Character Focus: Dead Suns

Over a year ago my family started playing the Dead Suns Adventure Path by play-by-post. The hows and whys of our decision to play online instead of at a table in our own home, and why we started playing it in the first place, is something I’ve already written about. Suffice to say, time is a factor (it always is, isn’t it?). Time to play, time to prep, time we could be dedicating to other games or other things.

Life’s busy. But, my kids adore the Dead Suns Adventure Path. They love their characters, and have a blast playing them. So, due in no small part to the requests of both of my children, we’re finally bringing our Dead Suns campaign to a proper table! Which means, it’s time to talk Dead Suns…

Dead Suns is a six-part Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that sees your PCs join the Starfinder Society, and race to gain control of an ancient super weapon before the undead Corpse Fleet or the terrifying Cult of the Devourer get their hands on it and lay waste to the galaxy! Dead Suns and its supplementary products include:

You can also check out the awesome trailer for Dead Suns below:

Dead Suns is the first campaign that was released for Starfinder, which means there’s a few kinks to iron out, particularly in regards to the difficulty of starship combat. It’s a fun, tough adventure, and my family is sure to have their hands full surviving to the end. There’s only three of them (four if we include my NPC), and my children don’t always make the most sound tactical decisions. To top it all off, my family did NOT make a balanced party AT ALL. But, you know what we did make? A goofy, group of weirdos that are a ton of fun to play.

So who are the heroes of our Dead Suns campaign?

So glad you asked!

At the centre of our team is my NPC T’Kesh. I know, I know. I’m the GM so why the heck is my character the heart of the team? For reasons I’ve already written about here! Haha. It makes sense, I swear!

sfs 1-16 - ikeshti - congregant merthinett - nicolas espinoza
An ikeshti from Starfinder Society Scenario #1-16: Dreaming of the Future. Illustration by Nicolas Espinoza. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

T’Kesh is a red-scaled ikeshti (think of them as alien kobolds) from Akiton who, like most of her people, has a voracious appetite, a knack for surviving in the harshest of environments, and a willingness to stick pretty much anything in her mouth. She’s a hunter and a cook, and soon found she was exceptional at both. Like all ikeshti, life changed when she reached adulthood. Ikeshti who are in heat become incredibly aggressive, growing larger and angrier until they successfully mate and lay eggs. Those who cannot mate successfully turn into ravenous, violent monsters known as riveners. Luckily, T’Kesh found a mate and laid a clutch of eggs. Then, she and her mate fought to the death! (Which is absolutely normal behaviour for ikeshti parents. I blame the hormones…). TKesh won, which allowed her to become something known as a Congregant — a female ikeshti that is overcome with the need to ensure the success of her people as a whole. Not necessarily her individual eggs or young, but the whole of the ikeshti race. So T’Kesh set out to find a male brood-minder to tend to her eggs, dragged him back to her nest, and took off, heading for the nearest city. She marketed her talents at hunting and cooking, entering contests, competitions, and making home-made survival and cooking videos until she went viral. She bought herself a ship and convinced a local holo-vid station to let her have her own reality show: T’Kesh: Killer Chef! In the time since T’Kesh has travelled the Pact Worlds and beyond, surviving in harsh environments, hunting her own prey, and turning it into delicious gourmet meals. Whatever she doesn’t eat she turns into her own line of R2Es named after each episode of her show. T’Kesh: Killer Chef became a hit, allowing T’Kesh to send a hefty amount of credits back to her people.

T’Kesh is a bombastic, self-centred, resourceful ikeshti with a habit of narrating her exploits to the constantly filming video drones that follow her around. She fights with a survival knife, tactical pistol, and a sniper rifle. Mechanically, T’Kesh is an icon operative explorer that uses her surroundings to her advantage. She’s well-versed in a variety of physical, social, and survival skills, but knows next to nothing about technology.

pact worlds sro
A pair of SRO from Starfinder: Pact Worlds. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

While on Akiton T’Kesh met an SRO named Rabbot. Small in stature and rather slender, with a square squat base with large treads, a pole-like body, two stick-like arms, and two skinny antennae that stick up out of her head like the rabbit ears on an old tv, Rabbot is a bit of an enigma. She doesn’t talk about where she comes from, nor why she felt the need to work with T’Kesh. But, when T’Kesh was in need of a cinematographer for her hit show, Rabbot showed up for the job. In addition to working the cameras, Rabbot’s antennae function as a signal booster, and her torso can reconfigure itself into a small stove. Unknown to all but Rabbot, the little SRO has a hidden compartment in her forearm which contains a single, tiny, rabbit stuffed toy. Rabbot is very protective of her ‘baby’ and pets it when no one it looking. At all other times she denies its existence.

Rabbot is two and a half feet tall but can adjust her telescopic body and neck to be taller and shorter at will. Her treads allow her to be highly mobile, but make stairs and getting up onto high surfaces difficult. In such terrain Rabbot activates ‘jump mode’ which allows her to bounce up onto higher surfaces with ease and is likely the origin of her name. Rabbot has a robotic, monotone voice, and always begins every sentence with “Beep…. bop… rabbot…” making her seem rather serious and dim — which couldn’t be further from the truth! Rabbot is intelligent, cunning, and fond of telling jokes.

Mechanically, Rabbot is a roboticist operative with the ghost specialization. She’s prone to quickly building barricades for cover and protection, before slinking off to another location entirely without anyone noticing. She’s exceptionally good at acrobatics, disguise, stealth, and sleight of hand, and is a fair judge of character. She’s a solid pilot and engineer with a preference for tinkering with mechanical devices over computers. Rabbot fights with an azimuth laser pistol and is my seven-year old daughter’s character.

My daughter is the driving force behind us playing Dead Suns in the first place, and finally bringing it to the table. Her absolute love for Rabbot and her companions, and passion for the game is absolutely astounding to see in one so young. She’s thrilled to share Rabbot with all of you!

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A space goblin from Starfinder: First Contact and Starfinder: Alien Archive. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The next person to join the T’Kesh: Killer Chef crew was Nubb, a snot-nosed goblin with a habit of sticking everything in his mouth. Yes, everything. Once experimented on by unknown parties, Nubb has an advanced AI installed in his brain which makes him exceptionally intelligent and good with technology. Of course, Nubb himself is exceptionally dumb, even by goblin standards, which makes the Nubb of today a strange mix of reckless stupidity, wanton destruction, and computer genius, mixed with bouts of astounding brilliance. Interfacing with his AI through a series of holographic screens transmitted directly to his eyes, Nubb is often seen poking randomly at the air and talking to himself, going through the motions of touching screens only he can see. Nubb works as T’Kesh’s editor, prepping the footage into episodes of her show, and transmitting them to the show’s producers back on Akiton.

Mechanically, Nubb is a cyberborn operative with the hacker specialization. He’s nimble, smart (most of the time), and a whiz with technology of all kinds. He fights with a survival knife, needler pistol, and a laser pistol, but the majority of his wealth is invested in the AI and computer installed in his brain. Nubb is my husband’s character and the resident trapfinder, disabler, and hacker.

critical hit deck skittermander taylor fischer
A skittermander from the Starfinder Critical Hit Deck. Illustration by Taylor Fischer. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Finally, we have Skitt. Skitt is a super helpful yellow skittermander that desperately misses the little ‘tummy mouth’ he was born with. It was so helpful for eating! And Skitt LOVES eating. Eventually he had a new one made and installed as an augmentation, which he thinks is really neat. Skitt met the crew of T’Kesh: Killer Chef on Vesk-6 and, after hearing the word ‘chef’ Skitt couldn’t help but offer them his friendly services! T’Kesh told him to get lost — over and over again — but Skitt was always good with people! So he cast charm person and her and she didn’t complain anymore. …For a few days, at least! And so Skitt became a member of the crew! He works cameras (usually accidentally filming his feet) and helps with dialogue (which usually results in scenes having to be reshot). T’Kesh fires him at least once a week, but his magic-friend-making-smiley-spell always fixes that up real quick! Despite the many ways that Skitt messes everything up, he is friendly, helpful, enthusiastic, and cheery, making him the cheerleader and emotional heart of the group. He loves to sing and dance, and can even talk to animals — a trait which T’Kesh occasionally makes use of on her hunts.

Mechanically, Skitt is a priest mystic who worships Weydan, god of discovery, exploration, and freedom. He has the xenodruid connection and knowledge of a variety of living things. His favourite spells are charm person, life bubble, and mystic cure, while his favourite zero-level spells are ghost sound, stabilize, telekinetic projectile, and token spell. Although Skitt carries a survival knife and a laser pistol, he much prefers to use telekinetic projectile to throw things around with his mind — always being sure to point his many hands at his enemies like guns and shout ‘PEW PEW PEW!’ at them. Skitt is my eight-year-old son’s character.

Yes, you read that right. My family of four made three operatives for an adventure path. All the characters are small and dextrous, and none of them are physically strong. Far from a balanced party, I know. But, you know what we’re good at? Skills! Haha.

Dead Suns Crew 2
Our heroes are ready to begin their journey!

The Dead Suns Adventure Path begins with Incident at Absalom Station. The PCs have just arrived on the station to meet with a dwarf by the name of Durovar Kreel, who is supposed to be their contact in the Starfinder Society. Unfortunately, he dies in the first scene and it’s up to the PCs to work with the Starfinder Society to solve his murder. This leads the PCs to joining the Starfinder Society, and sets in motion a series of events that will take them farther and farther away from their home in order to save the Pact Worlds.

When my family started playing this adventure path we were already playing in the Starfinder Society, and didn’t want our AP characters to be doing the same thing. So, we decided to make a few changes. Although the AP itself and its characters would remain the same, the organization we work for would have a different name and purpose. It’s name?

That’s a story for another time!

We’ll be back later this week with our first campaign update for Dead Suns: Busted Up Dreams! See you then!

Jessica

 

The Wayfinders: Part Three: Danger in the Drift

Last year I shared my family’s experiences creating their first Starfinder characters. We had a lot of fun making a kooky crew, and tried them out a bit before deciding they would join the Starfinder Society. There were some changes that needed to be made. Tucker was a halfling, which would have to change, but otherwise the transition went smoothly. Then we sat down and played Into the Unknown. Life got busy. We moved on to play Starfinder Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth, which was great fun (for details check out this blog post).

But, my kids have WAY too many characters and not enough focus.

I’m a fan of creating a character and playing them through consistently right to the end. I want to play them every week. I want them to accomplish something amazing over the course of a long campaign. And when their story is done I want to know what happened to them. Did they retire? Get married? Ascend to godhood? Go insane? When their story’s complete I’m ready to make a new character and start all over again.

But, my kids? My kids love making new characters. They like hopping from story to story. But they also don’t like letting characters go. They want to play them all at the same time. There’s tons of them. An unattainable goal if I ever heard one! Haha.

In short? We rarely have time to take our Wayfinders for a spin.

The other day my daughter informed me that she wanted to create her own adventure. This isn’t the first time. She’s GMed for us before and brutally slaughtered us all. It’s partly because she doesn’t have much experience determining appropriate CRs, but it’s also because she’s incredibly lucky. Too lucky. It’s great when she’s a fellow PC but when she’s the GM? Look out! Monsters have awesome aim, enemies are so stealthy they might as well be invisible, and no opponent ever fails a saving throw. It’s not that she’s cheating! We don’t use GM screens in my house so we can all see her rolls, and I help her every step of the way. She’s just that damned lucky.

So when she said she wanted to GM something everyone groaned.

She looked so sad.

“Oh, no! She’s going to kill us again!” my son wailed.

“Be nice!” I scolded my son. Then I whispered to my husband, “She totally is…”

But, I smiled at my daughter and said, “That sounds exciting. Let’s do it.” Because it is exciting. Of course I want my kids to want to imagine, create, and GM.

So my daughter and I went to my room and peered at my bookshelf. Making a one-shot would mean everyone would create more characters, which we didn’t really have time for at the moment, so I suggested she create a mini adventure for Starfinder. Our Wayfinders were in the middle of a journey through the Drift from the radioactive planet Elytrio to Absalom Station. The timing couldn’t be better!

But, they were SFS characters… We decided to play the entire scenario off the books, using the stats for our characters but leaving our actual SFS characters entirely untouched. And while we were at it? Tucker might as well be a halfling again (in appearance).

My daughter thought about the Drift a bit, pulled down the Alien Archive, and got browsing. She stopped on creatures she took a liking to and we chatted about them, brainstorming ideas together. Some she liked and some she didn’t. She wrote down notes in her little Pokemon notebook. When she hit the end of the book she narrowed down her ideas and made some more notes and drawings. An hour later we were picking out miniatures and prepping the table. It was game time!

I started off the session by reminding everyone what we were up to. Where we’d been, where we were going, and who we were with.

Our crew consists of four Starfinder Agents that belong to the Wayfinders Faction. Hoponisa (Hops for short), is a ysoki technomancer from the dark side of Verces who loves to dance. She’s on a mission to find herself the ‘perfect mate’ and is handy both in the pilot’s chair, the engineering bay, and at a computer console. She has a robot rabbit dubbed ‘Snowball’ who is a glorified computer with some minor mobility that she crafted herself, then wrapped in fuzzy faux fur for ultimate cuddle-ability. It’s also her spell cache. Hops has been a Starfinder for a long time and is the person who recruited the rest of the crew into the Starfinder Society (before that they were mercenaries who did work for the Starfinders on a regular basis). Together, the gang travels the Vast, deploying drift beacons for credits at the behest of the Wayfinders. After discovering new planets, collecting data on their environments, and deploying drift beacons, the group prepares a report on the planet for the Wayfinders, which allows the spacefaring faction to better prepare proper Starfinder teams for further exploration on these locations.

Hops and the crew of the Pegasus Class ship, Infinity, have gone on plenty of missions together. Led by their Captain Aya, a wise, enigmatic kasatha mystic who believes that every life is precious, they’ve charted planets and discovered new places. Their roles on the starship change a lot, with the rest of the crew rotating between pilot, engineer, science officer, and gunner as the mood strikes them. Aya and Hops are joined by Tucker Aetherfoot, a ysoki (originally a halfling) operative with the daredevil speciality who’s nimble, acrobatic, and full of boundless energy. He wears a t-shirt with a shirren design on it (to represent his long-time friendship with the shirren Vishkesh), and wears a racing helmet with a rose-tinted visor and stylized mouse ears on the side (which was given to him by Hops as a birthday gift). Tucker’s insatiably curious, and runs a blog in his spare time about his experiences exploring the Vast. He’s a devout Desnan from Absalom Station, prone to dancing when he’s idle too long. …Even in the middle of a mission. Lastly, there’s Vishkesh, a shirren mechanic with a little flying spy drone named Rijin. Rijin is trained to help Vishkesh with repairing starships, and is also outfitted with a flare thrower. He’s a chipper little thing, with a bubbly artificial personality. Vishkesh has a fondness to caring for (and rescuing) larval shirren, and currently has a dozen dangling off of him in their protective canisters at all times. Vishkesh is the proud owner of a pig stuffed animal — a rare creature he’s never seen in in the flesh! He’s also from Absalom Station, and is a long time friend of Tucker’s. Vishkesh worships Hylax.

When they joined the Starfinders the crew of Infinity decided they needed a helping hand. They hired two rookies to assist them and round out their crew: Gizdara, a half-orc technomancer who’s a whiz with computers, and Diggs Drifthopper, a burly ‘rabbitfolk’ whose planet was conquered by the Vesk years ago. Diggs was forced into the military, but was recently allowed his freedom and was looking for work. He’s good with a gun, but not much else (which he can’t use in SFS play, as a non-combatant hireling, haha). Still, my daughter insisted on hiring him because he was destined to be Hops’ mate. (Uhhh… Okay? Haha). Diggs’ job is mostly to watch the ship while we’re away from it.

There’s one other person on their ship at the moment: the Membrane Ghibrani Klarima who they were bringing from her home planet of Elytrio to join the Starfinder Society. For now she was a passenger, but the group was teaching her everything they could of the universe as they travelled the Drift.

Travel aboard the Infinity
The crew of Infinity soars through the Drift!

With the recap out of the way my daughter took over, explaining that we had been in the Drift for a few weeks. All of a sudden the alarm blared and there was a strange flash of red light nearing the ship. LAVA!

Wait, what? How could there be lava in space?

My daughter gleefully asked for a Computers check from our Science Officer — Vishkesh at the moment — revealing that a piece of the Elemental Plane of Fire had been torn off and stranded in the Drift (quite recently by the look of it)! We were about to do some more research on this phenomenon when there was a burst of light. Lava and powerful heat blasts from the shard of the Plane of Fire was flying at our ship! Our pilot, Hops (which I was running on behalf of my daughter since she was GMing), flew like a pro, dodging lava balls, and super heated waves of energy. But a few moments later Vishkesh identified that our air lock had been opened. Something was on the ship!

We turned for the elevator only have it DING pleasantly.

As the doors opened Captain Aya ordered Hops, Diggs, and Gizdara to remain at their posts. Gizadara took over as Science Officer while Diggs took on the role of gunner and blasted through the hunks of rock flying at our ship. Vishkesh, Rijin, Aya, and Tucker leapt to their feet — too late!

A trio of fire elementals roared off the lift and slammed into the kasathan captain — the nearest target.

“The elementals are so angry! They must be lost and confused!” my son (Vishkesh) pointed out. Unfortunately, his understanding did little to calm the creatures. The fire elementals tore into Aya and scored multiple critical hits — curse my daughter’s luck! Haha. My kashathan mystic went down before she even had a turn.

Captain down!!
Captain down!

“Sorry, Mom!” my daughter said a little guiltily.

“It’s alright, baby. Aya will be fine.”

The battle continued, and wow was it a tough one! The fire elementals tore into Tucker while Aya slowly recovered on the ground with her SP. By the time she rejoined the fight her healing magic was sorely needed! Tucker was hanging on by a thread and Vishkesh was in big trouble! Not long afterwards the group rallied and took down the last of the exceptionally lucky elementals. But not before Tucker suffered some luck of his own — bad luck!

Crit Fail for Tucker
A critical fail for poor Tucker!

With the fire elementals defeated Vishkesh hurried to the airlock to get it locked down while Aya healed the wounds of her crew. Hops flew us out of the range of the planar anomaly and the journey returned to normal.

For a time…

Not much further away we came upon a strange group of asteroids that looked like they were all part of some kind of large complex — a metallic castle of some sort. It was clearly another broken planar shard torn from another world and deposited in the Drift by Drift Travel. Hesitantly, the group scanned the planar wreckage and detected signs of life. Not wanting to leave anyone stranded in the Drift, Aya ordered the ship to investigate the asteroids.

They flew past chunks of reddish rock, through space strewn with shards of glittering metal. Suddenly they saw a ship! It looked like a hunk of junk cobbled together from — well, junk! They turned on the comms to hail the ship only to be fired upon!

Battle stations!

Hops sailed the ship through space, dodging meteors and make-shift torpedoes, Vishkesh boosted the ships guns, Tucker fired upon the enemy, and Aya encouraged her crew. Although the battle shouldn’t have been challenging, it was — once again my daughter’s good luck conspired to destroy us.

Suddenly Vishkesh noticed incoming projectiles from somewhere other than the ship! One of the chunks of broken castle was inhabited! They fired cannons at the Infinity. Cannons that held… goblins in weird globs of goo! The goblin bombs splattered against the hull of Infinity! Unfortunately for the goblins our ship’s shields were too tough for them to penetrate! Most splattered on impact like giant bugs! But, armed as they were with sharp implements and hacking kits, it’s likely the goblins would have attempted to breach the hull or hack into the air locks to gain entry had our shields been depleted.

Suddenly a voice crackled over the intercom. “AHA! You smart-heads are good! You foil our goo-guns good! But we goblin pirates! Goblins attack and goblins snack! Or…. goblins want to snack! We hungry! Hand over your food and we let you go!”

Snowball Easter Bunny Chocolate Soop
Image discovered on Pinterest and chosen to represent Snowball in my home game. Art by Canadian artist DaCosta! under the studio name Chocolate Soop. Click here to check out their website.

Aya sighed in a rare show of impatience. “All lives are precious…” It sounded like she was reminding herself of this, instead of teaching the others as was typical. “We came here to lend aid to any stranded in the Drift. Surrender, Goblin Pirates, and we will forgive your attack. We have food to spare and tools to repair your Drift Engines. …If you have any.”

The goblin pirate laughed. “AHA! We win! We no shoot and you give us food! Yes! Come! Come to our home and give us many many food!”

“…” Aya decided it was best not to argue with a goblin. “Yes. Exactly. We’re coming in for a landing.” Looking at Hops she ordered. “Hops, take us down.”

“Yes, Captain!”

The gang flew their ship to the strange broken castle and landed — as best as they could. Floated nearby was a better description. After a space walk, Aya, Vishkesh, Tucker, and Rijin set out to meet the goblins. They were greeted by a snivelling, friendly little goblin — not the goblin pirate from before — and given a tour. The castle was hollow and without gravity except around its outer walls. Along these outside walls were small rooms that had both air and gravity — an anomaly the goblins couldn’t quite explain. Up near the broken ceiling (and any holes in the walls) there was a massive makeshift net — to prevent any goblins from accidentally drifting off into space.

On the tour the group discovered that the goblins weren’t just hungry, they were completely out of food! No wonder they had attacked!

But, the goblin had a plan. “Oh, you look so fat and not starving! Oh! Yum! Uh… Yum to your food! Not yum to you!” The goblin laughed, but Tucker was a little nervous. “We have much money to give you! Yes! Lots of shinies! Came here to steal shinies from castle, but ship broke! And shinies not good to eat! Nope! We have tried!” the goblin nodded. “Our King has shinies! You go see him and kill him and take them! And his pet! Must kill it too! Very smart it is. Smarter than King I think!” The goblin nods. “Then you take shinies and give us many many food! Yes! YES! Good plan! See?”

Rijin Jessica Madorran
Image discovered on Pinterest to represent Rijin in our home game. Art by Jessica Madorran. Check out her website for more information.

“Did some of you want to come with us?” Vishkesh asked.

Tucker groaned. “Oh, I don’t like that plan…”

The goblins around all cheered. “Yes! Oh, give us ride! But first take shinies! You take for food! And if you not want we take it and use it to buy more food when you get to… where you go! Me not care! Me want FOOD!”

With a sigh the group headed up to bargain with the King. “All lives are precious,” Aya reminded everyone. “This need not come to a fight.

Unfortunately, Aya was wrong. It did come down to a fight. The quartet faced off against the goblin king and his (definitely smarter than him) tashtari pet. For once my daughter’s luck didn’t trump our own and we made quick work of the angry pair. With the shinies and a ton of goblins in tow, the group reboarded the Infinity for the longest, most irritating trip they would ever endure.

Words of wisdom: Never let a pack of starving goblins on your space ship!


Our family had a lot of fun playing my daughter’s Starfinder adventure. Best of all? My daughter was happy she didn’t kill everyone. (Yay!)

Space goblins and fire elementals are from Starfinder: Alien Archive while tashtari are from Starfinder: Alien Archive 2. Pawns for all the mentioned creatures are available in Alien Archive Pawn Box and Alien Archive 2 Pawn Box. The statistics we used for the goblin spaceship came from Starfinder: Core Rulebook.

Thanks for joining us today! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my daughters adventures in GMing as much as we enjoyed playing it.

Jessica

 

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.

Mists of Akuma: Trade War

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


What is Mists of Akuma?

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

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

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

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


Trade War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SPOILERS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica

Shackled City: Part Eight: Reunion

Welcome back to Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path! When we last left off our heroic musicians were investigating a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! Although they’ve defeated the kidnappers, and rescued the children, there’s plenty of other missing citizens of Cauldron to save. And their captors? Slavers! They’ll have to work fast if they want to save their fellow citizens before they’re sold!

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

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

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

The Heroes

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

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

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

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

Although that’s the last of our PCs, that’s not the last of our party. The members of Dinorabbit are also travelling with a half-orc janitor named Patch, and an ex-guard named Krylscar Endercott! Patch is a big, stuttering, fool who works at the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same place he was raised. Patch recently got recruited to the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild and was asked to watch over an orphan named Terrem. Unfortunately, Terrem was kidnapped on the very evening that Patch went out to meet with with the guild. Distraught over the boy’s disappearance, Patch was pressured by Falco and Mick into helping them rescue the kids. Patch has gone from a meek coward to a stalwart companion. He’s currently acting as protector of all of the citizens we’ve liberated, keeping watch over them in a secure location while our heroes continue to forge ahead.

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

the team
The Team!

The Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

Kazmojen,

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

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

Don’t say I didn’t want you.

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

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

Which is awesome! No handout is ever under appreciated.

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

letter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lemure battle - malachite fortress - shackled city
Battling lemures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The goblinoid voices sounded like they were arguing some more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kryl? You’re still alive?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lots of them or all of them?”

“Lots!” Rabbity exclaimed happily.

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

“All of them,” Falco corrected.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

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

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

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

“Welcome home!” Rabbity exclaimed

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

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

“This was great, Mom!” my son said.

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

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

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

“XP?”

Yes, you all get a level up.”

Cue the victory dance from my children.

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

Wish us luck!

Jessica

life's bazaar d20diaries shackled city beholder
Life’s Bazaar is the first adventure in the Shackled City Adventure Path.

Behind the Screen

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

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

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

Shackled City: Part Seven: Bad Luck

Welcome back to Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path! When we last left off our heroic musicians were investigating a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! Although they’ve defeated down the kidnappers, and rescued the children, there’s plenty of other missing citizens of Cauldron to save. And their captors? Slavers! They’ll have to work fast if they want to save their fellow citizens before they’re sold!

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

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!). Rabbity recently ‘befriended’ (she thinks) a vicious howler named Prickles. What could go wrong?!

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

Although that’s the last of our PCs, that’s not the last of our party. The members of Dinorabbit are also travelling with a half-orc janitor named Patch! 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.

gms needs - tea and dice
My favourite mug and dice! Dice are Pathfinder Iron Gods Dice Set by Q-Workshop. Mug is Critical Hit D20 Mug by ThinkGeek.

The Adventure

Leaving behind Patch to watch over the children, our eclectic crew of musicians headed  out onto a mysterious bridge, intent on saving as many people as they could. Falco casts a spell, sinding a trio or glowing orbs of light along the length of the bridge, then under it. The span was over thirty feet across, and below was a drop of nearly fifty feet into frigid, flowing water. They crossed in silence, finding themselves on a narrow landing. Ahead was a sturdy double door flanked by two massive statues of dwarven warriors. To both the left and the right the ledge continued, eventually ending at a smaller door. Unsure which way to go, Aeris approached the left doors.

Mick, followed by his stolen, unreliable, half-broken construct — whose primary job now was carrying sacks of loot — placed a hand on Aeris’ elbow. “Be careful of those statues. I have a bad feeling about this.

“I can put those fears to rest, I think,” Falco remarked grandly. Ruby, his colourful, demanding thrush sat perched upon his shoulder. He wove his hands around and cast another spell, causing his eyes to glow brightly. With his vision now capable of detecting magical auras he examined the statues. “They not animated constructs. No magical auras of any kind.” With a nod, he winked at Aeris. “You’ll be fine.”

“Unless they’re trapped,” Mick pointed out.

“Yes. Well, they’re not magically trapped,” Falco clarified.

“Maybe just the normal kind,” Mick worried.

Aeris sighed. “I can handle a few traps. Besides, we don’t have time for this.”  Aeris approached the far left door, looked around cautiously, and opened it.

No traps. Yet.

The door opened into a large guard post, with a set of stone bunkbeds, a table, and some chairs. Another two doors exited the room at the far side. Sleeping in two of the beds were a pair of hobgoblin guards. Two others sat at the table playing some kind of gambling game involving stones and a rough dice.

Aeris leapt into action, charging into the room and swinging her sword at the nearest hobgoblin. Unfortunately, she wasn’t fast enough! The hobgoblins shouted out a loud alarm, waking their sleeping brethren and surely alerting any other enemies nearby. Aware that the last time a hobgoblin shouted an alarm down here they ended up fighting wave after wave of guards, the members of Dinorabbit knew they had to end this quickly!

From outside the room, Rabbity smiled at Prickles. “You stay here, okay? I’ll go check it out.” Rabbity rode Panthy into the room, took a quick peek around, and urged Panthy up onto one of the stone bunkbed’s top beds. Prickles listened and stayed behind.

That’s where our good luck ended.

You see, this past session we had the worst luck. Absolutely, the worst. We constantly — all four of us — rolled critical misses. Yup! A whole lot of ones. And our enemies? Critical hits! SO many critical hits! Despite coming up against weaker enemies nearly the entire session, we barely survived. And you know what? We counted ourselves lucky! It was brutal! Haha.

Back in the guard room the hobgoblins launched into action. They found chinks in our armour, gaps in our defences, and took advantage of our distraction! In short, they dismantled us! And those two armoured hobgoblins? They scored a whopping three critical hits before Aeris and Falco brought them down. As for the two sleeping hobgoblins? They leapt out of bed, grabbed a weapon, and fought unarmored. We missed them over and over again until — finally — Rabbity got a streak of luck (really, it was a pair of average rolls, haha) and took down those two wily hobgoblins in one kinetic blast a piece.

Heavily wounded and more than a little discouraged, our heroes remained alert for further enemies. Thankfully none came.

malachite fortress - d20diaries - crop
The Malachite Fortress!

They took a moment to loot the room, heal what wounds they could, and then moved on. Through the other door they found some swords swinging right at their faces! Yup, there were enemies on the other side of that door, and they were more than prepared for our heroes! With crossed fingers we headed into battle…. only to face more bad luck! Two hobgoblin guards battled Aeris in tight quarters, while another hobgoblin — this one with only one arm — brought a burning hot iron near the face of a captive female human woman across the room.

Aeris tried to get into the room and past the hobgoblins — no luck! She tried to distract the one-armed torturer — no luck! She resorted to fighting her way past the hobgoblins — no luck! Curse their fine armour!

Really, it was curse my luck! I never rolled higher than a 2, and those were the good rolls! We’re a fan of using critical hit and miss cards in our sessions, so my constant 1s caused me to stab myself, exhaust myself, and lower my own AC due to clumsiness.

Perfect.

Aeris’ allies offered support from behind. Falco threw hexes to curse the enemies, Mick performed some inspiring music, and Rabbity… Well she didn’t help Aeris. Instead she shot kinetic blasts past Aeris, through the doorway, and past the guards, in an effort to hit the torturer in the back.

Which miraculously worked. It was our only good roll of the fight! Angry, the torturer turned and left the prisoner alone, turning his attention to… Aeris. Cause she was in the way. Haha.

As the battle raged on Aeris was forced to retreat, and the hobgoblins filtered into the next room. This exposed the weaker party members to melee combat, but it also allowed more of them to attack the hobgoblins. In the end the members of Dinorabbit won the fight, but only due to greater numbers. And an angry howler who bit a hobgoblin’s head right off!

My daughter was very proud of Prickles. Until he leaped into the fray like a maniac and started eating the hobgoblins alive. The others backed up in worry. But, it wasn’t until Prickles approached the chained up human that Rabbity started to get nervous….

With great effort and distractions she managed to get the howler under control. Aeris quickly freed the woman — whose name was Coryston Pike — and helped her out of the room. They chatted with the poor woman for a short time — turned out she was an ex-adventurer — then brought her out to Patch. They repositioned the half-orc and his charges a bit, and asked them to wait. Mick called over his construct and searched through his sacks of loot. He pulled out a shortbow, arrows, quiver, short sword, and leather armour, and gave it to the woman. With well-practised hands she strapped on her armour and gear.

In a final parting, Falco asked Coryston, “How many others prisoners are there?”

Coryston looked grim. “Not nearly enough. Plenty were sold.” After a moment of thought she added, “No more than ten.”

My kids and husband checked their list of missing persons then frowned. If they only found ten more, lots would go unaccounted for. Rabbity hoped her friend, Griffin, would be among them.

Continuing on they found the cell block. Cell after cell was empty. Finally, near the end, they found a few prisoners. The first was a man who had been beaten unconscious. The second was a young man named Deven Myrzal who was huddled in the corner of his cell, terrified they were hobgoblins coming to eat him — as they had promised they would. The next cell had an equally scared and despondent woman named Irruth Mercadi. Rabbity tried to convince the pair that they were safe, but the sight of Prickles did little to help her cause.

Meanwhile, Aeris freed one more. Jasper Drundlesput, an obsessed mathematician who grinned at the sight of her.

“Ah, the odds! The odds indeed! Not in my favour, were they? And look! Here we are. Such a small chance of rescue! And YOU! Such a small chance of success! Smaller even, yes!”

Aeris gave her head a shake and continue checking the cells, while Mick bonded with the gnome. My son thought he was amazing. Haha.

And the rest of the cells? Empty. There were less than ten prisoners.

My daughter freaked out for a bit. Her friend wasn’t here! Was he sold already? She sure hoped not!

Falco healed the unconscious man and learned that his name was Krylscar Endercott, an ex-guard. The boisterous fellow demanded some gear and insisted on helping them out. With a shrug Mick sifted through the gear and gave him some armour and weapons. Falco and Aeris led the freed prisoners back out to Patch. Thus prepared, they continued on… Finding nothing. It was a dead end.

Mick pointed at the bare walls. “Check for secret doors! This place LOVES secret doors.” After only a few minutes they found one. It led to a strange shaped room with another construct in it! This one had big hammers for hands. The construct reached up and pushed on a lever. There was a loud grinding sound, but they couldn’t see what had happened.

Mick tried to command the construct like he did his own! …And it didn’t work. The construct tried to smash in his head.

“New plan!” Mick shouted as he ducked the hammer blows. “Break it!”

Easier said than done! The battle was tough, and just as they thought they had finally won the fight, Rabbity felt something whack against her ears! She look behind her, but only found a wall. Every turned and stared at the wall suspiciously… A few seconds later they saw a metal hammer swing right through the wall at Rabbity again!

Half of the group was super confused, but Mick grinned. “Illusion!” With a laugh he added, “That’s really clever!”

“It’s horrible!” Rabbity shouted.

Luckily, this construct turned out to be the only fight of the day where we didn’t have horrible luck. We had average luck. Which was a huge relief! Heavily wounded but alive, the group took a break.

“We should rest somewhere,” Mick said.

But Rabbity shook her head. “No! There could be more people here! And if we wait they might get sold! Or DEAD!” She said ‘dead’ with such drama. It was adorable.

With a begrudging nod, Mick agreed. “You’re right. Let’s go.”

Exploring the room they found another illusory wall hiding another room and lever. Nothing else. Curiously, they pulled the levers. A pair of blocks slid out of the way and disappeared into the wall revealing two more cell blocks. With a cheer of excitement, Mick and Rabbity hurried in.

The cells were empty.

Every one.

With a sigh and some frowns the group continued on. In time they found another secret door. Aeris stepped inside and the floor fell out from under her feet.

“Pit trap!” my son shouted with a laugh.

Aeris took a maximum damage — surprising no one — and clambered out. After some further healing the group moved on. With nowhere left to go they did a little backtracking and checked out some other doors. Eventually they discovered Kazmojen’s bedroom — which was disgusting. It was filled with mounds of bones, gore, and plenty of gross furnishings. Prickles wandered in and sat in a mound of mold that was clearly his bed. Deciding to let him relax there for a bit the gang continued on and discovered a hidden treasure chamber filled with gems, coins, armour, weapons, a massive gong, and a trio of treasure chests. My kids were very suspicious of the chests. One was bound in iron, one looked like it had a mouth and was covered in blood, and the third had a fancy dagger on the lid.

mimic - shackled city - malachite fortress
More bad luck!

“Mimic!” My son exclaimed. “That one with a mouth is BOUND to be a mimic! I know it!”

Aeris approached closer. She discovered the dagger chest was trapped, the iron one was locked, and the mouth chest….

Not a mimic!

But the gong behind the chest was!

“AHHHH! I DID NOT EXPECT THE GONG!” my son exclaimed. “But I should count as right anyway!”

The gong-mimic slammed into Aeris, (with a critical hit!) wrapped her up, and chomped on her. She fought and struggled, but couldn’t escape. “It’s like glue!” she told her companions. “Don’t touch it!” As the mimic kept gnawing on her she gave up trying to escape and instead pulled out a dagger, trying to wound the beast as much as she could before she died. The group tried their best to battle the beast from afar, but the mimic surged forward and slammed into Falco next (with another critical hit!). With both of them being crushed by the sticky mimic, it was up to Mick and Rabbity to claim victory.

critical fail 2Oh, look! More critical fails from our heroes!

In the end the group barely pulled through with both Falco and Aeris a turn away from death. Whew! We were lucky to survive!

Deciding we’d had enough bad luck for the night, we packed up our dice, markers, and papers. Whatever surprises were left for us in the Malachite Fortress would have to wait for another time.

Until then,

Jessica

life's bazaar d20diaries shackled city beholder
Life’s Bazaar is the first adventure in the Shackled City Adventure Path.

Behind the Screen

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

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

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

The Mantisbane Pact

One of the play-by-post campaigns I am lucky enough to take part in is run by the wonderful GM Zek on Paizo’s messageboards. The campaign is called the Mantisbane Pact, and it takes place in Golarion, the world of Pathfinder. Mantisbane Pact involves an alliance of powerful monarchs and rightful rulers who come together to destroy the Red Mantis Assassins and their god, Achaekek. Our players would act as their agents, travel to Ilizmagorti (a city firmly in the grasp of the Red Mantis Assassins), and work to bring the entire organization crumbling down.

No pressure, right? Haha.

This awesome custom campaign was recruiting by application, meaning interested players would need to create a character and submit it for review. After a while the GM would select which players they wanted to play in the campaign. This is pretty common practise for online play-by-post campaigns, due to the high interest of players, and the length of the campaign. It’s important you find a team of characters and players who work well together. Unlike other campaigns I had applied for, The Mantisbane Pact asked interested players to create a short story for their characters as part of the selection process. My character, a smart-ass, jaded slayer name Kilarra Calvennis, was accepted alongside a team of other awesome PCs to undertake this mission. At various times throughout the adventure we also had the opportunity to write other vignettes and flashbacks, often from the perspective of our shaman, who can view moments from the past by using the Akashic Record.

Today I’m sharing with you the initial short story I wrote for my character, Kilarra. After today it will be available under the d20 Stories feature on our website. Enjoy!

Jessica


Beginnings

Kilarra Calvennis stood in her boyfriend’s bedroom preparing for the worst betrayal of her life. She strapped on her armour slowly, fussing with the buckles with sweaty, shaking hands. She was nervous and excited, all at once.

She was about to undertake a test—one of many she would have to pass in order to become a Red Mantis Assassin. The target was her father. He wouldn’t die—this wasn’t an official assassination. It was just a break in. A simple test of skill, stealth and loyalty. Get into her father’s office without being seen, knock him unconscious, remove all the documents in his office, and slip away without being caught.

She could do this. She knew she could. So why were her hands shaking? And why was her heart fluttering like a panicked bird trapped in her chest?

Kilarra sighed. Her father deserved everything that was coming to him. He was one of the many corrupt nobles that dealt in lies and bribes. Just one among hundreds, but his methods sickened her. She had rebelled against him and against her country. She tried to bring about change, first with words, and then more drastic measures. None of it worked. In the end it wasn’t her father that had changed, or Taldor… It was her. And it wasn’t for the better. She did more harm than her father ever had.

“It’s his fault,” she reminded herself aloud. Her voice shook, but she continued. “He deserves this. He brought it on himself.”

She slipped her hands into her black and red leather gloves, grabbed her helmet off her boyfriend’s bureau and left the room.

Bastien grinned at her. “You look beautiful, love,” he said.

Kilarra smiled. If her father was everything wrong in the world, Bastien was everything right. He was her beloved. Her mentor. Her life. He pulled her up from the life of gangs and crime that her father had driven her to and stood her back up. He gave her purpose. He gave her love. He was intoxicating. So when Bastien confided in her that he was an assassin, she accepted that. And when he asked her to worship his strange mantis-god, she prayed with him. And when he said that she was gifted and that he wanted to train her to be like him, she was proud.

Taldor
Taldor’s coat of arms. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

She would do anything for him.

 

“I’m ready,” she replied.

Bastien nodded. “You are.”

She kissed him goodbye, slipped her red, mantis shaped helmet over her head and crept out the window onto the roof. If she had to rob her father to prove herself to Bastien, she would do so gladly.

The trip to her father’s office was short and uneventful. She kept to the shadows and stayed quiet. She slipped in through an open window on the third floor and crept down the dark halls with ease. There was a light around the edges of her father’s office door. He was in there, just as Bastien said he would be. She reached for the doorknob and hesitated.

This would change everything. Whatever happened between her and her father… Whatever he discovered and whatever she did… There was no going back. After tonight Bastien would take her to train among his fellow Red Mantis Assassins. He would train her to kill.

She never wanted to kill anyone. She still didn’t. But the thought of letting Bastien down made her sick to her stomach. She didn’t want to disappoint him. Not after everything he had done for her. She wanted to make him proud. She would make him proud. No matter what.

Kilarra took a deep breath and turned the doorknob. She cracked the door open and glanced inside. Her father was at his desk, back to her, clutching something at his chest. She moved in silently and shut the door.

He didn’t notice her. He didn’t hear her coming. But something about the way he was twitching in his chair put her on edge…. And the smell… Smelt like…

Red Mantis
Symbol of the Red Mantis Assassins. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Blood.

 

Kilarra inched across the room, hands shaking, afraid of what she would see.

Her father jerked erratically and fell from his chair, landing in a heap on the floor. A letter opener protruded from his chest.

“Dad!” she exclaimed.

He flinched when he saw her and tried to scream, but the blood in his mouth made it come out a wet gurgle. She tore her helmet off, and tossed it aside. It’s black insectile eyes watched her accusingly from across the room.

Her father’s eyes widened. He gurgled again, trying to speak, but she couldn’t make out what he was saying.

Pain exploded across the back of her head. She fell to the ground in a heap. Her ears rang and her vision blurred. She reached a shaky hand to her head. It was wet. And something was in her hair… She looked at her fingertips and saw they were covered in blood.

The killer was still here. How could she have been so stupid?

Kilarra crawled forward, but the blow she’d taken to the head had been fierce. Her arms were shaking and she couldn’t focus.

Behind her she heard laughter. It was familiar, but… wrong. Cold and cruel where it had once been warm.

“Ba- Bas- tien..?” she whimpered.

“I thought you’d be harder to take down than that! Didn’t you learn anything from me?”

It wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. He loved her.

There was motion beside her, and then pain. The man who sounded like Bastien kicked her so hard in the chest her whole body was lifted off the ground. She fell on her back, her head cracked against the floor with a wet crunch.

And there above her, smiling, was Bastien.

“Why?” she whimpered.

“Sorry, love,” he replied. “But I’ve always loved playing games.”

He struck her again, knocking her unconscious as a tear streamed down her bloody, swollen face.


When she woke up Bastien was gone, but she wasn’t alone. The guards had found her, bloody and beaten, clutching a bloody letter opener in one hand and her fathers coin purse in the other. Her gear was missing. Her father was dead. Bastien was gone.

She would have done anything for him. Anything.

He took everything from her but her life.


Six Years Later…

Kilarra stepped out of prison and into the busy, sunlit streets of Oppara for the first time in six years. She looked around, and took a deep breath. Slowly, a smile spread across her scarred face. Gods, freedom smelt good.

“Kilarra Calvennis?”

As she opened her eyes her smile slipped. A woman in a military uniform stood in front of her. She was middle-aged, blonde, clean-cut.

“Who wants to know?”

“Officer Landau. Agent of the Crown.”

“I didn’t do it,” Kilarra replied.

“Do what?”the woman asked.

“Whatever it is you think I did.”

Officer Landau smiled. “I think you’re the woman who spent six years of her life serving jail time for killing her father. The same woman who spouted tales of mantis headed assassins for years.”

Kilarra sighed. “And what? You want to hear it again? You want to laugh? I’m out now. A free woman. ”

The officer smirked. “Yes, convenient, isn’t it? Serving only six years of a life-time sentence.”

Kilarra’s frown deepened. Landau was right. Officially she was being let out for good behaviour, but that was clearly a lie. Kilarra hadn’t been good in prison. First she had cried, and then she had yelled, and then she fell in with a bad crowd all over again—or rather, she made her own bad crowd. “Leave me alone,” she growled.

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Why? So you can track down who hired the Red Mantis Assassins and beat them bloody? So you can hunt down your mom, or your grandmother or you brother or any number of other potential suspects and wind up back in the prison you just left by days end?”

Kilarra repressed a frown. That was exactly what she had been planning to do. She plastered a smile across her face and fluttered her eyelashes sweetly. “I’m reformed.”

“Whoever hired you did so for power, or money, or some other petty reason. You weren’t the target, you were the scape goat. It wasn’t personal for them. But this person—this guy you were with. Bastien. He made it personal, didn’t he? Isn’t that who you should be getting revenge against? The man who betrayed you?”

Bastien. The sound of his name sent a wave of anger surging through her. If she ever saw him again she would cram his stupid mantis helmet down his throat. Focus…”Did one too many blows to the head make you deaf, Officer Landau? I said I’m reformed. I’m not going to kill anyone. I’m not searching for vengeance. And I’m not talking to you.”

“That’s too bad. See, I’m recruiting for a special assignment. Grand Prince Stavian the Third has entered into an agreement with—“

“Spare me the politics. It’s boring.”

Officer Landau continued as if she hadn’t been interrupted by a dirty ex-con, but Kilarra could tell her smile had turned cold. “It’s called the Mantisbane Pact, and its purpose is to send agents to kill the Red Mantis Assassins, destroy their organization and assassinate their god.”

Kilarra froze. “Achaekek…” she breathed.

The soldier smiled. “Got your attention, have I?”

“You’re looking for people to assassinate a god?” She burst out laughing. This woman was clearly mad. “How’s that working out for you?”

“Finding brave enough—”

“Crazy enough, you mean.”

Driven enough volunteers who might actually be able to get the job done is… difficult. Which is why I’m here.”

Kyonin
Kyonin, home of the elves. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

“Obviously.”

 

Officer Landau grit her teeth. “I’m giving you the opportunity to apply for the team. There’s no guarantee you’ll get in. There’s other volunteers just as driven—”

“Crazy.”

“As you. Now are you in or can I wash my hands of you?”

Kilarra smiled. “Well with a sales pitch like that, how can I refuse? Where do I sign up?”

“Iadara.”

“Where?”

“Pack a bag. The applicants sail for Kyonin tomorrow.”


Want to read more about Kilarra? Be on the look out for more vignettes and flashbacks in the coming weeks!

Want to learn more about Golarion, Taldor, Grand Prince Stavian III, Kyonin, Ilizmagorti, Mediogalti, and the Red Mantis Assassins? Check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea and explore Golarion for yourself! For more information on Taldor you can also check out Pathfinder Companion: Taldor, Echoes Of GloryPathfinder Campaign Setting: Taldor, The First Empire, or play the War for the Crown Adventure Path which begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path 127: Crownfall (War for the Crown 1 of 6).