Character Focus: Danicka Raburnus

Hello everyone! I hope you had a great weekend.

This Mother’s Day my kids wrote me poems and stories, drew me pictures, cards, and books. My son even made me a coaster to hold my drink. And my husband? He and my children got me character art commissioned for my favourite Pathfinder Society character!

I’ve never had character art for a character of mine before. My kids and I have drawn pictures of some of our characters on occasion. And sure, a picture here or there might inspire us to make a character similar in appearance. But custom professional art? Unheard of! So it was with great shock and surprise I awoke to discover my family had somehow procured gorgeous art of my beloved -1 PFS character. 

Clearly I have a wonderful family and am beyond spoiled. Today I’m going to share that art with you!

Introducing Danicka Raburnus and her vicious dog, Prickles!

Danicka-and-Prickles
Danicka Raburnus and Prickles. Original characters of mine for the Pathfinder Society Organized Play program. Art by the amazing Joe Nittoly

Danicka Raburnus was my very first Pathfinder Society character. My -1. I had played Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons, and other RPGs for a long time before making Danicka, but she was the first character meant for organized play. She marked my entry into the Pathfinder Society, and was the first in a series of wonderful characters, delightful roleplaying, and exciting adventures.

Danicka is… far from perfect. When it came time to create Danicka I wanted to do something different. Everyone has characters who are attractive, intelligent, healthy, brave, and so on. People who are special. Heroes. They’re not all perfect, and many have a flaw or two, but they usually have quite a few redeeming qualities. I’ve got plenty, myself. So when it came time to make Danicka I wanted to create a character who was different than those I’d made before. Someone who wasn’t a hero. Who wasn’t special. Someone hopelessly flawed and regrettably forgettable. Someone who wanted to be special, who wanted to be the hero, but just wasn’t.

I have a soft spot for making, strong, independent, female characters. I love playing half-orcs and dwarves. I love bards, rogues, oracles, and sorcerers. Adaptable characters with a flaw or two, and a bit of a scoundrel’s streak.

So I went out of my way to make Danicka different.

I made her a wizard, which I rarely do. And I went out of my way to make her as unremarkable as possible. She has an archetype that prevents her from having a familiar or an arcane bond––qualities that make her feel inferior to her fellow wizards and spellcasters. She learned spells that are visually unremarkable. No fireballs or flashy magic for this girl! She was intelligent and wise, but too shy and nervous to speak her mind.

I never use complimentary words to describe her. I don’t call her pretty, or fit, or athletic, or slender. She’s not even skinny. She’s scrawny. Boney. Her hair is frazzled, limp, plain, or mousey. Her skin is not like porcelain, or alabaster. It’s pale, freckled, and ink-stained. Her clothes are nice but ill-fitting, out of fashion, and in dull colours. She doesn’t show off any skin, covering herself from neck to fingers and toes. She doesn’t even wear nice boots, just flimsy cotton shoes that flop and squelch wildly whenever they get wet. She wears a floppy hat on her head. She has poor vision and wears plain spectacles.

It’s not that these qualities are undesirable or unattractive. They’re not. It’s that I designed her to be average and blend in, and that I describe all of her qualities in as uncomplimentary a fashion as I can.

She shrieks in battle. Gets queasy. Stammers, stutters, whimpers, and whispers. Her efforts to make friends are awkward and almost always end in failure. She’s shy and meek. Easily scared (often terrified!). She faints on occasion (though never in a way or at a time that would hinder her mission or the game). She’s weak, awkward, and extraordinarily clumsy.

But amidst all those awkward and oddly endearing qualities, she’s a hero. Not outwardly. Certainly not obviously. But she’s a good person. She won’t take a life. Ever. And she won’t condone it from her allies. In fact, wanton violence, destruction, theft, and other illegal deeds are among the only things that she’ll speak out against. She’d rather remove an enemy from a fight than cause someone harm. I gave her merciful spell as a feat to ensure her few damage dealing spells aren’t lethal. She’ll stabilize unconscious enemies, hurl herself into danger to protect someone else, and is always the first person to offer healing potions to the wounded. She’s generous and kind. She won’t lie and always gives her enemies a chance to surrender.

So, who was Danicka? Where did she come from? And what make such an ordinary, meek woman want to be a hero?

Danicka was born to a hero. Her mother, Portia Raburnus, was a wizard of great renown who helped saved the city of Magnimar not just once, but on three occasions. Danicka has always wanted to be just like her mother, and grew up studying the arcane arts. Her mother passed away five years ago, right before Danicka began her formal training at the local magical academy, Stone of Seers. Danicka always keeps her mother’s arcane bonded item with her—a highly decorative quarterstaff that looks remarkably like a broom. She had hoped to use the broom as her own arcane bonded item, but could never manage to make it work.

Danicka did well in school, but despite her academic achievements she was constantly overlooked—for Danicka was ordinary looking, and incredibly shy. Regrettably forgettable. Most people don’t even remember Portia Raburnus had a daughter.

Danicka’s recently graduated and set out to finally prove herself brave and bold! A hero, like her mother! She marched right into the local Pathfinder Lodge and demanded a job. Unfortunately, her demand came out a nervous whisper and they hired her as a maid. But, sweeping the floors used by bolder souls with her mother’s broom isn’t enough for Danicka Raburnus! She’s going to prove herself one day! Maybe after she’s done cleaning up the common room…

Danicka is incredibly shy. She speaks rarely, and when she does its in a whisper. She’s constantly trying to work up the courage to be louder, to make friends, and to do something, but her attempts at friendship always come out in awkward stuttering bursts, and her attempts to speak her mind end up with her randomly yelling something (and then losing the courage to finish). She’s easily embarrassed and was bullied on occasion in school (when her classmates could be bothered to remember she was there).

Danicka studies hard and loves to learn new things. She knows she’s a young woman of many flaws and is trying desperately to change. She wants to be brave and bold, but has yet to break out of her shell and really be herself.

Mechanically, she’s a wizard with the exploiter wizard archetype that’s a member of the Silver Crusade faction of the Pathfinder Society. She took the traits tireless logic and volatile conduit. Her beginning feats were eschew materials and merciful spell, although she later added spell focus (enchantment). She’s knowledgable and speaks a wide array of languages. For her first exploiter exploit she chose energy shield, although she never had the opportunity to use it until many adventures had passed. Some of her most commonly prepared low-level spells are daze, detect magic, read magic, comprehend languages, mage armour, shield, sleep, and merciful ray of frost or merciful magic missile. In time she learned that outsiders and undead were a threat her non-lethal methods couldn’t handle, so she started carrying a lethal wand, a few lethal scrolls, and some holy water around to combat such irredeemable threats.

I had intended to keep her a wizard for the entirety of her career, but along the way, things changed. Danicka changed.

After Danicka’s first mission in the world of play-by-post gaming, she was invited to join an ongoing campaign run by the delightful and incredibly talented GM ShieldBug. For a wonderful seven scenarios she had the pleasure of playing in a consistent group of awesome players. Her companions were very different from Danicka. Some were weird, some were liars, some were scoundrels, and most were violent. They pushed her buttons, shoved her out of her comfort zone, tested her morals, and urged her to change. With them she found her backbone. She found courage. She faced peer-pressure and discovered that there were things worth fighting for, even if it meant standing up to your allies. She made friends. She made enemies. She made mistakes. She became a hero. She saved people and towns.

Mostly, she was embarrassed.

But it wasn’t only Danicka that changed. Her friends did, too. She made them better people. And they made her brave.

On one of her adventures she was forced to interact with terrifying, man-eating, Thuvian desert dog. Miraculously she bonded with it, though it terrified her to no end. Later in the scenario she was forced to face the dog in combat, and she managed to convince him to stand down. The mission came to an end and I was faced with a turning point. Move on? Or keep the dog?

Danicka kept the dog. She named him Prickles, for his spiky fur (matted with the blood of his enemies) and terrifying demeanour. Although I could have just bought a dog and remained a wizard, I chose to multiclass Danicka into druid. I selected another understated archetype (the wonderful wild whisperer!) that removed some of the flashier of the druids abilities and replaced it with investigator’s inspiration and talents. She began to take ranks in handle animal, and survival. She used her druid spell slots to prepare healing magic. She took the feat boon companion, and statted up Prickles as a wolf.

Danicka spent the next while attempting to tame her vicious dog. I took great glee in role-played her fear of her own pet, and her worry that it will hurt someone. Prickles is clearly the alpha of the duo, but he usually listens to Danicka’s pleas. That said, out of fear, Danicka never tells Prickles to attack anyone. She’s too afraid she won’t be able to stop him from killing. Instead, she orders him to stay by her side. Mechanically, Prickles has the bodyguard archetype. He’s always on ‘defend’ and won’t enter a fight unless Danicka is hurt. However, if she’s hurt he flies into a rage and attacks whoever wounded her until they’re dead. Usually Danicka hurls herself between the enemy and her dog before they are devoured, but once or twice Prickles killed something––an event which filled Danicka with great regret. For his part, Prickles is used to his ‘pet’s’ panicked shrieks and mewling. But he’s incredibly territorial and won’t stand for anyone touching his ‘pet.’ Not even her allies. He’s a bit cantankerous, and won’t take ‘orders’ from anyone other than Danicka. And he only listens to Danicka if she begs.

All in all, they’re a comical pair, with my shy wizard desperately trying to handle her overwhelming pet.

On her most recent missions, Danicka’s had to bid her old friends farewell. She’s gone on new adventures with new teammates. Only Prickles has remained by her side. But, despite the distance, it’s her old friends that continue to drive her and inspire her. Mhazruk Kruhl and his terrifying familiar Needle, the burly Yaiho Crasher, the tap-dancing escaped-slave Forrest Glavo, the eccentric Arin Qualnoh blessed (or perhaps cursed) by the gods, and Brock Swiftread, a scoundrel if there ever was one. They’re the closest thing to family she’s ever had.

So here’s to Danicka and Prickles, and all the people and characters who have made her who she is. Here’s to the people who have GMed for her and played alongside her. The people who have put up with her panicked shrieks and bleeding heart. Here’s to my family, who brought one of my very favourite characters to life. And here’s to Joe Nittoly, the amazing artist who drew her. Thank you! Thank you! And thank you again! You’re the best!

And here’s to all of you, for taking the time to read about one of my favourite characters. Maybe I’ll see you around a PFS table one day.

Cheers!

Jessica

Happy Mother’s Day

Good morning, everyone!

My family and I would like to take the time to wish all of the mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day! Admittedly, we’d also like to remind everyone else to do something special for the mothers in their lives. (Don’t forget!)

I’d stay to chat, but I’ve got a whirlwind day! My family and I spent yesterday out watching Detective Pikachu in the movie theatre. Today we’re having my husband’s family over for lunch and… Well, I have no idea what else my kids and husband have planned for me. In all honesty, as long as I get to take the day off of chores, I’m a happy woman.

Have a great day!

Jessica

5-Minute Dungeon

Welcome to d20diaries!

5 Minute Dungeon

Today we’re taking a look at a board game my kids recently got for their birthday: 5-Minute Dungeon! This real-time card game tasks up to five players with working together to escape a dungeon in under five minutes. Each dungeon consists of a randomized deck of cards that features obstacles, monsters, people, and events to overcome. At the end of each dungeon is a powerful boss to defeat. To beat the game you’ll need to triumph over five separate dungeons.

This game is frantic, fast-paced, and more than a little chaotic! Communication and teamwork are essential to your success. Player’s win or lose as a team. 5-Minute Dungeon is intended for players ages eight and up. Although a single dungeon takes five minutes, playing through a whole game takes about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending how many times you fail to escape a dungeon.

Box Contents

Players take on the role of one of ten characters by selecting a character board. Each board is colour-coded and double-sided, with one male and one female character per board. Every character board makes use of one of five matching decks, and every character has their own unique ability which can be triggered by discarding three cards from your hand. That means that up to five people can play at a time.

Characters include the blue sorceress and wizard, green huntress and ranger, purple ninja and thief, red barbarian and gladiator, and yellow paladin and valkyrie. Most of the special abilities of these characters fall into two types: those that help get someone in your group extra cards and those that automatically defeat a certain category of card. There’s also the wizard’s unique ability to stop time. We found that it was very helpful to play with the wizard and a character who can help the group draw cards, with the rest of the players taking on abilities that can auto-defeat either monsters, obstacles, or people. Once you’ve got your character picked out you place the matching deck on their board.

Next you set up the dungeon. Start by selecting a boss. There are five to choose from and each is numbered 1 though 5. You simply start at Boss #1: Baby Barbarian and work your way up to Boss #5: Dungeon Master. Each boss also has a number of cards written on it. Baby Barbarian has 20, The Grime Reaper has 25, Zola the Gorgon has 30, and so on. This is the number of dungeon cards you’ll randomly select and place on the boss board. Then you’ll pick out two challenge cards per player and shuffle them into the deck of dungeon cards. This is the boss’s dungeon. You simply place the deck of cards into the space marked with the dotted line and you’re ready to begin.

Boss

Player’s begin by drawing a number of cards. This number is variable and determined by how many people are playing the game. Chances are you’ll start with three or four cards. Then you start the five minute timer, flip over the first card in the dungeon deck, and get adventuring!

Cactus wants a hug!
To reach ‘The Grime Reaper’ you’ll need to defeat the ‘A Cactus that wants a hug.’ Oh, no! I hope you’ve got some shields….

This game doesn’t come with a physical timer. Instead there’s a timer app you can download on your phone, tablet, and other handheld device. It’s a quick download and easy to use. You simply select a voice for the announcer (I love the ‘fearful’ voice, but my daughter’s a fan of ‘spiteful’) and click start. Sometimes you’ll need to pause the game (such as with the wizard’s ‘time stop’ ability) in which case you simply push pause. If you defeat the dungeon you click ‘We Won,’ if you lose you click ‘We Lost’ and if you run out of time you don’t need to click a thing. It’s an enjoyable, humorous little timer app and my kids really like it.

There are four major categories of dungeon cards: event, person, monster, and obstacle. Events are the simplest to resolve. They each have a sentence explaining what you need to do, you do it, then you move on to the next card. Examples of events are ‘Sudden Illness’ which forces every player to discard their hand, or ‘Trap Door’ which forces all players to discard three cards. The rest of the cards — monster, obstacle, and person — have circular symbols on them. These symbols match the cards that you must play to defeat them. These cards can be played in any order and by any player. There are no turns. As soon as all the needed cards are played you have defeated the card, it gets moved to the discard pile, and you flip over the next dungeon card. Once all of the dungeon cards are defeated you will see the symbols needed to defeat the Boss.

This makes gameplay fast and chaotic, with players slapping down cards, shouting out what they’re playing, and calling out what’s still needed to defeat the card. It’s the sort of game where everyone feels a sense of urgency and excitement, and get’s a thrill of triumph when a card is defeated.

Enemy Types
The four types of cards you’ll find in a dungeon.

So what the heck are all these symbols?

There are five major symbols in the game, which are colour coded. These same symbols are seen across all the boss cards and all character decks. Called ‘Resources’ they include the red sword, yellow shield, green arrow, blue scroll, and purple jumping person (which my family always calls ‘sprint’ or ‘dash’ but is probably called ‘leap’). Every deck will have cards of these five types, although they will have them in different combinations. The red barbarian/gladiator deck will have a lot of red swords, for example, while the blue sorceress/wizard deck will have a lot of blue scrolls. In addition to these single symbol cards there’s double symbol cards — cards that have two red swords, two blue scrolls, and so on. These are seen in much lower quantities than the single symbol cards, and not every deck will have them in every kind. While the sorceress/wizard deck may have a few double scroll cards, the huntress/ranger deck won’t. One of the decks — the red barbarian/gladiator has special double symbol cards which consist of a red sword and a second other symbol.

The rest of the cards found in the character decks are black bordered and have a special ability written on them. The most common are abilities that let you auto-defeat a certain category of dungeon card. ‘Fireball’ defeats a monster, ‘Backstab’ defeats a person, and ‘Mighty Leap’ defeats an obstacle. These are super useful cards which can be found throughout all of the different coloured decks in differing quantities. While the sorceress/wizard has a lot of ‘Fireballs’ the ninja/thief has more ‘Mighty Leap’ and ‘Backstab’ cards. Finally, every colour deck has some unique black bordered ability cards. ‘Enrage’ from the red barbarian/gladiator deck lets you choose two players who may draw three cards each. ‘Divine Shield’ from the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck pauses time until someone plays a card and lets every player draw one card. ‘Magic Bomb’ from the blue sorceress/wizard deck counts as one of each type of resource. My personal favourite card? ‘Heal’ which lets you select a player who can put their entire discard pile back on top of their draw pile. Awesome!

Card Types 2
The many card types found in 5-Minute Dungeon

As mentioned, every deck is different but equally useful. You’ll soon discover which play style you prefer and find a favourite, so I highly recommend trying each deck out. I love the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck best — particularly when played with the valkyrie character who can help her fellow players draw cards. The yellow deck has a lot of different healing cards, which I find can be incredibly helpful. My son, on the other hand, prefers the to play as the blue wizard. He’s a huge fan of the wizard’s ‘Time Stop’ ability — which is so helpful I’d go as far as to call it a necessity. He also loves the ‘Magic Bomb’ card which can only be found in the blue deck. Finally, my daughter prefers to play as the green huntress — solely because she loves the art. To each their own, I guess. Haha.

With all the decks in their places, cards in hand, and the timer started, play can begin. There’s a few other rules you need to know, but not many. Whenever you have less cards than your opening hand consisted of you can immediately draw cards to fill your hand back up to maximum. Discard piles do not get shuffled back into the draw pile once the draw pile is empty. This means that if your deck ever runs out you can no longer draw cards — unless someone plays a card that gives you cards from your discard pile or something similar.

Winning will take teamwork, speed, and luck. If you win you reshuffle your decks, select your character (you do not need to keep the same character throughout all the dungeons), set your boards back up, and build the dungeon for the next Boss. When everything’s ready you begin play again. If you defeat all five dungeons you win the game.

If you ever fail to defeat a dungeon you’re supposed to reset, going all the way back to the Baby Barbarian and his dungeon again, but my family didn’t like this rule. Instead we just replayed the dungeon we were on.

We’ve played this game quite a few times. Sometimes we finish it all the way through, and sometimes we only play a round or two. My kids and I really like it. They enjoy the teamwork aspect, and that they can always be playing. There’s no waiting for your turn or getting beat on by your friends. It’s fun and fast. It’s not a game for everyone, though. My husband doesn’t really like it. He’s a fan of strategic, complex games. Chances are whatever game we’re playing he’s going to be that player taking the longest turns. Unsurprisingly, the chaotic, real-time gameplay of 5-Minute Dungeon is not to his tastes. It’s also not the kind of game you can play anywhere. Players are going to get loud. Although you could bring to a party, family gathering, or friend’s house, it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to bring to play at the library, local coffee shop, laundromat, or airport. Finally, it’s not the sort of game you want to let the kids play late at night. Mine get antsy, excited, and leap and jump around. Not really a relaxing, winding-down sort of game.

All in all, we really liked 5-Minute Dungeon — especially my son. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and enjoyable. My only complaints? I wish the boss cards were double sided so you could choose which of the two to face off against and I wish there were more dungeon and challenge cards included in the game so the dungeons felt more varied. But, I suppose wanting more of a game isn’t much of a complaint. More like a wish list. Haha. 5-Minute Dungeon is a pretty easy game to find that currently retails for around $30 Canadian. Our copy belongs to my eight-year old son, and made an excellent gift. He loves it.

Happy gaming!

Jessica

Dungeon Mayhem

My kids love games of all kinds. Not surprising, I know. Most kids love games of one kind or another. But mine REALLY love games. This year for their birthdays they decided that they have enough toys. What they wanted was some new board games.

“But, awesome board games, Mom. Really good ones.”

So they did some research, made lists, did some more research, discovered a love of Dice Tower, and revised their lists until they each had a (much too long) list of board games they wanted. Although our birthday celebrations aren’t over yet, they’ve both had a few parties with family and were thrilled to find they got some new games. Most of what they asked for are large, complex games. But a few are short, easy to learn card games. You can expect to see a lot of board game reviews in the coming weeks, but today we’re starting short and sweet, with Dungeon Mayhem!

Dungeon Mayhem

Dungeon Mayhem is a Dungeons & Dragons card game for 2 to 4 players. Games are short and fast-paced, with a round averaging about five minutes. It’s a small, portable game, with the rectangular box about the size of my hand. It’s the perfect size to bring with you on the go or play in compact spaces. We bring it to the laundromat, for example. Intended for ages eight and up Dungeon Mayhem lets players take on the role of an iconic hero and battle it out.

The game is super easy to learn and surprisingly fun to play. First, you choose a character. Each comes with their own unique deck of cards, hit point card and tracker, and a reference card. Youngest player goes first and play continues clockwise. You start with three cards in your hand. On your turn you draw a card and play a card. You start with 10 hp and when you reach 0 hp you’re out of the game. Last adventurer standing wins.

Contents 2
Box contents!

There are four heroes to choose from: Sutha the Skullcrusher (a female half-orc barbarian), Azzan the mystic (a male human wizard), Lia the Radiant (a female elf paladin), and Oriax the Clever (a male tiefling rogue). Each adventurer has their own deck that plays differently, but with the same basic mechanics so it’s easy to pick up any one and just play. Each card features illustrations by Kyle Ferrin showcasing the different characters in a fun-loving, cartoony style. Many cards have clever, entertaining, or familiar names. The cards each have a variety of symbols on them which tell you what each card does. The symbols are all easy to understand and, if you ever forget what they do, each character has their own unique reference card to remind you.

There are five symbols that appear in every character’s deck. A swords deals one damage to an opponent, a shield blocks one damage dealt to you, a heart heals one hp, a card lets you draw one card, and a lightning bolt lets you play one extra card. Although some cards in the decks contain a single symbol on them, most have a combination or two or three symbols. These symbols appear in different combinations and quantities throughout the decks, making each one different. The paladin’s deck has a lot of healing, for example, while the rogue’s lets you play a lot of cards, and the barbarian is the only character who can do four damage at once to a single enemy. In addition, each deck has a few unique symbols and cards. Sutha the Skullcrusher can deal one damage to each enemy and then gain that much hp with her Whirling Frenzy while the wizard Azzan can swap life totals with another player by playing Vampiric Touch.

Contents

There’s a few other rules to the game, but not many. Typically when you play a card it gets discarded, but if you play a shield card it instead is placed on the table in front of you. For each damage it prevents it gets a damage counter, and when it’s been completely destroyed the shield card is removed from play and placed in the discard pile. If you happen to use up all the cards in your hand (you’ll need lightning bolt cards to do this, which let you play an extra card on your turn) you can draw two additional cards. And if your deck ever runs out you simply reshuffle it and keep playing.

Pretty simple!

While playing we found that this game was super simple to learn, teach, and understand. You get the hang of it quick, and games are fast and exciting. Since you’re battling each other there’s definitely a ‘take that’ feel to this game. Some rounds you’ll feel picked on if you get defeated quick, but others are more balanced. It just depends on the strategies of your opponents at the time. My kids often decided the best strategy was to kill me and then duke it out themselves, so I was brutally ganged up on a lot. Haha. They quickly realized this was a poor strategy when my husband also joined play, as he often teamed up with me so that he didn’t have to combat a pair of allied kids on his own. (How the tables have turned!) My daughter is an expert at the old ‘kick them when they’re down’ strategy, very often dealing ruthless finishing blows against whoever happens to be doing the worst. …Even if it might be against her brother who she was supposedly allied with. Clever girl. Haha.

The decks are fun, varied, and balanced. No one deck it better than the other, they’re just different. Although it’s not immediately apparent what the differences are between the decks it becomes clear pretty quick. Lia, the paladin, deals a lot of damage and heals a lot of her own wounds. Her special abilities include Divine Inspiration, which lets her put any card from her discard pile into her hand and then heal two hp and Banishing Smite which destroys all shield cards in play and then lets her play an additional card. This was my daughter’s favourite deck, and my second favourite deck. While my daughter prefers Divine Smite and her beloved steed Fluffy, I’m a big fan of the Finger-wag of Judgement and Divine Inspiration. This deck is tough to take down and enjoyable to play.

Paladin
Some of the paladin’s cards.

While my daughter and I loved the paladin, my son and I both decided the rogue, Oriax, was out favourite deck. Packed full of cards that let you take extra actions, this deck often lets you play more cards than your opponents. It’s also got some enjoyable tricks, particularly with Clever Disguise, a card that prevents you from being targeted by any cards until the start of your next turn. It’s particularly great for forcing your allies to duke it out at the start of the game, which is likely to result in them retaliating against each other in subsequent rounds. A nice little start! We also really like using Pick Pocket to play a card from someone else’s deck. Need healing? Grab a card from the paladin. Want to wreck your opponent? Snag a card from the barbarian. Want to get a nice full hand or play something tricky? Take a card from the wizard. Sure, it won’t always be what you were hoping for, but I’ve never seen it not be useful. One downside to the rogue is that he only has one way to heal himself: Stolen Potion. Although it lets you heal one hp and play another card (which is great) it does mean that when you’re low on health it’s hard to save yourself. One hp once in a while doesn’t do much. I also love Sneak Attack. It’s art and theme bring a smile to my face every time. Haha.

Thief
Some of the rogue’s cards.

It should come as no surprise that the barbarian’s deck deals a lot of damage. In fact, they have the only card in the game that can do four damage against one enemy (Rage). They also have the awesome Whirling Axes, which we mentioned earlier. What might be surprising is how balanced it is. It’s got some solid shield cards (my daughter loves the dogs Riff and Raff), ways to draw cards (Open the Armory and Snack Time), ways to heal (Snack Time and Whirling Axes) and ways to destroy a shield with one card (Mighty Toss). Although none of us named this deck as our favourites, it also turned out to be the most played deck and both my son and husband’s second favourite decks. Sutha is a fearsome foe!

Barbarian
Some of the barbarian’s cards.

Which leaves us with the wizard. At first glance, Azzan’s deck is the most balanced. He can do everything well, but doesn’t have the most of anything either. Burning Hands and Lightning Bolt are some of his most reliable damage dealing cards. Magic Missile is my favourite, as it lets you deal one damage and play an extra card. Stoneskin and Mirror Image are great shield cards. Knowledge is Power gets him a lot of extra cards while Speed of Thought helps him play those cards fast. His one downside is a lack of healing cards. Eventually we came to realize he does have the most of something very important: TRICKS. His three unique cards include Vampiric Touch, which we already mentioned. This card lets him swap hp totals with another player — which can be game changing. Charm lets him take someone else’s shield card that’s on the table and use as his own — also awesome. And Fireball deals three damage to every player (including himself). My daughter’s prone to hoarding fireballs, using Charm to steal someone else’s defences, and then blasting a bunch of fireballs to kill everyone at once while she hits behind her stolen shields. Cheeky thing. Haha. Although Azzan’s deck is just as easy to use as everyone else’s, it’s also the deck that is most rewarding when played with some forethought.

Wizard
Some of the wizard’s cards.

We really enjoyed Dungeon Mayhem. It’s not a complex, tactical game like some of our others, but it’s a fun, quick, romp you can bring with you anywhere. We hope they come out with an expansion that contains another two or four decks. It’d be great to have more deck choices and play with more than four players. Happily, this deck was quite affordable. Our copy was only $18 Canadian. Well worth the money.

Jessica

Dungeon Mayhem Contents
Some of our favourite cards for each deck.

 

Tails of Equestria: Plenty More Adventure

Tails of Equestria, a family friendly RPG based on the incredibly popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, recently announced the release of two new adventures.

The Haunting of Equestria is the fourth adventure in the Tails of Equestria line. This spooky adventure is intended for characters between levels 5 and 10, and is the most difficult adventure they’ve published. Already out in the UK, this book is scheduled for release in North America in August.

Filly Sized Follys is the fifth adventure in the Tails of Equestria line though its release date is currently unannounced. This adventure contains three separate short adventures that focus on helping ponies in need and embracing the magic of friendship. The stories in this volume are intended for characters between levels 2 and 5.

My kids adore Tails of Equestria, and I’ve constantly been impressed with their well written, creative, enjoyable adventures. It’s a really great, high-quality kids RPG and we are thrilled to hear there’s more adventures coming this year.

For more information on Tails of Equestria check out this blog post, or read about our experiences playing through another Tails of Equestria adventure the Pet Predicament.

Jessica

Tails of Equestria: The Pet Predicament

A few weeks ago I wrote a review on a delightful kids RPG called Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game. We delved into game mechanics, character creation, and general fun factor. I also touched on an adventure — The Pet Predicament — and promised that I would share further details on the adventure in the future.

Well buckle in folks, cause the future is now!

Today, much to my daughter’s delight, we’re talking The Pet Predicament!

Tails of Equestria: Storytelling Game is an easy to understand pen and paper roleplaying game featuring the world and characters of the hit TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The game is aimed at children, but is definitely fun for the whole family. For more details on the game and how it works, click here!

my litte pony tails of equestria storytelling game

At the back of Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game you’ll find a starter adventure called The Pet Predicament. Intended for level 1 ponies, its the perfect first adventure for this game. Yes, seriously. And, it’s not a short or cheap adventure, either! It’s forty pages in length if you count the stat blocks it comes with. My family played through the adventure in two short sessions, though my kids were so engrossed they wanted to play it in one.

In a practical sense, this adventure is incredibly important. It provides a first adventure for players to use, and teaches them how a game should be run by example. For experienced players it also serves to alter our preconceptions about RPGs, and really shake things up. Tails of Equestria isn’t the same kind of RPG as Pathfinder or D&D. It downplays battle, and really encourages players to use creative thinking, kindness, teamwork, and roleplaying to overcome obstacles. This game requires a different mindset than other RPGs. Happily it’s a mindset that kids and young players will naturally settle into and flourish.

So what is The Pet Predicament? I mentioned it was the perfect starter adventure for this game and I meant it. It’s well written, easy to GM, engaging, and fun. There’s plenty of opportunity for Scuffles, but just as many chances for players to completely avoid Scuffles with Tests and Challenges. It features the Mane Six (main characters) from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as initial NPCs, and features plenty of other cameos along the way.

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Our adventure begins, innocently enough, in Ponyville’s market. There your PCs (short for Pony Characters in Tails of Equestria) are grocery shopping and have a chance to describe all the things they’ve been buying. This is a great opportunity for your players to talk about their characters, and decide how they know each other.

My family decided to play a strange family of ponies. I played Soothing Heart, an over-prepared earth pony mother who carries saddlebags filled with everything her little fillies might need (including snacks, first aid supplies, cleaning supplies, and protective gear for a wide variety of weather). She’s tough, caring, loyal, and determined, with the Healing Touch talent. But, her vision is poor, and she needs glasses to see. Also, since I was also going to be the Storyteller, Soothing Heart is a bit of a follower, allowing her little fillies to explore the world while she minds them from afar. My/her husband is Nugget, a unicorn with a spectacular hairdo and the beginnings of a beard. He’s clever,  charming, and a talented magic-user. More than anything, Nugget is an artist with an obsession for magical creatures. If he sees one he can’t resist stopping to draw it — a dangerous habit! My daughter created a pegasus called Bunna who is kind, happy, and adores animals. She can even speak to mammals! Bunna is a seamstress who specializes in hand sewing stuffed animals. She particularly adores rabbits. Unfortunately, she has a terrible fear of… caterpillars! Eeeek! The horror! Finally, my son created Flying Recall, a mystery loving pegasus with special pony senses who always trusts his gut. He’s a friendly, funny fellow, who is a little bit too silly.

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My kids had great fun describing their many, many purchases in the market, with my son buying healthy snacks and my daughter buying a massive rabbit shaped cake. Soon, my daughter (the PC who bought the tastiest treats or, in my case, loves rabbits the most) felt her grocery bag getting heavier and heavier… Bunna looked down to realize there was an adorable little rabbit in her bag eating all of her cake! My daughter squealed in absolute delight while my son looked at the picture of the rabbit and exclaimed: “Oh, no! Not THAT rabbit! THAT rabbit is trouble!”

And my son couldn’t have been more right! Angel is Fluttershy’s rabbit, and he’s horribly behaved. Kids are sure to have a blast roleplaying with this little guy. My daughter’s attempts to befriend the rabbit led to it growling, glaring at her, and crossing his arms in irritation. Soon she just decided to let him enjoy the cake which is when my kids (and I’m sure many more) let out their second squeal of glee: Fluttershy herself appears looking for her ‘little Angel.’ Impressed with your ability to handle the rabbit — cue my daughter’s proud smile — Fluttershy asks your PCs for a favour. She and her friends (yes, those friends) have to go on an important trip, but they promised they would give their pets a pampering party! They really can’t delay their mission, but they don’t want to let their pets down, either. They need someone really special to come over and pet-sit!

My kids literally threw their arms up into the air and were begging to be the petsitters before Fluttershy could even get the offer out. They were SO in. Haha. Not a surprise! It’s likely that any kids who has seen the show will be absolutely thrilled at this turn of events. Getting to meet such famous characters is enough to make many kids squeal in glee, and finding themselves the caretakers of all six of their pets? I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who doesn’t love animals!

Fluttershy asks the PCs to show up at her house the next morning and trots away leaving your PCs with the rest of the day to spend as they see fit. It’s assumed that you finish checking out the market and then skip to the scene at Fluttershy’s house, but both of my kids play a lot of complex RPGs, so they had other plans. Especially when you take into account that Flying Recall loves a good mystery! The pair of them spent time investigating the identities of the Mane Six and their pets, figuring out what each animal enjoyed doing, and what each loved to eat. My kids were counting on fingers, trying to remember the pets from the tv show, guessing what those kinds of animals would like in real life, and rolling dice to ask around for gossip, and recall obscure bits of information. They had a blast! I rewarded their efforts with lots of helpful information and they spent time picking up items in the market that they thought would be of use in petsitting. A juicy bone and a ball for Applejack’s dog, the fanciest and most expensive cat treats they could find for Rarity’s spoiled cat, and so on.

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When they were ready to move on our PCs headed over to Fluttershy’s house — with my kids wearing incredibly proud smiles on their faces. They got to meet each member of the Mane Six, each of the pets they would be babysitting, and ask any questions they had. I casually dropped a lot of information on my kids in this scene while roleplaying, most importantly about all the pets and what they like or don’t like. The information is easy to come by for GMs, but players will need to rely on their memories, note-taking, or rolling a Mind Check to get everything down. Surprisingly my kids were obsessively dedicated petsitters, and remembered every little detail all on their own. My husband was more concerned with matters like: ‘Where’s the food?’ ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘When will you be back?’

Nugget learned that the Mane Six were off to solve a mystery. Ponies throughout Equestria were being magically turned into statuettes! They always turned back to normal after a while, but it was very jarring. So the Mane Six were heading out to investigate. Their mission would take them into the dangerous Badlands to the south.

Nugget decided that sounded very dangerous, and he would much rather stay behind and pet-sit. My kids agreed.

The Mane Six bid everyone farewell and left. We were alone in Fluttershy’s house with a whopping six pets to care for. All very different. Some easy to tend to and some not. Both my son and daughter got super into this part of the adventure. They did their best to take care of the animals, find and feed them their favourite things, pamper and play with them, and so on. They carefully decided who would be best suited to caring for each pet, and excitedly tried to recall every bit of information they could. They fed Owlowiscious (Twilight Sparkle’s wise owl) chocolate mice and tickled him just behind his ear feathers. They gave Winona (Applejack’s playful dog) the bone they had bought for her, played ball, and patted her tummy. They were absurdly happy to see Winona enjoy the bone they bought him. They gave Gummy (Pinkie Pie’s toothless baby alligator) fish cakes and played Snaps. They brushed and groomed Opalescence (Rarity’s fat, spoiled cat) while feeding her the most expensive cat treats money could buy (which they had already bought a lot of!). They took Tank (Rainbow Dash’s helicopter flying turtle) out for a fly and fed him lettuce. My kids had such a blast with this part of the adventure! They were exchanging high fives and shouting out ‘great job’ and other congratulations at the table. It was just a giant ball of feel-good fun.

And then my daughter tried to handle Angel, the fluffy little rabbit menace. They knew it would be tough. They got him the perfect carrots, gently fluffed his tail, and offered him cuddles. Shockingly, my daughter managed to control the rabbit for a while, but in time he got out of hand. Carrots were met with growls, tail fluffing with glares, and cuddles with fierce little punches from fluffy paws. He was a terror!

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Which is the point!

Angel causes such a commotion he knocks all the books off the bookshelf, some of which land on Tank. Tank’s helicopter motor starts up and shoots him right through a window and into the sky. Worried for Tank, Winona hops through the broken window after him. Owolwiscious screeches in panic at the commotion — he had previously been napping — and flies up the chimney in a cloud of soot. Gummy starts to sneeze and ends up biting Opalescence, who leaps into the air, clings to the curtains with her claws, and brings the whole curtain rod down at you! Your PCs have a chance to dodge the curtains, but fate is not with them. If they fail a Body Check they get tangled in the curtains, and if they pass they instead get knocked into a cupboard as it falls over.

“AHHH!” My kids shrieked. “The pets!”

“Tank flew right out the window!” my son exclaimed with wide eyes.

“And the cat got bit by a crocodile!” my daughter added. “That bunny is so naughty! Oh… but he is very cute… I forgive him!”

“We need to save them!” my son pointed out.

Only then did they realize they were stuck. Really stuck.

By the time we all extricated ourselves with our skills from curtains and cupboards, the pets were gone. All of them.

We headed outside to investigate. Flying Recall searched around for clues — he loves a good mystery — while Bunna asked around for eye-witness accounts from the nearby mammals. In time they discovered that each pet had wandered off on their own — most into the nearby Everfree Forest. They immediately decided we had to get them back. But who was most in need of rescue? And which clues should they follow first?

From here we get to the bulk of the adventure: finding and rescuing all six pets. This will present your players with all kinds of obstacles, Tests, and Challenges. Following the trails and clues in some cases is difficult, with failure causing new challenges and mishaps that range from falling into a marshy pool or getting tangled in clinging thorns, to stepping on a cragadile, getting surrounded by timberwolves, and even meeting the mysterious zebra mystic known as Zecora. Surprisingly, my kids didn’t fail a single tracking Check, and never faced any of the mishaps. Rescuing each pet will take creative thinking and teamwork but exactly how each task is accomplished is incredibly open ended, which really allows your group of PCs to use their own unique approach to get things done. The order they choose to rescue the pets in is entirely up to them.

Once your players manage to rescue a pet they need to keep it happy. Each animal has a few paragraphs written about how they act after being rescued, and how your players can affect their behaviour. Some pets are helpful, others silly, and some (here’s looking at you Angel) are a giant pain in the butt! Managing these rescued pets becomes a fun part of the rest of the adventure, even as they distract you from (or help to) rescue the others.

My kids decided that finding Gummy was most important. They had tracked his footprints to a fast-moving stream and easily determined that the alligator was so small he wouldn’t be able to fight the current. Knowing that if they didn’t follow him right away they might never find him at all, they raced off downstream. They discovered a boat nearby, which some of us rode in, but my son didn’t trust the boat. Instead he insisted on racing along the riverbank. The stream leads to a large lake where they spotted a big bird flying through the air with a baby alligator clamped onto his tail feathers. Gummy is at risk of falling, and the bird looks in pain. There’s plenty of ways to go about rescuing the alligator, but with two pegasus in the party my kids decided to fly up there and get the job done themselves. Bunna held onto Gummy, and Flying Recall tried to pry his mouth open while telling him silly jokes. From the ground, Nugget steadied Gummy with his telekinesis, and Soothing Heart prepped a snack and some first aid supplies. They freed the bird without harm, and got Gummy down safe. …only to have him chomp onto Flying Recall! (Gummy sure does love to bite!). Soothing Heart fed Gummy food (thus freeing Flying Recall) while Bunna made Gummy a special stuffed animal. When it was ready she gave it to him to chew on, and then Flying Recall carried Gummy back to the cottage.

After a few minutes of checking the trails and clues again, its clear that all the rest of the pets entered the spooky Everfree Forest. Spotting a plume of smoke that they were sure would dissipate if they delayed any longer, they hurried into the forest after it. But, the forest is dense and travel through it is hard. Flying Recall flew up above the canopy to keep an eye on the smoke and lead the team toward their goal.

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Tank had crash landed in a canyon dotted with caves and got his aviation goggles tangled on a tree branch. When my kids saw him dangling from a stick halfway down a canyon with a clearly broken helicopter rotor on his back they panicked! After much shrieks Bunna and Flying Recall flew to the rescue — only to discover that this canyon was home to a massive quarray eel that swallowed Flying Recall whole. My son panicked. Seriously. We reminded him that there’s no such thing as death in Tails of Equestria, and I described the strange soft squishy insides of the eel he finds himself in. That’s when my son exclaimed: “I USE MY TOKENS OF FRIENDSHIP TO REROLL SO I DODGE!!! NOW!!” My daughter decided this was a great plan, so the group gave up some Tokens of Friendship, we rewound the action, and Flying Recall managed to dodge the jaws of the quarray eel.

Now, this wasn’t necessary. PCs who find themselves swallowed whole only need wait on their friends to come up with a plan to rescue them. Jokes, smoke, sneezing, and many other options could work, all depending on what Talents your PCs have and what they come up with. Even if they all get too close to the eel and get swallowed, gameplay doesn’t end. In this case Tank’s rotor puffs up once more, sending him careening relatively safely to the cave ground. There the little loyal turtle waddles up to the eel — he’s much too small for the eel to care about eating — and gives the eel’s tail a solid chomp. The eel reels in pain and spits out any swallowed ponies, leaving Tank to slowly wander back out of the cave to give a proud little nod to the ponies he’s saved. Coolest turtle ever.

In my game, our heroic pegasi both carefully stayed out of the quarray eel’s way after the timely dodge, and delicately untangled Tank with some steadying help from Nugget’s telekinesis.

With Tank safe we headed out after Winona, whose barks and whimpers we could hear from afar. We found her tied up outside the den of some diamond dogs, which my kids knew (from watching the show) like to capture ponies and force them to work in their diamond mines. The goal here is to rescue Winona without getting noticed by the diamond dogs. For most groups its incredibly unlikely to happen, and you’ll then need to parley or otherwise deal with the diamond dogs themselves once they arrive on the scene to investigate the noise. But, super paranoid, Bunna snuck close to Winona and used her ability to speak with mammals and her Charm to good use, telling Winona to stay silent. After a few checks she rescued Winona and we all snuck off without the diamond dogs any wiser.

Next we followed a trail of sooty feathers which lead us to Owlowiscious. Much to my kids surprise they found him flying over and over again into a tree, which was right in the middle of a patch of blue flowers. My kids, who are avid RPG players, were immediately suspicious. They both looked at each other and said: “Trap.”

Both deduced it had something to do with the flowers, with one deciding they were cursed and the other insisting their pollen or smell must make you stupid. Turns out they were both right. The flower’s pollen puts a curse on anyone who sniffs it, which makes something happen that the victim would hate. For Owlowiscious that turned out to be losing his intelligence. Now dumb as a post, the poor owl was smashing himself silly by flying into the same tree over and over.

With no knowledge of the flowers abilities but feeling like they were to blame my kids gave this one a bit of a think. Unbeknownst to them the key here is teamwork. You can solve this any way your group wants, as long as everyone helps. Everyone. In the end Soothing Heart gave Bunna and Flying Recall some protective clothing, Nugget steadied the owl with telekinesis, and both Pegasus flew up there to grab him, being careful not to breathe at all. Mission accomplished!

Unfortunately, even after rescue the bird was still stupid. Luckily, Soothing Heart’s first aid training came in handy. She figured to what was wrong and used her ponlybalm to take away the harmful effects of the curse. But, that wouldn’t be permanent. They’d need to find a way to cure her for good, which would require a visit to the zebra mystic Zecora. Deciding that rescuing the pets was more important, they treated the owl as best as they could and moved on, determined to rescue Opalescence, the pampered cat next.

The cat we found stuck at the bottom of a magic well. Poor Opalescence was yowling in fear, shivering cold, and exhausted. As they approached words appeared on the well, a poem that hinted that if you threw what you loved and would miss into the well, it would return the cat. My kids did not like this. But, they wanted the cat. So my son threw in something he would miss — not his magnifying glass! He would miss that too much, but something else. His notepad. The water in the well rose and the cat floated closer. Following his lead my husband tossed in his art book, which caused the water level to rise a lot. Bunna made a new stuffed animal and threw it into the well, causing the water to rise. But there was a lot of way left to go, and my son soon discovered that no one could give something twice. Soothing Heart would have to throw in something she would really miss. So she took off her necklace — one of a pair which Nugget had given to his wife and daughter — and threw it into the well.

And my daughter freaked out. Holy cow! She suddenly broke down in tears shouting “We don’t match!!”

Did not see that coming. Apparently this necklace meant a lot to her. So, I told her to explain that to the well, and maybe it would make you another deal. Meanwhile, my son grumbled it was just a necklace and saved the cat, which was way more important that jewelry.

Now, it is expected that some folks might not want to give up some of their favourite items forever. The adventure has a few ways in it for your PCs to convince the well to return their items to them. In the end my daughter befriended it, and promised to visit the lonely well once a week. Satisfied, the well returned everything the gang had given it. Bunna let it keep the stuffed animal for company.

Relieved (and no longer sad), my daughter led the group away from the magic well.

We had one pet left to save: Angel.

My kids had decided to save her for last knowing that she would be a handful to manage. They didn’t want her messing up their other rescue missions! But, with all the pets free and safe (in varying degrees of happiness), they set out after the troublesome rabbit.

“I’ve got this!” My daughter told us. “Bunny, prepare to be cuddled!”

The trail led them to a dark cave.

“Trap,” my kids decided.

“Dangerous monster!” my son guessed.

“Spider webs,” my daughter guessed.

“Oh, wait! Please no more cave eels….” my son remarked with a groan.

Nugget made his unicorn horn glow a pleasant green colour and led the way inside. There we found a monstrous magical bear called an Ursa that was cuddling and rocking Angel like a baby. And… cooing at her? My kids were pretty sure the Ursa was singing Angel a lullaby. Angel, for his part, was wearing a diaper and struggling as much as he could for freedom. He glared, he flailed, he punched, and he nibbled. But still, the Ursa would not let it go.

For most groups this will be the most challenging pet to rescue. If they attempt to take Angel by force or trickery the Ursa will cry and wail, drawing its mother home from her hunting trip early. (Yup! This massive bear is actually a baby called an Ursa Minor). The Ursa mother (Ursa Major) will also return if your PCs take too long to rescue Angel or make too much noice. Clever PCs will choose that moment to flee, while adventurous souls might get into a Scuffle which is sure to end with the Ursa Minor (or Major) the victor. Any ponies knocked unconscious from such a Scuffle will likely find themselves the Ursa Minor’s new toy, and will then need to come up with a clever plan to escape.

The best way to free Angel is with kindness. Luckily for us, my daughter found another amazing use for her stuffed-animal-crafting Talent. She headed outside, made up a beautiful new rabbit stuffed animal and offered it to the Ursa in place of angel. She even described how she would give it a little voice box so the new stuffed animal made happy noises. In order to ensure maximum success she used some Tokens of Friendship to automatically pass the Check. The Ursa Minor was delighted.

The real trouble came with Nugget.

Nugget who can’t help but draw magical beasts. Luckily they had charmed the Ursa Minor enough that Nugget got in a quick sketch before Ursa Major came home.

Once your players have rescued all the pets they can head back to Fluttershy’s cottage and clean up. But, my ponies had other plans. They headed deeper into the forest and used all their knowledge to find Zecora. A zebra healer who talks in rhyme. Rhyme! Oh, so hard to role-play! Haha. But, I did a pretty good job. My kids enjoyed it, anyway.

Now, Zecora is written into the adventure as one of the mishaps that can occur if your PCs get lost in the Everfree Forest, so rules for how to utilize her already appear in this adventure. First give your PCs a chance to Charm her — which mine all failed horribly at. Usually, this would mean she sends you away with some cryptic words of farewell, or your players use some Tokens of Friendship to reroll or auto-pass their failed Charm Check. But, my family had already used up all of their Tokens of Friendship. Instead they tried to reason with her. They explained whose pets they were caring for and presented the poor, incredibly dumb, Owlowiscious to Zecora. Being friends of the Mane Six, Zecora recognized the pets and offered to break the owl’s curse. If the PCs repaid her with two future favours. (Hello, future plot hooks!). My family all agreed and Owlowiscious was cured — and grateful! Everyone traded farewells and then headed back to Fluttershy’s cottage.

Which was a mess!

Everyone hurried to get it clean, worried that the Mane Six would come home to find the place trashed. Then they cleaned the pets, fed everyone, and got back to pampering them. Just as the pets settled down for a nap there was a knock at the door. Nugget opened it to find a little purple dragon. It was Spike, the devoted companion to Princess Twilight Sparkle. He looked really hurt.

“You’ve gotta help, guys! Twilight Sparkle and the other ponies are in big trouble! I’m the only one who escaped! They need help right now!” Spike exclaimed, right before falling over unconscious.

Which is where the adventure ends.

Sort of. After this there’s information on how your players can continue the adventure. If you want you can buy the official sequel, Tails of Equestria: The Curse of the Statuettes. But, the book also encourages GMs to make their own adventures, with the cliffhanger ending as the opening plothook. It offers plenty of questions and suggestions, then reminds GMs to tell their players to level up! Everypony is now level 2.

After the ending of The Pet Predicament there’s stat blocks for every creature featured in this adventure. The stat blocks are easy to read, with colourful pictures, descriptions, and tactics. Stat blocks included are the cragadile, diamond dog, mohawk, quarray eel, timberwolf, Ursa Minor, and Zecora. There’s also statistics for each of the Mane Six — cause you know one day kids are going to want those! Its nice of them to include official stat blocks for the show’s main characters right in the rulebook. Finally, there’s my favourite stat blocks: typical ponies. Here you’ll find one stat block for a typical earth pony, pegasus, and unicorn. There’s a description, stats, and a reminder to select one talent and one quirk for each pony you have your players run into. That’s what makes every pony special, after all! These three little stat blocks are super useful, since your players will often find themselves engaging in social interactions with other NPCs.

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And with that, The Pet Predicament comes to an end.

We found that this adventure was a delight to read, GM, and play. Everyone in my family had a blast (including my husband).  My kids adored getting to hang out with the pets, and were really invested in the story. The ending also had my kids hooked, as it leads directly into the Tails of Equestria: The Curse of the Statuettes adventure (which I may admit to having bought my daughter for her upcoming birthday).

If you’ve got kids who enjoy light-hearted RPGs or who love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I highly recommend picking up Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game and giving The Pet Predicament a try. Roleplaying Games of all kinds are really educational (teaching math, probability, reading, writing, problem solving, teamwork, kindness, empathy, and how to handle failure). In addition, they’re just really enjoyable for kids to play — either with friends or family. And this one plays so smoothly. It truly is a wonderful game.

Thanks for joining us today!

Enjoy!

Jessica

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Shackled City: Part Three: Jzadirune

Wow, it has been AGES since we’ve have a chance to write a new campaign update! Fear not, fellow readers, our campaigns haven’t come to an unfortunate end. They’re trekking along slowly, in between school, work, and everyday life. So where are we heading today?

shackled city adventure path d20diaries
The Shackled City Adventure Path is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure originally printed in Dungeon Magazine by Paizo Publishing.

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! If none of this sounds familiar you can read this blog post first, which details our characters, or continue on with this article to jump right into the action! You can also check out our previous adventures in Shackled City: Part One and Shackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!

The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.


The Heroes

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 bands 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. 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 two NPCs: Patch, the half-orc janitor, and Keygan Ghelve, a local locksmith.

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.

Keygan Ghelve is a gnome locksmith and competitor of Aeris’. He’s also the reason people are going missing! Months ago strange creatures came up from Keygan’s basement — which leads to the abandoned gnomish enclave of Jzadirune — and kidnapped his rat familiar! They forced Keygan to forge them a set of skeleton keys that can open the locks he’d installed in Cauldron, and a list of all his customers. In the months since, skulks and dark creepers have used his home as a way station, heading out into the city, abducting people from their homes, and dragging them back underground through his basement. Keygan feel guilty, but he’s more worried over his rat than anything! The members of Dinorabbit followed clues that led to Keygan’s shop and discovered his role in the abductions. Although Aeris wanted to turn him in to the guard, the Falco and Mick insisted he come with them if he wanted to save his rat. He’d need to help rescue the kidnapped citizens of Cauldron and undo the damage he’s facilitated.

Aeris decided that after that she’d still have him arrested. She’s a stickler for the rules. …Usually.

And so our eclectic team of musicians, janitors, and locksmiths, descends through hidden passageways into the long-abandoned gnomish enclave of Jzadirune, on the trail of subterranean kidnappers!

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The team!

Aeris and Falco led the way, with Mick, Rabbity, and Panthy travelling in the middle of the group. Patch and Keygan took up the rear, while the cowardly locksmith strongly debating running away when no one was looking.

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’ divinations had led them to! (See the riddle for more information). My children were thrilled! Beyond thrilled. They had obsessed over that riddle for days. 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 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 were already super lost! Haha.

Our explorations continued over a whopping eight play sessions and over fifteen hours of gameplay! That’s a LOT, particularly when you take into account that half of our party is children under eight years old. I find that my kids are easily bored by long encounter-heavy dungeons, so I did my best to make it interesting. I combined multiple similar battles into one encounter, turning them into dynamic, constantly moving skirmishes. Other encounters we skipped completely, removing many of the extra enemies that served no immediate story purpose, like vermin. Those encounters that remained were a lot of fun, typically taking place in the most exciting and dynamic of Jzadirune’s rooms. Favourite locations included the previously mentioned giggling masks room, the theatre where you can watch illusory plays, the throne room where you could interact with an illusory gnomish king and learn hints as to what befell Jzadirune, and the underground forest. Since my son’s character spent his early years living in Jzadirune, I made sure to give him plenty of information and history he could discover. No empty room was just empty, there were hints to the room’s purpose and inhabitants, memories he might distantly recall, and places he’s been. His favourite discoveries included a door that had his family’s name on it, and a bedroom that contained a child’s bed and a long-discarded stuffed animal he’s pretty sure was once his. Finally, we played up the personalities and interactions of the NPCs Keygan and Patch, which everyone really enjoyed. Even Aeris was happy to see Keygan reunited with his beloved rat familiar, Starbrow.

My kids had a great time uncovering the mystery of Jzadirune and determining what caused it to become abandoned. And, while my daughter is happy that we’re finally leaving that spooky place behind, my son is a little sad about it. He’s decided that Mick Frimfrocket will reclaim this place once its done. He has big plans to clean it up, make it safe, and use it as a home and base of operations. Maybe he’ll even turn it into an orphanage. Whatever he decides to do, he’s loath to hide the signs of its previous inhabitants. He wants to keep every mural, nameplate, and bed. Preserve every memory he can of the gnomes who once lived and died here. It’s all he has left of his family.

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The map of Jzadirune and my son’s new construct.

In the end our characters discovered that Jzadirune was laid low by a curse that affected their magical objects, causing their users to vanish completely. Those few gnomes who survived the terrifying experience were children. The kidnappers had been using Jzadirune’s ruins as a base of operations, digging tunnels with old broken constructs through the walls to avoid traps and complex doors. And, although they battled the skulks and their dark creeper minions, my players never found any signs of the kidnapped citizens of Cauldron. What they did find was a door. The door led to a platform that, with the flick of a switch, descended down a shaft into the darkness. When the doors opened they found themselves someplace else. Someplace new. A place of dwarven construction, made from malachite.

My son and daughter gasped in shock!

“MOM! MOM! The riddle! The riddle says something about that mal-kite! We are almost there!”

My son read the riddle a few more times and double checked the notes that he keeps in his detective’s notebook (which is a copy of Detective Murdoch’s notebook from Murdoch Mysteries). “Hmmm… Yup! Those kidnappers must have been working for a duergar! He’s the true culprit!”

My daughter clapped her hands in glee. “Yes! We are almost there! I have to save my good friend Griffin who I work with! He was supposed to be married! His girlfriend is so sad she cries everyday! We must hurry! He could DIE!” She says the word ‘die’ with such drama. It’s adorable.

“And think of the children!” I joked.

My kids nodded. “YEAH! THE CHILDREN!” They were not joking. In fact, they were very, very, serious.

But, by then the weekend was over. It was time to get ready for bed, and prepare for the next week of school. The children would have to wait. But, you can bet that we’ll be playing again next weekend, when we begin our exploration of the Malachite Fortress.

Thanks for joining us, everyone! I hope you enjoyed getting to hear a bit about our crazy adventures. We’ll see you again soon!

Jessica

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Life’s Bazaar is the first adventure in the Shackled City Adventure Path.

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 Number 97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here.

The shaman and the bloodrager classes, as well as the bloodrager archetype spelleater, can all be found in the Advanced Class Guide. The urban bloodrager archetype can be found in Heroes of the Streets. The Kineticist class can be found in Occult Adventures. The monk and bard are base classes found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook (or in a convenient travel-sized edition: Core Rulebook (Pocket Edition)  while the prankster archetype for bards can be found in the Advanced Race Guide.