older and more technologically advanced than anything in the Pact Worlds. It’s creator and purpose is a mystery, but it’s function is not. Far Portal is a magical portal to a particularly inhospitable region of the Plane of Fire. It hovers nearby, within sight of the Burning Archipelago, but rarely sees use. Although intrepid and foolhardy explorers sometimes enter it, none have ever returned. What’s more, nothing has come out of it. Ever. Until now! A ship flies out of Far Portal, chased by an astoundingly big flame whale. The portal soon disappears INTO the sun, and a massive psychic disturbance wracks the populace. These life-changing events lead our PCs to accept work for a local scientist, in an effort to help her figure out what’s going on. PCs will need to travel into Asanatown, a lashunta enclave in the Burning Archipelago, to contact another scientist who can help. Unfortunately, the psychic burst has hit the telepathic citizens of Asanatown hard. Tensions boil over, and chaos erupts in the district. Finding that scientist? Yeah, that’s the easy part…

Starfinder Adventure Path 13: Fire Starters (Dawn of Flame 1 of 6) is written by James L. Sutter and is intended for 1st-level characters. In addition to the adventure itself, this volume contains detailed information on the district of Asanatown (written by Jason Tondro) and the Church of Sarenrae and its worshippers (written by Patrick Brennan), including some new equipment common to her worshippers. The Alien Archive entries focus on extraplanar creatures, including ifrits and proteans, and is written by Leo Glass, Owen K.C. Stephens, and James L. Sutter. The Codex of Worlds introduces us to a “beautiful resort planet” with connections to the Plane of Water, and is written by Lacy Pellazar. Finally, the ship that will be showcased is a Sarenite vessel designed by Jason Keeley.

Soldiers of Brass

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Starfinder Adventure Path 14: Soldiers of Brass (Dawn of Flame 2 of 6)

Starfinder Adventure Path 14: Soldiers of Brass (Dawn of Flame 2 of 6) is written by Crystal Frasier and is intended for characters around level 3. By now your PCs work for the Deep Cultures Institute, which is a scientific corporation of dubious reputation that believes there are not only ancient archeological sites to discover within the sun, but living breathing people and cultures. Intent on unraveling the mysterious psychic burst that came from the Sun’s depths, they’ve turned to outside help to aid them. But, when important data is stolen from DCI your PCs will have to track down the thieves, retrieve the data, and figure out why they wanted it in the first place.

This adventure will take your players through Stellacuna, the district that is home to the Deep Cultures institute and other centres of learning, and Corona, a dangerous district that is home to many denizens of the Plane of Fire, and the infamous market known as the Brass Bazaar. Although no further information is currently available as to the other articles in this book, I imagine we’ll be treated to an in depth article on the district of Corona.

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The Brass Bazaar

Sun Divers

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Starfinder Adventure Path 15: Sun Divers (Dawn of Flame 3 of 6)

Starfinder Adventure Path #15: Sun Divers (Dawn of Flame 3 of 6) is written by Joe Pasini and is intended for 5th-level characters. During this part of the adventure path your characters will have discovered proof of a settlement within the sun’s depths, and have the coordinates to get there. The problem? A ship! Your PCs will need to track down the creators of an experimental ship known as a Sun Diver, and retrieve it from the shady folks who have it now. In addition to getting to explore the Verdeon district of the Burning Archipelago, they’ll get to take their  awesome new ship (that looks a lot like a pinecone!) beneath the surface of the sun, and explore an undiscovered city!

Further content in this volume includes an article on Noma (the newly discovered bubble-city) and on organized crime. Alien Archive entries are said to include creatures that live within the sun. Although the planet examined in the Codex of Worlds is still a mystery, the ship that will be detailed is going to be the Sun Diver.

The Blind City

Starfinder Adventure Path #16: The Blind City (Dawn of Flame 4 of 6) is written by Ron Lundeen and is intended for 7th-level characters. Your PCs time in the bubble-city of Noma has led to further discoveries, including an ancient magical tablet. Bringing the tablet back to the Burning Archipelago for translation causes a clash with the cult of Azathoth. If they’re lucky, your players will beat back the cultists and discover the coordinates to another mysterious location within the sun, known as Ezorod. The discoveries they make in this lightless (yes, you read that right: LIGHTLESS), foul dungeon will change their lives forever, and finally place the PCs on the trail of Dawn of Flame’s major villain.

Further content in this volume includes an article on various cults found in the Pact Worlds, and a bunch of new and weird techonological and magical equipment. The Alien Archives include new creatures from throughout the multiverse. Information on the Codex of Worlds and ship details have yet to be revealed.

Solar Strike

Starfinder Adventure Path #17: Solar Strike (Dawn of Flame 5 of 6) is written by Mark Moreland and intended for 9th-level characters. It begins with the PCs receiving a distress call from the peaceful citizens of settlement deep within the sun who are under attack by efreet invaders from the Plane of Fire. Your PCs will need to dive back below the surface of the sun to liberate the city of Kahlannal from their conquerers! Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s the start of an invasion…

Further content in this volume includes an article on the bubble-city of Kahlannal, and an article on the cultures of the Pact Worlds sun and other stars throughout the galaxy. Content of the Alien Archives, Codex of Worlds, and ships has yet to be announced.

Assault on the Crucible 

Starfinder Adventure Path #18: Assault on the Crucible (Dawn of Flame 6 of 6) is written by Jason Tondro and is intended for 11th-level characters. It is the final volume in the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path and should bring your PCs to level 12 or 13. In it, the efreet army, acting at the behest of a semi-divine being from the Plane of Fire known as Malikah, launches an assault on the Burning Archipelago from the depths of the Sun! Aware of this coming attack your PCs will have have to defend the city, bring the fight to the enemy at their hidden base, close the portals to the Plane of Fire, and return Far Portal to its home on the surface of the sun! Epic stuff!

Further content in this volume includes an article on continuing the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path past the story’s conclusion, and an article on Starfinder’s version of the Plane of Fire. The Alien Archive is said to contain creatures from the sun, the Plane of Fire, and elsewhere in the galaxy. Details on the Codex of Worlds and ship details have yet to be revealed.

An Ending

And with that we come to the end of the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path. Or rather, we come to the beginning. Next month the first volume of Dawn of Flame will be in our hands and we’ll get to create characters that can embark on this epic quest of discovery. Turns out the fate of the entire Pact Worlds hangs the in balance. No pressure! When asked if he had any further thoughts and themes that he wants Starfinder fans to come away from Dawn of Flame with, Chris Simms had this to say:

“There’s no place you can’t go.”

And he’s right! Starfinder is a game that allows us to go anywhere, explore anything, and become something greater than ourselves. It’s a world of advanced technology, alien species, and powerful magic. This fusion of big, bold ideas has led to a truly wonderful game. If you haven’t given it a try, I highly suggest you do!

Want more information on the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path, or to see awesome artwork from Fire Starters? Check out this past week’s episode of Starfinder Wednesday, featuring host Dan Tharp and special guest Chris Simms!

Enjoy!

Jessica


UPDATE: Check out the recently released Dawn of Flame Trailer!

Review: Return of the Runelords: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove!!

Today we’re taking an in depth look at the first book in the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path! Return of the Runelords is a six volume Pathfinder Adventure Path that is intended to take your characters from levels 1 to 20! The issues in this Adventure Path are longer than usual, and the final issue is supposed to be the biggest adventure of the series. Each of the six Runelords (excluding the seventh: Karzoug) is featured on one of the covers, with gorgeous artwork drawn by Ekaterina Burmak.

The Adventure Path takes place in Varisia, and is a direct sequel to the Rise of the Runelords and the Shattered Star Adventure Paths. In addition, the events of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, the novel Pathfinder Tales: Lord of Runes, and Season Four of the Pathfinder Society: Year of the Risen Rune, are all presumed to have taken place. Although playing through these other adventure paths first will definitely make this campaign more enjoyable, it’s not necessary. You can hop right into Return of the Runelords and still have a blast.

So, what is Return of the Runelords? For starters, you can check out a previous blog post I wrote on the topic: Return of the Runelords. Then head down to the video immediately below this paragraph and give the AWESOME Return of the Runelords trailer a watch. Trust me! It’s worth it!



Got it?

Good! Let’s dive right in!

The first book of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path is #133: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove. Written by Adam Daigle, this adventure is intended to take you from level one right through to level five. In addition to the adventure itself the book contains an NPC Gallery which features detailed information and statistics on three major characters in the adventure, a delightful primer on Roderic’s Cove which will be invaluable to GMs, a short chapter about the Runelords (their history, how they escaped Earthfall, and what’s happened to them since), a bestiary containing four new creatures, and a campaign outline that lets GMs know what’s coming further down the road.

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Return of the Runelords: Book One: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove by Adam Daigle.

The layout and appearance of this book is nice. It looks good, is easy to read (which isn’t always the case with Adventure Paths), and features gorgeous artwork of the Runelord of Wrath Alaznist on the cover by Ekaterina Burmak. Behind Alaznist is an image of Jirelle (the iconic swashbuckler) and Erasmus (the iconic medium) getting ambushed by some reefclaws! Awesome!

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS.

You have been warned!

Carrying on the wrathful theme of the front cover, the inside covers feature images and information on a few key topics related to the Runelord Alaznist. The inside front cover shows two weapons: Alaznist’s Hateful Ranseur (her weapon of rule) and Garvok the Sword of Wrath. Meanwhile, the inside back cover showcases Hollow Mountain, once the capital of Alaznist’s Empire and the place within which she retreated when Earthfell drew near. In addition it contains information on Yamasoth, a qlippoth lord and ally of Alaznist’s — although whether he was her minion, or she was his unwitting pawn is debatable. After the covers we hop right into the adventure background, followed by the adventure itself.

Kolton Nikolai Ostertag
Kolton, a citizen of Roderic’s Cove. Illustrated by Nikolai Ostertag

Secrets of Roderic’s Cove is split into five parts: Bubbling Tensions, Roderic’s Wreck, Into the Churlwood, Humbling Pride, and Calming Wrath. Unlike many premade adventures, it doesn’t really feature a ‘patron’ type character. There’s no employer or mentor around to tell the PCs what to do or where to go next. A lot of different NPCs will give you suggestions if you ask. And there’s one character who asks the PCs to help the town. Well, two if you count the dead. Instead, the entire book is driven by the PCs. This means that its imperative your players make characters who want to drive the story forward. Characters who care about the town of Roderic’s Cove — where our story begins — but will be willing to leave for a time when events lead them elsewhere. Characters who would meddle in gang politics, protect their neighbours, and put a spirit to rest. Characters who care. That doesn’t mean the characters have to be a bunch of do-gooders. It just means that players need to think of a reason that their characters would do these things voluntarily, and without the promise of monetary reward.

Roderics Cove by Matthias Rotenaicher
Welcome to the town of Roderic’s Cove! Cartography by Matthias Rotenaicher.

Our story begins in the tiny town of Roderic’s Cove, which is located along the coast very near to Riddleport. It’s a prosperous town with neither homeless or poor. However, the town is periodically home to unusual occurrences and oddities. The ghost of the town’s founder, Sir Roderic, lurks in the town, emerging from the decrepit remains of his haunted home only when the town is in great danger. Roderic’s Cove is home to two different gangs: the Horned Fangs and the Roadkeepers, both of which are little more than thugs and bullies. It’s also home to a strange but harmless scholarly society known as the Order of Resplendence. Recently, the gangs have been at each others throats, strange deformed creatures have been seen in town, Sir Roderic’s ghost has resurfaced, and there’s even been a murder!

It’s best if the PCs all know each other at the start of this adventure but, even if they don’t, all they truly need is to be in ‘Circle Market’ shopping (or passing through) on Market Day. Here they find two gangs about to come to blows. The PCs have just enough time to interfere before another joins them — the ghost of Sir Roderic himself! As the gangs and citizens run for it Sir Roderic wails about the safety of his town! Then he vanishes as quickly as he appeared. The town guard is on the scene shortly afterwards to thank you for your help before bidding you farewell.

After that the PCs are on their own. They can explore Roderic’s Cove, chat up the locals, learn about Sir Roderic, the local murders, and the gang violence. Eventually they’ll either approach or be approached by a forlorn elf and local grave digger by the name of Audrahni. She’s very concerned over the spirit of Sir Roderic, and is hopeful that the PCs can be the ones to put his spirit to rest again by bringing peace back to the town. They had the courage to stop the gangs from fighting this morning, surely they’re brave enough to do it again?

It’s assumed that the PCs take up this task with aplomb, but even if they don’t it’s a simple matter to get them back on track. After another run-in or two with the various gangs they should want to take them on — even if its not for the good of the town.

However they get involved the PCs goal for this adventure is to bring peace to Roderic’s Cove and put Sir Roderic’s spirit to rest. How they go about this is relatively free-form. The most likely place to start is with the recent murder that happened in the Circle, and the two gangs that are reputed to be involved. They’ll get to speak with witnesses, rumourmonger, search for clues, investigate the victims and their death, and question suspects. They’ll need to keep in mind that they’re citizens of Roderic’s Cove, not law enforcement, so simply busting into a suspected gang hideout and bashing in heads isn’t going to fly. They need evidence. As time passes they’ll come across strange creatures lurking in the town at night, mysterious hauntings, and even learn of some other crimes that have taken place.

It Came From Hollow Mountain Mike Shel Return of the Runelords 2
Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came From Hollow Mountain

This first section of the adventure is very loosely scripted. It’s got information on some witnesses and some scripted events — some of which relate to the murders, and some of which lead to further mysteries. It’s really well written, but it’s definitely a slow start to a campaign. It’s not one of those openings that will grab your characters right off the bat and send them off on some immediate, daring adventure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enjoyable! But it’s not the mind-blowing, gripping, epic, opening I expected for this campaign. It’s subtle. It requires players who are good role-players, and a really solid GM to make this part of the adventure shine. Anyone can play it. But, it takes a solid group to make it something special. New GMs and players have the potential to flounder.

At some point during their investigation of the murders the PCs are bound to decide to investigate the dilapidated haunted house of Sir Roderic himself. The haunted house is interesting and engaging, but it’s also a grind! Only two halls don’t feature either a battle or a haunt, which is a lot for a house. This will be a tough place to explore, particularly if the PCs want to check the house out quite early in the adventure. However, there’s no immediate time constraints, so they’re welcome to leave and return at a later time, or explore the house in more than one trip.

Sir Roderic Valeria Lutfullina
Sir Roderic. Illustrated by Valeria Lutfullina.

Overall, I really like the haunted house. The haunts are a wonderful touch, as are some of the encounters. But, I think that some of the vermin encounters would have been better served as flavourful non-violent encounters that contain clues, and serve to set a more ominous mood. Of course, considering it will be the first chance the PCs have to actually engage in a fight, I’m sure plenty of groups will be happy for the opportunity to flex their combat muscles. Haha.

Either way, the house can give the PCs some important clues as to what’s happening in town, and allow the group a chance to speak with Sir Roderic’s ghost. Totally worth it!

In time, the PCs investigation will lead them outside of the town and into the Churlwood Forest, which is the focus of Part Three of this adventure. There’s multiple reasons they’ll want to come here. Perhaps they’ll come out one mission at a time and make a total of three or more forays out into the woods, or perhaps they’ll come out to accomplish all three at once. It all depends on how your group has proceeded with their investigation. Whatever they’re after, there are three major tasks that can be accomplished in the Churlwood. In addition, there’s a few scripted encounters that can lead the PCs onto these tasks and progress the story. For starters, they could be here to pay a visit to the Roadkeepers gang of bandits. They might also be here to find a pair of local dwarves who were kidnapped by goblins. Finally, they might be here looking for a mysterious location that Sir Roderic mentioned. As these locations are all interconnected, it’s likely that one task will lead into another. Overall I rather enjoyed this part of the adventure. It’s free-form enough to allow players to decide their own priorities and courses of action, but the actual locations are very detailed, well-scripted, and interconnected. It looks like a lot of fun. And as an added bonus? PCs will get their first taste of ancient Thassilonian ruins, and pick up some awesome treasure. In fact, they’ll pick up their first minor artifact in this place!

Runeplague Return of the Runelords 3 Richard Pett
Return of the Runelords: Book Three: Runeplague

Eventually the characters will return to Roderic’s Cove having done some good, solved some problems, and discovered further clues that will lead them to an odd location: Peacock Manor. This is a series of houses that were connected into a large, confusing manor, and is occupied by the scholarly group known as the Order of Resplendence. On the surface they’re a bunch of obsessive scholars who study ancient Thassilon. Most folks in town think they’re a harmless cult. But, looks can be deceiving. By now your players will have more than enough reason to suspect the leader of this group as being the true culprit behind the recent murders in the Circle. How? Why? Well, I don’t want to give away everything, but I will say that it’s leader has come into possession of one of the Seven Swords of Sin — a powerful artifact she’s unable to properly wield. But, investigating Peacock Manor is not a simple task! For starters, they’re a secretive group, and are highly unlikely to allow you in. Second? Not everyone there is a criminal. Many are simple scholars. Bringing unnecessary violence against such people could put you on the wrong side of the law. And finally? Gossip! Folks who just force their way into the manor, or spend a long time fighting there are sure to attract the attention of the local citizens of Roderic’s Cove. And when supposed heroes attack a bunch of defenceless, harmless scholars and eccentrics, chances are folks won’t consider them heroes anymore. All of these factors combine to make paying a visit to Peacock Manor more difficult than it seems. I really enjoyed it! This section’s got some awesome character art! Also? Players can pick up a second super cool artifact in the halls of Peacock Manor: Baraket, the Sword of Pride!

But, that’s not the end of this adventure! There’s still a second gang to deal with! The Horned Fangs who, quite mysteriously, bear the Thassilonian sigil of Wrath as their emblem! Characters will have to find the lair of the Horned Fangs and give them what for! But, the Horned Fangs are more than what they seem! They lair in the ancient Thassilonian ruins beneath town and, although once a simple group of thugs, they’ve recently come under the control of a foul sin spawn named Mozamer who travelled there via a magical one-way portal from Hollow Mountain. It’s Mozamer himself who’s behind the strange creatures that have been terrorizing the town, and behind the Horned Fangs recent violent behaviour! The PCs will get to explore the ruins, bring down a gang, discover their surprising leader, and battle otherworldly allies. But, not before the sinspawn invites you to join his army and serve the cause of his mistress, the Runelord of Wrath. Who’s already AWAKE.

SecretsCover Ekaterina Burmak
Trouble in Roderic’s Cove. Illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak.

Wanna join?

Haha.

Mozamer and the ample surrounding evidence show that the sinspawn came from Hollow Mountain, which was once the heart of Alaznist’s Empire, and is where she waited out Earthfall. Although bringing down the Horned Fangs and Mozamer is enough to put Sir Roderic to rest and save Roderic’s Cove — sort of — the Runelord of Wrath is an enemy that will have to be dealt with. Particularly since there’s that one-way portal under the town that Alaznist could send an army through at any moment…

THAT brings us to the end of the adventure. And what an adventure! It’s got urban adventure, a murder mystery, crime fighting, horror, wilderness exploration, ancient ruins, dangerous relics, awesome treasure, and you get to come out of the ordeal already the hero of your town. There’s nice, obvious, compelling reasons to continue on to the next adventure, and — unlike this series’ predecessors — the villain is already revealed and obvious from the start. From here on out you’ve got to take down the Runelord Alaznist before she can conquer Varisia and rebuild Thassilon!

Although I hoped book one of Return of the Runelords would completely blow me away and I’d give it five stars, in the end the shaky opening means I’m only giving it four out of five stars. I expected epic perfection! And, although this was a solid, super fun adventure that I can’t wait to play, perfect it was not.

But, the end of the adventure isn’t the end of the book! There’s more to look at!

After the adventure are three two-page spreads focusing on three major characters in this adventure. Two are enemies, and one is an ally. Audrahni the forlorn elf who is going to have a continuing role in book two; Corstela Rostrata, leader of the Order of Resplendence; and Mozamer, sinspawn leader of the Horned Fangs and general pain in the ass. The artwork in this section is awesome (as expected), the stat blocks are solid, and the background is useful for roleplaying these characters.

Return of the Runelords Book Four Temple of the Peacock Spirit
Return of the Runelords: Book Four: Temple of the Peacock Spirit

Following this is an incredibly important part of the book: a gazetteer on Roderic’s Cove. GMs will find this chapter absolutely invaluable. You need it to inject detail and interest into the entire first section of the book. In addition, you’ll reference it in between all the other sections of the book, whenever the PCs wander the town of Roderic’s Cove. The gazetteer itself is interesting. Roderic’s Cove is a neat, engaging, town with plenty of secrets and colourful characters to visit. It’s a fun place to adventure in.

Up next is one of the most fun sections for GMs to peruse — or I thought so anyway! An entire chapter on the Runelords, what they’ve been up to, how they survived Earthfall, and what Alaznist has been doing since she awakened. Which, but the way, is A LOT. It involves powerful magic, assassination, and even TIME TRAVEL! COOL! (And confusing!)

This brings us to the Bestiary, which contains three new creatures and one new creature template. My favourite of the creatures is the Cyphergull, a CR 2 magical beast that’s essentially an intelligent seagull with an innate understanding of magic and glowing Thassilonian runes upon its wings. They can devour scrolls and thereafter cast those spells. What an awesome little beast to lurk around the Lost Coast — particularly near Riddleport! Other creatures include the Nochlean, a CR 3 fey that delights in stealing children and causing terror; and the Warpglass Ooze, a CR 2 ooze that can enthral passersby and tempt them into it’s acidic body. Beware the reflection in the pool! Haha. The creature template will be incredibly useful not only in this adventure, but also in any of the others that involve the Runelords or Thassilonian ruins: a Runewarped Creature. This template can be applied to any animal, humanoid, or monstrous humanoid, and is essentially a precursor to sinspawn. They’re twisted abominations that are driven to consume magic.

Finally, this book contains a Campaign Outline, which provides GMs with information on what’s happened before this campaign, and what each of the upcoming volumes entails. Before we get into specifics, let me just say: Return of the Runelords is going to be AWESOME!

Return of the Runelords Book Five The City Outside of Time
Return of the Runelords: Book Five: The City Outside of Time

So where do we go from here?

Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came From Hollow Mountain is written by Mike Shel and intended for levels 5-7. In it, the PCs travel to Magnimar to tell the Sihedron council about Alaznist’s rise in Hollow Mountain only to realize that they already knew! In fact, they sent a powerful group of heroes there to investigate in secret, and they haven’t returned. Your PCs are charged with travelling to Hollow Mountain to figure out what’s going on.

Return of the Runelords: Book Three: Runeplague is written by Richard Pett and intended for levels 8-11. By now the PCs know for certain that Alaznist is awakening, not only that, many of the others are as well! They need to travel to four different cities in Varisia — wonderfully familiar cities to many of us — to stop a few different groups that are related to the Runelords and are causing trouble. These groups include the Cult of the Peacock Spirit (who have ties to Xanderghul, Runelord of Pride); cultists of the qlippoth lord Yamasoth (who have ties to Alaznist, Runelord of Wrath); and the Whispering Way (who seek to rebuild Zutha, the Runelord of Sloth’s phylactery). They’ll get a chance to adventure in Korvosa, Magnimar, Riddleport, and, my personal favourite, Kaer Maga! In addition, they’ll have a chance to speak with Sorshen, Runelord of Lust in this adventure. Yes, you read that right. Speak with. Sorshen is a potential ally and source of information for the PCs!

Return of the Runelords: Book Four: Temple of the Peacock Spirit is written by Jason Keeley and is intended for levels 12-14. With intel obtained from Sorshen, the PCs discover that the most powerful Runelord, the Runelord of Pride Xanderghul, is weakened due to Alaznist’s actions. This is their chance to bring the battle to him! Cause what’s better than kicking a big bad when they’re down?! Taking down a big bad who also turns out to be a GOD! That’s right! In it we discover that Xanderghul is the Peacock Spirit himself! An ancient Thassilonian god of secrets! They’ll have to head to his hidden temple and defeat this tyrant before he regains his full powers!

Return of the Runelords: Book Five: The City Outside of Time is perhaps the book I’m most excited for. It’s written by Amanda Hamon Kunz and is intended for levels 15-17. Now that they’ve taken down Xanderghul (hopefully), your PCs will be fully aware that Alaznist is the mastermind behind pretty much everything (although it’s likely they’ll be well aware of this before hand… Haha). Alaznist is building a realm for herself in Varisia, dubbed ‘New Thassilon’, and has used powerful magic, including messing up the past with time travel, to set her plans into motion. To defeat her they’ll need to get their hands on a relic from the Shattered Star Adventure Path known as the Sihedron Star. This artifact is currently trapped in Crystilan, which is essentially a section of the Runelord of Envy Belimarius’ dominion that was locked in a time-loop since the fall of Thassilon. They’ll need to slip into the city via the Plane of Shadows and sieze the artifact. Along the way they’ll get to explore a little part of Thassilon and see what it was like in its heyday. Unfortunately, Alaznist has messed everything up with her time meddling, so the people within are no longer stuck in a time loop. Instead they’re just… stuck. With Runelord Belimarius’ hold over her people slipping the PCs will have a chance to make an ally or an enemy out of Belimarius! Plus, they get to rescue the Sihedron Heroes (your previous campaign’s heroes) from the city! This is going to be amazing! I can feel it!

Return of the Runelords Book Six Rise of New Thassilon
Return of the Runelords: Book Six: Rise of New Thassilon

Return of the Runelords: Book Six: Rise of New Thassilon is the finale of this grand campaign! It’s written by Greg A. Vaughan and is intended for levels 18-20. The PCs have a daring plan: use the Cyphergate in Riddleport to travel back in time. Once there, they can repair all the damage that Alaznist has done to the past. There’s just one problem: they don’t know how to use the Cyphergate. The person who does? Karzoug, Runelord of Greed! …Except he’s dead. The Sihedron Heroes killed him in Rise of the Runelords. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean they can’t speak to him. They’ll simply need to speak with his ghost! Yes! you get to try to convince the dead Runelord of Greed’s spirit to help you screw over Alaznist! Hahaha! I love it! And for those players who have played through Rise of the Runelords this will be a huge surprise! Once they’ve convinced Karzoug to lend his aid they’ll need to use the Cyphergate an travel to a city in the Dimension of Time, which will allow them to send copies of themselves back to the past to repair the damage done to the timeline. What becomes of these copies and how much do your players actually get to experience of the past? I don’t know, but I sincerely hope they get to play in the past for at least a little while. It’s just… awesome! Once they’ve repaired the past they can return to the present and take on Alaznist herself in Hollow Mountain!

And that’s it! The end.

I’m not sure I can express how excited I am for this campaign. Just know it’s a LOT.

Thanks for joining us today! We’ll see you later this week when we take a look at the newly releasing Pathfinder and Starfinder Society Scenarios!

See ya’!

Jessica


Want more Return of the Runelords? Check out these awesome images from the Adventure Path!

 

 

 

 

Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire!

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire! So hop aboard and get ready to visit the Vast!

Against the Aeon Throne is a three part Starfinder Adventure Path that begins with Part One: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen, continues with Part Two: Escape from Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron, and concludes with Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm. All together these three adventures should take your characters from level one through to level six. You can check out our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne here: Against the Aeon Throne and Preparing to Rebel.

StarfinderCover
Against the Aeon Throne is an Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. To play you’ll need a copy of the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign that most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. I think it’s a great change that will allow the folks at Starfinder to tell shorter, more personal stories. In addition, this three part length makes it easier to purchase and play through an entire adventure path. Also? It’s awesome for gift giving and the budget conscious! Six books is a huge investment, but three? Well, that’s a lot more manageable for those of us without much extra cash laying around.

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire all about? In short, your characters will play as a team of allies or coworkers who run a ship together. The how and why of your meeting, and what kind of crew you are is entirely up to your players. Want to be a bunch of socialites on vacation? Go for it! A grizzled team of mercenaries? Sure! A ship of colonists ready to set down roots in a new home? Perfect! Or perhaps some criminals on the lam? Sounds good! Whatever you and your fellow players decide, your ship has been contracted by AbadarCorp to make a delivery of supplies to the fledgling colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet Nakondis way out in the Vast. Upon making the delivery they’ll receive 4,000 credits as payment from the leader of the colony, a lashunta priest of Abadar by the name of Madelon Kesi. For GMs who want to go off script a bit, it’s incredibly easy to change the hiring organization from AbadarCorp to any other corporation or group you desire. Irrelevant of who hires you, your contact for payment will remain the same.

Of course, cash isn’t the only reason your ship is heading to Nakondis. In addition, all of your characters are friends (or at least had passing contact in the past) with an android known as Cedona who recently retired to the colony of Madelon’s Landing. How and why they each know Cedona is up to your players, but there’s also an awesome list of eleven different suggestions related to the different themes that are provided in the book.

As for your ship? Your players get to make it themselves before play. Awesome! For groups who don’t want to spend the time crafting their own ship, they’re welcome to select any premade tier 1 starship. Whatever ship they choose to create, this bad boy will be with your players throughout the campaign and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve it as they progress.

Like any good adventure, stuff happens! And The Reach of Empire is no different! When they reach Nakondis they discover something has gone terribly wrong on Madelon’s Landing! It’s clearly been taken over by some invading force! (Spoiler Alert: It’s the Azlanti Star Empire). But, before the group has a chance to investigate they’re attacked by drones! They’ll have to fight off the drones, find a safe place to land, and make their way on foot to Madelon’s Landing to figure out what’s going on, save the colonists, and oust the invaders!

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself.

Against the Aeon Throne Reach of the Empire Ron Lundeen
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book One: The Reach of Empire

Starfinder Adventure Path 7: Against the Aeon Throne: Part 1: The Reach of Empire is a softcover adventure written by Ron Lundeen that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level 1 to level 3. The adventure itself is around 35 pages long, and split into three main parts: Nakondis Under Siege, in which the players fight or sneak their way through the wilds of Nakondis to Madelon’s Landing; Rebels of Madelon’s Landing, in which the players liberate Madelon’s Landing; and History Unearthed, in which the players head out to explore an ancient crashed starship where the remaining invaders are holed up. After the adventure there’s a seven page primer on Madelon’s Landing and the surrounding region, which is incredibly important for GMs. There’s also a new theme: the colonist. Past this there are four pages of information on new ship upgrades, systems, and weapons common to the Azlanti Star Empire, and four further pages of ship statistics and details. The Alien Archives are eight pages in length, followed by the Codex of Worlds, which is one page of information on the planet of Nakondis. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier two starship: the Vanguard Voidsweeper!

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS. Not huge ones. But spoilers none the less.

You have been warned.

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read (which isn’t always the case in an Adventure Path). The cover art is wonderful. It showcases a major enemy in this book, Lieutenant Sharu of the Aeon Guard, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind her is an awesome image of Iseph (the iconic android operative) and Raia (the iconic lashunta technomancer) running through the streets of Madelon’s Landing as they fight off drones from the Azlanti Star Empire. Super cool!

The ship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Voidsweeper. This tier two medium explorer starship is destined to be the final enemy the PCs face in this adventure. All in all, it’s a fast, maneuverable little ship, that packs some serious firepower. The art for the exterior looks a lot more generic than I expected — particularly when you take into account all the other awesome Azlanti ship artwork found later in this book. That said, it is a mass produced ship, so it’s not surprising. The map layout is simple, but useful. Much more streamlined than a lot of the ship layouts I’ve seen. I rather like it.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts with a bang, and doesn’t let up. It’s action packed and exciting the whole way through. I really, truly, loved it.

As previously mentioned, The Reach of Empire begins when the players reach Nakondis only to be attacked by automated drones! The resulting starship battle should lead to your players defeating the drones, only to have them explode! Unfortunately this leaves very little information that the PCs can salvage from the wreck. What can they learn? That the drones were automated and belongs to the Azlanti Star Empire. For those of you who don’t know: that’s BAD news. In short, the Azlanti Star Empire is a massive militarized Star Empire that has a whopping three solar systems under their thumb. They think they’re the greatest beings in the galaxy, and everyone else is fit only to be their slaves. And all those planets out there? Well, clearly they should belong to the Azlanti Star Empire. Cause they’re the best and all.

Yeah, they’re giant, pompous, jerks. Great villains for the PCs to clash with, but an overwhelming opponent. Let me be clear: this adventure path does not send your PCs off to take down the entire Azlanti Star Empire. It’s much smaller in scale than that. And frankly? I love it. It lends a sense of suspense to the series and makes it feel like you’re playing real people in a living breathing world universe doing what they can, rather than heroes so powerful they change the whole world universe. It’s a wonderful change of pace and scope. It’s got a very Firefly feel to it. (And Star Wars too, obviously).

After defeating the drones your players will need to attempt to contact Madelon’s Landing, only to find that it’s under occupation by the Azlanti Star Empire! Soldiers patrol the streets, the landing zone is occupied by a strange building, and there’s a massive space cannon mounted on one of the buildings that could clearly shoot your ship down if you went too close. With no idea what’s going on, the players need to find and select a new landing site. Once they’re safely on the ground they need to set out for Madelon’s Landing on foot to find out what’s actually going on. Along the way they’ll travel through the permanently misty jungles of Nakondis, deal with hazardous wildlife (the delightful hobgar!), battle enemy soldiers from the Aeon Guard, and save a colonist who managed to escape. From this man, Jellik Fulson, they’ll finally get an understanding of just how bad things have gotten in Madelon’s Landing and what’s going on. Jellik begs the PCs for aid and happens to know a secret way back into the colony. If they’ll go with him he’ll bring them to a woman who he thinks will give them a place to hide. From there they’ll be able to gather information on the troop movements, make targeted strikes against the Aeon Guard, and do what they can to give the invaders a hard time, and the colonists more freedom.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Rebels of Madelon’s Landing. This is both the longest and the most fluid section of the adventure. In addition to the adventure text, GMs will need to make heavy use of the primer on Madelon’s Landing found later in the book. Basically, Jellik and the woman he brought them to — a junker named Aibretta Fulson (Jellik’s ex-wife) — can give the PCs information on the enemy forces, and ideas for what sorts of secret missions they could accomplish to weaken their hold on the colony, and give the colonists more freedom. These ideas run the gamut from freeing trapped hobgars and unleashing them upon the town, to ensuring everyone has enough water to survive, and ambushing patrols. As the PCs sneak around Madelon’s Landing and subtly strike back they’ll meet other colonists, who can in turn become allies and give the PCs more support, intel, and suggestions. However, their actions don’t go unnoticed. Depending how much of a splash they make the Aeon Guard takes notice and retaliates. This also leads to other events that the PCs will have to intervene in — or not. It’s a great, dynamic part of the adventure, which is filled with enough mini-missions and events to keep the game exciting and interesting. As an added bonus, such missions are short enough you can accomplish one or two each play session (at least). Of course, the Aeon Guard is incredibly powerful, so stomping through the town centre and having a giant throw down is a tactic sure to get your players killed. However, that shouldn’t be a problem. The adventure itself does an excellent job of setting this up as a time to use guerrilla tactics, and subtly. Blatantly calling out the villains all at once is unlikely to be a plan your players seriously consider. Only after the town itself is secure will they be able to enter the Aeon Guard’s base of operations, take down the remaining soldiers, and free the prisoners. Finally, Madelon’s Landing is free!

Against the Aeon Throne Escape from the Prison Moon Eleanor Ferron
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon

Or are they?

Within the Azlanti base it becomes clear that they didn’t come to Nakondis just to annex some tiny colony. They came for something else. Something hidden in the nearby jungle…  To truly free Nakondis your PCs need to travel to the mysterious site and ambush the remaining Aeon Guard!

Which brings us to part three: History Unearthed. The PCs travel to the mysterious site through the jungle (there’s multiple modes of transportation to choose from), and discover that the Azlanti are exploring an ancient crashed starship. An AZLANTI ship. As they explore the wreck they’ll come to realize that the starship was in possession of an experimental starship drive theoretically much, much faster than Drift Travel. If the Azlanti Star Empire got their hands on this ancient engine and found out how to reverse engineer it the entirely of existence would be at their fingertips. They could conquer the Veskarium or the Pact Worlds! Heck, they could conquer both. Also, they’ll come to realize that their friend, Cedona, was one of the first colonists to explore this wreck and discover the experimental engine. To make matters worse? Not only is the engine already gone, but so is Cedona. The Aeon Guard has already moved them both off world for further examination and interrogation.

Final Battle Mark Molnar
Illustrated by Mark Molnar. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

By the end of this chapter the PCs will defeat the rest of the Aeon Guard on Nakondis, and know that they need to get back the experimental drive, and their friend, before its too late. Unfortunately, there’s one last obstacle to face before the PCs can zip off into the stars after the Aeon Guard. An enemy ship is approaching Madelon’s Landing! And it’s about to open fire! The PCs need to race back to the colony and take on the Azlanti ship, Barazad (the Vanguard Voidsweeper featuring on the inner covers), before it blows the colony sky high!

Hopefully they succeed…

Robot David Melvin Against Aeon Throne
Illustrated by David Melvin. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to the end of The Reach of the Empire! It’s an exciting, fun adventure, which I thoroughly enjoyed. EXTREMELY enjoyed. It’s just… a ton of fun.

But, that’s not the end of Against the Aeon Throne, or the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is the super useful primer on Madelon’s Landing. GMs will need to make extensive use of this primer to flesh out the rest of the town, and run the entire middle segment of the adventure. In addition, PCs who go off exploring on foot to get to the crashed starship will also make use of the information on the surrounding regions, which the GM will need to brush up on. Overall it’s an interesting, fun little town to adventure in. I rather enjoyed it. Plus it’s got lovely maps!

The colonist theme included in this book is pretty nifty. It grants a bonus to Constitution, while the theme knowledge makes survival a class skill and reduces the DC to identify average creatures using Life Sciences. Super useful. Later abilities allow you to protect more people than normal when finding shelter from weather, or feed more people than normal when living off the land. My favourite ability allows you to reroll a Fortitude saving throw made against disease, poison, or severe weather once a day.

Up next is a rather long chapter on the ships of the Azlanti Star Empire and their abilities. Now, I enjoy a good starship battle, but the ships themselves aren’t exactly the most interesting part of the game for me. I’m just not a person who’s into vehicles of any kind. That said, even I think this chapter was COOL. There’s a lot of neat abilities, systems, and weapons introduced, including stasis tubes, aeon stone based technology, drones (which give the undervalued Science Officer something cool to do!), autodestruct mechanisms, and — my personal favourite — hybrid starship weapons that allow you to control them with Mysticism. AWESOME. As for the ships themselves? They’ve got gorgeous artwork. I particularly like the Vanguard Comet, and the absurdly large Sovereign Vindicator.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, one of which is a playable race. and three of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: Carrion Dreg, a CR 4 undead monstrosity which has never looked grosser; Endiffian, which is a playable race of shapeshifters; Hobgar, a CR 1/3 blue monkey-like creature capable of shooting electricity that the PCs will come to know VERY well in this adventure (they’re awesome!); Mucilaginous Cloud, a huge CR 5 ooze; Azlanti Adjutant Robot, a CR 3 enemy they’ll face in the crashed starship; Synapse Worm, a small CR 2 vermin that tries to stun you before devouring you alive; and Thermatrod, a CR 3 creature that looks like a mix between a gorilla and an earth elemental, and vomits up lava. Cool! Personally, I like the hobgar and the synapse worm best.

Against the Aeon Throne The Rune Drive Gambit
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book Three: The Rune Drive Gambit

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on the planet of Nakondis. Despite its short length, the information contained therein is incredibly important to this adventure. It’s a must read for GMs.

And that’s it!

Against the Aeon Throne: Part One: The Reach of Empire has come to an end. I LOVED it. Seriously. Without a doubt I give it five out of five stars.

So where does it go from here?

Against the Aeon Throne: Part Two: Escape from the Prison Moon is written by Eleanor Ferron and intended for level three characters. In it, the PCs are deputized by the Steward (a galactic police force of the Pact Worlds) to secretly travel to the Azlanti Star Empire, rescue Cedona, retrieve the experimental Rune Drive, and get the heck out! They travel to the Azlanti Star Empire, visit an independent space station called Outpost Zed, and learn all they can of the prison moon Gulta that Cedona’s being held on. Then they’ll need to get there, get inside, free Cedona (and likely other prisoners), and flee the area. Awesome!
EDIT: You can read our review: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon.

Against the Aeon Throne: Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit is written by Larry Wilhelm and intended for level five characters. In it, the PCs head to a secret Azlanti science station in an asteroid where the Rune Drive is being held. They’ll need to get inside, infiltrate or fight their way to the Rune Drive, and learn what the heck it is. Then they’ll need to find a way to steal it. Along the way they’ll fight Aeon Guard soldiers, rescue captive scientists, and face off against the man responsible for sending troops to Nakondis in the first place! Awesome!
EDIT: You can read our review: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit.

I can’t wait to get a chance to play Against the Aeon Throne with my family!

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the first volume as much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Preparing to Rebel!

I’ve already mentioned that Starfinder has launched their new Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne. I’ve talked about it, geeked out about it, watched Paizo’s twitch stream, and generally wished I owned it. It looks like a ton of fun. My husband nodded his head and gave me a ‘that’s nice’ sort of look. Clearly not as excited as I am, haha. And my kids? Excited, but not obsessively so.

Until they saw the preview.

Preview?

Yeah! Preview! The trailer! Like a movie trailer for an adventure path. It explains the premise and basics of the campaign clearly, quickly, and concisely. It sounds awesome, it’s got great art. And it generally made me start salivating all over again.

As soon as it started my kids wandered over to see what I was watching. They sat still…. and stared….

And when it ended my kids literally started shrieking all at once.

“THIS LOOKS SO MUCH FUN!”

“I WANT TO PLAY!”

“YOU NEED TO BUY THAT FOR ME! NO! I will tell DAD to buy it for YOU for YOUR birthday!”

“THAT’S TOO LONG! AN EARLY BIRTHDAY!”

“A… thanks for going to school gift? Can I have one of those? I am in grade one now, Mom.”

So on and so on. We laughed, and I figured they’d soon wander off.

They didn’t.

StarfinderCover
Starfinder Core Rulebook

Instead they pulled out the Starfinder books and started making characters for Against the Aeon Throne. They didn’t have time to finish before bed, but the next day on the walk to school it was all they talked about. And the day after, on the weekend, we spent our time at the laundromat creating their characters together.

My son made a contemplative technomancer who is a scholar with a focus on the fields of ecology and alien ecosystems. He dabbles in illusions, mind magic, and technology, but takes special care to use magic that doesn’t harm the environment, and to create clean, sustainable technologies. His contemplative travels to Nakondis to help his friend study the starship drive on the mysterious crashed ship she is studying there. In addition, he’s going to ensure that the new colony of Madelon’s Landing treats the planet of Nakondis with the respect it deserves.

PZO7105
Contemplatives can be found in Starfinder: Alien Archive, along with a ton of other fun monsters and playable races.

And my daughter? She has a character image she discovered ages ago on Pinterest that she’s been saving for something special. She’s making a ysoki ninja! White furred, with pale pink attire, a dagger and a stun gun. She’s going to be an operative, although she’s torn between selecting the ‘daredevil’ and the ‘ghost’ specializations. She plans to focus on both acrobatics and stealth, so she’s undecided. Either way she’s going to be a nimble, tricky combatant comfortable in close range and melee combat.

Then they got to work asking what I would play, and badgering my husband for his character concept.

The only problem? I still don’t own it. Haha. Guess I’m investing in Against the Aeon Throne sooner than expected!

Grumpy over our inability to begin playing, my kids settled in with my husband to watch the finale of Voltron: Legendary Defender. They loved it, and when they end came they headed right over to the block bucket and got building.

Against the Aeon Throne Reach of the Empire Ron Lundeen
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book One: The Reach of the Empire

Last time they built starships they did so with LEGO, but this time they used Duplo. Duplo is like bigger sized LEGO. It’s kind of marketed for toddlers, while LEGO is for kids, but my kids ADORE their Duplo (yes, even more than their LEGO). With LEGO they build things, but locking in the blocks sometimes hurts their fingers, and for some reason they feel compelled to find and follow instructions when they use it. They don’t often just build something grand from their imagination with LEGO. But with Duplo? It’s different. They never look at instructions. The blocks don’t hurt. They just come up with the craziest things, and build. Usually it’s full cities and markets with multiple buildings and roads and things. Trains and other vehicles are popular. Sometimes amusement park rides (that move). Once in a while they build mazes multiple layers deep. A while back my husband and I were watching ‘In The Heart Of The Sea‘ on Netflix and although my husband and I liked it my kids were bored out of their minds. Instead of watching my son sat down with blocks and built his own massive whaling ship. It was the right ship, had masts and sails, and even miniature rowboats on it. It was literally a massive, awesome ship. It even had a removable top deck so you could look inside. It was, hands-down, cooler than anything I’ve ever built.

So, I wasn’t surprised when they started building something together. They had a plan, and they chatted and got to work. When it was done they called me over. They had made a big starship, a few feet long and almost a foot wide. They stacked it on stilts that they attached to wheels, so it could drive around the house while the ship itself was still hovering off the ground.

“Awesome starship, guys!” I said

They shook their heads.

“This is not just ANY starship, Mom. THIS is a Galra battle cruiser! The really big ones. See!”

I looked at it again and nodded. It looked like the right shape and everything. I could see it.

They showed me the bridge. If you’ve got little hands (which I do not, haha) you can slip a hand inside and put figures inside. There’s even chairs and computer consoles in there. Impressive. They showed my the really big gun turret they built on top, which really does spin. They named what kind of gun it was, but in all fairness, I’ve forgotten it’s name (shame on me, I know). It was the big one. Haha. They showed me the thrusters and the engine bay. They showed my the medical bay and the prison cells. They pointed out that the prison cells had toy lions in them because in the finale they had just watched the villain captures the hero’s lions (they’re sentient lion-shaped starships, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about) and locks them up. Cool!

Anyways, I was so impressed we took a bunch of photos I thought I’d share below. My kids are very proud. They’re still waiting for Against the Aeon Throne. And they’re still excited. But, for now, they’re happy their creation is getting shared with the world.

Thanks for joining us today,

Jessica

 

Against the Aeon Throne

Against the Aeon Throne Reach of the Empire Ron Lundeen
Against the Aeon Throne: Book 1: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen.

The Dead Suns Adventure Path has officially come to the end and I am thrilled for what’s coming next! It’s a rapid paced, Star Wars inspired campaign that pits the ‘little guys’ against the powerful militaristic Azlanti Star Empire: Against the Aeon Throne! This is the second Starfinder Adventure Path, and this time around they’re shaking up the format. For starters, it’s going to be a monthly release from now on. Also? It’s only three parts. This change is temporary, and will allow them to tell shorter, more diverse stories, with a more focused narrative. Against the Aeon Throne should take you to level six. It will be followed by another three-part Adventure Path, Signal of Screams, which is a delightful space horror that will begin at level seven. I know, right? Exciting. If you’re not ready to stop playing your characters after Against the Aeon Throne you can always pick right back up with Signal of Screams. After this they will go back to the six volume format for the fourth adventure path, Dawn of Flame, which happens on the sun! After Against the Aeon Throne comes to an end be sure to give Paizo your feedback. They’ll want to know if you like these changes, or prefer the six volume format.

But, enough about the future! Let’s hear about Against the Aeon Throne!

Against the Aeon Throne Escape from the Prison Moon Eleanor Ferron
Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron.

This new Adventure Path begins with Against the Aeon Throne: Book 1: The Reach of Empire. It’s written by Ron Lundeen and is intended to bring your characters from level 1 to 3. Your players will be creating characters hired to transport some much needed supplies to a new colony (named Madelon’s Landing) of just over a hundred people that was founded a few months ago on a planet in the Vast called Nakondis. This world is wild, and constantly shrouded in mist. Still, a pal of yours decided to move there, so paying them a visit is the least you can do. Besides, what could possibly go wrong? Right? Haha. Upon arriving you discover that the Azlanti Star Empire has conquered the colony! Your players must liberate the colony from the villainous Empire. But the Azlanti weren’t only interested in the colony. They were after something else: an experimental starship drive from an ancient ship that crashed on Nakondis long ago. To make matters worse, your friend is nowhere to be found. They’ve been taken! But why? In addition to the adventure itself, this issue features an article on the planet of Nakondis and the new colony of Madelon’s Landing. It also has a new theme: the colonist, a host of ships found within the Azlanti Star Empire (including drone fighters, and even ships that allow you to use mysticism and computers checks in new ways!). There’s also new creatures, of course: the carrion dreg template, the mucilaginous cloud, Azlanti adjutant robot, synapse worm, thermatrod, endiffian playable race and, my personal favourite, a simian creature known as a hobgar.

Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon is written by Eleanor Ferron and is intended to bring your player’s characters from level 3 to 5. Thanks to their efforts freeing Madelon’s Landing from the Azlanti Star Empire, the PCs have been deputized by the Stewards (a group of space police) and are on their way to rescue their friend. Not an easy task! They’ll have to enter the Azlanti Star Empire and figure out a way to break into a massive prison moon. They also get to visit a new space station. The articles in the back include information on the Azlanti Star Empire, some new gear, information of the many races and species that the Azlanti have conquered, and details on an Azlanti prison guard spaceship.  There’s also some new creatures, including a radioactive dragon and a plant that snubs its nose at gravity (or would if it had a nose…).

Against the Aeon Throne The Rune Drive Gambit
Against the Aeon Throne: Book Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm.

Against the Aeon Throne: Book Three: The Rune Drive Gambit is the conclusion of this adventure path! It’s written by Larry Wilhelm and is intended for fifth level characters. Now that your PCs have rescued their friend they have to retrieve the starship drive the Azlanti retrieved from Nakondis. To do that they’ll need to find and break into a science laboratory, steal the engine, and get back to freedom. They also get to figure out why it’ so important and face off against the mastermind behind the attack on Nakondis. In addition to the adventure this issue also comes with ideas for continuing the campaign, an article on the Stewards, full details on a luxury Azlanti spaceship, and some new creatures (including fey and an aberration).

Against the Aeon Throne looks like its going to be an exciting change of pace that’s fun and personal. The shorter length is definitely going to appeal to some fans, including my husband and children. I can’t wait to strap on my laser pistol, make a rebel, and throw a wrench into the plans of the Azlanti!

Fire up the engines! It’s time to head into the Drift!

Want to know more? Check out the AWESOME trailer Paizo released for Against the Aeon Throne. My kids and I just watched it and they are literally bouncing up and down in excitement! Nice job, Paizo!

Jessica


UPDATE: For a more recent look at Against the Aeon Throne check out this blog post: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: Reach of Empire!


Return of the Runelords

It’s been teased for a decade and finally — FINALLY — the Runelords are making their move! Yes! Today we’re taking a look at the brand new Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.

Back before Pathfinder had its own rules set I was a huge fan of Dungeon Magazine. So, when it was announced that the run of the magazine was coming to an end, transitioning to Paizo’s new Pathfinder adventures was a no brainer. I didn’t have much extra cash at the time, so transitioning to 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t an option. Pathfinder didn’t involve new rulebooks (…yet. Haha), and I could keep reading some awesome adventures.

Secrets of Roderics Cove Adam Daigle Return of the Runelords 1
Return of the Runelords: Book One: Secrets of Roderick’s Cove by Adam Daigle. Features Alaznist Runelord of Wrath on the cover, as illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak.

I enjoyed the free module Hollow’s Last Hope, and it’s sequel Crown of the Kobold King. I loved the desperate, hopeless air of Falcon’s Hollow, and enjoyed the flavourful non-combat encounters in the adventures. But Rise of the Runelords?! I bought part one and was completely hooked. It was a fun, new twist on a classic style of adventure. As its sequels came out I was continually impressed. I loved that it took a bit of a tour of different adventure themes, from the horror of the The Skinsaw Murders, the depravity of The Hook Mountain Massacre, and even the vast, sandboxy exploration featured in the finale Spires of Xin-Shalast. It featured classic enemies, right alongside new ones, in a way that was fresh and exciting. I loved exploring the lost ruins of Thassilon, and discovering the history and culture of the ancient empire and its tyrannical rulers as you went.

We started playing Rise of the Runelords nearly right away. Unfortunately, we had a few false starts. Players came and went, and games ended each time. I swear we tried to play it three or four times before we finally got a solid group together. We ended up playing other campaigns before returning to Rise of the Runlords. We played an entire run of Curse of the Crimson Throne (which now has an awesome anniversary edition available: Curse of the Crimson Throne: Anniversary Edition) and to this day Curse of the Crimson Throne is my all-time favourite campaign. Heck, we even named my son after my husband’s PC. (For the record, it’s an awesome name. Haha). We also finished the entire Legacy of Fire Adventure Path in that time (which begins with Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King).

So when it came time to finally replay Rise of the Runelords — this time as Rise of the Runelords: Anniversary Edition! — we were ready for it. I was GMing, my husband, brother, and a friend of ours were playing, and I made an NPC to join them. We created characters who were the children of our characters from our Legacy of Fire campaign, and had an absolute blast. In time one of the characters split from the group and they rolled up a new one. They continued playing this second character online via email, and I created an entire new campaign for them, linked to the main events of Rise of the Runelords, but dealing with the other Runelords. The main Rise of the Runelords game (but not the email spin-off) paused for nearly a year when my brother had his second child, and when we finally got back to playing it was without him. We got all the way to the final book. And there we were, ready to make the trek to Xin-Shalast and confront Karzoug, the Runelord of Greed himself! And our extra player stopped showing up. In time my brother was ready to play with us again and we got ready to finally finish the last book — when my husband decided he wanted to play something new.

I swear we’re cursed!

In the time since my kids have been asking to play Rise of the Runelords. They saw it on the Adventure Card Game app and were mindblown at Aldern Foxglove’s character arc. Literally AMAZED. I promised them we’d start it in time, only to have my husband say he wanted to make someone to play alongside them. Uh… okay? Haha. I guess it’s waiting until after we finish Carrion Crown (we’re currently on Carrion Crown: Book Two: Trial of the Beast) and The Shackled City Adventure Path together then! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to play it as a family, but I found the request odd! He’d played so much of it that I was surprised he’d want to do so again. Since I’ve never really gotten to experience the campaign as a player I also joined a play-by-post game of it, which is a lot of fun.

Suffice to say, my experiences with Rise of the Runelords are both positive and enduring. I was thrilled to see the Runelord Sorshen mentioned in Curse of the Crimson ThroneAdventure Path, see the Runelord’s predecessor Xin featured in the Shattered Star Adventure Path (which begins with Shattered Star: Book One: Shards of Sin), and see Krune and the followers of Lisalla showcased in Pathfinder Society Season Four: Year of the Risen Rune (culminating in Scenario #4-26: The Waking Rune). Readers of the previous campaigns will know that the other Runelords have always been coming. They’re there, waiting to rise…

And now it’s time!

Return of the Runelords is a new six-part Adventure Path that revolves around the return of the rest of the Runelords and the rise of New Thassilon. The events of Rise of the Runelords and the Shattered Star have already happened. But, if you’ve never played either, never fear! You can still enjoy this campaign. It begins with some trouble brewing in the Varisian town of Roderic’s Cove (more on that later!). The issues in this Adventure Path are longer than usual, and the final issue is supposed to be the biggest adventure of the series. (Pardon me while I squeal in glee). This Adventure Path will take you all the way from levels 1 to 20, which allows you to take on the incredibly powerful Runelords without delving into mythic tiers. Each of the six Runelords (excluding the seventh: Karzoug) is featured on one of the covers, with gorgeous artwork drawn by Ekaterina Burmak (you’ll see them featured throughout this article).

Before we get too far into what we know about Return of the Runelords, we’re going to talk a bit about the Runelords and Thassilon.


What the heck is Thassilon, and what’s a Runelord?

Thassilon is an ancient empire founded over 11,000 years ago by First King Xin. Xin was Azlanti, but thought that place sucked. He was exiled and decided to found his own nation. Things seemed to be working fine, and his country spread far and wide. He appointed seven wizard governors to oversee the provinces of his empire. Each was an expert in a specific school of magic which was originally based on the seven virtues of rule (charity, generosity, humility, kindness, love, temperance, and zeal). In time, these virtues became twisted into the seven sins (envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath) and the Runelords betrayed Xin. In the aftermath Xin was destroyed, the Runelords seized control of Thassilon, Xin’s son was placed on the throne as a puppet emperor, and the tyrannical Runelords continued ruling their own provinces. But the Runelords were greedy. They bickerer, bargained, and plotted for more power and territory over each other. In addition, they were big jerks. They enslaved races, subjugated their people, and so on. They built massive monuments which survive throughout Varisia to this day. You ever hear of the Irespan in Magnimar? Thassilonian. The Old Light in Sandpoint? Thassilonian. The black pyramid underneath Castle Korvosa? Thassilonian. Skull’s Crossing? Lady’s Light? Yup! Thassilonian!

In time, Earthfall drew near. And the Runelords? They saw it coming. They prepared for the coming apocalypse and enacted magical countermeasures. Each waited out the end of their empire and the coming Age of Darkness in their own ways. But Earthfall devastated Golarion more than they had ever imagined, and most of their countermeasures and failsafes either failed or malfunctioned. The Runelords slumbered on throughout the ages.

Until Karzoug: Runelord of Greed. Now, Karzoug wasn’t the only Runelord of Greed. There were seven before him: Kaladurnae, Fethryr, Gimmel, Ligniya, Mazmiranna, Aethusa, and Haphrama. But, at the time of Earthfall, he was the big shot. He ruled all of the province of Shalast from its capital of Xin-Shalast, was a master of transmutation magic, and wielded a powerful burning glaive which was decorated with meteorites. Just over a decade ago Karzoug stirred. His minions spread throughout his realm of Xin-Shalast, and then out into Varisia, but Karzoug himself could not quite manifest into the Material Plane. His minions’ efforts to bring him back into Golarion are thwarted by heroes during the course of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path. I won’t go into detail on its events — that’s what playing is for! — but I will say that if your players have done their job, the Runelord Karzoug is no more.

But there, at the very back of Rise of the Runelords final volume, it reads:

“The runelords will return.”

Tease much? Haha.


So what’s Shattered Star? More Runelords?

Nope! During the Shattered Star Adventure Path you play as Pathfinders under the command of Venture-Captain Shield Heidmarch of Magnimar. She gives you one of seven pieces of a ancient Thassilonian artifact and tasks you with using it’s magical connection with the other six pieces to track down the artifacts components and put it back together. You explore ancient Thassilonian monuments from throughout Varisia, briefly visit a lot of fun places showcased in other Varisian Adventure Paths, and reforge an ancient relic, only to discover Thassilon’s capital of Xin, and come up against the First King himself. It’s awesome! But no, it does not feature any of the Runelords, which means that there are six Runelords left.

Sort of.


Sort of? What’s up?

It Came From Hollow Mountain Mike Shel Return of the Runelords 2
Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came from Hollow Mountain  by Mike Shel. Features Krune Runelord of Sloth on the cover, as illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak.

Pathfinder Society Season Four: Year of the Risen Rune pits the Pathfinder Society against the cult of Lissala, an ancient Thassilonian goddess. At the time of Earthfall, Lissalla’s highest ranking priest was also a Runelord: Krune, Runelord of Sloth. Krune ruled the province of Haruka, from his capital of Xin-Haruka, and wielded a longspear made from a dragons tooth that could move and attack on its own. His skin was said to be tattooed with countless magical spells and runes. There were six other Runelords of Greed before Krune: Xirie, Ilthyrius, Azeradni, Zalelet, Krenlith, and Ivarinna. It’s said Krune was the least violent of the Runelords, mostly cause he was lazy. During the course of the Year of the Risen Rune, the Lissalan cult tries to bring about the return of the Runelord Krune. And succeeds. This campaign arc includes Scenarios: #4-00: Race for the Runecarved Key, #4-02: In Wrath’s Shadow#4-07: Severing Ties, #4-08: Cultist’s Kiss, #4-10: Feast of Sigils, #4-12: The Refuge of Time, #4-20: Words of the Ancients, and #4-26: The Waking Rune. In the finale they face off against Krune himself. And hopefully kill him. Haha.


So who were these other Runelords?

Good question! In addition to Karzoug, The Runelord of Greed, and Krune, The Runelord of Sloth, there were five other Runelords. Runelords that we will, hopefully, get to face off against (or thwart the minions of) throughout the course of Return of the Runelords.

The Runelord of Envy is Belimarius, an aged, overweight woman who adored gossip and politics. She was a paranoid schemer who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She’s generally considered to have been an efficient ruler, and among the weakest of the Runelords. She ruled the realm of Edasseril, was a master of abjuration magic, and wielded a gold and mithral halberd that could steal the memories of her enemies. (Awesome!). There were a whopping nine Runelords of Envy before her, including Naaft, Tannaris, Ivamura, Jurah, Chalsardra, Esedrea, Zarve, Desamelia, and Phirandi. It’s said that when Belimarius usurped her throne from Runelord Phirandi, she locked him in a clear coffin and put him on display in her palace (safe to assume it was a magical coffin). Belimarius had a lot of trouble preparing for Earthfall. In the end, her magical ritual backfired and she accidentally locked her entire city in a week-long time loop (the city is surrounded by an impenetrable forcefield and is known by local Varisians as Crystilan). Also? Apparently she had a magic mirror, like the one from Snow White. Cool! Belimarius has long been one of my favourite Runelords. I’ve always liked the idea of the scheming, jealous old woman who’s super powerful. Plus, her specialty is abjuration! It’s about time someone made that badass. (I know, I know. Not many people would say she’s their favourite Runelord. Haha.)

The Runelord of Gluttony was Zutha, a unique undead who could experience life as vividly as any living man. He ruled the realm of Gastash, was a master of necromancy magic, and wielded a scythe made of bone that could drain the life from his enemies, and a collection of powerful ioun stones. He was a ravenous gourmand who constantly sought new foods (including living humanoids), experiences, and luxuries. He nation was the breadbasket of Thassilon, and he was not above cutting off food supplies to any Runelords who dared to cross him. There were four Runelords of Gluttony before him including Kaliphesta, Atharend, Aethusa, and Goparlis. With the fall of Thassilon Zutha bound his life to a magical tome which was then split into three parts. These books were given to his servants who were supposed to rejoin them once it was safe. His spirit would then subsume them until they became him. These books and one of their owners (the taiga giant lich necromancer Thulos) are described in detail in the extra articles at the back of the Shattered Star Adventure Path: Book Six: The Dead Heart of Xin.

The Runelord of Lust was Sorshen, an incredibly beautiful woman rumoured to have used blood magic to become eternally youthful. She ruled over the realm of Eurythnia, was a master enchantress, and wielded a double-headed guisarme. Sorshen was the only Runelord of Lust to have ever existed. That’s right! The one and only. The famous Lady’s Light monument in the Mushfens (which is explored in Shattered Star: Book Two: Curse of the Lady’s Light) depicts Sorshen. Other monuments of her rule include the Sunken Queen (which is showcased in Curse Of The Crimson Throne: Book Six: Crown Of Fangs), while her tomb is located underneath Castle Korvosa in the Grand Mastaba. There she is said to be sleep eternally alongside her awakening vampiric servants.

The Runelord of Pride was Xanderghul, an absurdly arrogant, silver-tongued diplomat who tried to rise above the petty squabbling of the other Runelords. He ruled the realm of Cyrusian, was a master of illusions, and wielded a lucerne hammer made from skymetal. Like Sorshen, Xanderghul ruled for the entire reign of Thassilon. There was no Runelord of Pride either before or after him. He is widely regarded as the most powerful Runelord of them all. He publicly worshipped the Peacock Spirit, a mysterious deity that he encouraged his followers to venerate (which was actually himself). Xanderghul always struck me as the big bad of the remaining Runelords, and when I made my own custom campaign revolving around their return, it was him who I had envisioned as the final boss. Although I can only speculate on what role he’ll play in the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path, he is definitely not the ‘final boss.’

The Runelord of Wrath was Alaznist, an angry, impulsive woman who waged war against Karzoug throughout her reign. She ruled the realm of Bakrakhan, was a master evoker, and wielded a ranseur upon which she impaled the skull of the first Runelord of Wrath, Alderpash. Other than good old Alderpash, there were three other Runelords of Wrath: Angothane, Xiren, and Thybidos. Alaznist worshipped demons, particularly Yamasoth, and channeled the anger of her people in order to create monsters for her armies (including sinspawn, and reefclaws). It’s said she also modified her troops with fleshwarping, alchemy, and other methods. The ruins of Hollow Mountain are part of her domain and have her face carved on the side of the mountain. More details on Hollow Mountain can be found in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Dungeons of Golarion, where they showcase an entire level of this massive complex, as well as Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-02: In Wrath’s Shadow. She’s also the creator of the Irespan in Magnimar, and the Old Light in Sandpoint, which is actually a magical siege machine called a hellfire flume which could shoot fireballs at invading armies. As far as I can recall, Alaznist escaped Earthfall by entering some kind of otherworldly (or maybe it was extraplanar?) refuge or hideout (don’t quote me on that, haha) within Hollow Mountain.


Enough with the history lesson! Tell me about Return of the Runelords!

Return of the Runelords is a six part adventure path that tasks your players with preventing the return of not one, but all the remaining Runelords of Thassilon. These volumes are extra long, with the final issue promising to be the largest adventure path volume yet! It’s intended to bring your player’s characters all the way from levels 1 to 20!  There’s going to be plenty of references to previous events, places, treasures and characters who first appeared in Rise of the Runelords and Shattered Star, and of course, you’ll get to hear what happened to any heroes from those adventures.

Return of the Runelords begins with Book One: Secrets of Roderick’s Cove, written by Adam Daigle, and showcasing the Runelord of Wrath Alaznist on its cover. It takes place in the port town of Roderic’s Cove, where some strange things are happening! What sort of things? Well, I won’t go into it too much, but it involves multiple factions violently vying for control of the little town (and utilizing Thassilonian magics and relics to do so!), and a mysterious ghost. As your PCs become embroiled in trying to bring peace to Roderic’s Cove, they’ll also learn that the Runelords of Thassilon are reawakening! In addition to the adventure itself, this issue features an awesome gazetteer on Roderic’s Cove, some new monsters (including the nochlean, and the warpglass ooze), and an article on the history of Thassilon and how each Runelords survived Earthfall. It’s going to be awesome! This adventure should bring your characters from level 1 to 5.

Now that your PCs know the point of the campaign, it’s time for them to do something about it! Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came from Hollow Mountain is written by Mike Shel, features the Runelord of Sloth Kruth on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 5 to 8. Your PCs travel to the Varisian city of Magnimar to deliver a powerful relic, and tasks them with following up on rumours of the Runelords.   They head to the infamous Hollow Mountain — a mountain on Rivenrake Island where the Runelord Alaznist once hid from Earthfall. This dungeon complex is massive, and filled with monsters and traps. There they’ll discover secrets that can help them in their coming fights. And as for Alaznist? She’s already awake! In addition to the adventure itself, this issue has an article and statistics on the empyreal lord Ashava, as well as an article on the always nasty sinspawn! Creature in this issue include the choking shade, and the shriezyx queen.

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Return of the Runelords: Book 3: Runeplague by Richard Pett. Featuring Zutha Runelord of Gluttony on the cover, as illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak.

Return of the Runelords: Book 3: Runeplague is written by Richard Pett, features the disgusting Runelord of Gluttony Zutha on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 8 to 12. Armed with new information (and haunted by weird visions!) your players learn of a magical plague that begins in Magnimar and is set to spread across all of Varisia! They travel the country, face cultists of Yamasoth, and stop the Polymorph Plague from turning people into monsters! Its also hinted that they might be able to stop as many as two different Runelords from being awakened (My bets are on Zutha and Sorshen, but that’s conjecture). Interestingly, this book raises the question: are all of the Runelords equally dangerous and can some of them become your allies? Well, colour me intrigued! In addition to the adventure itself you’ll find an articles on the cult of Yamasoth, the Polymorph Plague, magical pools, and some new monsters (including misery siktempora and kasthezvi). 

The next volume in this adventure path is Return of the Runelords: Book Four: Temple of the Peacock Spirit. It’s written by Jason Keeley, likely features artwork of Xanderghul on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 12 to around level 15 (or 16, perhaps? I’m guessing). In this issue your players face off against the cult of the Peacock Spirit, travel to their temple in the mountains, and stop them from bringing Xanderghul back into the world. An important task, since he’s among the most powerful of the Runelords! Details on this issue are scant, and I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.

Return of the Runelords: Book Five: The City Outside of Time is written by Amanda Hamon Kunz, probably features the Runelord of Envy Belimarius on the cover, and is likely to bring your characters from around level 15/16 to level 18 or so (I’m guessing on the level range). In it, your players head to Crystilan, a city encased in a crystal sphere where the Runelord Belimarius and her citizens live out the same week of their life over and over again. You’re heading there to stop the Runelord Alaznist from utilizing time altering magic to do… something! But getting past Crystilan’s inpenetrable walls is not going to be easy! You’ll have to head to the shadow plane, perform a ritual, enter the eternally preserved Thassilonian city of Edasseril, and figure out a way to stop her. But, Alaznist’s presence has altered this place, and things are changing for the first time in ages. This adventure sounds like it has a lot of fun social interactions, intrigue, and politics, which is going to be AMAZING. I’m actually the most excited for this volume of the Adventure Path, out of all of them! I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.

Return of the Runelords: Book Six: Rise of New Thassilon is the final instalment of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. It promises to be the longest yet! Written by Greg A. Vaughan, and featuring artwork of… The Runelord of Lust Sorshen, I think (don’t quote me on that, haha!), and is intended to bring your characters all the way up to level 20. In this volume Alaznist has messed with time, affecting both the past and the future! Your characters will need to fix the damage she’s caused, and take down the Runelord of Wrath Alaznist! That’s right! It’s got time travel! Oh yeah, and you’ll have to figure out what becomes of ‘New Thassilon.’ Yes. You read that right! It’s going to be epic! I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.

This brings us to the end of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. The first issue is already out, multiple other issues are available for pre-order, and the final volumes are due out by year’s end! This campaign sounds like a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I’ll race you to it!

Jessica


UPDATE: For a more recent look at Return of the Runelords check out this blog post: Review: Return of the Runelords: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove!


Note: All of the art below is by Ekaterina Burmak, and was featured on Paizo’s blog. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

 

Mummy’s Mask: The Tail of the Asp

Another week, another game night! Today on d20 diaries we’re heading back to Wati for more of the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path. So, sharpen your khopesh, pull out your holy water, and let’s get ready to take on the dead!

Mummy’s Mask is a six part adventure path for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, intended to bring your characters from level one to around level seventeen. This campaign takes place in the deserts of Osirion, and involves trap-filled pyramids, haunted tombs, scorching deserts, bustling bazaars and more undead than you can shake an ankh at! The Mummy’s Mask Player’s Guide is a free download on Paizo’s website, and contains a ton of useful information for players looking to make characters that have lasting ties to the campaign. For more information on Osirion, you can pick up Osirion, Legacy of Pharoahs. Players looking for desert-themed character options can also check out People of the Sands.

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Mummy’s Mask: Book One: The Half-Dead City, by Jim Groves.

My home group has recently completed Mummy’s Mask: Book One: The Half-Dead City, and have moved on to Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves, both of which take place in the desert city of Wati. For those of you looking to run the game as a GM I highly recommend picking up the Mummys Mask Pawn Collection, which has a over a hundred unique pawns for use in this campaign. You’ll also get a TON of use from the Mummy’s Mask Poster Map Folio. The campaign is also available in other formats, including The Pathfinder Card Game: Mummy’s Mask Base Set, and as a series of audio stories beginning with Pathfinder Legends: Mummy’s Mask 1: The Half-Dead City. If you’ve ever listened to the audio stories, let me know what you think! I haven’t had a chance to check them out myself.

If you’re interested in my previous posts about Mummy’s Mask, check out Mummy’s Mask: Game AidsMummy’s Mask: The Shrine of Wadjet,  Mummy’s Mask: The Canny JackalMummy’s Mask: The Dead Come Knocking…, Mummy’s Mask: Death in the Streets, or learn more about our characters in Character Focus: Mummy’s Mask: Fateway Five.


The Fateway Five left the Precinct of Left Eyes behind, and set off for their friend Manaat‘s house, deep in the slums of the Asp District. As they travelled, the streets got tighter, the homes smaller, and soon neither doors nor shutters protected the cowering inhabitants from the horrors outside. Only tattered curtains offered a barrier between the families hiding in their overcrowded homes from the zombies and skeletons stalking the streets.

“We need to get these people out of here…” Arc remarked. He was an awkward, red-headed herb witch from Thuvia. He wore little in the way of clothes and held a staff in his hands. On his back he wore a bag of dirt in which he grew a tiny garden and carried his pet rabbit.

“All of them.” Kasmet added. She was a fiesty catfolk dressed in ancient Osiriani finery with a pelt like that of a cloud leopard and an unhealthy fondness for shiny jewels.

Nazim Salahadine, a portly catfolk cleric of Pharasma who looked like an overgrown Persian housecat, spent no time in conversation. Instead, he let out a loud ululation and leapt into battle with his khopesh and shield against every undead he laid eyes on. Arc and Kasmet followed him a moment later.

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Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves by Crystal Frasier.

It took them a long time to fight their way through the streets to Manaat’s house. Although the wandering, weak undead posed no challenge to them, there were plenty to fight off. To make matters worse, most of the dead were relatives and pets of the residents, who had been buried under the floors of their homes due to an inability to afford burial in the Necropolis. This meant that families didn’t just have to fight off a roaming zombie, they fought off grandma, or a cousin or their previous pet cats. They also faced freshly risen zombies — residents of the Asp who were killed recently and reanimated by the necromantic pulses that had been washing over the city.

Arcs little pet rabbit looked around at the chaos with a sad look and a twitching nose. A silvanshee named Kal sat beside her, mocking every move Arc made.

“This is it!” Kasmet suddenly exclaimed.

The group hurried into the tiny house to find it under attack. Undead had literally crawled out of the tiny home’s back wall. The house was no more than ten feet by fifteen feet, and was packed with a bed, table, and cupboards, not to mention Manaat’s husband, twelve children and three zombies.

In between attempting to maneuver through the house, combat the undead, and protect the children, this turned out to be the groups hardest battle yet! Thankfully they pulled through without any of the family being injured. As Arc and Kasmet ushered the family out into the streets and explained to the father who they were, Nazim inspected the walls. The house was built right up against the Necropolis, so he was worried that the undead had broken through the Necropolis walls and into the home. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. It looked like the undead were purposefully interred within the walls, although he wasn’t sure if they had been honoured ancestors unable to pay for a proper resting place, or murder victims buried in the sly. Whatever the case, he was certain the Necropolis walls were still holding strong.

The group filed out into the streets and started to make their way back towards the Grand Mausoleum.

“Wait,” Kasmet exclaimed. “The people in these homes have no protection. We need to get them out of here.”

“Agreed!” Nazim declared. “But we cannot take them all. If the group is too large we will not be able to protect them.”

Arc nodded. “This neighbourhood, then. We’ll gather whoever will come with us from this block.”

“And the others?” Kasmet asked. “We can’t leave them.”

“We will come back for them!” Nazim purred loudly. “For now we announce our intent to return and tell them to ready themselves! Now, hurry! Let’s be off!”

The group took to the streets shouting that there was safety at the Grand Mausoleum and that evacuations were under way. They banged on the walls of those homes who they could escort now — some of whom joined them — and shouted their intent to return in another hour for another group. As they left the neighbourhood behind with nearly forty other citizens in their care, they prayed that the people of Asp could last that long…

Arc ordered Kal ahead to scout for danger. Surprisingly he offered no quips or arguments. Despite his frivolous demeanour, Kal cared for protecting innocents, particularly from his hated foe: undead. With their guide hopping between rooftops as a lookout and the Fateway Five armed and ready for battle, they managed to get back to the Grand Mausoleum without any casualties.

The Fateway Five were tired and sore. Battered and bruised. Though they still has magical resources at their disposal, it had been a long night. Fatigue would set in soon.

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Zombies, skeletons and many other undead menaces can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary.

But as the residents of the poorest sections of Wati fell upon the steps of the Grand Mausoleum and wept in relief to find sanctuary; as Manaat’s family rushed into her arms crying “Mommy;” they decided it had all been worth it. It would all be worth it… For they were far from done. The slums were large, and there were many other families who needed help.

The group beckoned over some healers to tend to their wounds, then headed off to speak with  High Priestess Sebti. They found her in the sanctum making up sleeping pallets for the refugees. The group told her all they had learned so far, and informed her of the weakening of the wall wards, the rising of the recently deceased, the plans of the Voices of the Spire, and the Voices intent to summon psychopomps to supplement their numbers.

Sebti was grateful, but also worried. She thanked the group for aid and sent for the clergy’s resident expert in holy wards. While they waited for him to arrive so they could escort him to the Necropolis gates, Nazim explained their plan to protect the poor of the Asp district. Sebti was both shocked and pleased.

“A wise decision,” she told them with a smile.

Just then a regal looking man with pale skin, a bald head, and long blue robes strode into the room. With a very imperious look he assessed the Fateway Five. He sighed in disdain.

“You called for me, High Priestess.”

Sebti smiled at the scholarly priest and quickly introduced everyone. “This is Ahrutep Mahetree, our foremost expert on religious blessings and defensive wards.”

Ahrutep smiled.

You’ll be escorting him to the Necropolis gates.” Sebti finished.

Ahrutep frowned. “I… uh… that is… High Priestess!” he stammered. “I am a scholar.”

Sebti smiled. “I wish you the best of luck. May the Lady of Graves watch over you.”

With their reluctant scholar in tow the group left the safety of the Grand Mausoleum and headed out into the abandoned streets. Kal hopped off to scout ahead. Not long after he shouted down from the rooftops,

“Hey! Losers! There’s some dead-heads over here.”

The Fateway Five took a slight detour over a block, heading towards the undead.

“What? No! Go the other way, you fools!” Ahrutep exclaimed in a panic.

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Pawns for Osirion-themed undead (and NPCs!) can be found in the Pathfinder Pawns: Mummys Mask Pawn Collection.

Nazim let out a loud ululation, drowning out the man’s complaints, and leapt into battle. It was a trio of zombies, so combat was quick. During the fight Kal hopped down into Arc’s dirt-bag  and cuddled up next to Arc’s rabbit. Arc offered some ranged support, and Kasmet attacked with her claws.

Ahrutep panicked, shrieked, and hid behind Arc.

Kal laughed at the top of his lungs. “A-HA-HA! THIS POMPOUS FOOL IS THE BIGGEST COWARD!”

Ahrutep was too scared to care.

As the battle came to an end he cleared his throat and smoothed out his robes. “Ahem… Yes, well… A fair job…”

Kal scoffed. “I’ve seen braver babies at Insula Mater!”

As Ahrutep stammered in embarrassment Kal rubbed his side against the rabbit, then hopped back up to a nearby rooftop and disappeared.

Only a handful of steps later and there was a strange glow emanating from the space behind the Ahrutep! He turned slowly so see a human-shaped figure made of glowing light.

“AHHH!” he shrieked. He hurried to hide behind Kasmet and cowered in terror.

The Fateway Five looked at the glowing figure. Kasmet bared her claws, while Arc and Nazim tried to determine if it was undead. Suddenly both of the men relaxed and rolled their eyes. Nazim held out a hand to prevent Kasmet from wasting her energy.

“It is but a trick!” Nazim explained.

“Not funny, Kal,” Arc remarked aloud. “We’ve got important things to do.”

From above they could hear the silvanshee laugh. “AHAHAHAHAHAHA! Did you SEE that? Get that guy a change of shorts!”

Ahrutep fumed angrily and sputtered out a rebuttal.

Kal laughed and turned, showing off his backside to the scholarly priest. “Ha! Okay, I’m really leaving now.”

And with that, he was gone. Again.

The short trip to the Necropolis gates took far longer than expected, but in time the massive gates loomed large. They could see Bal Themm and her reinforcements holding the gate against the hordes of undead who banged against the gates from the other side. The howls of the undead made a loud cacophony that gave chills to even the bravest of souls.

“Greetings, Bal! Here is your holy water,” Nazim said, handing over the vials. “And here is your priest.”

They pushed forth Ahrutep.

The scholar cleared his throat and stepped forward. “Lead the way, Voice.”

As the pair walked away, Kal laughed. “We should call that guy ‘yellow.’ And why was he wearing a dress?”

Arc, whose elaborate loincloth was more akin to a skirt than shorts, blushed. “Get a move on, Kal! We need to hurry.”

“Sure, sure,” Kal groaned as he scampered ahead.

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My wonderful, heavily used, much beloved map of Wati! I cannot express how helpful it is for my player’s during Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves. This map can be found in the Mummy’s Mask Poster Map Folio

The journey to the tail end of the Asp continued with Kal making a mockery of the Fateway Five, and pointing out all the undead in their vicinity. The PCs made quick work against all of the undead in their path. They battled zombie cats, skeletal members of the Silver Chain gang who were looting nearby homes at the behest of their skeletal champion gang leaders, sun-baked dead who had died of dehydration out in the desert and slums, and even an attic whisperer who stole Nazim’s voice.

Much to my amusement Nazim’s player, my brother, played the rest of the session only acting and mouthing out Nazim’s words. We all had one heck of a fun time guessing and replying in character. I particularly enjoyed playing Kal, who assured everyone that he could read lips, and then proceeded to translate everything Nazim attempted to say horribly wrong, and thoroughly insulting. It was a complete and total blast! So much fun! We probably spent more time laughing than we did playing. Haha.

The Fateway Five pushed themselves hard, and made a total of six trips to and from the Asp district, escorting the residents to the safety of the Grand Mausoleum. They were surprised to see a few familiar faces among the residents. Senja Messeniah, a dancer who occasionally performed at the Tooth and Hookah was  among the citizens. As was Tais (a half-orc who had befriended Kasmet a few days earlier), Frida Bylo (a partying dwarven lass who had tried seduced Arc in the hopes of robbing him blind. Her flirting stopped abruptly when she realized all he had in his room was plants). They also met the Pahnet, the wife of a dead man they had discovered in the Necropolis on their second day of the lottery.

Unfortunately, undead weren’t the only ones to cause trouble. Kal tricked Arc into an embarrassing encounter with a thief girl that Arc had a massive crush on. While Arc blushed, Kal threw his voice and gave his best Arc impersonation, then proceeded to make chauvinistic comments at the young woman. She was less than unimpressed.

On another trip the group discovered that they were missing a handful of refugees! They backtracked and found the missing citizens trying to rob a local shop. Outside the battered and bruised teenaged girl who worked there sobbed in the street. To make matters worse, one of the refugees was a kid. The Fateway Five ended up beating the robbers into unconsciousness, then dragged them through the streets to the Grand Mausoleum and handed them over to High Priestess Sebti. The shopgirl refused to come with them, knowing that her father had told her not to leave the shop unattended.

On their last journey, right at the end of Mender’s Row, where the slums transition to the lower class section of the Asp (as opposed to the destitute section) they heard screams and some strange growls. The Fateway Five called a halt, left Kal in charge of the refugees (which he loved), and hurried over a street. There they reached a fabric and dyer’s shop called Rising Pheonix Textiles, which happens to be the place that Manaat worked as a dyer. Out front they saw the owners — Ohmun Kotem and Shamihn Hep — being attacked by zombies while two massive beasts tore the zombies apart. The creatures looked like wide, panthers with ruffled black feathers around their necks, and skeletal crocodile heads.

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Esoboks are a psychopomp originally published in Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves and reprinted in Bestiary 6. It’s mini is available in the Mummys Mask Pawn Collection as well as the Bestiary 6 Pawn Box. These guys are a blast!

“Esoboks!” Nazim exclaimed. “Psychopomps who devour all in their path!”

“You mean the Voices of the Spire summoned those things even though you told them not to?” Kasmet shrieked. “Fools!”

The esoboks finished devouring the zombies and approached the women with open, bloody jaws. Ohmun and Shamihn shrieked in panic.

“Ah!” Arc exclaimed. Then he waved his arms and starting yelling at the beast. “Hey! Over here! You’re ugly and… you look like the undead! HA!”

The esoboks turned at the word undead, pinning Arc with their baleful gaze. The Fateway Five dashed into battle intent on not only destroying the esoboks, but protecting the women. It was a fun battle, that really showcased some of the esobok’s cool abilities (wrench spirit, anyone?) which was made extra challenging due to the maidens in danger. In time the esoboks were defeated, and vanished in a puff of gravedust, confirming that they were summoned creatures brought to Wati on purpose. Although they had combatted the undead, as the Voices of the Spire intended, they also were a threat to the living, as Nazim had warned. Nazim took a quick look around for the caster, but couldn’t find him (or her), while Arc and Kasmet tried to calm the women. They offered to escort the ladies to the Grand Mausoleum, which Shamihn accepted, and Ohmun complained about. After some fine diplomacy checks the Fateway Five convinced them to join the refugees.

“Oh!” Kasmet suddenly remarked. “And Manaat sent us to check on you, you know.” she lied. “You owe her your lives. You should probably give her a raise or something.”

When they finally reached the Grand Mausoleum the sun was rising.  The Fateway Five reported to Sebti, ensured the citizens were well cared for, and then headed off to their rooms down the road at the Tooth and Hookah to fall asleep. They hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours.

Undead still stalked the streets. Citizens were still in danger. And there was a group of impatient nobles waiting at the Grand Mausoleum to be escorted to their homes. But, the Fateway Five had saved a lot of lives. They had held the Necropolis gates, coordinated the major religious organizations, evacuated the most at risk neighbourhood in Wati, and slayed dozens of undead.

They had done an amazing job. But, there was much left to do.

Wati needed heroes.

So heroes they would be.


Thanks for joining us on another trip to Wati! I hope you enjoyed your time with the dead as much as we did.

Until next time,

Watch out for esoboks!

Jessica


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July New Releases!

School’s out for summer, Canada Day has passed, and Independence Day (for all you American’s out there) has just ended. It’s a new month, with new releases in the gaming world. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for some of this month’s products!

PZO1141Last month there were some awesome releases, including Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Planar Adventures, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Distant Realms, the finale of the Dead Suns Adventure Path: Empire of Bones (Dead Suns 6 of 6), and The Reaper’s Right Hand (War for the Crown 5 of 6)! Tricky to top! So what’s on the schedule for this month?

First off, Pathfinder Playtest.

Now, this isn’t out until AUGUST, but if you want to get your hands on a print copy now is your chance. Paizo is releasing the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook in hardcover, softcover, and in a special edition cover. They’re also releasing the Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn and the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat: Multipack. All of these products will be available for free as PDF downloads on August 2nd, but print copies will be quite hard to come by. Preorder or bust! In addition they’re releasing three Pathfinder Society Scenarios for Pathfinder Playtest. One series of quests at tier one, and two scenarios at tier five. An interesting choice! All three will be available as PDFs for free on August 7th. For more information, or to preorder print copies, check out Paizo’s website.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some products you can get your hands on this month!

In the world of Pathfinder there are only two new products up for grabs. The Six-Legend Soul (War for the Crown 6 of 6) is the much anticipated finale to the War for the Crown Adventure Path! Oh, it’s gonna be a good one! I’m SUPER curious! Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes from the Fringe presents a look at a lot of non-human, unique character options. Examples of this include the Ekujae elves of the Mwangi Expanse, and Pahmet dwarves of Osirion’s deserts, and many more. The part I’m most excited about? Whimsical phantoms for spiritualists! Come on, you know you want to be haunted by a chipper gnome ghost! I’m very intrigued with this product and can’t wait to see what’s inside. Pocket Editions of Ultimate Combat and Bestiary 5 also come available this month.

PZO7108Starfinder also has two exciting releases: The Dead Suns Pawn Collection, which has over 100 custom pawns from the Dead Suns Adventure Path, including a bunch of awesome starships! It looks amazing! What’s more exciting than that? A new hardcover book! Starfinder: Armory. Aww, yeah! This book is packed full of tons of new weapons and armour, as well as magical, technological, hybrids and mundane gear. There’s new bioaugmentations, weapons fusions… Every kind of item type has some new choices in this book. Also? New character options which focus on equipment! I don’t have a clue what they’re going to be, but I sure am intrigued!

In the world of Organized Play there will be four new scenarios coming out at the end of this month. Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-24: Beneath Unbroken Waves is a tier 5-9 scenario written by Kate Baker of particular importance to the Concordance Faction. It tasks the PCs with investigating underwater ruins. Scenario #9-25: Betrayal in the Bones is a tier 12-15 scenario written by Tom Phillips which continues the ongoing story of the Grand Lodge Faction. It allows players to finally get back at some old enemies! For more details, check out a previous blog post where we spoke about events leading up to this scenario! Starfinder Society Scenario #1-18: The Blackmoon Survey is a tier 1-4 scenario written by Jesse Benner which tasks players with exploring an ancient Eoxian ruin to determine why the workers on the excavation have been going missing. This one sounds like a ton of fun. Scenario #1-19: To Conquer the Dragon is a tier 5-8 scenario written by Matt Duval which send the players to Triaxus to open a Starfinder Lodge! This scenario builds on events from #1-13: On the Trail of History, and involves starship combat. I can’t wait until I get my hands on them later this month!

What’s left? Maps of course! And this month certainly brings us a LOT. Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Watch Station is a pretty handy map set which gives is a solid dungeon or underground prison on one side, and a moderately sized sheriff’s office/town barracks on the other. It can also sub in as any small building that includes barracks, such as a thieves den, guild headquarters or school. Pathfinder Flip-Mat Multi-Pack: Forest is a useful set of two flip mats which feature woodlands, rocky banks, and small rivers. These two mats each connect to each other in multiple ways, which means that you can continue your game with a rolling scene, over and over again. They look gorgeous. Starfinder Flip-Mat: Asteroid is an interesting map release. One side is an incredibly useful map of a canyon, impact site or crater which is going to see a ton of use. It’s super adaptable, and can even work in Pathfinder play. The other side is a complex built into the interior of an asteroid. It looks quite interesting. Clearly intended to be used in the Diaspora, it can double as a lot of other complexes, including an underground bunker, base, laboratory, military instalment or even a school. Unfortunately, all three map sets are not yet released on Amazon, so if you’re Canadian, like me, or from another place in the world where the cost of having anything delivered from Paizo is ABSURD you’ll need to wait a while before getting these beauties on order.

PZO4073There’s also a whole new type of map being released this month: Pathfinder Flip-Tiles! We’ve talked about these before on d20diaries, but in short, they’re a collection of 6×6 tiles with images on both sides which easily can connect to form a large complex. This month brings us two sets of map tiles. Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon Starter Set, includes basic dungeon features including halls, stairs, turns, entrances and rooms. It has a whopping 42 double sided map tiles. The second set, Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon perils Expansion Set, is an expansion which works will the Dungeon Set (and will work with other sets in the future). It contains 24 double sided flip-tiles which depict hazards including trapped and lit hallways, chemical spills, chasms, rock falls, magical devices, and fungal growths. They look pretty cool. Much like this months flip-mats, these products aren’t yet available on Amazon. As a brand new product, I haven’t yet seen these in person, so I’m not sure how easy they’ll be to adapt and use in a live game, but I’d love to find out. If any of you get your hands on these tiles, let me know! I’d love to hear what you think!

That’s it for this months new releases! What products are you most excited for? I know my household can’t wait to get our greedy little hands on Starfinder: Armory! Here’s hoping!

Jessica

Mummy’s Mask: Death in the Streets

Today on d20 diaries we’re heading back to Wati for more of the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path! That’s right! It’s game night! So while all of our kids settled in for a night of movies and popcorn, we adults cracked out our dice, scrambled around for our character sheets and settled in to play!

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Mummy’s Mask: Book One: The Half-Dead City. Written by Jim Grovesand intended for level one characters.

Mummy’s Mask is a six part adventure path for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, intended to bring your characters from level one to around level seventeen. This campaign takes place in the deserts of Osirion, and involves trap-filled pyramids, haunted tombs, scorching deserts, bustling bazaars and more undead than you can shake an ankh at! The Mummy’s Mask Player’s Guide is a free download on Paizo’s website, and contains a ton of useful information for players looking to make characters that have lasting ties to the campaign. For more information on Osirion, you can pick up Osirion, Legacy of Pharoahs. Players looking for desert-themed character options can also check out People of the Sands.

My home group has recently completed Mummy’s Mask: Book One: The Half-Dead City, and have moved on to Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves, both of which take place in the desert city of Wati. For those of you looking to run the game as a GM I highly recommend picking up the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path Pawn Collection, which has a over a hundred unique pawns for use in this campaign. You’ll also get a TON of use from the Mummy’s Mask Poster Map Folio. Trust me, by the end of Empty Graves your map of Wati will have had one hell of a workout. Mine’s already covered in a ton of numbers and labels I’ve added in permanent marker, to help my players keep track of the many locations in this quirky city. The campaign is also available in other formats, including The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s Mask Base Set, and as a series of audio stories beginning with Pathfinder Legends: Mummy’s Mask 1: The Half-Dead City.

If you’re interested in my previous posts about Mummy’s Mask, check out Mummy’s Mask: Game AidsMummy’s Mask: The Shrine of Wadjet,  Mummy’s Mask: The Canny JackalMummy’s Mask: The Dead Come Knocking…, or learn more about our characters  in Character Focus: Mummy’s Mask: Fateway Five.


When we last left our quirky crew of heroes, commonly known as the Fateway Five, they were standing in the Sunburst Market surrounded by the dead. Or, rather, the recently destroyed undead. The team had been present at an auction which had been rudely (and violently) interrupted by a pack of roving zombies and a particularly angry crawling hand. After saving the other attendees and laying the smack down on some undead, they headed out into the city to find Wati under attack by walking corpses. Without hesitation they waded into battle, saving more than a few familiar faces. But on the wind they could hear the screams of the living, and the rasping groans of the dead. The battle was far from over.

Wati was under attack. But from where? And why were the dead rising?

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Pathfinder Adventure Path: Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves.
Written by Crystal Frasier and intended for level four characters.

The Fateway Five paid a quick visit to the three local churches in order to coordinate a plan to save Wati and then set their sights on the town. But first? Gear. Having just come from a fancy auction with the nobles of Wati, they were more than a little under-equipped for battle. Or rather, some of them were. Arc had shown up half naked with a bag of dirt on his back, like always. But Nazim and Kasmet had attended in finery and jewels! Jewels would not win a battle. And finery? It would get torn and stained! They needed their gear, which was tucked away safely in their rooms at the Tooth and Hookah.

As they turned to leave the Sunburst Market they heard some loud screams. Women! Lots of them! And infants….

Immediately my players looked at each other and nodded. They all agreed without argument that paying a visit to Insula Mater (the local hospital dedicated to the care of pregnant women and infants) far outweighed their need for gear. And so, dressed in their finery and under equipped, the Fateway Five rushed off in the opposite direction, to Insula Mater.

Insula Mater is a large, multi-level building with easily locked and shuttered windows and lockable doors. The grounds are surrounded by manicured bushes in order to offer the women and infants on the grounds privacy. Insula Mater is run by a learned and weathered cleric of Pharasma known as Auntie Jehuti, staffed by a team of six other Pharasmin midwives known as the Mother’s Handmaidens, and guarded by a small contingent of holy guards. As the group arrived on the scene they found the windows shuttered, and doors locked. Two guards stood in front of the building’s doors, fighting off two zombies, with two other guards flanking the zombies from the other side. The zombies would not live long. But from the upper windows came panicked cries and the wailing of infants. Another voice rang out above the din, shouting: “We’re missing one! We’re missing a mother!”

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Learn more about Lamashtu, Pharasma, and the other gods of Golarion, in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Gods.

Knowing that the two residents of Insula Mater with whom the Fateway Five had shared an evening with had signed themselves out for the evening and were currently safe at the Grand Mausoleum, the group all knew that their companions were not the mother in question. With worry, they left the guards to deal with the zombies and scoured the grounds for the missing woman. They found her easily, engaged in an argument with a guard on the corner of the grounds. It was Keera, a confident pregnant woman they had met earlier in the day, with nasty scars across her face from some kind of clawed creature.

The guard was urging Keera inside, proclaiming: “It’s not safe.”

Only for Keera to reply. “You’re right. It’s not.”

Suddenly, from behind the bushes burst a quartet of zombies, all of whom moved to attack the poor guard. He howled in pain and moved to protect Keera, while Nazim let out a loud ululation and charged into battle with his khopesh raised high. Kasmet dashed into the fight right behind him, while Arc moved to help Keera. Much to their surprise, Keera began to cast a spell, proving herself much more capable than they expected.

The zombies began to fall under the player’s attacks, while the guard was heavily wounded. Kasmet tore into the zombies with her claws, Nazim swung his khopesh, and Arc pulled out a dagger and cut up the zombie’s arms. Suddenly there was a flickering of magic, and some grotesque-looking wild dogs appeared on the battlefield. Keera’s spell was complete! Her dogs let out a growl and attacked the guard. Keera stepped back away from the fight, let out a series of manic laughs and began to cast another spell.

Needless to say the Fateway Five was confused! Arc tried to get through to Keera (because clearly she was delusional! Right…?), while the rest of the team put an end to the zombies and slaughtered the magical dogs. The guard fell during the battle, while Keera laughed and danced away from the group with a dagger in her hand. She intoned a prayer in a foul language and sent a pulse of evil energy out at the PCs. The only discernible word the PCs had understood was a name: Lamashtu. Goddess of monsters, madness, pregnancy and  deformity.

In a rage, Nazim charged at the woman and cut her down, ending her life with a slash across the throat. As she gurgled in surprise, Nazim and Arc got to work on attempting to save her baby. With one of them a trained midwife, and the other a gifted healer, the odds of the child surviving were pretty high. Confident in their abilities, and well aware that she was near term, they performed an emergency cesarian, cutting the infant out of her mother’s womb, only to discover the baby was a hideously deformed monster with crooked hoofed feet, horns on its head, and a scaled tail. While Kasmet raised an eyebrow at the proceedings, Arc and Nazim were unphased by the child’s appearance, caring only for it’s health. During the operation a guard came upon them.

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Many of the enemies mentioned today can be found in Pathfinder’s Bestiary,including skeletons, zombies, and shadows! This book is available in hardcover, and a small, softcover edition.

Covered in blood, with a nearby guard killed by the teeth of a dog (which could be easily confused with those of say… Kasmet), and a dead pregnant woman at their feet, a guard commanded them to stop. Nazim and Arc refused. Instead they finished delivering the baby, and ensured it was hale and healthy. Then they passed it off to the guards, explained what happened and moved to leave. The guard didn’t believe them at all. Perhaps due to the unbelievability of their tale, the evidence that seemed to point to their guilt, or their HORRIBLE social skills. But, in the end, he let them go anyway, clearly deciding that bringing an infant into battle against three warriors was a horrible plan.

After that emotionally draining experience, the Fateway Five hurried off to the Tooth and Hookah to pick up their gear. On the way they ran into a pair of clearly wealthy people, who were battling a group of six zombies in the road. They seemed experienced with their weapons, and unworried about the entire ordeal. Nazim let out another ululation and rushed into battle, with Kasmet and Arc following close behind. The battle was over quickly, and the moment it was, one of the unknown warriors, a dashing middle-aged man with a charming grin, gave Kasmet’s hand a kiss and began to flirt with her. The other unknown warrior, an imperious woman in her late twenties, rolled her eyes.

“You’re an embarrassment,” she told the man.

The man laughed, and introduced himself to the group as Ahben. He continued to flirt, which Kasmet accepted with a swish of her tail and a purr.

“We need to go home,” the woman pressed.

“Nonsense, Hakor! We have business in Bargetown.” He then proceeded to ignore the other woman’s complaints and explained to Kasmet, “I have a friend I need to visit before they leave. Perhaps we can see each other again, in a more intimate setting.”

Kasmet agreed, then was left in a bit of a daze as Ahben and Hakor turned to leave.

Hakor shook her head in disgust. “You’re the worst father.”

“Oh, don’t be silly.” Ahben remarked as they left. “It’s well known I’m a wonderful father. Just ask your siblings.”

The woman didn’t seem amused.

As the Fateway Five watched the wealthy pair walk away, Kasmet’s heartbeat returned to normal and she finally realized where she had heard the names Ahben and Hakor before… Ahben was the Patriarch of House Okhenti, one of the most powerful families in Wati. He was a member of the city council, and well known for taking care of his many children by giving them government jobs, and seeing to their martial training. His many, many, MANY children. For Ahben was notorious for having hordes of lovers. His legitimate children were known as the ‘Scions’ of House Okhenti, while his bastards were simply his children. All of whom he took to live with him on his vast estate. Much to the displeasure of his wife. In fact, the Fateway Five had met two of Ahben’s son at the auction earlier that night: the pompous Scion of House Okhenti, Khammayid Okhenti, and the irreverent  Teos Okhenti. And Hakor? She was Ahben’s eldest child, a Scion of her line, and set to inherit her family’s wealth and estate.

Kasmet shared what she knew of the man with her companions as they made their way to the Tooth and Hookah. There were a few zombies out front which they dealt with quickly, before being ushered into the building by its owner, Farhaan. The Fateway Five had little time to rest. They quickly re-equipped themselves, ensured the Tooth and Hookah was secure, bid their patron farewell, and headed back out into the night. They headed right for the front gate, but as they passed by the many courthouses along the way they came upon a grotesque sight: fresh corpses lined the road. The PCs approached closer, to discover that many of the bodies were Voices of the Spire, and all of them were missing both of their eyes.

“Oh, gods,” Kasmet gasped while Nazim intoned a Pharasmin blessing over the corpses. “Back in the time of Wati’s first occupation, a common punishment for lawbreakers was enucleation: the removal of the eyes. It’s still practised in some places today, but not here. Once though… Hmm… There was a judge who was known for plucking the eyes out of people for even the simplest offences. A task he would carry out with his own bare hands. They called him ‘Old Eye-Taker.’ And he operated out of that courthouse.” Kasmet pointed to the ancient looking court one building over.

“That’s horrible!” Arc exclaimed.

Kal appeared out of nowhere and let out a laugh. “Hey, sometimes losing an eye is a blessing! Like if they had to look at your ugly face every day!”

Nazim clanged his khopesh onto his shield. “Enough bickering! We must find the culprit.”

And with that the group raced down the road to the courthouse.

Inside they found an undead trial in session. Four skeletal bailiffs presided over a criminal kept on trial against her will. It was Ankhet, a young dwarven member of the Voices of the Spire, whom they were acquainted with. She was unarmed and bruised, with a look of terror on her face. Presiding over the courtroom was a bloody skeleton wearing a judge’s robes with a black fez on his head. It was Old Eye-Taker, himself! Back from the grave!

He slammed his gavel on the wooden podium. “And the verdict has been rendered! You have been judged guilty!” the skeleton announced. “Those who sin against the pharaoh should forfeit the souls their eyes house. Therefore, your punishment is enucleation, to be carried out IMMEDIATELY!”

Ankhet let out a scream.

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Old-Eye Taker, as well as Osiriani styled zombies, and many other pawns can be found in the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path Pawn Collection

Nazim burst into the room with a shrill ululation and raced down the aisle towards the front. Arc hurried around the sides, hugging the wall in an effort to get to Ankhet before she lost an eye. Kasmet dashed over pews and benches, tumbling up and around to the other side, in the hopes of flanking the skeletons with Nazim.

“ORDER IN THE COURT!” Old-Eye Taker howled. “GET THEM!” After ordering his bailiffs to attack the PCs he moved down from his podium to attack Kasmet. He gave her a shove and tried to pin her down, in an effort to take her eyes.

Kasmet shrieked and squirmed, and managed to evade his grasp.

Meanwhile, Kal let out a series of ‘eye’ jokes. Then came one of the most enjoyable parts of the session: I challenged my players to come up with eye jokes while we played. Every turn Kal would shout out a new joke or pun and whoever called a new one out first would get to choose it. Everyone took to the challenge with glee, shouting out puns that ranged from obvious to witty. In the end, my sister-in-law ended up giving Kal the most lines, a victory worth celebrating!

Back in Wati, Arc readied his quarterstaff and waded into battle with the skeletons who held  Ankhet prisoner. He urged her to help, but she was too scared, leaving Arc one heck of a challenge! The bailiffs all moved to try to capture and pin down Kasmet, which proved very difficult. Nazim smashed them to pieces with his shield, while Kasmet tumbled around, flanking with Nazim in order to get her sneak attack damage on the skeletons, all while evading their efforts.

Soon, Ankhet was free, and only Old-Eye Taker was left standing among the enemies. United, the group made quick work of him, and promptly stole his wonderful fez. Even better? No one lost an eye.

Arc quickly tried to get Ankhet ready to move, a task made extra difficult by the rude cat making eye jokes from Arc’s plant-bag. With the dwarven woman ready to move, Arc healed everyone and they set out for the gates to the Necropolis. There they hoped to discern if the undead were escaping from inside the Necropolis, or were coming from somewhere else. But, as they reached the road they felt a sudden pulse of foul energy roll through them. A moment later, the eyeless dead shuddered and twitched, and climbed up onto their feet. They had become freshly risen zombies! This wasn’t the first time they group had felt such a feeling, or seen freshly killed dead rise…

“Necromancy!” Nazim shouted. “An affront to the Lady of Graves! We must find the source of this evil!”

“Less talking, more killing!” Kasmet shouted back. She dashed into battle as the zombies tried to gain their footing. Meanwhile, Arc drew his dagger and Nazim let out an ear splitting ululation before charging at the undead with his khopesh. Ankhet stood there in stunned terror.

Kal waved his paws in front of her face and laughed. “HA! Look at her! She looks half-dead herself!” he told Arc’s rabbit familiar.

The little rabbit twitched her nose, wiggled her ears and then shook her head once.

“What? It’s FUNNY!” Kal replied. “You’re too kind!”

By the time the silvanshee was done making his jokes at poor Ankhet’s expense, the battle was over. Eight weak undead stood little chance against the Fateway Five.

Arc sheathed his dagger and turned to face Ankhet. “I’m sorry about your friends. But we have no time to mourn. Wati needs us.”

The group hurried the rest of the way to the Necropolis without further trouble. There they found the gates shut and barred, with a great wailing and banging on the other side.  The voices of dozens of undead moaned and screamed on the other side of the gate, their fists pounding against the doors and the walls. Bal Themm stood at the gate, bracing it shut with her body alongside two other guards from the Voices of the Spire. They strained with all their might, but with each bang from the other side the entire gate shuddered.

“Fateway Five!” Bal shouted at the sight of them. “Come here! I need you to deliver a message to the Precinct of Left Eyes! It’s the base for the Voices of the Spire. Tell them we need reinforcements! And we’re out of holy water!”

The group urged Ankhet to join the other Voices before turning away, when they suddenly noticed a strange sort of shifting ripple across the gate. Two undead shadows emerged from the Necropolis and into the road, passing right through Bal Themm and the other guards.

They gasped in pain.

“Hold your… post…” Bal groaned, but the other two guards broke ranks and ran. Weakened and surrounded by undead spirits, Bal held her ground alone. She did not flee.

BANG!

Behind her, the door shuddered.

BANG!

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You can find pawns for skeletons, zombies and shadows, in the Pathfinder Pawns: Bestiary Box

Nazim let out another ululating cry and held his holy dagger, the Fate Blade, to the sky. He prayed to Pharasma, causing a burst of holy energy to surge out of his dagger. The shadows howled in pain. Kasmet quickly pulled out a few vials of holy water and began tossing, while Arc grabbed Ankhet and dragged her to the gate.

The shadows surged forward at Nazim, who combatted them alongside Kasmet with holy water and divine power, giving Arc the opportunity he needed to help Bal hold they gate.

BANG! BANG!

The gate shuddered, and the undead moaned. Finally, Ankhet seemed to realize that if she didn’t help, the gate would fall, and she would die. Together, she and Arc helped Bal Themm. A few moments later, Kasmet joined them. Nazim struggled against the incorporeal horrors, but he never lost his faith, and soon he defeated them with the powers of his goddess. Tired and weak, he let out a victory cry. Then he pulled out his portable ram and helped use it to brace the gate. Kasmet and Nazim moved over a wagon, then some heavy crates and other heavy objects scavenged from the nearby roads and buildings.

The undead continued to wail and bang loudly against the gate, but it held firm. They had secured the Necropolis Gates.

Arc did his best to treat Bal Themm’s wounds and heal some of her strength damage, then did the same for Nazim.

“Go on,” Bal urged them. “Get the reinforcements.”

Ankhet took a deep breath and nodded. “I’ll stay here.”

And so the Fateway Five headed off down the street and over a few blocks to the Precinct of Left Eyes, home to the Voices of the Spire, and the city’s prison. They could tell there was trouble even before they neared. The wails of the dead mingled with the cries of the living. The clash of steel, and the thudding of flesh on shields thumped below the din, like the drum beat of a wild, savage song.

They quickened their pace and emerged to a great battle. A large group of the Voices of the Spire’s holy warriors stood on the building’s front steps, locked in mortal combat against a thong of undead. Their Commander, Nakht Shepses, stood among them, with his second in command, Shenanda by his side, battling like any other soldier. On the other side of the undead, surrounding them, were other Voices of the Spire warriors. Although the undead were many, the Voices fought with skill and determination. Many of them fought undead on a daily basis, and let neither fatigue nor panic interfere with their duties. Clearly, the skeletons and zombies in the throng stood no chance.

With a cry, the Fateway Five charged into battle, fighting alongside the Voices to bring an end to the undead assaulting this part of the city. Upon the defeat of the final undead, Commander Shepses began giving orders to his troops. He was organizing them to reequip and begin patrols of the Necropolis walls. As expected, they were going to use their resources to keep the undead within the Necropolis, instead of helping the living survive.

The Fateway Five tried to push their way through the Voices in order to reach the Commander, but had no luck. Fortunately, they had fought alongside Shenanda on multiple occasions. When she saw them she made her way through the crowds to them.

“What is it?” she asked without preamble. “Have you come to help?”

“Undead are trying to batter down the Necropolis gates. There’s only two guards there. They need reinforcements.” Kasmet explained.

“And holy water!” Arc added.

Nazim locked eyes with Shenanda. “That’s not the worst of it. Shadows slipped right through the gates. If we would not have been there, the gate would have fallen, and Bal Themm would be dead.

Shenanda looked shocked. “Shadows slipped through the door? You’re sure?” As the others nodded, Shenanda shook her head. “That should be impossible…. The gates and walls are warded to prevent undead of any kind–even incorporeal spirits–from passing through. How did… What is…” She shook her head. “I’ll inform the Commander immediately. Thank you.”

Shenanda slipped back through the crowd and the Fateway Five took the opportunity to follow her. The Commander was shocked at her news. “Send word to the Grand Mausoleum. We’ll need their clerics to assist in reconsecration.”

“We can do that!” Nazim suddenly blurt out. “We need to return there shortly, to inform High Priestess Sebti of your plans.”

Commander Shepses eyed the group with a mix of suspicion and disdain. “Very well. Be gone then. Ensure you don’t lapse in your duties.”

Nazim nodded, and the group turned to leave.

Kal chose this moment to begin speaking again. “MAN! This jerk has a huge stick up his butt! You think he’d give us a thank you or something!”

The Commander glared at the cat (and it’s presumed owners) before ignoring them completely.

Arc blushed brightly and stammered out an apology, but the Commander was already in conversation with a priest. They spoke about summoning psychopomps to combat the undead.

Nazim’s furry jaw dropped. Unable to resist, he pointed out that psychopomps were dangerous creatures. Although they did hunt and destroy undead, many had little care for the living. Such creatures could be incredibly dangerous to the populous!

Unfortunately, The Commander ignored his warnings, and returned to his conversation with the priest.

Nazim frowned. Turning to his companions he growled, “We need to tell High Priestess Sebti. NOW.”

“We promised Manaat we would fetch her family before returning to the Grand Mausoleum.” Arc pointed out.

Kasmet nodded. “They live right against the Necropolis walls, Nazim. They could be in trouble.”

Nazim considered this, then nodded. “You’re right.” He pointed off towards the slums of the Asp District. “Let’s go!”


That’s all for our adventures in Wati today! I appreciate you coming along for the ride. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post, wherein the Fateway Five battle their way through the slums of the Asp!

Jessica