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.

cauldron.jpg

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.

Shackled City: Part Six: Kazmojen

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! They’ve tracked down the kidnappers, and discovered an underground complex run by 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, and Shackled City: Part Five: This Place is the Pits!

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 Jzadirune but was brought to the city of Cauldron to escape the Vanishing. Orphaned by the mysterious events and with few memories of those early years, Mick was raised in the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same orphanage that recently had four children kidnpapped right from their beds! Determined to save those little scamps, Mick was very excited to take up this missing person’s case and follow it to its conclusion — particularly when he realized that it led to his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. 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!)

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

the team - malachite fortress
The team!

The Adventure

Our eclectic crew of musicians, janitors, and locksmiths, retraced their steps and re-entered the forge. Our heroes had battled enemy hobgoblins and goblins here two sessions ago in an effort to free three citizens of Cauldron who had been labouring here. With the battle won they sent their travelling companion, Keygan Ghelve, off with the freed prisoners. It was his job to bring them back up to the city and see them safely to the Church of Adabar.

In the time since they had taken down dozens of hobgoblin guards, but knew there could be more. Seeing nothing amiss Mick headed over to the door they had yet to peek through. He listened against it but couldn’t make out anything. Opening the door led to a large dining room lined with benches and tables. It was empty at the moment, but stray dishes on the tabletop and a distant murmuring told them that enemies were not far away. The group quickly did a sweep of the room, listening at all the various doors. Three were silent, one sounded like a kitchen, and the last was very noisy. My family discussed their options. Noise might mean trouble,  but the kitchen probably mean someone banging on a loud pot which could sound an alarm. And silence meant…

They weren’t sure.

Curious, my kids decided they should check out the quiet room first. They found a threadbare living room that slept at least three people, a pantry, and a larder. Nothing of interest. They moved towards the kitchen, when suddenly Panthy prickled up her ears. She wandered over to the noisy door and growled….

getting ready for game night - shackled city - malachite fortress
Game night!

“What is it, Panthy?” Rabbity asked. “You hear something?” Rabbity pricked her ears around. “I think… I think I hear a kid crying!”

“Well hurry up!” Mick exclaimed.

“Wait!” Falco proclaimed. He whispered something to his bird.

Ruby tweeted back melodically.

Mick drank a few defensive potions, Aeris drew her sword and Patch worried. When they were prepared, Falco quietly cracked open the door and peeked inside.

The room very large, with a raised stage in the back topped by three iron posts. Chains dangled from the top of the posts, ending at the manacled hands of three children. The kids from the orphanage! On the steps stood a strange figure in ill-fitting armour who looked like a mix between a dwarf and a troll. He clutched a fourth child by a chain around its neck and waved the kids face in front of another figure, this one a soft-looking gnomish fellow with blue skin, orange hair, and massive glasses.

“He’s good!” The troll-man bellowed.

“Oh, I don’t know about that Kazmojen!” the gnome-like creature argued. “I agreed I’d pay fifty gold for each child, but this one… This one is defective! There’s something about him I just can’t put my finger on.”

“Nonsense!” Kazmojen argued. “He’s got… spirit! Yes! Break him and he work harder than others. Forty-five!”

The gnome shook his head. “Oh, much too much work… And he spits!”

As if to punctuate this point the child spit in the gnome-like creature’s face. “I bite too!” he grinned.

Kazmojen yanked the child around by the chains clamped tight around his neck. Behind them a strange beast shifted. The quills that coated its back shook back and forth at the movement. The beast stretched its quadrupedal form and growled. It looked like some sort of quilled dog monster. A very large quilled dog monster.

While the trio argued over the cost of the kids, four other hobgoblins guarded the chamber. Two at a pair of double doors, one at a door across the room, and one at the door that Falco was peeking through.

“That’s Terrem they’re f-f-fighting over!” Patch whispered.

“The child that the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild wanted you to protect?” Min asked back.

Patch nodded with worry.

“Ruby!” Falco whispered. “Do the thing!”

The bird fluttered into the room, chirping insults loudly in it’s sweet little voice. “HEY UGLY, OVER HERE!”

As the various ugly enemies turned to look at the offending bird, Rabbity shoved an invisibility potion in Panthy’s mouth with a clever grin. Then she pushed the door open hard so it smacked the hobgoblin on the other side in the back of the head. Rabbity clamped a hand over her mouth and giggled. Then she crouched down and whispered into the ear — she hoped — of her invisible panther.

Patch was too worried over the children — Terrem in particular — to wait any longer. He hurried into the room pointed at the people talking and stammered, “L-l-let the children g-g-go!”

Panthy slunk away from Rabbity — although what the panther was doing was a mystery. Mick stepped casually into the room and whistled a little tune. Then he made a funny face at the hobgoblin guard near the door. The guard let out a laugh. Then a giggle. With a confused look on his face he started laughing at the top of his lungs, then fell to the ground and laughed some more. Mick gave the hobgoblin a wink and casually stepped over him and into the room.

Aeris dashed into the room and held her sword out at the two slavers. “Leave the children or die!”

Falco stepped into the room and whacked the laughing hobgoblin in the head with his fine walking stick. Meanwhile, Ruby continued to taunt the hobgoblins. Rabbity managed to send a blast of water at another hobgoblin before the tall figure — Kazmojen — let out a loud laugh. He pointed at Patch. “You can’t have those three,” he said with a gesture at the crying chilling chained to the posts. “Them bought already. But you can have the biter. Forty-five gold!” Then he turned his hideous face on Aeris and pointed at her. “Kill.”

The dog-beast let out a loud howl and took a few paces forward.

“Now, now, Kazmojen. Kill HER you mean! Yes? Not kill me! Certainly not!” The little gnomish fellow hurried  up the steps to the back of the room and hid behind an iron post.

Finally the hobgoblins leapt into action. One tried to shoot down the irritating bird, while the others moved to attack Patch. He took a few heavy blows and already looked near death! The battle had barely even started! Clutching his daggers tightly Patch fought back against the hobgoblins, with Mick soon joining him.

facing off against kazmojen
The epic battle against Kazmojen, Prickles, and his minions! My daughter can be seen calculating the results of her rolls on the flip-mat.

Aeris swung her blade at Kazmojen, but struck only his sturdy armour. Seeing her outnumbered, Falco hurried over and placed a hex on the leader, lowering his AC. Suddenly Panthy leapt upon Kazmojen, biting, and clawing, and tearing! His armour deflected most of the blows, but Panthy’s teeth tore a hole in the back of his leg. Kazmojen roared in pain and anger, while Rabbity laugh.

Kazmojen pointed at the Panthy. “Prickles, KILL.”

Prickles looked from Aeris to Panthy, trying to decide which looked most tasty. Apparently deciding the panther was the winner, the dog-beast turned on Panthy.

“NO!” Rabbity exclaimed. She raced closer to the dog-beast, pointed at Kazmojen, and shouted, “KILL, Prickles! KILL MASTER!”

Kazmojen scowled at the rabbitfolk. Meanwhile, Prickles turned to consider this predicament. After a few moments he bit Kazmojen! The troll-man roared in outrage and swung his axe at Rabbity, but the nimble little kineticist dodged backwards. Taking advantage of his distraction Terrem yanked his chain away from Kazmojen’s grasp and made a break for it, running across the hall an out of the main doors.

“I’m out of here!”the strange gnomish fellow exclaimed. Then he, too, turned and fled. One of the guards fled with him.

The battle raged on. Mick and Patch took down the hobgoblin guards with daggers and wild kicks. Falco kept up his hexes, lowering Kazmojen’s defences and foiling his aim. Rabbity shot water blasts at Kazmojen from afar, while Aeris fought him in melee with her sword. It was a tough fight! Patch went down halfway through and, with no time to go heal the poor fellow, all they could do was hope he would survive. Kazmojen turned most of his attention to Aeris, nearly knocking her unconscious multiple times. If not for Falco’s constant healing near the end of the fight she would have died.

A short while after Terrem fled they heard his scream. A deep, gravelly voice told him “YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE, TERREM KARATYS.”

Mick dashed over to the main doors and whipped them open, hurrying off to help Terrem. He caught a glimpse of a massive floating head, covered with eyestalks and a huge central eye.

A beholder!

“COME TERREM! I SHALL RETURN YOU TO YOUR HOME.”

There was a sudden flicker of magic, and the beholder and Terrem both vanished.

“B… Be… BEHOLDER!” Mick stammered in shock. “He… Kid… OH, NO!”

By the time Mick rejoined the fight, Kazmojen had fallen and Prickles was eating him.

Exhausted and bleeding from dozens of wounds, Aeris dropped her sword and fell to her knees. Falco and Mick quickly gave her and Patch what healing they could. They drank the rest of their potion reserves and searched the room in the hopes of finding more. Aeris freed the children, while Patch gave them all hugs.

“Terrem?” Falco asked Mick.

Mick shook his head. “Kidnapped by a beholder,” he whispered.

“What? Why would — Huh?” After a moment of shock Falco shook his head and hurried over to the other exit. He peered through the door and saw a bridge, but no signs of the gnome.

“We have to hurry and follow that weaselly guy! He might be about to leave with some slaves.” Mick urged.

Falco walked over to the children. “What’s that way?” he asked them.

Most were too scared to reply, but one of the children, a dwarven boy named Deakon, found his voice. “Cells! That’s where they kept us! Over the bridge and through the door. There’s a whole hallway lined with cells. I… I don’t know how many had people in them, but at least some did. I could hear them.”

Falco thanked Deakon, then beckoned Patch over. “We need to hurry and free everyone else. Patch, you’re in charge of the children. Wait here and wait for my signal. When its safe you can cross the bridge after us. We’ll keep it up as we explore, all right? Hopefully we can keep you guys safe, but if not, it’s up to you to flee with the kids. Get them back to the church.”

Patch nodded with a look of determination in his eye. He tried to stammer out an affirmation, but couldn’t find the words. Instead he nodded again. Then he kept Deakon and the two silent girls close.

Rabbity stood over the quilled dog. “Can we keep him?” she asked the others.

Aeris shook her head. “Rabbity, that’s… that’s not a dog. You can’t keep it as a pet. It’s a howler. They’re foul creature from the Abyss that feed on fear.”

Rabbity shook her head. “What? Nonsense! We’re going to be the best of friends! Aren’t we, Prickles?”

Prickles looked at Rabbity a moment. He growled… then stopped. He stretched his legs and back, and growled.

“We can’t keep it Rabbity,” Aeris repeated. “In fact, we should probably kill it.”

“Nuh-uh! He’s my friend! And he’s coming with us.” Rabbity hopped on top of Panthy, adjusted her saddle, and  loped off towards the door and bridge.

Prickles watched the rabbitfolk go. Then he looked long and hard at Aeris with eyes that showed far more intelligence than a normal animal. He growled at her.

Aeris adjusted her stance and clutched her blade tightly. Howlers were fierce opponents…

Prickles growled some more, then snorted in derision. It turned from her and followed Rabbity out onto the bridge.

“Well, shit.” Aeris remarked.

And so, having ‘befriended’ a howler, Rabbity, Mick, Aeris, and Falco continue hurried across the bridge, intent on saving what people they could.

As I packed up our gear and calculated experience, my daughter grinned. “Prickles is going to be my best friend.”

I tried to explain just how horrible a howler was. Even pulled out its picture.

My daughter just grinned. “Aww, cutie!”

“It’s not cute at all,” I retorted.

“Yes, it is! And we will be best friends! And Panthy, too!”

Faced with her chipper smile, I laughed. If she wanted to try to befriend a howler, I wouldn’t stop her. It had been raised to be a guard dog. And Rabbity was both great with animals, and diplomatic. Perhaps she could control it. But, control wouldn’t keep a howler alive or content. They lived to sow terror, and kill.

Rabbity would have her hands full.

How could it go wrong?! Right?

Wish her luck!

Jessica

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

Behind the Screen

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

 

Review: Endless Quest

I have always loved ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. Whenever I see one that my kids might like I let them give it a look-see or check it out from the library. Both of my kids enjoy them, particularly the ‘You Choose: Scooby-Doo‘ series. There’s plenty of others they’ve read. Choose your own adventure style books featuring SupermanBatman, the Justice LeagueLEGO® Batman, and even Pokemon (ReaderActive). And, of course, my son’s tried the official ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. My daughter’s too young to read them, and my son could, but he just doesn’t like reading small letters.

So this past holiday season when I realized that Dungeons and Dragons had put out a series of choose your own adventure style kids novels, I immediately looked them up online, put them on hold at my local bookstore, and took a trip out to pick them up. I stood there in the bookstore, opened them up, and was… IMPRESSED! They’re really high quality, with lots of cool artwork and a bigger sized font my son will be happy with. So I brought them home, wrapped them up, and that was that. When my son opened them he was amazed. Absolutely thrilled. He started reading them almost right away.

blog endless quest spreadAfter about ten minutes he stopped and said: “Mom, I just died. Actually DIED! This is… This is… This book is dangerous! Poisoned mushrooms killed me!”

I laughed and he went on reading.

“Okay, now I got squished by a giant!”

Which got me thinking. Death was a pretty common occurrence in the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ series of books I read as a kid. So was failure. But in the ‘choose your own’ books my kids have read? Not a thing that happens. Batman doesn’t die. Superman doesn’t die. Scooby-Doo doesn’t die (okay, once Fred dies). Ash obviously doesn’t die, either. Not every ending is a ‘win’ — although most are —  but losing isn’t quite so final.

I watched my son for a while, curious if he would get frustrated and put the books down.

He didn’t.

He read them, read them again, and read them a few more times. Then he moved onto a different one. In the weeks since he’s read them all a lot. Finally, just yesterday, he let me pick them up and give them a read myself. Now, I’m a bit of a completionist when it comes to this style of book. I read through the way I want to, then go back and try out the different options, then go back further and do the same again, and again, until I’ve got to experience most (if not all) of the book within a day or so.

And you know what I’ve come to realize?

My son makes horrible decisions! Hahaha. It’s not that there’s no way to ‘win,’ because there is. There’s plenty of ways to lose but survive, as well. But my son? Nope! He dies every time.

Curious, my daughter gave one a try. It was ‘Into the Jungle,’ one of the books that has a lot of ways to die, a lot of ways to survive, but I hadn’t yet found the ‘perfect ending’ where you live and achieve all your objectives. So, there was my daughter, sitting there and reading the book aloud. It took her a while, since the books are a bit above her reading level. But an hour or so later she smiled, put down the book, and said: “That was good.” I sat down beside her to see how her story had ended. Much to my surprise she had found the ‘perfect ending.’ Hahaha. My son was so jealous! Heck, I was jealous!

We’ve had a ton of fun with these books. So, today we’re shining a light on them and spreading the word!

blig endless quest spread 2Endless Quest is a series of four ‘choose your own adventure’ style novels aimed at middle-grade readers (eight to twelve year olds, although my kids are six and seven years old and both enjoyed them). Written by Matt Forbeck, each official Dungeons and Dragons book casts you in the role of a different class. Endless Quest: To Catch a Thief lets your kids (or you!) be a female halfling rogue, Endless Quest: Into the Jungle casts you in the role of a male dwarf cleric, Endless Quest: Escape the Underdark lets you play as a male human fighter, and Endless Quest: Big Trouble lets you play as an female elf wizard. While reading the book your character’s gender has no bearing on perspective or story. It’s invisible, honestly. Only the image on the front reveals your gender. Which is awesome! Both of my kids immediately assumed the character was just like them, irrelevant of the cover image, slipping into the role without hesitation.

Each softcover book is exactly 122 pages long. Most of the pages are filled completely with text and images (no wasted pages here!), and both of my kids found the font size comfortable. All of the books contain a lot of awesome artwork. Some images are in full colour — typically locations or a main character/villain — while the rest are in sepia tones. You’ll find images of allies, enemies, items, equipment, maps, scenery, and locations. Some of the images are even tactical maps, which everyone in the house enjoyed examining. Two of the images  are on the gory side (a zombie with his insides hanging out from ‘Into the Jungle‘, and a grotesque female hill giant devouring hunks of questionable pink meat from ‘Big Trouble‘). Each of the books follows a different kind of story, features different main characters with unique motivations and personality traits, involves different situations and enemies, and takes place in vastly different locations. You’ll get to visit actual places from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, both on a large and small scale, which fans of D&D will love. Each book also has cameos from known D&D personalities (including Elminster, Volo, and Xanathar, to name a few). The decisions you get to make are important. Common choices include deciding which way to go, how you choose to deal with other characters, and how you react to situations. Each of the books has ways to ‘win,’ to happily survive but fail, to survive but fail horribly, and to die. The number of these outcomes varies between each book, with the most deadly having about half of its endings fatal. None of the deaths are graphic, and many are suggested more than described. Some of the endings are quite abrupt, and if you make poor decisions right from the start your story could be over in only a few pages. But, that’s to be expected in books of this kind. My biggest complaint? Names! A lot of characters and places have difficult to pronounce names which the vast majority of kids will just skip over instead of bothering to sound out. Some of them I even stumbled over on first glance. For my kids? Those words are just Sli-jibberjabber or Nya-somethingsomething. Also? Battle is nearly always fatal. Fair! But, at the same time, battle is a big part of RPGs, and some of these characters — the cleric and the fighter particularly — seem like they should be capable combatants.  That they die so easily and so often in a fight is a little jarring. For me, anyway. My kids didn’t mind too much.

It should also be noted that these books very often intersect with other D&D books and products. Two books directly mention Volo’s Guide to Monsters and one mentions the kids book Dungeonology (also penned in lore by the infamous Volo). Characters and events from some of the other books also connect to major campaigns, as noted below. My kids and I thought this was awesome! But, not all parents will. Particuarly if it makes your kids want those (pricy) books. Haha.

So what exactly are these books?

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Take on the role of a dwarf cleric in Endless Quest: Into the Jungle by Matt Forbeck.

My son’s favourite book was ‘Into the Jungle,’ which lets you play as a male dwarf cleric of the god Clangeddin Silverbeard, the dwarven god of honourable battle.  Your character was given a mission by the Harpers, to track down an ex-member of their order by the name of Artus Cimber and retrieve a powerful magical ring that is in his possession, the Ring of Winter. In the wrong hands this ring could bring about an eternal winter, and the Harpers want the ring to remain in their possession. Artus has disappeared in the jungles of Chult, and its up to you to track him down, retrieve the ring, and bring it back. This was the most deadly of the books, with only one ‘perfect ending’ (which my daughter discovered on her first try), a heavy amount of ‘survive but fail’ (only two of which have a happy tone), and a whole lot of fatal endings. Despite its lethality, both of my kids adored it. There’s a pair of lovable characters you can befriend (Qawasha the druid and Kupalué the friendly vegepygmy), a wide variety of exciting locations to explore (from dinosaur races to ancient ruins), tons of cool enemies to encounter (including a stone golem, froghemoth, zombie tyrannosaurs rex, green hag, and the witch Nanny Pu’Pu), and a variety of interesting races to interact with (like pterafolk, grungs, aarakocra, and goblins). Famous cameos include Volo, the Harpers, Artus Cimber, and the Red Wizards of Thay. The majority of the book deals with the hazards of the jungle, and the undead which are rampant throughout it — particularly zombies. My son’s favourite part of the book was the variety of cool places you visit, and a timely rescue from stone golems by an aarakocra (eagle-people). My daughter’s favourite part was when she read the book for the second time and was killed by eating a tasty (but poisonous) dinner with a tribe of adorable grungs (humanoid poisonous tree-frogs). My favourite part? Your side-kicks! Qawasha and Kupalué are wonderful guides and great fun. As an added bonus, certain circumstances can make them turn against you, which gives your decisions extra weight. There’s also a series of lovely interactions with the witch Nanny Pu’Pu which will force you to choose between your morals and survival. Your character will then have to deal with the ramifications of that decision. Awesome! The downsides? I found that the main character doubts his faith a lot. He’s he’s in a bad situation he often wonders why his god is displeased with him or has abandoned him. Now, I’m not saying it’s not alright to have a crisis of faith, but he has them a LOT, which is a strange character trait to give a devoted cleric. My other complaint? As previously mentioned, if you get into a fight chances are you lose. Which is unfortunate when you’re playing a cleric who gets to fight against undead and worships a god of honourable battle. That’s not to say he never wins a fight — cause he does. It just doesn’t often happen. I’m totally fine with him dying against a stone golem, or a froghemoth, or a swarm of pterafolk who drop him to his death. But against a few zombies? Or a few goblin and some zombies? It makes him feel a little lame. Overall, we all really enjoyed ‘Into the Jungle.’ My kids loved it most and both give it a rating of “Awesome,” while I really enjoyed it. The characters and events in this book are tightly intertwined with the Tomb of Annihilation campaign and Board Game. Artus Cimber also appears in the books Realms of Valor: The Family Business, and The Ring of Winter (which I can’t seem to find available online, but I could find as an audio book).

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Take on the role of a human fighter in Endless Quest: Escape the Underdark by Matt Forbeck.

The second most-deadly of the Endless Quest books is ‘Escape the Underdark.’ In this book you play as a male human fighter who is captured by drow. You begin the book by waking up in a prison cell (classic!) alongside a motley crew of other prisoners. It’s up to you to escape or die trying! But, as you’ll soon learn, escaping isn’t the hardest part. Getting back to the surface alive is. Depending on your choices you’ll get to face off against a wide variety of underground hazards and enemies. Much to my surprise the fighter can make a lot of allies. In addition to the other prisoners you start the book alongside, you can befriend myconids, and ally with an opportunistic kuo-toa, duergar, a dangerous red dragon, and even an intelligent gelatinous cube named Glabbagool. My favourite of your allies are a pair of quirky goblins named Spiderbait and Yuk Yuk. They were both adorable and hilarious. I love them! The locations you visit are surprisingly varied, including cities, underground lakes, and even a crevasse filled with spider webs that acts as a kind of highway for adventuresome locals. In addition to the prison located in Velkynvelve, which is where you start the book, you can travel to the famous drow city of Menzoberranzan and the duergar city of Gracklstugh.  Although Menzoberranzan has no happy endings, visiting the duergar can lead to a variety of adventure, some of which can lead to back to the surface. There’s plenty of foes for you to face off against, although nearly every single fight you get yourself into will end in death (even more so than the cleric) which is an odd choice since your playing as a FIGHTER. You’ll need to rely on your wits more than your fists. The most terrifying foe you encounter? Demogorgon. Yup! The demon lord himself! Yikes! Despite its lethality, this was my favourite of the Endless Quest books. The large cast of characters is a lot of fun to interact with and, if I’m being honest, I’ve always been a sucker for drow. It also has some of the most satisfying endings out of the Endless Quest books. Even some of the deaths and failures where you never escape the Underdark are surprisingly satisfying. It was great fun. This book, its overarching events, and its characters are intertwined with the D&D campaign Out of the Abyss and the Rage of Demons storyline.

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Take on the role of a halfling rogue in Endless Quest: To Catch a Thief by Matt Forbeck.

Next up is ‘To Catch a Thief‘ which places you in the role of a female halfling rogue who picks the wrong pocket! After being caught by Lord Laeral Silverhand, the Open Hand of Waterdeep and a contingent of the City Watch you’ll need to use to wits to escape jail time. This will lead you to either trying to flee or taking on a dangerous task for Lord Silverhand. Recently her pet griffin was stolen by the Thieve’s Guild and she wants you to retrieve it for her. Sound easy? Not so! The Thieve’s Guild is incredibly powerful and far-reaching. It’s leader, The Xanathar, is a powerful beholder. Not someone to trifle with! Stuck in an impossible situation, its your wits, adaptability, and shifting allegiances that will see you out of this whole. That and fleeing! Running away is a common ending in this one, and you often have the chance to abandon your mission — whatever it may be at the moment — and skip town. Which is awesome, actually! Very in character for a rogue. I also really enjoyed that you have plenty of chances to change sides, trick, and betray someone. This book takes place in both the city of Waterdeep, and the underground city of Skullport. You get to visit some famous places, and interact with a few well-known characters. You may also get to disguise yourself as some famous characters including Marune the  Masked, and the infamous Drizzt Do’Urden. Surprisingly, the wily rogue manages to survive most of the fights you can get into, and dies rarely. Most often she survives by fleeing, but sometimes finds herself beholden to one faction or another. Likely for life. It’s probably that however you ‘win’ this book you’ll make enemies, meaning even victory can be dangerous. By far the most satisfying endings involve rescuing the griffon, which lets you take on the role of hero. But that’s not necessary. Not everyone wants to tangle with a beholder, after all. Another wonderful ending involves saving a group of slaves from their bugbear kidnappers and leaving town with them. Other than a beholder, bugbears slavers, and bandits and thieves of all kinds, you can also face off against pirates, assassins, thugs, guards, a demilich, and even start a bar brawl!  Lots of danger in this one! All in all, my kids liked this book least (although they still enjoyed it a lot) due to the lack of scenery changes. You’re in a city and you might move to another city. Not much in the way of far-flung and exotic locations, here. However, it was my second favourite of the Endless Quest books. I thought it was lots of fun. Waterdeep, Undermountain, and Skullport are the main locations in a variety of adventures, including Waterdeep: Dragon HeistWaterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, and Tales From the Yawning Portal.

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Take on the role of an elf wizard in Endless Quest: Big Trouble by Matt Forbeck.

Finally, we have ‘Big Trouble.’ This is both the least lethal, but the saddest of the books. In it you take on the role of a female elf wizard whose home is attacked by an army of hill giants. During the attack you’re told to take your younger brother and flee, though whether you listen to that sound advice is entirely up to you. Although its possible you get out with your brother, it’s most likely you end up alone. Lost and worried about your family you set out on a quest to find them and bring them home. Along the way you (very likely) meet up with a cloud giant wizard named Zephyros who travels around in a flying tower and is a friend of your parents. With his help you can choose to track down either your father, or your mother and brother. Both choices lead you on a variety of adventures to some far flung locations. The quest for your father can take you to the Eye of the All-Father in the frozen north and pit you against bandits, giants, a blue dragon, and a dragon cult. The quest for your mother and brother will lead you to Grudd Haug, a hill giant settlement where they have been taken prisoner by the disgusting Guh, a female hill giant that believes if she is the fattest hill giant her gods will give her their blessings. She’s gross. There’s plenty of ways for things to go awry on your journey, and a surprisingly large number of ways you can rescue some of your family. However, there are no endings where you can rescue everyone. You might save your brother, or your mother, or your father, or your mother and brother — or no one — but you can never save them all. That means that even the happy endings are bittersweet. Surprisingly, this determined wizard gets into a lot of fights throughout the book, and can even take down (or help take down) some very powerful enemies with low-level magic. She proves that even the young and inexperienced can make a difference. This was a really wonderful, welcome change from the previous books, which often end with you dying in such circumstances. It was also really unexpected. Some important locations you can visit in this book include Ardeep Forest, the Eye of the All-Father, and Grudd Haug, and some famous characters include Harshnag, Claugiyliamatar, Zephyros, and the infamous wizard Elminster! Events and characters in this book directly intersect with the Storm King’s Thunder campaign. Some of the characters can also be found in the old Heroes’ Lorebook, and the old City of Splendors: Waterdeep. Elminster, of course, can be found in a LOT. It was a lot of fun!

Both my kids and I really enjoyed the Endless Quests books. I highly recommend them for any kids who have an interest in fantasy novels, adventure novels, choose your own adventures, or tabletop RPGs. They’re engaging, variable, and a ton of fun. Fans of D&D will particularly enjoy all the famous places you can visit and people you can meet. Best of all? Each one is very different.

Well done, Matt Forbeck! My family is sending you a round of applause for writing these delightful kids novels!

As for everyone else? I hope some of you have the chance to share these books with the kids in your life. They’re great fun and well-worth the money.

Jessica.

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