Shackled City: Part Nine: Return to Cauldron

It’s been a while since we talked about my family’s current home campaign, Shackled City. We haven’t stopped playing — far from it. But we’ve been so busy lately it’s hard to find the time to play anything at all, let alone write about it. So while I have a free moment let me welcome you back to Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path!

When we last left off our heroic musicians had finally returned home to Cauldron. They had saved a lot of people and brought down an underground slave ring, but they were ill at ease. Someone else knew about the slavers and had done nothing. Who were they? And what about the people they had failed to save? The people who were sold to unknown parties before our heroes were even hired to find them… Were they gone forever? Could four kooky members of an up and coming band possibly brave the Darklands to track them down? No! Surely they couldn’t do anything so foolish! ….Or could they…?

If none of this sounds familiar you can read this blog post, which details our characters, or continue on with this article to hear a quick summary and jump right into the action! You can also check out our previous adventures in Shackled City: Part OneShackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!Shackled City: Part Three: Jzadirune, Shackled City: Part Four: Enter the Malachite Fortress, Shackled City: Part Five: This Place is the Pits!, Shackled City: Part Six: KazmojenShackled City: Part Seven: Bad Luck, and Shackled City: Part Eight: Reunion.

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

shackled city adventure path d20diaries


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 Falco 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 band’s constant name changes, and over-the-top performances. Mick was born in the gnomish enclave of 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 through his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. Partway through exploring Jzadirune he came into possession of a broken magical construct. 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. A co-workers of hers, Griffin Malek, was one of the recently abducted people, so she was 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 one day be published in the upcoming Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion by Sunburst Games. Rabbity recently ‘befriended’ (she thinks) a vicious howler named Prickles. What could go wrong?!

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 was determined to rescue the missing citizens of Cauldron. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City Adventure Path.


shackled city cauldron
The jungle city of Cauldron, located in the bowl of a dormant volcano.

The members of Dinorabbit and their newly liberated Cauldronites arrived in Cauldron to little fanfare. They brought the people they had freed from slavery to the Church of Abadar — the group who had hired them to find four missing orphans — and spoke with it’s current leader, Jenya Urikas. The authorities were called and the group had just enough time to ask about Terrem Karatys, one of the four children they had been tasked to save. Terrem had been free by our heroes only a few moments before a monstrous beholder had appeared and stole him away again. They admitted their failings to the Priestess, who looked confused.

“Oh? You didn’t save Terrem? Well, he is here safe and sound. He arrived on our doorstep before any others.” She counted out the coins she owed the group for saving three of the four children and handed it to them with a smile. “A pleasure doing business with you.”

My family was more than a little confused. Why would a beholder go to the trouble of stealing an orphaned kid that they had saved from slavery just to bring the kid home? And this beholder… He wasn’t the only one interested in Terrem. The Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild also wanted the boy. In fact, they had gone as far as tasking the orphanage’s janitor, Patch, with keeping an eye on him. Strange… Our heroes tried to speak with Terrem, but the boy would say nothing.

Suddenly the town guard arrived and everyone — victims, heroes, and even some priests — were brought to the Garrison for questioning. The PCs were interviewed over and over by the authorities. The guards looked for holes in their story. Incongruities that might show they had something to do with the kidnappings… They were lectured on the legality and dangers of vigilanteism. Informed that the entirety of Jzadirune and the Malachite Fortress were off limits — it was an active crime scene, after all. The poor musicians were so busy they barely had a moment to stop and breathe. After a few days they received one last warning from Terseon Skellerang, Captain of Cauldron’s city watch, and were sent on their way.

On the way out they ran into Krylscar Endercott, a town guard who was among those that had been abducted from his home by dark folk and then saved by Dinorabbit. Although he was badly wounded when they found him, he grinned at the sight of them and asked for a blade. The stubborn fool was a big help in getting everyone home safe. They chatted with him a bit, and bid him farewell.

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Upon re-entering the city for the first time in days they were shocked to discover that although their deeds were well known, their identities were not. A heinous crime! While Aeris returned to work at her locksmith shop, the rest of the band spent some time spreading word of their triumphs and of an upcoming performance — which they had yet to schedule. The next few days were marked with frivolities — writing, practising, performing, rumourmongering, and so on. Falco took these responsibilities very seriously, intent on milking their newfound fame for all it was worth.

Rabbity discovered that Griffin, the friend she had worked so hard to save, was out of a job. He had been replaced as bartender and was now stuck waiting tables. Also, Rabbity had been fired. She hadn’t been into work in nearly a week and left no word as to why, so that wasn’t too much of a surprise. Still, my daughter was a little insulted. She also worried about her pet howler, Prickles, who was currently locked inside the Malachite Fortress, hopefully not killing (or being killed by) the investigating city guards. Deciding they needed to sneak into Jzadirune and save him before he got into trouble, Rabbity concocted a plan. She looked into the people who they hadn’t saved and picked out one whose home was close to Jzadirune — 52 Ash Avenue, the home of skinner Rikaldo Veskar. Rikaldo had a tiny, blood-stained, stinky home that had been abandoned 37 nights. Knowing that he had been sold to unknown buyers in the Darklands and wouldn’t be returning, my daughter set out to purchase the building from the city. She sought guidance from her friend Ruphus Laro at the Church of Abadar and determined the steps to take to buy the building. It cost more than she had, but she managed to convince the group it was important. They pooled their money and bought the house. Then Rabbity asked Falco to start using his stone shape spells to tunnel out a passage from their new junky home to Jzadirune. With some luck and planning they’d be able to get to Prickles before he killed anyone. Hopefully….

Mick was equally busy. He spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he could legally get his hands on Jzadirune. Deciding he needed help he sought professional guidance from the Church of Abadar, just as Rabbity had. With their legal advice he put together a plan to legally acquire the underground complex. And so he set out to track down the original ownership paperwork, and the living descendants of Jzadirune’s founders. There weren’t many of them. Only six. So Mick set out to barter with them over ownership, in the hopes they would turn it over to him. Hopefully, when all is said and done, he could legally claim the property from the city.

Aeris spent her time working, patrolling the town, and looking for a sign that matched the mysterious Kingfisher symbol they had discovered on a letter written to the slaver Kazmojen. She discovered nothing.

There was plenty the group did together, as well. They visited the orphanage, Church of Abadar, and all the other people they had saved, double checking they were safe, healthy, and reintegrating back into society. Patch was fine and back at work. Apparently he had managed to keep his affiliations with the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild a secret. The orphans were a little traumatized — all except for Terrem who seemed unconcerned over the entire ordeal.

Krylscar had returned home to find his parents hadn’t even been looking for him. Turns out they thought he had robbed them and fled the city — the jerks! He was trying to find himself a new place to live, but not having any luck. At work everyone treats him like a weirdo and he’s angry that they never saved him. In fact, he was generally an angry guy. Still, he had friends. He remained close with his pal Griffin, and often showed up to hang out with the members of Dinorabbit. They knew he wasn’t some shifty loser. They knew he was a good guy. (My family really grew to like this guy! Haha).

Jasper and Jeneer had gone back to work like nothing had happened. Jasper teaches math at Bluecrater Academy, and Jeneer is a jeweller’s apprentice. The group saw Maple, a suspected member of the Alleybashers gang, on the streets from time to time, but she never stayed to chat. And Coryston Pike, the retired adventurer, made it home, but hadn’t been seen around town since.

But, not everyone had recovered. Sondor (the dwarven cartwright), Deven Myrlzal (a teenage human lamplighter), and Irruth Mercadi (a chandler), were all traumatized by their experiences. They wouldn’t talk. They just sat still, scared, and sad. Currently they were at the Church of Abadar, but they would need to head home soon. As Priestess Jenya Urikas plainly pointed out, the Church of Abadar was not in the business of charity.

When the group discovered that Keygan Ghelve had been arrested they went to visit him. My kids were a little upset about his fate. Did he really deserve to be arrested? Out of fear he had helped the kidnappers and slavers, but he had also fought alongside our heroes to free them again. Of course, he had done that only because the group had forced him to… In time they realized that Keygan’s fate was out of their hands. Instead they offered to take care of his rat familiar, Starbrow, and his home. It took some bargaining and a signed contract, but Keygan agreed to transfer ownership of his home and locksmith shop to the members of Dinorabbit on the condition they took care of Starbrow, they did not sell any of his paintings or his grandfather clock, and they didn’t bring their meddlesome pets into his home. When he was released from prison, ownership of his home and shop would revert to Keygan. Keygan was grateful, and they began to feel a little better about this whole ordeal.

In time they discovered a vandalism problem in Cauldron. Someone had been painting words on buildings in goblin. Things like “Murrd wrote this!” “Snurk smells like dung!” and “Drakthar has bat ears!” Luckily, Mick could speak goblin and was pretty sure the culprits were a gang of goblins. Which was absurd! Everyone knew no goblins lived in Cauldron! Determined to prove he wasn’t crazy, the group stayed up late a few nights, attempting to catch the vandals red-handed. Although they came close, the only thing they managed to earn was a scolding from the guards for suspicious behaviour. Whoops!

One day the group received a summons from the Mayor’s Office. They hurried over and were told that the mayor — Lord Mayor Severen Navalant — wanted to host a ceremony in honour of their deeds. Although it was clear he was hoping to use their newfound celebrity status to bolster the public’s opinion of him, the band didn’t mind. They wanted to do the same to him, after all. Together they made some plans and the party was scheduled, with Dinorabbit making a headlining performance. The Mayor also asked about their experiences under Cauldron and their opinions on what should be done about Jzadirune, the Malachite Fortress, and the passages to the Darklands. Mick took this opportunity to share his plans to acquire full ownership of Jzadirune while Rabbity petitioned for her ‘beloved’ new pet Prickles to be returned to her at once! The Mayor smiled and assured them he would take it under advisement. The group was skeptical he would, but had little choice but to accept him at his word.

The days leading up to the festival were hectic, with even Aeris practising as much as she could. They put on a lot of other performances, both big and small. My family was happiest to earn themselves a performance at both the Cusp of Sunrise (a fancy social club that was for the nobility) and the Coy Nixie (a fancy restaurant where they first began their adventure). Before they knew it the party was upon them. Much to their surprise the mayor named them ‘Champions of Cauldron’ — a position which he later assured them had no real responsibilities to go with it — rewarded them the deed to Jzadirune, and gave them a new task: putting an end to the goblin vandals that have been irritating the town! Both shocked and pleased at this turn of events, the gang agreed. Not that they were given a choice…. Haha. After the ceremony the party began, and my family had a blast describing their performances and songs. The night ended with fireworks, and a few angry scowls from Captain Skellerang.

The next day would see them busy again. Plans had to be made for Jzadirune and Prickles had to be liberated. The Lord Mayor’s secretary informed them that the Malachite Fortress would be turned into a guard post for the Town Guard so that the entrance to the Darklands could be properly protected. This, of course, meant that they would need to have engineers remodel the entrances to both Jzadirune and the Malachite Fortress a bit. Both the members of Dinorabbit and the Town Guard had to be able to access different parts of the complex without traipsing through the others space. I handed my kids a map of Jzadirune and asked them for their ideas. They also got to make plans for the engineers to fix up some of Jzadirunes broken walls and tunnels while they were at it — courtesy of a small grant provided to them by the Mayor’s Office. A surprise my kids found very exciting! Even more exciting? The group got to visit Jzadirune and Rabbity retrieved Prickles. Happily he did not try to devour her. Yet.

By the time Dinorabbit left Jzadirune and began to walk home they were greeted by rain. More than that. It was a downpour. Fall had come to Cauldron, which meant the rains would continue for a few weeks more, at least. It was misty out. Cool and dark. There was a chilling howl on the wind — like that of a wolf. On the side of Aeris’ locksmith shop was more goblin graffiti.

“Who builds town in volcano? Stupid humans!”

The gang sighed.

Tomorrow they would need to put aside their ambitions and get to work. The had a gang of vandals to catch.


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 #97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here. A copy of the premade player handouts is available from Paizo here.

Despite being a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Path, we’re running this campaign with Pathfinder (both the campaign setting and the ruleset). Our characters utilize content from many sources, some of which are listed below.

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.

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!

Pathfinder Society Scenarios: What the Helms Hide and On Sevenfingers Sails

Today we’re going to take a look at the most recent Pathfinder Society Scenarios that are available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers then I recommend clicking on a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Pathfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So let’s get started!

PFS #10-16 - What the Helms Hide
Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-16: What the Helm’s Hide.

Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-16: What the Helm’s Hide is a Tier 1-5 repayable scenario that consists of four short one-hour long quests. “Collection,” “Autumn,” “Dust,” and “Witness.” “Collection” should always be played first, “Autumn” and “Dust” may be played in any order, and “Witness” is the thrilling finale. Each quest is penned by a different author, including Calder CaDavid, Lysle Kapp, Kendra Leigh Speedling, and Nate Wright. While Speedling and Wright have written for Paizo before, this will be the first Paizo writing credit going to CaDavid and Kapp. Each quest also comes with its own player handout, which is always nice. Also, this scenario has a lot of great artwork in it!

What the Helms Hide delves into the history of the mysterious masked leaders of the Pathfinder Society, The Decemvirate! Three hundred years ago violence and assassinations directed at Pathfinder Society leaders caused them to don masks to hide their identities. When Master of Scrolls Kreighton Shaine discovers clues that one such assassination attempt may not have happened the way the history books have recorded he seeks the Decemvirate’s blessing and tasks a group of Pathfinders with investigating the clues, digging up the past,  and discovering the truth. This series of quests will take PCs to a variety of locations throughout Golarion’s Inner Sea Region, including Absalom, Andoran, the Five Kings Mountains, and Varisia. It features creatures from BestiaryBestiary 4, and Monster Codex (although all of the necessary stat blocks are included within the scenario). It contains content from Pathfinder Core RulebookAdvanced Player’s GuideAdvanced Race GuideOccult AdventuresUltimate Equipment, and Pathfinder Player Companion: Champions of Corruption (although all the content needed from Champions of Corruption is included in the scenario itself). It utilizes the Pathfinder Flip-Mat: MuseumPathfinder Flip-Mat: Cavernous LairPathfinder Flip-Mat: Arcane Library, and Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Forest Starter Set. This mission contributes to this years Season of the Ten metaplot and builds on events from the always popular evergreen scenario #6-10: The Wounded Wisp (and, to a lesser extent, #8-04: Wardens of Sulfur Gulch and #9-11: The Jarlsblood Witch Saga).

The first quest, “Collection,” is written by Lysle Kapp and takes place in Korvosa’s Jeggare Museum. Here PCs will need to inspect relics discovered by the famous Pathfinder Helven Leroung and uncover clues about her history and character. You also get to delve into Helven’s relationship with the famous Montlarion Jeggare, for whom the museum (and much more!) is named. His descendant, Mercival Jeggare is curator of the museum and willing to lend you a hand. There’s a lot of information you can learn here, although groups are unlikely to get all of it, which I rather enjoyed. For more information on Korvosa you can check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to Korvosa.

“Autumn” is written by Calder Cadavid and takes places in Andoran’s Arthfell Forest. PCs investigate a sliver of the history of the Pathfinder Zaul Blystone. It has amazing art for an NPC, Adelyn Rhinon, which is my favourite art in the scenario. This is a fun quest although I do have one minor complaint. I feel like one of the characters gives up a bit too easily. For more information on Andoran check out Andoran, Birthplace of Freedom.

Decemvirate - Illustration by Ernanda Souza
A member of the Decemvirate.  Illustration by Ernanda Souza. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

“Dust” by Nate Wright takes place in underground Dwarven ruins on the edge of Highhelm. There players get to dig a little deeper into the history of Veldrid Goldborough.  I enjoyed the NPCs in this one and adore the art for Helga Silverbrew. She’s got such a great facial expression. I like enemies in this one a lot, and the… source of information. For further details on the Five Kings Mountains check out the The Inner Sea.

The finale, “Witness,” is written by Kendra Leigh Speedling and was an absolute delight! It takes place in the Grand Lodge of Absalom and involves the PCs enacting a sort of ritual to activate a secret cache hidden by the gnome Pathfinder Eylysia. As Master of Scrolls Kreighton Shaine and two members of the Decemvirate watch on your players get to experience an important event from Eylysia’s past. I won’t say any more to prevent too many spoilers, but I will say it was awesome. I loved the final battle and the revelations it uncovered. And Eylysia’s final line! So good. For more information on the Grand Lodge check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Seekers of Secrets and Pathfinder Society Field Guide.

What the Helms Hide is a really great series of Quests. So great, in fact, that it’s my favourite series of PFS Quests. All of it’s component Quests were enjoyable, but its the finale that really ties it all together and makes it exceptional. Really well done from the whole team of writers. Each Quest has a chance for battle, a social encounter, and to uncover clues regarding their respective mini mysteries. Overall I really enjoyed this scenario. I give it four out of five stars.

PFS #10-17 - On Sevenfingers's Sails by Tom Phillips
Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-17: On Sevenfingers’s Sails

Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-17: On Sevenfingers’s Sails is a Tier 7-11 adventure written by Tom Phillips. During his time on RPG Superstar 2012 Phillips created the Gloomspires, the haunted, mist-shrouded resting place of the infamous Pirate Captain Sempet Sevenfingers. Rising out of the stormy seas of the Shackles, the Gloomspires are a place of unstable dimensional magic, dark horror, and menacing undead, with connections to the nightmare realm of Leng. The Gloomspires were further explored in Pathfinder Society Scenario #6-06: Hall of the Flesh Eaters, Pathfinder Society Scenario #7-19: Labyrinth of Hungry Ghosts, and Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-15: Hrethnar’s Throne. On Sevenfingers’s Sails marks the finale of this series of linked scenarios and finally features Captain Sevenfingers himself. For more information on the Shackles check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Isle of the Shackles and for more information on Leng check out Planar Adventures or Pathfinder Adventure Path 65: Into the Nightmare Rift (Shattered Star 5 of 6).

On Sevenfingers’s Sails features creatures from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary, and Bestiary 2Bestiary 3Bestiary 4Bestiary 5Bestiary 6, and the Monster Codex (although all of the necessary stat blocks are included within the scenario). It contains content from the Pathfinder Core RulebookAdvanced Player’s GuideOccult Adventures, and Ultimate Equipment. This scenario utilizes the Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: ShipPathfinder Map Pack: Perilous Paths, two custom half-page maps, and (perhaps) Pathfinder Map Pack: Armada.

Sevenfingers - Illustration by Josef Kucera
Captain Sevenfingers. Illustration by Josef Kucera. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Like the three scenarios before it, On Sevenfingers’s Sails features Venture-Captain Calisro Benarry, a half-orc Pathfinder who has sent plenty of Pathfinders into the depths of the Gloomspires. It also features Benarry’s quartermaster Kakikko, and Hrethnar from Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-15: Hrethnar’s Throne. New NPCs introduced include the very disturbing Thael Shivers, Vashthrexa, Nightdrinker, and Sempet Sevenfingers himself.  PCs will need to enter the terrifying tomb, contend with Captain Sevenfingers, and plunder everything they can. Of course, there’s some complications in this mission, and PCs will have to contend with far more than expected. This scenario features an optional Hard Mode for all those players out there who relish a challenge.

The scenario is wonderfully creepy, morbid, and ominous, although  that sort of content is not for everyone. Players who have issues with body horror will want to give this scenario a pass. It’s definitely not an scenario for kids. Any characters who played the previous Gloomspires adventures are going to get a bit more satisfaction out of this scenario than their compatriots who haven’t, and will find they get a few extra bonuses along the way.  This scenario is packed full of atmospheric environments, memorable characters, and foul villains. The battles are challenging and take place in dynamic locations. I particularly enjoyed the final encounter. Really well done! Overall I think this is a really great scenario that won’t be for everyone. It’s creepy, gory, and a great high level challenge. I give it five out of five stars!

Thanks for joining us today!

Jessica

Mists of Akuma: Trade War

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries! Today we’re taking a look at a dark and dramatic adventure path filled with political intrigue and horrifying monsters. Trade War for the Mists of Akuma campaign setting.


What is Mists of Akuma?

Mists of Akuma is an Eastern fantasy noir steampunk campaign setting that’s compatible with fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons. Created by Mike Myler and published by Storm Bunny Studios, Mists of Akuma is based in a fictional nation called Soburin which is very closely based on Japanese culture of… oh, the Sengoku period of the 16th century if I had to guess (but I’m no expert). Soburin’s many prefectures are locked in a tenuous peace, torn between tradition and new technology, and beset on all sides by the terrifying Mists of Akuma, which corrupt everything they touch. Capable of transforming the land into a poisoned wasteland, peaceful dead into undead monstrosities, helpful spirits into foul oni, family heirlooms into cunning living objects, and people into terrifying monsters, the Mists of Akuma are a malignant evil. The Mists of Akuma campaign setting also features a wide variety of new character options, rules, technological items, magical objects, and creatures.

It’s a sorrowful, rich setting that pays close attention to eastern traditions and culture, and brings it into an exciting fictional fantasy world. Manners, honour, and lack of, all play a part, as do kami, oni, and a variety of other Japanese myths and traditions. Mists of Akuma is a setting bursting with creativity, intrigue, mythology, and tragedy that fills a niche all it’s own. For more information on the Mists of Akuma campaign setting you can visit Storm Bunny Studios. To pick up a copy of Mists of Akuma you can visit the Open Gaming Store, Paizo, and Drive Thru RPG. There’s also a few FREE primers available. I highly recommend picking up Mists of Akuma: Soburin Primer  for a glimpse at the world of Soburin and the Mists of Akuma campaign setting, Mists of Akuma: Primer for a sampling of character options, and Mists of Akuma: Tsukumogami for a collection of new creatures (objects transformed into fell beasts by the corrupting Mists of Akuma).

Mists of Akuma
Mists of Akuma by Mike Myler and Storm Bunny Studios

But, enough about the campaign setting. Let’s talk Trade War.


Trade War

Mists of Akuma: Trade War is a 375-page adventure for the Mists of Akuma campaign setting written by Mike Myler, along with Christopher Rippee, Andrew Engelbrite, and Dirk van de Rijt. Intended for 4-6 players, Trade War should bring characters from levels three all the way to level twelve or so. Although Trade War contains everything you need to play the adventure path, I highly recommend picking up the Mists of Akuma campaign setting or downloading the free primers mentioned above. They really enrich the adventure and your players understanding of their world and the beings in it.

Mists of Akuma - Trade War
Trade War: A Mists of Akuma Adventure Path

Trade War is a campaign focused on politics, intrigue, and tragedy, with it’s true plot is hidden under layers of other stories and adventures. Players uncover threads of the mystery and its villains right from the beginning of the adventure path, with time weaving these seemingly disparate tales into a wonderful, layered story. The adventures are all open ended, providing information on a variety of paths your players might choose to follow instead of just assuming one ‘ending’ occurs. There’s plenty of important NPCs to interact with — both allies and enemies — and monsters to battle, with the lines between good and evil becoming increasingly blurred. Alliances can be forged, loyalties swayed, promises betrayed, and throughout it all your PCs will need to make difficult choices. For doing the right thing isn’t always easy — if you can even determine what the ‘right thing’ is.  These tough decisions, moral dilemmas, and pyrrhic victories are truly a highlight of the adventure path.

Before we get any further into this review it’s important to note that not all of the content of Trade War is new. In fact, Trade War consists of six previously released adventure modules bound together with new adventures, side quests, and connections, all culminating in a brand new, epic conclusion. And when I say ‘epic’ I truly do mean it. The final adventure is exceptionally well done.

The six previously published adventures contained in Trade War are Scourge of Róbai Shita TempleFeud Primordial, Fangs of Revenge, Curse of the Scorpion Samurai, Yai Sovereign of Storms, and Revenge of the Pale Master. The finale is entitled Hone-Noroi Keep Ascends. There are also two side trek adventures (Golden Carp and Cursed Well of Itami) which have varying difficulty levels and are intended to be inserted by the GM when they need to get the players back on track (or whenever they feel is most dramatic). There’s also a series of five ‘Connections,’ which are basically a collection of short social and combat encounters which occur on the journey between adventures and all tie in with the various ongoing plots and events of the adventure path. In addition to these adventures and connections, Trade War contains a bit of important information on the Mists of Akuma campaign setting, some new rules, a wide array of new character options, a player handout, and a character sheet. Finally, Trade War contains some quick and simple instructions for those GMs who want to run Trade War without the steampunk components. 

Because Trade War is a mystery I won’t get into the plot just yet. Instead, information on the adventure’s storyline and various adventures will all be contained at the end of this blog post after a large spoiler warning. So, without spoilers, what do I think about Trade War?

For starters, Mists of Akuma is a really great, atmospheric setting. I love it. Trade War is grand campaign that’s much more layered than it originally appears. Despite it’s rather tightly constructed meta-plot it leaves a lot of room for players to make their own decisions, managing to continue the events of the adventure path no matter how honourable or disreputable your players turn out to be. It’s got a lot of climatic moments, dynamic battles, moral dilemmas, betrayals, and surprises. All of the scripted social encounters matter, playing a role in either the meta-plot, current adventure, or foreshadowing other important events. Many NPCs — both ally and enemy — have chances to make return appearances, and players will often be surprised at the role some of the people they meet will come to have. There’s a variety of factions your players could ally themselves with throughout the course of the adventure, all of which are very different.

However, all that open-ended storytelling does come with a downside. This is a rather loosely scripted campaign, with plenty of decisions for GMs to make, NPCs for GMs to create, and plenty of downtime for GMs to fill. While many GMs will be thrilled with this, I do prefer my adventures have a tighter narrative. Why your characters are travelling from one region to another between adventures is left for GMs to determine in most instances and, although the journey and ‘Connections’ themselves are filled with engaging encounters, the motivations behind the journeys are lacking (until the later adventures). In addition to this, many of the adventures utilize the same opening plot hook: a bengoshi told you to. Bengoshi in Mists of Akuma are essentially government officials who have the power to deputize citizens into performing tasks on their behalf. Refusal is met with execution. Obviously “do this because I said so or you die” is not really an engaging motivator. Although for some of these adventures it makes sense that a bengoshi would hire your PCs, at other times it’s unnecessary. There’s plenty of other PCs who could have acted as quest givers and, in many instances, the plot of the adventure itself or a few social encounters could have done a better job.

As previously mentioned, many of the battles are dynamic and complex. Although thrilling and rewarding, they aren’t easy to run. If you’re a beginner GM this is not the campaign for you to start with. Trade War has a lot of cool new creatures, some of which can transform into more powerful forms. Overall, the battles in this adventure path are challenging, memorable, and very well-crafted.

Mists of Akuma is not for the feint of heart. There are strong themes of tragedy, decay, corruption, and sorrow. There’s also some rather gross, horrific depictions (particularly in the finale), and body horror (as the Mists of Akuma can transform even your PCs into terrifying monsters). Although I thoroughly enjoyed the atmospheric, mature tone, it’s not for everyone. And certainly not a child-friendly or family campaign.

Mists of Akuma utilizes many Japanese terms throughout its length, which I really enjoyed. Particularly for names of people, locations, monsters, weapons, and titles. That said, I found that some terms are used but not explained, so I had to stop and look them up. In a few instances the Japanese version of an English loan word is used, instead of just using the English word, which was both jarring and a strange choice. I’m a fan of using culturally appropriate terms and naming conventions whenever possible, but in my opinion Trade War took it a bit too far. It hindered my comprehension of the material on more than a few occasions, which in turn made it less useful for me as a GM and less enjoyable for me as a reader. This adventure would have greatly benefitted from a glossary.

All in all I thought this was a wonderful, challenging, dramatic campaign that mature players are going to really enjoy. It’s set in an atmospheric fantasy world filled with tragedy, desperation, and corruption, wherein players get to make important, complicated decisions — and live with the consequences.  I really enjoyed Mists of Akuma: Trade War.


SPOILERS

 

Be warned! The following section contains information on the plot and component adventures of Trade War. If you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading!

Trade War‘s metaplot involves an ancient necromancer called the Pale Master, whose minions are working to bring him back into the world of the living. Fortunately for the world of Soburin, a powerful figure (who I won’t mention by name to prevent too many spoilers) has foreseen the return of the Pale Master and set events into motion that they hope will allow the people of Soburin to have a future. It’s the machinations of both the Pale Master and this other figure that drive the events of the Trade War adventure path. Set amongst this turmoil is a variety of other groups and factions which become embroiled in the growing conflict, either as allies, enemies, minions, pawns, or victims. PCs will have the chance to interact with members of all of the above mentioned groups on multiple occasions and forge relationships with them as they see fit (for good or ill).

Throughout this adventure PCs will face off against scheming humanoids, dark magic, ancient evil, corrupting fog, terrifying oni, powerful demons, unquiet spirits, animated dead, ninja, samurai, dragons, and even the undead army of a necromancer.

Trade War begins with Scourge of Robai Shita Temple, an adventure for third level characters. Tasked by a bengoshi to investigate the village of Shibai, PCs will need to determine why the village —  which was mystically protected from the Mists of Akuma — has suddenly become overrun by the mists, the monsters that stalk within it, and a powerful wind demon named Fukō. This mystery is fun and pretty free-form, although I think having a bengoshi give your PCs their task is unnecessary. The various NPCs (or even just the events of this adventures) could have motivated the PCs just as easily. I particularly enjoyed the interactions with another group hired to protect the town, the boisterous Mubō Brothers. My only complaint is that there are a lot of battles with tsukumogami in this one (a bit too many, in my opinion).

From there your PCs travel East over the course of the winter, having a variety of adventures on their journey. Some important events in the adventure path are foreshadowed with social encounters, which was nice to see, and important rumours are already flying. I particularly enjoyed the encounters with the elemental oni Kumo-Rui, an ice-themed spider-like monster who has brought about an unnaturally cold winter. In this section the PCs also meet another bengoshi, Akia the Iron Shell, who tasks them with tracking down an oni-touched sorcerer who has formed his own cult and bringing her anything of value in his possession. This task is trickier than it seems, continuing on into the next adventure, Feud Primordial. It should be noted that the inclusion of Akia the Iron Shell is one I support, as she is important to the ongoing plot line and the next adventure, and it makes sense for her to hire the PCs in order to see her goals accomplished.

Feud Primordial is intended for fifth level characters, and begins with the PCs already in the middle of tracking down a cult-leader. Unfortunately, he has way too many possessions for the PCs to easily carry, making them unable to bring everything back to Akia the Iron Shell. They need to determine what’s valuable and sell the rest. Unfortunately, turns out the object Akia most wanted — in fact the whole reason she sent you after the cult-leader — was to fetch a specific object that was valuable to her, but not actually valuable. An object PCs have either sold (most likely) or was stolen from them (less likely). Furious, the bengoshi sends your PCs back out to hunt down the missing object. This adventure leads the PCs to a town where a murderer stalks the streets, and eventually casts them as pawns locked in a power struggle between two incredibly powerful ancient beings.

After finally appeasing Akia the Iron Shell the PCs accept work as a caravan guard and travel north. Along the journey they get involved in some interesting events, my favourite of which involves a corpse-eating oni.

In time the PCs arrive in Samon, home of the Tazuki Rail Company, where they become embroiled in the events of the next adventure, Fangs of Revenge. Once again, they’re hired by a bengoshi, although this time they’re asked to investigate a growing unrest among the labourers of Samon, discover the leader of the workers growing rebellion, and put and end to their uprising before it begins. This leads to a complex web of intrigue and a large cast of interesting characters. PCs will soon discover that there’s more going on in Samon that meets the eye as they clash with shapeshifting snake-folk, and dark rituals.

Leaving Samon behind the group travels south, working as guards for two different groups at different times. By now they’re likely catching wind of a smuggling operation that’s apart of this campaigns meta-plot, although they won’t necessary understand all the movers and shakers behind it. The PCs actions will continue to affect how a few factions see them later in the campaign.

The next adventure, Curse of the Scorpion Samurai, is intended for 7th-level characters and begins when the PCs are hired by a bengoshi from Fuson prefecture to sneak into Fuson, investigate a series of grisly murders, and lay a trap for the killer using his intended victims as bait. But their enemy, the Scorpion Samurai, was once a local folk hero with a tragic past. PCs will need to be exceptionally canny to prevent the people of Shinjitsu from informing the Scorpion Samurai of their presence lest they go from the hunters to the hunted.

From Fuson prefecture the PCs take a mountainous journey at the behest of a poor woman.  Although their mission does not reach its conclusion, they do make some important discoveries related to a series of black torii gates that have been popping up throughout Soburin since the start of Trade War.

The next adventure, Yai Sovereign of Storms, is intended for 8th-level characters and takes place in a mountainous region of the GMs choosing, likely the same mountains that PCs were just travelling through. The PCs find themselves ambushed by a fearsome oni bengoshi who wants to hire them (this marks the second instance where I thought using a bengoshi quest giver was particularly important to the story). Xiqzoxix has heard of the PCs recent exploits and needs their aid to oust a powerful storm demon who usurped the throne from the previous warlord that ruled the oni city of Tsukisasu. Unfortunately, the storm demon is a hate-filled beast who gets more powerful by the day. PCs will need to sneak into the city of monsters in disguise, undo the storm demons magic circles, and defeat him before he becomes too powerful. In the end they’ll get to decide who will rule in the storm demons place — the original oni warlord or Xiqzoxix himself.

Leaving the magically hidden city of Tsukisasu behind the PCs suddenly find themselves in a forest near a newly laid rail track. In this series of connections they’ll have to battle an enemy atop a moving train, punish the oni behind the corrupted black torii gates, and discover that the various factions of Soburin are preparing for war.

Revenge of the Pale Master begins in the city of Kizaki immediately before the annual Festival of Falling Hawks. Intended for 8 – 10th level characters, this adventure once again sets the PCs on the trail of an infamous murderer. This time the murderer has come back from the dead to sacrifice six children whose relatives he tried to sacrifice in life exactly ten years ago. Although the local government has already placed three of these children in protective custody, the other three were kidnapped and need to be rescued. Except… that’s not really what’s going on at all. Haha. This adventure is full of twists, surprises, and betrayals. Whether the PCs ever figure out what’s really going on is entirely up to them. Revenge of the Pale Master is my favourite adventure in Trade War.

Which brings us to the all new finale to Trade War: Hone-Noroi Keep Ascends. In this adventure intended for 12th level characters the Pale Master’s bone tower rises from the earth and towers above Soburin, disappearing into the clouds. Undead march from the tower, the land becomes tainted, and dark magic is seen roiling in the skies. Villagers are evacuated by the government and the various factions met in this adventure path put their brewing war on hold to combat this ancient evil. The PCs may be able to ally with one or more of these armies and gain advantages (and disadvantages) based on how they treated the various groups. Some may be trusted allies, while others may be bitter enemies. Together with these armies your PCs will assault the Pale Master’s undead armies, storm the tower, ascend to the top, and defeat the Pale Master. It’s a gross and horrific gauntlet that’s packed full of challenging encounters and foul enemies. Such a great conclusion to this campaign!

Although that’s the end of the adventure path there are two more adventures in this book. Each is a short side quest intended for varying level difficulties. The first, Cursed Well of Itami, is best played at 5th level, and fits well between Feud Primordial and Fangs of Revenge. In it the PCs find themselves in a village whose well has been corrupted and now holds only blood and other vile substances. PCs need to descend into the well — and the hidden chambers connected to it — in order to cleanse the well and save the town. The second adventure, which is my favourite of the side quests, is Golden Carp. Intended for 7th-level characters, this adventure fits well between either Fangs of Revenge and Curse of the Scorpion Samurai or between Curse of the Scorpion Samurai and Yai Sovereign of Storms. In this adventure the PCs find a magical golden carp who begs them to prevent a noblewoman from catching him in her fishing net. If they choose to save the little fish from the woman — who’s actually an oni in disguise — they discover it is a powerful dragon on a pilgrimage back to its home. The dragon must undertake the journey in the humble form of a carp once every century in order to maintain is powers. They’ll need to protect the fish on it’s trip up to it’s mountain shrine without physically interfering in its journey.

Which brings us to the end of Mists of Akuma: Trade War!

Thanks for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed checking out the dark fantasy world of Mists of Akuma as much as I have.

Jessica

Shackled City: Part Eight: Reunion

Welcome back to 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! Although they’ve defeated the kidnappers, and rescued the children, there’s plenty of other missing citizens of Cauldron to save. And their captors? Slavers! They’ll have to work fast if they want to save their fellow citizens before they’re sold!

If none of this sounds familiar you can read this blog post, which details our characters, or continue on with this article to hear a quick summary and jump right into the action! You can also check out our previous adventures in Shackled City: Part OneShackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!Shackled City: Part Three: Jzadirune, Shackled City: Part Four: Enter the Malachite Fortress, Shackled City: Part Five: This Place is the Pits!, Shackled City: Part Six: Kazmojen, and Shackled City: Part Seven: Bad Luck.

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

shackled city adventure path d20diaries
The Shackled City Adventure Path is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure originally printed in Dungeon Magazine by Paizo Publishing.

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 Falco 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 band’s constant name changes, and over-the-top performances. Mick was born in the gnomish enclave of 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 through his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. Partway through exploring Jzadirune he came into possession of a broken magical construct. 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!). Rabbity recently ‘befriended’ (she thinks) a vicious howler named Prickles. What could go wrong?!

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 a half-orc janitor named Patch, and an ex-guard named Krylscar Endercott! 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. Patch has gone from a meek coward to a stalwart companion. He’s currently acting as protector of all of the citizens we’ve liberated, keeping watch over them in a secure location while our heroes continue to forge ahead.

Krylscar was abducted from Cauldron over a month ago, and was only recently freed by the team. He was found unconscious in his cell, beaten by his captors for impertinence. When they healed him they discovered Krylscar was bloodied, but far from broken. He demanded gear, equipped himself, and insisted on helping the members of Dinorabbit explore the rest of the Malachite Complex. Occasionally helpful and always reckless, Krylscar is stubborn and brave.

the team
The Team!

The Adventure

Kneeling in the wreckage of their battle, Aeris gasped for breath. She and Falco had narrowly avoided being crushed to death and devoured by a mimic disguised as a gong in a well-stocked treasure vault. The gold had not been worth it. Not to them, anyway. Their teammates may think otherwise…

“WOW! Look at all this gold!” Rabbity exclaims. “Oh, gems! I LOVE gems! Can I have them all, guys?” Without waiting for an answer, Rabbity scooped up all of the gems and jewelry, and dumped them into her bag. “Thanks!”

“There’s a lot of neat things in here, Rabbity, not just gems,” Mick remarks. He was in the process of carefully examining everything, packing it up in trunks and bags, and then giving it to his magical, half-broken, construct to carry. He had packed up weapons, armour, and plenty of gold. With a cock of his head he picked up a crumpled piece of paper. “What’s this?”

At our gaming table, I handed my son a crumpled up piece of paper. He grinned, and unscrunched it, leaving him with a wrinkled letter. More than a little pleased with this turn of events, my son studied the letter carefully, then read it out loud.

son - mick - reading the note
My son reading the mysterious letter.

Kazmojen,

There’s such a thing as being too good at your job.

Lay off taking your product from Cauldron. You’re pushing your luck. Any more get snatched and you’ll find yourself the target of jealous competitors or offended do-gooders.

Don’t say I didn’t want you.

The letter was signed with an image of a stylized bird, which Rabbity recognized as a kingfisher.

Now, my kids adore player handouts. Everyone does, I know. But, my kids really get into them. They read, re-read, and re-read again the handouts. They search for clues in everything. This letter they worried over the words, the potential meaning behind them, the kingfisher, and even any pictures hidden in the paper crinkles. They keep notes and wild theories in a notebook and go back to compare new handouts to old ones. They’re obsessed with player handouts.

Which is awesome! No handout is ever under appreciated.

So when I handed them this letter they freaked (in a good way). It was a solid ten minutes of conspiracy theories and excitement before they settled enough that we could continue the game.

letter 1

When we were finally ready we moved on, backtracking through all the hallways and rooms we’d already explored until we only had two left. The first chamber was a fine bedroom, complete with nice wooden furniture, a chain wrapped iron trunk, food, refreshments, and …. infernal guardians!

A pair of quivering, nasty mounds of flesh surged to life as soon as Aeris opened the door.

Lemures!” she shouted. “They’re resistant to damage. You’ll need to hit them really hard to have any effect.”

“Or use silver,” Falco added. He pulled out his silver holy symbol of Shelyn and passed it to Mick. “Try this.”

Aeris rushed into battle and swung her sword, but her blade struck the lemure and bounced off their flesh. Not hard enough.

Rabbity peeked into the room and launched a blast of water at one lemure. Unfortunately, she rolled low and dealt only minor damage to the foul outsider.

With a shrug, Mick followed the others into the room and tossed the holy symbol right at the wounded lemure. Capable of turning anything into a lethal weapon, Mick was pleasantly surprised to see he not only hit, but he defeated the creature! With a critical hit he took down the lemure. It shuddered, quivered, and lost its form, turning into a nasty puddle of goo before being torn back to its home plane. All that was left behind was the shining holy symbol. “Ha!” My son shouted loudly as he jumped out of his seat and danced around the living room. “Don’t mess with Mick! Yeah! Dance party! WHOO!”

Falco stepped into the room, sure to stay near the back, and cast some hexes at the remaining lemure, lowering its defences. Krylscar hurried into the room to help Aeris combat the creature in melee. The pair both managed to trike, dealing some minor damage to the devils once DR was taken into account. But, it was a kinetic blast from Rabbity that slammed into the lemure with massive force that finally brought the creature down. My daughter joined my son in their victory dance.

lemure battle - malachite fortress - shackled city
Battling lemures.

They sifted through the room but were disappointed in its contents. The trunk contained the personal effects of someone short and prone to colourful attire, and plenty of shackles and chains. Deciding it must belong to that weaselly gnome-like slave merchant who fled when they fought Kazmojen and Prickles (in Part Six: Kazmojen), they discussed whether finding his things was good or bad.

“Hmmm… If his things are here maybe he hasn’t really ran away yet,” my daughter said.

“No,” my son disagreed. “I think he was so scared he left without any of his stuff. That means that he probably left without taking anymore slaves or anything with him.”

“We should chase him in case he has my friend Griffin!” my daughter decided.

“No! We should finish looking around in here for any more slaves. And Griffin.”

My husband had to weigh in with his opinion to settle the discussion and get us moving again. We continued through the Malachite Fortress, exploring the rooms we still hadn’t checked out. There was only one. The kitchen.

Preparing themselves for anther battle, everyone drew their weapons, and drank a scavenged potion or two. There were voices inside. Two chittering goblinoid voices, and an exasperated sounding man.

“Ugh,” the man’s voice groaned. “That’s a fork. I said I needed a spoon. A BIG SPOON.”

The goblinoid voices sounded like they were arguing some more.

“Hey!” Rabbity exclaimed. “That sounds like Griffin!”

Krylscar looked at Rabbity strangely. “You know Griffin?”

“Yeah!” exclaimed Rabbity. “He works at MY work. We are friends. His fiancé has been so sad since he was kidnapped that she NEVER stops crying. It is super annoying and super sad!”

Krylscar chucked. “Griffin’s been my friend since we were kids. Used to get into all kinds of scrapes. Until he settled down with that girl of his. Never saw him much, after that.” With a grim sort of look Krylscar nodded at the door. “Let’s do this.”

Rabbity and Krylscar opened the door, both leaping through and into the kitchen in a flash. Rabbity blasted one of the goblins with a wave of water before he even had time to react, while Krylscar stabbed the second.

At the sight of a pair of dying kitchen hands Griffin Malek screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

“It’s us, it’s us!” Rabbity said to him.

“AAAAAAAHHHHH! YOU JUST BARGED IN AND KILLED PEOPLE! Oh, I’m going to be in so much trouble!”

“What are you talking about, mate?” Krylscar asked. “You’re free. You’re welcome.”

“Kryl? You’re still alive?”

“Of course!” Krylscar replied. “Thought you were dead, though.”

“No, I bargained with Kazmojen to work as a cook. It earned me warm food and a bed. Plus, he promised he wouldn’t sell me. It’s a pretty sweet deal, by the way, so I’d appreciate you guys getting out of here before you mess it up!”

Krylscar laughed. “Ah, you weasel! Always were the smart one!”

“I thought you’d be dead for sure!” Griffin replied.

Krylscar laughed some more. “Yeah, they said they’d eat me if I didn’t start behaving. I said I hoped they’d choke! HA!”

Griffin laughed for a moment, then paled. “I would have had to cook you.”

Krylscar paused, suddenly thinking it wasn’t that funny anymore…

“You don’t need to worry about Kazmojen. We killed him. And his guards,” Rabbity pointed out. “Like… lots of them.”

“Lots of them or all of them?”

“Lots!” Rabbity exclaimed happily.

“Not good enough!” Griffin replied, crossing his arms. “I’m not leaving.”

“All of them,” Falco corrected.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

The bickering continued for a while, until Griffin finally relented. “Well, alright. But if you get me killed I’ll curse you with my dying breath.”

The group met up with Patch and the other survivors. They double/triple checked the complex, then headed for the elevator. They rode it up to Jzadirune, and then continued, walking through the confusing tangle of hallways and rough tunnels, until they arrived in Keygan Ghelve’s home. With a wave of her hands, Rabbity opened the door, revealing the bright red sun, rising over Cauldron.

The prisoners shielded their eyes. Some wept, some cheered, and some stood stunned. The saddest amongst them were still in shock.

“Welcome home!” Rabbity exclaimed

With shaky, hesitant steps, the prisoners returned to the streets of Cauldron.

We wrapped up there and my kids hopped out of their chairs, dancing and jumping and singing in triumph. We had just completed ‘Life’s Bazaar,’ book one of the Shackled City Adventure Path. Reason to celebrate! Plus? They honestly felt like heroes.

“This was great, Mom!” my son said.

“Yeah, what’s next?” my daughter asked.

“Oh, you’ll have to wait and see,” I told them. “But you should give some thought to what you want to do over the next few days or weeks in Cauldron. Think about it, so you’re ready for the next time we play.”

“Okay!” they shouted. As they started chattering over their plans, my husband grinned.

“XP?”

Yes, you all get a level up.”

Cue the victory dance from my children.

We had a ton of fun playing ‘Life’s Bazaar.’ Next session we’re slowing things down a bit, and doing some roleplaying in Cauldron, before launching into the next chapter of the Shackled City Adventure Path: Drakthar’s Way.

Wish us luck!

Jessica

life's bazaar d20diaries shackled city beholder
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 #97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here.

Despite being a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Path, we’re running this campaign with Pathfinder (both the campaign setting and the ruleset). Our characters utilize content from many sources, some of which are listed below.

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.

Ghosts of Saltmarsh and the Sinister Silver Edition!

The newest issue of Dragon+ is out, and with it details on the next D&D hardcover adventure book: Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Due out May 21, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a collection of seven nautical and coastal themed adventures that take characters from levels 1-12. These adventures can be run separately or as one larger campaign. The adventures contained in this volume are all previously published adventures which have been lovingly adapted to fifth edition D&D (including some of the most popular first edition and Dungeon Magazine adventures). Adventures in Ghosts of Saltmarsh include:

  • The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1981)
  • Danger at Dunwater (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1982)
  • The Final Enemy (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1983)
  • Isle of the Abbey (originally written by Randy Maxwell for Dungeon Magazine #34)
  • Tammeraut’s Fate (originally written by Greg A. Vaughan for Dungeon Magazine #106)
  • The Styes (originally written by Richard Pett for Dungeon Magazine #121)
  • Salvage Operation (originally written by Mike Mearls for Dungeon Magazine #123)

In addition to the adventures themselves there’s details on the port of Saltmarsh, mechanics for ship-to-ship combat, new monsters, and new magic items.

Launching one month later is Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Currently available for pre-order on their website, the Sinister Silver Edition contains twelve high quality player handouts, a detailed ship map, a reusable ship map, two large scale battle maps, a map of the Styes, 30 encounter cards (which are designed to be hung over a DM screen so players can see images of the monsters they fight while the DM sees it’s statistics), custom DM screen, two objects, bonus encounters, and characters!

Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Ghosts of Saltmarsh

Looking good!

Jessica

Tails of Equestria: The Pet Predicament

A few weeks ago I wrote a review on a delightful kids RPG called Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game. We delved into game mechanics, character creation, and general fun factor. I also touched on an adventure — The Pet Predicament — and promised that I would share further details on the adventure in the future.

Well buckle in folks, cause the future is now!

Today, much to my daughter’s delight, we’re talking The Pet Predicament!

Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game is an easy to understand pen and paper roleplaying game featuring the world and characters of the hit TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The game is aimed at children, but is definitely fun for the whole family. For more details on the game and how it works, click here!

my litte pony tails of equestria storytelling game

At the back of Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game you’ll find a starter adventure called The Pet Predicament. Intended for level 1 ponies, its the perfect first adventure for this game. Yes, seriously. And, it’s not a short or cheap adventure, either! It’s forty pages in length if you count the stat blocks it comes with. My family played through the adventure in two short sessions, though my kids were so engrossed they wanted to play it in one.

In a practical sense, this adventure is incredibly important. It provides a first adventure for players to use, and teaches them how a game should be run by example. For experienced players it also serves to alter our preconceptions about RPGs, and really shake things up. Tails of Equestria isn’t the same kind of RPG as Pathfinder or D&D. It downplays battle, and really encourages players to use creative thinking, kindness, teamwork, and roleplaying to overcome obstacles. This game requires a different mindset than other RPGs. Happily it’s a mindset that kids and young players will naturally settle into and flourish.

So what is The Pet Predicament? I mentioned it was the perfect starter adventure for this game and I meant it. It’s well written, easy to GM, engaging, and fun. There’s plenty of opportunity for Scuffles, but just as many chances for players to completely avoid Scuffles with Tests and Challenges. It features the Mane Six (main characters) from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as initial NPCs, and features plenty of other cameos along the way.

adventure - the pet predicament - d20diaries

Our adventure begins, innocently enough, in Ponyville’s market. There your PCs (short for Pony Characters in Tails of Equestria) are grocery shopping and have a chance to describe all the things they’ve been buying. This is a great opportunity for your players to talk about their characters, and decide how they know each other.

My family decided to play a strange family of ponies. I played Soothing Heart, an over-prepared earth pony mother who carries saddlebags filled with everything her little fillies might need (including snacks, first aid supplies, cleaning supplies, and protective gear for a wide variety of weather). She’s tough, caring, loyal, and determined, with the Healing Touch talent. But, her vision is poor, and she needs glasses to see. Also, since I was also going to be the Storyteller, Soothing Heart is a bit of a follower, allowing her little fillies to explore the world while she minds them from afar. My/her husband is Nugget, a unicorn with a spectacular hairdo and the beginnings of a beard. He’s clever,  charming, and a talented magic-user. More than anything, Nugget is an artist with an obsession for magical creatures. If he sees one he can’t resist stopping to draw it — a dangerous habit! My daughter created a pegasus called Bunna who is kind, happy, and adores animals. She can even speak to mammals! Bunna is a seamstress who specializes in hand sewing stuffed animals. She particularly adores rabbits. Unfortunately, she has a terrible fear of… caterpillars! Eeeek! The horror! Finally, my son created Flying Recall, a mystery loving pegasus with special pony senses who always trusts his gut. He’s a friendly, funny fellow, who is a little bit too silly.

characters - tails of equestria - d20diaires

My kids had great fun describing their many, many purchases in the market, with my son buying healthy snacks and my daughter buying a massive rabbit shaped cake. Soon, my daughter (the PC who bought the tastiest treats or, in my case, loves rabbits the most) felt her grocery bag getting heavier and heavier… Bunna looked down to realize there was an adorable little rabbit in her bag eating all of her cake! My daughter squealed in absolute delight while my son looked at the picture of the rabbit and exclaimed: “Oh, no! Not THAT rabbit! THAT rabbit is trouble!”

And my son couldn’t have been more right! Angel is Fluttershy’s rabbit, and he’s horribly behaved. Kids are sure to have a blast roleplaying with this little guy. My daughter’s attempts to befriend the rabbit led to it growling, glaring at her, and crossing his arms in irritation. Soon she just decided to let him enjoy the cake which is when my kids (and I’m sure many more) let out their second squeal of glee: Fluttershy herself appears looking for her ‘little Angel.’ Impressed with your ability to handle the rabbit — cue my daughter’s proud smile — Fluttershy asks your PCs for a favour. She and her friends (yes, those friends) have to go on an important trip, but they promised they would give their pets a pampering party! They really can’t delay their mission, but they don’t want to let their pets down, either. They need someone really special to come over and pet-sit!

My kids literally threw their arms up into the air and were begging to be the petsitters before Fluttershy could even get the offer out. They were SO in. Haha. Not a surprise! It’s likely that any kids who has seen the show will be absolutely thrilled at this turn of events. Getting to meet such famous characters is enough to make many kids squeal in glee, and finding themselves the caretakers of all six of their pets? I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who doesn’t love animals!

Fluttershy asks the PCs to show up at her house the next morning and trots away leaving your PCs with the rest of the day to spend as they see fit. It’s assumed that you finish checking out the market and then skip to the scene at Fluttershy’s house, but both of my kids play a lot of complex RPGs, so they had other plans. Especially when you take into account that Flying Recall loves a good mystery! The pair of them spent time investigating the identities of the Mane Six and their pets, figuring out what each animal enjoyed doing, and what each loved to eat. My kids were counting on fingers, trying to remember the pets from the tv show, guessing what those kinds of animals would like in real life, and rolling dice to ask around for gossip, and recall obscure bits of information. They had a blast! I rewarded their efforts with lots of helpful information and they spent time picking up items in the market that they thought would be of use in petsitting. A juicy bone and a ball for Applejack’s dog, the fanciest and most expensive cat treats they could find for Rarity’s spoiled cat, and so on.

ponyville market - tails of equestria - d20diaries

When they were ready to move on our PCs headed over to Fluttershy’s house — with my kids wearing incredibly proud smiles on their faces. They got to meet each member of the Mane Six, each of the pets they would be babysitting, and ask any questions they had. I casually dropped a lot of information on my kids in this scene while roleplaying, most importantly about all the pets and what they like or don’t like. The information is easy to come by for GMs, but players will need to rely on their memories, note-taking, or rolling a Mind Check to get everything down. Surprisingly my kids were obsessively dedicated petsitters, and remembered every little detail all on their own. My husband was more concerned with matters like: ‘Where’s the food?’ ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘When will you be back?’

Nugget learned that the Mane Six were off to solve a mystery. Ponies throughout Equestria were being magically turned into statuettes! They always turned back to normal after a while, but it was very jarring. So the Mane Six were heading out to investigate. Their mission would take them into the dangerous Badlands to the south.

Nugget decided that sounded very dangerous, and he would much rather stay behind and pet-sit. My kids agreed.

The Mane Six bid everyone farewell and left. We were alone in Fluttershy’s house with a whopping six pets to care for. All very different. Some easy to tend to and some not. Both my son and daughter got super into this part of the adventure. They did their best to take care of the animals, find and feed them their favourite things, pamper and play with them, and so on. They carefully decided who would be best suited to caring for each pet, and excitedly tried to recall every bit of information they could. They fed Owlowiscious (Twilight Sparkle’s wise owl) chocolate mice and tickled him just behind his ear feathers. They gave Winona (Applejack’s playful dog) the bone they had bought for her, played ball, and patted her tummy. They were absurdly happy to see Winona enjoy the bone they bought him. They gave Gummy (Pinkie Pie’s toothless baby alligator) fish cakes and played Snaps. They brushed and groomed Opalescence (Rarity’s fat, spoiled cat) while feeding her the most expensive cat treats money could buy (which they had already bought a lot of!). They took Tank (Rainbow Dash’s helicopter flying turtle) out for a fly and fed him lettuce. My kids had such a blast with this part of the adventure! They were exchanging high fives and shouting out ‘great job’ and other congratulations at the table. It was just a giant ball of feel-good fun.

And then my daughter tried to handle Angel, the fluffy little rabbit menace. They knew it would be tough. They got him the perfect carrots, gently fluffed his tail, and offered him cuddles. Shockingly, my daughter managed to control the rabbit for a while, but in time he got out of hand. Carrots were met with growls, tail fluffing with glares, and cuddles with fierce little punches from fluffy paws. He was a terror!

pets - pet predicament - tails of equestria

Which is the point!

Angel causes such a commotion he knocks all the books off the bookshelf, some of which land on Tank. Tank’s helicopter motor starts up and shoots him right through a window and into the sky. Worried for Tank, Winona hops through the broken window after him. Owolwiscious screeches in panic at the commotion — he had previously been napping — and flies up the chimney in a cloud of soot. Gummy starts to sneeze and ends up biting Opalescence, who leaps into the air, clings to the curtains with her claws, and brings the whole curtain rod down at you! Your PCs have a chance to dodge the curtains, but fate is not with them. If they fail a Body Check they get tangled in the curtains, and if they pass they instead get knocked into a cupboard as it falls over.

“AHHH!” My kids shrieked. “The pets!”

“Tank flew right out the window!” my son exclaimed with wide eyes.

“And the cat got bit by a crocodile!” my daughter added. “That bunny is so naughty! Oh… but he is very cute… I forgive him!”

“We need to save them!” my son pointed out.

Only then did they realize they were stuck. Really stuck.

By the time we all extricated ourselves with our skills from curtains and cupboards, the pets were gone. All of them.

We headed outside to investigate. Flying Recall searched around for clues — he loves a good mystery — while Bunna asked around for eye-witness accounts from the nearby mammals. In time they discovered that each pet had wandered off on their own — most into the nearby Everfree Forest. They immediately decided we had to get them back. But who was most in need of rescue? And which clues should they follow first?

From here we get to the bulk of the adventure: finding and rescuing all six pets. This will present your players with all kinds of obstacles, Tests, and Challenges. Following the trails and clues in some cases is difficult, with failure causing new challenges and mishaps that range from falling into a marshy pool or getting tangled in clinging thorns, to stepping on a cragadile, getting surrounded by timberwolves, and even meeting the mysterious zebra mystic known as Zecora. Surprisingly, my kids didn’t fail a single tracking Check, and never faced any of the mishaps. Rescuing each pet will take creative thinking and teamwork but exactly how each task is accomplished is incredibly open ended, which really allows your group of PCs to use their own unique approach to get things done. The order they choose to rescue the pets in is entirely up to them.

Once your players manage to rescue a pet they need to keep it happy. Each animal has a few paragraphs written about how they act after being rescued, and how your players can affect their behaviour. Some pets are helpful, others silly, and some (here’s looking at you Angel) are a giant pain in the butt! Managing these rescued pets becomes a fun part of the rest of the adventure, even as they distract you from (or help to) rescue the others.

My kids decided that finding Gummy was most important. They had tracked his footprints to a fast-moving stream and easily determined that the alligator was so small he wouldn’t be able to fight the current. Knowing that if they didn’t follow him right away they might never find him at all, they raced off downstream. They discovered a boat nearby, which some of us rode in, but my son didn’t trust the boat. Instead he insisted on racing along the riverbank. The stream leads to a large lake where they spotted a big bird flying through the air with a baby alligator clamped onto his tail feathers. Gummy is at risk of falling, and the bird looks in pain. There’s plenty of ways to go about rescuing the alligator, but with two pegasus in the party my kids decided to fly up there and get the job done themselves. Bunna held onto Gummy, and Flying Recall tried to pry his mouth open while telling him silly jokes. From the ground, Nugget steadied Gummy with his telekinesis, and Soothing Heart prepped a snack and some first aid supplies. They freed the bird without harm, and got Gummy down safe. …only to have him chomp onto Flying Recall! (Gummy sure does love to bite!). Soothing Heart fed Gummy food (thus freeing Flying Recall) while Bunna made Gummy a special stuffed animal. When it was ready she gave it to him to chew on, and then Flying Recall carried Gummy back to the cottage.

After a few minutes of checking the trails and clues again, its clear that all the rest of the pets entered the spooky Everfree Forest. Spotting a plume of smoke that they were sure would dissipate if they delayed any longer, they hurried into the forest after it. But, the forest is dense and travel through it is hard. Flying Recall flew up above the canopy to keep an eye on the smoke and lead the team toward their goal.

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Tank had crash landed in a canyon dotted with caves and got his aviation goggles tangled on a tree branch. When my kids saw him dangling from a stick halfway down a canyon with a clearly broken helicopter rotor on his back they panicked! After much shrieks Bunna and Flying Recall flew to the rescue — only to discover that this canyon was home to a massive quarray eel that swallowed Flying Recall whole. My son panicked. Seriously. We reminded him that there’s no such thing as death in Tails of Equestria, and I described the strange soft squishy insides of the eel he finds himself in. That’s when my son exclaimed: “I USE MY TOKENS OF FRIENDSHIP TO REROLL SO I DODGE!!! NOW!!” My daughter decided this was a great plan, so the group gave up some Tokens of Friendship, we rewound the action, and Flying Recall managed to dodge the jaws of the quarray eel.

Now, this wasn’t necessary. PCs who find themselves swallowed whole only need wait on their friends to come up with a plan to rescue them. Jokes, smoke, sneezing, and many other options could work, all depending on what Talents your PCs have and what they come up with. Even if they all get too close to the eel and get swallowed, gameplay doesn’t end. In this case Tank’s rotor puffs up once more, sending him careening relatively safely to the cave ground. There the little loyal turtle waddles up to the eel — he’s much too small for the eel to care about eating — and gives the eel’s tail a solid chomp. The eel reels in pain and spits out any swallowed ponies, leaving Tank to slowly wander back out of the cave to give a proud little nod to the ponies he’s saved. Coolest turtle ever.

In my game, our heroic pegasi both carefully stayed out of the quarray eel’s way after the timely dodge, and delicately untangled Tank with some steadying help from Nugget’s telekinesis.

With Tank safe we headed out after Winona, whose barks and whimpers we could hear from afar. We found her tied up outside the den of some diamond dogs, which my kids knew (from watching the show) like to capture ponies and force them to work in their diamond mines. The goal here is to rescue Winona without getting noticed by the diamond dogs. For most groups its incredibly unlikely to happen, and you’ll then need to parley or otherwise deal with the diamond dogs themselves once they arrive on the scene to investigate the noise. But, super paranoid, Bunna snuck close to Winona and used her ability to speak with mammals and her Charm to good use, telling Winona to stay silent. After a few checks she rescued Winona and we all snuck off without the diamond dogs any wiser.

Next we followed a trail of sooty feathers which lead us to Owlowiscious. Much to my kids surprise they found him flying over and over again into a tree, which was right in the middle of a patch of blue flowers. My kids, who are avid RPG players, were immediately suspicious. They both looked at each other and said: “Trap.”

Both deduced it had something to do with the flowers, with one deciding they were cursed and the other insisting their pollen or smell must make you stupid. Turns out they were both right. The flower’s pollen puts a curse on anyone who sniffs it, which makes something happen that the victim would hate. For Owlowiscious that turned out to be losing his intelligence. Now dumb as a post, the poor owl was smashing himself silly by flying into the same tree over and over.

With no knowledge of the flowers abilities but feeling like they were to blame my kids gave this one a bit of a think. Unbeknownst to them the key here is teamwork. You can solve this any way your group wants, as long as everyone helps. Everyone. In the end Soothing Heart gave Bunna and Flying Recall some protective clothing, Nugget steadied the owl with telekinesis, and both Pegasus flew up there to grab him, being careful not to breathe at all. Mission accomplished!

Unfortunately, even after rescue the bird was still stupid. Luckily, Soothing Heart’s first aid training came in handy. She figured to what was wrong and used her ponlybalm to take away the harmful effects of the curse. But, that wouldn’t be permanent. They’d need to find a way to cure her for good, which would require a visit to the zebra mystic Zecora. Deciding that rescuing the pets was more important, they treated the owl as best as they could and moved on, determined to rescue Opalescence, the pampered cat next.

The cat we found stuck at the bottom of a magic well. Poor Opalescence was yowling in fear, shivering cold, and exhausted. As they approached words appeared on the well, a poem that hinted that if you threw what you loved and would miss into the well, it would return the cat. My kids did not like this. But, they wanted the cat. So my son threw in something he would miss — not his magnifying glass! He would miss that too much, but something else. His notepad. The water in the well rose and the cat floated closer. Following his lead my husband tossed in his art book, which caused the water level to rise a lot. Bunna made a new stuffed animal and threw it into the well, causing the water to rise. But there was a lot of way left to go, and my son soon discovered that no one could give something twice. Soothing Heart would have to throw in something she would really miss. So she took off her necklace — one of a pair which Nugget had given to his wife and daughter — and threw it into the well.

And my daughter freaked out. Holy cow! She suddenly broke down in tears shouting “We don’t match!!”

Did not see that coming. Apparently this necklace meant a lot to her. So, I told her to explain that to the well, and maybe it would make you another deal. Meanwhile, my son grumbled it was just a necklace and saved the cat, which was way more important that jewelry.

Now, it is expected that some folks might not want to give up some of their favourite items forever. The adventure has a few ways in it for your PCs to convince the well to return their items to them. In the end my daughter befriended it, and promised to visit the lonely well once a week. Satisfied, the well returned everything the gang had given it. Bunna let it keep the stuffed animal for company.

Relieved (and no longer sad), my daughter led the group away from the magic well.

We had one pet left to save: Angel.

My kids had decided to save her for last knowing that she would be a handful to manage. They didn’t want her messing up their other rescue missions! But, with all the pets free and safe (in varying degrees of happiness), they set out after the troublesome rabbit.

“I’ve got this!” My daughter told us. “Bunny, prepare to be cuddled!”

The trail led them to a dark cave.

“Trap,” my kids decided.

“Dangerous monster!” my son guessed.

“Spider webs,” my daughter guessed.

“Oh, wait! Please no more cave eels….” my son remarked with a groan.

Nugget made his unicorn horn glow a pleasant green colour and led the way inside. There we found a monstrous magical bear called an Ursa that was cuddling and rocking Angel like a baby. And… cooing at her? My kids were pretty sure the Ursa was singing Angel a lullaby. Angel, for his part, was wearing a diaper and struggling as much as he could for freedom. He glared, he flailed, he punched, and he nibbled. But still, the Ursa would not let it go.

For most groups this will be the most challenging pet to rescue. If they attempt to take Angel by force or trickery the Ursa will cry and wail, drawing its mother home from her hunting trip early. (Yup! This massive bear is actually a baby called an Ursa Minor). The Ursa mother (Ursa Major) will also return if your PCs take too long to rescue Angel or make too much noice. Clever PCs will choose that moment to flee, while adventurous souls might get into a Scuffle which is sure to end with the Ursa Minor (or Major) the victor. Any ponies knocked unconscious from such a Scuffle will likely find themselves the Ursa Minor’s new toy, and will then need to come up with a clever plan to escape.

The best way to free Angel is with kindness. Luckily for us, my daughter found another amazing use for her stuffed-animal-crafting Talent. She headed outside, made up a beautiful new rabbit stuffed animal and offered it to the Ursa in place of angel. She even described how she would give it a little voice box so the new stuffed animal made happy noises. In order to ensure maximum success she used some Tokens of Friendship to automatically pass the Check. The Ursa Minor was delighted.

The real trouble came with Nugget.

Nugget who can’t help but draw magical beasts. Luckily they had charmed the Ursa Minor enough that Nugget got in a quick sketch before Ursa Major came home.

Once your players have rescued all the pets they can head back to Fluttershy’s cottage and clean up. But, my ponies had other plans. They headed deeper into the forest and used all their knowledge to find Zecora. A zebra healer who talks in rhyme. Rhyme! Oh, so hard to role-play! Haha. But, I did a pretty good job. My kids enjoyed it, anyway.

Now, Zecora is written into the adventure as one of the mishaps that can occur if your PCs get lost in the Everfree Forest, so rules for how to utilize her already appear in this adventure. First give your PCs a chance to Charm her — which mine all failed horribly at. Usually, this would mean she sends you away with some cryptic words of farewell, or your players use some Tokens of Friendship to reroll or auto-pass their failed Charm Check. But, my family had already used up all of their Tokens of Friendship. Instead they tried to reason with her. They explained whose pets they were caring for and presented the poor, incredibly dumb, Owlowiscious to Zecora. Being friends of the Mane Six, Zecora recognized the pets and offered to break the owl’s curse. If the PCs repaid her with two future favours. (Hello, future plot hooks!). My family all agreed and Owlowiscious was cured — and grateful! Everyone traded farewells and then headed back to Fluttershy’s cottage.

Which was a mess!

Everyone hurried to get it clean, worried that the Mane Six would come home to find the place trashed. Then they cleaned the pets, fed everyone, and got back to pampering them. Just as the pets settled down for a nap there was a knock at the door. Nugget opened it to find a little purple dragon. It was Spike, the devoted companion to Princess Twilight Sparkle. He looked really hurt.

“You’ve gotta help, guys! Twilight Sparkle and the other ponies are in big trouble! I’m the only one who escaped! They need help right now!” Spike exclaimed, right before falling over unconscious.

Which is where the adventure ends.

Sort of. After this there’s information on how your players can continue the adventure. If you want you can buy the official sequel, Tails of Equestria: The Curse of the Statuettes. But, the book also encourages GMs to make their own adventures, with the cliffhanger ending as the opening plothook. It offers plenty of questions and suggestions, then reminds GMs to tell their players to level up! Everypony is now level 2.

After the ending of The Pet Predicament there’s stat blocks for every creature featured in this adventure. The stat blocks are easy to read, with colourful pictures, descriptions, and tactics. Stat blocks included are the cragadile, diamond dog, mohawk, quarray eel, timberwolf, Ursa Minor, and Zecora. There’s also statistics for each of the Mane Six — cause you know one day kids are going to want those! Its nice of them to include official stat blocks for the show’s main characters right in the rulebook. Finally, there’s my favourite stat blocks: typical ponies. Here you’ll find one stat block for a typical earth pony, pegasus, and unicorn. There’s a description, stats, and a reminder to select one talent and one quirk for each pony you have your players run into. That’s what makes every pony special, after all! These three little stat blocks are super useful, since your players will often find themselves engaging in social interactions with other NPCs.

pony statistics - tails of equestria - d20diaires

And with that, The Pet Predicament comes to an end.

We found that this adventure was a delight to read, GM, and play. Everyone in my family had a blast (including my husband).  My kids adored getting to hang out with the pets, and were really invested in the story. The ending also had my kids hooked, as it leads directly into the Tails of Equestria: The Curse of the Statuettes adventure (which I may admit to having bought my daughter for her upcoming birthday).

If you’ve got kids who enjoy light-hearted RPGs or who love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I highly recommend picking up Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game and giving The Pet Predicament a try. Roleplaying Games of all kinds are really educational (teaching math, probability, reading, writing, problem solving, teamwork, kindness, empathy, and how to handle failure). In addition, they’re just really enjoyable for kids to play — either with friends or family. And this one plays so smoothly. It truly is a wonderful game.

Thanks for joining us today!

Enjoy!

Jessica

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