Welcome back to d20 diaries! I hope you had a great weekend. With the start of this new week also comes a return to school for my children, a return to normalcy to many of my play-by-post campaigns and for us… a return to Wati.
That’s right! Our second game supplement is here!
Mummy’s Mask is a six part adventure path for Pathfinder, published by Paizo. Throughout the course of the the first two books, The Half-Dead City and Empty Graves, Wati acts as the players home base. This city is a colourful, quirky, fun locale, and I highly recommend making the most of it. Players who become invested in this city, and who make connections with its citizens right from book one will get much more enjoyment when Empty Graves comes around, than those who don’t.
Like most Pathfinder Adventure Paths, the back of The Half-Dead City has a great primer on its urban locale–in this case, Wati (of course). This article has all kinds of great locations, personalities and plot hooks. As is the case with any good adventure, there’s a ton of cool stuff! Unfortunately, that mean there’s not enough room to explore all the locations mentioned in the primer on Wati with any kind of detail. That is the job of the GM, and one I highly recommend GMs embrace. In order to help out with this, I’ll be posting a list of short social encounters and sights for your players to see throughout the city in the future, but today, we’re just going to focus on one: The Shrine of Wadjet.
After returning from their final foray into the Necropolis during Wati’s tomb lottery, my players were left with a stone tablet that makes mention of an ancient relic hidden in the ‘new city where the Asp and Crook join.’ Identifying this city and the age of the tablet was easy for them. Wati is the city where the Asp and Crook rivers join, mingling together to birth a new river, the Sphinx, the life-blood of Osirion. In fact, that’s why Wati was founded. To mark the birthplace of this holy river. As for the age, since the city is referred to as ‘new,’ clearly it’s referring to Wati’s founding, long before disaster struck the city.
Not content to assume that the location they found the tablet in was also the location of the ancient relic, my players rightly asked me a question: “What in Wati that survives today was part of its original construction?”
The answer? Lots.
With the lottery coming to a close, my players will no longer have access to the Necropolis. And it’s the Necropolis which contains Old Wati. The historic parts, the ancient parts… That’s all in the Necropolis.
Ammending the question to include only what they can access at the moment, they were left with only three locations: The Shrine of Wadjet, Ubet’s Folly, and the Whispering Stone. Knowing that two of the locations–the Shrine of Wadjet and Ubet’s Folly–are located on the banks of the River Sphinx itself, they seemed to be prioritizing these two locales.
Now, all three locations are mentioned in the primer on Wati, but none are detailed fully, leaving me with an opportunity to fill in these quirky locations.
So today we’re going to take a look at one of them, The Shrine of Wadjet.
The Shrine of Wadjet
Located upon the riverbank, just past the bustling Sunrise Market, is a small stone shrine with a single gold brick at it’s centre. Stairs lead from the shrine down into the river itself, disappearing underwater at the place where the Asp and Crook rivers conjoin, to birth the river Sphinx. Here you’ll find people from across Osirion bathing and praying, while countless locals draw their water from this site. Though faded and worn with age, ancient carvings of birds, snakes, scales and feathers can be seen upon this humble shrine, hidden beneath the grime of centuries.
Any of the locals nearby can provide your players with the following information:
This Shrine is ancient, and marks a holy site.
The River Sphinx is considered holy by citizens of Osirion. It’s birthplace–here, at the confluence of the Asp and Crook Rivers–is doubly so.
Locals of Wati draw their water from the base of the Shrine, if they live close enough.
Pilgrims come from all over Osirion to visit this holy site.
Unfortunately, more details on this Shrine are harder to come by. The following information can be discovered with the appropriate skill checks.
Knowledge (local) or Diplomacy to gather information:
DC 12 – All festivals in Wati begin or end at this shrine.
DC 15 – Wati’s temples all draw their water from the shrine and use it to make holy water.
DC 20 – Although created to celebrate the birthplace of the River Sphinx, this shrine is dedicated to an ancient river goddess, long since fallen into obscurity. Whoever she was, no priests in Wati remember her, and no clergy tends her holy shrine. Apparently her holy animals were birds and snakes.
DC 15 – No incidents of crocodile or snake attacks have ever been reported near the ancient shrine.
DC 20 – When Pharaoh Djedert II ordered Wati’s construction he laid a gold brick where the Asp and Crook meet to form the holy Sphinx River. The Shrine was built around this brick, by the cult of Wadjet.
DC 15 – Water drawn from the base of the shrine’s stairs under the sun of the summer solstice is said to have healing properties.
DC 20 – The shrine is holy to an ancient river goddess known as Wadjet.
DC 25 – Wadjet was worshipped in ancient Osirion and was considered to be the living embodiment of the River Sphinx. She was a teacher, a giver of wisdom and a protector of all peoples–from Pharaohs to commoners, and everyone in between. She was depicted in art as a snake-headed woman with wings. Her holy symbol was a uraeus, a two-headed cobra with feathered wings.
Players who pass this knowledge check can attempt to learn more about uraeus with a knowledge (arcana) check, the results of which are found later in this article.
Players who choose to inspect the shrine can discover the following with a perception check.
DC 15 – In addition to bird and snake imagery, there’s a strange symbol shown repeatedly in the shrine’s carvings–a two-headed cobra with feathered wings.
DC 20 – The gold brick that lays near the water line is covered in ancient hieroglyphs.
Players who speak Ancient Osiriani can read that the heiroglyphs are prayers marking the birth of the River Sphinx at the joining of the Crook and the Asp, invocations to Wadjet, and requests for Wadjet to bless the city founded in her honour at this holy site–the city of Wati. They also can see Pharaoh Djederet II’s name on the brick and the date it was placed: ’10th year of the rule of Pharaoh Djederet II, Summer of the Boiling Lake, Summer Solstice.’ This equates to the year -1608 AR, which is the year Wati was founded.
DC 25 – Within the shrine, directly above the golden brick, is a particularly prominent winged-snake carving. This carving conceals a hidden compartment. By pressing in the wings of the carving and succeeding at a DC 10 strength check, the entire snake body pops up a few inches. This twenty pound, thirteen inch long piece of stone can then be lifted up and out of the floor of the shrine. Inside is a hollow cavity that is four inches wide, two feet deep and shaped like the stone which was removed. Forgotten for centuries at the bottom of this hidden compartment is a magical amulet holy to the faith of Wadjet–a Uraeus Amulet.
Spellcasters using detect magic cannot discern the aura of the amulet while the compartment is closed, as there is more than one foot of stone surrounding the object on all sides.
Knowledge (arcana) can be used to learn more about uraeus’ after any player discovers carvings of them, discovers the amulet, or learns about them from the knowledge religion check found earlier in this post.
DC 15 – A uraeus is a magical beast native to Osirion’s rivers. They are intelligent and quite rare. They measure seven feet long and have a wingspan of approximately the same length. They weigh 150 pounds.
DC 20 – Both heads of the uraeus can spit venom from their mouths at a range of thirty feet and are particularly fond of aiming for their enemies’ eyes. This same venom is injected into their victims through their bite.
DC 25 – Uraeus are capable of speaking Aquan, Celestial, Common and Osiriani. They speak with a single voice that emanates from both heads at once. It is said that with proper offerings and a dedicated disposition a uraeus will take a supplicant on as a student, teaching them how to use the river’s bounty and serve their society.
DC 25 – Uraeus are protectors of rivers and waterways said to be birthed by the Ancient Osirion goddess Wadjet herself. They are highly territorial and protect their rivers from those who would harm them or make them unsafe for travellers.
The Uraeus Amulet Aura moderate abjuration; CL 6th; Slot neck; Price 5,500 gp; Weight 1 lb.
Attached to a gold chain, this gold and blue glass amulet is cast in the form of a uraeus–a two headed winged cobra. Whenever its wearer is affected by a fear effect, she may attempt a new saving throw at the end of her turn each round to end that effect. Furthermore, once per day on command, the amulet grants its wearer an aura of courage that lasts for 1 minute. This aura is otherwise identical to the aura of a 3rd level paladin. Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, bless, remove fearCost 2,750 gp
NOTE: The uraeus amulet was originally published in Wayfinder: Volume 12: Osirion: Ancient Sands as the ‘djed pillar amulet’ in an article entitled ‘Heroe’s Hoard: Bajaba’s Beetles and Reeds,’ by Joe Kondrak. Wayfinder is a fanzine available as a free pdf download on Paizo’s website (some are available in print but are no longer free). Volume 12 is available here. I highly recommend downloading this one if you’re going to be running Mummy’s Mask, as there are plenty of useful articles, items, and even a few short adventures that can be easily added into the campaign. And if you’re not running Mummy’s Mask? Download it anyway! It’s free and a great read.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our little trip into Wati today. We’ll visit again in the future.
I love to GM. As mentioned already on this blog, I do it a lot, but mostly for my children. Playing d20 games with a five and six year old is considerably different than playing with a group of adults. Currently, there’s only two games I play face-to-face that do not involve my kids: Mummy’s Mask and Reign of Winter. I GM both.
It’s been weeks since we’ve played, but that’s understandable. November and December are a time full of birthdays and holiday events in my family. Add to that all of us suffering through a weeks-long illness and it’s no wonder my beloved games have been put on a bit of a pause.
We play on Friday nights: Reign of Winter when my brother’s free to join my husband and I, or Mummy’s Mask when both he and his wife are available. Our kids spend the evening playing and watching a movie before heading to bed for the night, and we have a few rare hours of adults-only d20 gaming.
And tomorrow, FINALLY, we’re playing Mummy’s Mask! Needless to say I’m excited.
One of the things I enjoy about GMing and playing is the environments you can create. With a simple description and a series of short social interactions it’s easy to make each city and town feel different and memorable. But a city’s not just buildings and climate, it’s also the is people who live there. Not just the few NPCs who hold plot-hooks, but all of them. From the lowly baker to the mayor’s foppish cousin, I love making an eclectic cast of NPCs for my players to interact with. Shopkeeps have names and families, minor social encounters occur when travelling through cities, and even that random urchin who tries to con you out of a few coppers has a name and a friend or two. I don’t expect the group to interact, befriend, or get into deep conversations with all of them, but I find it’s enriching for them to be able to. To know that they can. Every once in a while there’s an NPC who becomes special to them. Maybe it’s the baker’s daughter who’s been dumped by her boyfriend, the crime-lord’s bodyguard who they try to entice into switching sides, or the down on his luck priest whose temple is in need of repairs. And nothing makes side characters more memorable than a few lines of dialogue and an image to represent them.
Mummy’s Mask is a campaign bursting with opportunity for NPCs. Right at the beginning of the campaign the group stays at a local inn, the Tooth and Hookah. Run by a husband and wife duo, this hookah bar and watering hole is also home to tables staffed by merchants, and a tiny crocodile who lives in the well named Toothy. Now, what player’s NOT going to want to talk to the innkeeper when he’s got a croc in his well? Answer: none.
Beyond their base of operations, the PCs join a lottery put on by the church of Pharasma. Run by it’s High Priestess, a woman with green painted lips known as Sebti the Crocodile, even this distant personality is bursting with interesting quirks. There’s also gate guards and patrols of Voices of the Spire, militant Pharasmins who patrol the Necropolis the tombs are found within.
And the most fun, exciting NPCs to make in the early days of this campaign? The other lottery entrants. See, this campaign is special. Your players join a lottery where the right to explore ancient tombs is handed out to registered groups of adventurers by draw. Some of these groups have a chance to interact with your PCs. And what’s more fun than making a bunch of adventuring parties for them to socialize with?
Playing, obviously, but making adventuring parties is pretty cool, too.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post: GM Aids.
Periodically I’ll post supplementary information, images, encounters, locations and side-trek adventures intended to be used in published campaigns. Today’s focuses on the many NPCs–especially the rival adventuring groups–found in the first book of Mummy’s Mask.
So without further ado: let’s get rolling!
Mummy’s Mask is an adventure path printed by Paizo Publishing which takes place in the town of Wati, within the desert nation of Osirion. A six-part adventure path, the first of these volumes is entitled The Half-Dead City and is written by Jim Groves. Additional details on the city of Wati are included in this book, written by Crystal Frasier, while a short story in the back of the book that uses the Tooth and Hookah as a backdrop is written by Amber E. Scott. A player’s guide for this campaign is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here.
The Tooth and Hookah
One of the places players of Mummy’s Mask are going to visit most often is the Tooth and Hookah. This affordable little establishment will become their temporary home. A place for them to sleep, eat, rest, get out of the sun and to plan. Owned by a Garundi fellow named Farhaan, the Tooth and Hookah, its owner, and it’s delightful little crocodile mascot, Toothy, are given a bit more detail in the short story found at the back of the Half-Dead City. For my version of this campaign we gave Farhaan a wife, Maatkare, a meek but hardworking woman who busies herself around the Tooth and Hookash as a cook and waitress.
Along one wall of the Tooth and Hookah are a few tables available for rent by merchants and peddlers. These merchants aren’t detailed, so I got to make some additions. At the start of the campaign these tables are staffed by Mila Ansretti, a friendly Varisian traveller who loves the vast deserts of Osirion and makes a living selling maps, books, herbs and scarves of all kinds; and Ishpi, an awkward young man who (poorly) sells hand beaded jewelry created by his ailing grandmother. Later in the book Jarha Psenmin joins the merchants here, loudly shouting at patrons and acting like your typical pushy, market haggler–though this one deals in potions! Jarha doesn’t last long at the Hookah, and moves on to the Sunburst Market after only a single evening. If no one’s given Mila a reason to stay at the Hookah, she moves on by the end of this book, finding a new location to sell things in Wati.
For entertainment, the Tooth and Hookah features performances by Wahka, a sleazy half-elven bard who secretly lusts after Maatkare, and Senja Messeniah, a streetwise, lesbian belly-dancer who is good friends with Farhaan.
The Grand Mausoleum
Wati’s temple of Pharasma is incredibly large and has a lot of political power. It’s called the Grand Mausoleum, and is the organizer of Wati’s Necropolis lottery. Each day of the lottery sites are drawn and announced by High Priestess Sebti, pictured in the sidebar. Sebti is detailed thoroughly in the Half-Dead City adventure and the article on Wati later in the book. She’s helped by some acolytes which are undetailed. In my campaign these acolytes are Henna, a scribe who handles all the lottery’s record keeping and can sometimes be found working as a secretary at the Grand Mausoleum, and Ammon, a charismatic mysterious fellow who handles inquiries and explains the details of the lottery and their site with the PCs while Sebti continues with the lottery.
Other NPCs added into the Grand Mausoleum are Elder Neferaba, one of the oldest and most respected clerics in the temple, and Inet, a young woman with no formal education who works as Sebti’s personal secretary.
There’s one more member of the Grand Mausoleum who is written directly into Mummy’s Mask. Introduced with full character art and given a thorough backstory, Ptemenib is found in the second book of this adventure path, Empty Graves, he’s a colourful character your players are bound to love. I highly recommend introducing him right from the start. In addition to being found at the Grand Mausoleum, Ptemenib could also be spotted at the Tooth and Hookah spying on a suspicious patron he suspects of being a member of the Silver Chain (a local gang of smuggler’s who operate within Wati and it’s Necropolis). Ptemenib is joined by his (invisible) friend, a nosoi psychopomp by the name of Qasin.
The Voices of the Spire
The Necropolis is under the control of the Voices of the Spire, a militant wing of the Church of Pharasma, led by the Commander of Voices, Nakht Shepses. Nakht is a character written into books one and two of Mummy’s Mask (though no art was provided for him), and is destined to butt heads with Sebti and the player characters in book two, Empty Graves.
Only one member of the Voices is given a name and artwork, Bal Themm, a woman who guards the front gates to the Necropolis and is introduced in book two, Empty Graves. Bal is easy to include right from the start, as the players walk right by the gate guards twice a day while they’re in the lottery. Starting professional, Bal can grow to respect the group for their accomplishments in the Lottery and even become a friend and source of information. By the time she needs their aid in the second book she’ll already be a companion–or at least remembered–and her fate will have more of an effect on the group.
The Half-Dead City makes mention of Voices of the Spire patrolling the Necropolis and performing inspections during the lottery. However, no other Voices are detailed. In my campaign we added in Shenanda, an experienced Voice who is professional and serious. She’s also Bal’s superior, and Nakht’s lover. Working with Shenanda is a nervous new recruit to the Voices, Menes. Although Menes looks up to Shenanda, he thinks that Commander Shepses is too proud, and needs to treat his lower-class subordinates better. Other Voices on patrol in the Necropolis include the young dwarf Ankhet, the stern female oread Faiza, and the charming and flirtatious Sebkay.
The Scorched Hand
There’s a lot of adventuring parties mentioned in the Half-Dead City. Most are little more than a title and a sentence or two of information, but one of them, the Scorched Hand, are destined to play a major role in this adventure. A group consisting of three followers of Nethys and their sword for hire, the Scorched Hand are introduced in a scripted social encounter that takes place after the first day spent in the Necropolis. I recommend utilizing them at least once more, either before or after that encounter as a social interaction. Make Velriana brush against them while passing by your players in the streets and demand they apologize to her for the insult! Or have them show up at a market stall while your players are trying to purchase an item and insist upon buying that same object–for a bit more coin. Small clashes like this will make the Scorched Hand a group to remember. By the time your players spot Velriana’s feathered hat in the final part of this adventure, they’ll know exactly who they’re about to butt heads with–again.
The Scorched Hand is lead by a pompous, Taldan noble who worships Nethys, Velriana Hypaxes, a wizardess with attitude to spare and ostentatious fashion sense. Her second in command is Khelru, a cleric of Nethys who began life as a peasant and slowly worked his way through the clergy. Khelru’s the only member of the Scorched Hand that Velriana respects. Khelru’s lover is a spoiled, nobleman by the name of Azaz Arafe. Azaz is infatuated with Khelru and converted to Nethys’ faith in order to impress the clergyman. Azaz is a wizard–a poor one–and has a scorpion familiar. Velriana thinks he’s useless–and isn’t shy about showing her feelings. Idorii is a half-elf mercenary hired by Velriana to protect her, then the rest of the Scorched Hand. Idorii sympathizes with Azaz, and thinks Velriana’s stuck-up, but business is business, and Velriana’s the one paying her.
Another group conceptualized in the book but lacking details are the Cryptfinders. They’re a group who met in Absalom, the City at the Centre of the World, and joined up specifically for the purpose of entering Wati’s lottery. Including members from throughout the world, the Cryptfinders are lead by a roguish, womanizing bravo by the name of Falto. Falto is joined by Ilpatrus Nexonus, a Nexian summoner who looks down on other magic users (and barely notices non-magic users). Hesham ibn Gathbiyya is a Qadiran cleric of Sarenrae and the group’s healer. He hates undead and tries to convert everyone he meets to his faith–an unpopular habit in a town so controlled by the Pharasmin clergy. Their final member is Vittoria Etrovain, a Chelaxian cavalier that worships Asmodeus and despises every woman Falto interacts with. The Cryptfinders are present at a single scripted social encounter and, like the Scorched Hand, benefit from additional social interactions. A fellow wizard could study alongside Ilpatrus, the players could come across Falto making a scene as he duels a few local men over his recent dalliance with their sister, or they can help Hesham talk his way out of an angry crowd of locals that he’s tried to convert to his faith.
Daughters of the Desert
This entirely female adventuring party is led by Sigrun Firehair, an Ulfen skald from the Land of the Linnorm Kings who claims to be descended from a genie. Joined by Firadora Fal-Shiek, a paladin of Iomedae exiled from Rahadoum for daring to have (and spread) faith; Sati, a Thuvian desert nomad with no tongue who looks fierce and is constantly splattered with blood stains; and The Twins, Rua and Naat, mysterious Osirian witches who refuse to speak or socialize with outsiders and seem to communicate with glances. These adventurous women make their sole appearance in the same scripted social encounter that the Scorched Hand and the Crytfinders appear in. Sigrun takes the lead for this group, telling epic tales of their adventures in the Necropolis. These women, Sigrun especially, are incredibly easy to add to the campaign further. Sigrun can often be found boasting about her many accomplishments at a variety of drinking establishments, hawking her newly acquired treasures in a market and haggling with the best of them. My favourite location to add them is immediately outside the Necropolis, Sigrun works up the crowd, telling tales about their adventures that day and waving around the treasures they acquired. She then immediately attempts to sell the goods to the crowd. The Twins stand by mysteriously silent, Sati roars and brandishes her bloody blade for the crowd and Firadora poses dramatically. Sigrun is also a great choice to use again in book two, representing the Daughters of the Desert alongside the Twins at the auction at the Canny Jackal.
The Dog Soldiers are an all halfling adventuring group whose obnoxious leader, Mad Dog Marrn, fights alongside his pack of trained Katapeshi hunting dogs. Joined by his ‘bitches:’ Rita, a flirtatious and curvaceous warrior; Madge, a trapsmith who doesn’t care at all what you think of her; and Ninette, a sorceress who’s quite likely insane. The Dog Soldiers are scheduled to appear in the same scripted social encounter as the previously mentioned groups. Unfortunately, half of Marrn’s dogs die that day fighting a gelatinous cube. I highly recommend making the Dog Soldiers stay at the Tooth and Hookah in a suite upstairs, alongside the PCs. This gives your players plenty of time to interact with the bombastic group before Mad Dog and the girls are in mourning over their dogs. The next morning be sure to place Mad Dog in the Sunburst Market, sadly trying to find replacements to join his remaining pack.
It’s noted in the next book that not all of the groups who entered the lottery return. Some lose members to death, while others never return at all. I chose to make the Dog Soldiers one of these unfortunate groups. Tasked with clearing out Tahetep’s Dance Hall the day after losing most of his dogs, Marrn, Rita and Madge were all killed in the haunted ruin, while Ninette survived, driven mad by her experiences. Have the players go through dinner that evening, then breakfast the next day, without any sign of the noisy halflings at the Tooth and Hookah. That evening Farhaan can ask if you’ve seen any sign of them. After hearing they haven’t Farhaan sighs and remarks ominously “They’ve still got a bit of time.” After another day with no word from the Dog Soldiers Farhaan places their personal possessions out for sale at his merchant’s tables. This can be a poignant sign to the group that their line of work is more than just dangerous, it’s deadly. The next time the players are in the Necropolis they should discover something of the Dog Soldiers–perhaps it’s Mad Dog’s medium +1 longsword engraved with his name or, if you’re feeling really cruel, they can discover one of his dogs–now an undead ghoul hound–gnawing on Mad Dog’s rotting arm. During the second book, while the players are in the Necropolis on other business they can discover that not all of the Dog Soldiers are dead–the insane wreck that Ninette’s become still resides in the haunted dance hall. Mute, deaf and blind, she dances to a song that only she can hear.
This all-rogue group of adventurers is on the hunt for an arcane combatant to assist them before the lottery starts, but by the morning of the first draw they’ve filled that role. To best showcase this I highly recommend making the Sand Scorpions the second adventuring party to stay at the Tooth and Hookah. This group is led by Black Kiss, an assassin who specializes in poisons that I made mysterious, aloof and literally deadly–her skin is coated in a paralytic poison that she’s immune to. Joined by Briggs, a trapsmith party girl who’s secretly in love with her best friend and other member of the group: Tama. Tama’s a gruff, half-orc locksmith who–along with Briggs–lives in the floating slums of Bargetown. Their newest member is Atticus Bant, a magus who tries his best to get along with all his new female companions, and is failing horribly. He’s terrified of Black Kiss and attracted to Tama. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of letting Briggs seduce him after the first day in the Necropolis and he’s only recently realized she’s both conniving and manipulative. Briggs soon spends her free time bad mouthing Atticus to Tama, while Atticus tries to woo Tama, and Tama poorly ignores the both of them. Desperate for less needy companionship, Tama’s very likely to try to socialize with the player’s characters. An act which is guaranteed to draw both Briggs and Atticus to the conversation in short order. Allowing your players to get involved in the drama of this catty, dysfunctional group can be amusing, and can drive home how important teamwork is. Near the end of the lottery, have fun showcasing Atticus’ desperate final attempts to get Tama to go on a date with him–only to find him later, drunk and mournful at the bar, wailing about his unrequited ‘love.’ Tama and Briggs are also good choices to use as contacts in the second book of Mummy’s Mask, when the players are looking for information about Bargetown and the Veins.
One of my players got obsessed Black Kiss, insisting that his character was destined to be with her (he’s a firm believer in fate). A chubby catfolk who looks like an overgrown housecat, the many, many ways he tried to prove his love to the toxic, aloof woman provided endless entertainment for us. Even more so were her challenges–the most daring of which was taking shots of poisoned drinks with her at the bar. Unfortunately for the smitten catfolk, he was so busy playing coy with her that he missed his chance to say goodbye. After the lottery, Black Kiss heads off to Tephu on the search for ancient alchemical secrets. They’ll have a chance to meet her again in book three.
This adventuring party is detailed in the random encounters section of the Half-Dead City. Consisting of an Osirion enchantress, Melu, and her charmed companions, each of the men in this group vies for her attention and would give their lives for her. Originally consisting of Ahotep, a warrior who’s been charmed so long he can’t imagine life without her; Djaal Sidrim, a young and inexperienced ranger; and Karem Afir, a streetwise cutpurse; this group’s membership is destined to be shuffled around a bit. The first time you meet the Amethyst Dragons, Melu attempts to charm the strongest looking player’s character, while the other members of the Amethyst Dragons sit jealously by. If Melu survives this encounter, be sure to show her a few days later with all new companions–she had to replace them after they gave their lives to allow her to escape the dangers of the Archives of the Ibis.
This adventuring party is also detailed in the random encounters section of the Half-Dead City. Intended to be encountered in the Necropolis, they’re found sitting outside a tomb. Their leader, a halfling sorcerer by the name of Fergrim Flame, toys with a ball of fire, while their studious wizard, Verichi Denger, studies a few tomes on the side of the road. Verichi is wary, but claims that the group needs to wait just a while longer while he memorizes some necessary spells. Lirgana Ahmose, an optimistic half-elf bard, tries to pass the time happily, while the group’s half-orc fighter, Kha, loudly complains about Verichi’s obvious cowardice and picks apart Lirgana’s every suggestion and comment. Verichi is a great choice to use in book two, representing the group alongside Lirgana during the auction at the Canny Jackal.
There’s plenty of other colourful characters kicking around Wati. Patrons of the Tooth and Hookah, the Abadaran Marketwives, merchants, students of the Hall of Blessed Rebirth, and even a thief or two, but those will come in time. For now, I hope you enjoyed–or even better: make use of–the colourful characters I’ve shared today.
Our next Mummy’s Mask game aids will be entirely different. Featuring details on the Shrine of Wadjet, Ubet’s Folly and the tattered remains of a drug-addled cult found within, as well as the lots up for auction at the Canny Jackal in book two.
Until then, have fun, and keep gaming. I wish you plenty of criticals!
A few days ago my son decided he wanted to make a villain to join me and my daughter’s evil characters on their dark and shady adventures. We spent some time together, and Professor McMaan was born! But where, oh where, would a bunch of villains hang their hat? And what kind of adventures would they go on?
A good question!
When my daughter first told me she wanted to make an evil girl, instead of another hero, I thought long and hard about where she would live, and what she could do. Would she live in a large city and try to hide her misdeeds amongst the masses? Would she live on the outskirts of a secluded village and hide her evil under a cover life of lies and deception? Would she live someplace where no one cared what she did, and shady dealings were considered normal? For answers, I turned to my daughter.
“Who are you?” I asked her. “What kind of evil girl are you going to be? What does she like to do that’s so bad?”
“Oh, Mom!” she exclaimed happily. “I was a nice doctor lady, who lived near the woods and made medicine and stuff.” Suddenly she switched to her ‘spooky voice.’ “And one day I was out in the woods and I found a rabbit! Oooooo! But it was not a normal rabbit, it had wings like a fairy and it looked very… very… adorable!” She wiggled her fingers in an ominous fashion and make more spooooooky sounds. “Oooooo! So I took the little rabbit home and it made whispers in my head! It taught me magic! But ya’ know what?! It was a demon rabbit! And the demon rabbit told me to do mean things like make zombies! And I liked it! And now I am a necra– necROmancer!”
“Oh! I almost forgot!” she exclaimed. “I am also very nice and pretty, and that is a LIE! I am pretty and very mean! But I act nice because the demon rabbit taught me how to lie really good. Oh! And I can shoot fire at people.” She made some expert fire blasting sounds for emphasis: “WHOOOOOOSH! Burny burn!”
Absorbing this for a few moments, I concluded. “Dear… That’s awesome.”
We ended up making her character an aasimar witch with the grave walker archetype and a flying rabbit familiar tied to the elemental patron. Witches have a variety of spells that let them create undead, including zombies, skeletons, and (later) more powerful undead like ghouls and ghosts. The elemental patron would add some damage dealing spells to her list including the level one spell: burning hands, which will let her shoot a cone of flames at her enemies. The gravewalker archetype, found in Pathfinder’s awesome hardcover: Ultimate Magic, would allow her some nifty death themed spells in addition to the elemental spells granted to her by her patron and two awesome abilities: aura of desecration, which empowers negative channeled energy and makes undead harder to harm with positive energy, and bonethrall, which lets her take control of any undead within her aura of desecration that isn’t hers. The only downside: gravewalkers have creepy dolls made of skin for familiars instead of animals.
With big teary eyes (my daughter can cry at will), and her bottom lip stuck out sadly, my then four year old daughter tried her best to convince me it would be alright if she had a demon rabbit instead of a demon rabbit doll. Knowing it was only us playing–and mostly verbally on walks to and from kindergarten–I caved. Besides, she’d already found some artwork she wanted to use as her familiar (pictured on the sidebar) and decided on a name: Farris.
With her class decided, my daughter chose an alternate racial trait for aasimars, which grants them sharp nails or claws. She chose the cauldron hex, granting her a witches cauldron and the ability to brew magical potions. She finalized her spells, feats and traits, chose her gear and named her: Lorelei.
Then it was my turn. But before I made a best friend for the good doctor, I needed to know where we lived.
Taking into account her backstory, we decided Lorelei and Farris lived on the outskirts of a secluded village. She hides her evil deeds and necromancy behind a public life as a doctor, midwife and herbalist. Her maxed out ranks in bluff and diplomacy should keep her ‘friendly’ cover intact at low levels, and as long as she didn’t do anything too absurd she should be able to successfully lead a convincing double life–for a while at least. But where, exactly would this small village be?
Since Pathfinder’s my favourite RPG and Campaign Setting, it would be in Golarion, of course. But Golarion’s a large place and there are plenty of little villages that could fit the bill. I ended up choosing one that has a special place in my heart: Falcon’s Hollow. As the old Dungeon magazines published by Paizo came to an end back in 2007, Paizo launched a series of modules and variant rules for Dungeons and Dragons which would eventually become their own ruleset, Pathfinder, while Dungeons and Dragons branched off into 4th edition. With no desires to relearn the rules to 4th when I had only recently accomplished mastering 3.5, I decided to give the budding Pathfinder campaign setting a try. The first adventure I got my hands on was the very first one they printed: Crown of the Kobold King. This dark little adventure took place in the awful, horrible town of Falcon’s Hollow, and its surrounding forest, the Darkmoon Vale. With a free prequel adventure, Hollow’s Last Hope available for download online (STILL a free download, give it a try!), a sequel, Return of the Kobold King, due out shortly thereafter (ALSO a free download), and a supplement book (Guide To Darkmoon Vale) available for purchase, I had plenty of time to grow to love the little town and its dreary desperation.
Falcon’s Hollow is better understood as a lumber camp run by a greedy, amoral lumber company known as the Lumber Consortium. The lumberjacks work long hours in the dangerous, fey-filled forest and live in dismal shacks provided by their employers. All the shops that sell gear and food are controlled by the Lumber Consortium–who charge massive fees for basic necessities–as are the law courts, and the town guards. Even the hardest working and thriftiest lumberjacks soon fall so deep into debt to the Consortium they have no chance of getting out of it. These people work non-stop just to get by in this hopeless, dreary town. Their families find what work they can, either working as lumberjacks or in the few shops and bars around town. The Consortium in Falcon’s Hollow is run by a corrupt, mean fellow named Thuldrin Kreed, and his right hand man is Boss ‘Payday’ Teedum, a pug-nosed man as vile as his employer. The only source of justice is the sheriff–who refuses to bow to the Lumber Consortium despite threats of violence and worse.
Against this backdrop I placed Lorelei’s herbalist shop, replacing the town’s original herbalist with her (for now…). And her first adventure? Hollow’s Last Hope. It was perfect! So when a mysterious sickness made more than half the town ill, and Boss Teedum came knocking on her door to bully her into curing this plague–or else!–even my daughter’s evil girl was moved to finally find a cure.
It’s been quite a few short adventures since then, and Lorelei and Farris have had a blast. With burning hands and grasping corpse her go-to level one spells, and boneshaker her level two spell of choice, she’s had a lot of fun shooting fire, making dead bodies trip and grapple her enemies, and painfully grabbing peoples skeletons and dragging their bodies around the battlefield. She keeps a collection of corpses, carried around in a cauldron by her skeletal minions, for the inevitable time when her current undead minions are destroyed (always keep some raw materials laying around!).
In addition to saving her town from illness, she’s gone grave robbing, treasure hunting, and visited cursed locations in the hopes that more powerful undead can be researched there–and that she can learn the secrets to crafting them (or at least mind control some!). As for undead under her control, she’s had zombie crows, human skeletons, kobold zombies and her current favourite: the ghost of a cannibalistic druid.
She’s made friends along the way (and killed others!), including her best friend, Kilarra Bloodborn. A tiefling kineticist (blood kineticist archetype (from Occult Adventures, one of my favourite d20 books of all time) and dark elementalist archetype (from Horror Adventures)) who sacrifices humanoids to her demonic patron, Shax, in order to gain dark powers. When she shoots blasts of blood at her enemies the howling faces of her sacrifices can be seen in its depths, bound to her in their torment. With a skeletal hand that loses flesh the more she uses her powers, and regains flesh each time she rests, shrunken heads woven into her hair, and the habit of painting cards with the images of the people she’s sacrificed, Kilarra’s one disturbing room mate. She was heavily inspired by this amazing art shown in the sidebar.
The first time I described the very creepy Kilarra with her skeletal hand walking through Falcon’s Hollow, my daughter smiled.
“Oh, Mom! My girl runs right up to her and looks at her hand. She takes it and she tells the scary lady: ‘You’re beautiful!’ Because I think her IS beautiful. My girl wants a skeleton hand! But, I don’t think people would like doctors with skeleton hands much.”
It was a friendship forged in blood and corpses.
There’s other’s she met along the way. Kiyla, a little girl who fights with a unicorn’s horn as a sword and loves to dance. The only problem? The music she loves best is the cries of tortured, wounded animals. I swear I didn’t make that up. It was my daughter. And let me tell you, it is creepy as heck when this pretty little girl starts to dance ballet whenever an animal’s in pain.
And now, Professor McMaan, my son’s mad scientist who likes to trap souls inside the bodies of the dead or dolls that he’s created. His piece de resistance is his pig familiar, within which he trapped the soul of his rival, Professor Piggs.
But on what adventure would the newly expanded four person party embark upon?
Having made a name for herself saving Falcon’s Hollow, Lorelei, Kilarra and Kiyla recently returned from an extended vacation where they visited haunted locales in the area. Coming back to Falcon’s Hollow to find a new herbalist has moved into town in her absence–Laurel (that witch!)–Lorelei decides she needs to make this backwater town remember why they need her!
Meanwhile, another new face recently arrived in the area: Professor McMaan, a foul scientist from Sandpoint who was forced to abandon his research and flee before the law caught up with him. Newly arrived to Falcon’s Hollow he spent the last of his savings on building a new secret laboratory, underneath an old hut in the woods outside town. After settling in he went to check on his nearest neighbours, expecting lumberjacks or thugs, he was surprised to discover a herbalist’s shop–with strange moaning sounds coming from it’s basement. After sneaking into Lorelei’s home and discovering the necromantic experiments hidden in her secret lair, Professor McMaan has been biding his time, anxiously awaiting the moment his delightful new neighbours return home from their trip!
As soon as Lorelei, Kilarra and Kiyla get back home, Professor McMaan’s at their door, knocking happily and introducing himself as “a fellow bad guy and professor of dead things!”
Lorelei was intrigued and insisted Kilarra NOT sacrifice him. Yet.
My kids had a blast introducing themselves to each other, sharing dinner at Lorelei’s home, and giving each other tours of their secret labs. By far, the majority of our session was spent on them talking and play acting as their characters, showing off drawings they’d made of their homes and pictures they’d discovered on Pinterest of their furnishings. Professor McMaan had a particularly dashing shelf of pickled eyeballs and brains to share that my son found on a halloween board.
Unfortunately, their dinner party was interrupted by a rude knocking. Boss Teedum was back, demanding that Lorelei get her things together. Five kids in town–Mister Kreed’s son included–have gone missing, and they’re sending guards to get him back (him, not them, because all Mister Kreed really cares about is his own son). They’re expecting the kids to be hurt–the stupid brats!–and they’re going to need a doctor in case Kreed’s boy is hurt.
Realizing this is her chance to make the folks of Falcon’s Hollow remember why they need her, Lorelei graciously accepts the Boss Teedum’s ‘offer’ (orders) on one condition: her friends accompany her.
Not caring whether or not Lorelei’s weirdo friends die, Boss Teedum accepts, telling Lorelei that the guards set out in only a few hours. Then he stomps off.
Lorelei is thrilled. She quickly hurries to her necromancy lab to pick some of her weaker, more lively-looking undead. She selects two zombie rabbits and two zombie crows from her collection, each kept in cages (they’re not under her control right now, and are very dangerous) she picks them up carefully and puts them in her cauldron (it’s an animated object now, and can walk around on its own. Usually she rides inside it). With some backup undead ready to go, and her handy ghost cannibal creepily haunting her every step, Lorelei’s excited to set off for the Darkmoon Vale.
The guards are creeped out by their new travelling companions, but it matters little. The cannibal ghost kills them in their sleep, and soon the four heroes villains are by themselves.
They follow the trail of the children (Kiyla’s a magnificent tracker) to a burnt down orphanage long thought to be haunted. It seems the children dared each other to spend the night camping nearby. After exploring the campsite they decide to check out the ruins in case any delightful new undead are lurking in its halls. They’re not, but they do find signs that whatever fire claimed the orphanage was not what it seems. They find a secret torture chamber made to contain and harm a werewolf. A werewolf that seems particularly small sized… The werewolf is nowhere to be seen–burnt in the fire, perhaps, but the orphanage matron is there, long dead with her throat torn out.
Lorelei decides she doesn’t want that body, and uncharacteristically leaves it behind. Why? We’ve accidentally stumbled upon one of my daughter’s recent fears: lycanthropes.
Nervous and jumpy, my daughter expressed fear. Now, this might seem normal, but my daughter’s encountered lycanthropes in D&D before, and never had a problem with it. The last one she met was a wereshark by the name of ‘Bloody Frennick’ who she made friends with and insisted join her pirate crew. In all honesty, I thought she’d welcome a little werewolf girl into the group as a friend! Deciding it was best to let my children fight the mysterious werewolf and put an end to the suspense rather than leave it out and have them nervous and paranoid the rest of the adventure, we took a short snack break. When we continued they met a young girl, who tried to trick them into the deep, dark forest, with promises of how she and her friends were ambushed and dragged into the woods. She gestured to the trail that… yes, it did seem to belong to the five children, but Lorelei knew better. This girl was NOT a child from Falcon’s Hollow! She was a werewolf!
A battle ensued with Lorelei hatefully exclaiming: “She’s lying! I think she’s a werewolf! Kill her just in case!”
Although it should have been a tough fight, Lorelei’s cannibal ghost made quick work of her, and she was unable to escape. Lucky for my daughter’s conscience, it was a werewolf, as she proved when she transformed during the fight.
With the terrifying werewolf dealt with we wrapped up for the night.
But not before Professor McMaan scooped up the girl’s body for his experiments.
Concluding our first session of Crown of the Kobold King, we packed up our dice and minis and put our villains aside for a while. Even undead need a rest sometimes. The children of Falcon’s Hollow would have to wait for rescue for another day.
Soon it was dinner, and my kids moved on to play Pokemon in the other room while I cooked.
I learned a valuable lesson that day: Werewolves are terrifying. Weresharks are not.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be WAY more scared of the shark.
My family and I recently finished playing Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-10: Signs in Senghor, a delightful adventure written by my brother. This marks my husband and both of my children’s first official Pathfinder Society adventure. We made their characters the other day, registered them, and played through the adventure in two sessions; the first yesterday evening after dinner, and the second this morning after breakfast.
Adventures always take a bit longer when my children are playing, as their tactics aren’t always… the most effective, and social encounters and small details always gets expanded by their actions. There’s nothing my kids love more than having conversations in character with NPCs and describing extra fun activities their characters to–whether it be dancing, singing, or playing with their pets. That being said, we finished Signs in Senghor in about five hours, which is the high end for a scenario session, but not exceptionally slow. As mentioned, we split that into two days of play. Not because they ran out of patience or got bored, but because it was their bedtime. Haha. They REALLY wanted to stay up late to finish it last night, but bedtime prevailed and we continued in the morning.
Signs in Senghor begins in Eleder, a colonial port city in the hot and humid country of Sargava. There they meet their Venture Captain for this adventure, Finze Bellaugh. Finze is a scholarly, portly fellow who comes off as educated but personable. Written into the text during his mission briefing are lots of colourful, humanizing actions that my kids really related to. He circles sections of map, rubs his chin in thought, crosses his arms over his big belly, and waves his arms around to calm the group’s excitement. During this part of the adventure my kids really enjoyed introducing themselves to each other, and their Venture Captain. My daughter acted out her shy rabbit-breeding druid (Bunny Paras) and her goofy parasaurolophus who likes to perform tricks at her command (Paras). My son shivered with cold despite the heat, with his ranger, Senton, more commonly known as Mr. Ice. And my husband shared his occultist’s vast knowledge with the group, providing them with all kinds of background on their upcoming mission.
The Pathfinders and their rivals, the Aspis Consortium are constantly butting heads and fighting over control of discoveries throughout the world. Although the Pathfinders are by no means a virtuous organization, the Aspis are most certainly a foul group. Known for exploiting their workers and locals, using slave labour, and caring more for profit than anything else, the Aspis Consortium are a thorn in the Pathfinders side, and a blight upon Golarion. Recently, the Aspis Consortium has started up a suspicious mining operation which doesn’t seem to be netting them any profits. When word reached the Pathfinders of the strange occurrences happening near the mines (which never happened before the Aspis arrived) they were understandably suspicious about what the Aspis Consortium are really up to. Unfortunately, in the Mwangi Expanse, the Aspis Consortium have a lot more power than the Pathfinders. In order to move against the Consortium, the Pathfinders are going to need allies. And while other, more experienced Pathfinders begin to investigate the mines, my group of players gets tasked with making those allies.
Nearby the mining operation is the port city of Senghor and my lovely little group of players are tasked with proving to the ruling council of Senghor that the Aspis Consortium are exploiting the nearby ruins of Boali for profit. Boali is considered taboo and haunted among the citizens of Senghor, and is off limits. Unfortunately, the council of Senghor isn’t just going to take your word for it. You need evidence. And what better place to get evidence than in Boali itself!
After the mission briefing, Bunny Paras and her pet parasaurolophus, Paras, along with the ever cold Mr.Ice, Enzo the Chelaxian occultist and (because all PFS scenarios require at least four players) Amiri, the iconic barbarian from Pathfinder, all socialized a bit. Mr. Ice played up his shivering, despite the hot and humid weather, Bunny Paras made Paras dance and ‘sing‘ by making annoying sounds with her crest, Amiri played up her strong and gruff demeanour by doubting the other weaklings around her would be any help, and Enzo put his noble upbringing to good use by taking charge of the group. They travelled down to the docks to meet Mirian Raas, a sailor and Pathfinder who is scheduled to bring our Pathfinders from Eleder into Senghor on her ship, Daughters of the Mist. Mirian is also the main character in one of the Pathfinder Tales novels, Beyond the Pool of Starsby Howard Andrew Jones.
After a quick sailing summary, they make port in Senghor without difficulty. From there, the group had a chance to traipse around the city, speaking with locals and looking for information about the Aspis Consortium’s work in Senghor. Enzo and Bunny Paras (along with Paras) took advantage of the opportunity, and discovered a lot of information about Boali. Mr. Ice did the opposite, instead using his free time to find a patch of sunlight to sit in. He sat there for a full hour (in game time) shivering in the sunshine while bundled up in his furs. Amiri mocked him. Haha. My son had a blast. He was chattering his teeth and shaking to act out his character.
After an hour in Senghor (in game time) the group returned to the docks where Mirian had procured a fishing boat for them to use to sail to Boali. She offered them a sailor to help, but Mr. Ice insisted he could sail them there. Of course, he has no ranks in profession (sailor), so whether or not he would succeed was entirely up to lucky rolls. Fortunately, luck was on their side, and they made it to Boali in only eighteen hours, a full six hours faster than the expected travel time. My son was extremely proud of himself and took to insisting he was a master sailor.
Upon arriving in Boali they looked around for signs of the Aspis Consortium, eventually discovering their old camp and some muddy, discarded boots with a hole in the toe. Mr. Ice took extreme care in approaching the camp stealthily. An effort which Bunny Paras handily thwarted by telling her parasaurolophus to ‘sing’ loudly and dance. Despite the foiled stealth attempts, the group was unmolested. They found the camp empty. My son thought the holey boot was particularly suspicious, but finding no real troubles, they followed the Aspis’ trail into the ruins of ancient Boali, a city in the jungle now partly-flooded with swamps.
Eventually they came upon a flooded section of the ruins, where they found an interesting statue toppled over in the water–a statue which proved entirely suspicious to my son. He spent a solid five minutes interacting with the statue. Examining it, and offering many, many theories about why it might have toppled over and what it might mean. Listening to my six year old son talk about erosion, and how swamp water might affect a marble statue was thoroughly entertaining. His theories ranged from people knocking it over, to earthquakes, and erosion. But wait! Why, oh why, is the statue irregularly eroded? Why can we still see its helmet clearly?!? Cue another stream of suspicious theories from my son.
Fortunately, boggards hiding in the deeper parts of the flooded ruins ambushed the Pathfinders, putting an end to the many conspiracy theories being put forth by Mr. Ice. The boggards quickly wrapped up Mr.Ice and Amiri with their sticky tongues–preventing them from escaping–but they had less luck actually striking either of the Pathfinders with their morningstars. Mr. Ice took great glee in shouting insults at the frog-people and attempting to chop their tongues off with his short swords, while Amiri laughed. Escape was the furthest thing from her mind. She swung her massive great sword at the boggards and dealt a ton of damage. Bunny Paras made an exceedingly useful tactical decision: she made her parasaurolophus dance and trumpet loudly. Yup. Another wonderful use of a turn from my daughter. Enzo proved far more practical, using a ancient stone figurine of a dog to summon a magical dog, which attacked the boggards on his behalf. The group made quick work of their enemies, but over the sounds of Paras’ loud saurian ‘singing’ they heard something else: a man calling for help from a nearby building.
Curious, the group hurried to the sound. Once inside the building in question they split up: Mr. Ice and Amiri checked one room for dangers, as Mr. Ice was incredibly paranoid this was a trap, while Enzo led Bunny Paras and Paras to the cries for help. Mr. Ice and Amiri found a weird room which Enzo later determined was an arcane laboratory, while Enzo and Bunny Paras discovered a man calling for help. With the lower half of his body stuck in the stone from a magical trap (quick application of transmute stone to mud and then transmute mud to stone made him sink into the floor and then get stuck) and the upper half of his body stuck in a half triggered mechanical trap he only managed to stop from slicing him in two by shoving his metal gauntleted hands into it’s gears, this fellow found himself in a tight spot.
“It’s about time you–” the man exclaimed angrily as Enzo and Bunny found him–only to realize they were not who he expected. “Hi!” he exclaimed with a smile, downplaying his predicament. “The name’s Gideon Wren! What brings you fine folks to my humble home?”
And thus entered my son’s favourite part of this adventure: Gideon Wren. A freelancer for the Apis Consortium who was left for dead by his colleagues, Gideon’s a fast talking, fun NPC to run at the table. With melodramatic, mournful tales of his friends leaving him behind and the boggards who were tormenting him by tossing leeches at him while he was stuck, and promises of telling you everything he knows about the Aspis’ work in Boali and Senghor, if only you’ll get him to safety back in Senghor, Gideon provided a wealth of role-playing opportunities. My son took great pleasure in threatening and intimidating the fast-talking Aspis agent, thinking of a ton of ways in which he could threaten and torment the fellow. Meanwhile my daughter regarded him with worry and suspicion, squeaking with worry at the table, and running around whispering to my husband and son the results of her sense motive checks. Enzo really latched onto the idea of bringing Gideon to safety in order to learn everything he knows. After eliciting promises of not only sharing information with them, but also testifying against the Aspis Consortium in front of Senghor’s ruling council, Enzo finally disabled the trap that threatened Gideon’s life. He then left Amiri to dig the fellow out of the ground, while he explored the other rooms in this building. Bunny Paras spent her time dancing happily to Paras’ irritating and loud ‘musical’ calls. Mr. Ice kept guard over Gideon, informing him of the many ways he would hurt him if Gideon backed out on his promises.
A few hours later Gideon was free, and the Pathfinders moved out into the city in search of more evidence. Unfortunately, the boggards who call Boali home found them soon after, led by their massive ‘Great Queen’, a frog-monster known as a mobogo, which was chasing a group of Aspis Consortium agents through the streets. None of our Pathfinders managed to identify the creature, but they all realized it was incredibly powerful. As the mobogo magicaly makes an eight foot tall wave of water chase the Aspis Agents, carrying rubble and smashing buildings as it goes, they all decided to do what any brave hero would do! Like the great, brave, Sir Robin, they ran away.
So began what I thought would be one of the most fun, and the most difficult parts of the adventure for my lowly level one players: a dramatic chase through the ruined city of Boali with a powerful creature hot on their trail. The DCs for this chase are quite high, but after modifying it as necessary for their level, I was hopeful they’d have a good chance. Fortunately for them, their early arrival to Boali via Mr. Ice’s masterful sailing, and Enzo’s good luck with disabling the trap that held Gideon, meant that Gideon would be helping the Pathfinders during this chase, instead of being in need of their assistance from horrible wounds.
After escaping the waves of water, the Pathfinders had to suffer through the mobogo’s terrifying croaks and a stampede of terrified Aspis Agents, only to have the monster frog leap upon the road and crush most of those same Aspis Agents. After narrowly avoiding being squished by a mobogo bum, they ran from his hurricane-like breath, and got tangled in poisonous vines. After escaping the vines they managed to pick up a few stone tablets the remaining Aspis Agents dropped, dove through a crumbling archway and reached the beach–only to have the mobogo flick its tongue out at them and wrap up Gideon. As Gideon was dragged back towards the gaping maw of the mobogo, the others panicked.
They hacked and slashed at the ‘Great Queen’s’ tongue until it let go of Gideon, then escaped with him on their ship. Deciding they’d had enough of Boali, the Pathfinders sailed back to Senghor.
Despite the difficulty of the chase, my group did awesome, only failing against the poisoned vines, which still allowed them to escape with time to spare.
Upon arriving in Senghor the next day, back in good time thanks again to Mr. Ice’s masterful sailing (luck), they probed Gideon for information. Mr. Ice threatened the poor ex-Aspis agent with bodily harm in many ways (seriously: never underestimate a child’s creativity!) while Bunny Paras listened to everything with great suspicion, and Enzo took thorough records. After learning much about the Aspis Consortium’s purpose in Boali, and their operations in Senghor, Enzo decided he’d like some further evidence before going to the Senghor’s Council. They agreed to head for the Aspis Consortium’s local warehouse from which Gideon’s boss, Shinri Dells, leads the operations in Boali. Unfortunately, there’s no way Gideon was going to fight Shinri. By his account, she’s a terrifying woman.
Enzo and Bunny Paras tried to convince him to wait for them in safety with diplomacy, but Mr. Ice and Amiri decided to threaten his life instead. Shaking in his boots, Gideon waited for the others to finish up at the warehouse at a nearby restaurant–or at least he said he would…. Would he really wait for Mr. Ice to come back and threaten him some more? My children were unsure.
After casing the warehouse (and with some help from the intel they got from Gideon) they decided to split up. Enzo and Amiri went in the front door to speak to the Aspis agent masquerading as a secretary whose job it is to shoo nosy visitors away. Knowing the guard was going to try to warn the others in the warehouse if the Pathfinders didn’t leave, Bunny Paras, Paras and Mr. Ice wait at the loading doors, listening intently for the alarm to be sounded by the secretary, which will also be their signal to enter the warehouse.
The plan goes off without a hitch. As the secretary drops pottery on the floor and loudly bemoans how much trouble he’ll be in, my children’s characters rush into the warehouse, effectively splitting up the guards and getting the jump on them. Facing off against these two, they make poor progress. It doesn’t help that Bunny Paras’ first turn is spent telling her parasaurolophus to ‘sing’ and dance instead of attacking. Still, Mr. Ice gets in a hit with his short swords, while the guards put up a fight. Back in the front room, Enzo slips past the guard as he loudly looks for a broom, and hurries into the warehouse. Angrily, the secretary charges after Enzo and throws a dart at him. Lucky for Enzo his aim is poor. Also lucky for Enzo? The secretary turned his back on Amiri. It’s not a mistake he lived to regret long. She knocked him unconscious with one swing of her massive sword, and finished him off on her next turn. Enzo summoned another dog to battle the remaining guards, while the fight continued. Eventually, Bunny Paras ordered Paras to swing her tail at the enemies–missing, but hey, she tried!–and shoots a few stones at the guards with her sling.
As the Pathfinders triumph over the guards, Enzo hurries to the side door, hoping to catch the fearsome Shinri Dells unaware. Unfortunately the door opens right before he goes through, revealing Shinri herself. Not very scary looking, Enzo knows better from Gideon’s many accounts of her battle prowess. He immediately orders his dog to get in her way. It misses her, and Shinri retaliates, destroying the dog with two quick punches.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” she taunts.
Alone in front of a woman who’s bound to kick his ass, Enzo remarks cleverly: “Eeep!”
Now, this fight is tough. In addition to being a CR 3 enemy, Shinri’s got the monks flurry of blows ability, which lets her make two attacks every turn, and the ability to deliver her sorcerer’s corrupting touch with one of her punches, which can scare her victims. That’s not even taking into account the monk’s handy stunning fist ability. Things are not going to go well for Enzo.
Or so we thought.
Amiri went next, charged at Shinri with her sword raised, and scored a critical hit. Dealing a massive 33 damage in one hit, Shinri Dells fell to the ground, dying.
They are SO lucky! Seriously. I was expecting at least one of them to fall unconscious, but to come out unscathed? I was honestly flabbergasted.
Enzo quickly stabilized Shinri, which prevented her from dying, then stuffed her in a big sack with the intent of brining her to Senghor’s Council as proof against the Aspis Consortium’s presence in the city.
But first? Investigating! My kids LOVE clues. As fans of Scooby-Doo and Murdoch Mysteries, they set out to find clues, clues and more clues–also loot!–on the bodies of the Aspis Agents and the warehouse. Happily, they found lots. Including, that Shinri Dells is in communication with some kind of evil fiend during her daily meditations. This fiend gave Shinri magical powers, new fighting techniques and knowledge of an ancient relic. Known as the Twelve Rites, these stone tablets were what Shinri had her agents searching for in Boali. And our heroic Pathfinders have six of them. Armed with that important bit of information (and lots more that we won’t go into here), the Pathfinders leave the warehouse and look for Gideon.
Who is waiting for them, as promised.
They leave together for an audience with the ruling council. Along the way they meet a poor child, begging for food and coins. Although Amiri rudely ignores the child, the others are all suckers, giving the urchin over five gold. A healthy sum in Pathfinder! As they turn to leave, Bunny Paras suddenly exclaimed in pain. She turned to find the child was not a child after all–he was a tiny asura demon who used illusions to mask his appearance. The asura jabbed her in the back with his poisonous stinger.
Woozy and afraid, Bunny Paras exclaimed “Help! I am poisoned! I’m dying!” and fled down the road in hysterics, with Paras hot on her trail.
Leaving the vicious little assassin fiend to the rest of the group, Amiri and Mr. Ice slaughtered the creature in one turn. Considering the creature was a CR 3 challenge, they are very luck–again! After working together to help the frantic Bunny Paras overcome her poisoning, they set out again for the Council offices, this time arriving without further incident.
They easily earned themselves an audience using their Venture Captains’ letter of introduction–Thanks, Finze! After arriving in the waiting room they are offered dried fruit and water–which Bunny Paras suspiciously checked for poison. It comes out clean, so they eat and socialize with the other guests. Enzo sought out gossip and information about the council members they’ll be meeting with, discovering their identities and how best to influence them.
Soon, they enter the last stage of this adventure: presenting their case to the representatives of the Council of Senghor, and winning them to their cause in the hopes of driving the Aspis Consortium out of Senghor, and gaining the Council’s aid in the Pathfinders efforts to shut down the Aspis Consortium’s suspicious mining operations.
Now, this part is going to be difficult for my players. None of them are well trained in diplomacy, and intimidation won’t work for them here. Other than one of the nature-loving council members who can be influenced by Mr. Ice and Bunny Paras’ knowledge of the natural world, the other methods to get the council on their side are not skills my players are trained in. Fortunately they presented a good case–bringing Gideon to testify, the paperwork and clues from the warehouse, and the six clearly evil tablets of the Twelve Rites–as well as the fiend-tainted Shinri Dells herself–all granted them bonuses on their attempts to influence the council. Even with these bonuses some of the rolls were tight, but the Pathfinders managed to get the entire council on their side!
Happy at their successful first mission, the Pathfinders are dismissed. They bid Gideon farewell, only to have Mr. Ice–the same Mr. Ice who has been tormenting him and scaring him the entire mission–tearfully bid farewell to Gideon.
“Goodbye.” he waved sadly. “I’ll miss you.”
Gideon looked incredibly surprised. He gets only a few steps away before my son decides he couldn’t possibly say goodbye to the shifty ex-Aspis agent. He decides to try to fulfill one of his faction missions, by recruiting a named NPC scholar, archaeologist or similar character to join his faction: the Scarab Sages. Unfortunately, the DC to do this is a 16, and my son’s modifier on his roll? A zero. Zilch. Nothing. He needs to roll a 16 or higher on his d20 to pass. Still, he grabs his dice, and looks incredibly nervous.
“Wait, Gideon! You should join the Scarab Sages!”
“You want to give me a job?” Gideon asks suspiciously.
My son nods vigorously. “YES!”
He rolls his dice…. getting a 16.
My son jumps for joy and exclaims happily, proud to have brought Gideon into the Pathfinder Society.
And so our session came to a close.
We filled out our paperwork, spent their earned coins, and wrapped the session up, bringing their first Pathfinder Society Scenario to an end.
They loved it.
My daughter and husband’s favourite part was the chase scene where they fled from the “frog-bat.” My son’s favourite part was his interactions with Gideon Wren. And mine? I loved how excited they got during this session. I loved seeing their eyes light up in excitement, and their super, creative roleplaying.
Also? I loved this adventure!
So thanks to my family for playing with me. Thanks to my brother, for writing this adventure. And thanks to Paizo, for making scenarios affordable!
I’m sure we’ll be off on another PFS scenario soon!
After deciding to make proper Pathfinder Society characters so that my children and husband could enjoy my brother’s recently released Pathfinder Society Scenario as it was intended to be played, I spent part of the day helping my children create their new characters and register with the society.
As mentioned in the previous post, my daughter made a rabbit-breeder with a parasaurolophus as her animal companion. She decided to make herself a kitsune–an irony which thoroughly amuses me–and chose the archetype Saurian Shaman, a pretty straight-forward option from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Magic, that makes her better at summoning dinosaurs, interacting with dinosaurs, and lets her take on the aspects of–you guessed it–dinosaurs.
Rabbit Shaman wasn’t an option. *hint hint, Paizo*
She didn’t have many skill points, but those that she did have she dropped into handle animal, knowledge (nature), acrobatics and–her personal favourite–profession (rabbit breeder). That’s a well spent skill point, alright!
She surprised me by choosing Magical Tail for her feat, a quirky racial feat available only to kitsune that not only causes her kitsune to grow a second tail, but also give her new magical abilities–in this case the ability to cast disguise self twice a day. I expected her to take a feat that makes her parasaurolophus better, but thoughts of the many tricky things she could do with an illusory disguise won out.
She spent her gold after that, on important camping gear like a pink sling, leather lamellar armour–also pink, a large tent painted with images of rabbits and a parasaurolophus frolicking in a meadow, and a stuffed rabbit for cuddling at bedtime. Once the necessities were out of the way she splurged on frivolous things like: food. She named her character Bunny Paras, and her beloved dinosaur Paras. I’m sure by tomorrow she’ll have names for all the rabbits on her farm.
My son went next. Heavily inspired by Legolas from the Lord of the Rings, he decided to make a ranger who fights with a bow, and dual wields daggers. That’s where the similarities end. Deciding his character was from the frozen north, he explained that his character is very pale, and covered in old frost bite. He’s constantly feeling cold, and made friends with Bunny Paras while training at the Pathfinder Lodge. After asking why his character would be heading to the jungle, instead of going on a mission in the north, my son immediately replied: “He’s cold. The jungles hot.” then he laughed as if it were the dumbest question he’d ever been asked.
Soon he decided his character would have the trapper archetype, also from Ultimate Magic, which lets you quickly make and deploy traps instead of gaining spell casting abilities. He uses these traps to protect the rabbit farm from animals and intruders. (Rabbit thieves are a huge danger, you know…)
And what masterful name did he come up with this time? Senton. Although everyone calls him ‘Mr.Ice’ because he’s always shivering cold.
My husband went last, deciding to make a Chelaxian occultist of noble birth who spends a some of his time pursuing philanthropic endeavours, and the rest attempting to improve his magical powers. Capable of minor divinations and conjurations, Enzo Jeggare prefers to summon animals to do his bidding.
With characters in hands it was time to choose factions. Enzo surprised no one by joining the Dark Archives, a faction of Pathfinders who collect, curate, study and learn from powerful artifacts and evil relics. My kids, on the other hand, were very surprising. Both of them chose to join the Scarab Sages. Soon to be retired from Pathfinder Society play, the Scarab Sages are a faction of Pathfinders who are seeking ancient magical stones which can impart the wisdom of ancient Osirion (essentially ancient Egypt, in Pathfinder) upon their users. These Sages will lead Osirion into a new golden age.
WHY did a rabbit-breeder and a trapper care about ancient jewels from the desert? Good question. Mr.Ice is feeling cold, I guess, and what better place to warm up than a scorching desert? As for Bunny? Jewels are pretty.
And then came the last step: registering their characters. We signed into the Paizo website, made them their own accounts, and signed each of their characters up for the Pathfinder Society.
Prepared, registered, and very excited, my kids are thrilled to get to play their quirky new characters through my brother’s adventure, Signs in Seghor. And me? I’m thrilled to help them.
Big news around my house today! Some new Pathfinder Society Scenarios just released and one of them–Signs in Senghor–is written by my brother.
That’s right! Exciting!
For those of you who don’t know, the Pathfinder Society is a world-wide organized play program. It’s like playing Pathfinder in short sessions with a rotating group of people. All of your characters are members of the Pathfinder Society, which is like a organization of adventurers, explorers, scholars and archaeologists. You just make your character by following the Pathfinder Society Guidelines, take your nifty character and all their paperwork with you to your local game shop, a convention, or to play with your pals, and play a game together. One person GMs, as normal, but they have to use specific, short affordable (five bucks and under!) adventures, called scenarios–and follow them. After a few hours your session’s over, you fill out some more paperwork and show up again whenever you find the time. The GM sends records of the game to Paizo, and voila! Game done. You and some fellow Pathfinders completed a mission together. Maybe you’ll play with those people and their characters again, and maybe you’ll play with a whole new group.
Now, I’ve never played a PFS scenario in person before. Recently, however, I got addicted to Paizo’s message boards. Here, you can play by post. Join the message boards and play your characters–for regular Pathfinder or for PFS–online by posting their actions with your gaming group. Once you find a gaming group, that is. Although competition’s tight for most play-by-post campaigns, it’s quite easy to join a PFS game. They’re short, fun, and you get to play with people from all over the world. It’s a blast.
But, back to the topic at hand: my brother!
Now, this isn’t the first PFS scenario my brother’s written for Paizo. He wrote one other back in Season Six. Of Kirin and Kraken. Intended for play between levels 7 and 11, I haven’t had a chance to play it yet. As a newcomer to the Pathfinder Society I’ve got a bunch of characters, all still enjoying their first level. I’ve a long way to go before I can play through that beauty! So I read it, instead. A lot. Involving ancient sunken ruins, a magical instrument, weird cultists, a tribe of boggards and a spell-casting squid, it’s a fun, memorable romp with a surprising number of opportunities for role-playing with a colourful cast of NPCs. I really enjoyed it.
But his new scenario? Ahh! THAT one I can play right away. Intended for characters from levels 1 through 5, Signs in Senghor isn’t just going to be purchased. It’s getting played. Immediately.
So I bought it last last night, and read it this morning, and as I finished it I told my children: “Uncle Kris wrote an adventure for Pathfinder, and I have it. Do you want to play it?”
They shrieked out “Yes!” in a variety of ways, and jumped around a bit.
“It’s a Society scenario.” I told them. “Do you want to play it by all the proper Society rules? Or should we play it with some characters you already have, just for fun?”
They decided on the Society rules. And when I mentioned they would get to make new characters, no one was more excited than my daughter. She jumped in glee and immediately shouted: “I’m making a rabbit breeder!”
“…A rabbit breeder?”
“Yes! I raise rabbits! I have a whole farm of them! I’m a druid, you know.”
It should be noted, my daughter REALLY loves rabbits. This character concept did not surprise me at all.
“Why did you join the Pathfinders?” I asked her.
“I want to find treasure from the people who used to worship rabbits. Cause I think they’re holy. Oh! And also, Mom, I will be a fox-person!”
I laughed. “You’re a kitsune who raises rabbits? Do you eat them?”
“NO!” she shrieked, clearly offended at the idea. “I am a vegetarian fox-girl. I never eat rabbits. Or other animals. I cuddle them.”
Well, alrighty, then. A kitsune rabbit-breeder it is. And what did she pick for her animal companion? A parasaurolophus. BY NAME. She actually said: “Mom, I want a pet parasaurolophus.”
If you don’t know your dinosaurs as well as my daughter, you can learn about parasaurolophus here.
Looks like we’ve got a lot of (fun) work to do before we play tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what else they create.
My kids are young, only five and six, but they play a lot of Pathfinder. Usually, we play verbally, on the half hour walks to and from school. But on the weekends or the holidays, we have a chance to pull out the battle mat and play a proper game. Quite a while ago, my daughter decided she wanted to play a campaign for only the two of us. Something to play on the walks home from kindergarten, when my son’s still at school. Girl’s only.
“That’s great.” I told her. “What kind of characters should we make this time?”
“Oh, Mom,” she told me. “I do NOT want to be a hero this time. I have a lot of heroes. I want to be… a villain! A really, REALLY evil girl!”
So we created two horribly evil females. And my son’s been jealous ever since.
Today, as my daughter was trying to convince me to play a session of ‘evil girls’ with her, my son decided he’s finally had enough. He too would make a villain, and join us on an adventure.
But what kind of villain? Who would really want to hang out with a blood kineticist who feeds on the souls of others, and a doctor who’s more fond of the undead than the living? A mad scientist of course!
“Mom, I want to make a scientist, who is really good at making things, and knows about peoples bodies and things. And he likes to take things souls and stick them in special bodies. Maybe dead ones, or live ones, or ones he made! And he has a secret lab! Oh! And he’s nice and friendly!”
A nice and and friendly mad scientist who meddles with souls? Sure, why not! And so Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan was born. Why the nickname ‘Bigpants’? He was inspired by this amazing artwork we discovered on Pinterest. He even made himself old and sucked up the age penalties in order to be true to the image.
My son decided he would make an investigator. And, after some time spent glancing through archetypes he decided upon a bonded investigator. Giving up all of their poison capabilities for a familiar which gets better over time, my son was thrilled to find this little gem in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Intrigue. And what’s the perfect familiar for our soul-meddling Frankenstein-inspired investigator? A pig with the soulbound familiar archetype! Thank you Ultimate Wilderness! By giving up the familiar ability alertness, his adorable little pig gets a soul gem stored inside it with the spirit of a humanoid trapped within. This grants his pig skill focus in any one skill his soul excelled at in life. Choosing skill focus (craft constructs), my son decided Professor McMaan’s pig was enhanced with the soul of his rival, Professor Piggs, making his familiar capable of helping him out in the laboratory with his many experiments.
To make his quirky little pig even more thematic, he chose to take evolved familiar as a feat, allowing him to scientifically enhance his pig’s body — in this case, to give it a swim speed, “cause pigs are real good swimmers, Mom!”
With his familiar ready we settled in to finalize the rest of Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan himself. With an old, frail body, but a powerful brain, my son decided to equip the good professor with a nifty sword cane (topped with a silver skull!) and a host of acid and alchemist’s fire. But, starting as he was at level three, he had a lot more wealth to go around. He insisted we check into crafting constructs, despite that I promised him that required being level five, only to discover ‘craft poppet’ on d20pfsrd. Apparently, poppets are tiny and small, weak constructs which you can make right off the hop, at level one, and are relatively affordable. In addition, each poppet can be modified with enhancements. Recently published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Adventurer’s Armory 2, a sourcebook which I do not own, but seriously wish I did, these poppets made his day. He happily spent the rest of his three thousand gold coins on building a combat poppet, modifying the small sized wooden doll with armour, extra health and strength improvements; and a sneaky poppet, modifying the tiny doll with enhanced agility, stealth, and a faster move speed.
Thrilled to pieces, Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan and little Professor Piggs are ready to take their miniature poppet minions out on an adventure with some seriously bad girls. Now, if only I could decide what that adventure would entail…
Have a great night, everyone! I hope you enjoyed reading about my sons new character as much as he enjoyed making it.
Well, Christmas has come and gone, along with a variety of other holidays you might be celebrating, and while I wait for my shiny new copies of Starfinder and the Alien Achieve to arrive in the mail, I’ve been entertaining myself by delving into another great new d20 product, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness.
For those of you who don’t know, Ultimate Wilderness is a new hardcover release from Paizo Publishing, put out for Pathfinder. Pathfinder, as previously noted, is my favourite d20 game by far, and I recently received a copy of Ultimate Wilderness for my birthday (thanks, Kris and Crystal!). Like most of Pathfinder’s hardcover releases, Ultimate Wilderness comes with new class options and some new mechanics for GMs to add to their games, all themed around, you got it, the wilderness. This book introduces one new base class, tons of new archetypes, some new feats and spells, and quite a few rules subsets. Unlike most hardcover releases, this book also drops three new player races, and a ton of new options for familiars and animal companions.
Now, this book’s not cheap. None of the hardcovers for Pathfinder are, so I thought it might be worthwhile to share my two cents about the book, what you’re getting, and whether it’s worth it.
Ultimate Wilderness starts by introducing us to three new race options for players, two of which were previously released in other books. The gathlain, a lovely little fey creature with wooden wings who first was released in the very back of another one of Pathfinder’s hardcovers, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide. Found in the race builder section, gathlain originally had no details provided about their race other than the race entry itself. Now, these delightful little tricksters are given pages worth of information, including some special gear, feats and spells. There’s also a trio of archetypes, including one of my favourites from the entire book, the Season Sage, a druid archetype that got me desperately wanting to play a gathlain. Definitely a favourite of mine, you know you’re going to be producing some quirky characters with this race when the entry points out that ‘gnomes often find gathlains too flighty, foolish and undisciplined for their tastes’ (Ultimate Wilderness, page 9). Seriously. Gnomes think these guys are flighty. As a fan of the absurdity of Pathfinder’s gnomes, I’m going to have a blast with these little guys. I love it!
The second race to get some love in Ultimate Wilderness are the ghorans. Ghorans first appeared in one of Pathfinder’s skinny, softcover books, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Bestiary. They entered the scene with a bang, tempting us with tales of the ghoran’s origins. Magically created as an fast-adapting food source, ghorans achieved sentience and became a race all their own. Now the secret of their creation has been lost, and ghorans have shaped their bodies into a humanoid form, in the hopes that people will be less inclined to consume them, despite how delicious they taste, if the ghoran’s look more like them. Yup. Delicious. Like the gathlain, ghoran’s also come with an array of options, including a few feats, a magic item and a spell. They introduce a new bloodrager bloodline and two new archetypes, including the delightful aromaphile–a mesmerist archetype.
This third and final race introduced in Ultimate Wilderness is brand new. At least as a player race. Although leshy’s were first introduced in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 3, they have only now entered the game as a player race. Vine leshy’s are what you’d come to expect from these adorable little plant spirits. Hardy and clever, with some quirky camouflage capabilities and the ability to speak with plants, vine leshy’s are a fun, colourful addition to the game. Like the gathlain, vine leshy’s have a lot of character options offered alongside them, including some new feats, spells, magical and mundane gear, three archetypes and the addition of the leshy subdomain for all those clerics and druids out there who wish they could summon these little fellows.
Following the races, Ultimate Wilderness gets into what I was most excited for: the Shifter. This new base class is a shapeshifter who can transform parts of their body–and later their entire body–into animal features. It has a full base attack bonus, but suffers from the same armour restrictions as the druid class does–a small price to pay for a chance to make yourself a chimera of animal parts. They gain a nice array of wilderness abilities that are familiar, in addition to unique abilities, including wild empathy, woodland stride, track, trackless step and wild shape–although their wild shape is a weaker version of the druids, allowing them to only transform into animals they have a connection with (you start with one, and can have four by the higher levels of the class progression). As far as new abilities go, it’s the shifter’s claws and shifter aspects abilities which are going to see the most use. Shifter’s claws gives you a claw attack with each hand, dealing 1d4 damage each to start, these claws increase in power as you level up. With an unlimited uses and the ability to extend them as a swift action, these claws are an awesome combat option for the shifter, making it unlikely you’ll need to invest in a melee weapon at low levels. The second major ability of the shifter is shifter aspects. Usable in one minute increments for a number of minutes per day equal to three plus your level, shifter aspects allow you to gain a physical benefit which changes depending upon which animals your shifter is spiritually attuned to. As with wild shape, you only start with one animal aspect, so you’ll need to choose wisely, but you gain more aspects as you level up and can later manifest more than one aspect at a time, making you a chimera of sorts. My personal favourite aspect is the bear, a sturdy choice which can improve your constitution at low levels and lets you transform into a dire bear with wild shape. Other gems include the bat, which grant you darkvision out to great distances and later blind sense, and the mouse, which grants you evasion and allows you to transform into a tiny mouse with wild shape–letting you sneak into tight spaces and the ability to climb, swim and sniff your way around the environment. All in all I really like the shifter class and I’m positively desperate to play one. Now if only I could convince my husband to play a few sessions with me…
After the new classes comes the archetypes, of which there are a TON. Now, not all of the archetypes presented in Ultimate Wilderness are brand new. Some are reprints from their line of softcover books, including the bold Thundercaller bard (originally published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends) and my favourite witch archetype, the green-thumbed Herb Witch (originally published in one of my favourite player companions, Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of the Wild). Now, admittedly I was a little miffed at first, to discover some archetypes here that I’ve already been playing for a while, but after reflection, I’ve changed my tune. I like having the archetypes related to the wilderness that came from the skinny, softcovers collected in Ultimate Wilderness–presuming there are a lot of new archetypes alongside them. Which there are. Tons. Sixty pages of them, and at more than one archetype per page, that’s a lot of archetypes. I had quite a long list of favourites, but I’ll share a few with you.
Topping that list is the already mentioned gathlain archetype, the Season Sage which, thankfully, can be taken by other races with GM permission. Season Sage is a druid which gains the ability to change the seasons of the world around him, using his powers to make plants bloom, animal’s get their warm winter coats, and the weather to change. They can bring their companions the growth of spring (making them grow to twice their size), the might of summer (making them robust and healthy), and harm their enemies with the decay of autumn, and the icy cold of winter. They can literally change the world and the weather around them. And who doesn’t want to travel with a guy who can make it nice and warm in the middle of winter, or hide you in a blanket of fog? Far from over-powered, but filled with cool visuals and some neat new powers, Season Sage is my favourite archetype in the entire book.
My second favourite is a shifter archetype. Now, being a new class, shifter has quite a few cool archetypes going for it, including the elementalist shifter (which lets you harness different elements and fusions of them), the fiendflesh shifter (which lets you harness the power of evil outsiders), and the verdant shifter (which lets you take on the aspects of different plants). But, my personal favourite? The oozemorph. A shifter archetype that lets you become like the T-1000 from ‘Terminator 2’. Seriously. It’s awesome. You want to be made of shiny goo? Check! You want to transform your arms into different weapons? Check! You want to squeeze through tiny holes and compress your body? Check! You want to take on the appearances of different people? Check! How about a climb speed or damage resistance? Check and check! This archetype is awesome, super nostalgic, and has great visual potential. As long as you don’t mind being a protoplasmic blob…
There’s a ton of other awesome archetypes in the pages of this book, and if you pick it up be sure to give some of my favourites a read, including the horticulturist alchemist (who can create seeds that rapidly grow into summoned animals and plants, and who can alter his bombs to affect everything, only plants, or only things that aren’t plants), the saurian champion cavalier (who can ride gigantic dinosaurs: cause who doesn’t want to be a knight that rides a t-rex?), the viking fighter (it’s about time!), the star watcher investigator (who uses horoscopes and astrology to tell the future for his companions and make magical effects), the wood kineticist (blast away with vines, tree limbs and stinging leaves or flower petals), the geomancer occultist (who can use the terrain he’s in as an implement), the flamewarden ranger (who explodes in a burst of fire upon his death, damaging his enemies and healing his allies, and can rise from the ashes a round later), and the avenging beast vigilante (cause the only thing better than being a batman, is being a bat man who can also turn into a dire bat!).
Like all Pathfinder hardcovers, there’s a chapter for new feats and spells. These parts of the book aren’t as vast as some of the others. It’s certainly no Ultimate Combat where feats are concerned, nor does it have the spells of Ultimate Magic. Still, there’s some good options for both sections contained inside. Lots of the feats are very thematic, or specific. For shifters there’s extended aspects and extended animal focus, both of which are going to be staples for most shifters. There’s a new combat style that caught my fancy: beastmaster style, which lets you make handle animal checks to negate attacks that hit your animal companion–presuming you’re beside your beloved pet–much like mounted combat works for mounts. Continuing in this feat progression also lets you substitute your handle animal check in place of your companion’s saving throws. My choice for the best feat in here (that’s more universally useful) adds onto the Spring Attack feat progression. Yes, spring attack’s already an investment, but improved spring attack and greater spring attack add great value to this build by letting users gain an extra attack, or two, with each spring attack, as long as they target different enemies with each subsequent attack.
As for spells, there were a good array of nature based spells spread out among lots of classes. You won’t just find new spells for rangers and druids here, you’ll also find some neat new spell choices for arcane and psychic casters. A few of my favourites include tamer’s lash, a level one bard, bloodrager, magus and ranger spell that creates a sonic whip that damages your enemy and can cause animals to back down for a few rounds in fear. Explosion of rot is a nice level four damage dealing druid spell that makes everything around you rot and decay (living or otherwise!). Rounding out my favourite spells from this book are the various polymorph spells: magical beast shape, ooze form (one through three) and fey form (one through four), all of which allow a wide variety of classes to take on all kinds of new forms.
There are a lot of new mechanics and rules subsets introduced in Ultimate Wilderness, some of which will find more use than others. The new discovery and exploration rules are sure to find home in many exploration games, the new hazards are sure to trip up more than a few characters (look out for spellgorging plants!), and information on the Green Faith and the First World are always welcome. But, it’s the rules for foraging, harvesting poisons, harvesting trophies, herbalism, and wilderness traps that made me the most excited. Finally, a way to make a snare trap in the wild without a weeks worth of work and a sack of gold! (And there was much rejoicing).
The last section I want to touch on in Ultimate Wilderness is a huge part of the book and, in my opinion, a massive draw: familiars and animal companions. Taking up over forty pages of the book, this section collects stats for some of the more obscure animal options you may have missed in the many softcover releases they’ve been spread across, as well as new choices (including the anglerfish, archaeopteryx, dodo, koala, panda, sabre-toothed cat, plenty of plants and vermin, and my daughter’s personal favourite: the rabbit). It also provides a huge host of archetypes, tricks and feats for them to make use of. Most important for me? A nice concise listing of which animal forms have access to which magical item slots. Now, it’s worth noting, some of the information in this section was previously printed in some other softcover releases from Paizo, including Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio and Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive. But, much of the content is new and, in all honesty, I like having it compiled into an easier to access source.
For my money, Ultimate Wilderness is worth it. It provides a lot of fun new options for players and some decent new mechanics for GMs to enrich their games. One of the biggest draws for this release is going to be the many new options for our furry (or scaly or feathered) friends, the familiars and animal companions. If you don’t have this book yet you can pick it up at the link below, and if you do, let me know in the comments what you’re most excited for from Ultimate Wilderness!
Here it is… my first post. You might be wondering what’s coming. You might expect me to start with a BANG! A big, bold first post sure to grab your interest and hook you!
You’d be wrong. Haha. I’m going to be starting far humbler than that. I’m going to be giving thanks.
Firstly, thank-you to my husband. Without his unwavering faith in me, and his belief that what I have to say is worth hearing, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be doing this. d20 Diaries wouldn’t exist. Thanks, babe.
Second, thank-you to my GMs. The game masters. The story-tellers. The people who make a game that you can play. This is not an easy job. More often than not, this person is me. But when it’s not there’s only been a few of you who’ve taken the entire world on their shoulders. My husband–the craziest GM you’ll ever have the pleasure of playing with. He’ll come up with ideas that will surprise you, entertain you, and leave you talking for years to come. He hasn’t GMed much, but everything he’s done has been memorable. Dear: you’re a blast. My brother: there’s not person I know who’s better at this than you. You’re constantly crafting campaigns, and though I rarely have a chance to play in them, I hear about them constantly. I wish I knew my game mechanics half as well as you do! My son! Six years old and he’s constantly telling tales and forcing everyone with a voice to play his adventures. I wish I had as much energy as you! I’m very proud. And lastly, the first GM who ever crafted a game for us: Rene. If you ever read this know that even though our time together as players was short, you changed all of our lives more than you’ll know! Seriously. Massively. Thank you!
Third, thank-you to my players. d20 games take more than one person. No matter who you are, you cannot play alone. (Well, technically you can, as I’ve proved on more than one occasion when very, very bored; but that’s a discussion for another time…). To properly enjoy a d20 game, you need a team of players. I’ve GMed a lot, but my players have been a pretty small group. Family, friends, and friends of friends. To all of you who’ve been there and played alongside me: this one’s for you. Thanks to my children and my siblings. It’s you who’ve played with me most (excluding my husband, of course, who must put up with me constantly begging him to play just one more session…). Thanks to the friends who’ve played alongside me, and the friends of friends. If you’ve played with me, then thank you!
Fourth, to the many, many online player’s I’ve recently joined on Paizo’s play-by-post boards: thanks for letting me join you and keeping the games rolling! I’m loving the community, and the games.
Lastly, thanks to all of you. The new readers of d20 Diaries. Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride! We’re just getting started.