Happy New Year!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

My family and I want to wish each and every one of you a wonderful, amazing, SPECTACULAR, New Year.

I mean that. Truly.

We wish you all the best in the coming year, and every day afterwards.

Thank you for visiting d20 Diaries. And thank you for sharing this past year with us. I hope you join us for 2020.

Jessica
(and family!)

d20diaries Turns Two!

Happy Anniversary!

Two years ago today d20 Diaries was born.

Just two years.

It’s been a whirlwind! d20 Diaries has become something bigger and grander than I could have ever imagined. I’ve gathered fans throughout the world, our page views increase every month, and I’ve embarked on a freelancing career that’s already gone better than I could have dreamed. The future’s looking bright!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re still new around here. d20 Diaries is still in it’s infancy. There’s plenty more features we hope to add in the future, and more stories we hope to share. There’s a pile of articles waiting to be fleshed out, and many, many more adventures to be had.

So today I’m sending out a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you! Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate it more than you know!

Here’s to another year! I hope you stick around for the ride.

Jessica

Happy Holidays!

Hello everyone, and welcome to d20diaries!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Yule! Happy Holidays! And if you’re currently celebrating a holiday I haven’t mentioned, then happy that, too!

We here at d20diaries would like to take the time to say to each and every one of you: thank you.

Thank you for your time and your attention. Thank you for your feedback and kind words. Thank you, thank you, and a thousand more times, thank you. It means the world to us that so many of you choose to spend some of your precious time with us.

We wish you all the best today, tomorrow, and every day afterwards.

Best wishes,

Jessica
(and family!)

Review: Dungeons & Tombs

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

A new entry in the ‘Young Adventurer’s Guide‘ series of children books from Dungeons & Dragons is scheduled to launch next week and we are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of an advance copy of this delightful book, which we’re going to share with you today!

The Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler. The series began with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures and ‘Warriors and Weapons.’ (For full details on these two books, check out our previous review here). On November 26th, ‘Dungeons & Tombs‘ will be released! There is one more book in development, scheduled for Spring 2020 (Wizards & Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D. The American cover price for each of the books is $12.99, with the Canadian cover price $17.50. Each book is 105 pages long.

Young Adventurer's Guides

Like previous entries in this series, Dungeons & Tombs looks and feels great! It has a high quality hard cover, sturdy glossy pages, tons of unique full colour art, and a design aesthetic that’s in line with the adult D&D releases. This book feels like it’s a part of the Dungeons & Dragons line — which is absolutely awesome! It makes my kids feel like this book, and previous ones in the series, is just as important as the rest of our D&D books, which in turn makes them feel included and a part of the hobby.

young-adventurers-guides-2.jpgTaken on their own, the Young Adventurer’s Guides have a nice layout, easy to read text, beautiful art, and are well organized. They’re approachable, interesting, engaging, and clearly written for kids, but, at the same time, the books don’t talk down to the reader. These books are written with care, and meant to provide younger audiences an easy to understand introduction to the world of roleplaying games and storytelling, as well as inspire them to make the world and stories their own.

I have two children, a seven year old girl and an eight year old boy, making them on the young end of the intended audience for these books. Both of my kids have very good reading comprehension for their age. That said, both of my kids thoroughly enjoyed these books. Both my son and daughter had no problem reading the books and seemed to understand everything they read. My daughter, understandably, had a bit more trouble than her older brother, having to sound out a tricky word or two once or twice a chapter. Despite this, she was fully engaged with reading the books and never got frustrated. As is typical with many fantasy books, the trickiest words are fictional names of characters and places. While many kids will stumble over these words once or twice before internalizing them, just as many will skip over them and move on. That said, there were very few names my kids had trouble with, which is really nice to see. My son didn’t come across any content that he found inappropriate or too mature for him, while my daughter came across one location and one creature she decided were a little ‘too spooky’ for her right now, so she skipped those pages and continued on enjoying the rest of the book. Considering the age and reading abilities of my kids, I think these books are well suited to the middle-grade reader level they’re advertised as. My kids loved them, and they definitely have room to grow with the books. We haven’t had them long and already my kids have read and re-read them more than a few times. They’ve already started utilizing information they picked up from the books in their play, storytelling, roleplaying, and gaming. My son has started drawing maps of his own, and my daughter’s already created a whole adventure featuring some of the advice and new creatures in this book. These are the sort of books my kids get a ton of use out of, coming back to them often, and using different sections for inspiration at different times.

It’s important to note that Dungeons & Tombs (and the other Young Adventurer’s Guides) are NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbook or the Monster Manual. They do NOT contain game mechanics or rules. They lay out the major concepts, gear, locations, monsters, and roles in a way that is easy to understand, approachable, and engaging; and they provide a lot of great advice for storytelling of all kinds. They’re meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules. I highly recommend this series for any kids who love adventure, fantasy, horror, monsters, roleplaying, storytelling, or who have exposure to RPGs.


dungeons-and-tombs.jpg
Dungeons & Tombs: A Young Adventurer’s Guide
 is an illustrated guide to six famous dungeons and locations in Dungeons & Dragons, and some creatures that call these places home. It also contains advice on mapmaking and dungeon crafting. Featuring one-of-a-kind entries for each of its showcased locations and monsters, and over 60 brand new illustrations, this book is sure to ignite the imagination of young readers.

This book begins with a short, three page introduction, which gives the book some context, then discusses how to prepare for a dungeon delve and the major classes of D&D. From there, it hops right into the star of this book: a profile of six famous dungeons. Each dungeon has an introduction and overview, to set the stage for the dungeon, a list of a few important locations in that dungeon, a more detailed look at one of the locations within that dungeon (along with story prompts to engage the reader’s imagination), and an ‘encounter,’ which is a short, one-page story that takes place in that dungeon, and encourages readers to decide how they would react to the events. These encounters are meant to guide kids to roleplay their own endings to exciting stories, and question the ramifications of their actions. This problem-solving is a great way to introduce kids to RPGs as both a player and DM.

dungeons-and-tombs-2.jpg

There are six dungeons covered in this book, and each is very different — which I love! Dungeons aren’t always enclosed spaces or underground, so I’m thrilled this book showcases that. The six dungeons examined in this book shouldn’t surprise fans of D&D. They’re famous, of course, but they’re also locations visited in D&D 5e adventures. These include Chult, Ironslag, Ravenloft, The Sea Ghost, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Undermountain. My kids love knowing that the places they’ve read about are out there, in a D&D campaign, waiting for them to explore one day. For those of you curious, Chult is explored in Tomb of Annihilation, Ironslag is explored in Storm King’s Thunder, Ravenloft is explored in Curse of Strahd, The Sea Ghost is featured in Ghosts of Saltmarsh,  The Temple of Elemental Evil is a part of Princes of the Apocalypse, and Undermountain is showcased in Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage . (Note: These locations have been showcased many times before in previous editions, stories, and adventures as well). Even more exciting to my kids, they already knew the names of some of these locations, as the Endless Quest series of Dungeons & Dragons children’s novels by Matt Forbeck also visits some of these locations. (For more information on Endless Quest, check out our review on the first four here and the newest two here).

Both of my children agreed that their favourite dungeon was Chult, the island of dinosaurs. My daughter’s second favourite was the Temple of Elemental Evil, while my son’s second favourite was The Sea Ghost. Both of my children agreed that Ravenloft was by far the spookiest location in the book. My son enjoyed it, but my daughter saw the word ‘werewolf,’ shrieked in panic, and flipped right past the rest of that dungeon. (She has a fear of werewolves). Preferences aside, they both really enjoyed the dungeon profiles and, just as  importantly, came up with a bunch of ideas for adventures and stories they want to create in the various dungeons. It really sparked their imagination, which was nice to see. The dungeon profiles take up half of the book.

The next chapter of this book is a bestiary, which begins with a short, one page introduction. This introduction also explains the books ‘Danger Levels,’ which is a 0-5 point scale meant to show how tough a creature is. Although similar to Challenge Ratings in D&D, these numbers are NOT equivalent. Beginning at 0, which denotes a creature that is essentially harmless, moving on to 1, which is an acceptable challenge for low-level or beginning adventurers, and ending at 5, which is a difficult challenge for high level heroes. There is one Danger Level higher than this: EPIC, which denotes a creature so powerful only the most legendary heroes could hope to triumph over it.

The creatures in this book are sorted alphabetically, with the ooze entry containing four different oozes. Creatures showcased are the basilisk, flameskull, gibbering mouther, grung, iron golem, lizardfolk, mimic, ooze (black pudding, gelatinous cube, gray ooze, ochre jelly), roper, sea elf, water elemental myrmidon, and yikaria. Once again, my kids both really enjoyed this section. My son read it all, but my daughter found one creature ‘too spooky’ for her. She saw the gibbering mouther… and promptly flipped right past it. Haha. Both of my kids decided the basilisk was the coolest monster in the bestiary, followed by the grung. My son also enjoyed the roper a lot, while my daughter preferred the sea elf.

Dungeons and Tombs - Basilisk

The final chapter of this book was my personal favourite: building your own dungeon. This chapter is a simple, but really helpful guide that discusses how to build a dungeon that is exciting, memorable, and actually makes sense. It’s got a lot of wonderful questions and writing prompts, concepts for kids to think about, and fun ideas to spark their creativity. (Many adult D&D players would benefit from reading this short chapter, as well). The dungeon creation process covers coming up with the dungeon concept (the location, creator, and purpose), populating your dungeon (ecology, inhabitants, and traps), mapmaking (which include map symbols and sample maps), explorations and quests (essentially the goal of your adventures in this dungeon), and treasure. Finally, it discusses how to use dungeons to tell a story — either written, spoken, or as an adventure.

My kids both agreed that the mapmaking section of this chapter was the greatest part of not only this chapter, but also the entire book. They absolutely adored it! And you know what? So did I. I like the map symbols key, particularly. I was also really impressed with the opening discussion on the purpose and context of a dungeon, as I believe this is a hugely important, and often overlooked, component of adventure creation. I’m SO happy its in here. Haha.


The verdict:

As an adult reader, I was pleasantly surprised with the diversity of locations and creatures featured in this book. These are cool, exciting places to adventure and imagine, that showcase a wide variety of environments, locations, and play styles. The information included in the monster entries is absolutely wonderful. There’s integral information, great advice, and enough engaging descriptions to get my kids interested and curious. The encounters were a definite highlight of the book, as was the beautiful new artwork found throughout. My favourite section is the ‘Building Your Own Dungeon’ chapter, which is a simple but surprisingly helpful guide to making adventures, maps, and worldbuilding.

The book is high-quality and sturdy, which is important since our copy is sure to take a beating. I’m far from the intended audience for this book, but I really enjoyed reading it. Even more than that, I loved sharing this book with my kids. I loved watching them discover and wonder over the places and creatures inside, and I loved watching them immediately reach for some paper and pencils, to make stories and adventures of their own. Dungeons & Tombs is another wonderful entry in the D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series. It’s a refreshing, fun, exciting read, sure to spark the imagination of young readers and inspire them to tell stories of their own.

My daughter: “I loved this book. It was exciting, fun, and I even made a whole adventure right away because I loved the basilisk so much. It helped me make maps, too, which is really great! I want to ask Santa for my own copy, because I think my brother and I will both want to use it all the time!”

My son: “I loved it, like my sister did. The book was so amazing it gave me all kinds of cool ideas. It is my favourite book on my shelf right now. I recommend it to kids of all ages, even if they don’t know about D&D.”

“Dungeons & Tombs is another wonderful entry in the D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series. It’s a refreshing, fun, exciting read, sure to spark the imagination of young readers and inspire them to tell stories of their own.”


My family and I had an absolute blast reading Dungeons & Tombs, and I expect the book to continue to see heavy use in the future. They’re very excited to hear there’s another Young Adventurer’s Guide on the horizon, and will definitely be picking up a copy (or two) Wizards & Spells when it comes out in the spring.

We’d like to give a special thanks to Penguin Randomhouse Canada for sending us an advance copy for review.

Thanks for stopping by d20diaries! We’ll chat again soon.

Jessica

November New Releases

November’s here and along with the chill it’s bringing a pile of delightful new d20 products for us to salivate over.


Dungeons & Dragons

Last month my daughter was beyond thrilled to see Battle for Baldur’s Gate hit shelves. This expansion for the D&D card game Dungeon Mayhem stars the shapeshifting druid Jaheira and the ranger Minsc alongside Boo, his miniature, giant space hamster.

This month Dungeons and Dragons is bringing a couple of great products to tabletops, including Dungeons & Tombs: A Young Adventurer’s Guide by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler; Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty, a boxed set for up to five players; and the highly anticipated campaign sourcebook Eberron: Rising from the Last War ! For more information on the Young Adventurer’s Guide series, check out our review on the previous volumes here.


Pathfinder

Highlights from last month’s Pathfinder releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 148: Fires of the Haunted City (Age of Ashes 4 of 6) and the Lost Omens Character Guide(which went right to the top of my wish list!). This month’s release schedule is slimmer, with Pathfinder Adventure Path 149: Against the Scarlet Triad (Age of Ashes 5 of 6) taking centre stage. You can also expect to find Pathfinder: Flip-Mat: The Rusty Dragon Inn, which has been a long time coming!

Pathfinder Society Scenarios for this month include PFS #1-08: Revolution on the Riverside by Kalervo Oikarinen and PFS #1-09: Star-Crossed Voyages, a Tier 3–6 scenario written by Lu Pellazar.

In other news, Paizo has a new Amazon storefront where you can pick up all kinds of Pathfinder, Starfinder, and Knights of Everflame apparel in men, women, and youth sizes. Although my kids adore the classic Ezren and Lini t-shirts, I’m in love with the monochrome Fumbus sketch! Super cool!


Starfinder

Highlights from last month’s Starfinder releases include Starfinder Adventure Path 21: Huskworld (Attack of the Swarm! 3 of 6) by Lyz Liddell and Starfinder Pawns: Dawn of Flame Pawn Collection. This month’s releases are super exciting. The long awaited Character Operations Manual brings a trio of new classes into the Starfinder RPG, along with a ton of content for the core classes, core races, and legacy races; feats, spells, equipment; and new rules for starship combat and downtime. I can’t wait to get my hands on COM! Other Starfinder releases include Starfinder Adventure Path 22: The Forever Reliquary (Attack of the Swarm! 4 of 6) by Kate Baker and Starfinder Flip-Mat: Undercity.

Starfinder Society Scenarios for this month include SFS #2-11: Descent into Verdant Shadow, a Tier 3–6 scenario by Larry Wilhelm that visits the Ice Wells of Aballon, and SFS #2-12: Colossus Heist, a Tier 7–10 scenario by Amanda Hamon that takes place on Daimalka.


Third Party Publishers

Everybody Games

Everybody Games continues their ‘Files for Everybody’ line of Pathfinder Second Edition compatible products with Issue 5: Evocation Spells by Thilo Graft, Issue 6: Yroometjis by Alexander Augunas, Issue 7: Medicine Feats by Dustin Knight, and the newly released Issue 8: Conjuration Spells by Thilo Graft.

Everybody Games also added some new products to their Starfinder compatible products including Occult Skill Guide: Botanification Corruption by Alexander Augunas, Star Log.EM-079: Shirren Knickknacks by Randal Meyer, and Occult Skill Guide: Soulless by Alexander Augunas.

Rogue Genius Games

Recent Pathfinder 2e releases from Rogue Genius Games include three new entries in their ‘Monster Omnicron’ line: Conductor Devil by James Case, Dy’etu by Ivis K. Flanagan, and Panoptant by Luis Loza; as well as The Ghosts of Sparwell Lodge, a 2e adventure intended for 4th level characters written by Ron Lundeen.


Tails of Equestria

My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria releases an exciting new boxed set this month: Ogres and Oubliettes includes 130 pawns, an assortment of plastic bases, a poster map of Equestria, and a brand new adventure ‘Dungeon of the Diabolical Draconequus,’ starring fan favourite villain: Discord! My kids are absolutely over the moon for this one!

Speaking of my kids, my daughter’s creation ‘Sky Bunnies’ was recently picked up by the Tails of Equestria RPG for their ‘Creature Feature.’ She’s beyond thrilled!

Sky-Bunnies


WizKids

And finally, WizKids launches another awesome set of miniatures with Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures! This collection features art from the new Pathfinder Second Edition and is the first to include Huge sized miniatures in a very long time. The spoilers I’ve seen look fantastic!


And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

September New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! Today we’re taking a look at September’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons & Dragons

September is a huge month for Dungeons & Dragons, with the release of a new adventure, associated accessories, two new children’s novels, and a board game expansion!

Up first? Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus ! Releasing September 17th, Descent into Avernus is an adventure that will take players from levels 1–13 as they travel from the infamous Baldur’s Gate into Avernus, the first layer of Hell! Releasing alongside it is Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus: Dice & Miscellany , which contains a dice tray, a really nice looking set of dice, map, and a variety of player and DM handouts.

Earlier this month the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit finally hit game-store shelves. This collection includes quickstart rules, character sheets, a dice set, DM screen, maps, a new adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, and more.

Dungeon Mayhem Expansion: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is the first expansion for the easy to play card game, Dungeon Mayhem, which my kids absolutely adore. With art by Jake Parker, the expansion includes two new decks featuring the ranger Minsc (with his miniature giant space hamster, Boo), and the shapeshifting druid Jaheira. This expansion went right onto my kids’ wish list for Christmas. For more information on Dungeon Mayhem check out our review of the game here.

Finally, at the start of this month two new kids novels were added to the Endless Quest lineup. Written by Matt Forbeck, Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts readers into the role of a cleric trapped in Count Strahd’s castle, and Endless Quest: The Mad Mage’s Academy casts readers in the role of a foolhardy thief set on stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself. What could go wrong?! For full details on the newest Endless Quest books check out our review on them here.


Pathfinder

Last month marked the launch of Pathfinder Second Edition, so there were a ton of new releases meant to welcome gamers into the new game system, include Pathfinder Core Rulebook (also available in a Deluxe Edition), Pathfinder Bestiary (also available in a Deluxe Edition), Lost Omens World GuideThe Fall of PlaguestonePathfinder Flip-Mat: The Fall of PlaguestonePathfinder Adventure Path 145: Hellknight HillPathfinder Adventure Path 146: Cult of Cinders, a whopping five new Pathfinder Society Scenarios, two GM Screens (landscape or portrait), Pathfinder Character Sheet PackPathfinder Combat Pad, and Condition Cards. That’s a TON of product!

This month may be slower, but there’s still plenty for fans to explore. The Age of Ashes Adventure Path continues with Pathfinder Adventure Path 147: Tomorrow Must Burn, written by Ron Lundeen and Stephanie Lundeen. There’s also the Pathfinder 2e Critical Hit Deck and three new Pathfinder Society Scenarios. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-04: Bandits of Immenwood is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by a colleague and friend of mine, Scott D. Young, Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-05: Trailblazer’s Bounty is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Tineke Bolleman, and Pathfinder Society Quest #2: Unforgiving Fire is a Tier 1–4 mini adventure written by Leo Glass.

Finally, Paizo has released a mini-adventure meant to be an introduction to Pathfinder Second Edition for new players and new GMs alike. Written by Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Torment and Legacy: A Pathfinder Second Edition Demo Adventure is available as a FREE download on their blog, here. I highly suggest you pick it up!

Pathfinder First Edition wraps up this month with the Tyrant’s Grasp Pawn Collection, and two new Pocket Editions: Bestiary 6 (Pocket Edition) and Villain Codex (Pocket Edition).

For maps this month check out Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Ambush Sites Multi-Pack, which looks really useful.


Starfinder

Last month’s Starfinder releases included Starfinder Adventure Path #18: Assault on the Crucible (finale to the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path!), Starfinder Adventure Path #19: Fate of the Fifth (beginning of the Attack of the Swarm! Adventure Path!), Starfinder RPG: Alien Archive 3, which contains over 100 new aliens, and over a dozen playable races, Starfinder Pawns: Tech TerrainStarfinder Flip-Mat: Ice World, and two delightful Starfinder Society Scenarios.

This month fans can get their hands on Starfinder Adventure Path #20: The Last Refuge (Attack of the Swarm! book 2 of 6), written by Mara Lynn Butler, Starfinder Flip-Mat: Starliner, and two new Starfinder Society Scenarios. Starfinder Society Scenario #2-07: Four for the First is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Thurston Hillman that introduces four potential candidates for First Seeker, while Starfinder Society Scenario #2-08: The Stumbling Society, Part 2: Sangoro’s Gifts is a Tier 5–8 scenario written by Kendra Leigh Speedling.


Third Party Publishers

Everybody Games

Everybody Games also added another entry into their popular and always entertaining ‘Pop Culture Catalog’ line of products for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Pop Culture Catalog: Infosphere Shows is written by George “Loki” Williams.

Monte Cook Games

Monte Cook Games released a free download that discusses how to include mature content in roleplaying games in a responsible manner, particularly in regards to content consent from your players. Consent in Gaming is written by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain.

Rogue Genius Games

Rogue Genius Games released the first of its Monster Omnicrons, a series of short one monster, two stat block, articles compatible with the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This month’s release is Monster Omnicron: Pyreborn, by Luis Loza!

Rusted Iron Games

Rusted Iron Games recently launched Tombstone, a gritty alternate history wild west setting compatible with Pathfinder Second Edition rules that pits PCs against monsters, magic, and The Blight, a terrifying infection from beyond the stars. A mixture of western, fantasy, and occult horror, it’s shaping up to be a fun and quirky twist on RPGs. This month adds another new ancestry to the line, with Ancestries of Tombstone: Centaur, by Andrew Mullen. Previous releases in this line include Ancestries of Tombstone: Chupacabra by Joshua Hennington, Ancestries of Tombstone: Jackalope by Jacob W. Michaels, and Ancestries of Tombstone: Rougarou by Dennis Muldoon, all of which are available on DriveThruRPG.


Root: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game


And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy

I’ve always loved interactive books that let the reader make decisions, so last year when Dungeons & Dragons released a series of four ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style children’s books, successfully relaunching the ‘Endless Quest’ series, I picked them up for my children right away. Written by Matt Forbeck, each of these four books cast you in the role of different classes, explored different iconic locations, and tied in with other Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. They were fun, exciting, filled with colourful characters, and featured a bigger sized font perfect for my children. My kids and I were impressed with the quality and content of these books.

Currently consisting of four books — Big TroubleEscape the UnderdarkInto the Jungle, and To Catch a Thief — the Endless Quest series is expanding on September 3rd, 2019 to include two more releases, Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy! We are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

But first, what is Endless Quest?

Endless Quest 2

Endless Quest is a series of six ‘choose your own adventure’ style novels aimed at middle-grade readers (eight to twelve year olds). My kids are seven and eight years old, placing them at the young end of the intended audience. To Catch a Thief lets your kids (or you!) be a halfling rogue, Into the Jungle casts you in the role of a dwarf cleric, Escape the Underdark lets you play as a human fighter, Big Trouble lets you play as an elf wizard, Escape from Castle Ravenloft lets you play as a cleric, and The Mad Mage’s Academy lets you play as a rogue. While reading the book your character’s gender — and often their race — has no bearing on perspective or story. It’s invisible, honestly. Only the image on the front reveals your gender. Which is awesome! Both of my kids immediately assumed the character was just like them, irrelevant of the cover image, slipping into the role without hesitation.

Each book is exactly 122 pages long. Most of the pages are filled completely with text and images (no wasted pages here!), and both of my kids found the font size comfortable. All of the books contain a lot of awesome artwork. Some images are in full colour — typically locations or a main character/villain — while the rest are in sepia tones. You’ll find images of allies, enemies, items, equipment, scenery, and locations. Some of the images in the earlier books are even tactical maps, which everyone in the house enjoyed examining, although the two newest books do not contain any maps. Some of the images are on the gory or creepy side, and both of the new books are quite suspenseful.

Each of the Endless Quest books follows a different kind of story, features different main characters with unique motivations and personality traits, involves different situations and enemies, and takes place in vastly different locations. You’ll get to visit actual places from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, both on a large and small scale, which fans of D&D will love. Each book also has cameos from known D&D personalities (including Elminster, Volo, and Xanathar, to name a few, with the new books featuring Count Strahd von Zarovich and Halaster, the Mad Mage). The decisions you get to make are important. Common choices include deciding which way to go, how you choose to deal with other characters, and how you react to situations. Each of the books has ways to ‘win,’ to happily survive but fail, to survive but fail horribly, and to die. The number of these outcomes varies between each book, with the most deadly having more than half of its endings fatal. None of the deaths are graphic, and many are suggested more than described. Some of the endings are quite abrupt, and if you make poor decisions right from the start your story could be over in only a few pages. But, that’s to be expected in books of this kind. The first four books in the series feature some very hard to pronounce names, although the two newest didn’t, which my kids found an improvement. In the earlier books battle was nearly always fatal, although the two newest books allow you to fight and win at least half the time, which made your adventurer seem much more capable. My kids loved this! Particularly because one of the two newest books are the spookiest of the series, and being able to overpower some of the opponents made my kids feel more in control, and less scared.

endless-quest.jpg

Escape from Castle Ravenloft is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Adam Paquette, Autumn Rain Turkel, Ben Oliver, Brynn Metheney, Chris Seaman, Claudio Pozas, Conceptopolis, Baarken, Eric Belisle, Jedd Chevrier, Jesper Ejsing, Kiernan Yanner, Lake Hurwitz, Lars Grant-West, Mark Behm, Milivoj Ceran, Richard Whitters, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Vincent Dutrait, Vincent Proce, Wayne England, Zack Strella, and Zoltan Boros. Cover illustrations are by Eric Belisle, Mark Behm, and Ben Oliver.

Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts you in the role of a cleric of Tyr, god of justice. Originally from Waterdeep, you character finds themselves in the mist-shrouded, gothic realm of Ravenloft where you catch the eye of the infamous vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich. The story begins with you awakening in a bedroom in his castle, bereft of all your gear except for your holy symbol. Count Strahd welcomes you to his castle, informing you that you’ll be staying indefinitely as his guest. Not wanting to become his vampire spawn or dominated thrall, your character will need to find a way to escape Castle Ravenloft alive. This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Curse of Strahd.

My kids both agreed that this was the spookiest of the books. They were on the edge of their seats the entire time, slinking through eerily silent halls, peeking into dark chambers, and desperately hoping they don’t run into any vampires or werewolves. They squealed in surprise quite a bit — in a good way — and decided they did not want to read this book near bedtime. Haha. It’s a light horror story that my kids really enjoyed. However, it is definitely the scariest Endless Quest book to date, so it will not be for everyone.

This was a bit of a deadly book, but also had quite a few ‘successful’ endings. The majority of the endings involving dying trapped within the castle, a good number involving dying during or after your escape, a few endings leave you trapped within the castle but alive, and a good number result in your escape and survival. Despite its lethality, both of my kids adored it.

There’s a few different characters for you to interact with during the course of the book, two of which my kids really enjoyed — the clockwork jester Pidlwick and a naive young woman called Gertruda. Most of the time my kids were invested in trying to save themselves and figure out which characters were trustworthy and which would betray them. But, after the introduction of Gertruda, their priorities changed, and they became determined to save both her and themselves. Some of the endings involving Gertruda give you difficult decisions to make, such as putting yourself in danger and potentially missing your chance to escape in order to save an innocent — or not! My kids agonized over that a bit, but never chose to abandon the girl — unless they were sifting through the book to try to find the endings they missed.

Although there’s a lot of cool places to explore in this book, it all takes place in and around Castle Ravenloft, meaning there is very little drastic changes of scenery. My son’s favourite part of the book involved combating minor undead with his holy symbol and strength of faith, which always made him feel very proud. He also really liked an ending where you escape the castle but get transformed into a werewolf. My daughter, who has a terrible fear of werewolves, did NOT like that ending at all. Instead, her favourite parts of the book involved interacting with the traitorous Pidlwick!

The Mad Mage’s Academy is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Allen Douglas, Andrew Mar, Bryan Syme, Chris Seaman, Christopher Moeller, Clint Cearley, Conceptopolis, Cynthia Sheppard, Cyril Van Der Haegen, David Palumbo, David Vargo, Emily Fiegenschuh, Eric Belisle, Ilya Shipkin, Jason Juta, Jim Pavelec, John Stanko, Kiernan Yanner, Kurt Higgins, Michael Berube, Olga Drebas, Scott Murphy, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Wayne England, and Zelda Devon. Cover illustrations are by Cynthia Sheppard, Jesper Ejsing, and Titus Lunter.

The Mad Mage’s Academy casts you in the role of a thief tasked with stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself, Halaster Blackcloak. You’ll need to pose as a student at Halaster’s magic academy, locate and steal the spell book, and escape — all without getting caught! This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

This book involves a lot of subterfuge, interacting with other characters, lies, and betrayal — both from you and the people you meet along the way! My kids really enjoyed this, and were often surprised at the results of their choices. There were lots of interesting characters to interact with, including the mind flayer Cephalossk, tiefling sisters Violence and Turbulence, and the night hag Wormriddle. Both of my kids favourite character was Spite, a child wizard protected by a half-ogre named Dumara (or so they first appear…).

Of all the Endless Quest books to date, The Mad Mage’s Academy felt like the least deadly. Although over half of the endings left you dead and without one of the multiple spell books hidden throughout the academy, the rest all involved your survival, with about half of those also letting you escape with one of the spell books. Much like Escape from Castle Ravenloft, this book all takes place within a single complex, so there’s not much variation in the locations you can visit.

My son’s favourite part about this book was interacting with Cephalossk, and seeing all of the cool traps and magical defences you can come up against your quest for the spell books. My daughter’s favourite parts of this book was interacting with Spite, a wide variety of the ‘escape with the spell book’ endings, and an ending that allows you to take over the academy, which she thought was amazing.

Both my kids and I really enjoyed the Endless Quests books. I highly recommend them for any kids who have an interest in fantasy novels, adventure novels, choose your own adventures, or tabletop RPGs. They’re engaging, variable, and a ton of fun, with each book very different from the others. Fans of D&D will particularly enjoy all the famous places you can visit and people you can meet. Best of all? My kids have read and re-read these books over and over again. They’re going to see a lot of use.

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and Endless Quest: The Mad Mage’s Academy are scheduled for release on September 3rd, 2019.

My family and I would like to give a special thank you to Penguin Randomhouse Canada, for providing us with advance copies for review.

Jessica

 

Summer in Summary

Hello, and welcome to d20 diaries!

Gosh, it’s been a busy month!

It’s summer vacation here, so my kids and I are trying to fill our time with as much swimming and trips to the park as possible. They each set themselves a few goals this summer, so we’ve been working on that. My son wanted to learn about robotics and make himself a robot. My daughter wanted to learn how to sew, make herself a stuffed rabbit, and learn how to bake. My son has had a lot of fun checking out books from the library, and trying to put together a robot from a little kit. He’s discovered that making robots takes precision and attention to detail — both of which he’s decided to needs to practise. There were a lot of points where he noticed he’d done something backwards because he wasn’t paying close enough attention. Still, with some help he made himself a cute little spider robot that can motor around a bit. It drains the battery like CRAZY though, so he’s decided the next one needs a better power source. He wants me to teach him about solar panels, which I am not afraid to admit is not my forte. Sounds like another trip to the library is in order! Haha.

spider-robot.jpg

My daughter’s sewing and baking lessons are going better. I told her we would not have time to make a stuffed rabbit this summer, but I have been teaching her sewing safety and some basic stitches. She’s constantly looking around the house for socks and clothes with rips in them so she can mend them herself. It’s adorable. She always loves helping with baking, but this summer she wanted to make something (almost) all on her own. She’s made a few batches of cookies that turned out well. She adores watching Nailed It, Sugar Rush, and Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix, so she was determined to enter a baking competition this summer. This past weekend she challenged some of our extended family to a bake-off for a family birthday party.

Everyone had to make a LEGO-themed cake. It had to include a bit of real LEGO on it somewhere, but otherwise, whatever you baked was up to you. She was positively thrilled everyone agreed, and set to work drawing cake plans. In the end she made a vanilla rainbow-chip cake with chocolate icing that she decorated to look like mud covered in grass. Then she stuck a big LEGO rabbit she built on top of it. My son baked a chocolate cake with chocolate icing that was in the middle of being demolished by LEGO construction workers, and I made a strawberry shortcake-style cake that was dyed inside to look like the cake was made of LEGO. So tasty. Other cakes were made to look like LEGO blocks, while my mother made a massive three-tiered cake covered with fondant work. Everyone had a great time and my kids were thrilled when some people voted their cakes the most creative, or tastiest. They really enjoyed tasting all the cakes and giving it their nit-picky judge’s remarks. They had a blast.

But, my kids aren’t the only ones with goals this summer. I’ve been working on not one, but four different freelancing assignments (currently top secret!), all of which are going really well. And of course, there’s the release of Pathfinder Second Edition! The game is highly intuitive, which makes it wonderfully easy to learn, but the Core Rulebook is a massive tome! It definitely takes a while to read through. Plus there’s the Bestiary, Hellknight Hill (Age of Ashes 1 of 6)The Fall of Plaguestone, and a whopping five Pathfinder Society Scenarios available already, which I’ve been trying to find the time to read.

We’ll be participating in an online gaming convention via play-by-post soon, which is hosted on Paizo’s message board. There’s a really welcoming community of people playing there, so if any of you are considering playing a game via play-by-post I highly recommend you sign up for the convention and give it a try. Play-by-post Gameday VIII begins on August 26th and runs until November 3rd. There’s still some room for players to join games, but there won’t be for long. For more information or to sign up for games, check out the announcement thread here! If you need guidance, assistance, or information about playing via play-by-post, stop by the Flaxseed Lodge, check out the helpful links at the top of the page, and make a post in the Discussion thread, letting everyone know what you need help with. There’s always people willing to lend a hand and help a new players get started.

Closer to home, this coming weekend my family and I will be attending Convocation, an annual Pathfinder and Starfinder Society convention in Winnipeg. We’ve signed up for a short demo game of Pathfinder 2e and PFS Scenario #10-16: What the Helms Hide on Saturday afternoon, followed by PFS #10-12: Breath of the Dragonskull on Sunday afternoon. Last time we played Pathfinder Society in person at a Con we all died a horrible death, so we’re hoping we have better luck this time! Haha. My kids are bringing some of their favourite characters, so wish us luck!

And after that…? My kids and I will be starting work on submissions for the upcoming issue of Wayfinder. For those of you who don’t know, Wayfinder is a digital magazine full of fan-created content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that releases each year at PaizoCon. Over the years they’ve made an astounding 19 issues of Wayfinder, as well as a Bestiary! Nearly every issue has a theme, with this latest one being Starfinder’s Absalom Station. This years topic is the Diaspora! Previous issues are all a free download on Paizo’s website. Everyone is welcome to submit an article to Wayfinder — a fact my children were thrilled to take advantage of last year — and I highly recommend any of you interested in getting into freelance RPG writing give it a shot. Just download a few back-issues, give them a read to see what kind of content they’re looking for, then head over to the Call for Submissions for full details. This year, my kids have decided to submit more than one article, so they’re already wracking their brains for ideas. My daughter, in particular, is thinking of more ways to include rabbits without actually being obvious about including more rabbits. This, of course, should surprise no one.

Well, I’ve got to run. My daughter is currently waving my new Core Rulebook at me, and mouthing the words ‘GOBLIN.’ Something tells me we’re making characters today…

Until next time,
Jessica

Custom Creations: Sky Bunnies

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

My kids love playing roleplaying games and, on occasion, they take the time to create monsters, locations, and adventures of their own. Yesterday I shared a critter created by my son for the Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game called Mini Notes. Today, we’re taking a look at a creature made by my daughter: Sky Bunnies!

Tails of Equestria is a family-friendly RPG that’s accessible, engaging, and fun to play. Based on the popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show, Tails of Equestria emphasizes teamwork, kindness, and friendship. For more information on Tails of Equestria check out this blog post.


Sky Bunnies

Body: D6         Mind: D4          Charm: D4         Stamina: 10

Talents: Consume (D8), Fly (D8)

Quirks: Animal

Cute and cuddly but vicious, the nimble sky bunnies dance from cloud to cloud. They are constantly hungry and even though they love to eat ponies best they’ll swoop down from the sky and eat everything they see! They move around a lot, flying off to new places as soon as food or animals are running out.

Sky Bunnies


My daughter hopes you love her ‘vicious cutie pie.’

Thanks for stopping by!

Jessica
(and family)


UPDATE: My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria has officially adopted my daughter’s Sky Bunnies for their Creature Feature!

Sky-Bunnies

Custom Creations: Mini Notes

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

My kids love playing roleplaying games and, on occasion, they take the time to create monsters, locations, and adventures of their own. Over the next two days we’re going to share a pair of critters they created for Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game, a family-friendly RPG that’s accessible, engaging, and fun to play. Based on the popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show, Tails of Equestria emphasizes teamwork, kindness, and friendship. For more information on Tails of Equestria check out this blog post.

Today we’re showing off my son’s creation. He’s hopes you enjoy it!


Mini Notes 

Body: –         Mind: D8          Charm: D4         Stamina: 6

Talents: Teeny Tiny (D6), Creative flair: music (D6), Special skill: dancing (D6)

Quirks: Unliving

Special: Must sing instead of speak

Mini Notes are tiny creatures that love to sing and dance. Especially brainy, they are quick, clever, and always sing instead of speak. Their love of music usually brings them to towns and cities with lots of music and festivals. In the wild they are often found near birds or whales.

Mini Notes


He’s very proud.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jessica
(and family)


UPDATE: My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria has officially adopted my son’s Mini Notes for their Creature Feature!

Mini Notes