The newest issue of Dragon+ is out, and with it details on the next D&D hardcover adventure book: Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Due out May 21, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a collection of seven nautical and coastal themed adventures that take characters from levels 1-12. These adventures can be run separately or as one larger campaign. The adventures contained in this volume are all previously published adventures which have been lovingly adapted to fifth edition D&D (including some of the most popular first edition and Dungeon Magazine adventures). Adventures in Ghosts of Saltmarsh include:
The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1981)
Danger at Dunwater (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1982)
The Final Enemy (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1983)
Isle of the Abbey (originally written by Randy Maxwell for Dungeon Magazine #34)
Tammeraut’s Fate (originally written by Greg A. Vaughan for Dungeon Magazine #106)
The Styes (originally written by Richard Pett for Dungeon Magazine #121)
Salvage Operation (originally written by Mike Mearls for Dungeon Magazine #123)
In addition to the adventures themselves there’s details on the port of Saltmarsh, mechanics for ship-to-ship combat, new monsters, and new magic items.
Launching one month later is Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Currently available for pre-order on their website, the Sinister Silver Edition contains twelve high quality player handouts, a detailed ship map, a reusable ship map, two large scale battle maps, a map of the Styes, 30 encounter cards (which are designed to be hung over a DM screen so players can see images of the monsters they fight while the DM sees it’s statistics), custom DM screen, two objects, bonus encounters, and characters!
Now, for those of you who have to deal with vermin way worse than mice… say rats or cockroaches or something else horrible, you might be thinking: “Auww, a mouse! How cute!”
No! Not cute!
Dirty, filthy, sneaky little mice. In my KITCHEN.
So while my kitchen has been taken over by an abundance of glue-traps (admittedly, it might be overkill), we’re going to take a look at VERMIN.
Pardon me while I suppress a shiver!
Now, I don’t just mean insectile vermin, or the vermin creature-type, I mean vermin of all kinds. And the most likely way you’re going to interact with these creepy, crawlies? Battle.
To kick things off we’re looking at a classic: the dire rat. I know, I know, you’ve fought a ton. But if you haven’t? Do it! These nasty little blighters are a staple for low level d20 games of all kinds, and for good reason! They’re a decent challenge for their lowly CR 1/3, and due to their horrible hygiene, they’re likely a player’s first interaction with diseases, as well. Love them or hate, you’ve gotta take them down!
A few of my other favourite vermin include giant leeches (so gross!) and the tick swarm. Giant leeches have the ability to attach themselves to their victims and drain the blood right out of them–except this bad boy’s the size of a grown man. At a CR 2, they’re still a low-level threat. And the tick swarm? The opposite. The tick swarm is a whopping CR 9 monster that’s immune to weapon damage in addition to the typical swarm immunities. These little buggers are diseased, and possess a cool ability: cling. Even after fleeing the swarm’s area a bunch of ticks still cling onto the PCs, draining their blood. This causes the PC to take swarm damage each round even after running away. They’re going to hate these things!
There’s another new vermin out there that I love, and it’s creature type? Undead! Cause the only thing worse than finally killing that cockroach? When it comes back to life! Check out the exoskeleton! An exoskeleton is the corpse of an insect, given unlife by necromancy. Sort of like a skeleton bug. Minus the skeleton. As an acquired template the exoskeleton can be added onto any corporeal vermin that has an exoskeleton, so prep the beetles, centipedes and spiders! Bring on the exoskeletons!
But vermin aren’t always the enemy, right? What about those of us you who want to make nice with the little guys? Well, look no further!
Want to let out your inner vermin? Play a ratfolk! These sneaky little fellows are a fun player race, who excel in tight spaces. They’re nimble, smart, and are naturally good at creating alchemical substances, and using magical devices. They’ve got some cool race specific archetypes and feats, but my favourite thing to make with a ratfolk? A witch! Seriously! Imagine them brewing their noxious substances, hurling hexes and cackling their furry little heads off! So great!
But what if alignment’s not an issue? Well, if you’re alright with letting a load of villainy into your games you can crack out the classic wererat. Or better yet? Be an entothrope! A what?
An entothrope! Introduced in Bestiary 6, the entothrope is lycanthropy with BUGS! And my personal favourite? The weremantis! With wicked claws, mandibles, and the ability to lunge and make sudden strikes, these guys are a blast!
Now, there’s also some awesome class options for those of us you who want to dabble with vermin without being one. The most obvious way is with your pets. My favourite vermin familiar is the moth. Why? Honestly? I HATE moths. I have a terrible fear of moths. Eww! Yeah, yeah, I know they’re not THAT bad… Looking for a good animal companion? Pick up a giant cockroach (also EWWW!). Both options are from Ultimate Wilderness.
And my all time favourite vermin themed character option?
The swarm monger druid!
These guys have to choose an urban companion–centipede, cat, rat, raven or spider–and can make them multiply into a swarm a few times a day for a few minutes at a time. They gain the ability to influence vermin, bonuses on saving throws against disease and poison, the ability to be healed by consuming rotten food, and, my personal favourite, the ability to transform themselves into a shifting swarm of vermin. Neat!
Not up for a full-body commitment?
There’s a lot of cool items and spells that you can pick up, so I’ll only name my very favourites. First up? Pipes of the warren guardian, a magical musical instrument that can be played once a day to summon a bunch of dire rats to fight for you. And the spell? Vomit swarm! Cause… just… GROSS!
And what are we finishing off the day with?
Urban Decay! A 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure intended for 2nd level characters that pits the players against a group of wererats operating out of the sewers who attempt to conquer the city above with rats, and plagues of disease. This is an awesome little adventure that’s a perfect way for me to work out my anger at something generally mouse-shaped. Take THAT rats mouse-stand-ins!
That’s all for today!
See you next time,
Interested in anything you read about today? Want to know where it came from? Look no further!
With our characters made, minis picked out, and some free time on our hands, the members of Boople Snoot Dinorabbit set out to try their luck at the deadly Shackled City Adventure Path! (No idea what I’m talking about? Check out this blog post for more details).
Our story begins on a dreary evening, near sunset. The clouds are dark, the sky is red, and the first fat raindrops begin to fall from the sky on the city of Cauldron. Despite the gloomy atmosphere, tonight is a special occassion! For tonight is Dinorabbit’s one year anniversary! To celebrate, Falco Rhiavadi has insisted the entire band join him for a fine dinner at the Coy Nixie (on his family’s tab, of course!). Always happy for a new experience, Mick Frimfrocket agreed immediately, and soon they were off.
The characters showed up underdressed, and had a fun opportunity to role-play their way through the restaurant. Falco convinced the snooty greeter, Odell, to escort them to a table by name-dropping his relatives. The whole group managed to befriend the waiter, Relveth, with an astoundingly high diplomacy check led by Falco. They ordered fancy sounding meals, and settled in to eat. During the meal they realized they could hear beautiful music, but couldn’t find the band–a mystery which set my son’s imagination ablaze. They also discovered the murals on the wall were like massive search and finds. Each painting was of a different aquatic scene and had a number of nixies hiding within. As they ate and examined the paintings they also got to eavesdrop on the other patrons and socialize.
The manager, Narissia Delacour, was curious which Rhiavadi was dining at her establishment and paid them a courtesy visit. Although she was disappointed it wasn’t anyone important, Falco made a good enough impression that they were allowed to stay and given good service.
Nearby guests included Tabitha Aslaxin, a studious business-minded woman who once attended school with Falco–before he dropped out to join the music program. Tabitha sat with her younger sister, Averil, who had only recently come of age and seemed extremely excited to be present in her finery. The Aslaxin family owns the Coy Nixie and many other establishments in Cauldron. Although the curious members of Dinorabbit took notice of these noble ladies, they chose not to attempt to speak with them.
Other nearby notables included a trio of sisters from House Taskerhill. Mick and Falco managed to overhear that the younger sisters, Monette and Carmine, were scolding the eldest sister, Annah, for her dangerous ways. Bored with life among the nobility, Annah had joined up with a group of other nobles and was spending her free time ‘adventuring’ for the good of Cauldron. As the sisters worried over Annah’s health and their family’s reputation, Annah assured them no harm would come to her. That’s what her companions were for…
Lastly, Falco recognized a few familiar faces at a nearby table: his cousin Venser Rhiavadi, and his Uncle Hasserton Rhiavadi. Falco greeted them warmly, but received a rude, disinterested greeting from his uncle. In his uncle’s defence, Hasserton was his mother’s husband’s brother (and therefore not truly related to Falco at all). Falco’s cousin was equally cold, though he did take the time to make fake-pleasant conversation (for a few minutes). When his patience was worn out Venser bid Falco a curt farewell and returned to his meal.
With their dinner at the Coy Nixie complete, the members of Dinorabbit headed out into the rainy, dark streets. Rabbity tossed her leftovers to Panthy, her beloved pet black panther, and then danced and played in the rain for a while. As the group began to move down they road they heard a scream for help. Rabbity hopped on top of Panthy and urged her forward, followed closely by Aeris. As the two turned a corner they caught sight of a man, with his face painted half-black and half-white with the grinning visage of a jester, blocking the way into a nearby back alley. And from that alley issued the cries for help.
Aeris recognized the strange face paint as the signature of the local Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild, and immediately drew her blade. The Last Laugh had killed her beloved Grandfather Marzio, last High Chamberlain of Alseta, and she’d be damned if she let this hoodlum get away with whatever he was up to!
Rabbity and Aeris were the first into battle, but Mick and Falco weren’t far behind. Rabbity launched blasts of water at the Last Laugh thief, urging the puddles in the street to surge forward and smash into her enemy. Aeris used some of her elemental assault ability to make her sword crackle with electricity as she fought. Shockingly, the thug didn’t fall. Instead he drew a greataxe and swung it at Aeris, nearly cutting her open completely. Falco was there in a flash, healing Aeris’ wounds. Mick hurried to the fight as fast as his little legs would carry him, then used his magic to summon his favourite piano. His inspiring songs filled the streets, echoing over the sounds of the heavy, pounding rain.
As Rabbity and Aeris knocked the thug unconscious, Falco caught sight of a man down he alley–a priest by the look of him–getting beaten and bullied by two more Last Laugh thugs.
“Leave the orphanage alone, priest, if ya’ know what’s good for ‘ya!” they growled.
The young priest begged for help.
The characters all ran in to help him, of course, and with Panthy’s fangs, Rabbity’s water blasts, Aeris’ sword, and Mick’s grooving tunes, the battle was quick, but hard. Aeris took a decent amount of damage that fight and tore through half of her daily rounds of blood rage, all of her rounds of elemental assault and all of her uses of destined strike.
Falco healed the priest, and together they ensured the thugs weren’t in danger of dying. Once everyone was safe, Aeris and the priest suggested they turn in the Last Last Thieve’s to the town guard. The other characters agreed, so they hoisted the thugs up over shoulders and onto backs, and began the long, slippery trip uphill to the Garrison. Along the way the characters chatted with the priest.
The priest’s name was Rufus Laro, and he was an acolyte at the local church of Abadar. He was sent to the Lantern Street Orphanage earlier that day to check on the children and offer aid–only three days ago four children were kidnapped in the dead of the night from the orphanage. On the way home he was ambushed and set upon by thugs! He had thought they were going to rob him, but their threats were clearly meant to keep him from further interference at the orphanage. Though why any thieves would be interested in a run-down orphanage he had no idea… The young priest was quite shaken by the ordeal, and asked his saviours to escort him back to his church after they all finished giving their statements to the guard.
My kids had a blast talking with Rufus. My son, especially. They asked him questions and bragged about their various gear, music and pets. Rufus found Panthy quite intimidating, which Rabbity thought was hilarious. She tried to prove to Rufus that Panthy was well trained, but her handle animal checks all failed, and Panthy chose that time to ignore her commands completely. This did little to set Rufus at ease…
As the group arrived at the guard post with unconscious men thrown over their shoulders, the guards came out to accost them. The guards sighed and rolled their eyes when Aeris informed them that she had apprehended some criminals–clearly they know her and don’t like her very much. Aeris is in the habit of reporting all the crimes she witnesses to the guard, while the guard in turn thinks Aeris is a lying, busy-body.
Rufus’ account of the group saving his life did get them motivated, though, as did the tell-tale face paint marking the thugs as members of the Last Laugh. The entire group of characters was ushered into the offices to give their statements. During the interviews, Falco managed to overhear some exclamations of surprise from the jail cells. Apparently the Last Laugh thugs they brought in were also members of the town guard! Falco was more than a little intrigued. Unfortunately, no further information was forthcoming, and the group left with Rufus to escort him to the church of Abadar.
It was another wet trip through the pouring rain, although this time the reception was kinder. The group was ushered into the elaborate church and offered dry towels, snacks and refreshments. Rufus gave the heroic musicians his heartfelt thanks and asked them to stay awhile. He was sure his superior would like to reward them! Then he disappeared deeper into the building. While the characters waited they had a bit of time to eat, warm up, and chat with a pair of low-level acolytes in Abadar’s clergy. Tiefling sisters, named Tirabeth Drissant and Orellia Drissant. Despite her more obvious fiendish traits, Orellia was the more social of the two sisters, while Tirabeth was more insular and studious.
It wasn’t long before the group was brought before Priestess Jenya Urikas, the acting head of the Church of Abadar in Cauldron–at the moment. Her superior was off at a meeting in the far-away city of Eleder and wouldn’t be back for some time. Jenya introduced herself and thanked the PCs for rescuing Rufus. The characters introduced themselves in turn, and they all made a good impression. Jenya hesitated only a moment before offering them a job.
She explained that recent kidnappings and disappearances have plagued Cauldron for the last few months. In that time twenty-six people have been abducted in the dead of night, without witnesses or leads. The last four were all children at the Lantern Street Orphanage. Feeling for the children, and worried that the town guard were getting nowhere in their investigations, Jenya decided to have the Church of Abadar get involved. To that end she compiled a list of all the missing persons, and sent a few of her priests out to get what information on them and their disappearances they could. Rufus was sent to the Lantern Street Orphanage. In addition, she used a holy relic of her church, The Star of Justice, to get more information. This holy mace was capable of using a sliver of Abadar’s wisdom in order to divine the future. In the hands of the faithful it could answer a question, though its responses were often difficult to comprehend. The Star of Justice was only supposed to be used by the head of their church in times of great need, but Jenya felt justified on calling upon its powers in order to save the lives of four innocent children. She prayed to Abadar, took the Star of Justice from its altar and asked it:
“Where are the children who were abducted from the Lantern Street Orphanage?”
The answer came back in prose:
“The locks are key to finding them. Look beyond the curtain, below the cauldron. Beware the doors with teeth. Descend into the malachite ‘hold where precious life is bought with gold. Half a dwarf binds them, but not for long.”
Jenya shared this information with the characters and asked for their help. Would they be willing to take up the investigation into the children’s disappearance on behalf of the Church of Abadar? If so, she would provide them each with a potion of healing as an act of good faith, and she would pay them a small fortune upon completion of the investigation. over 2,000 gold pieces.
The characters conferred amongst themselves for a moment…
Mick was always up for new experiences! He had never been a hero before, or a detective, or saved children, so he was very excited to get started! And THAT RIDDLE! Oh, boy was he excited about that riddle! Plus, those poor kids… Mick had grown up at the same orphanage they were taken from! So sad…
Rabbity sadly recounted that a friend of hers from work, Gryffon, was among those missing persons. He had been abducted from his home three nights before his wedding to another of Rabbit’s co-workers, Imelie. Poor Imelie hadn’t smiled since… Hoping to find Gryffon, Rabbity also accepted the mission.
Aeris had no hesitation and accepted immediately. She kept up with local news and was well-aware of the kidnappings. Despite only being a locksmith, she aspired to be like her grandfather–a heroic leader of the community and paladin of Alseta. He had always fought against injustice and crime. Aeris always attempted to do the same. Plus… the Last Laugh seemed to be involved. She had promised her grandfather at his funeral that one day she would put an end to the gang of thieves that had killed him. She wanted to discover how deep they were wrapped up in this!
And Falco? Well, Falco was a good man who was more than a little too confident for his own good. Of course he wants to help the orphans!
With the group all in agreement for one reason or another, they accepted Jenya’s offer, were given a potion of cure moderate wounds each, a copy of the riddle, and a list of all the missing persons. Of course, it was too late to begin the investigation NOW, the Lantern Street Orphanage was all closed up for the night. So they headed home and spent the evening stewing over the information that had been given to them.
They had a lot to contemplate…
Note from a GM:
The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.
Very little has changed from the adventure as written to our game table so far. The most noticeable change is the campaign opening. As printed, The Shacked City takes place in Cauldron, and begins with the characters walking down the road in the rain, late at night, when they hear someone call for help. Although I’ve got no problem with coincidental openings such as this, my children love roleplaying with NPCs and I’ve found that giving them opportunities to have dinner at a restaurant, shop, or make a new friend in character adds a lot to their gaming experience. To this end I began the campaign at a fancy dinner at the Coy Nixie, instead of on the street. This turned out to be a fun role-playing encounter for our whole family, and really let my children have a chance to try out their characters before hopping right into a fight.
The second change made so far wasn’t so much a change as an expansion. Plenty of NPCs were given names and faces in order to make the surrounding city and the people in it come to life. This is an easy to do addition that really adds a lot of depth to the gaming experience, and is definitely going to continue throughout the campaign.
Lastly, some changes were made due to setting. Cauldron was placed in Pathfinder’s world of Golarion, in the Mwangi Expanse. The nearest major settlement is Eleder. All instances of the god Abadar and his church were used to replace the 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons deity, St. Cuthbert. Their functions and beliefs are similar, making it a simple, seamless change.
Thanks for joining us on our adventures in Cauldron today! I hope you enjoyed the ride. Another update for Shackled City is coming later this week, followed by our first glimpse at an ongoing Reign of Winter campaign. Stay tuned!
After playing a Pathfinder Society Scenario a while back with my husband and children, I expected to be playing a few more in the near future. They’re short, fun, and don’t require a long-term commitment. Since my husband’s already playing in two other long-term campaigns with family (Reign of Winter and Mummy’s Mask), and a campaign with my children (Carrion Crown), I figured this would work out well.
And we had fun! So much fun my husband got an itch to start another new campaign. Just the other day he asked my kids if they wanted to play Shackled City with him. They said yes, obviously, and they started planning characters together.
Wait. Shackled City?
For those of you who don’t know, Shackled City is a HARD campaign. Awesome. But hard. We’ve played it before and gotten up to the end of of chapter one with a whopping six character deaths. SIX. And I have a crew of great players.
And there’s my children, chattering happily with my husband over character concepts.
This was going to take some work.
Now, I’d need to put a fair amount of work into running Shackled City anyway. It’s an adventure path written for 3.5 and these days we play Pathfinder, so there’s some conversion required. Not much, but some. Pathfinder characters are stronger than 3.5, so that should work in our favour. But it was written for a group of 4-5, and we would be running three. Of course, my kids enjoy it when I play with them, so perhaps I’d make a character to be their fourth party member. Still, this campaign would be tough and, as much as my children know that sometimes our characters die and that’s okay…. They’re five and six. I’d rather they not have their little paper dreams tattered and torn and tossed in the trash.
I spent some time thinking while my children and husband worked on their character concepts. What would our creation guidelines be? How could we make this work and have a reasonable chance of success? There’s plenty of ways to allow your player’s a bit of a boost for their characters, but I wanted to keep it simple. I decided to have them create level two characters (instead of level one) with a 25 point buy for their ability scores (we usually roll 2d6 and add 6). They got to take one of the Shackled City traits (which provide a benefit and a penalty) and two Pathfinder traits with the option to take a drawback to gain a third Pathfinder trait. I granted them background skills, which is essentially an extra two skill points each level that must be spent on less-useful skills like perform, profession and craft. Rules for background skills can be found in Pathfinder Unchained. They got 1,000 gp for their starting gold (which is the wealth expected of a second level character). And lastly, I made a character to join them and round up the party size to four.
In only two days my husband and both of my kids had their characters ready to go, complete with a reason to know each other. The reason?
They’re in a band.
But before I tell you about their characters, I’m going to tell you about what they’re going to play.
THE SHACKLED CITY
The Shackled City is an eleven-part adventure path printed in Dungeon Magazine from March 2003 through until November 2004. In 2007 it was compiled in a hardcover edition that included supplemental articles, a collection of maps and player handouts, and an entire additional adventure. Shackled City was created for 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons and is intended to bring characters from level 1 to 20.
The Shackled City takes place in Cauldron, a merchant metropolis built into the caldera of a long-dormant volcano. Located amidst jungles teeming with dinosaurs and demons, Cauldron is far from any other major urban centres, although a few small villages exist nearby. Shackled City is an urban adventure path that has a heavy amount of dungeon crawls and political intrigue. It’s an awesome, fun campaign with a lot of twists and turns but, as mentioned above, it’s very challenging for low-level groups.
Evil schemes are afoot in Cauldron. Driven by the dreams of an insane demon prince, bizarre cultists known as the Cagewrights are plotting something foul. Something they’ve been working towards for centuries. To prevent their agenda and save Cauldron, your player’s will have to explore cursed underground complexes, brave haunted jungle ruins, slay mighty dragons, and perhaps, even bind themselves to a layer of the infinite abyss.
The first adventure in the series, Life’s Bazaar, begins with a chance encounter that soon sees our characters investigating the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. But these children are not the only ones to go missing, dozens have disappeared over the last few months alone. And their fate lays entirely in your player’s hands…
Without further ado, let’s take a look at our band (literally) of brave characters!
Falco Rhiavadi is a member of the prominent Rhiavadi noble line. A rich and powerful family, the Rhiavadi’s are currently lead by Falco’s aunt, Thifirane. Unfortunately, Falco is clearly a bastard. His father was a foreigner by the name of Kenji Ozawa. Unable to hide his parentage, and refusing to give the boy up, Falco’s mother kept him close, and treated him as any other member of the family. Brazenly keeping Falco around caused no small amount of friction within the Rhiavadi family. Much of that anger was directed at Falco’s mother, while Falco was treated as an outsider and an embarrassment.
Despite this, Falco was given a thorough education at Bluecrater Academy, where he again disappointed his family by ending all of his practical studies and joining the music program. He made plenty of friends there, including Mick Frimfrocket (a gnomish pianist and comedian), Rabbity Castalle (a rabbitfolk dancer with a pet panther), and Valius (an artist and cleric of Shelyn). Valius inspired Falco to find faith in Shelyn, the goddess of love and art, while Mick and Rabbity eventually formed a band with Falco, named Boople Snoot. Recently the band’s name was changed to Dinorabbit. Falco plays the flute, and is an accomplished orator.
When Falco was a teenager, his father, Kenji, heard tales of a dragon outside the city and set out to pay homage to the proud beast. Unfortunately, dragons in the Inner Sea are not the same as dragons from Tian Xia, and Kenji was devoured. In grief, Falco called out for the power to keep those he cared about safe. A colourful thrush appeared to him–clearly a gift from Shelyn herself! The bird said its name was Ruby, and promised Falco the power to keep the people around him healthy. She even hinted at the possibility of bringing Kenji back to life. Elated, Falco took the bird home with him, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
Unfortunately, Ruby is a rude, cantankerous bird, who is very protective of Falco. She gets offended and complains whenever Falco prays to Shelyn instead of Ruby herself. Ruby acts like a normal songbird in public, sweetly whistling as an accompaniment to Falco’s flute music. In private, Ruby complains, demands fealty, and generally is a grouchy pain in the butt. Falco loves her dearly.
Now twenty years old, Falco is a well-groomed, handsome man with an easy smile and a winning personality. He lives in a small flat paid for by his family, and rarely ever attends noble gatherings or does anything practical. Instead he spends his time making music with his bandmates, visiting his friend Valius’ art studio, or socializing in the Tipped Tankard Tavern. He also volunteers to use his healing powers at the local church of Kurgess. His love of life, art and music is boundless, and Falco is the driving force behind his band’s performances and music. He is the heart and soul of Boople Snoot Dinorabbit.
Mechanically, Falco is a shaman who has formed a lasting bond with the life spirit. Ruby is his spirit animal and conduit to these spirits. He’s a human of mixed Taldan and Tien descent. With the ability to channel positive energy, and the healing hex, Falco is a healer first and foremost. He selected extra channel, and selective channel as his feats to further enhance his healing powers. As a shaman, his spells prepared can change each day, but so far when expecting danger he’s prepared burning hands, entangle, obscuring mist, and his spirit spell: detect undead. His favourite orisons include detect magic, dancing lights, daze and stabilize. Though he prefers not to engage in violence, Falco began the campaign with an elaborate dagger, and a very fine walking stick which he is more than capable of using to defend himself. Falco is my husband’s character (and his third character to attempt the Shackled City Adventure Path).
Mick Frimfrocket is a gnome with dark blue skin, bright pink hair that stands straight up on his head, and light blue eyes with flecks of red around his pupils. He’s energetic, bold, and loves nothing more than a good laugh! Mick grew up in the gnomish enclave of Jzadirune, located underneath Cauldron. He was brought to the surface when he was only a child, in order to escape a strange disease afflicting the enclave, called the Vanishing. Unable to remember much of anything from this time, but plagued with nightmares of people fading away to nothing in front of him, Mick is curious about his youth, and the family and home he cannot recall. Once he reached the surface, Mick was taken in by the poorly funded Lantern Street Orphanage. Due to his fondness for playing tricks on people and making jokes, he got into a lot of scuffles with the other kids, and quickly learned his way around a fist-fight. His time at the orphanage was happy, but LONG, as Mick was never lucky enough to be adopted (apparently prospective parents don’t like it when you put salt in their tea instead of sugar, trip them in the hallway, or make illusions of dinosaurs stomping through the adoption office…). Most of the staff he once knew who worked there have moved on now, or passed away.
Upon reaching adulthood and moving out into Cauldron on his own, Mick took the the street corners to tell jokes, play pranks, and generally have a laugh as a busker. He made enough coin to enrol in the music program at the Bluecrater Academy, where he learned to sing and play the piano. There he met Falco Rhiavadi, and Rabbity Castalle, an eclectic pair of people who soon became his best friends and bandmates. In addition, Falco also invited Mick to live at his luxurious flat with him, and they became room-mates.
Mick is an inspiring, funny, exuberant fellow who constantly tries new things. He’s worshipped at least four different gods, eats the strangest things he can get his mouth around, and is constantly insisting the band change their name. The most recent change was from Boople Snoot to Dinorabbit. An ironic change, since it was him who suggested they be named Boople Snoot in the first place. He likes to make fires when he’s bored, both illusory and real, and finds constant joy in the fact that no flame ever flickers the same. He has an obsession with pigs–though he’s never owned one–and collects every piece of art, or toy pig he can get his hands on. He’s also a fan of learning new languages, and currently can speak seven: Common, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Sylvan and Tien.
Mechanically, Mick is a multi classed monk and a bard (prankster). He’s carries no weapons, instead fighting with his fists or throwing whatever objects happen to be nearby as projectiles. He also carries alchemist’s fire, LOTS of alchemist’s fire, but has never had a chance to actually THROW any alchemist’s fire. This saddens him greatly, as he thinks it would be a spectacular sight! He uses his bardic performances to inspire his allies and mock his enemies. He makes use of his gnomish magic to make magical lights, phantom sounds, perform minor magic tricks and speak with animals. With his bardic magic he can detect magic, set flammable objects on fire, and summon his favourite piano. He can also cast cure light wounds and biting words, a spell that lets his words physically harm an enemy. He chose weapon focus (unarmed strike) as his feat, while monk granted him the feats improved unarmed strike, stunning fist and throw anything. Unfortunately, Mick’s not very clever, which doesn’t let him take advantage of the monk’s bonus AC ability. Despite this, Mick doesn’t wear armour. Instead he has a collection of potions he drinks to increase his AC, including mage armour and shield. Mick is my six year old son’s character.
Rabbity Castalle is a rabbit folk with soft white fur and a few patches of blue on the tips of her ears. She wears fancy clothes, and lots of beautiful jewelry, all in her favourite colour: blue. Sapphires are her favourite gemstone. She loves water and rain, and thinks its horrible that the government has let the lake at the centre of town become so stinky and polluted! She has a connection to water of all kinds and can make it obey her commands–most of the time. In addition to shooting it from her hands, and using it as a shield, she can create water, clean water, create mild currents in bodies of water, make extremely slippery puddles of water appear on surfaces or objects, and dry wet creatures. The heat never seems to bug her.
Rabbity is lucky, nimble and quick. She’s a beautiful dancer, and eventually saved up enough money to attend Bluecrater Academy. She joined the music program, and further honed her craft. There she met Falco Rhiavadi and Mick Frimfrocket whom she eventually started a band with.
Rabbity’s best friend is a panther named Panthy, who she has trained to let her ride on its back. Panthy can also act terrifying, follow Rabbity, and perform minor tricks like rolling over, shaking a paw, and dancing. Rabbity and Panthy typically perform together before the band goes on stage.
Rabbity works at the Tipped Tankard Tavern as a waitress. Because of this, the Tipped Tankard has become a meeting place for her bandmates, and they can often be seen there, eating, drinking, or performing in their band. Rabbity rents a room from her friend, Aeris (a local locksmith), and eventually Rabbity convinced Aeris to join their band as a drummer.
Mechanically, Rabbity is a kineticist tied to the element of water. Her panther is purchased and trained, but not an animal companion. She is my five-year old daughter’s character.
Aeris Caldyra is a locksmith born to the historic Caldyra family, and the business-minded Halar’s. It is said that the first Caldyra were brothers who accompanied Surabar, the founder of Cauldron, deep into the jungles in order to bless any settlements and boundaries he erected with the aid of their goddess Alseta. A respected but sparse family, the Caldyra name is still remembered fondly by historians. Aeris and her father, Edwin are the last of the Caldyra’s in Cauldron.
Her mother’s side of the family are successful merchants and businessmen from far off Qadira. Practically nobility, the Halar’s were rich beyond imagining and powerful, maintaining the ears of both the Satraps and extraplanar beings. Magical powers and the blood of elementals has long been recorded in their family histories. They have spread throughout the world, although the local Halar’s are little more than rich merchants and business-men. Unlike the Caldyra’s, the Halar’s are a vast family, with dozens of them living in Cauldron at the moment. Although Aeris’ mother, Kiriel socializes with them often, Aeris has always felt out of place among her extended family.
Despite being surrounded by a bustling family of merchants Aeris Caldyra has always felt less interested in business than she has in the gods. She felt like an outsider among the Halar family and with her parents. Only her Grandfather Marzio, a High Chamberlain of Alseta and the last of his faith, truly understood her. They were incredibly close, and despite her parents protests that she take up a worthy trade and get her head out of the clouds, Marzio trained Aeris in the ways of Alseta’s faith. She went with him on tours throughout the city to bless doorways, gateways and arches, to inspect the city walls for defects and repairs, and to ward peoples homes and businesses against danger. He knew a great deal about engineering, the history of the region, demons and, of course, religion. He was a good man and a good priest, but his focus was always more on helping people and Cauldron than it was on proselytizing and spreading Alseta’s worship. His followers were small in number, but many respected him and his work. He had working relationships with all four of the other churches in Cauldron as well as the Mayor’s office and the town guard. Alongside him, Aeris learned her religion and what it meant to be a good priest and a good person. Unfortunately, when she was only eight years old Marzio died. …And it was all her fault.
Aeris had accompanied Marzio on his rounds throughout Cauldron to inspect the walls and gates. By mid-day she was tired and begged her grandfather to take her for a treat at a local candy shop. He told her to wait until they were finished for the day, as he had packed them a picnic lunch, but Aeris had insisted, and Marzio never could say no to his beloved granddaughter. On the way to the candy shop they passed a mugger painted with a black and white face (a member of the criminal gang the Last Laugh) accosting a banker of Abadar. Marzio leapt in to assist the man, brandishing his holy symbol and attacking with his longsword, but he was ambushed by the muggers comrades. Stabbed in the back, Marzio fell, and faster than Aeris could blink the gang was upon him: beating, stabbing and stealing his coin. Aeris’ screams summoned the guard, but by the time they arrived Grandfather Marzio was dead, both he and the priest of Abadar had been robbed and the Last Laugh thugs had fled. Aeris snatched up his holy symbol and sword — the only valuables the thieves had left behind — and cried for days. Her grandpa was dead because she was a spoiled brat who wanted a candy! This was all her fault! Broken hearted, Aeris couldn’t bear to tell anyone he was dead because of her.
Life moved on. Aeris’ parents sold Marzio’s home and shrines to members of the Halar family. They were torn down and remodelled. The few followers of Alseta’s faith turned to Abadar for guidance, and soon the only place Grandpa Marzio’s religion lived on was inside Aeris herself. She was a poor excuse for a devotee and knew she would never be a Chamberlain like her grandpa had been. Aeris’ parents insisted she take up a trade and prepare for running her own business one day, so she studied to be a locksmith. Her locks could protect people. It was a trade her grandfather and Alseta would appreciate. When she became an adult Aeris was gifted a townhouse of her own, with a business space downstairs. She turned it into a profitable little locksmith’s shop. She rents out her spare room to Rabbity, a quirky little rabbitfolk who was in need of a home.
Now twenty years old, with blond hair, braided on one side, and mismatched eyes (one blue, one green), Aeris is a charismatic, cheeky woman. She’s always smiling or ready with a quip. She endeavours to be kind, honest and courteous. She doesn’t brag or lie (often). She’s strong of faith, but never proselytizes. She tries to keep up the duties her grandfather did. She blesses doorways (as she installs locks), prays to Alseta as she passes through thresholds of all kinds, inspects public archways and gateways for damage and repair work, and patrols the town walls looking for damage and wear.
Aeris never interacts with people she suspects of being criminals. When she discovers such people she always ends her interactions with them immediately and reports them to law enforcement. Most of the town guard think she’s a rubber-necker or a liar—another nosy citizen who makes fake and unnecessary reports. When she can stand it not more, Aeris takes the law into her own hands, seeking retribution against the criminals no one will punish. She sneaks into their homes and safe houses to rob them before slipping out again. She donates her stolen goods to fund civic projects, charities or local churches. Despite the good that comes of these misadventures she always feels horribly about it afterwards, believing her grandpa and Alseta are displeased with her actions. Her prayers the days following are always filled with promises to never steal again, which she inevitably breaks.
To this day Aeris has an intense hatred of the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild, and to a lesser extent other groups of gangs and organized crime. She’s always tries to step in and help stop crimes when she sees them (another reason the town guard is not fond of her). Despite her hope that she’ll be able to foil or disassemble the Last Laugh one day in honour of her grandfather, she is disregarded by them. A fact that hurts her more than she admits.
Aeris aspires to embody the four virtues of Alseta’s faith: Courtesy, Duty, Honesty and Humility. She believes that it is very important to protect people. She thinks that undeath and portals to dangerous planes are thresholds that should never have been opened and in the off chance she encounters such threats she would react strongly to stop or close them. As a follower of Alseta she also believes she must act as a fair arbiter to disputes. She tries to uphold the law.
Recently, Rabbity convinced Aeris to join her band as a percussionist. A fateful decision which caused her to meet Falco and Mick, and will inevitably set her on course to save her entire city….
Mechanically, Aeris is a suli bloodrager (spelleater and urban bloodrager archetypes). Instead of causing her to get out of control, Aeris’ bloodrage manifests as an unnatural calm, as she more fully embodies the will of her goddess. In addition to empowering her body, Aeris gains fast healing 1 while bloodraging. Aeris is the group’s trapfinder and main melee combatant. She has the destined bloodline, as she’s blessed by Alseta to achieve great deeds. Her suli blood, courtesy of the Halar side of the family, grants Aeris energy resistance to acid, cold, electricity and fire, the ability to speak a wide variety of exotic languages, and the ability to wreathe her weapons in the elements for a few rounds a day. Her feat is incremental elemental assault, which lets her use her elemental assault ability one round at a time instead of all at once. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City. Although strong, quick and skillful, nearly all of Aeris’ abilities only function for a certain number of rounds each day, meaning she’s likely to run out of them FAST. Especially in an adventure so combat heavy in the beginning.
With our characters created, and the campaign prepared, the members of Dinorabbit (the band formerly known as Boople Snoot!) head out to dinner to celebrate their one year anniversary at a fancy local restaurant, the Coy Nixie.
But fate has bigger plans for this quirky band of friends. Cauldron needs them!
I hope you enjoyed reading about our new characters who are going to brave the Shackled City. Check back soon to read about their continuing adventures.
Have you ever played the Shackled City? What kind of character would you make for this campaign?
Let me know in the comments below!
Until then, enjoy!
The Shackled City Adventure Path is a difficult to get your hands on adventure path published in eleven separate Dungeon Magazines, or available in hardcover from Amazon here or from Paizo Publishing’s website here. The first adventure, Life’s Bazaar is available in Dungeon Magazine Number 97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here.
Those of you with Netflix might have noticed an interesting film that just recently released on our televisions: Bright. If you haven’t watched the film–or even the trailer–I highly recommend you give it a chance. This movie’s an urban fantasy buddy-cop film revolving around a dangerous magic wand in a city populated by humans, elves, and orcs–with plenty of other wonderful weirdness. Yes. I’m serious. And it stars Will Smith.
In short: I loved this movie.
Now, this is not a movie review. This is a blog about d20 games. But watching Bright got me thinking. See, in addition to being a fantasy movie and a comedy movie, Bright cast a glaring light on some important topics. Chief among them: racism and corruption. Now, I’m not going to spoiler any more of the film than I already have, but I am going to say one last thing: Bright handled these topics very well. And to celebrate that we’re going to make a short list.
Now lists are likely something you’re going to see a lot of on d20 Diaries. I’m a fan of a good list. So today we’re looking at my five favourite d20 adventures that deal with prejudice.
You will not find adventures about wanton destruction or wiping out ‘evil races’ or anything like that in here. These aren’t orc-hating, demon-hunting or goblin-slaying tales. Here you’ll find adventures that have environments heavily tainted by prejudice, mysteries where killers prey upon the downtrodden and social encounters where the player’s may wonder whose side they should really be on. So without further ado:
My picks for top five d20 adventures that feature prejudice:
#5 – War of the Wielded by Michael Kortes
Although many of the top five adventures I’ve chosen are serious in tone, the first one is anything but. It’s an unabashedly absurd, fun little adventure printed in Issue 149 of Dungeon Magazine, back in 2007. War of the Wielded, by Michael Kortes focuses on a centuries old fight for dominance between two rival thieve’s guilds, The House of Oquon, and the Cabanites. The descendants of these groups despise each other with a passion reminiscent of the Montague’s and the Capulet’s from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s a fifth level 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure, but can easily be adapted to Pathfinder or other systems.
The adventure begins with the player’s stumbling upon a violent battle between the rival factions, and by the end has the player’s wondering which side of the war they should throw themselves behind. But, wait! There’s a twist!
The Oquons and the Cabanites are long gone. Dead. Caput. Only their intelligent blades remain, still battling each other to this day by possessing the people who happen to touch them, and using everyday people in their never ending war. That’s right. You heard me. The prejudice and hate featured in this adventure is perpetuated by two rival factions of magical swords.
It’s insane. It’s wonderful. I love it. Your player’s will love it. And by the end they’ll be torn between greed–come on, who doesn’t want a magical sword that can talk–and the need to save the people being used by these powerful blades. So give this adventure a whirl and see if you side with the Oquons or the Cabanites. Or perhaps, put an end to the hate and battle them both! I hope you’ve brought a rust monster…
#4 – Siege of the Spider Eaters by Tim and Eileen Connors
This next entry is an interesting adventure that in a lot of ways feels like classic dungeons and dragons, but has a neat twist. Siege of the Spider Eaters is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure made for 1st level characters, that can easily be transferred into any other fantasy world. It was printed in Issue 137 of Dungeon Magazine. Siege of the Spider Eaters takes place in a secretive little village called Haven-Fara founded by pirates. When the players get there they find the entire town carpeted by a blanket of thick spider webs and more than half the townsfolk are missing. Of course, the player’s need to save the townsfolk, right? You can’t just let them get eaten by the spiders who’ve clearly dragged them away! And so they set out on a spider-squishing mission. But this adventure’s got some twists in it, and things aren’t going to be nearly that simple.
Now, Siege of the Spider Eaters has some cool things going for it. First of all: the town, Haven-Fara. This village is built around a beached pirate ship. Yup. Right there in the middle of the town, taking up a solid sixth of the entire village. A big, freaking, pirate ship. What makes that even better? The interior’s a pub. Haven-Fara’s also got ramshackle huts made of driftwood and scavenged ship parts, it’s surrounded by jungle, and it’s covered in thick spider webs. This town has atmospheric written all over it.
The beginning of this adventure is an investigation, and leads into a simple monster-killing mission, but when the locals you need to befriend and save are shifty, scuzzy, pirates, scuttlers, sailors and the descendants of thieving buccaneers, even small social encounters are memorable. And when a walk down the road is through massive spider web tunnels, it’s not the kind of adventure that will not soon be forgotten.
Once the player’s get to the spider’s den, though, things take a bit of a turn. For the spiders aren’t all what they seem. Some are aranea–intelligent spiders who can also turn into human-like people–and are in fact, the missing townsfolk. Yup. Spider people. Let’s hope the group didn’t kill too many of their pets on the way here… But if the missing townsfolk are spider people, why web up the town? Well, I’m not going to give the whole adventure away, as the surprises are part of the fun, but let’s just say it involves, spider-eaters, pirate treasure, secrets and greed.
As the players navigate the secrets of Haven-Fara’s aranea population they’ll be making plenty of choices. Who to help, who to hinder, and what secrets to keep and expose. The players actions can save Haven-Fara, or see it torn apart by hate and mistrust.
#3 – Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves
Murder’s Mark is a Pathfinder murder mystery intended for level one characters. It’s a fun, solid adventure that keeps moving along even if the players get stuck thanks to well-timed events and flavourful encounters.
Murder’s Mark takes place in the city of Ilsurian, an independent trade town in Varisia (a part of Pathfinder’s Golarion campaign setting), whose citizens are mostly foreign colonizers (Chelaxians) who harbour deep distrust and resentment towards the native Varisian population (a very gypsy-like peoples). The adventure begins when a traveling carnival comes to town, and the player’s pay it a visit.
The opening is a fun, light-hearted romp, where the players get to engage in games of skill and chance at the carnival, and end up distinguishing themselves as heroic and trustworthy when trouble breaks out.
But trouble’s brewing in Ilsurian. People begin turning up dead and the locals suspect a member of the traveling carnival–an enigmatic sphinx said to be tame. With tensions mounting between locals and performers, and the body count rising on both sides, the player’s have to discover what’s really going on before Ilsurian erupts into ethnic violence.
Murder’s Mark does a great job of using the rampant racism found in Ilsurian, and making it a focus of the adventure. With the townsfolk being Chelaxians and the carnival folk being Varisians, every encounter has the potential to take a violent turn due to prejudice, fear and stupidity. Players have a real chance to change Ilsurian, and save a lot of lives. But they also can fail. And when lives are in the balance, failure can be a huge disappointment–and an instigator of even greater violence.
Murder’s Mark is a great, well-written adventure filled with wonderful twists and turns, and social encounters that really matter. When your players finally discover the architects behind this string of murders, they’ll be dying to give them a whooping! I guarantee it.
Another great murder mystery, Steel Shadows was published in Issue 115 of Dungeon Magazine. It’s a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure intended for level seven characters and set in Sharn, a city in the Eberron Campaign Setting.
Steel Shadows takes us on an adventure in the seediest, poorest districts of Sharn, where a murderer is preying upon the city’s most oppressed citizens: it’s warforged. Warforged are essentially golems given life, souls and sentience by magic. They’re like robot men, or droids, but made by magic instead of technology. Warforged were made by rich people in order to fight their wars, but when the wars finally came to an end, the government made the surviving warforged citizenship. Unfortunately, these naive new peoples were taken advantage of. Many of them are poor, live in horrible conditions, suffer through tremendous racism, and were tricked into taking jobs that are little more than indentured servitude. It is on these people, that a killer is preying.
While investigating the murders, the players don’t just need to confront the dregs of society, and the dangers and sadness of the slums, but they also need to battle indifference. Why? No one really cares about a few dead warforged.
Finding justice is entirely up to your players.
Steel Shadows has some twists and turns, plenty of interesting characters, and a good deal of red herrings. It’s a great, unique adventure and I highly recommend it to anyone that manages to get their hands on it.
#1 – River Into Darkness by Greg A. Vaughn
River Into Darkness is a Pathfinder Module made before their ruleset came out, which means it’s technically a 3.5 adventure. It’s intended for level four characters and takes place in the Mwangi Expanse, a vast jungle dotted with newly settled colonies and commercial ventures found in Pathfinder’s Golarion Campaign Setting. This adventure is not your typical fantasy fare. It’s darker than most, not because of violence or horror, but because this adventure does not take a simple view of the world. It is not black and white, good and bad. It’s mostly written in shades of grey. But that’s what I love about it. It’s fluid, and adaptable. And what the player’s decide to do is entirely up to them. Honest! This adventure doesn’t assume your players choose one ending, it acknowledges (and even better, plans for) multiple possible endings. So get ready to pick a side–or flip flop a lot–cause the River Into Darkness is here!
This adventure begins with the players in the port city of Bloodcove, a tropical town built around a massive mangrove tree. After battling one of the city’s more natural hazards the player’s are offered good paying, simple work: protect a river boat owned by the Aspis Consortium as it travels to its destination deep in the country’s jungle interior. How hard could it be?
The hazards are simple at first. Dangerous animals, bad weather, ship trouble and sickness. Players can triumph (or not) and get to know the ship’s crew. In time, the dangers begin to involve a group of jungle elves known as the Ekujae. As the players finally get their ship to its destination they are offered further work, protecting the colonial trade station from incursion and attack. But as the skirmishes with the Ekujae continue, and the players get a chance to explore this trade station they’ll begin to wonder why the elves are so intent on destroying the Aspis Consortium. And how far both sides are willing to go to put an end to the other. However deep your players are willing to delve into the mysterious rivalry, one thing’s for sure, choosing a side won’t be easy–if they decide to at all. As the violence escalates, the players could be major players, or get caught in the crossfire. Should they side with the Aspis? The Ekujae? Try to broker peace? Abandon them both? Only protect themselves? This module leaves that decision firmly in the hands of the players. And the hardest route of all? That of peace.
Not an easy module to run (and not an adventure for everyone), River Into Darkness tops my list for the five best d20 adventures that heavily involve or focus on prejudice. If you don’t own it, you can pick up River into Darkness by clicking the link below.
What did you think of the adventures? Have you played any? Did any tickle your fancy? Do you have a favourite adventure that would fit that I missed? Let me know what you think of d20 Diaries or this article in the comments below!