Review: Tyrant’s Grasp: The Dead Roads!

Today we’re taking an in depth look at the first book in the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path! This survival horror campaign pits the players against the return of the Whispering Tyrant, the lich-king Tar-Baphon, who was defeated and sealed away long ago. Tyrant’s Grasp will be the final Pathfinder 1st Edition Adventure Path released, before the switch is made over to Pathfinder 2nd Edition in August. Intended to take characters from levels 1 to 17, Tyrant’s Grasp is six volumes long.

Tyrant's Grasp - Player's GuideA wonderful Player’s Guide for Tyrant’s Grasp is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here. The Player’s Guide gives players a relatively spoiler-free way to properly prepare for and integrate their characters into the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. I highly recommend checking it out!

The Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path: The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6). Written by Ron Lundeen, The Dead Roads is an adventure intended for first level characters, which should bring PCs up to level five by its conclusion. This adventure begins when the PCs awaken already defeated in the Boneyard, a land where the dead go to be judged. There’s just one problem… They’re not quite dead. Trapped inside a tomb that doesn’t belong to them, they’ll need to escape, figure out what happened to them, and find a way to return home. But, how could one possibly escape the land of the dead?

Let me start by saying that The Dead Roads — and the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path — is not for everyone. Terrible tragedies will occur, and you won’t always be able to prevent them. These events are bound to have a lasting effect on your characters, so players should be prepared to consider and role-play the marks left by the trials you face. Often you’ll be in dire situations with limited resources, so players will need to be resourceful to survive. Plenty of the imagery and events in this adventure are dark, morbid, and sorrowful. It’s definitely a horror campaign — though not your typical horror. It’s suspenseful survival horror, with a good deal of body horror in the first book, as well.  The Dead Roads contains imagery that is inappropriate for children and some adult gamers will even consider an image or two disturbing. It’s definitely not a campaign I could play with my family.

That said, I loved The Dead Roads. Absolutely, positively, adored it.

The Dead Roads Cover

For starters, it looks great. From cover to cover it’s a wonderful, high quality book filled with nice maps, and beautiful, dark artwork. The cover depicts Mictena (a catrina psychopomp the PCs are destined to interact with) in the foreground. Behind her is an image of Seelah (the Iconic paladin) and Yoon (the iconic kineticist) battling ostovites. Both images are by Igor Grechanyi. There’s a lovely map of The Gravelands (Lastwall and parts of Ustalav) on the inside cover. There’s a ton of artwork throughout the book — of enemies, allies, and characters who could become either. I particularly enjoyed the art for Prince Uspid and Mictena. Colulus was the most disconcerting image in the book. If any image is going to bug a squeamish player it’ll be that one. There’s a few characters that I wish had art but don’t (which is expected! Art’s not cheap and there’s only so much space!). Ayuki, in particular, would have been nice to see, as well as the jitterbone creature in the bestiary. The maps, all drawn by Matthias Rothenaicher, are really nice. They look great, of course, but they’re also well thought out, executed, and each has a unique feel to it. I particularly enjoyed ‘Roslar’s Tomb’ and ‘Deathbower.’ I wish that the maps of the various Dead Roads locations were given a bit more space, though. Squishing three multi-floor maps for three different locations onto one page is good for page count, but makes some of the maps difficult to read. Part of the eastern end of the ‘Palace of Teeth’ is nearly lost in the creases of the binding, while the entrance to ‘Salishara’s Scriptorium’ is hidden in the creases. If both of those maps were a few grid squares further to the left that would have been less of a problem. Finally, flipping back and forth  between the map page and the various locations depicted in it (which is spread out over 28 pages) is a bit irritating. Have a bookmark or post-it note handy and try not to tear your pages. Much to my surprise there was also two player handouts which represent puzzles the group comes across. I’m really glad they’re depicted instead of just described. They’re necessary and a really nice touch.

Maps in the Crease
Part of the maps lost in the creases.

The Dead Roads starts with a bang (HA!) and doesn’t let up. The entire opening has the feel of an ominous, suspenseful mystery. Your PCs don’t know where they are, how they got there, or what’s going on. Their locations hide clues to both their situation and the history of wider events, which the PCs may or may not be able to uncover. In time they will discover the answers to some of their questions, just as they realize it’s tied to an even bigger mystery.

There’s a lot of wonderful social encounters and NPCs in this adventure. Number Three, Barple Stonebreaker, Prince Uspid, Queen Carnassial, Kishokish and his portrait, Ayuki, Salighara, Berthold, the wyrwoods, Mrs. Pedipalp, Aydie, Reedreaper, Mictena — there’s just so many great interactions in this adventure! Among them, three particularly stand out amongst the crowd: interacting with the townsfolk of Roslar’s Coffer is poignant and amazing; speaking with Barzahk the Passage; and — my personal favourite characters — Umble and Thoot! This pair of friendly psychopomps are the best!

Many of the creatures and NPCs you come across don’t look friendly — which doesn’t mean they aren’t friendly. Of course, it doesn’t mean they are friendly, either. Which I love! Appearances have no bearing on what a creature acts like and I appreciate that this adventure used that so effectively. It’s bound to throw players for a bit of a loop and make them feel… off-kilter. Which is great!

There’s a lot of challenging encounters in this adventure and plenty of unique monsters to face off against. I particularly enjoyed that so many can end in ways other than violence. But, don’t let that last sentence lull you into a false sense of security! There’s a lot of combat encounters in this book that cannot be avoided.

And the ending! Oh, the ending! I love it! I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in this Adventure Path! I have a feeling Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer is going to be just as good.


And now it’s time for a warning:

We’ve got more to say about this adventure, but it’ll come with spoilers! Don’t want to read them? Skip on past this next section until you see the large words ‘SPOILERS OVER.’ Got it? Good! See you on the other side where we’ll talk about the extra content in this book!


SPOILERS

The Dead Roads adventure is split into four major parts: Awake in Roslar’s Tomb, Among the Dead, Walking the Dead Roads, and Deathbower. One of these parts Walking the Dead Roads is particularly dense and is made up of three major locations: The Palace of Teeth, Nine-Eaves, and Salighara’s Scriptorium. All told The Dead Roads adventure is 52 pages in length with six pages afterwards dedicated to three NPCs: Mictena, Mrs. Pedipalp, and Reedreaper. All three of these are enemies the PCs will come across, but only one of them has to stay that way. The PCs have a chance to convince the other two to step aside without violence (although it’s extremely hard to accomplish for one of those two!).

Through this adventure the PCs will get to interact with psychopomps, a type of outsider native to the Boneyard who work to ensure that the processing of souls is done accurately and efficiently. Typically functioning as guides for the souls of the deceased, the psychopomps are confused over what to do about the mysterious PCs. Some will help them along their way (especially the delightful Umble and Thoot!) , and others with hinder them — particularly Mictena, a catrina psychopomp obsessed with putting the PCs spirits properly to rest. Through a good thorough death, of course! Psychopomps aren’t the only enemies and NPCs the players will interact with. The Boneyard is a huge realm, and there’s plenty of creatures living/stranded/invading there. Other major groups of enemies include fey, vermin, sakhil, and nightmarish beings from the Dimension of Dreams.

Fittingly, The Dead Roads begins with death. Lots of it. The entire town of Roslar’s Coffer has been destroyed in one terrifying instant. Including the PCs. I’ll leave the details out of this article, but suffice to say this will have a lasting effect on your players and their characters. Any family, friends, and companions — pets included — that lived in Roslar’s Coffer are dead. Although it might be tempting to warn some players about this in advance, that also will ruin some of the surprise and likely result in players purposely making no personal connections to the town of Roslar’s Coffer — which would be a mistake in my opinion. Every GM will need to judge their players accordingly, and perhaps provide them with some hints and warnings while they build their characters and backstories. In my opinion this event is handled incredibly well throughout this adventure, and I highly recommend allowing players to make a character with personal connections to Roslar’s Coffer. It adds so much to the story. However, it is important to inform PCs that if they have animal companions, mounts, or they are a wizard with a familiar, they will not have access to their pet at the start of the campaign. Player’s who have read the Tyrant’s Grasp Player’s Guide will already be aware of this, although they won’t (accurately) know why.

Happily, the player’s experience doesn’t begin with the death of Roslar’s Coffer. Instead, Part One: Awake in Roslar’s Tomb begins with the PCs waking up in a stone coffin. Literally entombed they need to push their way out of the stone box and into a cold, dark, mausoleum. It’s a great opening. Players and characters alike are bound to be curious what has happened and where they are. Players begin with any gear they had that could reasonably fit in a coffin with them. Any familiars who share a soul with your PCs (a shaman or witch familiar) will be in a coffin of their own, while all other companions are not present (as they are dead). Eidolons and phantoms can be summoned back normally, although all other familiars and companions will need to be replaced at a later time.

Soon, the PCs will discover they’re in someone else’s tomb — Ervin Roslar, Knight of Ozem and hero of the Shining Crusade. The same man that Roslar’s Coffer is named after, in fact. Interesting! As they navigate the tomb they’ll find strange creatures, animated bones (sort of…), a trapped spirit, and a tribe of mites. They’ll also discover that Ervin Roslar may have had a few secrets of his own, although it’s unlikely they’ll unravel his history completely. This section of the adventure is a suspenseful series of explorations, mysteries, tantalizing clues, and challenging combats. It’s going to be a ton of fun to both run and play.

Part Two: Among the Dead begins when the PCs exit Roslar’s Tomb to find themselves face to face with a pair of spooky looking (and absolutely delightful) psychopomps: Umble and Thoot! Seriously, they’re awesome. This quirky pair give the PCs some answers to their most pressing questions and explains that not only are the PCs dead and not dead at the same time — weird! — the rest of Roslar’s Coffer is well and truly dead. They ask the PCs to lend them a hand in convincing the spirits of the dead of Roslar’s Coffer that they are, in fact, dead. These poor fellows need a hand moving everyone on to the afterlife in a calm and orderly fashion! The PCs get to travel to a phantom version of Roslar’s Coffer where they interact with all the people in town — now dead. This is an amazing section of the adventure. Short and poignant, the GM has a chance to show the PCs what has happened to all their family and friends. They’ll need to convince loved ones to move on, and will have a chance to say goodbye. If they have any pets they’ll find them here as well. The adventure itself provides rules for interacting with these spirits, how to convince them to move on, and some tactics that will let them do it in a timely fashion — namely convincing the town leaders of their death. Some PCs will want to stay behind and die along with their family, others won’t have personal connections to the townsfolk, and others still will want to ‘save’ some of these spirits and attempt to return them back to life. There’s plenty of guidance in this book for handling PCs of every kind. After accepting their death the people of Roslar’s Coffer — even familial loved ones — want answers for what happened to them. The PCs are uniquely positioned to uncover this. And, of course, any spirits who can’t be convinced to move on (including those your PCs may want to bring back) will deteriorate in time until they become undead ghosts and other malevolent entities. Umble and Thoot can explain this to the group and ensure no PCs attempt anything so foolhardy. Also in this section the PCs are first introduced to the antagonist of this adventure, Mictena. Overall, this section of the book is among my very favourites. It’s exceptionally well handled and sure to be an emotional experience for players and characters alike. It’s a truly unique roleplaying opportunity. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I’m quite certain that if I was playing this with any character who had even a modest amount of family or friends in Roslar’s Coffer, under an even remotely talented GM, I would cry — in a good way! It has the potential to really tug at the heartstrings.

Part Three: Walking the Dead Roads begins after the PCs have helped the people of Roslar’s Coffer accept their death. Umble and Thoot, who are grateful and believe that since the PCs are only slightly dead they’re not truly dead at all, offer the PCs a way out of the Boneyard. The Dead Roads. They explain that this secret path is only ever trod by psychopomps and gatekeepers, the beings who watch over what amounts to traveller’s checkpoints along the road. Capable of leading anywhere, the PCs can use the Dead Roads to get home to Roslar’s Coffer (so they can figure out what’s happened) by taking a certain path. They’ll need to stop at the three checkpoints along the way and get stamped by that location’s master. Convincing them to grant the stamp should be the hardest part of the journey. Unbeknownst to Umble and Thoot, politics and turmoil have overtaken the three waystations, making each location more dangerous than expected. These locations may be visited in any order, although they are presented in order of difficulty (which is also how I recommend playing them).

The Palace of Teeth is a small castle ruled over Queen Carnassial and her court of tooth fairies. Not long ago her son, Prince Uspid, led a coup against her, and the two factions have been locked in a stalemate ever since. Although Queen Carnassial is the only one with the authority to stamp the PCs (at least until her death) it’s Prince Uspid the PCs are destined to meet first. They’ll need to navigate, bargain, and battle their way through bickering fey factions. They might even get to keep all their teeth…. This location is simultaneously goofy in a crazed sort of way and disconcerting. Although the Palace of Teeth was once a beautiful castle it’s undergone a rather morbid makeover since the fey moved in. The place is creepy and it’s denizens literally want to yank your teeth out. That can make bargaining… weird. Haha. I love the art for both the tooth fairy monarchs (particularly Prince Uspid!) and the stained glass angel. But, in my opinion, the creepiest encounter involves a pair of soulbound dolls in the midst of acting out a rather bloody play about dentistry. They attempt to make the PCs their next patients, using deep slumber and some particularly creepy statements. It’s awesome! Haha. The Palace of Teeth is my favourite location on in part three.

Nine-Eaves is a three storey manor owned by an old shoki psychopomp with a fondness for games and puzzles. Unfortunately, Kishokish’s manor has been invaded by sahkil and he’s now a prisoner in his own home. They PCs will need to free him if they want to get his stamp. Luckily they’re not without allies. An animated portrait created to pose riddles to visitors can lend the PCs a hand — if they can solve his puzzles! There are three puzzles total, and each one solved can earn the PCs information and advice. They’ll need to traverse the house as they seek answers, battling vermin, sahkil, and an unfettered phantom named Ayuki. I really enjoyed the puzzle aspects of this location.

Salighara’s Scriptorium was created by Salighara, a reclusive viduus psychopomp who is studying the Dimension of Dreams and oversees a crew of wyrwood scribes. Mictena attempted to convince Salighara to kill the PCs on her behalf, but was rebuffed. Mictena then offered the same deal to Salighara’s assistant, a plump woman named Mrs. Pedipalp (actually an aranea from a nightmarish section of the Dimension of Dreams). Happy to take the powerful psychopomp up on her offer, Mrs. Pedipalp has ousted Salighara from her own scriptorium and remade the building in her own image. Now a dark place of nightmares and horror, the PCs will need to set things right. This is definitely the most horror-themed location in The Dead Roads, with traps, haunts, and horrifying enemies. Colulus, a flayed ettercap and long-time minion of Mrs. Pedipalp is by far the most horrifying. But, even the Scriptorium is not without potential allies. PCs get to meet Salighara, some upset wyrwoods, and a ratling named Berthold. Mrs. Pedipalp herself is a great opponent — a capable liar, powerful spellcaster, and nightmarish foe all wrapped up in a kindly looking package. I particularly like her tactics. That said, it’s likely Colulus who will give parties the most trouble.

After receiving their stamps the PCs can finally traverse the rest of the Dead Roads and return to the land of the living — not! Mictena refuses to let them go! She magically relocated her domain, Deathbower, right onto the Dead Roads so that she and her dangerous shabti gardeners can kill your PCs properly. Which brings us to the final section of the Dead Roads adventure, Part Four: Deathbower. I love this location and its map. I love the inhabitants — gardeners, friends, and foes. And I love Mictena herself. Despite being an enemy of your PCs she’s not a bad being. She’s a psychopomp just doing what she thinks is right. Which is cool! Although some of the hazards and enemies in this glorious garden must be confronted head on, some characters can be swayed and may even join you for a while. Reedreaper is a particularly interesting character, although it’s unlikely he sticks around long enough to play much of a role. Even Mictena can be talked down — theoretically. The chances your PCs will be able to roll high enough are incredibly slim, but it could happen. Which I really like.

After leaving Deathbower behind the PCs find themselves back on the Dead Roads and greeted by an incredibly powerful psychopomp, Barzahk the Passage, a demigod and master of the Dead Roads. This enigmatic figure whisks the PCs off to their home in a matter of moments, giving them a bit of time to ask him any questions they might have. I thought this was a great moment and a wonderful way to end the adventure.

SPOILERS OVER


In addition to The Dead Roads adventure, this volume contains two articles intended for both GMs and players, one article solely for the GM, a campaign outline, and a bestiary containing five new creatures.

Tools of the BoneyardThe first article, Tools of the Boneyard, is written by Matt Morris. In it you’ll find new gear and character options aimed at dealing with the dead. There is one alchemical remedy, one alchemical tool, and two alchemical weapons — bone burn is my favourite, so be sure to check it out! There are two new special materials useful for crafting — cryptstone can be used for ammunition and weapons, while spiresteel can be used for ammunition, weapons, and armour. Finally, there are five new magic items: crypt rod, grim helm, harbinger’s scythe, Lady’s Mercy, and Momument’s Truth. Although I enjoyed a lot of the items, it’s the character options that I found were most exciting. Graveslinger is a gunslinger archetype that specializes in combatting incorporeal undead. Soul Shepherd is a monk archetype that calm incorporeal undead and haunts with a touch. They also gain some otherworldly resistances and interesting ways to use their ki. Reaper is a new oracle mystery which I really enjoyed. Tightly themed and flavourful it’s capable of both killing the living and destroying undead. There are also six new barbarian rage powers including the psychopomp totem powers.

shabti-1.jpg
Thrilled to see shabti get some attention!

The second player friendly article is written by Mikhail Rekun and entitled The Half-Dead. This section talks about four races that have a strong connection to death and the undead. In addition to providing details and character options for dhampir, duskwalkers, and shabti, it also talks about the new subtype of creatures, mortics. Dhampir appear alongside two magical items, duswalkers have access to five new feats, and shabti have access to five new feats. I was particularly excited to see shabti included.

The next article, To Exceed Their Grasp, is written by Crystal Frasier and intended for GMs only. This article discusses some of the important concepts, characters, and events of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path and the role they play in the overarching story. It also contains a timeline. This is incredibly useful for GMs an will likely be referenced throughout the entire Adventure Path.

Tyrant's Grasp -Shining Crusade - Death of Arazni
The Death of Arazni (Herald of Aroden) during the Shining Crusade. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The Bestiary is up next! It contains a random encounter chart, two interesting social encounters, and five new creatures written by Ron Lundeen, Kyle T. Raes, and Mike Welham. All of the monsters in this book have ties to death and the Boneyard and two of them are featured in The Dead Roads adventure. Bonewrought Willow is an ominous looking intelligent plant capable of growing in Boneyard. Attracted to light and more benevolent than it appears this is a great CR 3 creature I can’t wait to confront my players with. Kaicherak are nasty little fanged worm beasts with ties to Achaekek and a fondness for messily gorging themselves on blood. At CR 4 they are among the most powerful new creatures in the bestiary. Mortics are living beings with strong connections to negative energy which makes them sort of like living undead. There are two mortic stat blocks included in the bestiary — the ghoulish elf-like angheuvore (CR 2) and the incredibly flexible halfling-like jitterbone (CR 4). As previously mentioned, more information on mortics is also included in The Half-Dead article. The final creature is the tooth fairy monarch, a CR 3 version of the lowly tooth fairy.

The last article is a campaign outline, written by Crystal Frasier and Ron Lundeen, that briefly details the events of the upcoming volumes of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path.  Not the sort of thing you want your players peeking at! The campaign outline is incredibly useful for GMs.

Which brings us to the end of  Pathfinder Adventure Path: The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6). Want more? So do I! Tyrant’s Grasp continues with Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer (Tyrant’s Grasp 2 of 6) by Jason Keeley, Last Watch (Tyrant’s Grasp 3 of 6) by Larry Wilhelm, Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) by Crystal Frasier, Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza, and Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) by John Compton. You can also check out a previous blog post I wrote on the upcoming Tyrant’s Grasp volumes here.

Thanks for joining us today!

Jessica


EDIT: Check out the Tyrant’s Grasp trailer!

Tyrant’s Grasp

Today we’re taking a look the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path, a six-part survival horror campaign for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game that is currently available for pre-order. This campaign pits the players against the return of the Whispering Tyrant, the lich-king Tar-Baphon, who was defeated and sealed away long ago. Tyrant’s Grasp will be the final Pathfinder 1st Edition Adventure Path released, before the switch is made over to Pathfinder 2nd Edition in August.


Tyrant's Grasp - Player's Guide
Tyrant’s Grasp Player’s Guide.

A wonderful Player’s Guide for Tyrant’s Grasp was recently released, which is a free download on Paizo’s website here. The Player’s Guide gives players a relatively spoiler-free way to properly prepare for and integrate their characters into the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. It explains that this is a campaign where terrible tragedies will occur, and you won’t always be able to prevent them. Often you’ll be in dire situations with limited resources, so players will need to be resourceful to survive. In addition, the Tyrant’s Grasp Player’s Guide offers suggestions for thematic archetypes, prestige classes,   bloodlines, mysteries, patrons, favoured enemies, and favoured terrains. It points out useful feats, skills, traits, and languages. It lists local animals that could make good choices for familiars and animal companions. It touches on each of the major races and religions in the area and where they fit into Lastwall’s society. Finally there’s a list of unique campaign traits that player’s can select for this campaign, and a short primer on Lastwall, the country where this adventure path is (partly) located.

 


Pathfinder Adventure Path Tyrant's Grasp The Dead Roads
Pathfinder Adventure Path: The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6) by Ron Lundeen.

The Dead Roads

The Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path: The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6). Written by Ron Lundeen, The Dead Roads is an adventure intended for first level characters, which should bring PCs up to level four by its conclusion. This adventure begins when the PCs awaken already defeated in the Boneyard, a land where the dead go to be judged. There’s just one problem… They’re not dead. Trapped inside a tomb that doesn’t belong to them, they’ll need to escape, figure out what happened to them, and find a way to return home. But, how could one possibly escape the land of the dead?

PCs will get to interact with psychopomps, a type of outsider native to the Boneyard who work to ensure that the processing of souls is done accurately and efficiently. Typically functioning as guides for the souls of the deceased, the psychopomps are confused over what to do about the mysterious PCs. Players will need to maneuver their way through psychopomp politics and travel the Dead Roads, a secret path that connects the Boneyard to the land of the living. If they can, they just might make it home.

In addition to The Dead Roads adventure, this volume contains a few articles and a bestiary of new creatures. Matt Morris shares “tips, tools, and tricks drawn from the Boneyard and its grim denizens,” Mikhail Rekun discussing four races with connections to death, dusk walkers, mortice, shabtis, and my personal favourites, dhampir. Finally, Crystal Frasier wrote a timeline for the events leading up to the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path, which will be invaluable for GMs. New monsters in this book all have ties to death and the Boneyard, and are written by Ron Lundeen, Kyle T. Raes, and Mike Welham.


Tyrant's Grasp - Eulogy for Roslar's Coffer - .Jason Keeley
Pathfinder Adventure Path: Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer (Tyrant’s Grasp 2 of 6) by Jason Keeley.

Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer

Pathfinder Adventure Path: Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer (Tyrant’s Grasp 2 of 6) is written by Jason Keeley and is intended for fifth-level characters. Having returned to the land of the living, the PCs find themselves in the ruins of Roslar’s Coffer, which was destroyed by a super-weapon known as Radiant Fire. Here the dead walk, creatures are corrupted, the very air is a toxic fog, and cultists of the Whispering Way stalk the streets. You’ll need to escape the town and warn the rest of Lastwall about the events that have occurred!

In addition to the adventure itself, this book contains articles on Arazni the Red Queen (written by Lyz Liddell), mercantile groups in the Lake Encarthan region (written by Eleanor Ferron), and the Whispering Way (by Crystal Malarsky). New creatures in the bestiary are written by Sarah E. Hood, Luis Loza, Jen McTeague, and Mikhail Rekun.


Tyrant's Grasp - Last Watch - Larry Wilhelm
Last Watch (Tyrant’s Grasp 3 of 6) by Larry Wilhelm.

Last Watch

Pathfinder Adventure Path #141: Last Watch (Tyrant’s Grasp 3 of 6) is written by Larry Wilhelm and is intended for 8th-level characters. PCs will need to travel to Vigil, capital of Lastwall, to tell the Knights of Ozem about the terrible events that occurred in Roslar’s Coffer. Unfortunately, no one believes your crazy tales. But, Vigil’s got its own problems, and if you can unravel them you just might be able to prove to them that the threat posed by the Whispering Tyrant and his agents is real.

Further content in this volume include articles on the threats of the Negative Energy Plane (written by Patchen Mortimer), the Seal-Breakers (written by Greg A. Vaughan), and relics from the Shining Crusade (written by Alexander Augunas). New creatures in the bestiary are fearsome monsters and undead hordes, written by Mike Headley, Isabelle Lee, Meagan Maricle, Kendra Lee Speedling, and Larry Wilhelm.


Gardens of Gallowspire

Pathfinder Adventure Path #142: Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) is written by Crystal Frasier and intended for 11th-level characters. In it the players will enter the haunted lands of Virlych to confront the Whispering Tyrant before he can escape Gallowspire, regain his former power, and lay waste to the world. Extra content in this volume include articles on extra missions that can be accomplished in Lastwall, the ecology of carnivorous plants, and witchgates. Although new creatures will be included in the bestiary, further details have not yet been announced.


Borne by the Sun’s Grace

Pathfinder Adventure Path # 143: Borne by the Sun’s Grace is written by Luis Loza and is intended for 14th-level characters. Saved from doom by Arazni, the Red Queen, the PCs find themselves in Arcadia where they’ll get to examine the legacy left behind by both Tar-Baphon the Whispering Tyrant and Aroden the deceased god of humanity. Here there are new alliances to forge, secrets to uncover, and new lands to explore. Additional content in this volume includes an extra large article on the region of Arcadia where Borne by the Sun’s Grace occurs, an article on a psychopomp usher, and new monsters.


Midwives to Death

Pathfinder Adventure Path #144: Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) is the epic conclusion to the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. Written by John Compton, this adventure is intended for 16th-level characters. Your PCs return to the Inner Sea only to discover that the Whispering Tyrant is leading his armies against Absalom, in an effort to seize the Starstone for himself and become a god! They’ll have to battle his allies, turn his super-weapon against him, and destroy him for good! The events of this Adventure Path are world-shaping, said to bring about “dramatic changes to Golarion.” Additional content in this volume include an article “showcasing the final material written by Paizo’s developers for the first edition of the Pathfinder RPG.”

Its going to be epic!


An Ending

And with that we come to the end of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path, and the end of Pathfinder 1st Edition. Or rather, we come to the beginning. At the end of this month the first volume of Tyrant’s Grasp will be in our hands and we’ll get to create characters that can embark on this epic adventure to save Golarion. With the conclusion of this adventure path, we’ll transition to a new edition of the game. A new way to play in the world that we all know and love.

“Times they are a-changin,’ ” and I can’t wait to see how this adventure path leads us into the future.

Jessica

 


EDIT: Be sure to check out the Tyrant’s Grasp trailer!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Revamped!

pathfinder adventure card game core set
Sneak peek of the upcoming Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set! Awesome!

Exciting news from Paizo this week as more spoilers and sneak peeks for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game were shared with the world.

For those of you who don’t know, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is a cooperative strategy card game that allows 1 to 6 players to take on the role of heroes and pits them against monsters, traps, henchmen, and villains. Players will also have the opportunity to discover treasure, magical spells, divine blessings, and allies, as they struggle to complete their goals. “Each player has a unique character composed of a deck of cards and a set of stats. Roleplayers will find the stats very familiar—characters have classes such as fighter, wizard, and rogue, as well as numbers that define strength, dexterity, intelligence, etc.” Over time you’ll customize your deck and character, either by earning new rewards, or by buying Character Add-On Decks (there’s a whopping twenty-seven of these, by my count!). To begin play you need one of the Base Sets, each of which includes the first chapter of an adventure path and all the cards you need to play it. Once you’re done the Base Set you can continue with follow up Adventure Decks, which continue the story for yours characters. Base Sets currently include Rise of the Runelords (along with it’s five Adventure Deck expansions: The Skinsaw MurdersThe Hook Mountain MassacreFortress of the Stone GiantsSins of the Saviors Deck, and Spires of Xin-Shalast), Skull and Shackles (along with it’s five Adventure Deck expansions: Raiders of the Fever Sea, Tempest Rising, Island of Empty EyesThe Price of Infamy, and From Hell’s Heart), Mummy’s Mask (along with it’s five Adventure Deck expansions: Empty GravesShifting SandsSecrets of the SphinxThe Slave Trenches of Hakotep, and Pyramid of The Sky Pharaoh), and Wrath of the Righteous (along with it’s five Adventure Deck expansions: Sword of ValorDemon’s HeresyThe Midnight IslesHerald of the Ivory Labyrinth, and City of Locusts).

But, there’s changes coming to the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game! Lots of changes!

Last year it was announced that the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game was getting revamped. Not rebooted, mind you. All of your old cards will still work with new ones. But, updated.

Why?

In short, they want to make the game better, faster, and smarter. When asked what challenges the game faces, Mike Selinker explained the following issues:

  • “The game is a bit too slow in all phases: how long it took to set up, how long it took to take a turn, how long it took to tear down. We looked for solutions that sped up everything, even if we gained just a few seconds here or there.”
  • “For a game set in one of the most expansive fantasy worlds ever made, we gave you too little story. The opportunity we had to tell stories was mostly limited to tiny boxes on the backs of cards, and conveyed very little of the depth the orignal storytellers had given us.”
  • “Though we tell many different stories, the game often gives off a feeling of sameness.”
  • “Groups of players get varying experiences by group size. A solo character is less likely to run out of time and more likely to die; the reverse is true for large groups. While that’s fine, giving people the ability to toggle those variables seemed smart.”
  • “Many cards have complicated text. We’ve piled template upon template, sometimes requiring three or four powers on a card before we started making it interesting. Certain card types like armors and spells got burdened in ways we never envisioned.”
  • “Some sets were easy and some were hard, but regardless there was no way to control difficulty. If you wanted to make the game harder, you were on your own. We will benefit from giving players controls for this.”
  • “For a cooperative card game, the game is often not interactive enough. When you want to help your friend, the game generally tells you that you can’t unless you have a card that does so. It’s a co-op game, so it should feel more cooperative.”

They’ve come up with a lot of ways to solve these problems and over the last few months they’ve shared some of the results with us. Further changes and details will continue to be released up until the release of the Core Set this summer. So what do we know so far?

The game boxes will be smaller. The Core Set will measure 9″ x 12″ with Adventure Paths measuring 7.5″ × 9″. That’s a huge improvement!

The story your players go through in each game will be focused on more, and made much more clear. Personally, I’m thrilled for this change, as it’s the rich stories and worlds which drew me to Pathfinder in the first place. Inspired by the exciting stories of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Guild, they’re getting rid of Adventure Path, Adventure, and Scenario cards, and creating a storybook instead, which will have much more story and content. Each scenario will have a two-page spread in the 5.5″ x 8.5″ storybook. For the Core Set this storybook will be 24 pages long. Curious what this would look like? Check below!

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An unfinished sample of Scenario 0 from the Core Set Dragon’s Demand Adventure Path. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.
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A finished sample of Scenario 1C from the Core Set Dragon’s Demand Adventure Path. Image released during PaizoCon 2019, courtesy of Paizo Inc.

There’s also going to be a variety of ways for you to change the difficulty and length of your games — which is awesome! As a player with young kids, this is a must have for everyone to enjoy the game. Shockingly, my kids don’t like dying all the time. Haha. To aid with this you’ll have the ability to use small, medium, and large locations, and you’ll be allowed to add or remove cards from the Blessings Deck, which is now going to be called the Hourglass. They’ve also added Wild Cards, which can alter scenarios and affect difficulty.

This past week they unveiled some further changes which highlight how they’re streamlining and simplifying the game, it’s text, and its rules. This would make it easier to understand, play, and would fix up any known rules quibbles and difficulties. Simple, right? Not so! That’s a ton of work and much easier than it sounds! Haha. New key words have been added to the game which allowed them to get rid of a lot of repetitive and confusing text that appeared on the cards. Reload, Local, Distant, Hour, Hourglass, and Vault are among some of the new terms. But, you can bet there’s plenty more where that came from. Other terms, like Basic and Elite, were removed from the game. The rulebook will contain a glossary, for ease of reference, and some notes on how to use cards from generation one that feature removed terms.

Want a sneak peek at some of the new cards? Below are some examples of what Paizo has shared with the public so far.

Looking good!

So, how is this going to affect the actual products we’re buying? For starters, all you need to play is the new Core Set.

pathfinder adventure card game core set

The core set contains 440 cards and is based on the mega-module Dragon’s Demand, an adventure that sees your players stranded in a small town called Belhaim. Shortly after arriving an old tower in town collapses, some kobold corpses turn up, and the town wizard goes missing. In time they’ll see there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and face off against a legendary dragon who was supposedly killed long ago. The Core Set allows 1-4 players to play. It contains 12 character pawns of the Iconic Classes (the eleven Core Iconics, plus Fumbus the new Iconic Alchemist), a set of dice, tokens for tracking scourges, a quick start guide, a rulebook, and the storybook for running the Dragon’s Demand Adventure Path. In addition to the cards needed for Dragon’s Demand, the Core Set also contains “a modular core for infinite scenarios that allows you to control the difficulty and speed of play.” Colour me intrigued!

In addition, they’ll continue to release Adventure Paths. To play, you mix the cards from the Adventure Path in with the Core Set, and you’re good to go. Want to play a different Adventure Path? Just mix the Core Set with a different Adventure Path. This will even work with the previous Adventure Path releases, like Rise of the Runelords. As an added bonus, this allows you to play with a fifth and sixth player (if you so choose). And the first Adventure Path they’re releasing? Curse of the Crimson Throne, which is one of my very favourite Adventure Paths. So exciting!

pathfinder adventure card game - curse of the crimson throne

This one Adventure Path release contains the entirety of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path. Yup! No more multiple expansions needed. Just this one box and the Core Set. Awesome! It contains 550 cards, a 48-page storybook, and four new character pawns (Hakon the skald, Kess the brawler, Quinn the investigator, and Varian Jeggare the wizard). It’s going to be awesome!

Want to read more about the changes? Click on the following links to read the full spoilers on Paizo’s website: Designing the Next Pathfinder ACG, Injecting Story into the Pathfinder ACG, Varying Challenge in Pathfinder ACG, and Rethinking Complexity in Pathfinder ACG: Part One. More details will be released in the coming months.

Can’t wait to get your hands on the Core Set and Curse of the Crimson Throne? Neither can I! Preorders are expected in May 2019.


UPDATE: The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is OUT! You can also download a free copy of the rules from Paizo here! Want to buy a copy? Check out the links below!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set (direct from Paizo)

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path (direct from Paizo)

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!

shackled city jzadirune group
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.

Brass Bazaar
The Brass Bazaar

Sun Divers

Sun Divers
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.

Secrets of Roderics Cove Adam Daigle Return of the Runelords 1
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