Wayfinder 19: Destination Absalom Station

Wayfinder #19 CoverAs you may have heard, the latest issue of Wayfinder magazine was recently released. Wayfinder is full of fan-created content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, and is a free download on Paizo’s website. Over the years they’ve made an astounding 19 issues of Wayfinder, as well as a Bestiary! Nearly every issue has a theme, with this latest one being Starfinder’s Absalom Station! So whether you’re a fan of fun, or a fan of free, I highly suggest you give this little gem a chance!

But, what’s inside Wayfinder #19? A lot! At around 72 pages for each issue, that’s a lot of free stuff! The articles inside offer new aliens, themes, equipment, and starships. In addition to player options, there’s plenty for GMs with adventure ideas, plot hooks, characters that can be used as allies or enemies, unique NPCs, and even a short adventure. Both players and GMs can make use of a ton of locations, personalities and gazetteers that are described throughout. To round things out there’s also songs, poetry, and fiction. And let’s not forget the awesome art!

Over eighty people contributed to this fanzine, from authors and artists, to directors and editors. My kids and I were both surprised and honoured to be among them this year. I submitted a ‘Weal or Woe’ article entitled ‘Victims of the Vat Gardens,’ as well as two themes, ‘Ghost Level Delver’ and ‘Scrounger.’ My seven year old daughter submitted ‘Galactic Rabbits’ and their smaller counterparts ‘Galactic Bunnies’ to the Alien Archive,  while my eight year old son submitted ‘Radioactive Robots.’   Both of my kids have been showing off their creations to their teachers and friends at school, which proved rather difficult. First they had to explain what Starfinder and Wayfinder are. Haha. We’re all very proud. Their favourite part? Getting to see the wonderful art that was created for their monsters!

But, enough parental bragging. Today we’re talking Wayfinder!

There was a lot that I loved inside Wayfinder #19. From player options and monsters, to fun locations and fiction, everything was really well done. My favourite player options were the many themes available, particularly the ‘Guttersnipe,’ ‘Laborer,’ and ‘Eyeswide Aspirant.’ I really enjoyed an article on the goblin hero-gods entitled ‘Blessings of the Barghest‘ by Joshua Hennington, with awesome art by Tyler Clark. There’s some really creative cortex options for mechanics written by Nicholas Flitter, which is sure to be a fan favourite. It’s accompanying art is by Paul Chapman.

If it’s gear you’re interested in, be sure to check out the ‘gloves of experience’ and ‘detective’s duster,’ magic items by Jonathan Hendricks. There’s also some snazzy new weapon properties, fast draw and low-velocity, by Adam Kessler and Nicholas Hite.

Starships. Some people love them and some people hate them. Most fall somewhere in between. Whatever your preferences I highly recommend you check out an advice article entitled ‘Making the Best of Starship Combat.’ The GM Guide, written by Hilary Moon Murphy, and the Player’s Guide, written by Brett Indrelee, are packed full of helpful advice for running and engaging in starship combat. This article alone is worth the effort of downloading the fanzine. It’s really great work. For those of you interested in more mechanical options, you’ll find many starships in this book, as well as crews and personalities to man them, and new build options. I particularly enjoyed an article on ‘Iceforged Ships’ by John Laffan with art by Beatrice Pelagatti. (You know you want to bring Winter Witches into space!)

There are a lot of cool new creatures inside Wayfinder #19, but my favourites (other than those my kids made!) turned out to be the trashbot, a CR 1 robot made of scrap, and the gelatinous z-sphere, a CR 3 ooze that can zip around even in zero-g. Oh, your poor low-level players!

My favourite campaign inspiration was an adventure seed entitled ‘The Show Must Go On,’ which was written by K. M. B. Kovalcik and features art by Todd Westcott. It involves skittermander pop stars who are in need of some help if they’re going to get to their performance on time. I also adored the many articles on Absalom Station itself, particularly ‘Ollie’s Option Bar‘ by Hilary Moon Murphy, and ‘Urban Myths of Absalom Station‘ by Alex Riggs.

Want less inspiration and more adventure? Check out ‘The Disappearance of Sector G17‘ by Paris Crenshaw, an adventure for 4–6 4th-level characters that tasks the PCs with tracking down an entire missing sector of the Spike. This adventure features art by Tanyaporn Sangsnit and maps by Alex Moore.

For more information on Absalom Station, be sure to pick up official Paizo products, Starfinder Core Rulebook, and Starfinder Pact Worlds.

Want some more Wayfinder? Be sure to check out their many, many other issues on Paizo’s website!

I hope you’ve enjoyed checking out the contents of the latest Wayfinder with me. If you happen to have contributed to it: Thanks! And if you’re thinking of applying for the next issue: I wish you the best of luck!

Have fun!

Jessica


Update: The topic for the next Wayfinder Fanzine is Starfinder: The Diaspora! Stay tuned for more information.

Wilderness Origins

Wilderness OriginsReady to get wild?

Today we’re taking a peek between the covers of Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins! If you’ve been reading d20diaries since its beginning you’ll know that my family and I adore Ultimate Wilderness. My kids love the races introduced — particularly the adorable vine leshys — and my entire family enjoys the shifter class. In fact, each of us have at least two shifters. Needless to say we were excited to get our hands on Wilderness Origins. My husband was hoping for more shifter options, my kids were hoping for more vine leshy options, and I was… Well, I was just hoping someone in my family would find something inside the book that they’d make use of right away.

We were not disappointed.

Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins is a soft cover book that is 32 pages in length. As a book in the Player Companion line, it’s aimed at players, which means that you won’t find a ton of world lore or secrets inside. You’ll find archetypes, feats, traits, spells, and more! Wilderness Origins features amazing cover art by David Alvarez, which showcases the iconic shifter, Zova,  engaged in battle against an earth elemental.

Wilderness Origins - Plant Journal
The inside front over of Wilderness Origins.

The front inside cover features brief information on a few plants described in the book alongside some sketches. The entire page is presented as if they were entries in a scholar’s journal, which is a nice touch. Although no important information is contained here that can’t be found later in the book, it’s nicely showcased. Plants depicted include ambrosial lotus, cleanthistle, ghostblossom, and a ghoran seed. There’s also art of a gathlain’s wing and a leaf leshy.

After this is the table of contents, the rules index, and the introduction which contains eight new regional traits themed around different terrains. Each trait is printed alongside an example background for each terrain, that emphasize how you can embrace nature and your environment. Guerilla tactics and surefooted ascent are sure to be popular, but fruit merchant and strong stomach turned out to be my favourites. Environments covered by these traits include the desert, road, forest, jungle, mountain, swamp, tundra, and coast.

Moving on from the introduction we come to six pages of new shifter options. It features a whopping nine new shifter aspects, all of which are pretty cool. The new shifter aspects are boar, crocodile, dolphin, dragonfly, electric eel, mantis, octopus, scorpion, and spider. Electric eel is my favourite, but my son LOVES the boar aspect. He immediately made a gnomish boar shifter for Pathfinder Society Organized Play and was super excited to give it a shot. Unfortunately, we suffered a TPK that weekend and poor Sid’s career was cut short. Still, my son loved the character and made a ton of use out of the boar’s minor aspect, which gives you diehard as a bonus feat.

Wilderness Origins - Feyform Shifter
A half-orc feyform shifter from Wilderness Origins.

After the shifter aspects are three new archetypes, dragonblood shifter, feyform shifter, and swarm shifter. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, with the dragonblood shifter allowing  you to take on the aspects and forms of a variety of dragons, feyform shifter granting you some tricky defences and the ability to transform into fey beings, and swarm shifter allowing you to turn into a swarm of bugs. They’re all really cool, but dragonblood shifter turned out to be my favourite. My husband’s a big fan of the swarm shifter, though, and he’s not going to be the only one. It’s a really useful archetype which is sure to see a lot of play.

Also in the shifter chapter are thirteen new favoured class options, seven new feats (be sure to check out chimeric aspect, greater weapon shift, and raking claws), and my favourite new option for shifters: alternate natural attacks. Each shifter aspect currently released (new and old) has a list of alternate attack forms they can select in place of claw attacks. Bears have a bite attack, for example, while boars have a gore and a hoof. Any time you activate your shifter claws you can choose to take an alternate natural attack from your animal aspect options in place of one of your claw attacks. This changes the damage type and the way your natural attacks look, but otherwise functions as the shifter’s regular claw attacks. It’s a really nice option I’m happy to see available.

Up next are two pages on each of the races introduced in Ultimate Wilderness — gathlain, ghoran, and vine leshy. The new gathlain options include five alternate race traits (arboreal vitality, fey resilience, and whimsical outlook are my favourites), seven new feats (mighty boughs and strength of wood are my favourites), and one new archetype. Sworn of the Eldest is a Charisma-based inquisitor archetype that I really enjoyed. Particularly the magic of the Eldest ability, which swaps out teamwork feats for some extra spells and spells per day.

Ghoran options include four alternate race traits (check out intoxicating aroma and magical absorption), three feats (I love spell mirror), two new spells (pinecone bomb and woodland rune), and the new ninja archetype petal ninja, which lets you transform into a cloud of flower petals.

Wilderness Origins - Leshy - Nathanael James
Vine leshy verdivant. Illustration by Nathanael James. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Vine Leshy options include four alternate race traits (lashvine and writhing eye are awesome!), four new feats (we like bounteous body best), and the cavalier archetype verdivant. This turned out to be both my kids’ favourite archetype — which came as no surprise since they both love vine leshys. The verdivant archetype lets you to have a plant mount, and enables you create effloresces, which are explosive plant growths that can be used a number of times per day and have some cool effects. While one might form a wall of vines to prevent attacks of opportunity, others can make you walk on air, or even give you and your allies fast healing. Effloresce replaces the cavalier’s banner and tactician abilities.

Up next in Wilderness Origins are two pages themed around flowers. It starts by introducing four new magical plants, ambrosial lotus, cleanthistle, ghostblossom, and gravebane petals. All four are surprisingly useful, but I think I like the cleanthistle best. It’s a great plant to add into my family game of Iron Gods. There’s also five awesome new witch hexes. I honestly had a hard time picking my favourite. My daughter loves leshy summoning, my son loves verdant familiar, and heralding bloom is going to be really useful for some characters. In the end its the floating lotus and iceplant hexes I’m most likely to use. Floating lotus conjures a flower that you can stand on to walk over water or gain a bonus on jump checks while Iceplant makes the witch and her familiar’s flesh harden, granting them a natural armour bonus and and the effects of endure elements. Finally, there’s a new alchemist archetype in this section: perfumer. This alchemist creates atomized perfumes in place of potions, an can distill pheromones that augment your Charisma, diplomacy, and bluff checks in place of mutagens. Very cool!

The next two pages are entitled Wardens of the Wild and involve kami. There’s a new kami eidolon subtype for unchained summoners, ward aspects for hunters to make use of, and the new spiritualist archetype ward spiritualist. This archetype allows a spiritualist to purposesly seek out a kami to bond with, and grants them a ward implement which can either be an object or their own body. With their ward implement they can gain occultist focus powers. They can also merge their kami with their implement to empower their implement in battle. I’m a huge fan of both spiritualists and occultists, so I’m totally biased to love this archetype. Haha.

Wilderness Origins - Scorpion - Beatrice Pelagatti
Scorpion familiar. Illustration by Beatrice Pelagatti. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The next four pages are packed full of options for our animalistic pals — animal companions, familiars, and mounts. It starts with two animal companion archetypes: apex species (which gives your companion benefits in certain terrains) and unexpected intellectual (which makes a vermin companion more intelligent). Then there’s three familiar archetypes: occult messenger, the super creepy parasite, and arcane amplifier (my personal favourite) which grants your familiar the ability to use some metamagic feats on touch spells they deliver. Following these are seven feats which can be taken by animal companions, familiars, and their owners. Three are relevant to familiars, three to animal companions, and one is relevant to both. I really like the animal companion feats curious companion and friendly face, but it was two familiar feats that turned out to be my favourite. Changeling familiar gives any familiar capable of changing shape the ability to transform into a child or teenager of their master’s race, while spark of the uncanny gives your familiar the ability to speak. Awesome! (My kids are absurdly excited for this one!) A few levels later you can swap it out for improved familiar. Next up are descriptions of five breeds of mounts along with a trait for each of them (these traits count towards their master’s total number of traits). Finally, there’s an expanded companion list for cavaliers paladins, and rangers.

The following two pages talk about the totem spirits of the Shoanti, with nine new totem rage powers geared at members of the Lyrune-Quah (moon clan), Shundar-Quah (spire clan), and any ancestor-revering character. There’s also a new shaman spirit, tribe.

Wilderness Magic is up next, with five new arcanist exploits, three disaster themed spells, and the psychic archetype Magaambyan telepath, which blends druidic magic and wilderness themed powers with the psychic. Wild stride and wooden flesh are my favourite arcanist exploits, while flash flood — a sixth level spell on the druid, shaman, and sorcerer/wizard spell list — is my favourite spell.

Wilderness Origins - Fire Steed
The iconic kineticist Yoon riding a fire steed.

Similar to magic, the following two pages are all about elemental power — specifically fire. First up is the flame steed spell, which conjures a mount made of fire. Continuing this theme is a new archetype, the cinderlands adept, a fire-based kineticist that gains a loyal mount and is based on the Burn Riders of the Sklar-Quah (sun clan). Finally, there are eight new kineticist talents — one form infusion (elemental trap) and seven utility talents. My favourites included fire corridor and the fire steed tree. I’m a huge fan of both the Shoanti and kineticists, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover these new options.

By now there’s only a few pages left. Two pages of character options themed around the sea and sky. It starts with two more archetypes — a very interesting paladin archetype called champion of the cascade and esoteric starseeker, a psychic archetype based around Golarion’s constellations. Following this are two very cool (and disconcerting) oracle curses that have to do with decay: putrid and scourge. Finally, there’s three new ki powers: floating breath, racing current, and zephyr blow.

And that’s it! The end of Pathfinder Player Companion: Wilderness Origins! My whole family loves this player companion. It contains a lot of fun options for all our favourite parts of Ultimate Wilderness — shifters, gathlain, ghoran, and vine leshys — and pays some loving attention to the many different pets you can acquire. It’s rare that we get to make in-game use of a d20 book right after reading it, but this one immediately inspired us to create something new. It was well worth the investment for my family.

Thanks for joining us today! I hope you enjoyed taking a peek behind the covers of Wilderness Origins.

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Preparing for Adventure

For Valentine’s Day my seven-year old son received the D&D Starter Set. He was pretty proud of this turn of events, as it marked the very first d20 product he has ever personally owned. He has some hand-me-down books, of course. And he reads my books all the time, but this one? This one was HIS.

We opened it up and he ogled the beautiful blue dice it came with, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the swirling colours. He owns a good deal of dice, but this set is one of his favourite. They look great, and they’re really easy to read. We pulled out the Starter Set Rulebook and the adventure it came with, flipping through both to look at the pictures. And then he got to the loose papers.

“What are these, Mom? Boss stats or something?”

I explained they were pre-generated characters.

“Why would I need those?”

“They’re for new players, dear. So you can just open the box, grab a character, and play.”

He looked at me like he’d been insulted. “I think I can handle making my own.”

I laughed. “You’ve never played D&D before.”

Another look like he’d been insulted. “I’ll learn.”

He settled into his bed and read through the little booklets and soon came to three realizations. First: Most of the information in the books was stuff he already knew. Second: There was no information on how to make his own characters. And third: I would DM for him. It was just more fun that way.

I pulled down our D&D Player’s Handbook and opened it up. We settled onto the couch together but, as my son soon pointed out, he could do it himself. Not long afterwards he announced. “I’m going to be an really old dragonborn rogue named Old Sorewing. His clan was destroyed, but he saved all the kids from the clan and brought them with him to Neverwinter. That’s the city that the adventure starts in, Mom. His old clan was called the Dogbone Fliers. But he made the dragonborn whelps his new clan. They are called the Fishgut Clan, cause they survive on fish they scavenge from the ocean. They live in the sewers, and abandoned buildings and stuff. And Old Sorewing robs and steals to support his whelps. He’s their leader, you know. But, one day he paid a guy named Gundren Rockseeker with fake coins — that’s the guy who hires us in the adventure by the way. And he got caught. And Gundren said that if Old Sorewing didn’t do a job for him he would send the cops after his whelps! And Old Sorewing doesn’t want that! His Clan is his flaw. So he is going to do a job for Gundren. Now find me a character sheet, Mom. And write all that down for me.”

“And here I thought you could do it yourself,” I replied.

MOM,” my son huffed. “Fine. Get me a pencil, too. And an eraser! I will need one of those.”

A few minutes later we were settled at the table, working on his character sheet. My son was surprised at how quick and easy making a character was. He’s used to playing Pathfinder, so in comparison making a D&D character is easy. Sure enough, he stuck with his plan. He made an old dragonborn with white scales who was graying in places. He has a white dragon as his draconic ancestry and can breathe out a cone of cold. He wears fake wings on his back, and a fake tail (to make him look like a real scary dragon!). He chose the criminal background, and took the gear packages that came with his class and background. Old Sorewing is incredibly smart, charismatic, and dextrous, with Strength and Constitution both tied for his lowest stats. He’s trained in Deception, Intimidation, Perception, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth. He fights with a rapier and a shortbow. My son filled in his sheet, draw a picture of his character, and explained his background, flaws, and traits again, so I could write it all down for him.

“Is that it?” he asked.

“Yup, that’s all.”

“That was easy. I like that. But I also kind of don’t. There weren’t many… choices. To make me different from other rogues.”

“Dear, I promise you, Old Sorewing is very different from other rogues. He’s going to be great.”

“Yeah, but only cause of his story and stuff. Don’t I get a feat at least?”

“Nope. No feats. Although you can choose to take one at higher levels instead of increasing an ability score, if you want. You don’t need to worry about that now, though. In a few levels you’ll get to make some more choices for your rogue. That’ll make you feel more unique.”

“Well, alright…” he said, still uneasy with how easy it had been.

“You do have one more job, though, dear,” I pointed out. “Convince your father and sister to make their own characters.”

My son grinned and was off. Convincing my daughter to make a new character is the easiest thing in the world.

“Hey, come make a — ” my son started. But before he had even finished his sentence my daughter cut him off.

She raced to the table shouting, “I heard! I want to make a goblin named Zig who is a bard and wants to help people! I’ll shout, ‘ZIG HELP!’ all the time!” She laughed and leaned over to whisper to me. “I got that idea from the character Zig from that Pathfinder Society Scenario we are playing, Mom. Zig is the BEST!” (Zig is from PFS #10-06: Treason’s Chains)

I laughed and whispered. “I know. We’re all playing it together, remember? But goblins aren’t a playable race in D&D.”

“Well, fine. I’ll be a gnome then. Now get the dice!”

My daughter had a ton of fun making her new character. In the end she decided to make a Forest Gnome Bard Entertainer. Charisma was her best stat, with Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence all a close second. Her Wisdom was low, and her Strength was even worse. She chose to be proficient in the mandolin, harmonica, piano, and flute. For skills she chose Animal Handling (of course!), Acrobatics, Performance, Nature, and Survival. For cantrips she selected dancing lights and message (along with minor illusion, which she gets for being a forest gnome). Her first level spells were animal friendship, feather fall, healing word, and speak with animals. She loves the idea of the ritual spells! From there she started filling out her background. She decided that Zig was trained by the fey as a bard and is the youngest bard in gnomish history. She has a pet rabbit named Ziggy, that she loves very much. In fact, the rabbit is the only family she has. What happened to the rest? Tragedy, of course! One day when she was very young, Zig’s grandfather was attacked by a werewolf and barely escaped with his life! Unfortunately, he became a werewolf the next full moon and ate everyone in her whole family! Zig only escaped with the help of her fairy friends! To this day, Zig is terrified of lycanthropes of all kinds (a trait she shares with my daughter).

“But, all that sad stuff is a secret, Mom!” my daughter explained, “Because she doesn’t want to talk about it!”

Fair.

With a bit more work, my daughter decided that Zig loved animals more than anything. She sings songs about animals, in the hopes she can make her audience love them as much as she does. She also sings to animals, which is one of her favourite things to do. If an animal is in danger, Zig will selflessly hurl herself in the way (“Zig save!”) and if she finds out an animal is abused she’ll sneak back later to free it (“Zig free!”). And, of course, Zig loves to help. In fact, she even tries to help when she’s horrible at it. (“Zig help!”).

“I am SO EXCITED!” my daughter shrieked as we finished up her character.

“Me too,” I replied. “She’s going to be a lot of fun.”

My husband was next. He whipped up a half-elf paladin of Kord named Argo Grey. Raised by the priests at the church of Kord in Neverwinter, Argo had a thorough education, but always had a hard time focusing. He was constantly daydreaming of adventure and glory. Although pious, Argo wasn’t meant for book learning. He was meant for sports! He became a competitive athlete, but to this day he needs to stop and reference his holy book whenever he’s asked to recite a prayer or perform a ceremony. As the only half-elf in the church, Argo covered his ears with a bandana, to hide his heritage as a way to better fit in with his peers. It became habit, and he still passes himself off as a human whenever possible. Tying his character into the upcoming adventure, he decided that Argo was once mentored by Sildar Hallwinter, a man who was acting as a guard for Gundren.

Strength, Constitution, and Charisma are all Argo’s highest ability scores, with Dexterity a distant second, average Wisdom, and poor Intelligence. He fights with a longsword and javelins, and wears sturdy chain mail and a shield. He chose the acolyte background, and ended up proficient in Athletics, Insight, Medicine, Perception, Persuasion, and Religion. Like my son, my husband was a little disheartened at the lack of extra options at level one. Although he likes the simplicity and ease with which you can create characters, he also likes making decisions. There wasn’t all that much to fiddle with at level one. Still, he was excited to give Argo a whirl, and looks forward to selecting a fighting style and sacred oath at later levels.

Which left me. Shockingly we had no major arcane caster, which is a role I never get to fill at home, so I decided immediately to take the opportunity to make one. I was going to make a sorceress, but frankly, as a fan of the many different bloodlines available in Pathfinder, having only two options for sorcerer bloodlines wasn’t cutting it for me. Wizards are always fun, but I decided to make a Warlock. It’s not something I’ve made before and I enjoy playing a creepy weirdo now and then. And her race? Dwarf, obviously! It’s one of my favourite races.

I created a hill dwarf named Eldeth, who was once a soldier in the dwarven infantry. She was tasked with escorting a eccentric sage to an old ruin underground. While there she discovered a beautiful green orb, which she felt compelled to claim for her own. Unfortunately, her unit was attacked by duergar and taken captive. While imprisoned, Eldeth had strange visions. Her fellows believed she was going mad. In her dreams the orb was speaking to her, and in one particularly lucid fever dream she accepted its aid. Only it wasn’t a dream. Eldeth had been bound to the orb and it’s fiendish master. In exchange she was granted the power to escape. She returned to her people much changed. She was deathly pale, with dark black veins around her eyes, inner arms, and over her heart. Her irises had turned black, as had her once vibrant hair. They called her Eldeth Darkvein, sole survivor of the Stonton Massacre, and though they were happy she returned home, she made them uneasy. She couldn’t spar with her fellow soldiers — she was too violent. And when she bled her blood came out a thick black ooze. It wasn’t long before she was ‘honourably’ discharged, and went on ‘vacation’ to the surface. Her clan was relieved, but Eldeth had lost her purpose. All she had left was the orb, and her fiendish master, which whispered dark thoughts to her. She hated and loved it, which terrified her. Recently a dwarf she used to know, Gundren Rockseeker, offered her some simple guard work, escorting a caravan from Neverwinter to the tiny town of Phandalin, which she accepted. Few folks would give her work these days, and she needed the coin.

Constitution is Eldeth’s highest ability score, with Strength and Charisma a close second. Her Dexterity is fair, her Intelligence is average, but she’s weak-willed, with a poor Wisdom score. She’s a warlock with a fiendish patron, and the Soldier background. She gained proficiency with Arcana, Athletics, Intimidation, and Investigation, and chose to fight armoured and with her trusty battleaxe. For cantrips she selected eldritch blast (of course!) and prestidigitation. For first level spells she chose hellish rebuke and comprehend languages. Eldeth is power hungry, dour, and intimidating. Traumatized by her time as a prisoner of the duergar, Eldeth is paranoid everyone is out to get her, and terrified of being imprisoned or enslaved. She hopes to one day discover the identity of the demon she accidentally bound herself to, but hasn’t had any luck yet. When she thinks no one is looking she talks to her orb, holding it close and whispering gently.

With all our characters ready to go we sifted through our minis and each picked one out. We were ready to begin the adventure from the D&D Starter Set: Lost Mine of Phandalin. Or rather, everyone was ready but me. I still had to read the adventure.

Thanks for joining us today! Tune in later this week for a review on the contents of the D&D Starter Set, and a campaign update on our first session playing Lost Mine of Phandelver!

Jessica

 

Ode to the Lost: Lara Belfast

Today on d20 diaries we’re taking a look at the lost.

You know the lost.

The abandoned, the deceased, the forgotten, the retired. The characters whose stories were over before they even started. Who began a journey that would never come to a close. Who died in action.

Them.

Not all of them, of course. Just one.

A character of mine who recently died in action. An inglorious end for an ambitious, (possibly deranged) woman with way too many voices in her head.

Today we meet Lara.

Lara Belfast had always had strange dreams. They were vivid, immersive… lasting, and always featured other people. She would wake, and for hours after have the feelings of these others inside her. Their hopes and fears and memories. It was like she had really been there. Lived through it. As other people.

It was normal, her parents told her. Dreams were just dreams, and they would pass. But they didn’t pass. They got worse. When they started to occur during the day, her parents finally began to worry. But when she woke up one day from a dream where she was a shipwright and immediately set to work building a fully-functioning wooden sailboat,  she realized the truth. They weren’t dreams. They were people.

Real people.

Lara was reliving her past lives. Not only that, she could learn from them.  Her family moved after that. Got a fresh start. Her parents didn’t want their neighbours realizing she was odd.

As she grew older, Lara’s connection with her past lives grew. She learned new skills, saw new places, took up new professions, and felt things she had never felt before. She was wise and experienced beyond her years. And when one night she threw a chair across the room with her mind, or answered a question her parents had only thought — not spoken — they weren’t even surprised. Nothing surprised them anymore. Not when it came to Lara.

PZO1110
Lara Belfast is a character for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game! I recommend picking up a new hardcover of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook while you can (with the launch of Pathfinder 2 next year, only the pocket edition will remain in print). 

Lara always loved her Dreamers — as she liked to call her previous incarnations. She was an echo of them — all of them — and that’s what she started to call herself. Sure, they made it hard to have friends, and boyfriends, but her connection with them was so real, so… intimate, that she never regretted her powers. Not once.

Well, maybe once.

There were many dreamers, but one of them in particular had always come to her strongest. He was a shipwright, young, strong, and handsome. He had a sister named Gilly, and a girlfriend who he stole kisses from under the dock at night. Sara, was her name. And one night everything went horribly wrong.

A few men found them. They were drunk and rough. Her dreamer was punched right in the face. She could feel the pain, and hear the crack of her nose breaking. She could taste the blood. But that wasn’t the worst part… The worst was the screams of his beloved. That’s what got to Lara the most. That’s what made her cry. And the way her dreamer had felt… Helpless. Broken. Scared. 

When the dreamer awoke, things were worse. Her dreamer and his beloved had been sold to slavers. Life on the ship was hard for her dreamer, but for Sara it was hardest. Her dreamer struggled, and planned, and when he could take no more he fought back. She Her dreamer had to save Sara. He loved her, and she was in so much pain.

But, suddenly it’s not sorrow her dreamer feels, but agony. Her dreamer’s dying — his arm is broken, and as the first mate of the ship stomps his way across the deck…

STOMP, STOMP, STOMP…

Her dreamer hears another sound. His name: Benjamin.

Sara’s here… She can see him. Her dreamer looks up at the first mate — he’s tall, and strong, in nobleman’s clothes, with slicked back hair and a waxed moustache, not much older than her dreamer. The first mate smiles as he brings the blade down across her dreamer’s neck. Then everything spins and for a moment — a crazy, painful, terrifying moment — she can see her dreamer’s body.

He would be handsome if he still had his head. 

There were plenty of other dreamers — the lumberjack, the warchief, the chef, the sickly child, even an old dame — but it was Benjamin who stuck with her most. Benjamin whose memories haunted her. He was the last, she knew. The person she had been before she was herself. Gilly, Sara, his killer… They might all still be alive. She had to find out. She had to know. 

So she left home — barely a grown woman — to do research, and to find them. Sara especially. But it was the first mate she found first. Still alive, aged 46, and still working on slave ships. And Lara (Echo, she went by now) did the craziest thing she had ever done (which was saying a lot). She used her psychic powers to get hired as a sailor on his ship. She used them again to get close to him, and to make others ignore her when she snuck into his quarters. She had finally found his old ledgers when he caught her in his quarters. She tried to talk her way out of it, but it was useless. She would soon be joining Benjamin… 

He drew his blade, stalked towards her…

And then the storm struck.

It tossed the ship so hard the both of them went flying. She struck her head against something hard — the bunk maybe, perhaps the floor — and when she awoke she was alone, shivering with cold, dripping wet, on a strange beach. The ledger was gone.

She would never know what happened to Sara.

Never get revenge against her beloved dreamer’s murderer. 

But then another dreamer reared her head: the lumberjack. Echo was shipwrecked on an unknown island. She would need food, and shelter, and warmth. It would be a struggle just to survive. The lumberjack always was the practical one. But she was right. So Echo let go of her disappointment, and shame, and let the lumberjacks skills come to the forefront. There was work to do, and she didn’t plan on dying yet.

She wasn’t ready to be the next dreamer.


Echo was created for an online play-by-post campaign run by GM Fuzzfoot called Castaways. The premise?

“Slavery in parts of Golarion is legal, but there are plenty who still abhor it. Working undercover – some as slaves, some as slavers – you are on a slave ship trying to discover the key players and document the slave routes in order to disrupt the business. Unfortunately, fate has another plan for you. A terrible storm strikes while the ship is deep at sea. You remember rain and lightning, and terrible thunder! The ship broke into two, and you were tossed into the sea. You were sure you drowned, and yet you find yourself washed up on a shore. Which shore? You have no idea.”

Applicants had to create third level characters, and wow were there a lot of good ones! Happily, of the twenty-one submissions, Echo was one of those chosen to play. Along with  five other lucky unfortunates, she washed up on the shores of an unknown island. Wounded, confused, lost, but not broken!

Echo was joined by Pharithstillis Euduethistle, a chipper gnomish sorcerer who enjoyed making jewelry; Nathan Bensson, a kineticist with control over water; Celebeth Quinciel, a free-spirited elven unchained rogue (arcane scoundrel) who grew up on the frontier with her parents; Aki Mori, a multiclass ninja arcanist who spent most of her time in human form, but made excellent use of her ability to transform into a small fox; and Molothor the Bloodhound, a hobgoblin druid who had long ago become accustomed to his life as a slave.

Echo was a human woman in her early twenties with a lean body, pale skin, and blond hair. She’s attractive, intelligent and wise beyond her years. Her eyes are gray, and fathomless, the only feature she bears which belies her soul’s unknowable age. Her effect on people is varied, sometimes hypnotic and sometimes disconcerting.

Echo herself is kind and self-sacrificing. She’s obsessed with her past lives — most especially that of Benjamin — and not only learns from them, but lives for them. Her dreamers still visit her every night, but she is in control of her mind, and no longer loses herself to their memories.

Occult Adventures
You can find information on many awesome occult classes, including the psychic, in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Occult Adventures. (This is one of my very favourite sourcebooks!)

Mechanically, Echo was a psychic with the rebirth discipline. Her discipline powers were past-life memories, which allowed her to make all knowledge checks untrained, and add half her psychic level as a bonus on all knowledge checks. Her second was mnemonic esoterica, which allowed her to choose a spell from another spell list she could cast each day (which she most often used for create water).

Her phrenic amplifications included defensive prognostication, which allowed her to see a glimpse of her future whenever she cast a divination spell (which could increase her AC for a round), and intense focus, which allowed her to gain a bonus on concentration checks.

For traits she chose dangerously curious, to allow her to make better use of magical devices, and self-reliant, which prevented her from taking penalties on craft checks made without the proper tools, and even make craft checks without tools at all. For feats she chose skill focus (sense motive), and magical aptitude, both of which played well to her backstory, particularly when coupled with her ability to detect thoughts.

Her spells were great fun to select, as Echo was the first (and only) psychic I ever made. Her starting knacks were detect magic, light, mage hand, prestidigitation, and telekinetic projectile, while her first level spells were burst of insight, mage armour, mind thrust, and true strike. She made the most use of burst of insight, which was incredibly helpful for both survival, and creating shelter.

Together the castaways struggled for survival, facing the elements, exhaustion, dangerous beasts, and ominous portents. They explored the beach and sunken wrecks for their gear and supplies. In time some of them met a young child, who spoke strange words and led them to his people — who unfortunately turned out to be cannibals. Echo and Aki were captured, but managed to escape without too much difficulty. Echo spent her time tossing telekinetic projectiles at her captors, while Aki simply transformed into a fox and slipped through the bars.

Eventually Aki returned to free Echo and they fled, but the cannibals were soon on their trail. They escaped, eventually running into the rest of their companions. Together they abandoned their camp and headed further into the jungle. But the cannibals knew these jungles far better than our heroes. They woke up one night to find themselves surrounded and vastly outnumbered. Captured again they were led back through the jungles —  until a tribe of grippli attacked! The grippli ended up the victors, and brought the castaways back to their village. Echo and her friends spent quite a bit of time there. They learned the grippli’s language and what they could of the island. Eventually, they decided to help the grippli defeat the cannibals. The group made a plan, and the castaways set out to begin phase one. Unfortunately, fate intervened. While exploring a cave they came under attack by a massive lobster. Echo was slain within moments of the battle beginning, with Aki following suit soon afterwards. Nathan fell unconscious  next and, with Malothor lost long before this battle, that left only Celebeth and Pharithstillis still fighting. Deciding to beat a hasty retreat they grabbed the bodies they could — Echo and Nathan — and fled back to the grippli village. The grippli gave up hopes of changing their fate, and Celebeth and Pharithstillis spent the remainder of their days among the grippli village.

We started our campaign at third level, and it came to an end at fourth. Echo was burnt and given a burial at sea.

Just another of the Dreamers.

As to who she became next…?

That’s a mystery for another time.

So ends the tale of Lara Belfast.


Thanks for joining us for our first ‘Ode to the Lost.’ I hope you enjoyed it!

Got an abandoned, forgotten, or deceased character whose tale you want to share? Let us know in the comments! I’d love to read all about them.

May you have better luck than Lara! (And your ghosts never come back to haunt you!)

Jessica

 

Character Focus: Wacky and Weird

My family and I entered a contest a few weeks ago. Hosted by the overly generous Hmm on Paizo’s message boards, she was going to give away all the boons necessary to create a mermaid in PFS play. There were a few ways to enter — for yourself with a mermaid character concept, for a group of friends with a team created from the other boons she was giving away, or by nominating someone else who you thought deserved to win. My family and I entered together, and were lucky enough to be chosen as one of the winners.

I’ve mentioned this contest before on my blog, and I promised that when our characters were complete I would share them with the world.

That time is now! (Finally! Haha.)

My family and I wanted to make a quartet of characters who are (and were) universally considered outcasts among their people and Golarion at large. They’re weird, and different. But what’s strange for one culture isn’t strange for others, and it’s those very oddities that the others embraced and connected with. After all, who cares if the vanara has unnaturally large eyes, if he’s hanging out with a grippli? These guys are friends, companions, and (in many ways) family. They don’t have the same interests, and they don’t always get along. But, hey? What family does?

My daughter was the first person to create her character. She’s always the first person to do so. Admittedly, I would beat her to it, except I always wait to see what my kids want to make before creating my own character.

PZO9473
Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Beast contains a variety of character options for catfolk, grippli, kitsune, nagaji, ratfolk, tengu and vanara! For more details you can check out my detailed blog post on the book, or purchase the book for yourself. It’s a fun one!

My daughter made a grippli named Croak. In her original character pitch she had said she was gong to make an energetic, poisonous grippli who fought with a blowgun. She was going to be a ranger with the poison darter archetype (rangers can be found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook, grippli can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide, and the poison darter archetype for rangers can be found in Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Beast). When it came time to make her character and actually get her down on paper, she stuck to it. But, she also added to it. In addition to being a poison darter, she’s chosen to be a skirmisher, which is an archetype for rangers which sacrifices their spellcasting in order to use some nifty tricks a few times each day that can benefit yourself and your companions. This won’t have an effect on her character now, but in the future it definitely will! (The skirmisher archetype for rangers can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide).

Croak is incredibly nimble, and rather wise. She’s decent with people and animals, and pretty healthy. She’s not one for book learning, and she’s physically weak. Her final stats are Str 8 / Dex 18 / Con 12 / Int 10 / Wis 16 / Cha 13. As a grippli she’s small, has dark vision, a base speed of 30 feet and a climb speed of 20 feet. She has the ability to camouflage herself while in a swamp, and has no problem travelling in such environments. She speaks Common and Grippli. She was sorely tempted to take the toxic skin variant racial trait, but decided against it. Croak loves to swim, so my daughter didn’t think it made since to give up swamp stride. As a ranger she has the track ability, which she’s excited for. However, she does not have a favoured enemy or wild empathy. These are both abilities she gave up for her archetype. Instead she has poison use, and she secretes a paralytic toxin from her skin which she can use to poison her weapons a few times each day. At higher levels she’ll give up her combat style for rogue talents and give up her hunter’s bond ability for sneak attack that only works with a blowgun.

Now, you might be saying, blowgun? Really? They’re not very good. Well, too bad! My daughter thinks they’re the coolest. She bought a toy one for herself the other day at the local dollar store. I warned her they were tricky to use, but she insisted, and she’s been practising ever since. By now she can get the foam dart to sort of fall out of the blowgun and land on the floor. This is a great improvement from her first few attempts which resulted in the dart moving slightly and staying inside the blowgun. Haha. Admittedly, I’m not much better. As an out of shape asthmatic I can make the dart fly no more than five feet. I’m quite proud of this, actually, as I expected to do much, much worse. (Hooray for low expectations!).

Croak decided to use her favoured class bonus on a special grippli ranger option: she gets a +1 bonus on swim checks. When this bonus hits +8 she also gains a swim speed of 15 feet. She finds this very exciting. She chose to put her skills into acrobatics, climb, diplomacy, perception, perform (song), and swim. She’s also naturally good at stealth and survival, but she did not invest ranks into those skills yet. Perhaps in the future. For traits she chose insider knowledge, which gives her a +1 on diplomacy checks and made diplomacy a class skill. She also chose reckless, which gives her a +1 on acrobatics checks and made acrobatics a class skill. (Insider knowledge can be found in the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide, while Reckless can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Campaign). All things considered, acrobatics turned out to be her best skill, which is just how she wanted it. For her feat she chose agile tongue. This grippli feat allows her to use her tongue to lift light objects, make sleight of hand checks, and perform steal and disarm maneuvers. It also lets her make melee touch attacks, but that won’t have any benefit for her right now. (Agile tongue can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide).

When it came time to buy her equipment, my daughter certainly took her time! Haha. She bought a blowgun with a ton of blowgun darts, a net, and a pair of poisoned sand tubes. But for her melee weapon? Oh, it took forever! Melee is not going to be Croak’s forte. She’s intended to be a close range combatant who stays mobile, and hinders her foes. Her strength score is poor, but she still wanted to be able to have a melee weapon for those times she she gets locked down. The problem? My daughter has no idea what most weapons actually are. She can read their names and statistics, but rarely does she actually know what they look like. There are some she knows, of course: longsword, short sword, dagger, gauntlet, cestus, scimitar, sickle, whip, spear, quarterstaff, net, blowgun, bow, crossbow and darts.  She also sort of knows what a sling is. Or rather, she knows what it is, but she likes slingshots better, so she insists the sling is a slingshot. Not the case, of course, but hey, she’s six. It’s a slingshot! As a ranger she had proficiency in a lot of weapons she didn’t recognize, so we spent some time looking up pictures of each weapon, and even watched some videos of how you use each one in battle. In the end, she chose a light flail for her weapon. She became so enamoured with this dangerous weapon that the same day she was at our local dollar store and bought a blowgun, she also bought a little toy flail that’s perfectly sized for her. She’s been hard at work learning how to swing it without whacking herself in the head. For her armour, she picked out a reinforced tunic. In addition to basic adventuring gear she bought a sunrod, a healing potion, and a few vials of acid.

So who is Croak? What’s she like?

Croak is a beautifully coloured grippli, with bright pink and purple skin. Her big, yellow eyes are so bright they practically glow. Her big wide mouth is always curved up in a happy smile. She wears a bright yellow tunic with a belt made of vines. She has a blowgun on her belt, along with a LOT of darts, some vials, and a light flail. She wears a backpack which she’s drawn on with chalk to make look fancy (it mostly looks messy). She taps her toes while she waits, wiggles her fingers, and flicks her tongue around. She never seems to stop moving.

Croak’s a hyperactive, bouncy little thing that’s constantly moving and talking. She’s impulsive, impatient, and finds it difficult to settle. She loves to climb, swim, and play. She’s a very mobile and acrobatic fighter, cartwheeling, dancing, and diving across the battlefield. This makes her a big target. But, she doesn’t mind! They’ll never catch her! Especially once she’s tangled them up in a net, or poisoned them!

Croak is the funny member of the team. She is naive, and boundlessly optimistic. She looks on the bright side of everything, even if she has to get pretty creative to find that bright side! She’s the team member who keeps everyone moving, and brings a smile on a dour day. She’s their spirit.

Croak grew up in a tribe of grippli who lived in the Mushfens of Varisia. Life there was hard! It required patience, and relied on stealth and camouflage. Croak did not fit in. She was bright, chipper, and NOISY! Plus, she never sat still. After a particularly disastrous fishing expedition involving sixteen butterflies, a rubber ball, a fishing net, and seven very upset grippli, Croak was cast out from her tribe.

It sucked! She was very upset! 

She travelled a lot after that, and had a lot of trouble fitting in. Lots of people thought she was WEIRD. But, in time, she made new friends. They didn’t mind that she never sat still. After all, they were always travelling anyway! And Croak never slowed them down. They didn’t mind that she squirmed around and bounced through the battlefield. She was a very distracting target! They didn’t mind that she talked all the time. They didn’t even mind her singing! Well, okay, maybe they minded her singing. She couldn’t really be sure when she was singing, after all. She was rather loud.

Croak loves to explore nature with her friend Pinesong Rippleroot. She loves to go swimming with her friend Sereia. And she loves to make discoveries in cities with her friend Lomo. 


With my daughter’s character made, we sat down to work on my son’s: Pinesong Rippleroot.

Advanced Race Guide
Aquatic elves, grippli, ratfolk and vanara can all be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide along with a ton of other fun and exotic playable races!

In his original character pitch, my son decided to make an eco-conscious vanara druid with a stumpy tail and hair growth issues. He kept his character concept the same, but while creating his backstory he decided he would have a pet pig. While we explored the druid class and its archetypes together, we also checked out some similarly themed classes, including the shaman, and nature-themed oracles, sorcerers, and witches. Although he loved the idea of a lot of the druid’s abilities, he fell in love with the idea of using his pig as a spirit animal. He debated for a time, but in the end decided that Pinesong Rippleroot would be a shaman. (Vanara can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide. Shamans can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Class Guide, sorcerers can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook, while oracles and witches can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide).

Pinesong is incredibly wise and nimble. He’s surprisingly charismatic and friendly. His final statistics are Str 10 / Dex 16 / Con 10 / Int 10 / Wis 16 / Cha 14. As a vanara, he has a thirty foot base speed,  20 foot climb speed, and low-light vision. He’s nimble, and gains a +2 bonus on his stealth and acrobatics checks. Pinesong gave up his prehensile tail ability and instead chose risky troublemaker, which lets him roll twice on his use magic device checks. He speaks Common and Vanaran. As a shaman he forms a bond with a single spirit, which grants him magic spells, abilities, hexes, and other benefits. He also has a magical spirit animal who acts as a conduit between himself and his spirit. My son immediately decided to select the nature spirit. This would grant him some nifty plant and animal themed spells and abilities. Right now it lets him use the spell charm animal as his spirit magic spell, and create little hindering storms around his enemies with the storm burst ability. It also allows his spirit animal (a pig named Cutie Pie) the ability to move through any undergrowth and natural difficult terrain without penalty or harm. Shamans are prepared casters, so for his first adventure he chose to prepare daze, detect magic, stabilize, cure light wounds, and goodberry.

My son chose to invest his skill ranks into acrobatics, climb, knowledge (nature), survival, and use magic device. He’s also naturally good at stealth. There’s a lot more skills he wants to invest in at higher levels, including handle animal, knowledge (arcana), and spellcraft. For traits he selected dangerously curious, which gave him a +1 bonus in use magic device and made it a class skill, as well as reckless (that’s a pretty popular trait in my house!). (Dangerously curious can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Campaign and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide). For feats he chose weapon finesse.

When it came time to buy his gear my son knew exactly what he wanted. Pinesong adores fancy, complicated objects, which my son wanted to reflect in his gear choices. He purchased a light crossbow and lamellar cuirass. (Lamellar cuirass can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Equipment and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Combat). Of course, Pinesong also tries to make his own gear — and does a horrible job at it. He uses hand carved wooden stakes for his melee weapon, and wears a braided belt of grass and vines. For his other gear he invested in some basic adventuring equipment, a vial of acid and a flask of holy water.

Pinesong Rippleroot is a chubby, vanara with a bulging tummy, thin white fur, and a short stubby tail. His eyes are much too big, which makes them look like they’re bulging out of his head, but his smile is wide and happy. His hair on the top of his head is styled into an outlandish hair do! It looks very odd! With every breeze his fur moves around, showing off his many bald spots. 

Pinesong wears a belt he fashioned himself from a braided vines and grass. There’s a wooden stake hooked onto it, and a belt pouch. On his back is a crossbow and a backpack, and over his chest he wears some odd looking armour made of little squares that he thought was fascinating! He does not wear pants or shoes.

Pinesong was always a strange vanara. He was born hairless, with massive, bulging eyes, and a short stunted tail. The other vanara thought he was hideously deformed! As he grew it didn’t get any better. His hair never grew in, his tail never got longer, and his eyes? Well, they got bigger, but that just creeped everyone out more. Eventually, the tribe could take it no more and Pinesong (whose birthname is Bug-eye Manycurse) was abandoned. He was still a child then, but he took to life in the forests with enthusiasm. The birds never complained or called him ugly. The bugs never screamed when he came to play with them. The animals became his friends, and the wilds his home. He was happy, and free. In time, Pinesong’s hair did grow in. It’s very thin, and a good breeze shows off his many bald spots, but he’s very proud of it. He keeps it long and refuses to trim it, worried that it won’t grow back. He brushes it all the time and styles it in outlandish hair-dos. His tail is still too short, and never really grew in. He’s also quite chubby and big for a vanara, with a bulging tummy, and a wide, happy, face.

Eventually, Pinesong reached the edge of the woods and found something amazing! A TOWN. They had homes made from dead trees, and could shape the earth into little cute rectangles for making things! Apparently they were called bricks and they were not for throwing. Pinesong was fascinated! He moved in right away, but still finds the ways of the city strange. He doesn’t understand why they get mad when he sleeps on rooftops. Or why they greet him with shrieks and screams. His concepts of ownership are, admittedly, in need of some work. They offered him a home at this place with barred windows, but he got bored so he left. They didn’t like that very much. He loves trying to build beautiful things like the city folk do, but he’s horrible at it. His inventions always malfunction and break, usually causing him to hurt himself. A minor price to pay for mastering a craft! 

In time, Pinesong made some great friends. There was a grippli who was delightfully exciting! She thought his big eyes were beautiful, which made him blush all the way to the tips of his wonderfully styled fur. There was an elf who could breathe water! A feat he’d like to accomplish one day! And there was a ratfolk who knew the many intricacies of city life which so eluded him. 

One day he found a little pig who was being chased by naughty children with sticks! Pinesong swooped in to save the pig, and he hasn’t left his side since. He’s decided to call the pig ‘Cutie Pie.’ Pinesong loves his curly little tail and his happy squeals. Pinesong was very surprised to find that Cutie Pie is magical! When he asks Cutie Pie for magical power, nature listens, and the magic flows up into Cutie Pie and into Pinesong. It’s pretty cool!

Despite his newfound fascination with city-life, Pinesong cares deeply for the natural world. He wants to protect the many animals, plants, and delicate eco-systems of Golarion. He has a soft spot for lost things, foundlings, and orphans of all kinds. He’s a happy fellow, with a jolly, screeching laugh. He’s a bit oblivious to the intricacies of society, and the cultures around him, but loves learning about such things. He’s constantly trying to make friends, even though most people are creeped out or irritated by him. Despite his goofy demeanour, Pinesong is uncommonly wise, and his group of friends often turn to him for advice, comfort, healing, and guidance.


I chose to make an aquatic elf by the name of Sereia whose curiosity got her abandoned on the surface. (Aquatic elves can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide, while extra class options for them can be found in Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea). I had originally intended to make Sereia an arcanist. I’ve never had a chance to make an arcanist before, and I was quite excited for the chance.

When I sit down to make characters I come up with a character concept first, then I browse through all the different classes and archetypes that I think might work for them and take notes on which ones I like, why, and how that class choice would affect my character concept. Sereia was no different. As I went through arcanist and a bunch of other casting classes, I decided two extra important things: she would have poor charisma and use a trident. Arcanists sort of need charisma, so I had a bit of an issue. In addition, both of my children had chosen ranged options, and I knew we’d be in need of a melee fighter of some sort. In the end, I decided to make Sereia a magus. It blended my arcane magic with some decent combat capabilities in a way that I enjoy. In addition, I don’t have a magus in PFS play (although I do have a ranged magus in a different play-by-post), so I was excited to get the chance to use one. Arcanist will have to wait for another time. Again. (Poor arcanist!). I decided to give her the hexcrafter archetype.  The hexes would which would give her some fun ranged options and, in terms of flavour, Sereia believes herself to be cursed. I liked the idea of reflecting that in her class choices. (The magus and the hexcrafter can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Magic).

Blood of the Sea
Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea includes class options and racial traits for a wide variety of aquatic races, including the aquatic elf.

Sereia is smart and strong. She’s nimble — though not nearly as much as her companions — and is relatively healthy. She’s impulsive, and prone to acting before thinking. She’s unused to interacting with surface races. Her final statistics are Str 16 / Dex 14 / Con 12 / Int 16 / Wis 10 / Cha 8. As an aquatic elf she’s amphibious, has a base speed of 30 feet, and a swim speed of thirty feet. She’s a naturally gifted arcane caster, and has keen senses. She took the deep sea dweller alternate race trait which gives her dark vision and cold resistance at the expense of low-light vision and her elven immunities. She speaks Aquan, Common, Celestial, and Elven. As a magus she has an arcane pool, spellbook, cantrips, and the spell combat ability. Her archetype adds a variety of curse spells to her spell list, although at the moment she only has brand in her spellbook. At higher levels she’ll also gain access to a variety of witch hexes. The level one spells I chose to add to her spellbook include colour spray, grease, hydraulic push, obscuring mist, shield, and shocking grasp.

I had such a wide array of skills I wanted Sereia to be able to use that I had a hard time narrowing it down. In the end I invested skill ranks into disable device, knowledge (arcana), linguistics, perception, spellcraft, and swim. At her next level up she will diversify a lot, spreading out her ranks to a wide variety of new skills. I chose to give her criminal (disable device) and observant (perception) for her traits, and arcane strike for her feat. In addition to basic adventuring gear I bought her a trident, darts, a few vials of acid, leather armour, and thieve’s tools.

Sereia is a calm and proud aquatic elf with blue skin, long white hair, and a wiry frame. Constantly hot and feeling like typical surfacer clothes are suffocating her, Sereia wears as little clothes as possible to remain ‘decent’ in public. Typically this consists of tiny, tight shorts, a crop top, a belt, sandals and a backpack. While on missions she adds leather armour. She wears golden earrings, and an elaborate golden hair piece — ancient Azlanti relics she scavenged herself on an expedition made before she was cursed. She also wears a thick necklace of shell and coral which her sister made her many years ago. In her hands she carries an elaborate trident.

Sereia is descended from a long line of aquatic elf explorers who ply ancient, sunken ruins in search of relics. The exploration of these locations, and the handling and care of the treasures and lore found within is considered a great honour. However, her people take great pride in knowing when a dangerous ruin, or powerful artifact should be left untouched, and unsullied. Insatiably curious, Sereia revelled in the joy of discovery, and earned a place of respect among her people. For a time. For Sereia’s greatest strength was also her weakness. She was too curious. Too ambitious. Too bold. And it was her downfall. When her exploration team discovered a ruin marked with ominous sigils, they labelled it taboo. Off limits. But Sereia forged ahead. She discovered a strange pearl on an altar, literally pulsing with magical energy. Where others would have backed down, she reached out… and touched it.

Her world fell apart.

The pearl transported her to a strange place where the seafloor was hard, and the oceans were hot air that burned and cracked her skin. She could breathe — thank the gods! — but swimming was off limits with water nowhere in sight. She learned to walk, an exhausting experience, for never before had her body felt so heavy. 

And there, on the surface of Golarion, Sereia faced a harsh reality. She had been reckless. She had broken taboos. She had been banished by her own foolishness. Even if she found her way home, she would not be welcome. Not without penance. She needed a great offering for her people. An ancient relic that belonged under the waves, which she could return to her people with pride. And so she set out to acquire such a prize, and — impossibly — find her way home.

Sereia is calm, proud, ambitious, and bold. She’s insatiably curious, and deeply interested in relics, history, and exploration. Since her recklessness brought her to the surface, Sereia believes herself to be cursed by her ancestors or her people’s gods. She was distant and aloof for a very long time, and still seems to be among strangers.  She tries to temper her recklessness and curiosity by ponderously thinking things through. A strategy much harder to use since she befriended her strange new friends.

Sereia joined the Pathfinder Society as an excavator and a scholar. She went on missions, but made few friends. She was aloof, and distant. Her fellow agents found her strange — particularly her habit of eating everything raw. She never sought companionship, but in time, it found her. 

She met a grippli as curious as she was, who made no effort to reel in her excitement and urges. She met a vanara with a respect for the natural world as deep as her own. And she met a ratfolk who didn’t seem to care he had no place in the world. They befriended her. Changed her. Inspired her. And, in time, she changed them. She sponsored their entry into the Pathfinder Society, and now they work together as a single, very strange, team. With their help, the ancient relic Sereia needs in order to return home has never been closer. 

And she’s never wanted it less. 

For, what need was there to earn a prize to return home, when she had a family right here in Absalom?


My husband went last. He usually does. It takes him a long time to decide not only on what he’s going to be, but also to come up with some engaging, fun quirks that will keep him interested in his character. In his original character pitch he decided to make a nimble ratfolk shifter name Lomo who chews on everything (including magical objects). He’s stayed very close to that concept. He’s a shifter with the mouse aspect (which will look like a rat in play). (Ratfolk are from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide, while the shifter is available in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness). He’s incredibly nimble. He’s also quite cunning, intelligent, and hardy. His final statistics are Str 10 / Dex 18 / Con 12 / Int 13 / Wis 14 / Cha 10.

s-l300
The shifter class can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness.

As a ratfolk, Lomo is slow, but has darkvision. He’s good with rats, and enjoys tinkering with stuff. He gave up his swarming racial trait to instead have bulging cheek pouches that he likes to hide tasty bits and bobs in. As a shifter he has sharp retractable claws, wild empathy, and (as previously mentioned) the mouse minor aspect, which gives him evasion. He chose the feat weapon finesse, and intends to take shifter’s edge feat tree in the future. He’s a nimble, scrappy shifter, not a bruiser.

Lomo invested skill ranks into acrobatics, climb, knowledge (nature), perception, and stealth. For traits he chose ratfolk avenger, a trait from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Races which gives him +1 damage against enemies he’s seen attack his companions. He’s very protective of his friends! He also chose sacred touch.

Lomo is a rough looking ratfolk with thick gray fur, bright beady eyes, and soft ears. His cheeks bulge out, as if filled with something, and he nibbles on the end of a fancy looking stick. His long hairless tail is crooked from a magical mishap suffered long ago. 

Lomo is the eldest son of a powerful and well-respected wizard. His father once took great pride in passing on his magical teachings and excellence to Lomo, who proved completely and totally ungifted in the arcane arts. Disappointed in his son’s failure, Lomo’s father gave up on him, and began training Lomo’s younger brother instead. Jealous, Lomo spent his nights sneaking into his father’s arcane laboratory and library, desperately trying to make the various wands and magical devices work. He failed. A lot. In frustration he gnawed on the objects he failed to activate. A horrible trait which eventually became habitual. To this day Lomo’s constantly chewing on things — including valuable magical objects. One night he found himself chewing on a powerful artifact of his fathers, which crumbled to pieces in his mouth. Horrified and unable to fix it, Lomo set off to find someone who could. 

He left with his friend, Croak, and eventually became companions with Pinesong and Sereia. When Sereia offered to sponsor their entry into the Pathfinders, the trio took her up on her offer. Now the group works together. He’s become very protective of them and, whenever they’re hurt, he tends to shriek “OH, NO YOU DIDN’T!” and go a little… feral.

Lomo desperately wants to be a member of the Dark Archives, but keeps getting turned down. They won’t let him anywhere near the relics. Still, he’s hopeful he’ll not only get in, but he’ll come to lead them one day! Despite his troubles with the Dark Archive, Lomo’s a good Pathfinder Agent. He’s nosy, curious, and good at getting into places he shouldn’t.

Lomo is a nimble, scrappy ratfolk who is constantly gnawing on things — particularly magical objects. He’s greedy,  nosy, and a little self-centred — but not obviously so. He tries to be friendly, but it always comes off a bit desperate and awkward. He’s the street-wise member of the group. Lomo knows how the world works and how to get by in it.


And that’s our quirky crew! Together they would do…. stuff! But, that’s not it. In the contest we could choose to write a song for bonus points, which we did. Songs and poetry are not my forte. I love to sing (badly), play the piano (I’m not very good), and dance (with my family). And yes, a lot of the time I burst into spontaneous songs made up off the top of my head. But that doesn’t mean they’re any good. They’re usually jokes, or lullabies, or just a song about my kids, or what we’re doing. Writing a song is outside of my comfort zone. But, we went for it. My son wanted to add jokes into the song, and my daughter wanted it to have a lot of animal sounds (since we were nearly all animal people of one kind or another). And I just… sort of tried to put it together.

Our song’s a mess. Which is exactly how it should be. It’s a song written by Croak the grippli, and sung by the whole team. But, like any group of friends, a song’s not just a song. It’s interspersed with conversation, heckling, and a fair amount of confusion! It’s a song, but it’s also them singing it. Enjoying it. And messing it up. It’s a work in progress that will never be perfect. And even if it could be, they wouldn’t want it that way.


A super wonderful amazing song…

Everyone:
Croak! Croak! Oo! Oo! Ee!
We like swamps and we like trees!
Whee! Wahoo! Sniffle scrounge!
We like to play and we like to lounge!

Croak: “Wait! What? I don’t like to lounge! That’s boring!”
Lomo: “Nothing wrong with sitting still once in a while, Croak.”
Sereia: “Sniffle? Is someone sick?”
Croak: “Nope! That’s Lomo! His nose twitches like crazy.”
Lomo: “Hey! I’m not some hound dog, ya’ know!”
Pinesong: “Mmm… Treeeees… Oh, yeah! I love a good climb!”
Sereia: “Oh, dear. I’m not sure I can climb a tree. My limbs are far too heavy to — “
Croak: “Come on! Back to the song guys!”

Everyone:
Boing! Boing! Ribbit! Croak! Croak! Croak!
Time to splash and time to soak!
Nibble Nibble! Whisper! Sing!
We love adventure! What will the tomorrow bring?

Sereia: “We should call ourselves the Children of the Waves.”
Croak: “Waves? The swamp doesn’t have waves! Let’s call ourselves the Bog Jumpers!”
Sereia: “Bog? Ugh, that water’s filthy.”
Pinesong: “It’s not filthy! Bog’s are a very important eco-system, you know.”
Lomo: “Yeah, yeah. For bugs and junk, maybe. Let’s call ourselves The Rat Kings!”
Croak: “Kings? I want to be Queens!”
Sereia: “Rat Queens? That’s taken already, dear.”
Pinesong: “Aaaaand, cue the finale!”

Everyone:
Chitter, chatter! Talk, talk, talk!
We swim, we climb, we dance and walk!
We’re all different. We’re not the same.
But we’re all friends!

Croak: “Something, something… aim?”
Pinesong: “That’s not it! Think of something else… tame? blame?”
Sereia: “I don’t like any of those words. Let’s think positive.”
Lomo: “Pfft! Songs don’t have to rhyme! Conformity’s lame.”
Croak: “That did rhyme.”
Lomo: “Nope. Definitely didn’t.”
Sereia: “It certainly did.”
Pinesong: “I’ve got it! Everybody smile!?”

Frieeeeeeeends!

Croak: “Wow! Great job! That was an awesome ending!
Sereia: “The end is where we’re supposed to stop talking, dear.”
Croak: “Stop? Aww, shucks! I’ll stop when —“
Lomo: *nibble nibble*
Sereia: “Are you chewing on a stick?” *GASP* “Spit that wand out this instant!”
Lomo: “Hey, if it ain’t meant for chewing, its shouldn’t taste this good.”
Sereia: “No respect for history…”

(Note: The Rat Queens are an amazing fantasy comic book series which you should definitely read! It is by far my favourite comic book currently in print. Scratch that. It’s my favourite comic book EVER. So good! Be forewarned: it is not intended for children. The Rat Queens begins with Rat Queens: Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery.)


Despite singing about naming our group, they’re perpetually nameless. I highly doubt they’ll ever agree on a name for themselves.

So what’s this weird, wacky, nameless team up to?

We were lucky enough that a fellow play-by-poster offered to run us through our inaugural mission as Pathfinders! We’ll be starting Heroes for Highdelve online on Paizo’s website soon.

At the request of our GM, and in order to better link ourselves to the plot line of Heroes for Highdelve, each of us decided on a reason we were heading there, and something that we were seeking. Shockingly (not) my daughter managed to make hers include rabbits.

One day, Croak found a toy store that sold stuffed rabbits. Croak thought they were beautiful! So she bought one! But, she had trouble deciding which one was the prettiest so she bought a lot! She put them in her waterproof bag — so they wouldn’t get wet — and went about her business in town with Lomo. She danced and played, and climbed on roofs and wagons — and got scolded by the people who owned those things. Then she reached for a rabbit toy to play with it. BUT IT WAS GONE! Somewhere along the way Croak had put down the bag! She looked everywhere for it  and asked all kinds of people. Eventually she realized she had left it on top of a carriage! Croak tried to track down the carriage, but it was too fast! Adventure awaits! Croak has been following the wagon’s trail and tracked it to Highdelve. She hopes to find the carriage and get back her bag of stuffed rabbits! Who know what will happen along the way!

Pinesong recently helped out at an animal shelter, where he found homes for a variety of animals. Happy he was so helpful, Pinesong went out around town to check on the pets. Unfortunately, one of the people he sold some pigs to turned out to be a merchant who was on his way to Highdelve to sell the pigs to a butcher shop! Pinesong knows that people tend to eat meat, but those pigs were NOT for eating! They were for lovng! Pinesong has set out to stop the salesman from selling the pigs at the fair in Highdelve! (Or, to at least ensure they get sold to someone who won’t eat them!)

Sereia has recently been searching for a coral idol of Gozreh which was fished up out of a ruin off the coast of Andoran by an elderly fisherman. The idol was sold a few times before it got in the hands of an antiquities smuggler by the name of Jacobi. Always a few steps behind the idol, Sereia hopes to catch up the the smuggler in Highdelve so she can acquire the idol before it is sold. And, if she’s too late, she’s hopeful she can at least get the name of the person Jacobi sold the relic to.

While Lomo’s in Highdelve with his friends, he hopes to find a magical craftsman capable of fixing his father’s artifact. Having been let down before, he’s not hopeful.

Unbeknownst to Lomo his father’s artifact is, and always has been, a fake. It can’t be fixed, because it was never magical in the first place. And if it was? Well, obviously it would have taken something stronger than his teeth to break it. If only Lomo had paid a bit more attention to his father’s lessons…


NOW that’s it. The end.

Or, is it the beginning?

Either way, we’ve had a blast.

Thanks for joining us on d20diaries. I hope you have the opportunity to find a gaming group as great and fun-loving as I have.

All the best,

Jessica

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Pathfinder Playtest – Review

Welcome back to d20diaries!

Wow, finding the time to fully read the new Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook took longer than I expected! Well, not to read it, so much as to digest it. Understand it. Plenty of rules are different, so I had to really focus. Considering that I normally find time to read while overseeing screaming, bickering, playing, laughing, children of various ages (hey, moods change quick!), finding quiet time to get some reading done was more than a little difficult.

That said, I’m a quick reader. I finished it in about two days, then spent some time crafting characters in order to try out the creation process. Before I can take the time to teach my husband and kids how to play, I need to be able to explain it. Properly. Haha. After that I helped my family through the creation process, read through Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn (the first adventure we would be trying out), and we got to work playing.

It’s been a whirlwind! But a fun one.

And then I got sick. Still am.

LAME. Haha.

So whats on the agenda for today?

Today we’re going to take a look at Pathfinder Playtest. Not in depth — this isn’t a replacement for the rulebook. After all, the rulebook’s a free download. It’s my impressions, thoughts, and experiences. Things I’ve discovered, and even some questions I’ve got. Got an opinion of your own? Or an answer to a question I have? Let me know! This game system is brand new and we’re all learning together. Once you’ve had a chance to try out Pathfinder Playtest, be sure to head over to Paizo’s website and give them some feedback. They’re running surveys right now, and have forums up for you to share broader comments.

Ready? Let’s begin!

Pathfinder Playtest RulebookPathfinder Playtest is a new set of rules and gameplay for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended to streamline the game, while retaining its robust character creation options. Running combat, monsters, and characters should go smoother. Learning the rules from scratch should be easier. Levelling up should be simpler. The book and rules are supposed to be user friendly — even for those who don’t know how to play d20 games.

In theory.

Pathfinder Playtest features gorgeous cover art by Wayne Reynolds which showcases Seoni (the iconic sorceress), Valeros (the iconic fighter), and Fumbus (the iconic alchemist) battling a white dragon! Wait! Fumbus who? Fumbus the goblin alchemist. Thats right! Not only are goblins a core race, but alchemist is a base class. Both are available options to try out in the playtest.

Open the covers (or flip to the next page on the pdf) and you’ll find an introduction by the Paizo staff, followed by the overview. This is where you’ll learn what the heck a d20 game is and how to play. There’s also an overview of the basic terms used in the game, including a few that are new, an explanation of the modes of play, and a list of what you’ll need to play. This section was easy to understand, even for a layman, although not as easy as I expected. It’s a difficult read for my children, for example, and my son (who is more than capable of reading chapter books aimed at pre-teens, published adventures for d20 games, and other Pathfinder products) would definitely get bored and flip past a few pages. Would my teenage/adult siblings read it all the way through? …Tough to say. Probably not. It’s more likely they’d give it a skim and see how it goes. So… sort of an easy read. An easy read for this genre and its audience, I suppose.

Many of the terms in this chapter will be familiar to those of you who have played d20 games before, but even experienced gamers need to give this section a thorough read. Calculations for some of the familiar statistics are different, and there are some very important brand new game mechanics that are explained here. Be sure to pay extra attention to the types of actions, the modes of play, and proficiencies. We won’t get into them in too much detail right now, but for those of you who are curious, these three aspects form a huge part of the game.

There are three modes of play in Pathfinder Playtest. Encounter mode is what you enter when your every moment matters. This is used during a battle, for traps, ambushes, hazards, and anything else similar. You play encounter mode in rounds which are six seconds long, and encounter mode ends when the danger has passed. This is a huge part of the game and the rules. But, it’s not all there is to the Playtest. Exploration mode is used for any situation where you’re not in immediate danger, but you’re not entirely safe, either. This includes exploring a town, ruin, forest, or even a hallway between encounters. It’s what you’re playing in when you’re not fighting something. It’s more than just walking, or a segue between the ‘exciting stuff.’ Exploration mode has its own rules, and has proved quite fun around my house so far. Finally, there’s downtime mode, which is what you use when you’re completely safe.

There are three major kinds of actions in Pathfinder Playtest. Actions, free actions, and reactions. Pretty much all the game is based around this. Nearly every feat, ability, and spell that has a non-passive effect has a symbol beside it right near the top showing what it costs to use. Free actions are free, obviously, Reactions can be taken once per turn, even on your opponents turns, as long as its triggering conditions are met. An example of this is an attack of opportunity (which only fighters can utilize right away!), but there are plenty others for different classes and characters. Lastly, there’s actions. Everything takes actions. Moving, attacking, special attacks, spells and such. Most spells take two actions to cast, although some take one or three. Each turn during encounter mode you’re allowed three actions, and most things you can imagine take one. Walking forward, drawing a sword, and swinging it? Three actions total. Attacking, attacking, and attacking a third time? Three actions. And totally allowed (each successive attack in a round takes a cumulative -5 penalty).  Lastly, there’s proficiencies. Yes, this includes armours and weapons. But in the Playtest proficiencies also replace your base attack bonus, base saving throws, and skill ranks. If you’re trained in something you add your level to the rolls you make with it. If you’re untrained you add your level subtract two. If you’re an expert you add your level plus one, master is your level plus two and if you’re legendary you add your level plus three. For example, if you’re trained in athletics you roll a d20, add your proficiency modifier (your level), your strength modifier, and any other item or extra modifiers you have. Expert in your weapon? Add the expert proficiency (your level plus one), your ability modifier (strength for melee, dexterity for ranged), and any other bonuses from your items. Master at reflex saves? Add your level plus two, plus your Dexterity modifier, anything else special you might have and off you go.

Got it? Good! If not, read the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook!

After this we get into the fun stuff. Character Creation. The Playtest has a great step-by-step guide to making your characters. In short, you come up with a concept. Then you pick and apply their ancestry (race), background, and class. Each of these will increase some of your ability scores, but you also gain four increases to apply as you see fit. Once you’ve finalized your ability scores, select your trained skills and do some simple math to make it all come together. Spend your coin (150 sp), pick your spells (if you’re a caster) and fill in all your finishing details. Done. Relatively simple. The levelling up process is also simple, as well.

After this there’s an easy to follow example of how you make your ability scores. As I previously mentioned, ancestry, background, class, and your personal preference all play a part. So how does it work?

For starters, you need to know how much to increase an ability score. Increases are referred to as an ‘ability boost’. If the score you’re increasing is under 18 you increase it by 2 points. If it’s over 18 you increase it by 1 point. At character creation, you cannot make a character with over 18 in any one ability score, so all of your boosts will be increasing your ability scores by +2.

When you create a character all of your ability scores start at 10. Now you pick your ancestry. Most will give you two ability boosts that are applied to a specific ability, one ability boost that you can apply as you see fit (called ‘free’), and one flaw (which is a -2 in a specific score). For example, dwarves get ability boosts to Constitution, Wisdom, and Free. They also suffer an ability flaw to Charisma. Humans are different from most races in that they receive no flaw, and no specific ability boosts. Instead they get two free ability boosts, which can be applied at your whim.

Now that you know what to increase you apply it. However, there is a limitation. During each step that you apply your ability boosts, you must apply each to a different ability. In our previous example with dwarves, that means you’re getting +2 Con, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and a +2 to be added to any other ability score (Str, Dex, or Int). The next time you apply your ability scores you can increase any scores you want, but again, only one time each in that phase.

Backgrounds grant an ability boost in a single specific ability score chosen from a selection of two, and then grant a free ability boost. For example, acrobats get an ability boost to either Strength or Dexterity, and then a second ability boost that is free. Meanwhile, a barkeep gets an ability boost to either Constitution or Charisma, and then a second ability boost that is free. (This is not all that a background grants you, just the part that applies to ability scores). As mentioned before, during this step, each ability can only be boosted once. So, our example dwarf could apply the barkeep ability boosts to Constitution, and Strength, but couldn’t apply it to Constitution twice.

Classes offer a single specific ability boost to that classs’ key ability score. Alchemist’s increase Intelligence, bards increase Charisma, and so on. Some classes, like the fighter, can choose one of two ability scores to be their key ability score (in the case of fighters this is a choice between Strength and Dexterity).

Lastly (or second last if you choose to apply these before your class), you get four free ability boosts. You can assign these however you want — although each ability score can only be boosted once in this phase. Essentially this means that four different ability scores will increase by +2.

And that’s the ability score creation process. It’s quite simple when you get the hang of it, and can create a diverse array of balanced characters. There’s also a random generation method offered, for those of you who prefer to roll out your stats, but the characters they create will not come out as powerful as those created with the standard method. Still, it’s nice that its there.

After this we get into the chapter on ancestries and backgrounds. There are six major ancestries you can choose: dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, halfling, and human. Those of you looking to be half-elves or half-orcs will select ‘human’ as your ancestry, and then choose a heritage feat which allows you to be either of those two ‘half-breed’ races.  This method opens up a unique design space which has potential for an interesting take on some uncommon races when the full game releases next year.

Each ancestry grants you some ability boosts and flaws (as already noted). It also grants you some hit points (which you will only receive at first level), your speed, size, and languages. Some of them also grant you a vision type, or a single special ability. That’s it. You won’t be getting a ton of racial abilities built into your ancestry. I know, I know. This seems like you get so much less. In a way, at low level, you do get less. But, as you level up you also get more out of your race. You see, each ancestry has a list of feats to choose from that only members of that ancestry can select. This is where you’ll find a lot of familiar ‘racial’ abilities like weapon familiarity, ancestral hatred, stonecunning, sure-footed, and other such features that would have once been found under ones race. There’s plenty of new ones, as well. You start the game with one ancestry feat of your choice, and gain more as you level up. This allows you to make your ancestry work for your character as an individual. After all, not all elves are the same.

After I got over the initial shock of seeing ‘how little’ each race gave me, I gave the different ancestry feats a read and, in the end, decided I like this method. It’s adaptable, easy to use, and enjoyable. I found it worked well during character creation. I particularly enjoyed the gnome ancestry feats, so be sure to give them a read!

Pathfinder Playtest Doomsday DawnNext up is backgrounds. These represent the things your character did before becoming an adventurer. In addition to the ability boosts mentioned previously, each background grants you one skill feat and training in a single Lore skill tied to that background. What’s a lore? A lore is like a very specific knowledge skill. You can have lore in pretty much anything, as long as it has a very narrow focus. Examples include Vampire Lore, Desna Lore, Circus Lore, and Farming Lore. During downtime, lore skills can also be used to make an income. There are a lot of backgrounds up for offer in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook (nineteen!) and you can expect to see a whole lot more in the future. Each adventure path will offer new backgrounds that will tie your characters to the story. The Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is the first example of this, and provides a further six backgrounds to choose from. The Playtest Rulebook backgrounds include: acolyte, acrobat, animal whisperer, barkeep, blacksmith, criminal, entertainer, farmhand, gladiator, hunter, labourer, merchant, noble, nomad, sailor, scholar, scout, street urchin, and warrior. Although all of the backgrounds are equally ‘good,’ I particularly like the entertainer and the nomad, while my daughter enjoys the animal whisperer, and my son enjoys the warrior.

Past the Background we get to a short section on selecting languages. Players with very high intelligence scores will be surprised to find they don’t get as many languages as in Pathfinder First Edition, with an intelligence over 14 now granting a single bonus language!

Up next is the chapter on Classes. The classes available for the playtest include Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Despite these being familiar to you, each class has plenty of new features, and offers a lot of adaptability. In addition to hp, special abilities and a selection of class feats you can choose from in order to tailor your class to your character, each class also gives you proficiencies in saving throws, perception, and in various weapons, armour and shields. It also gives you a number of skills you can choose to be trained in. Spellcasters get spells, characters get abilities and so on. Now, you really need to read the classes to get a feel for them, so we’re not going to take too close of a look at them. What I will say is that each class we’ve tested in my house has turned out to be a lot of fun. My favourites include Bard (who can use some of their performances an unlimited number of times per day!), Sorcerer (whose spell list and type of magic is determined by their bloodline), and Paladin (who are just plain awesome!). My children particularly enjoyed the druid.

Next up is Skills. This chapter goes over each of the skills, how to calculate their modifiers, and what they can be used for. This is also where you’ll find the rules for crafting, performing and lore. Even experienced players need to give this chapter a read, as there are some changes to the skills. For example, grabbing, grappling and shoving are all tied to your Athletics skill. Yeah. Neat. Skills definitely do more for you now, than they used to. Also, anyone can make attempt any skill check. Obviously, they won’t all be as good at it, but the potential is there, which is nice. That said, some skills have uses that can only be used by characters trained in that skill, which is a nice feature.

After skills we get to the chapter on feats. Now, this section doesn’t have all the feats available in the book. Ancestry feats can be found under ancestries. Instead, it contains all the general, and skill feats available. This chapter is particularly important, because you will gain a LOT of feats.  Beginning characters start with two (at minimum!). One from your ancestry, and one from your background. Most classes grant at least one other feat (sometimes a class feat, sometimes a general or skill feat, and sometimes both). This is a wonderful surprise, which allows customization in a simple way.

After feats you’ll find Equipment. Pathfinder Playtest uses silver as the core coin (instead of gold) which means that the price of gear will be different than what you’re used to. There’s also been some changes to the armour, weapons, and weight systems — all for the better in my opinion! Definitely give the information at the start of this chapter a read before trying to spend your coin! Haha.

Past equipment you get into spells. This begins with a lot of important information about magic, spells, and how they work. Definitely don’t skip this part! Haha. There are four major spell lists: Arcane, Divine, Occult, and Primal. I’m fond of all of them. In addition, you’ll find tenth level spells. After the spell lists are spell descriptions. Amongst these spells you’ll also find a lot of class abilities that are cantrips, or run off of spell points. This includes domain powers, and bardic compositions (among others). Although I understand the purpose of including them here (in alphabetical order alongside the spells), it made it hard to make class choices. For example, if I’m looking for all the bardic compositions (which are a type of cantrip) I have to search through the entire chapter and read the spell traits to find them. There is no compiled list of bardic compositions and, as they are not class spells, they don’t appear on any of the Spell Lists. It’s a giant pain in the butt. Haha. I sincerely hope they find a better way to sort this in the future, cause all that sifting sucks. Not only that, it’s a drain on your time.

I also found (after a lot of jumping between chapters to hunt them down) that a lot of the domain powers weren’t as good as they used to be. Which is unfortunate. I’d gladly trade my cleric of Desna’s domain power from the Playtest with pretty much any other Domain power from First Edition. An unfortunate outcome! Still, it will take more playtesting to determine if it all balances out in the end.

Past this we come to a short chapter on how to level up your characters. In addition, you’ll find the rules for multiclassing and archetypes here. The system for this is very easy to understand, and allows for a lot of cool character concepts. Essentially, you can choose to take archetype or multiclass feats in place of your class feat at any given level — presuming you meet the feat requirements. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course, but not by much. It’s a simple, elegant way to handle multi classing and archetypes without causing characters to fall behind the powers of their peers. I really like it. Definitely give it a read!

Later in the chapter you’ll find the rules for animal companions, familiars, and gods. The rules in all of these categories were fun and easy to use, particularly the rules for familiars. We got ours created in only a few minutes! Wonderful! Of course, I did have questions. It’s specifically pointed out that you can only have one animal companion. But, this is not specified under familiars. Does this mean you can potentially have more than one? My son chose a gnome ancestry feat which granted him a familiar, and then later earned a vine leshy familiar from being a plant druid. Does this mean he gets both? I’ve yet to find a definitive answer, but if you’ve read an official answer somewhere, (or know the page its on that I’ve missed) let me know! I’d love to read the ruling. Another problem with familiars turned out to be damage. Although it mentions the attack rolls they can make, it doesn’t say how much damage one does if it tries to attack. This came up on one of our first combat rounds in our first playtest when my son sent his vine leshy to attack. He hit! And… we had no damage. Haha. I decided that it would do 1 damage unless I found an official ruling that says otherwise. Know of one? Let me know! We’d love to see it!

After this comes a very important chapter entitled ‘Playing the Game.’ Reading it is mandatory. Haha. It’s around 35 pages long and includes all the rules you need to play as a player, as well as the conditions found in the game. Important stuff.

After that is another very important chapter called ‘Game Mastering.’ This chapter includes everything you need to know to run the game as a GM (in addition to the content for players). This chapter is shorter — at only around twenty pages — but its also denser and more complicated. Admittedly, I had to go back and reread parts a few times, particularly regarding exploration mode, downtime mode, hazards, and DCs. I expect I’ll have to reference both this chapter and the ‘Playing the Game’ chapter plenty over the next year, as I get a handle on the rules. In my opinion, the game is easier to learn to play and GM that Pathfinder First Edition was, so I’m pleased, even if reading these chapters caused me a few headaches.

After this we come to (pretty much) the last chapter. Treasure. This is where you’ll find information on wealth, treasure distribution, special nonmagical gear, alchemical items, runes, trinkets, and magic items. There’s a lot of fun stuff in here that you’re going to love reading. I highly recommend discovering these on your own. I will say that I particularly enjoyed the addition of snares, and that I expect to make a character who utilizes them in the near future. I also really like the rune system for making magical weapons and armour. Its very similar to the fusion system in Starfinder.

Past this is the appendices and then the book is over.

That’s it, that’s all! But, that’s not all that I have to say. There are a few things I’d like to mention before wrapping up.

First: Hero Points. I loved them. Each character starts each session with one hero point, and can earn up to one extra each session as a player (for doing something awesome for the group like bringing snacks, tracking gear, or hosting the game) and one extra as a character (for doing something awesome in character like saving someone’s life, being generous, expert teamwork, or accomplishing an important task in game). These points can be used to save yourself from death, reroll a d20, or take an extra action. They’re useful, awesome, and add a great new element to the game. (My daughter’s determined to be the loot-tracker from now on in order to earn that extra point!).

Second: Dying. During our first play session, my husband’s character died. Quickly. All things considered, from the moment he fell unconscious at Dying 1, only a single full round occurred before he died. Two ill-aimed splash damage brought him to Dying 2, and then to Dying 3 with the second instance, and on his turn he failed his first and only fortitude save against death, which brought him to Dying 4: Dead. This was WAY too fast. Sure, he could’ve used Hero Points to save himself. If he had any. He had already fallen unconscious two other times that session, and had used up all his Hero Points. And he wasn’t the only one. My daughter also fell unconscious once during the session, and my son nearly did. Ouch! I found not only did we fall unconscious quite a bit, but we died too QUICK. For a lot of players, a dead character is an end to fun. Especially if your chances for recovery were so brief.

Third: Identifying Magical Items: After you realize something is magical (or alchemical), it takes an HOUR to identify the object. An HOUR. This means, that if you’re the kind of group who doesn’t rest unless its necessary, you can go an entire adventure without knowing what any of your treasure does. In fact, when we played Doomsday Dawn in my house, we went the entire first adventure without knowing what anything did. That means we didn’t get any use out of any treasure. At all. That’s absurd! Now, there are some ways for your characters to shorten this time to ten minutes (or evens shorter at higher levels), which is more manageable. Heck, I even understand the intent. If it takes more time and effort to identify magical objects, that makes them more special. They’ve got an air of mystery about them. That’s cool. But, if it takes so long to identify a healing potion, that without someone specialized in identifying magical or alchemical objects, the group can’t even figure out its a healing potion during their adventure, than what good is it? Now, I know plenty of players like to stop a LOT when they play. Maybe you’re even one of them. The group that gets loot or takes a few wounds and says, ‘We should head back and recover!’ or ‘We should go sell what we’ve found and come back!’ That’s fine. You won’t be hampered by this. But, I’m not that kind of player. Neither are my family or my friends. We very often take on entire missions until we HAVE to rest, due to our wounds. Or we HAVE to recover our spells. Or we’ve spent the whole day and our characters are actually sleepy. This is particularly true in Pathfinder Society missions, which very often occur in a single day on a timeline. This system strikes me as very problematic, unless you specifically ensure your groups always have a way to shorten it. But, why force a group to do so? That’s going to replace another skill or class feat they could have taken. It just… Reading the rules for identifying magical objects didn’t sit right with me. Then we made our characters, brought them to playtest, and it turned out to be both a problem and a handicap. An unfortunate occurrence which we’ve given feedback on.

Fourth: Resonance. This is your character’s natural ability to activate and utilize magical objects. You have a number of resonance equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier. You can invest resonance ahead of time in an object that grants a long-term effect, or spend resonance on the fly to activate a magical object upon use. It’s meant to help replace gear slots (head, hand, and so on). Kind of cool, right? Sure. Until you start counting it out. Want to wear a magical cloak? Cool, 1 point. Want to drink a potion? Cool one point! Wait! One point? What if you only start with one point? What if you’re dying and you have no points? A friend can’t even shove a potion in your mouth to save you?Sort of. When you’re out of points you can attempt to overspend resonance you don’t have in order to activate the magical object anyway. This is a flat check with a DC equal to 10 + the number of points you’ve overspent (including any times you’ve tried and failed). If you pass the magic works, and if you fail it doesn’t (and you can’t attempt to activate that item again until the next day). If you critically fail (roll a 1) you can’t attempt to invest any other magical items at all that day. Ouch! Resonance is of particular interest to alchemists, who need to infuse their alchemical items with resonance in order to craft them. Okay, I can see that, I guess. Particularly for potions and such. Luckily, alchemist’s get to base their resonance off of their Intelligence, instead of their Charisma. But why should the alchemist have to spend resonance to make an acid flask when a wizard can cast cantrip and deal comparable damage at will? Yeah, I get WHY. There’s plenty of justifications. It’s an item, they’re not spell casters, so on and such. But… I don’t know. Both resonance, and the alchemist’s reliance on it is one of those new rules that I read, and just didn’t sit right. So far in playtests around my house it’s been a bit of a problem. Our alchemist was out of resonance within the first fight and had to rely on overspending resonance the entire rest of the adventure. She didn’t critically fail, thank goodness, but if she had, her character would have been completely shut down. She literally would have had to punch people with her gauntlet (a bad idea with her low strength and poor AC) or throw a rock at them (another bad idea). And if a whole character can be shut down so easily (at low levels, at least), that’s probably a problem. Similarly, our dwarf started with no resonance at all. Feeding him a potion in order to save his life was a fifty-fifty chance the first time, with the odds getting worse from there. Considering how quickly he died when he fell unconscious, that’s brutal. Ugh. Now, that said, I haven’t play tested the game enough yet, to make a final decision on resonance. Maybe it’s better with other classes. Maybe it’s less trouble at higher levels. Maybe this is meant to show that magic items are rare and special, tying it into the length of time that it takes to identify them. Maybe we’re not meant to really use something like a healing potion at low level. Maybe other groups didn’t have trouble at all. But so far, it’s been trouble for our groups. I hope that’s not the case in the future. I’d be particularly interested to see how resonance has worked out for you. If you’ve got an experience to share let me know!

Fifth: Initiative. You don’t have one. Instead you initiative is based on your perception modifier. Occasionally, if your character is doing something specific, you can roll a different skill in its place. For example, if you’re swimming your GM might rule you can use Athletics as initiative this time, or stealth if you’re in hiding. And so on. I loved this.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Pathfinder Playtest so far. I like the changes they’ve made to the game system, character creation, and treasure. I like it a lot, actually. That said, I have some questions which need clarifying, and we did run into trouble. We felt it took too long to identify magical items. We felt resonance was too limiting — especially for alchemists. And we felt the that dying turned into dead way too fast. It’s a good game, and we’re going to play it a lot more over the next year so that we can turn our feedback in to Paizo and they can make this next edition the best that it can be.

At the moment, do I think it’s better than Pathfinder First Edition? …I don’t think I can answer that. It’s new, and going to take some getting used to. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing Pathfinder since before it was Pathfinder. It’s nostalgic and homey. You know? I think it would be unfair to compare the two in that manner until I completely get the hang of the new rules. That said, I can answer a similar question. When it comes down to it, I like Pathfinder better than Starfinder. But do I like Pathfinder Playtest better than Starfinder? …No. Not yet. Maybe one day. But, at the moment, the Drift’s got more sway over me.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed this short look at the Pathfinder Playtest, and my opinions on it. I’d really love to hear your opinions and experiences with the Playtest rules, so if you’ve given it a try be sure to leave a comment. If you haven’t downloaded the free PDFs for the Pathfinder Playtest I highly recommend you head on over to Paizo’s website and do so. It’s free! There’s not much you’ve got to lose. Haha. Those of you hoping to get physical copies can find them here: Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Deluxe Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn, Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack.

Until next time,
Jessica

Playtest

Summer Flies By! (And other news)

Well, it’s been a busy summer so far. We’ve visited family, celebrated birthdays, gone swimming, tended our garden, played at the park and… Well, frankly my allergies are acting up like CRAZY! Whoo, I feel horrible! Haha. Still, my kids are happy, and I’d rather get out and enjoy the summer than I would let it pass me by.

In gaming news we’ve had a chance to play the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path a few times, Reign of Winteronly once, Shackled City a few times (look for an update soon!) and haven’t had a chance to play Iron Gods at all (sad!). In fact, we haven’t had a chance to play Starfinder at home lately, either. (Double sad!).

A while ago my daughter asked me if I would start moving some of our d20 games online to play-by-post. She felt that she never got to play her many, many, many adventures and characters because when the weekend comes we only have time for one game, and it’s going to be one of the ones everyone agrees on. That means that we could go months without playing some of her characters.

“Pleeeeeeease, Mom?” she asked. “Some of my characters might as well be DEAD! I would rather play them one post a day than take no turns EVER! PLEEEEEEASE!?!?”

She’s a little dramatic, but she got the point across. Haha.

So, at my daughter’s request, we moved one of our ongoing family PFS games online and we moved our family Dead Suns Adventure Path online. My kids and I also have a lot of campaigns that involve only me and them. I told them they could choose one to move online for now. They gave this a great deal of thought and, although they have a ton of characters they enjoy playing, they also have campaign envy.

What?

Campaign envy.

Every time the grown ups play Mummy’s Mask, or Iron Gods, or Reign of Winter they are desperately jealous. A while ago they began their own Mummy’s Mask campaign and they’ve been begging me to let them start Iron Gods and Reign of Winter ever since. In the end, they chose the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path. I’m actually really excited, since they created a very entertaining group of characters that shook up our typical party dynamics. More details on that will come in an upcoming blog post.

In other news, Gameday VII will start in another few weeks, which is super exciting! I can’t wait! GenCon is coming up (for those of you lucky enough to attend such things), and Paizo recently released their Puzzle Hunt from PaizoCon online for mass consumption. No idea what that is? In short, its a series of Golarion-themed puzzles within puzzles that were given out at PaizoCon back in May. It’s a free download on their website, and you can talk about the puzzles with other gamers on the boards. I gave them a read and am actually super excited to try them out. It looks fun!

Paizo recently announced their upcoming Pathfinder Society Scenarios, which include the finale for Season 9 and the start of Season 10! They’ve also shared details on the next four Starfinder Society Scenarios. Soon we should get information on two new Adventure Card Game adventures, and the first three of their upcoming Pathfinder Playtest Scenarios! I can’t wait to get my hands on these beauties at the end of the month!

Speaking of the Playtest, there have been some awesome spoilers lately. My favourite turned out to be the BARD. Now, I’ve always had a soft spot for bards, so I was pretty sure I was going to love it no matter what they did. After reading their recent blog post on the topic I was elated! It’s got full spellcasting, performances are now a special sort of bard only cantrip called a composition (which means you’re not going to run out of music!), and some of the performances are reactions (counter song, here’s looking at you)! It’s just… awesome! I can’t wait to read the whole class!

Luckily, we don’t have much longer to wait. Pathfinder Playtest releases on August 2nd, along with the Doomsday Dawn Adventure, free maps to go with it, and a trio of Playtest Society Scenarios. I’ve had the good luck to join up with a group of play-by-posters who are going to be playing all three PFS scenarios in a row, which will give me a chance to try the game as a player. Meanwhile, I’ll be GM for Doomsday Dawn (and perhaps even the PFS Scenarios) for my family at home. I expect there will be a lot of characters being made around the house at that time, so who knows what we’ll end up playing with! It’s exciting.

Now I just have to find the time to read all of that…

Today I’m going to leave you with a photo my daughter took especially for d20 diaries. And yes, it has rabbits.

Enjoy

Jessica

d20diaries rabbit

SaveSave

SaveSave