Starfinder: Pact Worlds

Welcome back to d20 Diaries!

Today we’re going to be taking a look at Starfinder: Pact Worlds! This is one of the few Starfinder sourcebooks that’s available for purchase. It’s a hardcover book that focuses entirely on the setting of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game: the Pact Worlds. Information on the Pact Worlds first appeared in the Starfinder Rulebook, but this book expands it. A LOT. It features a multiple page description of each planet in the Pact Worlds solar system, a new theme for each, and a wealth of other information on the setting itself.

This article isn’t meant to be a thorough review or critique of Starfinder: Pact Worlds. It won’t replace the book (nor would I want it to!). It’s a quick breakdown of what’s found inside, and what I liked best in each chapter. It’s a collection of my favourites parts of the book, and some highlights. It’s here so that fellow gamers and fans can take a look and get a real feel for what they’ll get out of the book. Hopefully it helps you decide whether this product is right for you.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

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Starfinder: Pact Worlds

Starfinder: Pact Worlds is a hardcover sourcebook 215 pages in length. It features awesome cover art by Remko Troost which depicts Raia (the iconic lashunta technomancer), Altronus (the iconic kasatha solarian), and Keskodai (the iconic shirren mystic) battling a tyrannosaurus-like alien on the planet Castrovel. The inside covers feature a nice image of the Pact World System (which is not to scale). Following that is the table of contents and the introduction: Welcome to the Pact Worlds. The introduction is four pages long and provides a lot of useful setting information. It talks about the mysterious Gap, the history of the Pact Worlds, as well as the system’s government, economy, culture, and universal time. There’s also quite a bit of information about the Stewards, which is a peace-keeping organization that enforces law and order through the Pact Worlds. They are independent of all planets, and technically serve the Pact Council, but their allegiance is first and foremost to the Pact Worlds themselves. The Stewards are free to refuse orders that violate the Pact or its citizens. I particularly enjoyed hearing more about this group.

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After the introductions we get into Chapter 1: Worlds. This section features an eight to ten page write up of each world in the Pact Worlds system (I use the term ‘world’ loosely). Each entry starts with a small image of the planet as seen upon approach and a gorgeous image of a settlement or location within that world. The entries feature information on each world’s geography, climate, residents, society, potential conflicts and threats, and a large number of notable locations found there. There’s also detailed information on at least one settlement, a map of that world (or region/space station/etc.), an image of an inhabitant (sometimes a general citizen, but other times an important figure), and a brand new character theme (complete with artwork). The artwork is consistently spectacular, and the maps are incredibly useful. The write-ups are surprisingly thorough — particularly considering the difficulty inherent in trying to describe an entire world in ten pages. That said, I found reading them in sequence difficult, as the locations on one planet started to get mixed up with the locations on other planets after I’d read a few different entries. And the themes? Really cool!

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Signing the Pact from Starfinder: Pact Worlds

The first planet this chapter focuses on isn’t a planet at all. It’s the sun. The centre of the Pact Worlds. I loved this entry. It was unique and wildly imaginative. I particularly enjoyed the Burning Archipelago, a region made up of massive bubbles of unknown origin which contain climate-controlled, habitable areas. These islands within the sun are connected by a sort of energy tether, which special ships called linecrawlers can traverse. Obviously, Sarenrae’s faith is common here, and in addition to regular residents of the Pact Worlds one can also find fire elementals, salamanders, and other more exotic creatures. My favourite location on the Sun was the Floating Gardens of Verdeon, although I am very curious about what secrets the lashunta of Asanatown are hiding… The theme for the sun is called Solar Disciple, which represents characters who either honour or worship the life-giving light, heat, and energy of the sun. It grants +1 Wisdom, makes Perception a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about the sun, light, and sun-based religions. At sixth level they gain a bonus on Will saving throws against compulsions, at twelfth level they can channel fire damage dealt to them into their next fire-based attacks, and at eighteenth level they can meditate in the sunlight to regain resolve. Very cool!

The second planet examined (and closest to the sun) is the machine world of Aballon. Here androids, robots known as anacites, artificial intelligences, and innumerable other mechanical creations live, work, and toil as one. Every being has a place and a use in this world, and the governing Insight Array seeks to make life here efficient and purposeful. The only areas outside the reach of their Megaplexes are the ancient cities of the First Ones — the unknown beings who created the first anacites. I ADORED reading about the society of the anacites who make Aballon home. My favourite locations include Preceptum XIII, a megaplex run by a senile advanced intelligence; and Infinity, a holy site where anacites bathe in molten lead by day, and sit in contemplation in the cooled, hardened lead by night. Aballon’s theme is the Roboticist, which is my son’s favourite theme in this book. It grants +1 Intelligence, makes Engineering a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to identify technological creatures. At sixth level they can create technological equipment of a higher level than normal, at twelfth level they can repair constructs and starships more effectively, and at eighteenth level they can examine discovered technology to regain resolve.

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Aballon by Leon Tukker
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Starfinder: Core Rulebook

Up next is my daughter’s favourite planet: Castrovel! A land of steaming jungles, lush forests, eco-friendly cities, and nature preserves. This is the homeward of lashuntas (who live on the continent of Asana), formians (who live in The Colonies), and elves (who live in Sovyrian). Its fourth major continent is Ukulam, a nature preserve of immense size. My favourite locations include the Ocean of Mists (which is exactly what is sounds like), the continent of Ukulam, the elven settlement of Cordona, and Telasia: the Portal Grove, a magical transportation hub claimed by the green dragon Urvosk. The theme for Castrovel is called Wild Warden, which represents characters who live in the wilds. It grants +1 Wisdom, makes Survival a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about animals, plants, and vermin. At sixth level they are effective at using non-lethal damage with lethal weapons against animals, plants and vermin, and providing first aid to such creature with Life Science. At twelfth level they become master foragers, and at eighteenth level they can meditate in a natural setting to regain resolve. This is by far my daughter’s favourite theme.

The next planet in the Pact Worlds isn’t a planet at all, but a space station. That’s right! It’s Absalom Station! Home of the Starstone, the Starfinders, centre of Drift travel, and located in the place Golarion once stood. Chances are if you’re reading this you know at least a bit about Absalom Station. If there’s a capital of the Pact Worlds, this is it! Be sure to check out my favourite locations in Absalom: Eyeswide Agency (a group of psychic ‘holistic detectives.’ Dirk Gently, anyone?!?), Fardock (a mysterious magical arch that’s likely to kill you), Rig House (lair of the Lowrigger Gang), and the Ghost Levels of the Spike, which contain strange eco-systems, dangerous criminals, and the machinery that keeps Absalom running!  The theme for Absalom Station is called Corporate Agent, which represents characters who work for mega corporations. It grants +1 Charisma, makes Diplomacy a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about corporations and their executives. At sixth level they can quickly gather information from their contacts, at twelfth level they can use their connections to influence people, and at eighteenth level they can study and negotiate to the benefit of their company to regain resolve. Although this theme is neat, it’s not really one that caught me eye.

Leaving Absalom Station behind, we come to the desert world of Akiton, a dying planet where only the desperate still live. The native humans of Akiton have deep red skin and are known as hylki. Other races prominent on Akiton include contemplatives, shobhad, ysoki and, my personal favourite: ikeshti. There are a lot of cool places on this Mars-like planet, but my favourites are Ashok (a psychic amplifier located in a crater and populated by contemplatives), Bounty (a failed terraforming experiment that worked too well), Five Tines Fortress (an ancient flying citadel that was transformed into an amusement park by enterprising ysoki), the Utopia of Tivik (an abandoned company town that features its founder’s face everywhere), and Ka, Pillar of the Sky (the tallest mountain in the Pact Worlds and a mysterious holy site to the shobhad-neh). The theme for Akiton is called Gladiator, which represents… exactly what it says it does. Haha. It grants +1 Constitution, makes Intimidate a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about entertainment combat, fighting styles, and gladiatorial traditions. At sixth level they become famous, at twelfth level they can convince others to let them carry their weapons even where they’re not allowed, and at eighteenth level they can defeat a significant enemy in front of an audience to regain resolve.

Up next? Verces. Now, when I first read the Starfinder Core Rulebook of all the planets that were introduced it was Verces that most interested me. I couldn’t quite place why, but it definitely had me intrigued. Suffice to say I was really excited to learn more about this highly civilized, tidally locked world. I was not disappointed! Half of Verces is a sun-scorched desert, while the other half is a dark, frozen wasteland. The area between these regions forms a central ring known as the Ring of Nations, which is a series of cities all built side-by-side. The locals are known as verthani, and they have bulging mouse-like black eyes, elongated arms, and (many have) a plethora of augmentations. Other races commonly found here include humans, kasatha, rhyphorians, shirren, strix, and ysoki. Of the many cool locations, I recommend checking out Fastness of the Ordered Mind (a monastic temple in the cold of Darkside with surprising thematic ties to the religion of Zon-Kuthon), The River of Returning Joys (a massive travelling caravan festival that constantly journeys through the Ring of Nations), Lempro (a tiny independent nation inhabited by bloodless creatures called intis who adore riddles), and the Oasis Temples (planar breaches to the First World where fey we once worshipped in temples and lush plant-life grows). The theme for Verces is called Cyberborn, which represents characters who are augmented. It grants +1 Intelligence, makes Computers a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about cybernetic augmentations, procedures, and experts. At sixth level they can use their augmentations to regain stamina, at twelfth level they gain electricity resistance and improve their augmentations countermeasures, and at eighteenth level they can perform an amazing task with one of their augmentations to regain resolve. This is by far my husband’s favourite theme in the book!

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Starfinder: Alien Archive

Next to Verces is Idari, the amazing and beautiful homeship of the kasathans. Be sure to check out the Culinarium (a very fine cooking academy), the Red Corridors (where rebel kasathans are exiled to), and the Sholar Adat (where a section of deceased kasathans brains are ritually preserved and used to access their knowledge and memories! Awesome!). The theme for the Idari is called Tempered Pilgrim, which represents characters who are undertaking the traditional kasathan walkabout known as the Tempering. It grants +1 Charisma, makes Culture a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about cultural customs, and learn languages. At sixth level they are quick to make friends, at twelfth level they can take ten on checks to recall knowledge, and at eighteenth level they can participate in a cultural tradition significantly different than their own to regain resolve.

After that? The Diaspora, a massive asteroid belt made when the sarcesian homeworld was destroyed by Eox. It should be noted that sarcesians are one of my very favourite Pact Worlds races so I’m totally biased to love this place. In addition to sarcesians you can find a lot of space pirates, miners, and dwarves is the Diaspora. By far the coolest location in Diaspora is the River Between, a river that magically flows from one asteroid to another through space. Awesome. Other places worth checking out include The Forgotten King (an asteroid that looks like a 12 mile in diameter human skull made from some kind of ceramic and covered in strange runes), Havinak’s Vortex (a dangerous gravitational phenomenon which contains a protean space station), The Hum (a ship graveyard located around a strange section of space that creates a subsonic hum which causes ships to break and people to become erratic), Heorrhahd (a Dwarven Star Citadel), Nisis (an icy planetoid where sarcesians live in underwater bubble cities), and Songbird Station (a gorgeous Shelynite temple and concert hall). The theme for the Diaspora is called Space Pirate, which is intended for scoundrels who operate on the wrong side of the law. It grants +1 Dexterity, makes Bluff a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about black markets, smugglers, and space pirates. At sixth level they become better at hiding and hiding objects on themselves, at twelfth level they become better at fighting with a small arm and a one handed weapon, and at eighteenth level they can lead a raid or ambush in order to rob someone to regain resolve.

Right next-door to the Diaspora is the toxic planet of Eox, home to the undead. Some of the coolest locations on this dangerous world include Exantius (a new settlement created for non-elebrian undead who are tired of being oppressed), Grim Reach (a ghostly town full of phantoms from the past), Halls of the Living (a subterranean city maintained for the living in order to host reality television shows and cruel competitions), Remembrance Rock (an area littered with tombs and monuments to those lost during the death of Eox), and the Spiral Basilica (a Pharasmin temple). The theme for Eox is called Death-Touched and it is definitely one of my favourites! This theme is for characters who are mortal, but have long lived on Eox, or suffered through an event which could have tainted them with negative energy, or unlife. It grants +1 Constitution, makes Perception a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about undead and negative energy. For an added bonus you also use Perception to identify such creatures and effects, instead of Mysticism. At sixth level they gain a bonus on saving throws against a variety of conditions and effects, at twelfth level they become resistant to the cold, and at eighteenth level they can draw upon souls of the recently killed to regain resolve. Awesome!

Leaving behind the world of the dead we next visit Triaxus, a world with incredibly long seasons (it’s currently winter) inhabited by dragons, dragonkin, and a type of trimorphic elves called rhyphorians. Other races found there include elves, half-elves, and gnomes. I love this place! Who doesn’t? Some of the coolest places on the planet include Grenloch Lacuna Beach (a balmy beach resort and luxury vacation spot which is actually an elaborate virtual reality), Meruchia and Nusova (a pair of flying citadels), and the Sephorian Archipelago (a secret research facility). The theme for the Triaxus is called Dragonblood, which represents characters who have dragon blood coursing through their veins. It grants +1 Charisma, makes Culture a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about dragons and their culture. At sixth level they can terrify their enemies, at twelfth level they gain variable energy resistance, and at eighteenth level they can catalogue their wealth to regain resolve. This theme is awesome, and super thematic! I can’t wait to give it a try.

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Up next is the ringed gas giant Liavara and it’s many moons, each with its own races and cultures. Here the mysterious Dreamers sing riddles of the future while swimming through golden clouds, and outposts of foreign gas miners  plunder the planet’s natural resources. Roselight is Liavara’s major city, which floats the the skies and monitors the mining interests who seek to obtain Liavara’s valuable gases. My personal favourite locations are Etroas (an ancient city on the moon Melos whose citizens all vanished in a mysterious religious event known as the Taking), and Bhalakosti Excursions (a dangerous tourism company on the moon Osoro that brings adrenaline junkies into poisonous jungles for survival safaris — a Vesk hotspot!). The theme for Liavara is called Dream Prophet, which represents characters who can connect with the Dreamers and their songs. It grants +1 Wisdom, makes Mysticism a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to identify spells, and know about arcane symbolism and traditions. At sixth level they can cast augury, at twelfth level they can reroll a specific type of d20 roll twice per day, and at eighteenth level after failing a check that they rerolled they can meditate on the nature of prophecy to regain resolve. Although this is a cool theme, it’s not something I would play. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Beyond Liavara is another gas giant, Bretheda, a stormy planet with blue and purple clouds, surrounded by a large number of moons. Nicknamed ‘the Cradle,’ this planet is home to a ton of races, including the jellyfish-like barathu, haan, kalo, maraquoi, and urogs. There’s also a sizeable population of kasatha and lashunta. This article is particularly dense but, that said, it only had a few locations that really caught my interest. Be sure to check out Yashu-Indiri (a lifeless moon where a strange cult builds shrines to forgotten, dead, and lost deities — including many from Golarion), and the Grand Inza on the moon of Kalo-Mahoi (an underwater resort-city of luxury shopping centres).  The theme for the Bretheda is called Biotechnician, which represents characters who have installed biological augmentations in themselves. It grants +1 Intelligence, makes Medicine a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about biotech augmentations. At sixth level they can use their connections to get a discount on biotech augmentations, at twelfth level they can install extra augmentations in themselves, and at eighteenth level they can deactivate an installed biotech augmentation to regain resolve. Interesting!

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Starfinder: Alien Archive 2

Apostae is up next — an atmosphere-less planetoid inhabited by demon-worshipping drow. Safe to say it’s not a nice place to live. Other unfortunates who toil under the thumb of the drow houses and their weapons corporations are half-orcs, orcs, mongrelmen, and troglodytes. There are a lot of cool places on Apostae, including Crater Town (an independent settlement founded in an icy crater by a half-orc), Nightarch (a city built around a mysterious gate that leads to the planet’s interior), and Wrecker’s Field (a scrapyard). The theme for the Apostae is my absolute favourite in the book and is called Xenoarchaeologist, which represents characters who explore the ruins of lost civilizations. It grants +1 Intelligence, makes Engineering a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to identify rare and alien technology. At sixth level they become adept at noticing traps, at twelfth level they are masters of translating foreign languages, and at eighteenth level they can document an artifact from an unknown or ancient culture to regain resolve. This is AWESOME! Count me in!

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Apostae from Starfinder: Pact Worlds. Art by Leon Tukker.

The final planet in the Pact Worlds is Aucturn, a toxic, shifting, organic world believed by cultists to be the womb of a Great Old One. This place is nasty! It causes mutations, madness, sickness, and worse. It’s very Lovecraftian, featuring gugs, cultists, shogoth, the Dominion of the Black, and so on. Here, nothing is illegal or taboo, and even the darkest urges can be indulged. There are a lot of interesting (and gross!) locations on Aucturn, but my favourites turned out to be Amniek (a city led by a group of midwives who are trying to birth a foul godling from the nearby Gravid Mound), Citadel of the Black (a massive, half-full settlement ruled by Carsai the King, high priest of Nyarlathotep), Endless Throat (an organic feeling hole in the ground that has no end), The Fury Place (a forest filled with a mist that drives people to rage — curiously records show it once caused lust, and before that lethargy), and Master’s Maze (a man-made maze of canyons that can only be solved from within). The theme for Aucturn is called Cultist, which actually represents a character who is an ex-cultist (or at least says they are…). It grants +1 Constitution, makes Disguise a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about secretive religions and cults. At sixth level they become adept at infiltrating and impersonating members of a cult, at twelfth level they can reroll a saving throw against diseases, drugs, and poisons, and at eighteenth level they can speak about your time in a cult to regain resolve.

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The Drift from Starfinder: Pact Worlds

With the last of the gazetteers on the planets of the Pact Worlds behind us we’ve already gone through over half of the book. Up next is Chapter Two: Starships. This section begins with some information on the Drift, and then launches into a small array of new starship options. The most interesting options are created for the Xenowarden’s biomechanical ships, but there’s also a few mainstream options like launch tubes, and a brig. I think the Aballonian data net is also really cool. There’s two new starship weapon special properties: burrowing and spore. After that there’s a trio of three new premade ships for different organizations. Three each for Aballonian ships, Hellknight ships, Iomedaean ships, Vercite ships and, my personal favourite: Xenowarden ships. The artwork for the Iomedaean Cathedralships is particularly gorgeous.

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Iomedian cathedral ship from Starfinder: Pact Worlds.

Up next is Chapter Three: Supporting Cast! This section starts with a few sentences of information on a bunch of different factions and organizations, including AbadarCorp, Android Abolitionist Front, Augmented, Corpse Fleet, Knights of Golarion, Starfinder Society, Stewards, and the Xenowardens. After this there is a wide array of NPC stat blocks tied to a theme. Each theme is two pages long, has three different stat blocks of different classes and challenge ratings associated with it, a paragraph of ideas on how you could use (and alter) these stat blocks, and some sample encounters to run with the stat blocks. The themes explored in this section are cultists, free captains, hellknights, mercenaries, security forces, and street gangs.

Up next is the final chapter in the book: Chapter Four: Character Options. This section starts with six new archetypes. The Arcanamirium Sage, who is an expert at using magical items; the Divine Champion, who serves a deity and can unlock divine powers; Skyfire Centurion, warriors who forge a bond with their teammates; Star Knight, a highly adaptable class that can represent warriors of holy or unholy orders (including hellknights); Starfinder Data Jockey, who is an expert with computers and data retrieval; and Steward Officer, a diplomatic peace-keeping military officer. I really liked the Divine Champion and the Star Knight, but I think the Data Jockey is likely to see the most use. It’s awesome.

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Starfinder: Armory

After the archetypes there eight new feats (including the highly adaptable divine blessing), four pages of new weapons and weapon fusions, two pages of new armour and armour upgrades, two pages of technological items, two pages of magic items, two pages hybrid items, and four pages of new spells (check out control atmosphere!).

The last seven pages of the book turned out to be my favourite. They introduced six new Pact Worlds races. What can I say? I’m a sucker for playable aliens! The races include the shapeshifting astrozoans, who have no known history and look like blobby starfish (if they tried to stand). Also, they have eyeballs for elbows and knees! Cool. There’s also winged strix (a familiar face from Golarion), and bantrids who — let’s face it — look like giant noses. These quirky fellows roll around on a sort of ball they have on their base and (ironically) have no sense of smell. The borais are living races who either refused to die (despite dying) or were tainted by negative energy or undeath before they died. These people came back and are now a unique form of undead. There’s also khizars, the awesome plant-people of Castrovel and my favourite of the new races. The final race? SROs, which are basically robots that are fully sentient. My daughter ADORES them.

And that’s it! The end of Starfinder: Pact Worlds. I hope you enjoyed taking a closer look at the book with me today, and that this helped you decide whether Pact Worlds is right for you. I know I love it!

Jessica

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The Pact Worlds System

Pathfinder Playtest: Doomsday Dawn

Today on d20 Diaries the end is nigh! That’s right! We’re talking about Doomsday Dawn!

Pathfinder Playtest released a short time ago, and alongside it they launched a few adventures. There are three Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenarios out, which we’ll talk about later this week. But, the main playtest experience is an adventure called Doomsday Dawn. All four of these adventures are a free download on Paizo’s website.

Pathfinder Playtest RulebookMore accurately, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is a series of linked adventures which, played all in a row, make a comprehensive storyline. It’s like a mini-adventure path. With a few differences. For starters, this is created for Pathfinder Playtest, not the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended not only to introduce players to the new Pathfinder rules, but also to playtest certain aspects of those rules. As such, each mini-adventure is focused on a different aspect of gameplay. Once you’ve finished a section of the adventure you’re invited to head over to Paizo’s website and fill out a survey about your experience. While you’re there, I highly recommend picking up the maps for this adventure: Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack. It contains two different flip-mats which feature the four major maps of this adventure. Other maps found throughout are more generic and can be drawn on a blank mat (Pathfinder: Flip Mat: Bigger Basic), or created with other flip-mats and map products you might have at home.

There’s a few other important things to note. Doomsday Dawn takes place over a long time. A decade to be exact! And it takes it characters all throughout the Inner Sea. Most importantly: this adventure is not always played with the same characters. That is to say, you’ll make a group of ‘Primary’ characters, who will play three parts of this adventure together: parts 1, 4 and 7. For the other four parts you will play different heroes who do tasks related to the primary character’s ongoing story. Each of these side groups will be created for a specific purpose and are only used once. These characters will play parts 2, 3, 5, and 6. Intrigued? Then read on!

Doomsday Dawn tells the story of the Aucturn Enigma, which was first introduced in the module Entombed With The Pharaohs, and was also featured in the module The Pact Stone Pyramid, both of which came out before Pathfinder had its own official rules set. No idea what that is? No worries. Neither do your characters. Basically this adventure involves Ancient Osirion, the Dominion of the Black, the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, The Night Heralds, the planet Aucturn, and nothing short of the end of the world. Yup, the stakes are high! For more information on Osirion, you can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Osirion, Legacy of Pharoahs.

Pathfinder Playtest Doomsday DawnIn the year 4718 A.R. (later this year) the celestial bodies will align allowing the Dominion of the Black an opportunity to merge the planet Aucturn with that of Golarion. If this happens life as we know it will end. This doomsday is only possible with objects of power from Ancient Osirion which were put in place long ago in preparation for this time. A group of evil cultists called the Night Heralds seek to bring this end into being, while another group, the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, seeks to stop them. That’s where your many different characters come in.


The first part of Doomsday Dawn is entitled The Lost Star and is intended to introduce new players and GMs to the rules of Pathfinder Playtest. During this adventure you’ll get the hang of encounter mode, and generally get a handle on the new rules. The Lost Star is played by your primary characters, who will begin at level one. They will follow all of the regular character creation rules as detailed in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, except for their background, which will be chosen from the special backgrounds presented at the start of Doomsday Dawn. These special backgrounds include: Budding Osirionologist, Esoteric Scion, Family Friend, Goblin Renegade, Mind Quake Survivor, and Pathfinder Hopeful. Each of these backgrounds is much more specific than the generic backgrounds in the Playtest Rulebook, and is meant to not only tie your primary character to adventure’s story, but also provide them with lore skills that will be of use. There are no other special considerations you need to take into account when making your characters, although it is recommended your primary characters form a balanced party from a wide variety of ancestries, classes and backgrounds.

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Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path.

The Lost Star begins in Magnimar in the year 4707 AR, which is eleven years before Golarion’s present and a week or two before the start of Paizo’s first Pathfinder Adventure Path: Rise of the Runelords. It takes place in the Varisian city of Magnimar and involves a noblewoman by the name of Keleri Deverin. Keleri is a relative of Kendra Deverin, the mayor of Sandpoint. With the upcoming Swallowtail festival to to begin in Sandpoint soon, Keleri headed down into her family’s vaults to pick up a family heirloom known as the Star of Desna, in hopes of getting it blessed at the festival. Unfortunately, she found the vaults robbed by goblins. And one was left behind! She questioned the brute, only to discover that the little goblin’s tribe (the Mudchewers) had been conquered by a nasty hobgoblin by the name of Drakus the Taker. Poor little goblins! Sensing opportunity, Keleri sought outside help. She hired a group of adventurers — your Primary PCs — and sends them down into the sewers of Magnimar to both obtain the Star of Desna and, possibly, to forge an alliance with the remains of the Mudchewers. But unforeseen events are at work, and clues discovered under Magnimar will lead to greater adventures after this. The Lost Star makes use of one side of the flip-mats in the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack.

My family has already had a chance to play The Lost Star. We found it great fun, although it was not without difficulty. We had a tough time with Drakus the Taker, having multiple characters fall unconscious, and one die. We also had some trouble with our alchemist running out of resonance in the first battle. She had to overspend her resonance for the rest of the adventure, which was dicey at best. On an upcoming playtest where I get to make a character, I’m going to make an alchemist of my own, to see how it works in other hands. About the same, I expect. Lastly, we had trouble identifying treasure. It takes an hour to identify a magical item and, since my family’s character’s weren’t forced to retreat and rest, that means they never had a chance to identify or utilize a single piece of treasure throughout the adventure. Obviously, this is disappointing. That said, it’s not the fault of the adventure, so much as a part of the Pathfinder Playtest rules itself. In addition, there are some ways for characters to shorten this timeframe down. Alternatively, this can be solved by your players retreating to rest, recover resources and study objects. However, I didn’t really find this adventure suited that tactic very well. It’s not so much that you don’t have the chance. You do, if you want to, but that my players had no reason to. They were comfortable pressing on.

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The Inner Sea World Guide contains information on all of the nations visited in Doomsday Dawn.

All in all, I rather enjoyed the Lost Star. It’s a fun introduction to the game, with some very intriguing elements. My family particularly enjoyed the polluted fountain, and the glimpse of the future. In an effort not to spoil the adventure too much, I won’t say much more on the topic. Just know that we enjoyed it. In fact, my kids had so much fun, they turned the title of the adventure (Doomsday Dawn) into a song that they’ve been singing around the house. My daughter also made a delightful little sign that reads ‘We Be (GOOD) Goblins!’ She gleefully made a goblin as her primary character.

Those of you looking for more information on Magnimar, can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Magnimar, City of Monuments. Those of you looking for more information on Varisia in general can check out the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide.


The second part of Doomsday Dawn is called ‘In Pale Mountain’s Shadow.’ It takes place two years after the end of the Lost Star. During that time, Keleri Deverin and the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye have been hard at work looking into the clues uncovered by the Primary characters during their foray into the goblin caves. They’ve recently learned of an Ancient Osiriani object of power called a countdown clock, which is counting down to a time when the world will come to an end. Believing that having one of these countdown clocks (there’s a lot of them) in their possession will give the Primary Characters and the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye an advantage in foiling the apocalypse, they have been hard at work attempting to track one down. Thankfully, they’ve succeeded. Unfortunately, there are others after the same countdown clock. In order to get at it in time the Esoteric Order will have to hire outside help. This is your second characters.

Legacy of FIre Howl of the Carrion King
Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King

This second group is a team of adventurers or mercenaries who live in and around the recently liberated town of Kelmarane. Yes, you heard right. This adventure takes place in Katapesh, in between Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King, and Legacy Of Fire: Book 2: House Of The Beast. Legacy of Fire is one of my all time favourite Adventure Paths (as anyone whose visited my d20 Stories page may have noticed… Haha), so I was more than a little excited for this connection. My children are equally excited to play through this part of Doomsday Dawn, as they’re currently in a play-by-post Legacy of Fire campaign and are working their way up to liberating Kelmarane as we speak. (But that’s a story for another day!)

‘In Pale Mountain’s Shadow’ sees your new adventuring group hired by a noblewoman representing the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. She tasks your PCs with travelling through the surrounding wilds, to the slopes of Pale Mountain, where they will enter through a back-door to the tomb of Tular Seft. They must retrieve the countdown clock before another enemy group does (The Night Heralds), and may keep anything else they find in the tomb. Oh, and they’ll be well paid, of course. This adventure features a lot of exploration mode and travel through the wilds, so at least one of your group members should be capable of navigating and surviving in the wilderness (two is better!). In addition, it is built to test out how terrain, hazards, and other difficulties affect battle. They’re interested in if such battles are still fun to play, or they drag out too long. They’re also interesting in seeing if the terrain makes battle too difficult. So once you’re done playing through this section be sure to give your feedback. It will directly help them hammer out this aspect of Pathfinder’s new ruleset.

The characters you will be making will be brand new fourth level characters made following all of the character creation and level up rules found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. In addition, three uncommon languages are available for your characters to select with their languages known: Auran, Gnoll, and Ancient Osiriani. Knowledge of these languages can open up new opportunities throughout the adventure, it is not necessary. As for gear, each character gets one 3rd-level item, two 2nd-level items, one 1st-level item, and 300 sp to spend on additional items.

Overall, ‘In Pale Mountains Shadow’ looks like a lot of fun. It has an actual introduction, which Lost Star didn’t, and is a relief. The exploratory portion has interesting encounters which I think will play well at the table. These travel encounters all occur on maps you’ll be drawing yourself, or creating with your own map products at home. There are detailed instructions for drawing these maps, and feedback is desired if this was handled adequately in the surveys you’ll be filling out. After the exploration portion (which will likely take a single play session for my family), we get to the Tomb of Tular Seft himself. This portion of the adventure includes an image of a custom map which is not  included in the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack so you’ll have to draw it yourself. It’s an awesome looking tomb, with a lot of nifty features. It’s my kids favourite map in the entire Doomsday Dawn Adventure, for sure, and has them quite intrigued. The tomb also has some interesting role-playing opportunities which your group may or may not be able to capitalize on. At some point, your players are bound to run into their rivals — the Night Herald cultists who have been sent to acquire the countdown clock before you can. When this occurs is entirely up to your group and will vary from table to table. There’s even a chance they might slip in and out without ever meeting the Night Heralds (though the chances of that are infinitely slim). The battle looks tough, and like a lot of fun. Particularly because it allows your players to interact with the  Night Heralds for the first time. It think it’s going to be a lot of fun. That said, this battle involves multiple different, complex, NPC stat blocks, and GMs should prepare accordingly. In fact, I think that this chapter is actually my favourite adventure within Doomsday Dawn. Whether that will be the case after running it at the table next week remains to be seen. Haha.

Those of you looking for more information on Kelmarane and the Pale Mountain region can check out Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King. Information on Katapesh can be found in Dark Markets, A Guide to Katapesh, or the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide.


Our story continues in a few years later in part three of Doomsday Dawn: ‘Affair at Sombrefell Hall.’ The Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye has a been researching the strange cult known as the Night Heralds, and their plans to bring about the end of the world. Thanks to the efforts of mercenaries the Order has acquired a countdown clock, and have a timeline for the apparent coming end. They’ve discovered enemies, allies, and even discerned that this ‘doomsday’ involved the Dominion of the Black. They’ve gleaned all they can on their own, but now is the time to call on outside help. Your third group of characters will be a team hired by (or a part of) the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye who are sent to Ustalav to contact the foremost expert in the study of the Dominion of the Black, Dr. Verid Oscilar, and obtain his assistance in determining the plans of the Night Heralds. Upon arriving they discover that the good doctor is currently taking a break from teaching, and is relaxing at his personal manor in the countryside. Your characters will head to the manor, and try to obtain his help. Unfortunately for both your characters and Dr. Oscilar, the Night Heralds are more than aware of his expertise, and seek to make him one of their own. …Sort of. We’ll leave that a surprise for now. Haha. It doesn’t make use of any flip-mats, so be sure to have a blank map and your markers ready. You’ll be doing a lot of drawing!

Carrion Crown Haunting of Harrowstone
Carrion Crown: Book One: Haunting of Harrowstone

This section of the adventure takes place in Ustalav during the events of the Pathfinder Adventure Path: Carrion Crown: Book One: Haunting of Harrowstone. That said, they take place in completely different parts of the country and aren’t going to have any effect on each other. It’s meant to be a survival horror adventure, which will feature a lot of combat against a lot of undead with minimal preparatory time in between. This is meant to test out the healing resources of a group that includes multiple healers against undead forces. GMs will need to track not only how long each battle takes, but also how much healing is used in each fight. Your group must include at least two clerics capable of channeling energy. The other members of the group must be characters capable of healing to some extent (which can include bard, druid, paladin, or a sorcerer that has divine spells and, to a lesser extent, the alchemist). These new characters will be level seven. They will follow all of the character creation and level up guidelines for characters found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. For gear, they will begin with one 6th-level item, two 5th-level items, one 4th-level item, two 3rd-level items, and 125 gp to spend as they see fit. One character in the group also starts with one +2 magic armor. Good luck deciding who gets that bit of treasure! Haha.

‘Affair at Sombrefell Hall’ is a dark, difficult adventure that takes place at an interesting location. It makes wonderful use of the locale, giving players a chance to explore well before the danger starts. This can give them some really interesting combat options once the battles do begin. The adventure itself begins with some interesting (and probably suspicious) social encounters, and some good old fashioned snooping around. I’m a fan of the survival horror genre in my d20 games, but, due to the nature of the playtest, this one is going to be particularly difficult. You’re going to take a lot of damage, use a lot of healing resources, and probably lose a party member or two. Hopefully, you all come out alive in the end. And, if not, at least some of you survive and secure the aid of Dr. Oscilar to enlighten your Primary Characters. Even if you don’t, you can continue Doomsday Dawn and move on to the next chapter. Perhaps the most important part of this section of the adventure is giving your players a glimpse of the evil that the Dominion of the Black is capable of. And man, oh man. They’re just so… evil! Haha.

Players looking for more information on Ustalav can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Rule of Fear or, for more general information, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide.


Part four of the Doomsday Dawn, ‘Mirrored Moon,’ reunites your players with their Primary Characters. This are the same characters who played the Lost Star. They will be levelled up to 9th level, following all of the levelling rules from the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. They begin with all of the gear they acquired during the Lost Star, plus they get to purchase one 8th-level item, two 7th-level items, one 6th-level item, and two 5th-level items. They also get 250 gp to spend on extra gear. These characters are now considered to be either agents or members of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, and have been off doing tasks and missions together for the last few years. Currently, they’re in a section of the River Kingdoms known as Thicketfell, on the hunt for a mystical lake known as the Moonmere, where they hope to find ancient ruins that were once used by a villain (and possibly founder of the Night Heralds) named Ramlock. There, they will scour the ruins for information on what the coming apocalypse will bring, in order to stop it. Unfortunately, the Night Heralds are already there, and the trouble they’re up to could destroy a nation (at least). Finding the Moonmere will be the least of their troubles!

Kingmaker Stolen Land
Kingmaker: Book One: Stolen Land

This adventure heavily uses exploration mode, and is meant to test out what kinds of challenges the characters can handle when they only get in one battle per day. The battles are difficult, so expect to go all out during each fight. That said, you’ll also very often have opportunities to scout out locations ahead of time, which should allow for some clever planning and preparations from players. This adventure makes use of one of the flip-mats from Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack, as well as three other flip-mats: Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: ForestPathfinder Flip-Mat: Giant Lairs, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Hill Country. These maps aren’t necessary, and can easily be replaced by hand-drawings on a blank map. This adventure also makes use of a terrain hex map featuring the Thicketfell region, much like those used in the Kingmaker Adventure Path (which begins with Kingmaker: Part One: Stolen Land).

I’m not a huge fan of sandbox-style explorations like those found in Kingmaker. It’s just not my cup of tea. That’d not to say its not fun. It is. It’s just not my favourite genre for d20 games. I point this out for context. I’m heading into this one pretty sure that the actual exploration itself isn’t going to be my favourite part of this adventure (or Doomsday Dawn as a whole). Far from it. That said, I always try to put aside my biases, or at least point them out. I intend, as always, to head into playing this section of the adventure with an open mind. After giving it a thorough reading I can safely say that the Mirrored Moon has the most eclectic, enjoyable cast of NPCs found throughout the entirety of Doomsday Dawn, which is going to make it quite fun. Throughout the adventure there will be plenty of opportunities to explore, roleplay, forge alliances, and gain intelligence, which should make for an interesting adventure. The gnomish citizens of Korlabablin were a particular favourite of mine. All in all, I think this is going to be a fun, challenging adventure.

For more information on the River Kingdoms, check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to the River Kingdoms, or the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide.


Part Five of Doomsday Dawn is entitled ‘Heroes of Undarin,’ and may turn out to be the most controversial part of the playtest adventures. Why? Well, in short, it keeps a secret from its players, which I honestly believe should be shared. More on this later, but for now, we’ll take a look at the adventure itself.

Wrath of the Righteous Worlwound Incursion
Wrath of the Righteous: Book One: The Worldwound Incursion

‘Heroes of Undarin’ takes place in the Worldwound, after the events of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path (which begins with Wrath of the Righteous: Book 1: The Worldwound Incursion). It assumes that the Worldwound has been closed, the Fifth Crusade is winding down, but that demons still infest the region and are being slowly battled. It will probably take a decade or so to make the region safe for travellers again, so for now, it’s still a dangerous, post-apocalyptic type place, infested with demons and other evils. Your players will be making brand new level 12 characters who are all members of the Crusade. They’ve fought battles against demons many of times before and are well-prepared for this mission. They’re hardy, brave, self-sacrificing folks who won’t flee from a fight. They’re… hardened. To create them you’ll be following all of the standard character creation and levelling up rules found in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. As for gear, there’s a specific list of magical items they’ll have access to. In addition, they’ll get 100 gp to spend on anything they want. Its highly suggested you create a balanced and diverse party. This adventure is intended to test the limits and capabilities of mid/high level characters.

So who the heck are these people, and what do a bunch of crusaders have to the with Doomsday Dawn? In short, your Primary Characters are in need of information housed in an ancient ruin in the region and your Crusaders have been tasked with escorting them to the site, and protecting them while they’re there. These Crusaders have no idea whats going on with the overall plot line, which will be a bit of a refreshing change of pace. Upon arrival, the Primary Characters descend into the ruins to discover the information they need isn’t mobile. It’s not a book or a tablet. It’s all over the walls. They’re going to have to copy it. Your Crusaders will have to defend the ruins from demonic intruders while the Primary Characters are out of sight doing whatever that entails. It’s a difficult and thankless job. Note that you will NOT be playing your Primary Characters during this adventure at all. Only the Crusaders.

Now, onto the potential controversy. Note that the next paragraph after this contains SPOILERS. If you don’t want to know, don’t read it. It should be noted that the adventure specifically asks that GMs not tell their players the following piece of information. I totally understand why this is, but I disagree with the necessity for secrecy. I can honestly say that if I ran this for my family, without telling them the secret, the session would end with everyone very angry and upset. My kids would literally be in tears. No joke. I’m a firm believer that games should be fun. Tears and anger? Not what we’re aiming for. Because of this, I have one further piece of information to share with our readers. If you don’t want to know, definitely skip the rest of this section on the ‘Heroes of Undarin’ and head on down to the nice big words I’ve added that say ‘Spoiler over.’

SPOILER:

As mentioned, this adventure is meant to test the limits of mid/high level characters. Most specifically, its designed to determine how much is too much. Your characters will fight wave after wave of demons. And in the end? It’s entirely expected they’ll die. All of them. Dead. It’s been stated that knowledge of this tidbit will cause players to create characters who are purposely made to ‘survive’ which could throw off the results of this playtest. Throwing off this calibration will do no one any good. That said, I personally believe that if a player knows what they’re getting into, and what’s at stake, they’ll play fair. Roleplaying games are a game about trust, and I trust my players, just like players should trust their GMs. Sending players into a certain death scenario without their knowledge is a breach of that trust. Therefore, I’m telling you. And when my family plays, I’m telling them. Your characters will die. I suggest you embrace the spirit of that. Embrace that self-sacrifice during character creation. Embrace your death scene and make it epic! Don’t make characters made to ‘win.’ Winning isn’t fighting to the end. Winning, in this instance, is making sure that the playtest receives accurate results. It’s being an honest player. So make yourself a team of crusaders, and enjoy pushing them to their limits and beyond. And when your doomed character meets their end, be happy you’ve had a chance to ensure that mid/high level play during Pathfinder Second Edition will be of a fair and challenging difficulty.

SPOILER OVER

For more information on the Worldwound and its surround lands, check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Worldwound, or Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide. You can also read the novel: Pathfinder Tales: The Worldwound Gambit, written by Robin D. Laws.


The sixth (and second last) adventure in Doomsday Dawn is a definite change of pace. Entitled ‘Red Flags,’ this adventure is meant to test how fun and engaging social encounters, espionage, and skill based adventures can be at high levels of play. That’s not to say that there’s no combat in it. There is. But, that’s neither the point, nor the focus. The focus is on your skills, subtlety and guile. To that end you’ll make powerful level 14 characters who are members of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. Its recommended that they be characters whose role among the Order is to act as one of the following; archivist, diplomat, historian, researcher, spy, or something similar. Don’t make a character who’s geared towards combat. This is an interesting challenge that I’m very excited for. The gear they can utilize is a mix of gold, and specific magical objects, but it’s long, so I won’t write it all here.

Skull and Shackles Wormwood Mutiny
Skull & Shackles: Book 1: The Wormwood Mutiny

These Agents of the Order are sent to a fancy gala on a volcanic island in the Shackles held by a white feathered tengu Free Captain by the name of Whark the Alabaster, the lord of Plumetown. They’re tasked with obtaining an important book from Whark’s treasury called The Last Theorem. Its hoped that the information contained in this book can help the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye (and your Primary Characters) stop the coming doomsday for good. The stakes are high! This adventure takes place after the end of the Skull and Shackles Adventure Path (which begins with Skull & Shackles: Book 1: The Wormwood Mutiny). It utilizes a neat custom map which is not included in the flip-mats. It looks like a lot of fun, but due to the nature of espionage style adventures, I’m going to refrain from saying any more on the matter than that.

Players looking for more information on the Shackles can check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Isle of the Shackles, or Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea World Guide.


Which brings us to the end. The climax. The final chapter of Doomsday Dawn. It’s called ‘When The Stars Go Dark‘ and it is a finale in every sense of the word. It will be played by your Primary Characters, although they’ll be levelled up all the way to 17th level. They’ll have a chance to stop the Night Heralds and the Dominion of the Black, thereby preventing an apocalypse that would destroy all of Golarion. Perhaps they’ll triumph. And perhaps they’ll fail. Whatever the outcome, this is one fun, challenging adventure. It takes place in the present time (for Golarion) on a demiplane known as Ramlock’s Hallow. The purpose of this final playtest is to have fun! They want to know if the game is still enjoyable and challenging at high levels. So get in the game, and have a blast! Oh, and try to save Golarion while you’re at it.

The adventure itself is complex. I can say for certain that my kids will pretty much have no idea what’s going on. Haha. For them it will be more of a ‘point them at the bad guys and they’ll fight’ kind of scenario. That said, they’ll still enjoy it. Those of you who understand what’s going on will obviously get a lot more out of it than that. There’s a good variety of encounters, and getting to the end will involve more than just muscles. You’ll need to put on your thinking caps. I particuarly enjoyed the flavourful encounter with the Ashen Man.

I don’t want to give away too much more about this adventure. But, I will say, that I think it’s an epic conclusion to the Doomsday Dawn.

For more information on demiplanes be sure to pick up the awesome hardcover, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Planar Adventures.


And that’s a wrap!

That’s what you can expect from Doomsday Dawn.

It’s definitely a different style of ‘campaign’ than I expected. It’s longer, and more… disjointed. That said, it’s a lot of fun, and an imperative aspect of the Playtest. This adventure allows the folks over at Paizo to test out the aspects of the game they need help to calibrate. It allows all of you to have a say in the final product, while simultaneously helping them fine-tune the game balance.

I highly recommend that players interested in the Playetst find a group and play through Doomsday Dawn together. It’s my hope that this article can help people get excited about Doomsday Dawn, and head into it with appropriate expectations.

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on both the Playtest and your experiences playing Doomsday Dawn. If you’ve had a chance to play, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how it went!

Later this week we’ll take a look at the Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenarios, my family’s Pathfinder Playtest Characters, as well as the new Pathfinder Society Scenarios that were recently released for Season 10, and the new Starfinder Society Scenarios! In addition, we’ve got articles on Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Pact Worlds, and Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea on the horizon!

This month is going to be crazy!

Until next time,

Jessica