It’s been teased for a decade and finally — FINALLY — the Runelords are making their move! Yes! Today we’re taking a look at the brand new Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.
Back before Pathfinder had its own rules set I was a huge fan of Dungeon Magazine. So, when it was announced that the run of the magazine was coming to an end, transitioning to Paizo’s new Pathfinder adventures was a no brainer. I didn’t have much extra cash at the time, so transitioning to 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t an option. Pathfinder didn’t involve new rulebooks (…yet. Haha), and I could keep reading some awesome adventures.
I enjoyed the free module Hollow’s Last Hope, and it’s sequel Crown of the Kobold King. I loved the desperate, hopeless air of Falcon’s Hollow, and enjoyed the flavourful non-combat encounters in the adventures. But Rise of the Runelords?! I bought part one and was completely hooked. It was a fun, new twist on a classic style of adventure. As its sequels came out I was continually impressed. I loved that it took a bit of a tour of different adventure themes, from the horror of the The Skinsaw Murders, the depravity of The Hook Mountain Massacre, and even the vast, sandboxy exploration featured in the finale Spires of Xin-Shalast. It featured classic enemies, right alongside new ones, in a way that was fresh and exciting. I loved exploring the lost ruins of Thassilon, and discovering the history and culture of the ancient empire and its tyrannical rulers as you went.
We started playing Rise of the Runelords nearly right away. Unfortunately, we had a few false starts. Players came and went, and games ended each time. I swear we tried to play it three or four times before we finally got a solid group together. We ended up playing other campaigns before returning to Rise of the Runlords. We played an entire run of Curse of the Crimson Throne (which now has an awesome anniversary edition available: Curse of the Crimson Throne: Anniversary Edition) and to this day Curse of the Crimson Throne is my all-time favourite campaign. Heck, we even named my son after my husband’s PC. (For the record, it’s an awesome name. Haha). We also finished the entire Legacy of Fire Adventure Path in that time (which begins with Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King).
So when it came time to finally replay Rise of the Runelords — this time as Rise of the Runelords: Anniversary Edition! — we were ready for it. I was GMing, my husband, brother, and a friend of ours were playing, and I made an NPC to join them. We created characters who were the children of our characters from our Legacy of Fire campaign, and had an absolute blast. In time one of the characters split from the group and they rolled up a new one. They continued playing this second character online via email, and I created an entire new campaign for them, linked to the main events of Rise of the Runelords, but dealing with the other Runelords. The main Rise of the Runelords game (but not the email spin-off) paused for nearly a year when my brother had his second child, and when we finally got back to playing it was without him. We got all the way to the final book. And there we were, ready to make the trek to Xin-Shalast and confront Karzoug, the Runelord of Greed himself! And our extra player stopped showing up. In time my brother was ready to play with us again and we got ready to finally finish the last book — when my husband decided he wanted to play something new.
I swear we’re cursed!
In the time since my kids have been asking to play Rise of the Runelords. They saw it on the Adventure Card Game app and were mindblown at Aldern Foxglove’s character arc. Literally AMAZED. I promised them we’d start it in time, only to have my husband say he wanted to make someone to play alongside them. Uh… okay? Haha. I guess it’s waiting until after we finish Carrion Crown (we’re currently on Carrion Crown: Book Two: Trial of the Beast) and The Shackled City Adventure Path together then! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to play it as a family, but I found the request odd! He’d played so much of it that I was surprised he’d want to do so again. Since I’ve never really gotten to experience the campaign as a player I also joined a play-by-post game of it, which is a lot of fun.
Suffice to say, my experiences with Rise of the Runelords are both positive and enduring. I was thrilled to see the Runelord Sorshen mentioned in Curse of the Crimson ThroneAdventure Path, see the Runelord’s predecessor Xin featured in the Shattered Star Adventure Path (which begins with Shattered Star: Book One: Shards of Sin), and see Krune and the followers of Lisalla showcased in Pathfinder Society Season Four: Year of the Risen Rune (culminating in Scenario #4-26: The Waking Rune). Readers of the previous campaigns will know that the other Runelords have always been coming. They’re there, waiting to rise…
And now it’s time!
Return of the Runelords is a new six-part Adventure Path that revolves around the return of the rest of the Runelords and the rise of New Thassilon. The events of Rise of the Runelords and the Shattered Star have already happened. But, if you’ve never played either, never fear! You can still enjoy this campaign. It begins with some trouble brewing in the Varisian town of Roderic’s Cove (more on that later!). The issues in this Adventure Path are longer than usual, and the final issue is supposed to be the biggest adventure of the series. (Pardon me while I squeal in glee). This Adventure Path will take you all the way from levels 1 to 20, which allows you to take on the incredibly powerful Runelords without delving into mythic tiers. Each of the six Runelords (excluding the seventh: Karzoug) is featured on one of the covers, with gorgeous artwork drawn by Ekaterina Burmak (you’ll see them featured throughout this article).
Before we get too far into what we know about Return of the Runelords, we’re going to talk a bit about the Runelords and Thassilon.
What the heck is Thassilon, and what’s a Runelord?
Thassilon is an ancient empire founded over 11,000 years ago by First King Xin. Xin was Azlanti, but thought that place sucked. He was exiled and decided to found his own nation. Things seemed to be working fine, and his country spread far and wide. He appointed seven wizard governors to oversee the provinces of his empire. Each was an expert in a specific school of magic which was originally based on the seven virtues of rule (charity, generosity, humility, kindness, love, temperance, and zeal). In time, these virtues became twisted into the seven sins (envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath) and the Runelords betrayed Xin. In the aftermath Xin was destroyed, the Runelords seized control of Thassilon, Xin’s son was placed on the throne as a puppet emperor, and the tyrannical Runelords continued ruling their own provinces. But the Runelords were greedy. They bickerer, bargained, and plotted for more power and territory over each other. In addition, they were big jerks. They enslaved races, subjugated their people, and so on. They built massive monuments which survive throughout Varisia to this day. You ever hear of the Irespan in Magnimar? Thassilonian. The Old Light in Sandpoint? Thassilonian. The black pyramid underneath Castle Korvosa? Thassilonian. Skull’s Crossing? Lady’s Light? Yup! Thassilonian!
In time, Earthfall drew near. And the Runelords? They saw it coming. They prepared for the coming apocalypse and enacted magical countermeasures. Each waited out the end of their empire and the coming Age of Darkness in their own ways. But Earthfall devastated Golarion more than they had ever imagined, and most of their countermeasures and failsafes either failed or malfunctioned. The Runelords slumbered on throughout the ages.
Until Karzoug: Runelord of Greed. Now, Karzoug wasn’t the only Runelord of Greed. There were seven before him: Kaladurnae, Fethryr, Gimmel, Ligniya, Mazmiranna, Aethusa, and Haphrama. But, at the time of Earthfall, he was the big shot. He ruled all of the province of Shalast from its capital of Xin-Shalast, was a master of transmutation magic, and wielded a powerful burning glaive which was decorated with meteorites. Just over a decade ago Karzoug stirred. His minions spread throughout his realm of Xin-Shalast, and then out into Varisia, but Karzoug himself could not quite manifest into the Material Plane. His minions’ efforts to bring him back into Golarion are thwarted by heroes during the course of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path. I won’t go into detail on its events — that’s what playing is for! — but I will say that if your players have done their job, the Runelord Karzoug is no more.
But there, at the very back of Rise of the Runelords final volume, it reads:
“The runelords will return.”
Tease much? Haha.
So what’s Shattered Star? More Runelords?
Nope! During the Shattered Star Adventure Path you play as Pathfinders under the command of Venture-Captain Shield Heidmarch of Magnimar. She gives you one of seven pieces of a ancient Thassilonian artifact and tasks you with using it’s magical connection with the other six pieces to track down the artifacts components and put it back together. You explore ancient Thassilonian monuments from throughout Varisia, briefly visit a lot of fun places showcased in other Varisian Adventure Paths, and reforge an ancient relic, only to discover Thassilon’s capital of Xin, and come up against the First King himself. It’s awesome! But no, it does not feature any of the Runelords, which means that there are six Runelords left.
Sort of? What’s up?
Pathfinder Society Season Four: Year of the Risen Rune pits the Pathfinder Society against the cult of Lissala, an ancient Thassilonian goddess. At the time of Earthfall, Lissalla’s highest ranking priest was also a Runelord: Krune, Runelord of Sloth. Krune ruled the province of Haruka, from his capital of Xin-Haruka, and wielded a longspear made from a dragons tooth that could move and attack on its own. His skin was said to be tattooed with countless magical spells and runes. There were six other Runelords of Greed before Krune: Xirie, Ilthyrius, Azeradni, Zalelet, Krenlith, and Ivarinna. It’s said Krune was the least violent of the Runelords, mostly cause he was lazy. During the course of the Year of the Risen Rune, the Lissalan cult tries to bring about the return of the Runelord Krune. And succeeds. This campaign arc includes Scenarios: #4-00: Race for the Runecarved Key, #4-02: In Wrath’s Shadow, #4-07: Severing Ties, #4-08: Cultist’s Kiss, #4-10: Feast of Sigils, #4-12: The Refuge of Time, #4-20: Words of the Ancients, and #4-26: The Waking Rune. In the finale they face off against Krune himself. And hopefully kill him. Haha.
So who were these other Runelords?
Good question! In addition to Karzoug, The Runelord of Greed, and Krune, The Runelord of Sloth, there were five other Runelords. Runelords that we will, hopefully, get to face off against (or thwart the minions of) throughout the course of Return of the Runelords.
The Runelord of Envy is Belimarius, an aged, overweight woman who adored gossip and politics. She was a paranoid schemer who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She’s generally considered to have been an efficient ruler, and among the weakest of the Runelords. She ruled the realm of Edasseril, was a master of abjuration magic, and wielded a gold and mithral halberd that could steal the memories of her enemies. (Awesome!). There were a whopping nine Runelords of Envy before her, including Naaft, Tannaris, Ivamura, Jurah, Chalsardra, Esedrea, Zarve, Desamelia, and Phirandi. It’s said that when Belimarius usurped her throne from Runelord Phirandi, she locked him in a clear coffin and put him on display in her palace (safe to assume it was a magical coffin). Belimarius had a lot of trouble preparing for Earthfall. In the end, her magical ritual backfired and she accidentally locked her entire city in a week-long time loop (the city is surrounded by an impenetrable forcefield and is known by local Varisians as Crystilan). Also? Apparently she had a magic mirror, like the one from Snow White. Cool! Belimarius has long been one of my favourite Runelords. I’ve always liked the idea of the scheming, jealous old woman who’s super powerful. Plus, her specialty is abjuration! It’s about time someone made that badass. (I know, I know. Not many people would say she’s their favourite Runelord. Haha.)
The Runelord of Gluttony was Zutha, a unique undead who could experience life as vividly as any living man. He ruled the realm of Gastash, was a master of necromancy magic, and wielded a scythe made of bone that could drain the life from his enemies, and a collection of powerful ioun stones. He was a ravenous gourmand who constantly sought new foods (including living humanoids), experiences, and luxuries. He nation was the breadbasket of Thassilon, and he was not above cutting off food supplies to any Runelords who dared to cross him. There were four Runelords of Gluttony before him including Kaliphesta, Atharend, Aethusa, and Goparlis. With the fall of Thassilon Zutha bound his life to a magical tome which was then split into three parts. These books were given to his servants who were supposed to rejoin them once it was safe. His spirit would then subsume them until they became him. These books and one of their owners (the taiga giant lich necromancer Thulos) are described in detail in the extra articles at the back of the Shattered Star Adventure Path: Book Six: The Dead Heart of Xin.
The Runelord of Lust was Sorshen, an incredibly beautiful woman rumoured to have used blood magic to become eternally youthful. She ruled over the realm of Eurythnia, was a master enchantress, and wielded a double-headed guisarme. Sorshen was the only Runelord of Lust to have ever existed. That’s right! The one and only. The famous Lady’s Light monument in the Mushfens (which is explored in Shattered Star: Book Two: Curse of the Lady’s Light) depicts Sorshen. Other monuments of her rule include the Sunken Queen (which is showcased in Curse Of The Crimson Throne: Book Six: Crown Of Fangs), while her tomb is located underneath Castle Korvosa in the Grand Mastaba. There she is said to be sleep eternally alongside her awakening vampiric servants.
The Runelord of Pride was Xanderghul, an absurdly arrogant, silver-tongued diplomat who tried to rise above the petty squabbling of the other Runelords. He ruled the realm of Cyrusian, was a master of illusions, and wielded a lucerne hammer made from skymetal. Like Sorshen, Xanderghul ruled for the entire reign of Thassilon. There was no Runelord of Pride either before or after him. He is widely regarded as the most powerful Runelord of them all. He publicly worshipped the Peacock Spirit, a mysterious deity that he encouraged his followers to venerate (which was actually himself). Xanderghul always struck me as the big bad of the remaining Runelords, and when I made my own custom campaign revolving around their return, it was him who I had envisioned as the final boss. Although I can only speculate on what role he’ll play in the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path, he is definitely not the ‘final boss.’
The Runelord of Wrath was Alaznist, an angry, impulsive woman who waged war against Karzoug throughout her reign. She ruled the realm of Bakrakhan, was a master evoker, and wielded a ranseur upon which she impaled the skull of the first Runelord of Wrath, Alderpash. Other than good old Alderpash, there were three other Runelords of Wrath: Angothane, Xiren, and Thybidos. Alaznist worshipped demons, particularly Yamasoth, and channeled the anger of her people in order to create monsters for her armies (including sinspawn, and reefclaws). It’s said she also modified her troops with fleshwarping, alchemy, and other methods. The ruins of Hollow Mountain are part of her domain and have her face carved on the side of the mountain. More details on Hollow Mountain can be found in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Dungeons of Golarion, where they showcase an entire level of this massive complex, as well as Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-02: In Wrath’s Shadow. She’s also the creator of the Irespan in Magnimar, and the Old Light in Sandpoint, which is actually a magical siege machine called a hellfire flume which could shoot fireballs at invading armies. As far as I can recall, Alaznist escaped Earthfall by entering some kind of otherworldly (or maybe it was extraplanar?) refuge or hideout (don’t quote me on that, haha) within Hollow Mountain.
Enough with the history lesson! Tell me about Return of the Runelords!
Return of the Runelords is a six part adventure path that tasks your players with preventing the return of not one, but all the remaining Runelords of Thassilon. These volumes are extra long, with the final issue promising to be the largest adventure path volume yet! It’s intended to bring your player’s characters all the way from levels 1 to 20! There’s going to be plenty of references to previous events, places, treasures and characters who first appeared in Rise of the Runelords and Shattered Star, and of course, you’ll get to hear what happened to any heroes from those adventures.
Return of the Runelords begins with Book One: Secrets of Roderick’s Cove, written by Adam Daigle, and showcasing the Runelord of Wrath Alaznist on its cover. It takes place in the port town of Roderic’s Cove, where some strange things are happening! What sort of things? Well, I won’t go into it too much, but it involves multiple factions violently vying for control of the little town (and utilizing Thassilonian magics and relics to do so!), and a mysterious ghost. As your PCs become embroiled in trying to bring peace to Roderic’s Cove, they’ll also learn that the Runelords of Thassilon are reawakening! In addition to the adventure itself, this issue features an awesome gazetteer on Roderic’s Cove, some new monsters (including the nochlean, and the warpglass ooze), and an article on the history of Thassilon and how each Runelords survived Earthfall. It’s going to be awesome! This adventure should bring your characters from level 1 to 5.
Now that your PCs know the point of the campaign, it’s time for them to do something about it! Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came from Hollow Mountain is written by Mike Shel, features the Runelord of Sloth Kruth on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 5 to 8. Your PCs travel to the Varisian city of Magnimar to deliver a powerful relic, and tasks them with following up on rumours of the Runelords. They head to the infamous Hollow Mountain — a mountain on Rivenrake Island where the Runelord Alaznist once hid from Earthfall. This dungeon complex is massive, and filled with monsters and traps. There they’ll discover secrets that can help them in their coming fights. And as for Alaznist? She’s already awake! In addition to the adventure itself, this issue has an article and statistics on the empyreal lord Ashava, as well as an article on the always nasty sinspawn! Creature in this issue include the choking shade, and the shriezyx queen.
Return of the Runelords: Book 3: Runeplague is written by Richard Pett, features the disgusting Runelord of Gluttony Zutha on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 8 to 12. Armed with new information (and haunted by weird visions!) your players learn of a magical plague that begins in Magnimar and is set to spread across all of Varisia! They travel the country, face cultists of Yamasoth, and stop the Polymorph Plague from turning people into monsters! Its also hinted that they might be able to stop as many as two different Runelords from being awakened (My bets are on Zutha and Sorshen, but that’s conjecture). Interestingly, this book raises the question: are all of the Runelords equally dangerous and can some of them become your allies? Well, colour me intrigued! In addition to the adventure itself you’ll find an articles on the cult of Yamasoth, the Polymorph Plague, magical pools, and some new monsters (including misery siktempora and kasthezvi).
The next volume in this adventure path is Return of the Runelords: Book Four: Temple of the Peacock Spirit. It’s written by Jason Keeley, likely features artwork of Xanderghul on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 12 to around level 15 (or 16, perhaps? I’m guessing). In this issue your players face off against the cult of the Peacock Spirit, travel to their temple in the mountains, and stop them from bringing Xanderghul back into the world. An important task, since he’s among the most powerful of the Runelords! Details on this issue are scant, and I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.
Return of the Runelords: Book Five: The City Outside of Time is written by Amanda Hamon Kunz, probably features the Runelord of Envy Belimarius on the cover, and is likely to bring your characters from around level 15/16 to level 18 or so (I’m guessing on the level range). In it, your players head to Crystilan, a city encased in a crystal sphere where the Runelord Belimarius and her citizens live out the same week of their life over and over again. You’re heading there to stop the Runelord Alaznist from utilizing time altering magic to do… something! But getting past Crystilan’s inpenetrable walls is not going to be easy! You’ll have to head to the shadow plane, perform a ritual, enter the eternally preserved Thassilonian city of Edasseril, and figure out a way to stop her. But, Alaznist’s presence has altered this place, and things are changing for the first time in ages. This adventure sounds like it has a lot of fun social interactions, intrigue, and politics, which is going to be AMAZING. I’m actually the most excited for this volume of the Adventure Path, out of all of them! I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.
Return of the Runelords: Book Six: Rise of New Thassilon is the final instalment of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. It promises to be the longest yet! Written by Greg A. Vaughan, and featuring artwork of… The Runelord of Lust Sorshen, I think (don’t quote me on that, haha!), and is intended to bring your characters all the way up to level 20. In this volume Alaznist has messed with time, affecting both the past and the future! Your characters will need to fix the damage she’s caused, and take down the Runelord of Wrath Alaznist! That’s right! It’s got time travel! Oh yeah, and you’ll have to figure out what becomes of ‘New Thassilon.’ Yes. You read that right! It’s going to be epic! I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.
This brings us to the end of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. The first issue is already out, multiple other issues are available for pre-order, and the final volumes are due out by year’s end! This campaign sounds like a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
As mentioned this past Monday, today we’re going to be taking a look at one of the wonderful Pathfinder books I happen to own: Blood of the Sea!
Blood of the Sea is a Pathfinder Player Companion compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This means it’s a thin, soft-cover book with plenty of new options intended for players creating characters. More specifically, this volume focuses on some of the aquatic races of Golarion, how you can use them in water and on land, and on underwater adventuring. This book goes hand in hand with Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures, which contains information on each of the oceans of Golarion, underwater combat, a host of new rules and some new character options.
The races detailed in Blood of the Sea include aquatic elves, cecaelias, gillmen, locathahs, merfolk, tritons, adaro, grindylow, and sahuagin. Statistics for playing these races as characters are including for all of these races except for aquatic elves, gillmen and merfolk. Aquatic elves, gillmen and merfolk can be found in a variety of sources, including the the Advanced Race Guide and Inner Sea Races. Gillmen can also be found in the Inner Sea World Guide, and the Inner Sea Monster Codex, while merfolk can also be found in the first Bestiary.
Blood of the Sea features dynamic cover art by Kiki Moch Rizky, which showcases Hakon, the iconic skald, battling an enraged cecaelia on the beach. The inside cover has a really useful map of Golarion with all of its oceans and seas labelled. I definitely read some I didn’t recognize, which is nice to see. The oceans include Abari, Antarkos, Arcadian, Embaral, and Okaiyo, while the seas depicted are Castrovin, Fever, Ivory, Inner, Shining, Songil, Steaming, and Valashmai. For more information on these major waterways you’ll need to check out Aquatic Adventures.
Up next is the table of contents and the introduction. Unlike most Pathfinder Player Companion introductions, this one does not contain any traits or character options. It does still contain a handy rules index, which lists all the new archetypes, feats, and other new rules options contained in the book, alphabetically by type with the page numbers so they can be found on for easy reference. After this we move right into the bulk of the book: aquatic races. The goodly races are presented first, each with two pages dedicated to them. Each contains information about the race in general, how they might come to be adventurers, and some new rules options which typically include statistics for playing them as a race, alternate race traits, favoured class options, feat, and archetypes. Villainous races are showcased afterwards, with two pages shared between then three of them.
Up first? Aquatic elves! Curious and respectful, these elves take it upon themselves to explore and protect underwater ruins — although they have the wisdom to leave the most dangerous ruins untouched. There’s some nifty artwork featuring an aquatic elf with a dagger that has a handle made from a conch shell, which looks pretty cool. As already mentioned, the statistics for playing an aquatic elf are not included in this book. Instead, there is a nice rogue archetype called ‘seeker of the lost‘ which I rather enjoyed. It focuses on exploring underwater ruins, disabling magical traps (which are some of the only kind to survive long periods of time underwater without deteriorating), and underwater combat. Although it’s not ground-breaking or anything, I rather like it. There are also three alternate race traits, and a total of nine favoured class options. ‘Deep sea dweller‘ allows aquatic elves to survive in the dark, depths of the ocean — sort of. It grants you dark vision and cold resistance at the cost of low-light vision and elven immunities. It does not, however, grant and protections from pressure. So it allows you to be in the lightless parts of the ocean, but not too far down. It’s my favourite of the race traits for sure! ‘Surface features‘ allows you to blend in with surface elves which, although useful, doesn’t really tickle my fancy. Why be a weird race and then choose to look like everyone else? Still, it’s sure to see use in play. It replaces keen senses. Lastly, ‘surfacer antagonist‘ is for all the aquatic elves out there who have been harmed by those nasty humans. (Ugh. Filthy land-lubbers. Am I right? lol). This trait grants you a +1 bonus on attack rolls against humans at the cost of elven magic. Yeah, against HUMANS. This trait is going to be really good in pretty much any adventure or campaign. I honestly can’t think of one where you don’t fight a human at some point. Despite it’s usefulness, ‘deep sea dweller’ beats it as my favourite character option for aquatic elves.
Next we come to cecaelias, which first appeared in Pathfinder as an enemy in Bestiary 3. I can honestly say that before reading this book they were not one of the races I ever thought I would want to play. They seem relatively impractical for a PC (being aquatic, and having tentacles), and I’m not big into octopi. It just wasn’t interesting to me. But, after reading the book, I’m probably the most excited for playing a cecaelia. For starters the artwork is awesome, and makes them a lot more relatable than the bestiary image. Their racial traits are fun looking. They have enough of the monster’s original abilities, while still being playable as a PC. They’re a powerful race, of course, at 23 RP, which puts them on par with grindylow, sahuagin, ogres, and svirfneblin. They have great flavour and cultural information. I adore that they’re super curious and social. They’re out to enjoy life, which is always fun to play. They come with three alternate race traits: ‘dextrous tentacles,’ ‘garrulous,’ and ‘tripping tentacles.’ They’re all pretty good, with ‘dextrous tentacles‘ allowing you to use your tentacles to hold and manipulate objects and increase the range of your tentacle sense ability (which gives you blindsight underwater) at the expense of being able to shoot an ink cloud; ‘garrulous‘ gives you a bonus on linguistics and diplomacy skill checks as well as allows you to learn two languages each time you invest a rank into linguistics at the expense of being able to shoot an ink cloud; lastly, ‘tripping tentacles‘ makes you really good at tripping your opponent but causes you to lose your tentacle sense ability. I like ‘garrulous‘ best, but I’m one of those players who enjoys learning a ton of languages, so I’m definitely biased. Haha. As for class options, they have only a single feat up for offer. That said, I like it, so its enough for me. The feat is ‘cecaelia focus tattoo’ which gives you a magical tattoo. Although you can have any number of tattoos, you can only activate one at a time. Once activated a tattoo functions for one hour. There are currently eight different tattoos which can increase your saves against poison or death effects, your stealth or survival skill checks, or the distance of your darkvision. Once you have the feat you can also choose to take another tattoo or increase the potency of one of your tattoos in place of a favoured class bonus, which is a pretty nifty option.
Leaving behind our tattooed cephalopods we get to a race I’ve liked since they were introduced ages ago: gillmen. I know, I know, having to submerge yourself in water or die a horrible death is tricky for a lot of campaigns, but what can I say? I like them! As mentioned previously, statistics for playing gillmen are not included this book. Instead, we get some nice flavour and cultural information (some of which is new), and a lot of class options. There’s the ‘hidden current‘ vigilante archetype which allows gillmen to take on the identity of a nonaquatic humanoid when they’re on land, and at higher levels can even let them magically travel between the land or sea. There’s also four feats, four alternate race traits, an four favoured class bonuses. Also? Awesome artwork! Its my favourite of the entire book. My favourite class options are the feats ‘surface survivor‘ (which makes playing gillmen more manageable) and ‘aphotic explorer,’ as well as the ‘venomkissed‘ alternate race trait.
Locathahs are up next, which is another one of those races I’ve never really felt an urge to play. That said, the flavour really sold it for me, and I think I’d enjoy creating one. My favourite part? They’re stinky and proud of it! Haha. Locathahs use their scent to communicate, even underwater, which is pretty cool. Locathah racial traits are a great conversion from their statistics from Bestiary 2, and the race comes in at 10 RP, which makes them approximately on par with the core races. There are also three feats here, all of which are a part of a combat style called ‘electric eel‘ that utilizes the ‘elemental fist‘ feat. I’ve mentioned in other blog posts that combat styles aren’t really my cup of tea, but I’m actually quite fond of this one. I recommend giving it a read. There are also five alternate race traits available for locathah characters, and six favoured class bonuses. I like all of the alternate race traits, but I think my favourites are ‘blunt head‘ which gives you a bite attack but reduces your swim speed, and ‘coastal emissary.‘ I also love ‘powerful smell,’ but its bound to irritate your companions. Haha.
Up next is merfolk. As mentioned, the statistics for merfolk are not provided in this book. Instead there’s a lot of music-themed class options and six favoured class bonuses. In fact, they have some of my very favourite class options in the entire book. For starters there the oracle archetype ‘ocean’s echo‘ which gives you a nice selection of sound-themed bonus spells, and the ability to use some bardic performances. I’m in! (It should be noted: I love bards). There’s also a new oracle curse which is bound to be a ton of fun: ‘song-bound,’ which compels you to sing loudly whenever you speak. Yes, always. How fun is that? I don’t know about you, but I would literally sing everything my character says (I’m an average singer at best, by the way). My kids love it, too. Lastly, there are two new masterpieces in this section, one of which can grant your companions a swim speed, and the other that can scare off trespassers. Both can be sung or played on a string instrument.
Tritons are the final goodly aquatic race in this book. Just over half of the entry is racial and cultural information, most of which is new (as far as I know, haha). Their racial traits are well done, but wow! Are they ever slow on land! Haha. They’re a great conversion from their statistics in Bestiary 2, and come out to a total of 11 RP which makes them approximately on par with the core races and locathahs. There’s a paladin archetype in this section called ‘kraken slayer‘ which looks interesting, but isn’t going to see much use in non-aquatic campaigns. There’s also two feats which work well together: ‘ally caller‘ which lets you use your innate spell-like ability to summon water elementals and dolphins two extra times per day (this feat can be taken multiple times) and ‘aquatic squires‘ which makes that same spell-like ability last 1 minute per level. Not amazing or anything, but fun and flavourful. I like it. All told, though, triton is my least favourite of the goodly races featured in this book.
With the good guys over and done we come to two pages entitled ‘Enemies of the Sea.’ Here we find statistics for playing adaros, grindylow, and sahuagin, as well as a paragraph of racial information on each. Grindylow and sahuagin are both 22 RP, putting them on par with the cecaelia, while adaro are a whopping 32 RP, which makes them among the toughest races you can choose, just under gargoyles and driders. I’ve always enjoyed adaros and grindylow, so I’m happy to see they were included.
Flipping the page we get to three pages on gear — most of which is mundane. Air breathing creatures can make use of artificial gills to survive underwater for a while, while aquatic creatures with slow base speeds like merfolk and tritons can make use of land limbs to improve their speed on land. There’s also a lot of practical gear like underwater paper, pens and compasses, as well as wall hooks. But, my personal favourite mundane bit of gear? Sponge suit! This is a mandatory purchase for the next gillman I make!
There are only four magical items, but they’re all quite useful. The ‘crystal helm‘ fills with water while on land and with air while underwater, allowing a PCs out of their environment the ability to breathe. The familiar bubble can keep your familiar breathing underwater, and shimmering kilt can turn an aquatic humanoid’s tail into legs. (No need to barter with evil cecealia witches anymore… Poor Ursula’s going to be unemployed). But, my personal favourite? The ‘cloak of eternal mist.’ In addition to making you character count as if they were submerged in water, it grants you a bonus to hide in fog and mist, and can grant you concealment when immobile. The best part? Its relatively affordable.
There are four spells on the next page. They are nicely thematic, but none of them blew me away. I think my favourite is ‘arid refuge,’ a spell that can help enable prolonged underwater adventures for land-bound characters by giving them a safe place to rest. Other spells include ‘instant clot,’ ‘silt sphere,’ and ‘suspend drowning.’
Leaving magic behind we get to four pages of aquatic class options that can be taken by most races. There’s a total of five class archetypes, one cavalier order (order of the eel) and one eidolon subtype (deepwater eidolon). I particularly like the ‘aquatic beastmaster‘ archetype for hunter, which contains a whole new array of water themed animals to use with the animal focus ability. I also really like that the ‘coral witch‘ witch archetype allows you to grow your familiar out of coral, an that the ‘keeper of the current‘ inquisitor archetype can track underwater by reading traces of eddies and currents. Very cool! The last two archetypes are ‘crashing wave‘ for the cleric (which has a very interesting form of channel energy that leaves neutrally aligned creatures unaffected) and the ‘tempest tamer‘ druid archetype (which taps into the powers of typhoons, whirlpools, and other storms).
After this is a very useful chapter on the challenges facing underwater creatures who find themselves on land, and ideas and methods for overcoming those challenges (both magical and mundane). I found these four pages a huge help. It not only urges you to think about some troubles you might not have thought of, but it also makes playing aquatic races in a land-based campaign a lot more… attainable. There were certainly some topics discussed that I’d never thought of. Not because it’s obscure or anything, but just… I don’t know. I never thought about it. Haha. For example, weight. If you’re used to being buoyant, walking on land would be hard. How would you act? Imagine how heavy your body would feel to you. Sounds exhausting! What about weather? It’s a lot different than the sway of the currents. And climate? In a lot of places the ocean is cold. How does someone used to that feel on land? What about little things, like seeing a fire or cooking your food? Or keeping up with your companions? This section also has some awesome artwork of a serious ranger on a horse looking off into the distance. Except he’s not just a ranger. He’s a merfolk ranger riding sidesaddle. It’s great. Haha.
Which bring us to the last part of the book. Two pages discussing how air-breathing creatures can adventure and travel on or under water. Like the chapter before it, this section brings up some interesting topics. It also works as a handy reference for spells and magical gear that are useful for underwater exploration. There’s also a small sidebar that lists the oceans of Golarion, a few of its seas, and gives you a one sentence description about that body of water. It’s super brief, but better than nothing. As previously mentioned, players looking for more information on Golarions major waterways should pick up a copy of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures.
And that’s it! Then end.
This was a really fun, useful book that presented a lot of unique race and class options for players. I think it’s well-worth the investment. That said, due to its topic, it is quite niche. It’s not a book you’ll be able to use with every character or adventure you’re in. It’s quite focused: underwater races, and underwater class options. That said, this book invested a lot of effort into making underwater races playable on land indefinitely, and it succeeded. Some of the class options are just as usable above water as they are underwater — the ‘ocean’s echo‘ oracle archetype and the ‘tempest tamer‘ druid archetype are great examples of this. The rest, though, cleave pretty tightly to the waves. That said, there are plenty of places in Golarion where water is plentiful. The oceans, seas, and underwater, of course. There’s also the Shackles, Sodden Lands, and River Kingdoms, as well as many port towns, and the coasts throughout Golarion. There’s some settlements which are located both above and below the waves, like Acisazi (there’s at least one more, but I can’t recall its name at the moment… Hmmm… If you happen to remember it let me know in the comments!), and even Absalom has a the half-flooded district of the Puddles.
Those of you looking for adventures to play aquatic races or aquatic themed archetypes in should try the Pathfinder Modules: Plunder & Peril (which is a level four adventure that takes place in the Shackles), Ire of the Storm (which is a level one adventure that takes place in Sargava), River into Darkness (which is a level four GameMastery Module for 3.5 that takes place almost entirely along the Vanji River in the Mwangi Expanse), or — my personal favourites — Seers of the Drowned City (a level six adventure that takes place in a half-flooded ancient city in the Sodden Lands), and From Shore to Sea (a level six adventure that involves ancient Azlanti ruins and a super insular town on the coast of Cheliax). Those looking for a longer campaign should check out the Ruins of Azlant Adventure Path (which begins with Ruins of Azlant: Book One: The Lost Outpost), Skull and Shackles Adventure Path (which begins with Skull & Shackles: Book One: The Wormwood Mutiny), or even the Kingmaker Adventure Path (which begins begins with Kingmaker: Book One: Stolen Land). I know, I know, Kingmaker seems like an off choice. But, it takes place in the River Kingdoms (which has a whole lot of rivers), it’s encounters and adventure structure allow for regular resting (and taking a dunk in the nearest water source), and you can build your own town. Perfect for those high-maintenance aquatic races looking to make a unique mark on the world.
Well, it took about a week, but Paizo’s website is finally up and running properly. Oh. Actually, it’s down again. Haha. Well, it was up for a day, at least. (You can do it, Paizo!).
It was strange, having my play-by-posts out of reach for so long. But, I got plenty of others things done. I got by house in order, helped my Mom move, and got my kids prepared for the new school year (which starts in another week and a half). I saw my youngest brother for his birthday. He asked for books and some socks, so I picked him up Naruto socks, Akasuki socks, and two books I thought he’d like: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which is also an awesome movie, by the way), and the first three books in The Legend of Drizzt series (Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn) by R. A. Salvatore. Drizzt’s origins are actually my favourite books he’s in, and my brother’s never read them. (Blasphemy! Haha). I think he’ll really like them. While we were shopping I found an awesome Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Coloring Book which I was super tempted to pick up for my kids (but didn’t). Maybe I’ll buy it for one of them for Christmas in a few months. Haha.
My daughter and I finished creating our newest Pathfinder Society characters, Croak and Sereia, whom we won race boons for, and my husband and son are about halfway done theirs. My daughter completed creating her second character for the Pathfinder Playtest adventure Doomsday Dawn, and I’ve just started mine. I got a lot of reading done, and have a few extra blog posts underway already. Be on the lookout for posts about Starfinder: Pact Worlds (I know, I’m slow, haha) and Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea in the coming days.
I never have time for video games anymore, but with my play-by-posts down my kids and I started playing one of my very favourite video games of all time: Chrono Cross for the PlayStation. I was a kid when I played it the first time, and it literally blew my mind. Twist after twist I was just… Stunned. It’s got time travel, alternate dimensions, death, life, fate, a ton of NPCs you can get to join your party (many of which you meet well before you can convince them to join you), and (perhaps the coolest part) halfway through the game, after rallying friends and allies to help you defeat the villain, you have an epic confrontation which culminates with the villain using a magical ritual to swap your minds around. Your mind goes into his body and his goes into yours. All of a sudden those friends and allies are hanging around with the villain, trying to fight you. And you? Well, at least you don’t have to worry about fighting all those minions of the villain anymore. Cause they’re yours now. Sort of. Haha. So, if all your good friends are doing the work of the bad guy now, and they think they’re still doing good, but you and the other villains are working to stop them, are they still good guys? As a kid, I was amazed. Haha. Anyway, I started the game, which made my kids want to try, so we each started our own file. They’ve already reached the first big twist in the game, and were so shocked. They concocted a whole lot of crazy theories in an effort to figure out what’s going on. It’s adorable to watch. It’s been fun. I definitely owe fellow play-by-poster PaleDim a shout out for getting the music from Chrono Cross stuck in my head the other day. (Thanks!)
My husband and kids have been watching Voltron since it launched on Netflix quite a while ago, so they took the opportunity to delve into the newest season. One of the episodes was absolutely hilarious. The characters play a mock version of Dungeons and Dragons called ‘Monsters and Mana’ which is just a blast. I particularly like the GMs in campaign twists, and that one of the characters just kept playing a paladin no matter how many times he died. The other characters kept pointing out that he was a paladin in real life, so maybe he should try something else, but he thought that was absurd. There’s nothing better than a paladin, after all! My kids, my husband and I were laughing so hard. If you ever get a chance to watch Voltron Season 6: Episode 3: Monsters and Mana you should definitely take it! (It’s from the remake on Netflix, in case that needed clarifying, not the original show from when my husband was a kid, haha.)
Recently my husband suggested we build our own starships out of LEGO for use in Starfinder starship battles , which we all thought was an awesome idea. I’ve always loved playing with LEGO, but I wouldn’t say I’m great at it. I’m more of a ‘follow the directions’ or ‘build a square house’ kind of girl. But, I took to the challenge with aplomb! Turns out I did a pretty good job! My kids made some really nice ones. But, my husband turned out to be the LEGO Master of the house. Most of our ships came out way too big, but we had a lot of fun.
Well, it’s time for me to sign off now. I’m at the local laundromat and my laundry’s almost done. I’ll leave you with some pictures of our wonderful LEGO starships!
Way back in March I shared my family’s experiences creating their first Starfinder characters. We had a lot of fun making a kooky crew, and tried them out a bit before deciding they would join the Starfinder Society. There were some changes that needed to be made. Tucker was a halfling, which would have to change, but otherwise the transition went smoothly. Then we sat down and played Into the Unknown. Life got busy. We moved on to play Starfinder Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth, which was great fun.
So today, when I turned on my computer with the intent of writing a blog post, my daughter put her little hands on her hips and said, “Mom, you did not write about our Wayfinders in a long time! You need to do that.”
Has it really been that long?
Yup! It certainly has.
And so, at my daughter’s insistence, we’re rejoining the crew of Infinity and heading out into the Vast! So strap in, and get ready for wild ride!
Our crew consisted of three mercenaries and a single Starfinder Agent. The Starfinder Agent Hoponisa (Hops for short), is a ysoki technomancer from the dark side of Verces who loves to dance. She’s on a mission to find herself the ‘perfect mate’ and is handy both in the pilot’s chair, the engineering bay, and at a computer console. She has a robot rabbit dubbed ‘Snowball’ who is a glorified computer with some minor mobility that she crafted herself, then wrapped in fuzzy faux fur for ultimate cuddle-ability. It’s also her spell cache. Hops is a member of the Wayfinders faction who acts as a contact with a specific group of mercenaries — the other PCs. Together, Hops and her hired help travel the Vast, deploying drift beacons for credits at the behest of the Wayfinders. After discovering new planets, collecting data on their environments, and deploying drift beacons, the group prepares a report on the planet for the Wayfinders, which allows the spacefaring faction to better prepare proper Starfinder teams for further exploration on these locations. The mercenaries make some decent credits, and the Wayfinders get to expand their influence without using up valuable Starfinder resources and personnel.
Hops and the crew of the Pegasus Class ship, Infinity, have gone on plenty of missions together. Led by their Captain Aya, a wise, enigmatic kasatha mystic who believes that every life is precious, they’ve charted planets and discovered new places. Their roles on the starship change a lot, with the rest of the crew rotating between pilot, engineer, science officer, and gunner as the mood strikes them. Aya and Hops are joined by Tucker Aetherfoot, a ysoki operative with the daredevil speciality who’s nimble, acrobatic, and full of boundless energy. He wears a t-shirt with a shirren design on it (to represent his long-time friendship with the shirren Vishkesh), and wears a racing helmet with a rose-tinted visor and stylized mouse ears on the side (which was given to him by Hops as a birthday gift). Tucker’s insatiably curious, and runs a blog in his spare time about his experiences exploring the Vast. He’s a devout Desnan from Absalom Station, prone to dancing when he’s idle too long. …Even in the middle of a mission. Lastly, there’s Vishkesh, a shirren mechanic with a little flying spy drone named Rijin. Rijin is trained to help Vishkesh with repairing starships, and is also outfitted with a flare gun. He’s a chipper little thing, with a bubbly artificial personality. Vishkesh has a fondness to caring for (and rescuing) larval shirren, and currently has a dozen dangling off of him in their protective canisters at all times. Vishkesh is the proud owner of a pig stuffed animal — a rare creature he’s never seen in in the flesh! He’s also from Absalom Station, and is a long time friend of Tucker’s. Vishkesh worships Hylax.
Recently a fellow scouting ship hired by the Starfinders, Unbounded Wayfarer, went missing. Worried for their friends and fellow mercenaries Aya, Tucker, and Vishkesh urged Hops to inquire with Venture-Captain Arvin after the other ship’s status. The news? Bad.
The crew of the Infinity were dispatched to find the Unbounded Wayfarer, save them (if possible), and return with the information they had acquired on their recent voyages. The mission was different than anything they had done for the Starfinders before, but they accepted. They made friends along the way, particularly with a vesk pawn-broker by the name of Julzakama, and a family of enterprising ysoki who run the Vat Gardens. They fought their way through undead from Eox, alien creatures, and space pirates. In the end they discovered that their friends from the Unbounded Wayfarer were dead. They retrieved their bodies, the information they had discovered, and learned of a few planets worth exploring. Then they returned to Absalom Station to report to Venture-Captain Arvin, and mourn the loss of good friends.
Upon completion of their mission, Arvin offered the crew of the Infinity a rare opportunity. He would sponsor their entry into the Starfinders as actual agents, then he would grant them right of first exploration on all of the planets that they had received intelligence on from their companion’s ship. Aya, Tucker, and Vishkesh did some soul searching, and decided to officially join the Wayfinders faction of the Starfinders on the condition that they would always work as a team, and they would retain their ship.
With the bargain struck, the crew of the Infinity spent a bit of time in Absalom Station resting and upgrading their ship to meet Starfinder standards. They interviewed fellow Starfinder agents, eventually hiring two rookies to assist them with rounding out their crew: Gizdara, a half-orc technomancer who’s a whiz with computers, and Diggs Drifthopper, a burly ‘rabbitfolk’ whose planet was conquered by the Vesk years ago. Diggs was forced into the military, but was recently allowed his freedom and was looking for work. He’s good with a gun, but not much else (which he can’t use in SFS play, as a non-combatant hireling, haha). Still, my daughter insisted on hiring him because he was destined to be Hops’ mate. (Uhhh… Okay? Haha). Diggs’ job is mostly to watch the ship while we’re away from it.
With their crew rounded out Infinity set off into the Vast to check out the first of the planets their friends on the Unbounded Wayfarer had discovered before dying. This planet was called Elytrio, and was reported to be protected by powerful automated defences. Hops took the pilot’s chair, and Captain Aya gave her the order to set off. Gizdara programmed the coordinates into the ship’s databanks. Vishkesh and Rijin headed down to the engineering room to ensure the ship was in tip-top shape. And Diggs wandered around aimlessly. As they entered the Drift the stars outside became replaced by a swirling mass of colours and motion. The journey was underway….
After ten days they came into communication range of another ship.
“Registration information?” Aya asked Gizdara.
The half-orc techie clicked away at her console for a few seconds. “Identified as Clutter Collector. It has docking certifications for Absalom Station. Looks like a salvage barge run by a ysoki called Winks.”
Aya considered this a moment. “Open communications.”
“Got it. Hailing the Clutter Collector.” Gizdara replied.
The rest of the crew gathered round just as Winks appeared on the view screen. “Hey, pal! The name’s Winks! I’ve been in the Drift 25 days, and I am BORED!” the ysoki exclaimed. “SO happy to meet ya’! You?”
Aya chatted with Winks for a minute before passing control of the comms over to her crew. Hops, Tucker, and Vishkesh all had a blast chatting away with the ysoki and his familial crew. But, after about an hour, they were nearly out of range of each other.
“Thanks for the chatter,” Winks said with a wink. “You can save my frequency. Maybe we’ll chat again in the future, eh?”
And with a crackle of static, he was gone.
“Out of communication range,” Gizdara announced.
“Thank you,” replied Aya. “End transmission.”
The crew headed back to their normal routine, performing their duties, eating, gaming, dancing and chatting. Nine days later they exited the Drift. Seeing the blackness of space and its brightly twinkling stars for the first time in weeks, the crew heaved a sigh of relief.
“The Drift makes me nervous,” Diggs admitted. “This is how space is supposed to be.”
Hops laughed. “Space is beautiful! But, we can’t travel like this all the time! We’d never get anywhere!”
“To your stations,” Aya announced. “Hops, prepare for approach. Vishkesh and Rijin, begin pre-descent systems check. Gizdara and Tucker, what can you discern about the planet?”
Everyone got to work, and soon Tucker grinned. “Elytrio is the fourth planet orbiting an unnamed sun. It has two barren moons, but I’m seeing minor energy fluctuations. There might be the remains of an installation up there. Whatever it is, it’s no longer functioning.” Tucker clicks a few more buttons on the computer console before continuing. “As for the planet itself… looks like some kind of wasteland. I’m seeing blasted deserts, strong winds, and higher than normal levels of radiation. Nothing harmful, but we should activate our armour’s environmental defences just in case. Air is breathable, gravity normal. …I’m not seeing any plants or water, and little signs of animal life. I’m not detecting any settlements left or — wait! I’ve pinpointed a large energy output from what seems to be a fully functioning city in the Southern Hemisphere. My readings indicate that the city has a level of technology similar to the Pact Worlds, though it seems… outdated. It’s hard to learn more. The entire city and surrounding area it is encased in a powerful force field.”
Aya nodded. “Thank you, Tucker. Gizdara, try to find us a safe landing zone near the city. Tucker, triangulate suitable locations on the planet’s surface to deploy four drift beacons. Let’s get this planet on the grid, shall we?”
“Got it!” Tucker replied.
“Vishkesh, prepare for battle. We’ll be making our descent any minute, and I want to be ready for the planet’s automated defences.” Aya ordered calmly.
“Check!” Vishkesh replied.
“I am happy to be useful!” Rijin added in an overly happy voice. “Oh, yeah! The joy is filling me up!”
“Now listen children,” Vishkesh told his larval shirren. “This is how we activate our ship’s shields. First press this… and then…”
“Hops, take us down.”
“On it, Captain!” Hops exclaimed.
Infinity began its approach… After only a few minutes, a loud klaxon alarm sounded.
“Approaching ship!” Tucker exclaimed. “Scanning it now!”
“Incoming transmission!” Gizdara announced.
“Play it over the comms.” Aya replied.
The message that played over their speakers was in a crackling, robotic voice. It’s language was foreign and unknown to them, but the tone seemed serious.
“It’s a warning,” Aya announced. “Gizdara, activate the tetrad certified translator. I want to know what it’s saying.”
“The message won’t be enough for the translator to get a handle on the language.” Gizdara retorted.
“It’s a start.”
The message repeated a few more times, then cut out in a crackle of distortions and static, like a corrupted audio file. Only the proximity alert continued to chime, breaking the silence with an irritating whine.
Suddenly, a hemispherical ship emitting a ring of red light from the edges of its lower hull came into view.
“Ship in sight!” Tucker exclaimed.
Vishkesh quickly examined it. “Intel was accurate. It’s a launch platform. Fully automated. Unmanned. Feel free to blow it up without worry!”
“Confirmed! Not reading any signs of life inside the ship.” Tucker added. “Take over Gizdara, I’ll man the guns!” With a grin, Tucker nodded at Diggs. “Come on, pal. Make yourself useful. We’ve got more than one gun.”
Tucker and Diggs hurried over to the gun controls as the enemy ship began to open.
“It’s launching a combat drone.”
Aya let out a sigh. She preferred to avoid a fight whenever possible. Still, at least the only loss of life they had to worry about was their own. “Engage.”
Hops tore off through space at breakneck speed as Tucker and Diggs fired at the launch platform. (GM Comment: technically, it was only Tucker. As a hireling Diggs cannot actually aid in battle. I only described him doing so in session for flavour).
The battle was a tricky one, and the launch platform managed to deploy three combat drones before we destroyed it. The combat drones stood little chance after that. My daughter had great fun flying our ship and acting as pilot, but did need help to properly move the ship and select her fancy flight maneuvers. My son rather enjoyed being engineer with his drone (which is my personal favourite starship role). My husband’s character is a solid gunner, and even when firing an extra gun most rounds he managed to do a number on the enemy fighters. And me? I enjoyed bossing everyone around with serene, super serious commands. I even put on my serious face for the occasion. Haha. We made use of Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield for this battle, which I highly recommend picking up if you don’t already own it.
With the enemy drones defeated, Vishkesh examined the wreckage for information and made a few nifty discoveries. Although outdated, there were some interesting algorithms in the platform’s programming which would be helpful in improving their own automated defences. Soon Infinity continued its descent to the planet.
Due to our characters backstory we had some tasks to accomplish before landing (in addition to completing our actual mission). With Tucker’s coordinates, we set out to deploy some drift beacons on Elytrio. This was a fun way to provide some hints to the planet’s purpose and past without hitting my family over the head with a massive information dump. The first deployment location was a rocky mesa on top of a small mountaintop. From there the crew found the remains of a destroyed city on an uneven plateau near the base of the mountain. They discovered that it had been blown up long ago and eroded over the centuries. At our second location the group found themselves on a dried up lake-bed, which gave them some clues to Elytrio’s past eco-systems. They also discovered a new species of bug scurrying across the ground, which Tucker collected for further study, and some razor sharp weeds that they thought would easily be blown around by the wind and could cause some irritating cuts and wounds. The third location was in the desert beside a metal spire. They discovered the spire was the antenna or technological device that topped a building of some kind. After some examining from Vishkesh, he deduced that this was a power relay that sent energy and messages to a distant loctation just outside the atmosphere. Likely one of Elytrio’s two barren moons. Interesting!
The final drift beacon location was also going to be our final landing site. It was located as close to the city’s force field as we could get. After setting up the beacon in the desert wastes the group bid Diggs and Gizdara goodbye, leaving them behind to keep and eye on the starship. Then Aya, Hops, Snowball, Tucker, Vishkesh, and Rijin set off across the sands towards the city’s glowing forcefield.
Suddenly there was a shifting in the sands… a grumble of the earth… and a massive beast that looked like an oversized lion with a beige mane and a body covered in dark brown scales leapt out of the sand and chomped at Tucker! It had a stubby face with a maw filled with razor sharp fangs, and a long, segmented tail.
“Aaaah!” Tucker exclaimed as he dodged out of the way. “We’ve got company!”
“Bad kitty!” Rijin scolded the sand brute in an overly happy robot voice.
“Yeah!” Vishkesh said with a nod. “BAD CAT! SHOO!”
The creature let out a terrifying roar. Hops’ eyes widened in fear. “Let’s get out of here!”
“Hold your ground!” Aya commanded. “If you run it will follow. Weapons out. Engage!”
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He fired a shot at the sand brute with his azimuth laser pistol, only for the creature’s hide to reflect the blast. Tucker let out a surprised shriek and ducked, causing the reflected laser beam to strike the sand right behind him. “It’s got a reflective hide!”
“No lasers,” Aya quickly commanded.
Vishkesh gave Rijin a nod. “Battle mode, Rijin!”
Rijin’s little metal hands waved around in excitement, drew a flare gun and loaded it. “Okay! I am so happy to be engaging in deadly battle with you today!”
Vishkesh stroked his multiple guns. “Oh, my… Decisions, decisions! This feels like a flame-thrower moment to me!” He pulled out his flamethrower, took aim, and unleashed a torrent of fire at the sand beast. The creature howled in pain.
Aya drew her battle staff and gave it a whirl. It spun through the air with a ‘whoosh’ sound. “I’ll distract the creature. Keep up the assault at range.” With her orders given, Aya dashed into honourable battle against the sand brute. She swung her battle staff, striking the beast in it’s forelimb. It growled in pain and bit at her, but she knocked it’s jaws out of the way with her staff — the first time. It growled and snapped at her again, tearing into the flesh on one of her four arms.
Hops nodded at Snowball. “Let’s hop to it!” she exclaimed (my daughter giggled in glee at her rabbit joke). Then she got to spell casting! She fired an icy cold ray of energy at the monster, while Snowball hopped around her feet.
Meanwhile, Tucker frowned. “But I only have laser guns!” He holstered his gun, drew his survival knife and took a deep breath. “Let’s dance!” (my daughter giggled in glee at my husband’s dancing joke). Tucker dove and tumbled across the battlefield and joined Aya in melee combat, stabbing at the sand brute as he danced around it. Aya whacked it with her staff, while Rijin and Vishkesh burnt it up with their flame-throwers and flare guns.
The battle was surprisingly short, but we took heavy damage. Aya had to cast multiple healing spells on the group, and use up some resolve to utilize her healing channel ability. Yesteryear’s Truth makes use of Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Terrain for this encounter, but (since I don’t own that) we used Pathfinder Flip Mat: Bigger Basic instead.
With the beast finally down she moved to cast another healing spell, only to see figures surround them. They were small beetle-like people with hard outer shells and protruding mandibles. They wore tattered cloaks and big goggles over their eyes. In their hands they held rifles, but they did not aim them. Instead, one of the bug-men approached and spoke.
Unable to understand, Aya pulled out the translator again, and got it working. It would take ten minutes of conversation, but eventually it would be able to translate simple sentences back and forth between the common tongue and… whatever the bug-men were speaking. It sounded the same as the language transmitted by the defence platform.
Aya led the crew through some pantomime in order to put the bug-people at ease. In time, they approached closer and the translator began to work. They learned that these people were called -untranslatable word-
For the record, I had great fun roleplaying the translators capabilities in this adventure, and the interactions of the group. It was awesome to watch my kids try to puzzle out messages that wouldn’t get garbled or messed up in translation, and to pantomime and act when translation was inadequate. So much fun!
Eventually they earned enough of the leader’s trust that Aya was allowed to cast a spell upon him (share language), which granted the bug-leader, Dystane, the ability to speak and understand Common, Kasathan, and Akitonian. From there, communication got much easier. They learned that the bug-people were known as ghibrani, and that this group were hunters, out scouring the deserts for food for their tribe. Aya offered the ghibrani the corpse of the sand brute and together they helped haul the lion-monster back to the ghibrani’s home. The crew was surprised to discover that was in the opposite direction of the city. Interesting!
Still, they all prioritized befriending the locals over investigating a city they might not be able to a access, so they followed the ghibrani into the desert without fuss. After half an hour they came to a drab cliff pockmarked with holes and cracks. More ghibrani crawled in and out of the crevices, which were clearly serving as their homes. Most of them wore plain scraps of clothing, while a few also wore make-shift goggles and carried a battered old gun in a holster at their side. There was a tiny, little garden off to the side which was clearly in poor health. That it was growing at all in these conditions caused Aya to raise an eyebrow ridge in surprise. There was also a crumbling well nearby, and a pair of older looking ghibrani wearing colourful necklaces who were surrounded by ghibrani children. It looked like they were telling them a story, or perhaps educating them.
At the sight of the hunters returning with a massive sand brute, the ghibrani cheered — until they noticed the weird strangers that accompanied them. Then the little beetle-people shrieked and scurried into their caves in a panic. Only the two elderly ghibrani and the few armed with guns remained in sight.
Dystane spoke to the elders in their harsh, chittering language while the the translator tried its best to keep up.
“Greeting brother -untranslatable word- sister -untranslatable word-. I will that mother -untranslatable word- watch you close. Find strangers who kill sand brute. Gift to us. Food. Many. “
The conversation continued and Dystane gestured the PCs forward. “This is Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir. They serve Mother Touloo and lead our colony. Come. I will assist with translating.”
Everyone introduced themselves, then my family began asking questions of the ghibrani. They were surprised to find that none of the ghibrani asked questions of them! Turns out that Mother Touloo was a god who promised to save the ghibrani if they left behind the comforts of civilization and lived a life of hardship in the deserts. Although the ghibrani were happy to receive visitors — a joyous event which had only happened twice in recent memory — they were not interested in learning about whatever comforts and technologies the strangers from the sky possessed.
After only a short conversation Brother Koseemo beckoned at the caves and chittered some more.
The translator tried it’s best. “Stop speak. No deep speak. Welcome return hunter special ceremony. Happy feelings follow participate.”
Dystane’s mandibles clacked. “Brother Koseemo says that before we can speak in depth our people must perform the Welcoming. This is a special ritual where we officially receive our returning hunters. We would be overjoyed if you would join us.”
Aya bowed respectfully. “We would be honoured.”
The others agreed and soon were ushered into a large cave in the cliff. It was stuffy inside, with a fire burning in the centre of the room. It was surrounded by ghibrani, all standing in lines. There were a few piles of furs and leathers around the edges of the room where some ghinbrani set up drums and instruments made of stone and hide. Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir crossed the room and stood at the opposite side of the entrance, while the hunters and the PCs waited at the cave mouth. There was some chittering, which the translator couldn’t quite translate from across the room, and then the ghibrani began to play a surprisingly stately tune. There was some waving, some bowing, and then the lines of the ghibrani — including the hunters — began a clearly choreographed processional dance. A few of the ghibrani looked at them expectantly.
“They want us to join in,” Aya explained.
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He watched the dancers for a moment and then began to mimc their movements. A natural dancer, and incredibly graceful, Tucker caught on incredibly quick and was soon dancing even better than the locals. Hops, who loved dancing nearly as much as Tucker, noticed the patterns in the ghibrani movements and joined in with confidence. Vishkesh and Aya tried to join in, but proved incapable of mimicking the ghibrani’s movements, despite their best efforts. As the dance drew to a close the ghibrani cheered and clapped. A few hurried over to Hops and Tucker and drew them into hugs as family. They chittered at Tucker, who had added a few creative flourishes to the dance.
“You teach us rhythmic movement pretty,” the translator announced.
Tucker smiled and tried to teach the ghibrani some of his dance moves. Hops joined in and the pair had a ball. Vishkesh approached the musicians and enquired after their instruments (with Dystane assisting as translator). As he attempted to learn about their music Aya wandered the room nodding her head in greeting at the ghibrani. Everywhere she looked was poverty and hunger. She beckoned Dystane join her, then approached Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir.
“I understand Mother Touloo protects you because you choose to live here. It is a hard life, yes? You seem to be proud, capable survivors. But, tell me. Survival is taking what you can when you can find it, yes? We have plenty of food on our starship — ” She considered her words before continuing. “On our moving home. May I bring you some food in exchange for your hospitality? As an offering to your people?”
Dystane translated and the elders chittered at each other for a while. Eventually Dystane nodded at Aya. “You are one of us now. Ghibrani welcomed home. Here we share all that we have with one another. We accept your offer of food and in exchange call you Hunter. This is a great honour. But, please, keep your other comforts on this ‘moving home’ of yours. We will accept nothing else.”
Aya nodded. “Thank you.” Then she fetched Vishkesh who clapped his hands happily at the news. The duo went outside and contacted Gizdara and Diggs on their communicators, telling them to move the ship closer — but not within sight of the caves. Then they began unloading food for their new friends. Tucker and Hops soon came out to help, as did Dystane. At the sight of their ship he stood stunned for a moment and turned around, pointedly refusing to look at the technological marvel any longer. After a few trips to and from the ship, the PCs returned to the party to find themselves welcomed with cheers. A few children had already snuck into the food stores and were eating flavoured protein sticks with excitement — a joyous event which the nearby ghibrani pretended not to notice.
As the festivities continued they were approached by a strange ghibrani. Where the others were short and stocky looking, this ghibrani was tall and slender. Where the others were brown, this ghibrani was blue. And where the others clambered and climbed over everything, this ghibrani flew. The ghibrani held a hand to its throat and then pointed at Vishkesh’s. Curious, Vishkesh went closer. The ghibrani cast a spell and then placed a hand on Vishkesh’s throat. Then she did the same to the others. With a clack of her mandibles she said “Greetings, strangers from the sky. I am Klarima. You are different from any I have met before. Are you a Husk or a Membrane among your people?”
Despite that the ghibrani had spoken in her native tongue, everyone understood her perfectly. With a wide grin Hops introduced everyone, then she asked, “What are Husk and Membranes? And why do you look so different than everyone else?”
Klarima clapped her hands. “If you do not know of Membranes and Husks, then surely you must be uneducated Husks! This makes sense. Do not worry about your lack of knowledge. I will teach you. Membranes like myself know much.”
Klarima explained that long ago a great war raged across Elytrio’s many ghibrani nations. Their weapons killed each other and most living creatures across the planet. Arkeost was the name of one of the cities that survived, locked behind a powerful forcefield. That was Klarima’s home. Some of the surviving ghibrani chose to worship a new god — their Mother Touloo — who promised them protection if they lived in the wastes. Due to the radiation, these ghibrani lost the use of their wings and became known by the citizens of Arkeost as Husks. The other ghibrani stayed in Arkeost and became known as Membranes by the Husks. Apparently Arkeost was a city of automated luxury, where the citizens want and work for nothing. All is provided for them.
“Unfortunately, I have been afflicted with a severe case of wanderlust!” Klarima joked. “I wanted to see the world outside of Arkeost, but I was wounded by soarnettles. Foolish of me, I know. The Husks bandaged my wounds and gave me shelter, but I was hoping to return home soon. This place is…. not to my liking.”
The group was grateful for the information, and thanked Klarima.
“Can we accompany you?” Tucker asked. “We were hoping to view Arkeost ourselves.”
“Oh, I would enjoy that very much! You will be the first Husks to visit Arkeost since the separation!”
Hops laughed. “We’re not Husks, Klarima.”
“Oh? You can fly?”
“Then you are Husks! I am sad for you, of course. But you should accept your heritage.”
Aya looked around the cave, then at the frail looking membrane. “I do not wish to burden our hosts with accommodating all of us. I suggest we offer our gratitude and then some of us retire to our starship.” She looked at her crew, who nodded at her in turn. Then she continued, “Would you like to see our ship, Klarima? You may spend the night with us, and we can fly to your city at dawn. I will spend the night with the Husks.”
Klarima clapped her hands in glee, clearly happy at the thought of leaving the caves. “I would like that very much.”
So the group enjoyed the rest of the party, bid their hosts farewell, and then returned to Infinity. Tucker, Hops and Vishkesh gave Klarima a tour and found her incredibly curious about… everything! Although, she was oddly incapable of doing anything for herself. Meanwhile, Aya enjoyed the simple but welcoming hospitality of the Husks.
My kids had a wonderful time with this whole section of the scenario. They adored interacting with the Husks, winning their friendship, and then showing Klarima around their ship. It’s why we picked this one to play, actually. I knew they’d love it.
The next morning Aya rejoined the group with some gifts from the Husks (a few healing serums that smelt like licorice, and a rifle) then they flew off back to a safe landing zone near Arkeost. Klarima used her magic to make the crew understand the ghibrani tongue, and then they approached the forcefield. Klarima pulled out a clunky, old fashioned data-pad and clicked away on it. Nothing happened, and Klarima’s mandibles clacked in impatience. She re-entered the commands and this time a gap opened in the forcefield, like a little door. The group filed in and Klarima tapped a few commands on her data-pad, causing the forcefield to close back up.
Arkeost was a sprawling metropolis with tall buildings lined with open doorways in place of windows. Membranes flitted through the air without a care, while robots and drones traversed the city’s lower levels, flying higher only when necessary. The streets and roads at ground level were in horrible condition, broken, jagged, and impassable in many places. Flowerbeds and gardens were overgrown, and all of the structures were suffering under years of rust, wear, and neglect. Although Arkeost was still standing, it was clearly not well maintained.
A group of Membrane guards wearing matching armour and carrying fine looking laser pistols approached the group and demanded to know the PCs business, but Klarima calmed them.
“Fear not, Honoured Guards! These Husks are my guests. I am taking them to see the Most Elevated!”
The guards, who did not seem very comfortable with their gear, eyed the group warily. “Very well,” the finally chittered. “We will escort you on your journey.”
And with that, a few more Membranes fell in line behind the group.
“Who is the Most Elevated?” Hops asked curiously.
“Oh, my! What a question to ask! Although, I suppose you are only Husks. The intricacies of proper Ghibrani society were lost to your people long ago. The Most Elevated are Arkeost’s governing council of most elder, wise, and important ghibrani. They will want to see you for themselves! It is a great honour!”
Hops rolled her eyes at being called a Husk and shrugged, following along with the others. Klarima and the guards flew relatively low to the ground, making keeping up with them only a little difficult. They were led through the city to the tallest and grandest building, located right at the heart of Arkeost. There, Klarima and the guards flew up towards an open doorway.
“Where did you go? Ah! Of course! You are Husks! I have forgotten again.” Klarima laughed. “I am afraid our city if not meant for ghibrani unable to fly. We have always had the ability, you see.” Klarima pulled out her data-pad and tapped a few commands into it. Soon a quartet of floating platforms arrived in front of the group. “There are hover disks used to transport goods and supplies through the city. You may ride on them. However, I recommend hanging on tight! They have no safety harnesses. Also, I hear Husks have a great fear of heights!”
The guards let out a chittering laugh.
Everyone climbed aboard their hover disks and held on. It was an unstable, jolting ride. Clearly very dangerous! There was a sudden puffing sound, and then a whine, as Hops’ hover disk malfunctioned. Her eyes widened, and she began to plummet back down to the ground.
“Eeeek!” she shrieked. But, as she neared the ground her hover platform let out another puff and a whine, and it’s engine turned back on. Hops once again began her ascent, although this time she wore a terrified, panicked look.
“Oh, dear!” Vishkesh exclaimed. “I think your drones could use some maintenance.”
“Maintenance?” Klarima asked. “You mean labour?” she laughed. “Oh, everything is done for us in Arkeost. I am sure if it is in need of main-ten-ants it will be taken care of.”
Vishkesh’s antennae twitched in agitation. He was pretty sure there was a lot of things around here that could use fixing…
After a shaky ride the hover disks dropped the group off at the entrance forty feet above the ground. Hops quickly scurried onto solid ground and clutched Snowball tight. Her robot rabbit twitched its nose and nuzzled her, guided by the artificial personality she had programmed in it. “That was… scary!” Hops muttered. Snowball made a clicking sound and cuddled up closer to Hops.
“Yes, I was afraid that Husks would not enjoy the flight.” Klarima replied.
Hops scrunched up her face. “Hey! I LOVE flying. I’m a pilot, you know! I just don’t like riding malfunctioning death platforms!”
The Membranes let out a chittering laugh, and ushered the group inside. Hops put down Snowball and followed after the others.
Rijin flew up to Hops. “You did not die a horrible death! I am pleased!”
Vishkesh laughed. “Me too!”
They travelled down winding hallways and came to a large central chamber that held a massive table surrounded by chairs. A collection of five Membranes dressed in elaborate clothing sat in the chairs chatting amongst themselves. At the sight of the group they regarded the PCs with their shimmering, multifaceted eyes. They stood, bowed to the group, and then gestured for them to approach. Klarima and the guards bowed in return, so Aya, Tucker, Hops and Vishkesh did the same.
“I cannot bow!” Rijin exclaimed happily. “I do not possess a waist!”
Snowball twitched its nose.
Klarima introduced the group and everyone took a seat at the table.
“Do all of your people look like you?” one of the Most Elevated asked.
Vishkesh shook his head. “Oh, we are not all of the same people at all! I am shirren, Hops and Tucker are ysoki, and Aya is kasathan. Snowball and Rijin here are drones created by myself and Hops.”
“I see!” Another nodded. “And all of your people are Husks?” the same Membrane asked.
“It is unfortunate your servants seem so small.” another added, clearly referring to the robots in the group.
Hops crinkled her nose. “We’re not Husks. We’re all different races from different worlds.”
“But you cannot fly?” One of the Most Elevated pointed out. “So you are Husks.”
“Other worlds?” Another asked. “You are referring to other cities on the far side of Elytrio?”
Aya shook her head. “We are not, Most Elevated. We come from outer space. The skies.” She paused a moment and added, “At night the stars shine brightly. Yes? If you were to travel to those stars, each is a sun, like the one you have here. Many of those suns are surrounded by other planets — worlds like Elytrio, but different. Some of those planets bear life, and others do not. Each of us comes from a different planet in space. Our galaxy is known as the Pact Worlds. It — “
Suddenly there was a chiming of bells. The Most Elevated clapped their hands.
“Yes, yes, I see,” replied one of the Most Elevated. They seemed unsurprised at such talk. “Dinner is served!”
Klarima smiles. “You are in for a real treat, my friends! It feels like ages since I have had a proper meal!”
Hover drones flew into the room from hidden hatches and placed ceramic bowls and a flat, stick-like utensil at every spot at the table. Others came out and squirted a serving of thick tan liquid filled with chunks of…. something. It smelt like smoke and cheese.
Rijin waves its hands at the hover drones. “Greetings friend robots! I am smiling in my heart! Pleasing to meet you!”
The hover drones didn’t respond, but that didn’t stop Rijin from speaking to/at them.
Some of the drones made an unappetizing sound when they served the food, while others flew irregularly. One of them missed a bowl completely and poured food all over the tabletop and Tuckers hand.
Klarima didn’t seem to notice. “This is called kahlgee! It’s delicious!”
The ghibrani all began to eat, while the Starfinders eyed the food suspiciously. Aya picked up her flat stick and used it as a spoon to scoop food up to her mouth (behind her mouth-mask). The others followed suit only to find the food was disgusting. Vishkesh ate it without complaint, Aya gagged but forced it down, Hops spit it out across the table in shock. Everyone turned to look at her. She chuckled nervously and tried to eat the rest of the food, which made her very ill. Still, she managed. Meanwhile Tucker spent the meal pretending to eat and subtly disposing of the food wherever he could without being caught. Halfway through the meal the lights flickered, and Tucker quickly dumped the rest of his food into another nearby bowl. Finished, he smiled brightly and began to chat with the other diners.
“That was lovely, thank you. Is there anything we can do to show our gratitude to you? Anything we can do to aid the ghibrani of Arkeost?” Tucker asked.
The Most Elevated laughed in unison. “We thank you for your generosity, but nothing is wrong here. Nothing needs to be done. We require no aid. Life in Arkeost is perfect.”
Tucker raised an eyebrows. “I see… Those power disruptions. The… uh… flickering lights and malfunctioning drones. Do those happen often?”
“Oh, there is no need to worry,” one of the Most Elevated replied. “The Mainframe acts up on occasion, but it always self-corrects in a few seconds.” They seemed unconcerned.
“I see. May I hear more about the Mainframe? We’re all fascinated with technology.” Tucker added with a smile. Perhaps the ghibrani could become allies of the Starfinders if Tucker and the team were able to repair their power grid.
“The Mainframe is located at the outskirts of the city. It was constructed by our ancestors to provide continuous power to Arkeost, and to house the many servants that cater to our whims.” One of the most Elevated gestures to a nearby robot. “Unfortunately I know no more of it than that. It is taboo for ghibranis to enter the area of the city where it is housed.”
“You’re not allowed to access your city’s own Mainframe? Uh… Aren’t you concerned about that? Who maintains it?” Tucker asked in surprise.
“The servants, of course.” Another answered happily. Clearly they were not concerned.
“I think that your servants could use a bit of help.” Tucker remarked with a smile. “May we visit the Mainframe ourselves to assist them? We are not ghibrani.”
The Most Elevated shook its head. “You clearly are Husks…”
The dinner bell sounded again. A flurry of hover drones flew out of the wall and set the table again — right on top of old dishes and uneaten food. A moment later a second set of drones flew out of the walls and poured more kahlgee into the bowls. The table was a massive mess. The drones flew back into the walls.
The Most Elevated clacked their mandibles serenely as if nothing was amiss. No one moved to eat a second helping.
“I’m sure the cleaning servants will be along any minute…” Klarima pointed out.
“About that Mainframe,” Tucker prodded.
One of the Most Elevated nodded its head vigorously. “You may be Husks but, as you say, you are not ghibrani Husks.” The others considered this. Without waiting for their response, the speaker continued, “It is not taboo for you. You may view the grandeur of our glorious Mainframe for yourselves.” He gave the group directions.
Tucker smiled. “Thanks. We’d like to head there soon, if you don’t mind.” He dreaded the thought of dessert.
The Most Elevated smiled. “Klarima will show you the way. Farewell.”
And with that, the Starfinders quickly left the messy, smelly table behind and hurried back out to the hover disks.
Hops groaned. “Not this again! Auw… When we get back to Absalom Station I need to invest in some jump jets!”
Vishkesh smiled. “I hope you do not fall to your doom!” He looked at the disks. “Hmm… Decisions, decisions… I will select… this one!” He squealed in delight. “I hope it is stable!”
My kids had great fun interacting with the Membranes. They tried their best to think of sneaky ways to avoid eating the kahlgee without offending their hosts. I found their attempts at conversation a blast. It was so fun watching them try to figure out how to explain things to the Membranes without being offended. Particularly when the Membranes didn’t seem to get the point. My daughter crossed her arms and scrunched up her nose every time someone called her a Husk, but couldn’t quite think of an argument that proved she wasn’t one. And those hover disks? They were so excited at first, but on the way back? Ha! They were terrified of stepping back on those things. It was hilarious. We had a blast.
The group descended down to ground level, then Klarima guided them through the city. The Starfinders examined the city as they travelled, and spoke with the locals. By the time they reached the edge of the city the streets and buildings were in much worse repair. The building was small and squat, but a constant stream of drones of all kinds moved in and out of the building. Massive signs reading “TABOO!” “NO ENTRY!” and “Off limits to ghibrani!” were hung all around the building.
Klarima waved farewell to the Starfinders. “I will wait out here for you.”
The Starfinders headed inside and were greeted by a series of ramps that descended down into the earth in a wide spiral, like a parking garage — although instead of storing vehicles it stored drones. They turned on the flashlights built into their armour and headed down the ramps. Eventually they reached a hallway different than the others. They headed inside and found themselves in a white plastic room lit by incredibly bright lights. The group filed in and looked around. Fans spun overhead, and a series of coveralls lined one wall.
Hops eyed the coveralls. “Should we be wearing those?”
Tucker shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt.”
Aya nodded. “I recommend it, if you can.”
Hops and Tucker put on coveralls, although they were too small for Vishkesh and Aya. Vishkesh squished himself into a pair, but Aya refrained. Together they approached a nearby door. Aya moved to open it and was electrocuted. She grunted in pain and surprise.
“Oh, dear! That looked painful!” Vishkesh happily pointed out.
“Whoah!” Tucker exclaimed. “I… didn’t expect that. Sorry.” He turned to the door and pulled out a series of tools and gadgets from his backpack. “I’ve got this.” As he worked he told the others, “Nobody touch anything unless I give the go ahead. There might be more traps or malfunctioning systems in here.”
Aya drew herself up to standing. “Agreed.”
“Is that maybe why this place is taboo?” Hops wondered aloud. “Because it’s dangerous?”
Aya considered this. “It is possible. Or, perhaps the city’s builders wanted to prevent meddling.”
“It is possible,” Hops mimicked. Aya didn’t seem to mind.
With a swoosh, the door slid open. Tucker put away his tools and led the way inside the next room. It’s walls were also made of plastic, and it’s entire floor was a bright light. Four pillars covered in circuitry and four waist-high generators circled the centre of the room. One of the generators was surrounded by flashing red lights, clearly showing it was in need of repairs.
Tucker led the group inside and began to look around for traps and hazards. Suddenly panels on the walls slid open and a trio of robots that looked like a mix between Husk and Membrane ghibrani stepped into the room.
“Restricted area!” The robot announced. “Leave immediately or be terminated!”
Despite the warning, the robot did not wait for the group to leave. Instead, it shot laser beams out of its eyes right at them.
“Eeek!” Hops shrieked.
“Engage!” Aya ordered.
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He dove across the room and fired his laser pistol at the nearest robot. “BOOM!”
“Rijin!” Vishkesh commanded. “Battle mode!”
“Yes, sir! I will happily assault my fellow robots on your behalf!” Rijin replied. He pulled out his flare gun and aimed it at a robot. “Pew pew!” he called out as he fired the flare.
Rijin examined his guns. “Decisions, decisions… This feels like a — “
A laser beam zipped past his head and nearly singed an antenna. “Yup! Laser pistol it is!” He drew and fired his pistol at the robots. “I adore my flame thrower, but I do not want to cause unnecessary harm to the room’s generators!”
“Get behind me Snowball!” Hops exclaimed as she fired off energy rays at the robots.
Aya strode into honourable melee combat with her combat staff.
Once again, this battle was short but painful! Aya used up nearly all of her magic on healing spells for the group. Once the battle was over they took a ten minute break to rest and recuperate, then Aya finished healing the group with her magic. Meanwhile, Vishkesh, Rijin, and Tucker got to work repairing the generators, and Hops ran a diagnostics check and fixed some faulty programming. As the red lights stopped flashing, the group smiled.
“Well, that should stop the power fluctuations,” Tucker remarked.
Vishkesh smiles happily. “Joyous news!”
“High five’s team!” Rijin exclaimed. “Although my hand appendages only possess three digits!”
When they were done the group moved on, heading over to another nearby door. Tucker checked it out and decided it looked safe. They headed inside and found the room full of computer servers. They looked around, then approached the access terminal. Hops clicked away for a while and gained access to the mainframe.
“Oh, wow!” Hops exclaimed. “I thought this would control the mainframe, but it’s… like… everything! It looks like a long time ago they took all the information from the local databases and transferred them here. Some of its classified. Information from past leaders and stuff…” Hops began to sift through the data, and transferred all the important information about Elytrio and it’s society to Snowball — who was a walking computer.
As she read, she frowned. “Oh my… Uh… Well, some of this we guessed already. Elytrio used to have a variety of ecosystems until it was ravaged by nuclear war a few years after the Gap. There were a lot of different ghibrani nations up until then, and it looks like this city is the only place that survived the devastation. Lots of people died.” Hops shook her head sadly. “They used to worship Damoritosh. Before the war they managed to achieve orbital flight and built some stuff on their moons, but never actually got into outer space. Hmm… Looks like they anticipated a lot of trouble with keeping the population in Arkeost fed…. Something about automation… and…. Oh, my….”
Hops pressed a button and a video clip played on the screen. It showed a ghibrani who displayed features of both Husks and Membranes dressed in fine clothes. “…without a doubt food will runout before the end of one hundred years. As such, we have decided to enact protocol Exodus…” the video glitches before continuing. “…purposefully engineer several disasters to befall the surviving population. Rumours will be seeded throughout the lower and middle quarters that an angry Damoritosh was responsible for this ‘divine punishment.’ Select personnel, officers and delegates will know this to be false. Such agents will work to spread the creation of a false deity we’re going to call ‘Mother Touloo” who will promise salvation to those ghibrani who give up the comforts of civilization and head out into the wastes. One of our eldest — Most Elevated Gaulwen — is ill. He will serve as the leader of this false faith and lead a sizeable contingent of ghibrani’s into the wastelands. They will die, of course, but the leaders of Arkeost, our most trusted advisors, government officials, and military personnel, along with our closest friends and family, will remain behind…” the video glitches again. “Thus ensuring the continued survival of the great ghibrani people. Long live Arkeost. Praise Damoritosh. The war will be won.”
The video fell silent.
My daughter looked thoughtful. “Huh.”
My son shook his head. “So… they made up a fake god and tricked people into leaving their city? But the people who left became the Husks, right? The didn’t all die. Some lived.”
I nodded. “And the people who stayed in Arkeost became the Membranes. They also lived.”
My son shook his head again. “They were so… MEAN.”
I nodded noncommittally. This is the kind of thing I prefer to let my kids puzzle out and form an opinion of themselves, before throwing my two cents in there.
My daughter shrugged. “At least some people lived. Maybe they would all be dead if they didn’t do that.”
“But… They thought the Husks would DIE! I love the Husks!” My son replied.
“Wait.” My daughter said. “Does this mean the Membranes are bad?”
I shrugged. “What do you think?”
They thought. My daughter eventually said, “I will use my computers to see what happened after that stuff. When this mean guy was going to die or something.”
Hops sifted through the datalogs and eventually found some more videos and reports. Turns out only select personnel were told that Mother Touloo was fake. The remaining ghibrani held a ceremony bidding those who left farewell, then continued on with their lives. They completed automation on the city, ensuring that they and their descendants would live a life of leisure for centuries to come. A few decades later it became clear that some ghibrani has survived the wastes. The leaders of Arkeost publicly called this a blessing, but warned their people to stay clear of them and their strange religion. They had ordered all data of the past be transferred to the central mainframe and, as those ghibrani who created Mother Touloo neared the end of their lives, they closed off the Mainframe to prevent any of their fellows from learning the truth of Mother Touloo. Such knowledge could be dangerous.
My kids thought some more.
“Well… it is not really the fault of the Membranes that are left… Their grandparents and stuff were the mean ones….”
My kids thought some more. Their characters gathered all the information they could, and then left the Mainframe, locking it up behind them. Back outside, they found Klarima.
“How was it?” she asked.
“We learned much,” Aya replied.
“And we fixed the power fluctuations!” Vishkesh added helpfully.
My kids looked at each other.
“Are you going to tell anyone in Arkeost about Mother Touloo?” I asked them.
My kids shook their heads.
“What about the Husks? Will you tell them the truth?”
My kids shook their heads.
“Doing so might cause a war.” My husband pointed out. “But, they also deserve to know.”
My kids thought some more. They shook their heads.
“You’re keeping it quiet?” I confirmed.
The Starfinders returned to the centre of Arkeost and spent the night among the Membranes. The next day they left the city, with Klarima at their sides in order to access the forcefield.
“Something happened in the Mainframe,” Klarima pointed out. “I can feel it. You are burdened.”
My kids (and their characters) fell into guilty silence.
Aya stepped forward. “We learned much. Not all was good. But, it is the past. We would prefer not to dredge it back up. Divisions and anger can help neither Husk, nor Membrane at this stage.”
Klarima thought on this. “We have plenty, and they have nothing. But, I wonder who is better off. After seeing the Husks…. They can care for themselves. Membranes cannot.” She drifted off into silence. “Arkeost is great. I wish the Husks would accept its wonders. But then, I suppose their Mother would no longer protect them.” She shrugged. “I wish I could help them both.” With a clack of her mandibles she held out her hands in farewell. “It was a pleasure to meet you. I hope you enjoy your other worlds.”
“You should come with us!” Hops exclaimed.
My son grinned. “Yeah!” Vishkesh announced. “Come fly on our starship with us. You can join the Starfinders and see the galaxy! Maybe you’ll learn something helpful. That can help all ghibrani.”
Klarima clapped her hands. “Really? You would take me with you? Oh, I would love to!”
The Starfinders and Klarima, travelled to Infinity and headed back out into the Vast. They taught Klarima all they could — minus the history of her people — and soon returned to Absalom Station. Venture-Captain Arvin asked for a report, which they gave honestly. They provided him all the information they had learned from the Mainframe about Elytrio, it’s ruins, and history — including about Mother Touloo. Then they spoke of the cultures of the Husks and Membranes. Lastly, they told Arvin all about Klarima and the other friends they had made.
“You faced a difficult decision,” he pointed out. He made no comment on whether he agreed with their actions. “I will enter Klarima into training shortly.” After a pause, he smiled, “You did your friends from the Unbounded Wayfarer proud. I’ll contact you when the next expedition is ready to begin.”
The Starfinders fetched Klarima and brought her to see Arvin. Then they headed out into Absalom Station to recover from their adventures.
My kids had a ton of fun in this adventure. They loved interacting with the Husks and Membranes, enjoyed the starship combat against foes they didn’t have to feel bad about shooting, and made tough decisions that could affect the future of their new friends.
Today we’re going to look at Pathfinder PLAYTEST Society Scenarios and tell you what we thought. Currently, there are three of them available as a free download on Paizo’s website, so if you don’t have them yet you might as well pick them up! Each scenario is replayable. You may create your own characters for the intended tier (either created as level one for a tier one scenario, or created as level five for a tier five scenario). Unlike regular Pathfinder Society Scenarios, you do not need to earn enough XP to reach higher levels for the Playtest. If you don’t want to make your own characters, you can also head over to Paizo’s website and download the Pregenerated Pathfinder Playtest characters. All you’ll need to run these three scenarios (other than your characters) is the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook and the scenarios themselves. Each scenario is intended for groups of FOUR players (unlike regular PFS Scenarios which are intended for six) although each contains easy ways to scale up encounters for larger groups. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. Once you’re done playing or GMing any one of these scenarios, be sure to head over to Paizo’s website and fill out a survey about your experiences. This will be used by the Paizo team to make the Pathfinder Playtest the best that it can be.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Pathfinder Playtest Scenario #1: Rose Street Revenge is a Tier 1 adventure written by Leo Glass, Thurston Hillman, Joe Pasini, and Linda Zayas-Palmer. It includes three short quests which can be played in any order, followed by a fourth quest which can only be played after completing at least one of the first three quests. Each quest should run between 40-60 minutes in length. Each quest you complete before heading onto the final quest will give you an advantage in the final encounter, so I highly recommend completing all three before heading to the final quest. Plus, it’s just more fun that way. The entire adventure takes place Absalom, although each quest is set in a different neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods featured include the Docks, Puddles, Precipice and the Sewers. For more information on Absalom you can check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to Absalom and the Inner Sea World Guide. Venture-Captain Ambrus Valsin begins the adventure by explaining that there’s serial killer on the prowl stalking the recently liberated slaves of Absalom! The killer’s actions have been sensationalized by locals and they’re now known as the ‘Rose Street Killer.’ The latest victim is a Pathfinder, and so Ambrus is sending your PCs out to investigate. He gives the group some fun player hand-outs, each of which contains a different lead. Then he sends you on your way. There’s time to rest between investigating each lead, which is nice for a change. Also, it should be noted that this entire scenario makes excellent use of sidebars to relay important aspects of the rules in a way that’s helpful, easy to understand, and is NOT overwhelming. It’s wonderfully done.
The first quest in Rose Street Revenge is entitled ‘Snippets‘ and is written by Joe Pasini. In this quest you’re tasked with investigating the Bloody Barbers, a thieve’s guild known for robbery, smuggling and murder. If they’re not guilty, they’re likely to know details about the murders, as they’re very well-informed. If you can find them, of course. This quest utilizes Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: City Streets and takes place in the Docks district. It was enjoyable, and had an interesting surprise which I’ll refrain from mentioning. It allows players to make use of a wide array of skills in order to obtain information on the Bloody Barbers (WAY more than I imagined would be helpful) which is really nice to see. Surprisingly, this quest can be accomplished without violence (although most groups are likely to get into a fight). I quite enjoyed it.
The second quest in Rose Street Revenge is entitled ‘Dragons‘ and is written by Thurston Hillman. In it you are to meet with a liaison from the ‘Sewer Dragons’ kobold tribe (longstanding allies of the Pathfinder Society). Your job is to find out if the killer has been utilizing the sewer systems — which is the territory of the Sewer Dragons. The liaison offers to give you whatever help they can as long as you help them oust a rival kobold tribe (the Dragon Sharks) that is encroaching upon their territory! You get to head into the sewers and fight alongside your kobold allies against the enemy. This scenario is a LOT of fun. It is filled with wonderful social interactions (particularly with Fazgyn!). I adored Fazgyn’s lessons on trapfinding which are not only funny and entertaining, but also serve double duty as teaching players how traps work in the Pathfinder Playtest. It also gives a nice introduction to Exploration mode, and helps showcase the importance of the Sneak and Search exploration methods. This quest makes use of the Pathfinder Map Pack: Sewer System. It was my favourite of the four quests.
The third quest in Rose Street Revenge is entitled ‘Puddles‘ and is written by Linda Zayas-Palmer. It takes place in the Puddles District and tasks your PCs with asking the Muckruckers (volunteer guards for the Puddles) for information, and following up on what they tell you. This quest has some fun social interactions, and wonderful artwork for a Muckrucker named Ziraya Al-Shurati. It has by far the most clues to the true murderer’s identity and involves the most ‘crime scene’ investigation, which is great fun. However, in an effort not to spoil the mystery’s details, I won’t be saying much more than that. It utilizes Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Haunted House.
The fourth quest in Rose Street Revenge is entitled ‘Haven‘ and is written by Leo Glass. It takes place in the Precipice Quarter (which was previously known as Beldrin’s Bluff). This is the finale of the adventure, and tasks the PCs with investigating an old safe house that the victims all used at one time or another. I’ll refrain from mentioning much more than that so that I don’t spoil the mystery’s end, but I will say that it was great fun, and certainly not what I expected! This quest utilizes Pathfinder: Map Pack: Ruined Village.
Overall, I really enjoyed Rose Street Revenge. It’s a great introduction to the Pathfinder Playest system and was a lot of fun. I give it four out of five stars and highly recommend it as the first Pathfinder Playtest adventure that groups should give a try (yes, I recommend it over Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn).
A Pathfinder Agent by the name of Inisa Araali was secretly carrying an Iomedean relic by caravan from Diobel to Absalom when she was attacked. She sent Venture-Captain Ambrus Valsin a very cryptic note about the encounter, and then went off to find the relic herself. Knowing that she’ll need help he sends you to find the survivors of the caravan in Diobel, who are shacked up in a Pathfinder safe house (although he doesn’t know which one). You’ll need to find the safe house, check on the people, find out all you can about the caravan’s intended route and the attack, track down the robbers (and hopefully Inisa), retrieve the relic and get it back to Absalom. This scenario introduces secret rolls, which is necessary for knowledge and gather information checks because a critical fail on the check will result in your players uncovering false information. It’s best, of course, if your players don’t know whether the information they’ve received is false or not. That said, secret rolls can easily bog down a game (particularly if it’s heavy on the knowledge checks like this one is at the start), so proceed with this method of rolling with caution. As mentioned, this scenario begins with a bit of investigation. I really like how thorough the Recall Knowledge and Gather Information results are set up (especially the false information for a critical fail). That said, there are no pre-made PCs to interact with during this part of the investigation (which is something I always enjoy), so that’s a bit of a let down. Such embellishments will have to be up to the GM. Social encounters with the caravan survivors are helpful, but not particularly memorable. Overall, I felt that the events in Diobel fell flat. From there the mission moves on and becomes quite combat and exploration heavy. It pits you against some nice classic enemies, inculding harpies, minotaurs, and ghouls, which I really enjoyed. I particularly liked the ghoul statistics. I also really enjoyed the interactions with the minotaurs. Overall, this is the Pathfinder Playtest Scenario I liked least. I give it three out of five stars.
This scenario did a really nice job of showcasing little bits of life in Quantium right from the start, with the many overly magical effects present in the local Pathfinder Lodge, right through to the golems walking the streets, and the strange politics of the city. It made use of a ton of rare races including ifrits, oreads, shabti, mercane, and even an invisible stalker you get to chat up at a party. It was awesome. The scenario itself begins with an interesting investigation. I particularly enjoyed retrieving the victim’s corpse from the foot of a massive patrol golem — without drawing the golem’s attention! I think this part would be a lot of fun at a table. That said, I do have one issue with the investigation. At one part you notice scorch marks on a wall which the scenario says you can identify as coming from a certain spell with the ‘Identify Magic’ use of Arcana. Except Identify Magic takes an HOUR (unless you have a special ability that shortens it to ten minutes). Now, that’s not to say that it’s not doable. I suppose some groups might spend an hour looking at a few scorch marks on a wall when there’s a lot of other stuff to go check out, but I wouldn’t. It’s just another use of the ‘Identify Magic’ skill use that feels way too long and time consuming. It’s one of my pet peeves of the Pathfinder Playtest rules, and I sincerely hope they shorten the time it requires by the time Pathfinder Second Edition comes around next year. Of course, this is a nitpick of mine regarding the rules, not the scenario itself. Moving on from the investigation there’s some fun social encounters, and some awesome character art (particularly for Ngasi!). The culprit you’re supposed to unmask is variable, which changes the clues that can lead you to them. That’s a nice option for a scenario that’s supposed to be repayable. I wouldn’t say there’s a LOT of potential culprits, but it’s certainly not static. The final encounter is quite complex, and includes different tactics and available spells depending on which Arclord ends up being your enemy, It’s going to be quite a climatic battle, I think. Overall, I thought the scenario was fresh, fun, and in a great location. I give it four out of five stars.
And that’s all for today! I hope you enjoyed checking out these scenarios with me. I know I enjoyed reading them. I’m quite excited to run my kids through the ‘Rose Street Revenge’ when we have a chance.
In case you haven’t heard: Season Ten is here! And let me tell you, it starts STRONG!
Today we’re going to take a look at THREE of the most recent Pathfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers then I recommend clicking on a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Pathfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So let’s get cracking!
Scenario #10-01: Oathbreakers Die has an awesome, spectacular, WONDERFUL opening that really flips the player’s expectations on its head. You chat with your companions on the trip and arrive in Daggermark to meet your Venture-Captain Istivil Bosk (who’s been around since Season 0’s Scenario #17: Perils of the Pirate Pact). Once it gets started, this mission involves tracking down assassins and solving a murder investigation. Due to the nature on these sorts of scenarios I won’t say much on its content. This scenario features a lot of fun NPCs to interact with including suspects, contacts, fellow agents, and even enemies. If you happen to have any characters kicking around who’ve played Scenario #17: Perils of the Pirate Pact I recommend sending them on this mission. It’s one of the few (perhaps only? I’ll have to check) scenarios that Istivil Bosk appears in (although canny GMs may have worked him into the Silverhex Chronicles, which is a free download and great fun). This scenario has great GM references which will be very helpful for running this scenario. The battles are interesting and complex but I think the truly great part of this scenario is the feeling of urgency which should settle over your PCs at some point. It was really well done. The other nice thing about this scenario is that your actions have direct repercussions. Your players may not realize it at first, but their behaviour in this scenario with decide the fate of the Pathfinder Society in Daggermark, the fate of at least one other agent, and the fate of the Dryblade House Pathfinder Lodge. Overall I thought this scenario was really well written and fast-paced. It’s one of my favourite tier 1-5 scenarios. I give it five out of five stars.
This adventure is different. It begins when Venture-Captain Finze Bellaugh tasks the PCs with escorting a traumatized Pathfinder agent to the site of his previously failed mission many years ago. They need to get there, retrieve the artifacts he left behind, and lift the curse that was placed upon him. Then they need to get home. That’s the mission. But, at it’s heart, that’s not the point of this mission at all. The point is to help the agent, Stuinvolk Hundrakson, confront his past and get some closure. You need to help him heal and that’s not something that can be accomplished in a single mission. You won’t make Stuinvolk ‘better.’ But you can aid him on his road to recovery. Stuinvolk is a very complicated character. He was handled with such exceptional care in this scenario, which is just spectacular. But, he’s not the easiest to portray. GMs will need to be very attentive to ensure that he doesn’t become a cliché. In addition to roleplaying, the interactions with Stuinvolk make use of the influence system from Ultimate Intrigue, but all the necessary rules are contained within this scenario. It also did an excellent job of allowing for various occult skill unlocks (awesome!).
That said, this mission’s not all about making Stuinvolk feel better. There’s still all the battles, social encounters, and environmental hazards you can expect in a typical scenario packed into this one. You’ll have to deal with heat and natural hazards. You’ll be passing by Mzali territory, so you’ll have to be wary of being spotted or ambushed. And the relics won’t be easy to obtain. The battles were great fun. Particularly against a certain recurring night-time visitor. There’s some very interesting social encounters that can determine whether you make your targets allies or enemies. I particularly enjoyed the interactions with Bujune. Overall, I was really impressed with this scenario. That said, it’s not for everyone. This isn’t the kind of scenario I’d play with my kids, for example. I flip-flopped a bit on deciding whether to rate it four or five stars. In the end, I’m giving it four out of five stars. But, if you’re a player or GM who particularly likes social encounters, or getting to know your NPCs, I’d bump it up to five out of five.
This adventure tasks the PCs with getting some advice from a local tribe of Erutaki and relaying it to Svala Ice-Rider, a Pathfinder of Varki descent who is running an archaeological dig further north. If you’ve got any characters from the region, or who are built for cold environments now is your chance to bring them out to play. There are also lot of animals in this scenario, and a lot of travelling, so druids and rangers are likely to get to show off a bit more than they normally would. There’s wonderfully streamlined rules for the weather and travel that that I think will work really well. This scenario features Venture-Captain Bjersig Torrsen, a deaf Ulfen half-orc who I thought was wonderful. And his delightful husky Mahki, of course. This scenario had a LOT of fun NPCs to interact with, including the citizens of Aaminiut, your guide Tikasak, Captain Brynhild Redaxe and the crew of the Rimedrake, Svala Ice-Rider and her pet snow owl Kuokei, and even some potential allies and enemies of a more monstrous nature. Some of the battles in this scenario can be avoided by clever characters, which might make it a little light on the combat for some groups. That said, the final battle is both complex and very climatic, so it will balance out nicely, I think. This scenario makes great use of one of my very favourite monsters, the qallupilluk, so I obviously think it’s amazing. Haha. (The qallupiluit is based on an Inuit story and was the antagonist in one of my favourite picture books as a child: A Promise is a Promise by Canadian author Robert Munsch (Okay, okay, he was born American, but we adopted him a long time ago. Haha)). While we’re on the topic of my biases, it should also be noted that the Erutaki are one of my favourite ethnicities in the world of Golarion, so I’m thrilled to see them in print once again! I thought this scenario handled the very long journey your PCs are destined to undertake very well. Near the end you have more than one route you can take which will change how the final encounter plays out, which I thought was wonderful. Overall, I adored this scenario. I give it five out of five stars.
Well, it’s official! Season Nine: Year of Factions’ Favour has come to an end, and the Pathfinder Society has launched Season 10: Year of the Ten. Faction Cards have been updated, and the newest edition of the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide has been released. If you don’t have the newly updated versions of these documents then I highly recommend you head on over to Paizo’s website and give them a download. They’re free.
For those of you who don’t know, the Scoured Stars Invasion special also brought with it the introduction of a new faction: Second Seekers (Jadnura). Who the heck is Jadnura? Jadnura is the First Seeker who led the Starfinders into the Scoured Stars system. That’s right. He’s the kasatha who got everyone stuck and lost in an event now known as the Scoured Stars Incident. So why would you still follow this guy when Luwazi Elsebo is the current First Seeker? For starters, it lets you make a character who was a loyal Starfinder before the advent of the Scoured Stars Incident. You can be the guy left behind, whose still loyal to a leader no longer present. Second? Well, the special is called the Scoured Stars Invasion, and it’s main purpose is to enter the Scoured Stars System and rescue as many lost agents as you can. I suppose some might call that a spoiler, but honestly, it’s obviously the point of the scenario right from the first few sentences of playing. Why else go there? Want more details? I can’t give them to you! Haha. I’m currently playing this scenario for Gameday VII and don’t know how it ends. If you want more information (and some spoilers) feel free to check out Paizo’s blog post on First Seeker Jadnura here.
So what the heck is Season Ten: Year of the Ten all about, anyway? Judging by the title, something to do with the Decemvirate. But what? It’s been hinted that it has something to do with the infamous Grandmaster Torch, and that some of the Decemvirate might find their anonymity threatened and their mysteries unveiled. Interestingly, most of the missions this season will revolve around the Hao Jin Tapestry. For those of you who don’t know, the Hao Jin Tapestry is a literal tapestry that leads to a demiplane which contains mysteries, relics, ruins and other places collected by the wizard Hao Jin. This object was acquired by the Pathfinder Society way back in Season Three and has been a source of tons of adventures. It’s also been harnessed by the Pathfinders in order to allow their agents to travel the world quickly and efficiently. This season the Hao Jin Tapestry is beginning to unravel and, if we can’t fix it, it’ll dump everything inside it into the Astral Plane. An unfortunate event for not only the Pathfinder Society, but also all the people and creatures who still live inside the demiplane itself. Unfortunately, you can bet that fixing it won’t be as easy as just casting mending. I’m sure there’s plenty of adventure involved! There’s a few other things that have been revealed to be a part of this season. There’s plenty of relics related to the lich Tar Baphon that will be surfacing. There’s also a demon who wants to utilize the Worldwound’s collapse to launch his apotheosis into full demon lord. Pretty nifty! I think I’m most excited for the missions involving Grandmaster Torch, but hey, I’m biased! I’m also excited to learn more about Tar Baphon. I love a good (BAD) lich!
There’s a few more exciting things going on around my house right now. My daughter’s begun work on creating her second Pathfinder Playtest character so that we can continue with our Doomsday Dawn Playtest. She’s decided to make a gnome fighter who wields an absurdly large sword. She’s very excited to be the melee character for a change.
My family and I entered a contest a week or so ago. Hosted by the overly generous Hmm on Paizo’s message boards, she was going to give away all the boons necessary to create a mermaid in PFS play. There were a few ways to enter — for yourself with a mermaid character concept, for a group of friends with a team created from the other boons she was giving away, or by nominating someone else who you thought deserved to win. Now, when we play in the Pathfinder Society, the question my kids ask me most often is:
“Mom, why can’t I be any race I want?”
Unfortunately, at the ages of six and seven, the idea of holding out for race boons is absurd. Haha. The follow up question I most often get after any explanation I can concoct is:
“Yeah. But WHY?”
So, as soon as I read the contest I told my family about it. My kids were jumping up and down in joy. They spend that night brainstorming, and spent the next day planning their characters while I madly tried to keep up with them. And then we got to the end. They were ready! Sort of. For bonus points you could also write a song.
….yup. A song.
Not my forte. My son wanted to add jokes into the song, and my daughter wanted it to have a lot of animal sounds (since we were nearly all animal people of one kind or another).
It was… hard. Haha.
But, in the end we handed in our entry with pride. So what was it?
My family and I wanted to make a quartet of characters who are (and were) universally considered outcasts among their people and Golarion at large. They’re weird, and different. But what’s strange for one culture isn’t strange for others, and it’s those very oddities that the others embraced and connected with. After all, who cares if the vanara has unnaturally large eyes, if he’s hanging out with a grippli? These guys are friends, companions, and (in many ways) family. They don’t have the same interests, and they don’t always get along. But, hey? What family does?
My daughter made an energetic poisonous grippli, my son made an eco-conscious vanara with a stumpy tail who has hair growth issues, my husband made a ratfolk who chews on everything (including magical objects), and I made an overly adventurous aquatic elf whose curiosity got her abandoned on the surface. Together, these quirky characters would do… stuff!
Just the other day the winners were announced. There were a ton of great ones. And some of the songs were awesome! Hmm ended up giving out boons to winners of each category, which is incredibly generous! We won in the ‘buddies’ category, and my kids have been hard at work ever since, plotting out their character mechanics. We were lucky enough that a fellow play-by-poster offered to run us through our group’s first PFS scenario together, so once everyone is ready and formatted for online play we’ll be starting Heroes for Highdelve! My daughter got to work first and is almost done. She’s thrilled!
We’ll post more about these lovable weirdos once they’re ready for a game. One thing’s for certain: they’re going to be the most eccentric group of characters we’ve ever made! (And that’s saying something…)
Now it’s time to say goodbye,
Or, more accurately: ‘Now it’s time to get to work on my next article.’
We’ve looked a lot at the Pathfinder Playtest lately, but today we’re changing gears. We’re going to take a look at the two most recent Starfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and will let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers I recommend you check out a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Starfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So sit back, and get ready to explore the Pact Worlds!
For those of you who don’t yet know, Salvation’s End is filled with a bunch of automatically-controlled simulations and experiments, each run in an individual self-contained area called a ‘vault.’ Duskmire Accord 9 tasks your team of Starfinders with exploring one such vault called ‘Duskmire Accord.’ Your mission is to determine the source of its power and give it a look see. It’s a fun romp that will take cunning, diplomacy, and tact to accomplish — or not! There’s more than one way to accomplish your mission, and I’m very curious to hear what methods see the most play. There’s a wonderful cast of side characters in this one, from the new drow Venture-Captain Kunoris Vex (the Starfinder in charge of the new Lodge at Salvation’s End), straight through to all of the residents of the vault. It’s a great change of pace from both of the scenarios that came before it in this location. I don’t want to spoil too much about the residents of the vault, but I can say I loved all of them. And the art for the ghost of the swamp?! SPECTACULAR! The boons are flavourful and fun, but not amazing. Overall I really enjoyed this scenario. I took me a long time to decide if I would give this four or five stars, but in the end I decided to give it five out of five. It’s not over-the-top-awesome like some of the others I’ve given five stars, but I think the interesting, fun social encounters, and the quirky cast of characters will really make it a joy to play. I give this scenario five out of five stars.
Scenario #1-21: Yesteryear’s Sorrow is a Tier 3-6 adventure written by Jason Keeley. It takes place on the planet of Elytrio, homeworld of the ghibrani, who were previously introduced in Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth (and Dead Suns: Book 5 of 6: The Thirteenth Gate). There you will investigate an abandoned military bunker in order to salvage armaments for the Exo-Guardians. I highly recommend playing through Yesteryear’s Truth before playing Yesteryear’s Sorrow. It will be infinitely more interesting if you have. If you’ve got the ‘Friends of the Ghibrani’ boon you should definitely slot it! This scenario features the Faction (Exo-Guardian) tag and does not involve starship combat. It makes use of two custom maps, and has a lot of unmapped areas (although all of the area that will feature battle are mapped). In addition to the Starfinder Core Rulebook this scenario makes use of content from Dead Suns: Book 5 of 6: The Thirteenth Gate, although all the necessary information from that adventure is included in this scenario. This scenario features a few recurring characters including Zigvigix, leader of the Exo-Guardians, whom you meet in ‘the Nest’, the base of the Exo-Guardians that will be familiar to players of #1-01: The Commencement. In addition, your players will be escorted to their destination by a local guide — either the Husk Dystane, or the Membrane Klarima. Both of these characters are originally from Yesteryear’s Truth, and which one joins you will depend on who your player’s befriended in that previous scenario. Both guides have different skills, benefits, and tactics, which is really nice to see. As for new characters? I ADORE the new fey that was introduced in this scenario. The art for this guy is wonderful. There’s an intriguing social encounter right near the beginning which you can choose to get involved in (or not). This encounter teases events that will be occurring during the upcoming Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path (which begins with Against the Aeon Throne: Book 1: The Reach of Empire) and will hopefully lead to further Starfinder Society Scenarios involving the Azlanti Star Empire (a girl can hope!). This scenario featured nice ecological information on all of its enemies and hazards, which I always enjoy and gives GMs something interesting to tell their knowledgable players. The location explored in this scenario is very, very, large, and although lots of areas are thoroughly detailed, others are entire floors summarized by a single sentence. Due to the length of Society Scenarios, striking the right balance between detail and brevity in important and unimportant areas is difficult to say the least. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I thought that this scenario did a wonderful job of finding that sweet spot. The location felt vast, without feeling rushed or skimmed over. Obtaining your objective is both challenging and fun. There’s a wonderful selection of player handouts which will be of particular interest to those of you who have played through Yesteryear’s Truth. This scenario also did a wonderful job of slowly cultivating a spooky atmosphere, closer to the end. Overall, I give it four out of five stars.
Thanks for joining us today! We’ll see you next time when we talk about the new Pathfinder Society Scenarios that are out, and the beginning of Season Ten!
Wow, finding the time to fully read the new Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook took longer than I expected! Well, not to read it, so much as to digest it. Understand it. Plenty of rules are different, so I had to really focus. Considering that I normally find time to read while overseeing screaming, bickering, playing, laughing, children of various ages (hey, moods change quick!), finding quiet time to get some reading done was more than a little difficult.
That said, I’m a quick reader. I finished it in about two days, then spent some time crafting characters in order to try out the creation process. Before I can take the time to teach my husband and kids how to play, I need to be able to explain it. Properly. Haha. After that I helped my family through the creation process, read through Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn (the first adventure we would be trying out), and we got to work playing.
It’s been a whirlwind! But a fun one.
And then I got sick. Still am.
So whats on the agenda for today?
Today we’re going to take a look at Pathfinder Playtest. Not in depth — this isn’t a replacement for the rulebook. After all, the rulebook’s a free download. It’s my impressions, thoughts, and experiences. Things I’ve discovered, and even some questions I’ve got. Got an opinion of your own? Or an answer to a question I have? Let me know! This game system is brand new and we’re all learning together. Once you’ve had a chance to try out Pathfinder Playtest, be sure to head over to Paizo’s website and give them some feedback. They’re running surveys right now, and have forums up for you to share broader comments.
Ready? Let’s begin!
Pathfinder Playtest is a new set of rules and gameplay for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended to streamline the game, while retaining its robust character creation options. Running combat, monsters, and characters should go smoother. Learning the rules from scratch should be easier. Levelling up should be simpler. The book and rules are supposed to be user friendly — even for those who don’t know how to play d20 games.
Pathfinder Playtest features gorgeous cover art by Wayne Reynolds which showcases Seoni (the iconic sorceress), Valeros (the iconic fighter), and Fumbus (the iconic alchemist) battling a white dragon! Wait! Fumbus who? Fumbus the goblin alchemist. Thats right! Not only are goblins a core race, but alchemist is a base class. Both are available options to try out in the playtest.
Open the covers (or flip to the next page on the pdf) and you’ll find an introduction by the Paizo staff, followed by the overview. This is where you’ll learn what the heck a d20 game is and how to play. There’s also an overview of the basic terms used in the game, including a few that are new, an explanation of the modes of play, and a list of what you’ll need to play. This section was easy to understand, even for a layman, although not as easy as I expected. It’s a difficult read for my children, for example, and my son (who is more than capable of reading chapter books aimed at pre-teens, published adventures for d20 games, and other Pathfinder products) would definitely get bored and flip past a few pages. Would my teenage/adult siblings read it all the way through? …Tough to say. Probably not. It’s more likely they’d give it a skim and see how it goes. So… sort of an easy read. An easy read for this genre and its audience, I suppose.
Many of the terms in this chapter will be familiar to those of you who have played d20 games before, but even experienced gamers need to give this section a thorough read. Calculations for some of the familiar statistics are different, and there are some very important brand new game mechanics that are explained here. Be sure to pay extra attention to the types of actions, the modes of play, and proficiencies. We won’t get into them in too much detail right now, but for those of you who are curious, these three aspects form a huge part of the game.
There are three modes of play in Pathfinder Playtest. Encounter mode is what you enter when your every moment matters. This is used during a battle, for traps, ambushes, hazards, and anything else similar. You play encounter mode in rounds which are six seconds long, and encounter mode ends when the danger has passed. This is a huge part of the game and the rules. But, it’s not all there is to the Playtest. Exploration mode is used for any situation where you’re not in immediate danger, but you’re not entirely safe, either. This includes exploring a town, ruin, forest, or even a hallway between encounters. It’s what you’re playing in when you’re not fighting something. It’s more than just walking, or a segue between the ‘exciting stuff.’ Exploration mode has its own rules, and has proved quite fun around my house so far. Finally, there’s downtime mode, which is what you use when you’re completely safe.
There are three major kinds of actions in Pathfinder Playtest. Actions, free actions, and reactions. Pretty much all the game is based around this. Nearly every feat, ability, and spell that has a non-passive effect has a symbol beside it right near the top showing what it costs to use. Free actions are free, obviously, Reactions can be taken once per turn, even on your opponents turns, as long as its triggering conditions are met. An example of this is an attack of opportunity (which only fighters can utilize right away!), but there are plenty others for different classes and characters. Lastly, there’s actions. Everything takes actions. Moving, attacking, special attacks, spells and such. Most spells take two actions to cast, although some take one or three. Each turn during encounter mode you’re allowed three actions, and most things you can imagine take one. Walking forward, drawing a sword, and swinging it? Three actions total. Attacking, attacking, and attacking a third time? Three actions. And totally allowed (each successive attack in a round takes a cumulative -5 penalty). Lastly, there’s proficiencies. Yes, this includes armours and weapons. But in the Playtest proficiencies also replace your base attack bonus, base saving throws, and skill ranks. If you’re trained in something you add your level to the rolls you make with it. If you’re untrained you add your level subtract two. If you’re an expert you add your level plus one, master is your level plus two and if you’re legendary you add your level plus three. For example, if you’re trained in athletics you roll a d20, add your proficiency modifier (your level), your strength modifier, and any other item or extra modifiers you have. Expert in your weapon? Add the expert proficiency (your level plus one), your ability modifier (strength for melee, dexterity for ranged), and any other bonuses from your items. Master at reflex saves? Add your level plus two, plus your Dexterity modifier, anything else special you might have and off you go.
Got it? Good! If not, read the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook!
After this we get into the fun stuff. Character Creation. The Playtest has a great step-by-step guide to making your characters. In short, you come up with a concept. Then you pick and apply their ancestry (race), background, and class. Each of these will increase some of your ability scores, but you also gain four increases to apply as you see fit. Once you’ve finalized your ability scores, select your trained skills and do some simple math to make it all come together. Spend your coin (150 sp), pick your spells (if you’re a caster) and fill in all your finishing details. Done. Relatively simple. The levelling up process is also simple, as well.
After this there’s an easy to follow example of how you make your ability scores. As I previously mentioned, ancestry, background, class, and your personal preference all play a part. So how does it work?
For starters, you need to know how much to increase an ability score. Increases are referred to as an ‘ability boost’. If the score you’re increasing is under 18 you increase it by 2 points. If it’s over 18 you increase it by 1 point. At character creation, you cannot make a character with over 18 in any one ability score, so all of your boosts will be increasing your ability scores by +2.
When you create a character all of your ability scores start at 10. Now you pick your ancestry. Most will give you two ability boosts that are applied to a specific ability, one ability boost that you can apply as you see fit (called ‘free’), and one flaw (which is a -2 in a specific score). For example, dwarves get ability boosts to Constitution, Wisdom, and Free. They also suffer an ability flaw to Charisma. Humans are different from most races in that they receive no flaw, and no specific ability boosts. Instead they get two free ability boosts, which can be applied at your whim.
Now that you know what to increase you apply it. However, there is a limitation. During each step that you apply your ability boosts, you must apply each to a different ability. In our previous example with dwarves, that means you’re getting +2 Con, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and a +2 to be added to any other ability score (Str, Dex, or Int). The next time you apply your ability scores you can increase any scores you want, but again, only one time each in that phase.
Backgrounds grant an ability boost in a single specific ability score chosen from a selection of two, and then grant a free ability boost. For example, acrobats get an ability boost to either Strength or Dexterity, and then a second ability boost that is free. Meanwhile, a barkeep gets an ability boost to either Constitution or Charisma, and then a second ability boost that is free. (This is not all that a background grants you, just the part that applies to ability scores). As mentioned before, during this step, each ability can only be boosted once. So, our example dwarf could apply the barkeep ability boosts to Constitution, and Strength, but couldn’t apply it to Constitution twice.
Classes offer a single specific ability boost to that classs’ key ability score. Alchemist’s increase Intelligence, bards increase Charisma, and so on. Some classes, like the fighter, can choose one of two ability scores to be their key ability score (in the case of fighters this is a choice between Strength and Dexterity).
Lastly (or second last if you choose to apply these before your class), you get four free ability boosts. You can assign these however you want — although each ability score can only be boosted once in this phase. Essentially this means that four different ability scores will increase by +2.
And that’s the ability score creation process. It’s quite simple when you get the hang of it, and can create a diverse array of balanced characters. There’s also a random generation method offered, for those of you who prefer to roll out your stats, but the characters they create will not come out as powerful as those created with the standard method. Still, it’s nice that its there.
After this we get into the chapter on ancestries and backgrounds. There are six major ancestries you can choose: dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, halfling, and human. Those of you looking to be half-elves or half-orcs will select ‘human’ as your ancestry, and then choose a heritage feat which allows you to be either of those two ‘half-breed’ races. This method opens up a unique design space which has potential for an interesting take on some uncommon races when the full game releases next year.
Each ancestry grants you some ability boosts and flaws (as already noted). It also grants you some hit points (which you will only receive at first level), your speed, size, and languages. Some of them also grant you a vision type, or a single special ability. That’s it. You won’t be getting a ton of racial abilities built into your ancestry. I know, I know. This seems like you get so much less. In a way, at low level, you do get less. But, as you level up you also get more out of your race. You see, each ancestry has a list of feats to choose from that only members of that ancestry can select. This is where you’ll find a lot of familiar ‘racial’ abilities like weapon familiarity, ancestral hatred, stonecunning, sure-footed, and other such features that would have once been found under ones race. There’s plenty of new ones, as well. You start the game with one ancestry feat of your choice, and gain more as you level up. This allows you to make your ancestry work for your character as an individual. After all, not all elves are the same.
After I got over the initial shock of seeing ‘how little’ each race gave me, I gave the different ancestry feats a read and, in the end, decided I like this method. It’s adaptable, easy to use, and enjoyable. I found it worked well during character creation. I particularly enjoyed the gnome ancestry feats, so be sure to give them a read!
Next up is backgrounds. These represent the things your character did before becoming an adventurer. In addition to the ability boosts mentioned previously, each background grants you one skill feat and training in a single Lore skill tied to that background. What’s a lore? A lore is like a very specific knowledge skill. You can have lore in pretty much anything, as long as it has a very narrow focus. Examples include Vampire Lore, Desna Lore, Circus Lore, and Farming Lore. During downtime, lore skills can also be used to make an income. There are a lot of backgrounds up for offer in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook (nineteen!) and you can expect to see a whole lot more in the future. Each adventure path will offer new backgrounds that will tie your characters to the story. The Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is the first example of this, and provides a further six backgrounds to choose from. The Playtest Rulebook backgrounds include: acolyte, acrobat, animal whisperer, barkeep, blacksmith, criminal, entertainer, farmhand, gladiator, hunter, labourer, merchant, noble, nomad, sailor, scholar, scout, street urchin, and warrior. Although all of the backgrounds are equally ‘good,’ I particularly like the entertainer and the nomad, while my daughter enjoys the animal whisperer, and my son enjoys the warrior.
Past the Background we get to a short section on selecting languages. Players with very high intelligence scores will be surprised to find they don’t get as many languages as in Pathfinder First Edition, with an intelligence over 14 now granting a single bonus language!
Up next is the chapter on Classes. The classes available for the playtest include Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Despite these being familiar to you, each class has plenty of new features, and offers a lot of adaptability. In addition to hp, special abilities and a selection of class feats you can choose from in order to tailor your class to your character, each class also gives you proficiencies in saving throws, perception, and in various weapons, armour and shields. It also gives you a number of skills you can choose to be trained in. Spellcasters get spells, characters get abilities and so on. Now, you really need to read the classes to get a feel for them, so we’re not going to take too close of a look at them. What I will say is that each class we’ve tested in my house has turned out to be a lot of fun. My favourites include Bard (who can use some of their performances an unlimited number of times per day!), Sorcerer (whose spell list and type of magic is determined by their bloodline), and Paladin (who are just plain awesome!). My children particularly enjoyed the druid.
Next up is Skills. This chapter goes over each of the skills, how to calculate their modifiers, and what they can be used for. This is also where you’ll find the rules for crafting, performing and lore. Even experienced players need to give this chapter a read, as there are some changes to the skills. For example, grabbing, grappling and shoving are all tied to your Athletics skill. Yeah. Neat. Skills definitely do more for you now, than they used to. Also, anyone can make attempt any skill check. Obviously, they won’t all be as good at it, but the potential is there, which is nice. That said, some skills have uses that can only be used by characters trained in that skill, which is a nice feature.
After skills we get to the chapter on feats. Now, this section doesn’t have all the feats available in the book. Ancestry feats can be found under ancestries. Instead, it contains all the general, and skill feats available. This chapter is particularly important, because you will gain a LOT of feats. Beginning characters start with two (at minimum!). One from your ancestry, and one from your background. Most classes grant at least one other feat (sometimes a class feat, sometimes a general or skill feat, and sometimes both). This is a wonderful surprise, which allows customization in a simple way.
After feats you’ll find Equipment. Pathfinder Playtest uses silver as the core coin (instead of gold) which means that the price of gear will be different than what you’re used to. There’s also been some changes to the armour, weapons, and weight systems — all for the better in my opinion! Definitely give the information at the start of this chapter a read before trying to spend your coin! Haha.
Past equipment you get into spells. This begins with a lot of important information about magic, spells, and how they work. Definitely don’t skip this part! Haha. There are four major spell lists: Arcane, Divine, Occult, and Primal. I’m fond of all of them. In addition, you’ll find tenth level spells. After the spell lists are spell descriptions. Amongst these spells you’ll also find a lot of class abilities that are cantrips, or run off of spell points. This includes domain powers, and bardic compositions (among others). Although I understand the purpose of including them here (in alphabetical order alongside the spells), it made it hard to make class choices. For example, if I’m looking for all the bardic compositions (which are a type of cantrip) I have to search through the entire chapter and read the spell traits to find them. There is no compiled list of bardic compositions and, as they are not class spells, they don’t appear on any of the Spell Lists. It’s a giant pain in the butt. Haha. I sincerely hope they find a better way to sort this in the future, cause all that sifting sucks. Not only that, it’s a drain on your time.
I also found (after a lot of jumping between chapters to hunt them down) that a lot of the domain powers weren’t as good as they used to be. Which is unfortunate. I’d gladly trade my cleric of Desna’s domain power from the Playtest with pretty much any other Domain power from First Edition. An unfortunate outcome! Still, it will take more playtesting to determine if it all balances out in the end.
Past this we come to a short chapter on how to level up your characters. In addition, you’ll find the rules for multiclassing and archetypes here. The system for this is very easy to understand, and allows for a lot of cool character concepts. Essentially, you can choose to take archetype or multiclass feats in place of your class feat at any given level — presuming you meet the feat requirements. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course, but not by much. It’s a simple, elegant way to handle multi classing and archetypes without causing characters to fall behind the powers of their peers. I really like it. Definitely give it a read!
Later in the chapter you’ll find the rules for animal companions, familiars, and gods. The rules in all of these categories were fun and easy to use, particularly the rules for familiars. We got ours created in only a few minutes! Wonderful! Of course, I did have questions. It’s specifically pointed out that you can only have one animal companion. But, this is not specified under familiars. Does this mean you can potentially have more than one? My son chose a gnome ancestry feat which granted him a familiar, and then later earned a vine leshy familiar from being a plant druid. Does this mean he gets both? I’ve yet to find a definitive answer, but if you’ve read an official answer somewhere, (or know the page its on that I’ve missed) let me know! I’d love to read the ruling. Another problem with familiars turned out to be damage. Although it mentions the attack rolls they can make, it doesn’t say how much damage one does if it tries to attack. This came up on one of our first combat rounds in our first playtest when my son sent his vine leshy to attack. He hit! And… we had no damage. Haha. I decided that it would do 1 damage unless I found an official ruling that says otherwise. Know of one? Let me know! We’d love to see it!
After this comes a very important chapter entitled ‘Playing the Game.’ Reading it is mandatory. Haha. It’s around 35 pages long and includes all the rules you need to play as a player, as well as the conditions found in the game. Important stuff.
After that is another very important chapter called ‘Game Mastering.’ This chapter includes everything you need to know to run the game as a GM (in addition to the content for players). This chapter is shorter — at only around twenty pages — but its also denser and more complicated. Admittedly, I had to go back and reread parts a few times, particularly regarding exploration mode, downtime mode, hazards, and DCs. I expect I’ll have to reference both this chapter and the ‘Playing the Game’ chapter plenty over the next year, as I get a handle on the rules. In my opinion, the game is easier to learn to play and GM that Pathfinder First Edition was, so I’m pleased, even if reading these chapters caused me a few headaches.
After this we come to (pretty much) the last chapter. Treasure. This is where you’ll find information on wealth, treasure distribution, special nonmagical gear, alchemical items, runes, trinkets, and magic items. There’s a lot of fun stuff in here that you’re going to love reading. I highly recommend discovering these on your own. I will say that I particularly enjoyed the addition of snares, and that I expect to make a character who utilizes them in the near future. I also really like the rune system for making magical weapons and armour. Its very similar to the fusion system in Starfinder.
Past this is the appendices and then the book is over.
That’s it, that’s all! But, that’s not all that I have to say. There are a few things I’d like to mention before wrapping up.
First: Hero Points. I loved them. Each character starts each session with one hero point, and can earn up to one extra each session as a player (for doing something awesome for the group like bringing snacks, tracking gear, or hosting the game) and one extra as a character (for doing something awesome in character like saving someone’s life, being generous, expert teamwork, or accomplishing an important task in game). These points can be used to save yourself from death, reroll a d20, or take an extra action. They’re useful, awesome, and add a great new element to the game. (My daughter’s determined to be the loot-tracker from now on in order to earn that extra point!).
Second: Dying. During our first play session, my husband’s character died. Quickly. All things considered, from the moment he fell unconscious at Dying 1, only a single full round occurred before he died. Two ill-aimed splash damage brought him to Dying 2, and then to Dying 3 with the second instance, and on his turn he failed his first and only fortitude save against death, which brought him to Dying 4: Dead. This was WAY too fast. Sure, he could’ve used Hero Points to save himself. If he had any. He had already fallen unconscious two other times that session, and had used up all his Hero Points. And he wasn’t the only one. My daughter also fell unconscious once during the session, and my son nearly did. Ouch! I found not only did we fall unconscious quite a bit, but we died too QUICK. For a lot of players, a dead character is an end to fun. Especially if your chances for recovery were so brief.
Third: Identifying Magical Items: After you realize something is magical (or alchemical), it takes an HOUR to identify the object. An HOUR. This means, that if you’re the kind of group who doesn’t rest unless its necessary, you can go an entire adventure without knowing what any of your treasure does. In fact, when we played Doomsday Dawn in my house, we went the entire first adventure without knowing what anything did. That means we didn’t get any use out of any treasure. At all. That’s absurd! Now, there are some ways for your characters to shorten this time to ten minutes (or evens shorter at higher levels), which is more manageable. Heck, I even understand the intent. If it takes more time and effort to identify magical objects, that makes them more special. They’ve got an air of mystery about them. That’s cool. But, if it takes so long to identify a healing potion, that without someone specialized in identifying magical or alchemical objects, the group can’t even figure out its a healing potion during their adventure, than what good is it? Now, I know plenty of players like to stop a LOT when they play. Maybe you’re even one of them. The group that gets loot or takes a few wounds and says, ‘We should head back and recover!’ or ‘We should go sell what we’ve found and come back!’ That’s fine. You won’t be hampered by this. But, I’m not that kind of player. Neither are my family or my friends. We very often take on entire missions until we HAVE to rest, due to our wounds. Or we HAVE to recover our spells. Or we’ve spent the whole day and our characters are actually sleepy. This is particularly true in Pathfinder Society missions, which very often occur in a single day on a timeline. This system strikes me as very problematic, unless you specifically ensure your groups always have a way to shorten it. But, why force a group to do so? That’s going to replace another skill or class feat they could have taken. It just… Reading the rules for identifying magical objects didn’t sit right with me. Then we made our characters, brought them to playtest, and it turned out to be both a problem and a handicap. An unfortunate occurrence which we’ve given feedback on.
Fourth: Resonance. This is your character’s natural ability to activate and utilize magical objects. You have a number of resonance equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier. You can invest resonance ahead of time in an object that grants a long-term effect, or spend resonance on the fly to activate a magical object upon use. It’s meant to help replace gear slots (head, hand, and so on). Kind of cool, right? Sure. Until you start counting it out. Want to wear a magical cloak? Cool, 1 point. Want to drink a potion? Cool one point! Wait! One point? What if you only start with one point? What if you’re dying and you have no points? A friend can’t even shove a potion in your mouth to save you?Sort of. When you’re out of points you can attempt to overspend resonance you don’t have in order to activate the magical object anyway. This is a flat check with a DC equal to 10 + the number of points you’ve overspent (including any times you’ve tried and failed). If you pass the magic works, and if you fail it doesn’t (and you can’t attempt to activate that item again until the next day). If you critically fail (roll a 1) you can’t attempt to invest any other magical items at all that day. Ouch! Resonance is of particular interest to alchemists, who need to infuse their alchemical items with resonance in order to craft them. Okay, I can see that, I guess. Particularly for potions and such. Luckily, alchemist’s get to base their resonance off of their Intelligence, instead of their Charisma. But why should the alchemist have to spend resonance to make an acid flask when a wizard can cast cantrip and deal comparable damage at will? Yeah, I get WHY. There’s plenty of justifications. It’s an item, they’re not spell casters, so on and such. But… I don’t know. Both resonance, and the alchemist’s reliance on it is one of those new rules that I read, and just didn’t sit right. So far in playtests around my house it’s been a bit of a problem. Our alchemist was out of resonance within the first fight and had to rely on overspending resonance the entire rest of the adventure. She didn’t critically fail, thank goodness, but if she had, her character would have been completely shut down. She literally would have had to punch people with her gauntlet (a bad idea with her low strength and poor AC) or throw a rock at them (another bad idea). And if a whole character can be shut down so easily (at low levels, at least), that’s probably a problem. Similarly, our dwarf started with no resonance at all. Feeding him a potion in order to save his life was a fifty-fifty chance the first time, with the odds getting worse from there. Considering how quickly he died when he fell unconscious, that’s brutal. Ugh. Now, that said, I haven’t play tested the game enough yet, to make a final decision on resonance. Maybe it’s better with other classes. Maybe it’s less trouble at higher levels. Maybe this is meant to show that magic items are rare and special, tying it into the length of time that it takes to identify them. Maybe we’re not meant to really use something like a healing potion at low level. Maybe other groups didn’t have trouble at all. But so far, it’s been trouble for our groups. I hope that’s not the case in the future. I’d be particularly interested to see how resonance has worked out for you. If you’ve got an experience to share let me know!
Fifth: Initiative. You don’t have one. Instead you initiative is based on your perception modifier. Occasionally, if your character is doing something specific, you can roll a different skill in its place. For example, if you’re swimming your GM might rule you can use Athletics as initiative this time, or stealth if you’re in hiding. And so on. I loved this.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Pathfinder Playtest so far. I like the changes they’ve made to the game system, character creation, and treasure. I like it a lot, actually. That said, I have some questions which need clarifying, and we did run into trouble. We felt it took too long to identify magical items. We felt resonance was too limiting — especially for alchemists. And we felt the that dying turned into dead way too fast. It’s a good game, and we’re going to play it a lot more over the next year so that we can turn our feedback in to Paizo and they can make this next edition the best that it can be.
At the moment, do I think it’s better than Pathfinder First Edition? …I don’t think I can answer that. It’s new, and going to take some getting used to. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing Pathfinder since before it was Pathfinder. It’s nostalgic and homey. You know? I think it would be unfair to compare the two in that manner until I completely get the hang of the new rules. That said, I can answer a similar question. When it comes down to it, I like Pathfinder better than Starfinder. But do I like Pathfinder Playtest better than Starfinder? …No. Not yet. Maybe one day. But, at the moment, the Drift’s got more sway over me.
For some of you this might be irrelevant. Others, a little scary.
I’m getting up first thing in the morning and heading over to Paizo’s website to download my free copy of everything Pathfinder Playtest. I’ll read it within a day or two, and soon be testing out the character creation process. I’ll be teaching it to my kids by the start of next week, and trying my hand at GMing an adventure for them shortly after. I’ll download the Playtest PFS scenarios as soon as they launch next week, and have reviews up on them within a day or two. When Gameday comes I’ll have a chance to try the game out as a player. Afterwards, I hope to have a chance to play again. Then there’s surveys to fill out and feedback to give, so that Paizo can make this next version of Pathfinder the best that it can be.
So what’s first?
Everything is be available on the Pathfinder Playtest landing page, so head there first and see what there is on offer. Want it all? Click ‘Download All.’ Easy!
But, what exactly is there to download?
The first thing you’ll want to download is the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. This is a short version of the rules which give you all the information you need to know in order to play Pathfinder Playtest, GM it, create and level up characters. Now, as the Playtest, this is not a full Rulebook. It’s not what you’ll see when Pathfinder Second Edition launches next year. It’s a streamlined Rulebook with everything you need to know to try out the game. To try running the game. And to make a wide variety of characters. This is the major download. Read it. Enjoy it. Give it a shot. Make characters. Try new things. Share it with your family and friends. Help them make characters.
After this you should download Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn. This adventure is actually a series of short, multi-encounter adventures which are linked over a decade of time to tell one epic story. Ancient Osirion features a wide variety of magical clocks which have been counting down through millennia. Previously a mystery, these Countdown Clocks will soon reach 0, at a time when Golarion will line up with the foul planet of Aucturn and allow the horrifying and mysterious Dominion of Black to surge across the world. Your players will travel throughout Golarion over a decade in order to understand the Countdown Clocks, defeat the Dominion of Black, and save Golarion! These mini-adventures are designed to show off and test a wide variety of game mechanics and adventure styles.
I’m thrilled for the Doomsday Dawn, particularly because I first read about the Countdown Clocks back when the The Pact Stone Pyramid was released before Pathfinder had its own rules set. I found the clocks so intriguing I made a whole campaign around it (which was pretty awesome if I do say so myself!). Unfortunately, that was one of the games that fell apart through the years (multiple pregnancies from both a player and myself were the joyous reason that campaign never got played through to its conclusion). I’m thrilled to see what the Paizo team does with it!
Those of you who will be GMing also need to download the Pathfinder Playtest Bestiary (link not available at the time of posting) which contains all the monster rules you’ll need to run the Doomsday Dawn. You’ll likely also want to download the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack. This contains digital downloads of four major encounter areas in the Doomsday Dawn Adventure. These maps are said to include a burnt-out crypt, a ruined temple, a wizard’s tower, and an astronomer’s underground laboratory. I have high hopes for these maps, so I can’t wait to see them.
On August 7th Paizo releases three Pathfinder Society Scenarios for the Pathfinder Playtest (all of which are free). The first, Pathfinder Society Playtest #1: The Rose Street Revenge, is a series of four tier 1 quests that task the PCs with investigating a series of murders perpetrated by the Rose Street Killer, who has been targeting recently freed slaves. They’ll get to ally with kobolds, explore the Puddles, and… do some other exciting stuff that I’m not yet privy to! Haha. This scenario is written by Leo Glass, Thurston Hillman, Joe Pasini, and Linda Zayas-Palmer, so you know it’s going to be awesome!
Pathfinder Playtest Scenario #2: Raiders of Shrieking Peak is a tier 5 scenario written by Luis Loza. Recently, the Pathfinders discovered an Iomedean artifact that was being shipped overland from Diobel to Absalom. Unfortunately the caravan transporting it was attacked and its up to your PCs to find the thieves, and retrieve the relic. It sounds like this scenario is intended to have multiple ways to achieve your goals, which should allow both combat heavy groups, and diplomatic groups to try out different aspects of the game. The only art I’ve seen for this scenario so far features a harpy, so I’m very intrigued! (Fans of my Legacy of Fire novelization will know I’m a huge fan of harpies as potentially dangerous NPCs. Undrella was awesome!)
Pathfinder Society Playtest #3: Arclord’s Envy is a tier 5 scenario written by Liz Lydell which I am most excited for. It takes place in NEX, which is a place I’ve never had a chance to play in before, and is a mystery investigation that I know pretty much nothing about! It said to reflect the location wonderfully, and have some flexibility, which ensures that the mystery is different each time you play. This is particularly important since all of the PFS scenarios are replayable.
Well, I’m off now. I’ve got to download the Playtest materials myself, after all. Here’s hoping the website doesn’t crash…