They’re obsessively browsing the Dwarven Forge website, and watching their many youtube videos. My son takes every opportunity to bring it up, attempting to convince me I should buy him some for his birthday, or for my birthday, or maybe my husband’s Christmas gift.
So when my son asked if he could download the free Dungeon of Doom Adventure a while back, I let him. And when he asked me over and over if I had read it yet, I pushed it up a little higher on my to-read list.
You see, I like Dwarven Forge, but when it comes to adventures, I tend to prefer a sweeping story over a classic dungeon. And the Dungeon of Doom adventure? Seemed like one big deadly dungeon.
Which it is. But, turns out, it’s also awesome! Haha.
I finally got around to reading the adventure and was pleasantly surprised. Every encounter area is well planned, well executed, and exceptionally creative –– all things I expect from Dwarven Forge. There’s some basic plot hooks to get the adventure moving, but not much else. On the surface, at least. There’s much more going on in this dungeon delve than anticipated, as the PCs will uncover as they adventure.
If they survive.
Dungeon of Doom is packed full of layered, multi-stage traps and puzzles that work to create a deadly challenge for the PCs. It’s smart, clever, and surprisingly funny! There’s a wide array of NPCs you can meet and interact with in the dungeon, from ghostly spirits, to chatty gargoyles and, my personal favourite, a talking door. The PCs have plenty of secrets and history to uncover through their exploration, and a lot of powerful treasure to claim. But, as previously mentioned, this is definitely a deadly dungeon! For starters, the dungeon itself drains your PCs life force, making taking a long rest impossible. PCs will need to complete the entire dungeon with relative speed or they’ll run out of resources. In addition, characters that die have their souls trapped within the dungeon and rise as an undead spirit known as a maerghast. Not a desirable end! Along the way the PCs will need to collect magical artifacts known as glyphstones, which are powerful semi-intelligent artifacts which affect the PCs personality and behaviour, but grants them potent magical powers –– some of which can allow players to heal or gain the effects of taking a long rest. But, the greatest challenge is definitely the dungeon itself. As I previously mentioned the encounter rooms are packed full of well-utilized, challenging puzzles and traps which I absolutely adored. It’s deadly, but a lot of fun.
The Dungeon of Doom Adventure is a free download here, and is intended for characters between the levels of 1 and 10. Each challenge is written for three difficulty levels, based on your party’s APL (average party level). APL 1–4, APL 5–7, and APL 8–10, with the variable numbers (DCs, Damage, and so on) separated by a slash. For example DC 12/14/16 or 1d8/2d8/3d8 damage. It’s easy to understand and efficient. Monsters are instead listed on a chart, with the composition of each encounter being determined by your party’s APL. Level 1 parties might face off against a quasit while a level 10 party might face a nalfeshnee in the same location. The adventure is written for 5e Dungeons and Dragons, but has rules in the back for running it for the Pathfinder RPG (which is awesome!). Those of you interested in investing in Dwarven Forge’s Dungeon of Doom products can buy the pieces needed to make the Dungeon of Doom on a room by room basis on their website, while the adventure contains detailed build guides to show you how to set it all up. You can also watch Dungeon of Doom played or see a run-down of the rooms on youtube.
Dungeon of Doom is a deviously deadly dungeon full of interesting puzzles and traps, perfectly suited to challenge players of a variety of levels. I found it absolutely inspiring! I highly recommend you give it read!
Welcome back to Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path! When we last left off our heroic musicians were investigating a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! They’ve tracked down the kidnappers, and discovered an underground complex run by slavers. They’ll have to work fast if they want to save their fellow citizens before they’re sold!
The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.
Our eccentric heroes are all members of ‘Dinorabbit,’ a musical band that changes its name frequently and was most previously known as ‘Boople Snoot.’ The band’s lead singer and song-writer is Falco Rhiavadi, a foppish noble bastard of mixed Tien descent whose father was devoured by a dragon when he was just a boy. A well-groomed, handsome man with an easy smile and a winning personality, Falco’s a black sheep among his family. Mechanically Falco is an oracle of life whose familiar is a jealous and demanding thrush named Ruby. Falco is played by my husband.
Mick Frimfrocket is a gnome with dark blue skin, bright pink hair that stands straight up on his head, and light blue eyes with flecks of red around his pupils. He’s energetic, bold, and loves nothing more than a good laugh! Mick acts as the band’s pianist and creative director. He’s the driving force behind the band’s constant name changes, and over-the-top performances. Mick was born in Jzadirune but was brought to the city of Cauldron to escape the Vanishing. Orphaned by the mysterious events and with few memories of those early years, Mick was raised in the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same orphanage that recently had four children kidnpapped right from their beds! Determined to save those little scamps, Mick was very excited to take up this missing person’s case and follow it to its conclusion — particularly when he realized that it led to his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. Partway through exploring Jzadirune he came into possession of a broken magical construct. He’s played by my seven-year old son.
Rabbity Castalle is a rabbitfolk waitress who works at the Tipped Tankard Tavern. A dancer and singer for the band Dinorabbit, Rabbity also has a pet panther named Panthy. She’s lucky, nimble, and quick, but a little skittish. One of her co-workers is one of the people who was recently abducted, so she’s very keen to solve this mystery and return him home. Rabbity is a hydrokineticist played by my six-year old daughter, using the rabbitfolk race. Rabbitfolk are a Pathfinder Compatible race created by my daughter (with some help) which will soon be published in the upcoming Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion by Sunburst Games (Kickstarter coming in February!)
The final member of our party is Aeris Caldyra, a local locksmith who was cajoled by her roommate, Rabbity, to join the band as a percussionist and set designer. With few friends to call her own, Aeris relented to the rabbitfolk’s request and is the least talented member of the band. The last worshipper of Alseta in Cauldron, with more than a few secrets and regrets, Aeris is a suli bloodrager with a chip on her shoulder. Always one to lend a hand, like her Grandfather Marzio once would have done, Aeris is determined to rescue the missing citizens of Cauldron. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City Adventure Path.
Although that’s the last of our PCs, that’s not the last of our party. The members of Dinorabbit are also travelling with a half-orc janitor named Patch! Patch is a big, stuttering, fool who works at the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same place he was raised. Patch recently got recruited to the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild and was asked to watch over an orphan named Terrem. Unfortunately, Terrem was kidnapped on the very evening that Patch went out to meet with with the guild. Distraught over the boy’s disappearance, Patch was pressured by Falco and Mick into helping them rescue the kids. And so, the poor one-eyed janitor finds himself heading into danger.
Our eclectic crew of musicians, janitors, and locksmiths, stood in an empty forge which had clearly been the site of a slaughter. Our heroes had battled enemy hobgoblins and goblins only moments before in an effort to free three citizens of Cauldron who had been labouring here. With the battle won they sent their travelling companion, Keygan Ghelve, off with the freed prisoners. It was his job to bring them back up to the city and see them safely to the Church of Adabar.
The group spent a moment catching their breath, whispered a few prayers for the people they had saved, then turned their attention to their surroundings.
“…Right!” my son decreed.
We opened the right door and found ourselves in a cross shaped hallway with a variety of doors. There was the echo of muffled conversation in the air, with at least one of these nearby rooms inhabited. Warily, Aeris led the way forward. But as she reached the intersection she cursed! There were a pair of hobgoblin guards on watch at both ends of the hall! The pulled out their bows and grinned.
“Meal time, boys!” one of them bellowed. The muffled voices from the nearby rooms took up the call.
“Uh-oh,” my husband remarked.
Rabbity shot a blast of water at the nearest guard and leapt off Panthy.
“Eat the next person you see come out of there!” she commanded her panther as she gestured at the nearby door.
Panthy growled and prepared to fight. Meanwhile the guards pulled out their bows and fired arrows at our heroes. Aeris took a few hits, but Rabbity’s quick reflexes saved her from injury. Aeris moved to step forward only to have the ground fall out beneath her feet! Pit trap! She launched herself across the pit and came up in a roll, landing on the far side. With a backward glance she called out, “Watch your step!” Then she lunged forward and moved right up beside the hobgoblins. Finding their bows useless in close quarters they snarled at her.
“This won’t save your friends!”
“We’ll see,” Aeris replied defiantly.
Back on he other side of the pit Mick stood in the centre of the room and cast a magic spell, summoning his grand piano right into the hall. Then he began to play a happy little tune. As he played he danced, kicking his legs wildly. Falco pulled out a tanglefoot bag and tossed it at the guards on the other side of the intersection.
“Patch! Get in here! Are there any more traps?”
“I d-d-don’t know!” Patch stammered nervously. “I’ll ch-check!” He hurried into the room and looked around. “Yup! M-m-m-more pits right beh-h-hind us.”
“Here and there and w-w-well… Everywhere!”
“Don’t moooooove!” Mick sang. “Got it! Hold your grounnnnd, hold your grounnnnd, watch your steeeeeeep!”
“Aww man!” shouted Rabbity. “This place is the PITS!”
My daughter grinned. “Get it, Mom? Pits! And there are pit traps around us! Hahahahahaha! That’s so funny.”
Suddenly a door beside Rabbity opened. Panthy launched herself at the offending door-opener, clamping down on their neck with her jaws and tearing at them with sharp claws.
“I hope that’s a bad guy,” my daughter remarked a little too late.
Luckily it was an enemy. But, even as they fell to the panther, more hobgoblin soldiers gathered in the room behind him. Hobgoblins crowded into the side hallways from the other nearby rooms, trying to get at at the intruders. A pair lunged at Mick only to get a kick to the face for their trouble. Rabbity splashed away with her water blasts from the centre of the group. Panthy fought with tooth and claw, and Patch leaped over the hidden pit and moved into melee with the southern archers. Luckily, as much as the odds were against them, only so many hobgoblins could engage the group at once. The battle was long and fierce, but soon our heroes thinned the enemies ranks until only a pair of hobgoblins remained. Aeris, bloodied and out of breath from taking on the northern guards, leapt back over the pit and helped her companions finish off the stragglers.
They waited for a while…. Out of breath and wounded… Weapons clutched in hand…
“What are we waiting for?” Rabbity asked the others quietly.
Aeris, who hates wasting time, checked out the side rooms, searching enemies and chambers for useful gear. They found a cache of healing potions in a nearby guardroom and drank what they could. Patch leaped back over the hidden pit trap and told the group.
“There’s v-v-voices on the other side. D-d-doesn’t sound like pris-s-soners.”
“We go the other way, then,” Rabbity announced. “We need to find Griffin before he gets SOLD!”
At Rabbity’s insistence the group crossed the northern pit trap and entered the far northern room.
It lead to a grand square chamber with a massive chain-draped statue in the centre of the room.
“If that attacks me, I’ll be angry!” Mick exclaimed. “You go first, Aeris.”
“My hero,” Aeris replied with a roll of her eyes. She drew her longsword and moved forward, but the statue never moved. …The chains did! They thrashed and lashed at Aeris! She parried the chains and backed up. “Get out of its reach!”
The gang hurried back out of the hall and attacked it from afar. Being mostly immobile and draped all over a statue, the chains proved little trouble. All it took was time.
The band continued on, finding two secret passages and pair of grand double doors. One of the secret doors they discovered led back to the original entry hall, so they returned to the statue chamber. They pushed open the double door to find a massive bridge. Falco created some magical lights and sent them across the bridge. They illuminated a rough stone cavern that stretched farther than they could see. Far below the bridge was an underground river.
“Hmmm…” Mick grumbled. “The riddle said we would find the kids in the Malachite Hold. That place over there is just… rock.”
“It probably leads to the Darklands,” Falco announced. “It stands to reason. They need to sell their slaves to someone, and there’s no other settlements nearby. Not that would buy slaves, that is.”
Rabbity twitched her nose. “I do NOT want to go to the Darklands…. Let’s turn around. We need to finish exploring the fortress.”
“Agreed.” replied Aeris. She ushered everyone inside, shut the doors, and barred them. Then she listened at the second secret door. “Sounds quiet.”
“I think that prisoners would be noisy. They would cry and stuff,” my daughter pointed out. “And we missed some rooms back near the forge where we found those prisoners.”
“Oh, yeah! I want to go back that way! I had a good feeling about that forge-door!”
My husband, who clearly wondered what was behind the secret door right in front of him, chuckled. “Alright, alright. We’ll go there next.” As the gang got ready to retrace their steps and continue their exploration, we tidied up and got the kids ready for bed. Saving the prisoners would have to wait for another day.
Thanks for joining us, everyone! I hope you enjoyed getting to hear a bit about our crazy adventures. We’ll see you again soon!
Behind the Screen
The Shackled City Adventure Path is a difficult to get your hands on adventure path published in eleven separate Dungeon Magazines, or available in hardcover from Amazon here or from Paizo Publishing’s website here. The first adventure, Life’s Bazaar is available in Dungeon Magazine #97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here.
Despite being a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Path, we’re running this campaign with Pathfinder (both the campaign setting and the ruleset). Our characters utilize content from many sources, some of which are listed below.
We’re starting simple, with a collection of mundane equipment that can make Valentine’s special for even the lowliest level one character! Prepare yourself for the day with a grooming kit and some perfume/cologne. Head out for a lovely carriage ride, or to see a show. Read poetry (if you’re literate), or serenade that special someone with a musical instrument. For dinner, set the mood with a candle and candlestick, and be sure to bring a bottle of wine and some chocolates. All of these items are available in Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment
But, for those of us who are higher than level one, chances are you’ve got some cash to burn! Let’s take a look at some pricier options! Unless otherwise listed, all of the items below are from either the Core Rulebook or Ultimate Equipment.
Still trying to catch the eye of that special someone? Be sure to get your armour and weapons glamered. Up your game with a circlet of persuasion, headband of alluring charisma, or a headband of seduction. Really put in the effort with a Zonzon Doll of Forgiveness (Inner Sea Gods) tailored just for them! Or skip the effort completely and invest in a staff of charming, or eyes of charming.
Trouble Hanging on? Love keep slipping through your fingers? Be sure to invest in some tanglefoot bags, silk rope, an elixir of love, philter of love (Advanced Player’s Guide), or a harp of charming.
Got someone you’d do anything for? Invest in an allying weapon, martyr’s tear and a ring of friend shield.
Can’t bear to be separated? Pick up a bracelet of friends.
Worried about all that romance (and enchantments) clouding your mind? A cap of the free thinker should help keep your head on straight! While the Liberator’s Rod will give you a second chance to see to the heart of the matter.
But enough about romance! Some character’s love life in general! So if you’re the kind of adventure who would rather preserve life than end it, pick up a merciful metamagic rod or a merciful weapon. Then try out some benevolent armour.
Broken Hearted? Share your pain with a heartseeker, seeking or stalking weapon. They’ll regret tossing you to the curb!
My personal choice for the most romantic in-game gift? Boots of the winterlands! It’s quite cold where I live. Haha.
But love isn’t all about stuff! Up next we’re taking a look at the gods of Pathfinder, some loving, some possessive, and some plain evil! All of the gods listed below can be found in Inner Sea Gods, although some are in other sources, as well.
If you’re going to make a character interested in love you’re definitely going to want to take a look at Shelyn, The Eternal Rose, the popular goddess of love, beauty and art. If you’re a dwarf you’ll instead check out Bolka, The Golden Gift, goddess of beauty, desire, love and the goddess responsible for making arranged marriages blossom into loving relationships (Dwarves of Golarion). For a less obvious faith, take a look at Hembad, the Wise Grandfather, an empyreal lord of connections, matchmaking and synergy. Contrariwise, Naderi is the heartbroken goddess of love, romantic tragedy, suicide and drowning (Inner Sea Faiths, Faiths of Balance).
Looking to tackle a more physical aspect of love? Calistria, The Savoured Sting, is the most popular choice. She’s the elven goddess of lust, revenge and trickery. Or take Arshea, the Spirit of Abandon, for a spin! He’s the androgynous empyreal lord of freedom, physical beauty and sexuality. Try going the opposite direction and take a look at Lymneiris, The Auroral Tower, an angel interested in prostitution, rites of passage, and virginity (both of whom are featured in Chronicle of the Righteous and Heaven Unleashed). Take a walk on the darker side of sex with Ardad Lili, the infernal Whore Queen of seduction, snakes and women (Princes of Darkness) or with the Green Mother, a divine fey interested in carnivorous plants, intrigue and seduction (The First World, Realm of the Fey).
Want to worship a god worried less about romance, and more about family? Erastil, god of family, community, farming, hunting and trade, is the most well-known option. Although plenty of others exist. For dwarves there’s Folgrit, the Watchful Mother, goddess of children, hearths and mothers (Dwarves of Golarion). For giants there’s Bergelmir, Mother of Memories and goddess of elders, family and genealogy (Giants Revisited). Orcs can pay homage to Dretha, goddess of birth, fertility and tribes. Feronia is a lesser known demi-goddess of flame and fertility. Svarozic is an empyreal lord interested in parenthood, ingenuity and progress. And lastly, Shei is an empyreal lord interested in life and self-actualization.
But love isn’t always good. Love of all kinds can be twisted into something foul. If you’re looking to take a look at the darker sides of love, lust and obsession, check out these horrible devils, demons, daemons and other foul beings: Belial, Archdevil of adultery, deception and desire (Princes of Darkness); Slandrais, a daemonic harbinger interested in lechery, love potions and obsession (Horsemen of the Apocalypse); Zaigasnar, a daemonic harbinger interested in body modification, destructive vanity and pins (Horsemen of the Apocalypse), Nocticula, demon lord of assassins, darkness, and lust (Lords of Chaos, Demons Revisited); her brother Socothbenoth, demon lord of perversion, pride, sexual gratification and taboos (Lords of Chaos); Zepar, an infernal duke of abduction, rape and transformation; Zaebos, an infernal duke of arrogance, nobility and sexual perversion; and Verex, the orc god of lust, pillage, and plunder.
Lastly, we’re going to take a look at a few adventures that are the perfect fit for Valentine’s Day.
My personal favourite is Realm of the Fellnight Queen! This Pathfinder adventure module is intended for level seven characters and was written by Neil Spicer as his winning entry in RPG Superstar 2009. This wonderfully written adventure begins as the players attend a wedding ceremony for a friend. The wedding itself is a blast, with activities for the players to participate in, a great cast of colourful NPCs for them to interact with, and a feast in addition to the wedding. But soon a love-spurned gnome crashes the wedding with his beloved bees at the behest of his mistress, Queen Rhoswen. The players will have to save not only the wedding, but the entire town from the Fellnight Queen’s machinations by heading deep into the forest and entering her extra-planar realm! This adventure is just a blast to play! I highly recommend it!
For adventure’s about familial love, I recommend playing Racing the Snake or Final Resting Place. Both are 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventures published in Dungeon Magazine. Racing the Snake is by John Simcoe and is found in Volume 105. It’s intended for level six characters, and has the PCs hired by a nobleman to protect his beloved daughter from assassins–with a twist! While she travels secretly to her wedding in the capital, the PCs get to impersonate her and lead her assassins and enemies on a wild-goose chase until she’s safe and sound! This adventure has interesting encounters and really tips the regular format on it’s head! Final Resting Place is written by Michael Kortes and is found in Volume 122. It’s intended for level three characters, and has the PCs hired by the daughter of a famous adventurer who recently perished on an exploratory mission underground. Knowing her father is dead, but unable to come to grips with it without his body, the PCs are sent underground to the site of his last mission, in order to return his body to his daughter for a proper burial. This adventure is one of my all-time favourite 3.5 adventures and is a TON of fun.
But what about all those lover’s scorned out there? I’d suggest giving Curse of the Riven Sky or Clash of the Kingslayers a whirl. Both are larger than life, awesome level ten Pathfinder modules that are driven in one way or another by the heartbroken, the betrayed, and the angry lovers out there! And best of all? As your player’s discover the motivations and history of the NPCs involved, they’ll question their cause, enemies and allies in a way they haven’t had to before. Both are definitely worth a whirl! Curse of the Riven Sky is written by Monte Cook, while Clash of the Kingslayers is written by Leandra Christine Schneider (and currently on sale for only two dollars American).
Want to worry less about morality and more about destroying something beautiful and having a BLAST? Take We B4 Goblins for a whirl! This FREE Pathfinder adventure makes the player’s all goblins fresh out of their whelping cages, and sets them loose on some super fun rites of passage which culminates in an attack on a halfling wedding! Smash the cake, terrorize the guests and work out all your anger on the happy couple! The goblins are crashing the party!
Romantic love isn’t the only kind that causes pain and heartbreak. These next two adventures revolve around what happens when family is taken from us. Murder in Oakbridge is a murder mystery printed in Dungeon Magazine volume 129, written by Uri Kurlianchik and intended for level five characters. Wingclipper’s Revenge was printed in Dungeon Magazine volume 132 and pits the PCs against the perils of the fey (and man!). It was was written by Christopher Wissel and is intended for level four characters.
We’ve got one final Valentine’s Day treat for you today… An adventure path that is all about the relationships you forge with your companions and fellow players… The Jade Regent Adventure Path (starting with Jade Regent Part 1 – The Brinewall Legacy)! With rules for how to befriend and woo each member of the caravan, and updates in every volume for what items, events and places have meaning to each NPC, this adventure path is the first (and only) one that pays loving attention to the side characters right from the start of the campaign, to the end. If you want to get in on a game where relationships matter, give Jade Regent a try. The player’s guide is available as a free download, here.
That’s all we’ve got for you today!
No matter who you are, and what kind of love (or lack of) you’re celebrating today, I hope you enjoyed taking a look at the many ways you can spread the love with Pathfinder!
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!
Have any of you seen the film Kubo and the Two Strings? I watched it with my children and husband recently, and was literally amazed by it.
Kubo is wonderful stop-motion movie that follows a boy named Kubo on a journey to protect himself from the dreaded Moon King. But Kubo is no ordinary boy. Kubo can make magic happen by playing his samisen. On his journey he’s accompanied by an origami samurai, a talking monkey, and a samurai beetle who has amnesia.
It’s a samurai film and a fantasy film, lovingly made with puppets and gorgeous scenery. Not only was it a joy to look at, the story was well-developed, the characters were lovable (or terrifying) and everyone was… well-rounded. Whole, believable people. No one thought they were the villain, not everyone got along, and not everything came down to killing things. It was a touching tale, and admittedly I was sobbing my face off near the end, but at the same time, it was heartwarming and hopeful.
Although an American movie, Kubo is clearly a Japanese story, and a ton of research went into making it as historically accurate as possible–considering the story, haha. For those of you who haven’t given this movie a chance, I STRONGLY recommend you do.
Watching Kubo made me want to play some of the awesome adventures I have kicking around my house that have an Eastern feel to them, but since I have way too many campaigns on the go as it is, today we’re going to celebrate them on d20 Diaries! Presenting my five favourite d20 adventures that are inspired by Eastern cultures. Whether they’ve got samurai, ninja, monasteries of contemplative warrior monks seeking enlightenment, or a fusion of many places and cultures, these adventures celebrate, embrace, emulate or are inspired by the Far East!
So sit back, and enjoy!
The Winding Way
The first adventure we’re taking a look at is The Winding Way. Written by Nicholas Logue, and Published by Paizo in Dungeon Magazine Volume 117, The Winding Way is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure intended for 14th level characters. Although it was written for a ‘neutral’ campaign setting and is meant to be dropped into any fantasy world, The Winding Way is clearly inspired by contemplative warrior monks like the Shaolin of China. That being said, it’s a horror adventure first and foremost, so don’t expect to be achieving enlightenment, or making friends with this one.
The Winding Way takes place at a secluded temple monastery which was built on the slopes of Darkmoon Mountain. During construction the Master, Marik Draven, discovered an ancient stone door, sealed for untold generations. Marik and his students were unable to decipher much of the text, but what they did translate was ominous: words like death, darkness and plague. Marik halted construction of his temple and meditated in contemplation. Eventually he decided that the door should be left untouched, and that his temple would be built around and above it. In addition to being a school for martial arts and enlightenment, the Temple of the Winding Way would become a guardian of this unholy doorway, ensuring it remained sealed for all time.
But it was not to last. Out of jealousy and greed, a rebuffed student sought to steal the riches of the temple for himself, and discovered the graven door. He picked the locks, disabled the door’s defences, and opened it, sealing the fate of those within the temple. For death was behind the door, and its spread is unstoppable!
This adventure has the PCs explore the Temple of the Winding Way for a variety of reasons, only to find that everyone inside has been turned into undead monstrosities. In order to put an end to this evil, they’ll have to defeat a wide variety of undead including bhuts, dread wraiths, forsaken shells, vampires and–my personal favourite–a pennaggolan monk! That’s right, an undead monk that’s going to use unarmed strike to fight with his own lungs and entrails. It’s going to be AWESOME! In addition, they’ll have to pass through the trials of the Winding Way itself, not all of which can be accomplished with brute strength or agility, and discover the source of the undead plague.
The Quest for Perfection
The second adventure we’re taking a look at today is actually a three-part trilogy of Pathfinder Society Scenarios entitled the Quest for Perfection. All three scenarios are Tiers 1-5. Scenario #3-09: The Quest for Perfection Part 1: The Edge of Heaven is written by Jerall Toi, and takes place in Tian Xia, a continent on Golarion strongly inspired by Chinese cultures. This adventure tasks the Pathfinders with travelling through the Wall of Heaven, the tallest mountain range on Golarion, on a journey to reach the Clouded Path Monastery and obtain an ancient relic, the Braid of a Hundred Masters, from the monastery. The trip is dangerous, and has a lot of wonderfully designed encounters where terrain plays a huge part. In addition to the perils of the mountain itself, the players are clearly on a pilgrimage trail, and there’s a lot of neat shrines, and other monuments along their journey. Upon reaching the monastery itself, they find it the lair of violent yetis who make excellent use of their surroundings. Their leader throws relics and nearby objects at the group including foo lion statues (of which there’s a picture)! In addition to enemies, the group can also meet a former monk of the monastery, currently a statue capable of tactile telepathy, who can share much of the history of the monastery with the group. After obtaining the Braid of a Hundred Masters, the Pathfinders discover it’s powers have gone dormant, which leads us into part two.
Scenario #3-11: The Quest for Perfection Part 2: On Hostile Waters is written by Benjamin Bruck, and sets the Pathfinders on a quest to reactivate the Braid of a Hundred Masters by bringing to the last remaining descendant of its rightful owner, a woman from the town of Nesting Swallow by the name of Je Tsun. The journey is a long one, down the Tuunma River and into the Sea of Eels. The river is surrounded on all sides by political turmoil, as it passes through the warring successor states of Lingshen, Po Li and Quain. In addition to the dangers of the river, and banditry, the players have to defend the Braid from soldiers and naval ships from Lingshen who desire to claim its power for themselves.
Scenario #3-13: The Quest for Perfection Part 3: Defenders of Nesting Swallow is written by Sean McGowan, and finally sees the Pathfinders arrive in the small town of Nesting Swallow, only to discover it has been under attack from tengu bandits. Je Tsun agrees to aid them in reactivating the Braid of a Hundred Masters–and will even let them keep it–if they can defend Nesting Swallow from the villains who prey upon them. The rest of the adventure allows the players to organize the defence of the town, train the villagers, and set up barricades or whatever else the group might think of. When the bandits finally come, they get to see how their work has paid off (or not!) as the villagers and the Pathfinders fight alongside one another to drive off the bandits. Wave after wave attacks the town, and whether anyone survives is up to your players. In the end, the bandit leader himself joins the battle, the tengu samurai mounted atop his axe beak mount: Khwankonu! This is the adventure’s finale, and is a ton of fun! If Je Tsun lives she makes good on her word and reignites the magic of the Braid, bestowing it upon the Pathfinders for saving her village.
This is a wonderful, atmospheric adventure that has the players explore the frozen wastes of Kisarimuke, with the purpose of finding the Amata Goten–the legendary Palace of Plenty–which was said to be a magical palace that once was connected to the city of Okabaimura. After making the journey through Kisarimuke, the group can explore the ruins of Okabaimura, a sombre, mysterious experience. Events in the ruins can give the group clues as to the nature of the Palace of Plenty, and how to get there, but it does so in a very subtle, wonderful way. After eventually finding the way to Amata Goten, the players find a beautiful palace, lush with greenery, that is frozen in time. Within are spirits and ghosts, and many more mysteries. I’ll refrain from giving anything else away about this adventure. But, I will say that I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this adventure hints at the backstory, and the stories and lives of the ghosts and spirits within it, without just giving away information. It’s subtlety is spectacular.
The Ruby Pheonix Tournament
The fourth adventure we’re looking at is The Ruby Phoenix Tournament, a Pathfinder adventure written by Tim Hitchcock and intended for 11th level characters. This adventure brings us back to the Wall of Heaven on the continent of Tian Xia. Here, on the island of Xielan, a prestigious fighting tournament takes place, which allows the winners to claim any one object from the treasury of Hao Jin, the Ruby Pheonix. This tournament attracts combatants from all over the world, including from nations inspired by real-world Japan, China, India and many more. The matches the players are going to engage in are varied, with the terrain often playing an important part in the battles. Some places the players might find themselves fighting in are: flooded mud pools, hot coals, atop multiple towers and rope bridges, and even fighting horizontally on the side of a cliff (literally standing on the cliff face with slippers of spider-climb)! Your players are bound to be continually surprised. In addition to the tournament battles, the players can join in extra matches and challenges. But as the tournament proceeds it becomes clear that something is wrong. From entrants being poisoned and assassins attacking, the players will have to work fast to figure out who’s trying to put an end to the Ruby Pheonix Tournament and stop them, before it’s too late!
Although this adventure has a simple premise, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a great, exciting adventure that can be a ton of fun!
Tide of Honor
The final adventure we’re talking about today is my very, very favourite. Jade Regent Part 5 – Tide of Honor by Tito Leati. Now, the Jade Regent is a Pathfinder campaign where the last three books take place in Minkai, Paizo’s Japanese inspired nation in Tian Xia, but volume five of the series is my all time favourite. This adventure was clearly written with such LOVE and RESPECT. It’s honestly astounding how clearly that shows in the final product. But enough about the writing, what about the adventure?!
Tide of Honor has the PCs arrive in Minkai with their friend Ameiko Kaijitsu, true heir to the Imperial Throne of Minkai. …But they have no army! Minkai is currently ruled by the Jade Regent, a vicious tyrant who claimed the throne by murdering the emperor. In order to overthrow the Jade Regent the players are going to need allies. A LOT of them. The players single out an honourable Ronin and his small band of masterless samurai as a likely ally, knowing that they were expelled from the capital and are opposed to the Jade Regent. If the players can make contact with the ronin and ally with them, they will gain not only a number of trained warriors, but also allies who know the country, and may be able to help the group get other allies–or at least in contact with them. The leader of the ronin, Hirabashi Jiro attempts to test the PCs character and, if he finds them trustworthy, gives them a task. There is a group of bandits terrorizing the villagers and farmers of the region, but as they operate in two units, the ronin do not have enough warriors to defeat both groups at once. If the players can attack and conquer the bandit fortress, then Jiro and his men can take out the raiders before they harm any innocents. This opening battle is very adaptable and mobile, featuring a lot of ways the players can go about attacking, and organic ways in which the inhabitants respond to attacks. This encounter can benefit a LOT from good planning and scouting, and it’s a great location. To make it better? If the players can defeat the bandits, not only does Jiro agree to join your cause, but he also sets up the fortress as a base of operations for your group and your allies. This fortress is YOURS.
After some deliberation and discussion, Jiro can give the group a list of important political players and potential allies throughout the nation: the ninja clans of Enganoka, the merchants of Minkai who can be contacted by the geisha of Sakakabe, and the samurai of a cruel daimyo! But success isn’t as easy as simply meeting these groups, the players will have to earn their trust, and prove themselves worthy. But, if they can? The players will have an army at their disposal, one which will help them take on the Jade Regent himself and restore the throne to its rightful heir!
But the Jade Regent has many spies, and will not let the players operate without opposition! I hope you’re ready for some fearsome Oni!
And that’s all for us today! I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some of my favourite Eastern styled adventures! What are yours? Did I miss any you think deserve to be on my list?
I watched a strange little documentary last night on Netflix called Dwarvenaut that follows a little company called Dwarven Forge. Dwarven Forge isn’t new, they’ve been around for twenty years, in fact, but their product is new to me. They make game terrain. But not just any terrain! Oh, no. They make AMAZING game terrain.
The pieces look awesome, are easy to build with, are super durable and come entirely painted. The downside? Price! These are super expensive. Take into account the exchange rate and the absurd cost of delivery (they’re American, and I’m Canadian), and WOW! That is SO outside my budget.
Still, they look amazing. It’s definitely going on my Christmas List. Or birthday list. Or, the ‘when I win the lottery’ list…
My daughter and I spent a bit of this morning checking out their website, watching the videos and tutorials, and generally geeking out over them. Her solution? Buy them for my son for his birthday! Haha. Way to get what you want, without giving up your own gift, my dear!
Cheeky little thing.
You can check out these nifty products on their website: Dwarven Forge. Let me know what you think!
Already own some Dawrven Forge products? Cool! Let me know how you like it in the comments below!
Another weekend has come and gone, and this one was busy! Between swimming classes, birthday parties, errands, and the weekly trip to the laundromat, there wasn’t much time for other activities. We played some board games with my daughter, my son started work on an ambitious dinosaur puzzle, and I posted in the horde of play-by-post games I’m involved in.
My family and I had a bit of time to play Shackled City. Aeris, Mick, Falco and Rabbity headed deep underground through forgotten secret passages and stairwells with Patch and Keygan (very unenthusiastically) accompanying them. They stepped foot into Jzadirune and explored a strange room where they heard birds chirping, gnomes laughing, and felt a breeze blowing on their skin. Massive masks hung on the walls. As they moved into to illusion-draped room to look around they discovered two strange doors–like giant gears that roll into the walls, these were the Doors with Teeth. My children were thrilled! But seeing a glimmer of light coming from the cracks around one of the doors, Aeris and Mick went to peek inside, while Falco moved deeper into the room.
Suddenly the masks on the wall began to sing, welcoming them to Jzadirune and warning them against pilfering. Although my kids loved it, and asked me to sing the song to them over and over, it wasn’t so great for their characters. The illusory song caused the figures beyond the lit door to notice the heroes. Quickly camouflaging themselves, the skulks vanished. They lay in wait to ambush the PCs, but after only one round of battle they ran off, deeper into Jzadirune through makeshift, rough tunnels that had been drilled through the walls.
Our heroes gave chase, engaging in a series of skirmishes against a pair of skulks. Eventually they came to a room with a strange mechanical construct in it, clearly the source of the roughly drilled tunnels. There a dark creeper ordered the construct to attack the intruders, in gnome. Mick laughed and told it to stop. The pair argued and bickered, giving the construct contrary orders until the creeper gave up and fled. Mick was thrilled with his new, neat, half-broken construct, and the group was off again, charging blindly through the tunnels, deeper into Jzadirune.
One battle into this place and they’re already super lost! Haha. But by then we were out of time, so further exploration would have to wait. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
In other news, Pathfinder recently announced a new product coming out soon. A new style of flip map tiles, which honestly look awesome. Similar to their old flip-tiles, these are double-sided, can be used with dry erase markers, and connect wonderfully to one another. The differences are in size (these are a bit bigger, and are square), and in number (these have a whopping 42 tiles per pack, as compared to the old ones which had 18). The tiles look great, and I’m curious to see how they’ll look and handle in person. The map tiles are due out in April.
The other exciting release is for a book called ‘Disciple’s Doctrine‘ Like the other ‘Faith’ books before it (Faiths of Balance, Faiths of Purity, Faiths of Corruption, Faiths & Philosophies, etc.), this book is a soft cover intended for players that takes a look at a dozen complex philosophies that are found throughout Golarion. Including the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, Magnimar’s mystery cults, and the Oracular Council of Po Li, this book is filled with a wide variety of doctrines. The one I’m most excited for? The Prophets of Kalistrade! FINALLY! What are they? I have no idea! What I do know? They’ve been name-dropped since way back in the first Pathfinder release, they’re important, they follow strange taboos, they wear white and gold, they wear gloves, and they like making money. Anything else? Nope! I’ve got no clue! I’ve been curious about this ‘faith’ for years, so I’m excited to find out. Like all the player intended soft covers, this book has a lot of traits, feats, spells and archetypes in it to make use of. I’m curious to see what it contains!
One final bit of excitement happened around my house this week. My husband decided he’d like to play a campaign with just me and him. So I named him the ones I have that he hasn’t played (not a very long list, haha) and he thought about it for a while. He narrowed it down quick, but was torn between Wrath of the Righteous and Iron Gods. So while he debates between two awesome campaigns, I’m going to crack out my first volume of each and give them a reread. It never hurts to be prepared!
That’s all for today. Thanks for checking in with us here at d20 Diaries. We’ll talk again soon.
d20 gaming happens plenty in my house, but Friday nights is special. Friday night is for adults only! While my kids and my brother’s kids run around, eat popcorn and have a movie night together, we parents play some Pathfinder. If all four of us are free we play Mummy’s Mask, and if only three of us are free we play Reign of Winter.
And this week? Reign of Winter.
Reign of Winter is a six-volume Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo Publishing. The campaign begins in the village of Heldren in the nation of Taldor during mid-summer. A blizzard appears out of nowhere, blanketing the nearby Border Wood with snow. When a wounded caravan guard delirious with frost-bite and fatigue staggers into town telling crazy stories about ice fairies, mass slaughter, and a kidnapped noblewoman, the village leaders urge the PCs to investigate his claims. Tasked with finding the missing noblewoman, discovering what happened to the guard’s caravan, and investigating the cause of this unnatural winter, the heroes set out to the Border Wood. Deep in its depths they discover a magical portal to the frozen land of Irrisen, whose supernatural winter will soon engulf all of Golarion unless the PCs can discover the fate of the otherworldly witch Baba Yaga. But following her trail of bread crumbs will take them far from home… Through the eternally frozen lands of Irrisen, and into even stranger lands beyond.
Though the premise is simple–find Baba Yaga and end this unnatural winter before it freezes the whole world–this campaign has a ton of twists, turns, and surprises. Each and every adventure in the series is well-written, fast-paced, and loads of fun. It features a lot of awesome locations, some of which are bound to take your players completely by surprise (parts four and five, here’s looking at you!). One of my favourite parts? Reign of Winter doesn’t always assume what your players do. It leaves it up to them. Although they have destinations to reach and a task that must be completed in each volume to keep them working towards their goals, how they go about achieving it, and who they decide to help or hinder is almost always up to them. This is awesome to see in an adventure path, and really lets the player’s be in control of their destiny, despite being in a pretty tight, ‘on-the-rails’ style of campaign.
In terms of supplemental material, this campaign works well with nearly everything Pathfinder. It’s particularly well-suited to the addition of occult classes and mythic tiers. Surprisingly, gunslingers will also have some distinct advantages during part of the campaign. The only class I don’t recommend is the paladin. Although mechanically they will have a ton of opportunity to shine, and they’re not forced to commit evil acts, the players will not always be able to fight the evil they see. In addition, this campaign’s major goal is to find and save Baba Yaga, an evil witch of tremendous power. Most paladin’s would have a hard time justifying this. Although it can be done, this campaign is much more enjoyable for everyone involved without being constrained by such a strict moral code.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is almost entirely a cold-weather campaign. Your characters will need to find ways to deal with the winter’s chill as soon as possible. But, that doesn’t limit character choices. In fact, as much as playing winter-themed characters can be fun, it’s more beneficial to go in the opposite direction. You are fighting against winter’s spread, after all. In a practical sense, many creatures native to frozen climates have resistances to the cold and weaknesses to heat. Preparation and adaptation to the cold is more important than being at home in cold climates.
I have read a lot of adventures and campaigns over the years, and I can honestly say that Reign of Winter is one of my all-time favourites. Top three, for sure! If you ever get the chance to play, read or run it, I highly encourage you to do so!
My group of players for Reign of Winter is incredibly small. I GM it, while my husband and my brother play it. That’s it. Three people, with a two-person party. Obviously, this brings up some challenges, which will be discussed later. But for now, let’s meet the heroes of my Reign of Winter Campaign: Huxley Rangvald and Aesir Havelok.
Aesir Havelok is a hunter and fisherman of Ulfen descent. During the summer months he lives in the Taldan town of Heldren. During the fall he travels north by ship to meet up with his cousins, and during the winter months he joins his cousins in their longboats, hunting great sea-beasts. He is a cleric of the agathion Ylimancha, the neutral good empyreal lord of seafarers, coastal waters, and creatures that fly. Aesir is particularly good with a bow, and has a way with animals. In addition to summoning creatures to aid him in combat he began the campaign with two beloved pets: his dog, Bjorn, and his seahawk, Bronna. Along the way he also became the proud master of a combat-trained warhorse, Ulbricht, and a wild, giant weasel, Brigga. For a time he was master of a glorious white stag he dubbed Loki.
Aesir is friendly and likeable, but not around Heldren much. He’s not quite considered a local, and is more of a welcome outsider. He’s brave and bold, and tries to inspire others to be the same. He dreams of hunting epic sea monsters, and making a name for himself that his ancestors and future descendants can be proud of! Aesir is my brother’s character.
Huxley Rangvald is a man of contrasts. Raised in a museum with an Ulfen father who longs for adventure, a Taldan mother with a head for business, and a horde of siblings and cousins, Huxley has become a fusion of cultures. Descended from an Ulfen warrior who once protected Taldan royalty and earned all the wealth he could carry as his pay for a decade’s work, Huxley’s great-grandfather used his eye for quality to fill his arms and backpack with priceless relics, valuable antiques and historic artifacts. But instead of heading home, he founded a museum, married a wealthy woman and lived a life of leisure.
Huxley himself grew up well-educated and wanting for nothing. But, living among the relics of legends and heroes, surrounded by history, he yearned to do more. He loves hunting for relics and bargaining for new acquisitions, and has managed to expand his family’s collection tremendously. Huxley is an occultist who uses historic artifacts to unlock and channel his own psychic powers. He is my husband’s character.
The Story so Far…
My group is currently on book one of Reign of Winter, The Snows of Summer. Having set out from the town of Heldren into the Border Wood, the duo fought against strange creatures, frigid icy fey, and the ever-encroaching cold to rescue a missing noblewoman from a group of bandits. But clues discovered in the forest led them to believe that the source of the arctic weather lay within the woods itself. After returning the noblewoman to Heldren and resupplying, Huxley and Aesir returned to the depths of the frozen woods and travelled to its centre, deep in the Somir Valley. Along the way they met a strange doll in a small house within a haunted ice maze. Made from the soul of a child by someone foul, the doll seemed an oddity at first. But as the doll began to act of its own volition, they believed it was haunted, and finally, alive. Aesir though it was creepy and should be destroyed, but Huxley thought it was amazing! He treated the doll kindly and befriended her, learning that her name was Thora. With the creepy doll in Huxley’s care they soldiered on. The cold intensified, and more strange creatures foreign to the woods appeared. After combating terrifying foes amidst a howling blizzard they followed the impossible storm to its centre and found a portal. Suddenly the doll screamed and fought like crazy to prevent them from entering.
Huxley had learned much about the doll during the journey, not only from speaking with her, but from examining her with his occultist abilities and vast arcana knowledge. He knew that whoever had killed the human Thora had captured and used it’s soul to create a dangerous construct known as a guardian doll. Such dolls much follow their creators commands, and can be given tasks to carry out, but are intelligent and cunning. In addition, they lash out against those that they loved in life. But, the dolls are still influenced by the soul used to create them, and as evil as its commands might be, the child inside the doll–little Thora–was a good girl. Huxley had finally discovered the dolls purpose: to prevent anyone from approaching the portal. Knowing Thora would attack them to the best of her ability, he bound her and blindfolded her, and stuffed her inside his bag. Although it was cruel, he hoped that upon leaving the portal behind, the doll would no longer be compelled to harm him. Then her actions would be her own again.
And if she still wanted to harm him? Well, that was her right. He did tie her up and stuff her in a bag….
Just as they were about to approach the portal a nearby tree moved, revealing itself to be a moss troll, the final guardian of the strange portal. Dealing with Thora and the troll at the same time proved a challenge, but Huxley and Aesir triumphed and moved to examine the portal. Huxley determined that the portal was the cause of the unnatural winter, and by closing it they could return the local weather to normal. Unfortunately, the source of the portal wasn’t here, it was on the other side of the portal. Knowing they would be stuck on the other side, wherever that was, they decided to pass through. Only to have something come out of the portal!
A tall figure in black armour, bleeding from many wounds, and clearly near death. The armoured knight removed his helmet and fell into the snow, revealing himself to be an incredibly old man. But this was no mortal… This was Dark Midnight, the Black Rider and one of three Heralds of Baba Yaga’s return. As he was dying, the man drew the others to him and imparted upon them both wisdom and knowledge.
Every hundred years the Great Witch, Baba Yaga, returns to her country of Irrisen to place a new daughter upon the throne. But this year, something went wrong. Queen Elvanna, ruler of Irrisen, did not wish to give her throne to another. Forgetting that the throne was not hers to give, it was Baba Yaga’s, Elvanna set out to kill the Heralds of her return, kill all those loyal to Baba Yaga, and take the entirety of Golarion as her throne. To this end, she has placed magical portals throughout the world, with the intent of spreading endless winter across the globe. Millions will perish, and Elvanna will rule over the frozen world that remains.
The source of this portal was close, within a few days travel once they passed through the portal, in a place called the Pale Tower, but the other portals throughout the world? They were farther, and they were many. Huxley and Aesir would not be able to shut them all down alone, and with even one remaining, the eternal grip of winter would continue to spread.
But Dark Midnight offered them hope.
Baba Yaga is always prepared for betrayal. She set a contingency in place–left a trail of breadcrumbs for the Herald’s to follow. But death was coming for the last of her Heralds, and the PCs would have to take up his cause. After saving their home by destroying the portal in the Pale Tower, they would need to travel to Whitethrone, the capital of Irrisen. There Queen Elvanna had imprisoned Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut as a symbol of her power. If they could free the Hut and step inside they could travel anywhere–even across planes and to other worlds. But to do so they needed the keys to the hut. Objects mundane in appearance but attuned to different locations. Combining these objects provides navigational direction for the Hut to follow. Elvanna had deactivated the keys, but Baba Yaga had already placed a few keys in hiding for her Heralds to find, and Dark Midnight has done so. With these keys, they can follow Baba Yaga’s trail, rescue her from whatever prison she is trapped in, so that Baba Yaga can destroy the portals–all of them.
But Baba Yaga has a way of testing even those who she desires to aid. The keys are but the first in a series of trials. Where they will take the heroes, Dark Midnight doesn’t know, but he does know that there will be more. More keys to find, more clues to follow, and more trials to face. In the end, they will find Baba Yaga and Baba Yaga will put an end to Elvanna’s foolishness. But until then, they would need a final boon from him. For only Baba Yaga and her Heralds can enter the Dancing Hut. To save their world, they would need to become Her Herald in Dark Midnight’s place. They would need to usher in the return of Baba Yaga.
They hesitated only a moment. Huxley needed no incentive to accept a mission involving a MAGICAL LEGENDARY HUT! While Aesir was bound by honour to save the town of Heldren. Accepting Dark Midnight’s offer, the Herald gave them the keys to the hut, and then passed onto them, his powers. The man in the armour had died. But Dark Midnight lived. Huxley Rangvald and Aesir Havelock took on the mantle and responsibilities of the Black Rider, and with it came great power. They achieved their first mythic tier, and charged through the portal only to come out… in Irrisen.
Eventually, Thora stopped screaming and trying to murder Huxley, which made him very happy, but he did not release her from the bag. Not yet. He needed to be sure she was under no further orders before allowing her more freedom.
In time they heard screams on the wind, and hurried off to find the source. Finding a caravan of dogsleds and their riders under attack by a massive praying mantis–a creature native to the Border Wood back in Taldor. Huxley and Aesir helped fight the beast off and introduced themselves to the people they had saved. Turns out it was a group of importers, returning to the nearby town of Waldsby after weeks away acquiring supplies. They thanked Huxley and Aesir, but had no time for chatting. A storm was coming, and they hoped to reach shelter before becoming trapped in it. Together, they all rode off. But they could not outrun the storm. It came upon them before arriving in Waldsby, and they sought shelter in a cave. There they settled in for the night and had a chance to socialize. Huxley and Aesir shared their tale, and their goal to visit the Pale Tower to save their town, but left out all mention of Thora, Dark Midnight and being Heralds of Baba Yaga.
The caravan was run by a woman by the name of Nadya. It had once been her husband’s business, but his death a few years ago left her in charge of the supply runs. Her husband’s business partner and good friend, Laszlo, stayed on to help her, and was here as well. The third member of their group was Inuq, a foreign woman who was the owner, breeder, and trainer of the dogs they used to pull the sleds, as well as owner of the sleds themselves. Typically, the three were the only ones in the caravan, but this last run had been long, and a few more hands had volunteered to join them. Laszlo’s son, Andrei, who had almost been eaten by the mantis, and Nicholai, Nadya’s neighbour, who was a friendly fellow, but didn’t seem comfortable this far from town. As the night wore on, they settled in to sleep, only to have a visitor arrive–a forlarren musician on her way from Waldsby to the Pale Tower. The group begrudgingly let the fey join them in the cave, but clearly the mood was tense. Nadya covered for Huxley and Aesir, lying about their purpose and claiming they were distant relatives of hers. They went along with the lies, knowing something was off, and managed to avoid confrontation with the ice fey. But as she played some local music for the group, she watched the PCs keenly, curious if they knew the words and clearly trying to discover what part of their tale was lies.
The evening was tense, but in time everyone went to sleep. When they awoke it was to the sounds of Nadya screaming in pain. Something had hurt her! Huxley and Aesir charged in to see what had happened to find the forlarren gone, and Nadya wounded from intense cold–a magical spell most likely. The group muttered and worried over the attack, and wondered how the forlarren could slip away so quickly, but Huxley felt a nagging worry. He checked his bag to find Thora there, but unbound, and her tiny footprints heading toward Nadya’s tent. At the back he found a small section of canvas cut away by a sharp object, just large enough for a doll to peek through.
It wasn’t the forlarren that had attacked Nadya. It was Thora. But why?
Huxley kept this news to himself and chatted with the others. They set out for the day and Huxley continued his prying. Eventually he discovered that Nadya had three children. Two boys and a girl named Thora. While Nadya was away on a supply run the Lady of the Pale Tower and her Guard had come through Waldsby on a surprise visit. Thora had been heard making a joke about the witch, and dragged back to the Pale Tower as a prisoner. Her babysitter, Nicholai and his wife, was distraught, and told Nadya what had happened as soon as she returned home. Nadya rode for the Pale Tower, begging for her daughter back, and was promised that if she could bring back more than double her typical shipment of goods to the Pale Tower, her daughter would be released. Nadya agreed and hurried back to Waldsby. Laszlo and Inuq prepared to join her, but to bring back double would be a long trip, and they would need more sleds. Inuq had plenty of sleds and dogs, but they would need others to drive them. Nicholai volunteered out of guilt, knowing that little Thora had been in his care. Laszlo’s son volunteered out of pride and excitement, hoping to join his father on an important journey. Now Nadya was returning to Waldsby, and then on to the Pale Tower to get Thora back.
But she wouldn’t get Thora back, would she? For the witch of the Pale Tower, Nazhena Vassiovna, had killed Thora, captured her soul, and turned her into a guardian doll, sending her through the portal to the Border Wood to stalk and kill all who attempted passage.
Huxley had Thora. And as a guardian doll, Thora would be compelled to lash out and kill all those who she had loved in life. Including her mother, Nadya, and her brothers… Worrying over what to do, Huxley kept his theories (and Thora) to himself. The journey continued, and they triumphed over the dangers of the frozen woods and plains.
But as Walsby came into sight, Huxley made a decision. Taking Nadya aside he told her about Thora’s death, and her rebirth as a doll. Nadya didn’t believe him, and was angry, but as Huxley pulled out Thora, Nadya broke down in tears. The doll wore her daughter’s clothes, and her daughter’s real hair had been used in the doll’s creation. After crying over the fate of her child, Nadya lashed out at the doll, tossing it into the snow. That abomination wasn’t her daughter. Her daughter was dead. That thing needed to be destroyed.
Aesir agreed, but Huxley and Inuq did not. And as Huxley cradled little Thora in his arms, he vowed he would not let anyone harm the girl, whatever form she might be in. Meanwhile, Aesir convinced Nadya that they would seek vengeance against the White Witches on Nadya’s behalf–or alongside her, if she desired.
Setting out to Waldsby with grim determination, the group entered town in order to resupply and rest. Huxley and Aesir would set out for the Pale Tower the next morning, with–hopefully–someone to guide them there.
But Waldsby was not what they expected. It was strange. A mirror image of Heldren in both layout, and its citizens, Aesir and Huxley were both creeped out. They resupplied and socialized, but found the people here hard, and cold where the citizens of Heldren had been welcoming and warm. Huxley determined that the two towns likely lay along the same ley lines, which made the town connected by both magic and psychic powers despite the distance between them. Things occurring in one place would echo across the ley lines and affect the other. Intrigued, Huxley explored the town. Although they made a few friends, more often than not these interactions ended poorly. In the end they decided to leave their animals in Inuq’s care for the night, and sleep in Laszlo’s tiny house.
But the evening was interrupted by the sounds of guards approaching. The Pale Tower Guard were here! Deciding they didn’t want Laszlo to be punished for harbouring them, Huxley and Aesir slipped out a back window and waltzed into the town square. They were immediately approached by the Pale Tower Guard who ordered them to see their commander for questioning. Aesir loudly refused, causing a loud ruckus. Although both groups resorted to intimidation and threats for a while, it ended with violence. Aesir and Huxley defeated the first few guards, but more were on the way. Aesir whistled for his animals, and Huxley used his magic and sword skills. But soon the rest of the Pale Guard were upon them–all nine–as well as their Sergeant. The battle was hard, but together, the group triumphed. With the bodies of the Pale Tower Guard around them, bleeding in the streets, Nadya insisted they leave. More guards would come, and if they were to get vengeance for the death of her daughter, they would need to leave now. Inuq and Laszlo also offered to join Aesir and Huxley on their battle at the Pale Tower.
While Huxley stripped the dying guards of their gear, and the townsfolk yelled at the outsiders to leave, Aesir called the town to arms. Surely SOME amongst the citizens of Waldsby would fight back against the oppression of the Pale Tower Guard and the White Witches? Some seemed convinced, and to these people he bestowed the weapons and gear of the Pale Tower Guard. These people would be the town’s defenders!
Huxley was pretty sure these people would die.
With all the goods they could carry, Huxley, Aesir, and Aesir’s many pets set out with Inuq, Nadya and Laszlo by dogsled to the Pale Tower. The time had come to destroy the winter portal, kill Thora’s murderer and save the town of Heldren.
If they can…
The other side of the screen:
Welcome to the other side of the screen, a place where you’ll find GM notes related to the recent game sessions you’ve read, and links to the adventures themselves. If there’s something different in the adventure, or things I’ve changed and added, you’ll find it here!
So what’s different in this session?
At its core? A bit. In the details? A lot.
For starters, it’s NOT expected that anyone will try to keep the soul bound doll containing Thora’s soul as a companion. Most groups would have left the creepy doll alone. Those that understood what she was would likely consider destroying the soul gem inside her a way to set Thora’s soul free into the afterlife–which it is. Even those groups who kept her with them for a while would likely turn on the doll the first time she tries to attack, harm or hinder the group.
Mine didn’t. No matter how many times the Thora doll tried to hurt, enchant or thwart the PCs progress, Huxley was there to stop her non-violently. He understood Thora, her impulses and her limitations. Plus, she’s a freaking magical doll! Huxley LOVES things like that. This meant that I had to put a lot of thought into what exactly, Thora’s orders were, who she was compelled to listen to, and who she was compelled to attempt to kill if she met them. It’s also important to keep in mind that guardian dolls are subtle, disturbing creatures–not straight up combatants. This turned out to be great fun, and through it all, Huxley still managed to keep her. How much longer he’ll manage when Thora’s mother is travelling alongside them–a person she is compelled to murder–we’ll see. But honestly? I’m rooting for Huxley and Thora! If they can get her through the Pale Tower, destroy her creator and keep her away from the people she loved in life, Thora has an opportunity for growth and a second chance at life. And if they can’t? It will be a heart-breaking climax to a budding friendship between a creepy soul-bound doll and a kindly eccentric.
The second minor change to this campaign so far, was characters. There’s a great primer in the Snows of Summer for both Heldren and Waldsby, which can be used to great effect in the campaign. It’s honestly my two of my very favourite towns to play in. If done well, it will be both memorable and disconcerting for your players. To compliment this collection of quirky townsfolk, everyone was given face pictures to represent them, and characters who had no names (like Nadya’s four helpers) were given identities, personalities and families. Of all the townsfolk in the campaign so far, my players have felt the most connection with Yuln Oerstag, the wounded caravan guard who initially set the PCs out on adventure back in Heldren; Nadya Petska, Thora’s mother and the importer destined to be your guide to the Pale Tower; Laszlo, Nadya’s business partner and a grizzled old hunter; and Inuq, the Varki dog breeder who supplies Nadya with her dogs and dogsleds. Of these, only the first two had names and images in the published adventure.
The major change I instituted was the mantle of Dark Midnight. In the book, accepting the position as a Herald of Baba Yaga grants you a permanent increase to an ability score, a few boons that will come up throughout the campaign (like the ability to enter the Dancing Hut) and a compulsion that makes your characters want to save Baba Yaga. However, shortly after the printing of this book, Mythic Adventures was released. In fact, Baba Yaga herself was one of the first stat blocks I had ever seen printed who had mythic tiers. Taking into consideration that I had a group of only TWO characters, I decided that this would be a great time to try out the mythic rules in one of our campaigns. And thus, taking on the mantle of the Black Rider granted the PCs their first mythic tier. Throughout the course of the campaign I expect them to get a few more. I’m very excited to see how this change affects the campaign. I think it’s going to be a wonderful fit!
That’s all for now! Thanks for joining us on our continuing adventures in the Reign of Winter Adventure Path. This one’s going to be a wild ride!
What do you think of the campaign? Is it one you’d like to play in? More importantly, what would you PLAY if given the chance to make a character for Reign of Winter? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Hello! Welcome back to Cauldron, home of the Shackled City Adventure Path! When we left off our heroic musicians were retiring to their homes to contemplate a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! (If none of this sounds familiar, read this blog post first.)
Although the time between reading Part One and Part Two of our adventures is only a moment away for you, it was not so for my son. We paused here for a few days, and let me tell you, my son’s imagination went WILD! He spent two days straight CONSTANTLY working out theories and suggestions about the riddle they received from Jenya Urikas, and coming up with possible connections between the missing persons (for a full list of missing persons, click here). On the walks to school, during dinner, at bedtime… CONSTANTLY. And there were A LOT of theories. Surprisingly, some of his ideas were pretty close to accurate. Still, I said nothing aside from: “Mick will have to wait and see.” and “You think so?” He got out his detective’s notebook–a copy of Detective Murdoch’s notebook from Murdoch Mysteries that he adores–and began writing all of his ideas and theories down with a big red crayon.
Obviously, my son was insistant that the locks and keys were very important. He had a ton of theories about why, all of which were crazy, but whatever the reasoning, he settled on them being literal locks and keys. He alto took the curtain and cauldron part of the riddle literally, insisting everyone check behind their curtains at home, and at the orphanage, and that everyone look underneath every cauldron they own or come across.
He had no idea what was up with the doors with teeth, but was pretty sure he would recognize a giant mouth door when he found one, so he wasn’t too worried about that. My daughter was though, and had a few-hour-long fear of doors, worried as she was that they might grow teeth and chomp on her.
My son was very excited with the next part of the riddle: descend. He knew that meant going down, and he was very hopeful that would lead us to his character’s birthplace: Jzadirune. An underground enclave of the gnomes, Jzadirune was hit by a mysterious vanishing plague, and shut down when Mick was only a child. Many people died, and although Mick made it to the surface, he was orphaned by the experience. Nearly all of his madcap theories involved Jzadirune in one way or another. He was pretty sure that whatever was going on, Jzadirune was either a secret base for the bad guys, or a way to get to their secret base. He didn’t know what the bad guys might be, but he was hopeful it was invisible evil gnomes.
My son does understand the concept of slavery, so he was pretty sure that was involved because of the next line in the riddle. After giving it some though he decided it probably wasn’t invisible evil gnomes after all, but duergar. He’s got a decent knowledge of the races and monsters of D&D and not only does he know that duergar are evil underground dwarves, he also knows they’re slavers. With those his current suppositions, he made a TON of crazy ideas about what’s going on, why it’s going on, and how it’s going on. Magic showed up in his detective’s journal a lot. How’d they get in? Magic. How’d they stay silent? Magic. How come there were no footprints? Magic. Also, the doors with teeth? Were they a real toothy door? Or a monster’s mouth? Was it magic? He thought it might be a literal monster’s mouth we’d have to enter, which would be pretty awesome…
The next time we sat down to play the Shackled City, the PCs had breakfast together, chatted a bit, and headed out to the Lantern Street Orphanage to begin their investigation. The headmistress, a halfling by the name of Gretchyn Tashykk, was suspicious of the group–and rightly so! But Mick and Aeris managed to earn her trust. Aeris often donated money (from her occasional midnight criminal activities) to the orphanage, and Mick had grown up here. Although Gretchyn hadn’t been there to raise him, she did recognize him. Occassionally he came by to tell jokes to the children.
After explaining their purpose, the characters asked for information on the abductions, and for permission to interview the staff. Gretchen agreed. She told them everything she knew, and gave them a tour, then introduced them to each member of the staff in turn. They learned a bit from Gretchyn–which is listed below:
The children who are missing are Deakon, Evelyn, Lucinda and Terrem. Two boys and two girls.
The orphanage has two common bedchambers on the second floor: one for boys and one for girls. Two children were taken from each room.
None of the children slept nearest to the windows or door. They did not sleep beside each other. No one saw or heard anything.
The orphanage has lockable windows and doors. In addition to the orphanage locking during the night, the bedchamber rooms are locked as well.
There were no signs of forced entry and nothing was broken.
The PCs aren’t the only ones to investigate the children’s disappearance. The day the children were discovered missing the town guard came by, looked around and spoke with everyone. Two days ago a pair of half-elf investigators sent by the Mayor’s Office came by to look around and speak to Gretchyn. Yesterday that young priest came by offer help and speak with the children (Rufus Laro). And today the PCs arrived.
Aeris set out to inspect the locks on the doors and windows, while the characters asked further questions of Gretchyn, and spoke to the children. Mick ran a ton of crazy theories past her, but Gretchyn had no insights to offer.
Shortly, Aeris had confirmed that there was no signs of a break in. The locks were of fine quality and were in working order. There was no sign they had been picked. She decided to check the other locks in the building, while the others started interviewing the staff.
They started with Jaromir Copperbeard, the dwarven gardener who seemed to genuinely love the children despite his gruff demeanour. He also informed the group that one of the children, Terrem, was a troublemaking brat. He couldn’t imagine HIM going quietly. He confirmed he had found no signs of a break-in that night, and found no prints in his flower beds or scuffs along the outer walls.
Then they visited Neva Fanister, the old human nurse. Neva was always busy tending bruises, cuts and wounds. Kids were rough and rambunctious. She knew the kids quite well and confirmed that Terrem was a handful and was often in her care for scrapes and bruises he received in fist-fights and play-wrestling. The others were very different from him. Deakon was a smart, hard-working dwarf boy who had been with them a long time (dwarves grew up slowly), Evelyn was a sullen, quiet girl, and Lucinda was a happy but superstitious child. They didn’t have much in common with one another. Although, they did have their good health!
The characters tried to visit the half-elf schoolteacher, Willow Atherfell, next, but finding her overwhelmed with trying to handle the children, they moved on to see the cook, Temar Flagonstern, instead. Temar was a relatively new addition to the orphanage, having only worked there three years–the same as Willow. He complained about the huge amount of labour he had to do, and told the characters that he barely knew the children. He spent all his time cooking for them, washing their dirty dishes and cleaning up after their messes, only to do it all over again. Clearly a grumpy fellow, Temar seemed to be telling the truth. In addition, he confirmed that one of the children, Terrem, was a hall-raiser and was constantly making huge messes in the dining hall. Temar was NOT impressed.
Then they went to speak with the janitor, Patch. Patch was a strong half-orc with an eye patch over one eye, a nervous demeanour and a stutter. It was immediately clear that Patch adored the children and knew his way around the place well. In fact, Patch had grown up here and took work as a janitor when he was too old to stay any longer. Of course, it was also clear he was stupid. My son was immediately suspicious of the poor half-orc and soon Falco, Mick and Rabbity began asking questions about the orphanage, the children, the Last Laugh and the night of the abductions. Eventually, the nervous, stuttering fellow admitted he did know something but that he couldn’t speak about it here. Falco responded by doing what any fine gentleman would do: he invited Patch for tea at his flat.
Aeris rejoined them before they left the building. She had discovered that all the locks were in fine working order and great quality. In addition, she recognized the maker’s mark. It was a competitor of hers, Keygan Ghelve. As the others headed off with Patch to Falco’s flat, Aeris decided to separate from them for a while. She took the list of missing persons and visited all the places she thought she would be able to gain access to in order to examine their locks. If the locks truly were the key to finding the missing people, as the riddle had suggested, then perhaps there was something in common between them.
After inviting Patch inside and giving him a tour of the house, Falco, Mick and Rabbity sat down for tea with the awkward fellow. Patch was wary at first, and clearly had information to share that he wasn’t sure he should. But working together, the characters diplomacy was through the roof, so Patch soon believed he could trust them. Patch told the group in his stuttering, nervous way, that the Last Laugh wasn’t responsible for the kidnappings. A few years ago, when Terrem came to the orphanage, a man approached Patch while he was drinking away his earnings at the Slippery Eel Tavern. He was a halfling who was missing both of his pinkies and introduced himself as Regis Two-fingers. Patch and Regis became pals, and soon, Regis told Patch that he had a favour to ask him–as friends. Patch accepted (having not many people who he could call friends) and learned that Regis was a member of the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild, a group that had a very keen interest in ensuring that a young orphan named Terrem was kept safe and in the orphanage’s care. Patch was confused. How did Regis even know about that little human child? But, he agreed to watch over Terrem and keep Regis informed of his health. Patch promised, more than a little scared for his life, that Regis would be the first to know if anything happened to Terrem. The day that Terrem and the other orphans went missing, Patch had slipped out to tell Regis as soon as he could. And Regis was furious! Patch swears that the Last Laugh wants to protect Terrem, and get him back, not hurt him or take him someplace else.
The PCs were a little confused. They asked Patch some clarifying questions and discovered that Patch was out drinking the night the kids went missing, and returned late. He slept like the dead, and felt horribly guilty that he didn’t hear anything happen at all that night!
The group pressed him further, using his guilt and his love of the children against him, until Patch had told them everything he knew (which wasn’t much more) and promised that if they found out who had taken the children, Patch would go with them to help save the children. Satisfied, they took Patch back to the orphanage, asked the overwhelmed school-teacher Willow a few questions, and bid everyone farewell.
Before heading out to regroup with Aeris, the PCs decided to pay a visit to the Mayor’s Office in the hopes of pooling their information with the half-elf investigators that had been sent to the orphanage. Upon arriving the secretary, Lucia Reynald, asked their business. When they inquired about the Lantern Street Orphanage investigation she told them that she was not privy to which guards were placed on which cases. That was up to the guard Captains. When they pressed for information about the Mayor’s special investigators she informed them they were mistaken–the Mayor’s Office employs no investigators at all. Certainly not a pair of half-elven ones!
The plot thickens!
On the way out of the Town Hall and Lord Mayor’s Office the characters ran into a chipper, young woman named Cynarra Navalant, who turned out to be the mayor’s daughter. Falco introduced himself politely, but Mick was too scared! He didn’t want to get in trouble for talking to important people like the mayor’s daughter! He ignored her completely and hurried out into the streets. The others followed him–after a polite farewell.
Regrouping with Aeris after a hard day’s investigating, the players shared information with each other. Aeris was skeptical about the Last Laugh’s ‘benevolent’ involvement, and Patch, but there were more pressing things to consider. She had checked the locks at six other sites of disappearances and discovered none of them had been tampered with. In addition, they were all crafted by the same locksmith–Keygan Ghelve. With a new suspect (or at least accomplice) in mind, the group set off straight for his shop, Ghelve’s Locks.
Arriving late-afternoon they found Ghelve’s Locks open for business and went right in. Keygan was there on a pair of stilts covered by long pants. He strutted around the place comfortably, and wandered over to ask how he could help his new customers. And then he recognized Aeris (his competition).
With a scowl, he asked her to wait while he handled his customers, but Aeris cut in and assured him they ALL had business with him. Business regarding the recent disappearances. Surely he must know something about them, right? They all used his locks!
Keygan told the group to get out, but Falco stalled, using diplomacy to try to get some answers. Keygan looked nervous, and began gesturing with his head and eyes to a curtained back-room. Mick was pretty sure that Keygan wanted to hug and kiss him or something, but Falco understood his meaning: Keygan wasn’t alone, and whoever was with him was back there…. Beyond the curtain.
Unfortunately for Keygan, the group proved less keen on playing along and pretending to leave than they did with tearing through the shop to get past the curtain. Mick seized a pile of what he hoped was stinky, smoky leaves and tossed them onto the fireplace’s flames, while Rabbity hopped on Panthy, Aeris pushed her way past the curtain, and Falco moved to follow her. Keygan had had enough! He cast a spell at the trio, just as Mick summoned his piano and began to taunt the little locksmith with his mock ability. Solely focused on Mick now because of his rude insults, the gnomes battled it out with wits, words and magic spells in the shop front while Aeris charged into the darkness of the storage room. Three steps into the room and she recoiled in pain. Looking down in shock she realized she had been shot by a crossbow bolt.
“Someone’s… here!” she grunted through the pain. Rabbity and Panthy charged into the room, Falco healed Aeris and then moved to open the window curtains, revealing their attacker was up on the landing of the stairs to the second floor. An unnatural calm came over Aeris as her goddess’ will and purpose overtook her. Replacing her fiery temper and impulsiveness with an eerie calm and righteousness, the now bloodraging Aeris stalked up the steps to engage her enemy.
Her companions soon joined the battle, and in a few short rounds it was done. The mysterious, grey skinned figure was unconscious, and the trio rejoined Mick and Keygan–who promptly surrendered.
Aeris scolded the man and began blaming him for his crimes, causing Keygan to break down in sobs. Keygan explained that a few months ago strange humanoids had come up from his basement and attacked him! They stole his rat familiar, Starbrow, and asked him tons of questions about the city. Keygan told them everything they wanted to know, and they left–but they took Starbrow with them. In addition, one of them stayed behind in his home to ensure he never spoke about them to the guard. Keygan was a prisoner in his own home and his beloved pet was their hostage! Not long afterwards they demanded Keygan make them a set of skeleton keys which could open any lock he had crafted. He did so, and worried in silence as they began rifling through his records. Every few nights since they’ve taken a few addresses from his books and headed off into the city, only to bring unconscious Caudronites back down into the tunnels below his home…
Keygan was ashamed, and regretful, but not truly sorry. He would do it again to save Starbrow. Aeris was disgusted and wanted to turn both Keygan and the gray-skinned man over to the town guards, but Falco had a different plan. Falco told Keygan that they were going to go underground and rescue the missing people (and rats!) but that Keygan would have to come with them. Seeing no other choice, Keygan agreed.
They tied up the gray-skinned man, tossed him in a trunk, and then tied up the trunk from outside with thick ropes, before sitting down to speak. They had some questions, and Keygan would have to tell them everything he knew if they were going to succeed. Luckily, Keygan had plenty of information.
In his basement are old tunnels that were sealed up long ago and lead to Jzadirune. (At this news my son jumped for joy). This is where he assumes the kidnappers are currently lairing.
The doors in Jzadirune are gear-shaped and designed to roll to one side or the other. Most of them had traps that only the gnomes could safely bypass. Unfortunately, Keygan was too young to remember much more than this. He knows they had keys that looked like long sticks. He also knows his father had a leather map that showed the layout of Jzadirune (though whether or not it’s accurate he has no idea).
The kidnappers took Starbrow someplace dark within one mile. Through his empathic link with the rat, Keygan can tell he is hungry and scared.
There are two kinds of people who come up from his basement: ‘tall ones’ and ‘short ones’. Neither of them seem to like the sunlight. The tall ones resemble naked, hairless, genderless humans with blue pupilless eyes, and grey skin that changes colour, allowing them to blend perfectly with their surroundings. They are usually encountered in pairs or threes and often leave the shop wearing cloaks. They carry repairs and light crossbows.
The short ones are sinister gnome-like creatures with pallid skin, large noses and black hooves for feet. They wear black cloaks and cowls that help them hide in the shadows. The wield filthy looking daggers.
The kidnappers share a common language that Keygan doesn’t recognize.
If the kidnappers have a leader, Keygan hasn’t seen it. They seem to get along fine without one.
With this information, Rabbity, Panthy and Mick stayed behind to keep an eye on Ghelve and study the map of Jzadirune, which was old, faded and unlabelled. Aeris went home to fetch a backpack no one had seen her wear before that contained a surprisingly large number of objects useful for breaking into places and adventuring in the dark… Falco also left. First he did some shopping (he was rather ill-equipped for adventuring!) and then he went by the Lantern Street Orphanage to get Patch.
Together, this motley group of heroes, cowards, crooks and musicians are about delve beneath Cauldron to a gnomish enclave abandoned for over 75 years, braving the dark, the unknown, and the myserious disease known as the Vanishing, to find the missing citizens of Cauldron or die trying.
Wish them luck!
The other side of the screen:
Welcome to the other side of the screen, a place where you’ll find GM notes related to the recent game sessions you’ve read, and links to the adventures themselves. If there’s something different in the adventure, or things I’ve changed and added, you’ll find it here!
So what’s different in this session? Not much!
The major change came right near the end: Patch and Keygan Ghelve are not intended to join the player’s on their quest below Cauldron. However, Falco’s diplomacy checks came out absurdly high, and the characters managed to leverage the things those NPCs cared about to their advantage (Starbrow, guilt, and the fate of Terrem and the children). This coupled with the deadliness of their upcoming adventure, the PCs small group size, and the likelihood of my children making poor tactical decisions during combat, caused me to decide that instead of offering other types of aid, Keygan and Patch would join them. However, that meant that their statblocks would need to be updated. Although using their 3.5 stat blocks included in the Shackled City Adventure Path is fine for a battle or two, if they were joining the party they’d need to be proper Pathfinder characters. Patch was originally written as a commoner 1/rogue 1, while Keygan was an expert 3/wizard 1. While converting them to Pathfinder I streamlined their levels, making Patch a rogue (acrobat) 1, and Keygan an illusionist wizard 1. Despite these changes their tactics, gear and the general build and feel of the stat blocks remained true to their original intent.
The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.
Thanks for joining us on our adventures in Cauldron! Tune if later this week for an update on an ongoing Reign of Winter campaign, and a review of Paizo’s Iron Gods Adventure Path!
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!