News from PaizoCon

There has been plenty of exciting news and sneak peeks from PaizoCon this year and, although PaizoCon hasn’t quite come to an end, we’re taking the time to share our favourite bits of news, spoilers, and previews with the world.


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

The revamped and reimagined Pathfinder Adventure Card Game launched at PaizoCon 2019, which has been a long time coming. By all accounts the game looks great and plays well, with streamlined rules, a customizable play experience, and a focus on story. Interested readers can pick up a copy of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set and the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path from either of the links or direct from Paizo. For more information on the products you can also check out this blog post. Finally, for those of you interested, the rules for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Core Set are now a free download on Paizo’s website! What a pleasant surprise!

 


Pathfinder First Edition

Pathfinder First Edition may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t exciting bits of news and spoilers dropped at PaizoCon. So what was my favourite bit of information about? Midwives to Death!

Midwives to Death is the final volume of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path, as well as the final First Edition Adventure Path. The events of this campaign bring big changes to the world of Golarion, which will be seen in Pathfinder Second Edition. This information isn’t new. But what I didn’t know? Instead of the usual backmatter in this volume, all the Paizo developers were given two pages of space to create whatever they wanted to for First Edition. Two pages each to leave their final mark on the game. The last Pathfinder First Edition content! These 28 pages are filled with new creatures, archetypes, prestige classes, and character options. For example, Erik Mona created updated stats for Ostog the Unslain, and Owen K.C. Stephens gave the dwarven god Angradd some love with a paladin code and devotions. I am absurdly excited to see what the Paizo team has come up with. What a great send off!

Iomedae by Ekaterina Burmak
Art courtesy of Paizo Inc. Illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak

Pathfinder Second Edition

There was a LOT of information, sneak peeks, and spoilers dropped about Pathfinder Second Edition over the weekend, and in the weeks leading up to it. Recently a new map of the Inner Sea was released, complete with some new nations and newly organized geographical and cultural regions. Notable new additions include New Thassilon, Oprak, Ravounel, and the Sarkoris Scar. During PaizoCon, more information was given on these regions and their organization.

Inner Sea Map - Cartography by Rob McCaleb
Inner Sea Region of Golarion. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc. Cartography by Rob McCaleb.

Most of the spoilers regarding Pathfinder Second Edition were unveiled at PaizoCon’s Preview Banquet. The page layout for the new books all looks absolutely gorgeous, which is really exciting and so reassuring. Attendees were also given spoiler cards which contained a single spoiler on it for Second Edition. 100 spoilers were given out, with the promise of more if all of the spoilers are collected on Paizo’s message boards. You can also follow the spoilers on Twitter with #MyPathfinderSpoiler.

Perhaps one of the most exciting previews to come out during the Paizo Preview Banquet, in regards to Second Edition, is the announcement of the Lost Omens Character Guide and Lost Omens Gods and Magic!

Lost Omens Character Guide is a 136 page hardcover book that is the second release in the Lost Omens World Guide series, scheduled for release in October 2019. It will contain a ton of new character options, including new heritage and ancestry feats for every entry in the Core Rulebook, five factions with archetypes and other benefits of membership, templates to make faction specific monsters, and three new ancestries for player characters: hobgoblins, leshy, and lizardfolk! Honestly, it looks like an incredibly useful book, similar to the Advanced Player’s Guide, but with direct ties to the Lost Omens campaign setting included. Definitely going on my must-have list!

Lost Omens Gods & Magic is a 128 page hardcover book that is the third release in the Lost Omens World Guide series, scheduled for release in January 2020. It will contain information on the gods of the Inner Sea Region, as well as an index covering important information on the hordes of deities of Golarion, updated to Second Edition. There’s new domains, spells, feats, and other options to help players of all classes customize their characters. It looks awesome!

Aeon Tower - Illustration by Ainur Salimova
An aeon tower. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc. Illustrated by Ainur Salimova.

But, my favourite spoilers for Second Edition weren’t revealed at the preview banquet at all, instead they were revealed at a panel on the upcoming adventure paths. Sure, Age of Ashes sounds cool, and I’m thrilled to have dragons be the big-bad’s in that series, but the next one? Extinction Curse? That one’s really got me excited! The Adventure Path takes place on the Isle of Kortos, occasionally known as  Starstone Isle, but doesn’t venture into Absalom proper. The PCs are all members of a travelling circus ready for their debut performance in a small town. Unfortunately, right before the performance begins the ringmaster turns up dead! The PCs need to take control, act as ringmaster, do their performances, ensure the show goes off without a hitch, and solve the ringmaster’s murder all at the same time! Throughout the campaign the circus travels with you, which will really help to shake up the social aspects of the campaign (both within and outside of your circus troupe). The Extinction Curse Adventure Path involves the history of Absalom and the Isle of Kortos, the legacy of Aroden, Aeon Towers, and troglodytes from the darklands. An added bonus? One of the volumes is called ‘Siege of Dinosaurs,’ and is written by Kate Baker. It sounds amazing! Haha. My son’s already planning his upcoming character for this one.

 


Pathfinder Society Organized Play

PaizoCon marks the debut of the new Pathfinder Society logo, which looks awesome, and some minor details about the upcoming season of Organized Play. But, my favourite sneak Peeks for the Pathfinder Society were actually released before PaizoCon, on Paizo’s blog. They’ve announced that the factions of the Pathfinder Society will be shaken up, with none of the old factions remaining in Pathfinder Second Edition. Instead of being outside organizations that work through the Pathfinder Society, the new factions are groups of like-minded individuals within the Pathfinder Society. As Tonya Woldridge said during the PaizoCon banquet, “Everyone is Grand Lodge now. We are bringing back our core values of ‘Explore, Report, Cooperate.’ ” The first season of Second Edition Pathfinder Society will be the Year of the Open Road.

This is an awesome change, that I can’t wait to see it take effect. There will be four major factions, whose stories will continue throughout each season of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play Program, as well as two minor factions. Minor factions will have special missions during the year they are released, but will not receive much attention in later seasons. However, these minor factions will still remain open for play and will not be retired. In addition, new minor factions will be added as the stories evolve. Although these factions are all new, most are lead by familiar faces. So far two factions have been announced. Horizon Hunters, a major faction led by Venture-Captain Calisro Benarry whose focus is on exploration, discovery, and the fame of its members. And Radiant Oath, a minor faction led by Valais Durant, a Pathfinder who has really been through the wringer! Haha. This faction has a focus on compassion, kindness, and redemption. Although they combat evil, they’re not as rigid or innately devout as the Silver Crusade faction of the previous Pathfinder Society. Instead, they hope to inspire small acts of kindness in all Pathfinders.


Starfinder

I love Starfinder. And there were some cool new spoilers revealed this weekend. My favourites include new details on the upcoming Alien Archive 3, which releases in August 2019. It includes 19 new playable races including turtlefolk, otterfolk, sapient bug swarms known as spathinae, sapient raptors, and Starfinder Society fan favourite: the morlamaw! There’s also tons of new monsters including the giant space tardigrade and the skittermander hunting stridermanders of Vesk-6. Finally, there’s creature companion rules which can let you have pets, mounts, and more! My kids and I have been hoping for rules for pets for a long time, so we’re absolutely thrilled!

Also exciting is the Character Operations Manual, which releases in November and includes three new character classes (the biohacker, vanguard, and witchwarper), themes, archetypes, alternate racial abilities for all core and legacy races, and two new roles for starship combat, including the magic officer! This is going to be one useful book.

On the Adventure Path front, there was plenty of information on Attack of the Swarm!, a military focused adventure path that pits the PCs and their fellow soldiers against the overwhelming menace of the insectile swarm. Following Attack of the Swarm! is a six-part adventure path that focuses on conspiracy theories, and ever-deepening mysteries that revolve around the unseen – aliens like reptoids and grey that walk among us, hidden from sight. This adventure path is called The Threefold Conspiracy and begins in February 2020. I’m very curious to see where this Adventure Path leads!

Starfinder Beginner Box
Starfinder Beginner Box. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Starfinder Society Organized Play 

Before PaizoCon it was announced that the next season of Starfinder Organized play would be the Year of a Thousand Bites! This season has a focus on the Pact Worlds and the effect that the Starfinder’s recent exploits and decisions have had upon the Society, and their home. It’s also rumoured to involve Lao Shu Po, often known as Grandmother Rat. The Year of a Thousand Bites launches a Origins with #2-00: Fate of the Scoured God.

But, as the Year of Scoured Stars comes to an end, so to do the missions of the current First Seekers, Luwazi Elsebo and Jadnura. And, when a First Seeker’s missions is accomplished, they step down, leaving an opening for a new First Seeker to take their place. That doesn’t mean we’ll be saying goodbye to Luwazi or Jadnura. They’ll still be around, as will their faction and followers. But, that does mean a new First Seeker will be elected. And who will it be? One of us. PCs who have achieved a certain amount of reputation within the Second Seeker (Luwazi Elsebo) faction were given the opportunity to acquire a boon that instructed them to send an email with detailed information about their character to the Starfinder Society Organized Play team. These characters have been examined and four of the team’s favourites will be introduced in a special scenario, #2-07. Said to be similar to #1-01: The Commencement, this mission will allow players to meet the potential candidates, perform minor tasks for them, and learn about their platforms and goals. Shortly after it releases in September a poll will go up on Paizo’s blog, that allows players to vote for their favourite candidate. The winner will become the next First Seeker, and their goals will influence the storyline for Year Three. Which is amazing! I can’t wait to see them!

 

 

Year 2 - Year of a Thousand Bytes
Logo for season two of Starfinder Society Organized Play: Year of a Thousand Bites. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Wayfinder #19

Finally, with PaizoCon comes the launch of another Wayfinder fanzine. Made by fans for fans, this year’s issue is entitled ‘Destination: Absalom Station‘ and features a ton of new Starfinder content. Wayfinder #19 is a free download on Paizo’s website and is always an entertaining and useful read. This year’s issue is especially exciting for my family, as not only did I get an article and two themes into the fanzine, but each of my children (aged seven and eight) created their own monsters which were printed in Wayfinder #19s Alien Archive. So if you want some giant space rabbits to nibble on your PCs, and broken radioactive robots to stumble around the Ghost Levels of Absalom Station and Elytrio, (or just want to see what some creative kids can create!) be sure to give it a download. And even if not? Download it anyway! It’s free and full of awesome content!

We’ll take a closer look at Wayfinder #19 in a day or so.

Wayfinder #19 Cover
Wayfinder #19. Cover by Tyler Clark and Dionisis Milonas

Thanks for joining us! Got a favourite moment from PaizoCon, awesome sneak peek from PaizoCon I missed, or a #MyPathfinderSpoiler? Let us know about it in the comments!

Jessica

PaizoCon 2019

UPDATE: For the latest news from PaizoCon click here!


PaizoCon 2019 is officially underway!

PaizoCon 2019 is being held at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in SeaTac, Washington over Memorial Day weekend. At PaizoCon you can meet your favorite Paizo artists, authors, designers, developers, editors, and personalities. You can also play games at the Pathfinder and Starfinder Society organized play tables, attend panels, seminars, and workshops, get some snazzy sneak-peeks, and (of course) buy stuff! The Guests of Honor for PaizoCon 2019 are Liane Merciel (author of Pathfinder Tales: Hellknight), Wayne Reynolds (freelance illustrator whose work includes every Pathfinder RPG hardcover release and the Pathfinder Iconics), and The Glass Cannon Podcast (weekly live-play podcasters who play Pathfinder and Starfinder. I’ve previously written about them here).

Can’t make it? Neither can I! But, that doesn’t mean you’ll be left out. Know Direction will be streaming live from PaizoCon on Paizo’s twitch channel, with their full schedule posted below.

Enjoy!

Friday, May 24th

  • Welcome to PaizoCon (9:00 am – 9:45 am)
  • Ask the Paizo GMs (10:00 am – 11:00 am)
  • Secrets of Golarion (11:00 am – 12:00 pm)
  • Dungeon Design Dissection (12:00 pm – 1:00 pm)
  • Organized Play Q&A: Starfinder (1:30 – 2:30 pm)
  • World Building with Liane Merciel (2:45 pm – 3:45 pm)
  • Moving on from the Playtest (4:00 pm – 5:00 pm)

Saturday, May 25th

  • Starfinder Adventure Path Q&A (10:30 am – 11:30 am)
  • Let Players Ruin Your Story, Not Your Game (12:00 pm – 1:00 pm)
  • The Future of Pathfinder (2:00 pm – 3:00 pm)
  • Art of Starfinder (3:15 pm – 4:15 pm)
  • Secrets of the Pact Worlds (4:15 pm – 5:15 pm)
  • PaizoCon 2019 Preview Banquet (7:00 pm – 10:00 pm)

Sunday, May 26th

  • Pathfinder Adventure Path Q&A (10:30 am – 11:30 am)
  • Starfinder Beginner Box (1:30 pm – 2:30 pm)
  • The Philosophy Behind Pathfinder Second Edition (2:45 pm – 3:45 pm)
  • Oblivion Oath (4:00 pm – 6:00 pm)

 

Urge to Dirge

Dwarven Forge, creators of high quality dungeon and gaming terrain, recently launched a new video series entitled ‘Build of the Month.’ Once a month the folks over at Dwarven Forge post a video on youtube showing off a build created with their products, then post a fully detailed description of the room for gamers to check out free on their website. It’s hoped that these encounter areas inspire gamers to create new builds, traps, and puzzles for their players, while showcasing the versatility of Dwarven Forge.

The first ‘Build of the Month,’ Urge to Dirge is a multi-stage, musical trap room that my kids and I think is amazing. Haha. Urge to Dirge makes use of pieces from three Dwarven Forge Sets: Starter Dungeon, Passages-Intersections, and Double Doors. To see the build in action, check out the video below. To get the full build instructions and encounter details click here.

Enjoy!

Enter the Dungeon of Doom

My kids love Dwarven Forge.

They’re obsessively browsing the Dwarven Forge website, and watching their many youtube videos. My son takes every opportunity to bring it up, attempting to convince me I should buy him some for his birthday, or for my birthday, or maybe my husband’s Christmas gift.

So when my son asked if he could download the free Dungeon of Doom Adventure a while back, I let him. And when he asked me over and over if I had read it yet, I pushed it up a little higher on my to-read list.

You see, I like Dwarven Forge, but when it comes to adventures, I tend to prefer a sweeping story over a classic dungeon. And the Dungeon of Doom adventure? Seemed like one big deadly dungeon.

Which it is. But, turns out, it’s also awesome! Haha.

I finally got around to reading the adventure and was pleasantly surprised. Every encounter area is well planned, well executed, and exceptionally creative –– all things I expect from Dwarven Forge. There’s some basic plot hooks to get the adventure moving, but not much else. On the surface, at least. There’s much more going on in this dungeon delve than anticipated, as the PCs will uncover as they adventure.

If they survive.

Dungeon of Doom is packed full of layered, multi-stage traps and puzzles that work to create a deadly challenge for the PCs. It’s smart, clever, and surprisingly funny! There’s a wide array of NPCs you can meet and interact with in the dungeon, from ghostly spirits, to chatty gargoyles and, my personal favourite, a talking door. The PCs have plenty of secrets and history to uncover through their exploration, and a lot of powerful treasure to claim. But, as previously mentioned, this is definitely a deadly dungeon! For starters, the dungeon itself drains your PCs life force, making taking a long rest impossible. PCs will need to complete the entire dungeon with relative speed or they’ll run out of resources. In addition, characters that die have their souls trapped within the dungeon and rise as an undead spirit known as a maerghast. Not a desirable end! Along the way the PCs will need to collect magical artifacts known as glyphstones, which are powerful semi-intelligent artifacts which affect the PCs personality and behaviour, but grants them potent magical powers –– some of which can allow players to heal or gain the effects of taking a long rest. But, the greatest challenge is definitely the dungeon itself. As I previously mentioned the encounter rooms are packed full of well-utilized, challenging puzzles and traps which I absolutely adored. It’s deadly, but a lot of fun.

The Dungeon of Doom Adventure is a free download here, and is intended for characters between the levels of 1 and 10. Each challenge is written for three difficulty levels, based on your party’s APL (average party level). APL 1–4, APL 5–7, and APL 8–10, with the variable numbers (DCs, Damage, and so on) separated by a slash. For example DC 12/14/16 or 1d8/2d8/3d8 damage. It’s easy to understand and efficient. Monsters are instead listed on a chart, with the composition of each encounter being determined by your party’s APL. Level 1 parties might face off against a quasit while a level 10 party might face a nalfeshnee in the same location. The adventure is written for 5e Dungeons and Dragons, but has rules in the back for running it for the Pathfinder RPG (which is awesome!). Those of you interested in investing in Dwarven Forge’s Dungeon of Doom products can buy the pieces needed to make the Dungeon of Doom on a room by room basis on their website, while the adventure contains detailed build guides to show you how to set it all up. You can also watch Dungeon of Doom played or see a run-down of the rooms on youtube.

Dungeon of Doom is a deviously deadly dungeon full of interesting puzzles and traps, perfectly suited to challenge players of a variety of levels. I found it absolutely inspiring! I highly recommend you give it read!

Jessica

Starfinder Critical Fumble Deck

Recently we took a look at the Starfinder Critical Hit Deck, but today our luck’s taking a dive! Bring on the 1s! We’re taking a peek at the Starfinder Critical Fumble Deck!

Critical Fumble 2

Like its counterpart the Starfinder Critical Fumble Deck is the size and shape of a deck of playing cards. It retails for around $10.99 USD (or around $15 Canadian dollars). There’s a space goblin with a shattered d20 on the box and card backs, with some product information on the back of the box.

The cards inside are high quality and easy to read with a colour scheme matching the Starfinder Core Rulebook and the Critical Hit Deck. There’s fifty-five cards inside. One contains product information, the open game license, and cites Owen K.C. Stephens as the author and Taylor Fischer as the illustrator. The second card lists the rules of using the Critical Fumble Deck. And the other 53 cards are Critical Fumble Cards.

Critical Fumble 3

All of the cards follow a specific set of rules laid out on the rules card. You’ll also need to decide ahead of time how to use the Critical Fumble Deck. There’s three methods presented although its suggested you use the first, which sees critical fumbles occur rarely. I prefer to get a lot of use out of my cards, though, so we use the third option in my house: a natural one is a critical fumble if is also misses the targets AC.

The cards themselves work just like the Critical Hit Deck. When you roll a critical fumble you draw a card. Each card has four different critical fumble effects. One for energy attacks, one for kinetic attacks, and one for spell attacks. The fourth critical fumble effect is an ‘extreme blow’ and lists a single specific damage type (such as bludgeoning or fire). You simply read the card, select the critical fumble effect that matches your damage type, and carry out the effect listed. If you happen to deal the exact same type of damage as the extreme blow you use that critical fumble instead.

There’s lots of entertaining critical fumble effects. Some of my favourite effects include burn out (energy), look at the pretty colours (energy), unscheduled dance-off (energy), so much blood (kinetic), spectacularly stubbed toe (kinetic), caster’s block (magic), not what I meant to do (extreme grenade), sword in the stone (extreme melee), and nailed in place (extreme piercing).

Critical Fumble 1

Got a favourite critical fumble card? Let us know in the comments!

Enjoy!

Jessica

Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

Baldurs Gate - Descent Into Avernus
Cover for Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

Wizards of the Coast has just announced its newest Dungeons and Dragons campaign, Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus! The announcement was made during its D&D Live: The Descent event in L.A. Beginning in the incredibly popular town of Baldur’s Gate and descending into Avernus (the first level of Hell), this 256-page campaign takes players from level 1 to level 13. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus is scheduled to make its debut September 17, with the Beadle and Grimm’s Platinum Edition scheduled for release in October.

For more information on this diabolical campaign, check out the video below, or click here for a full list of the D&D Beyond interviews regarding this campaign on youtube.

For more information on Beadle & Grimm’s Platinum Edition of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, click here. Only 1000 copies of the Platinum Edition will be made, and yes, it’s expected to sell out. This weekend only (May 18th – May 19th 2019), the Platinum Edition is on sale for $449.00 USD (from it’s full retail price of $499.00 USD).

dnddescentkeyartjpg
Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

HABA Game Design Contest

HABA USA is hosting its 3rd Annual Game Design Contest, which is exciting news for all you aspiring board game designers out there!

HABA USA is the exclusive importer of HABA, a German toy and game company well known for it’s high quality children’s games (including Animal Upon Animal Orchard, and Rhino Hero) that feature wooden pieces. In 2015 HABA branched out into the family game market, producing delightful games such as Adventure LandKaruba, and Meduris.

The HABA USA Game Design Contest runs from May 5th, 2019 through to July 13th, 2019. To enter, participants from Canada, Mexico, and the USA can purchase a design kit for $5 USD (shipping to Canada and Mexico is extra). Only 200 kits will be sold. Each kit will contain a random assortment of pieces from HABA games. Contestants then use some of the pieces from their kit to create a brand new game. The games must be a children’s / family game for 2 – 4 players that lasts between 15 – 45 minutes. When your game prototype is ready you write up a rulebook and send your completed entry back to HABA USA. All contestants who submit a game will get a $5 coupon for HABAusa.com

A panel of judges will play all the submitted games, with the top 3 – 5 submissions earning their creators a HABA games bundle. In addition, the winning games will be shown to the Director of New Game Development at HABA Germany corporate office. Some may even be published by HABA.

Exciting stuff!

For full game rules click here.

Best of luck to all the entrants!

Jessica

Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit! So hop aboard and get ready to rebel!

Against the Aeon Throne is a three part Starfinder Adventure Path that begins with Part One: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen, continues with Part Two: Escape from the Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron, and concludes with Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm. All together these three adventures should take your characters from level one through to level seven. You can also pick up the Against The Aeon Throne Pawn Collection.

To read our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne click the links below:

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign than most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. It’s a great change of pace that will allow the folks at Starfinder to tell shorter, more personal stories. In addition, this three part length makes it easier to purchase and play through an entire adventure path. It’s awesome for gift giving and the budget conscious! Six books is a huge investment, but three? Well, that’s a lot more manageable for those of us without much extra cash laying around. On the other hand, with the three book format I feel like I blinked and the whole adventure path was over. I didn’t get my hands on the first book until the third came out and I missed the Signal of Screams Adventure Path completely. In general, it’s both easier to collect and easier to miss. Although I enjoy the three book format, I also enjoy the six book format, so I hope they continue to rotate between the campaign lengths.

Against the Aeon Throne

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit all about? In previous adventures, the PCs defeated an Azlanti military force that had annexed the small colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet of Nakondis. But saving the fledgeling colony was just the beginning. The PCs discovered that an experimental starship engine and their friend, the android Cedona, were transported off of Nakondis and back to the Azlanti Star Empire. Giving chase the PCs made some allies and rescued Cedona. All that’s left is to find the experimental starship engine, steal it or destroy it, and escape with their lives. Along the way they’ll fight Aeon Guard soldiers, rescue captive scientists, and face off against the man responsible for sending troops to Nakondis in the first place! No problem! …Right?

the-rune-drive-gambit-against-the-aeon-throne-book-3-of-3-e1557809255646.jpgNow, let me take a moment to be clear. The Azlanti Star Empire is a pack of giant, pompous, jerks. They’re great villains for the PCs to clash with, but an overwhelming opponent. This adventure path does not send your PCs off to take down the entire Azlanti Star Empire. It’s much smaller in scale than that. And frankly? I love it. It lends a sense of suspense to the series and makes it feel like you’re playing real people in a living breathing world universe doing what they can, rather than heroes so powerful they change the whole world universe. It’s a wonderful change of pace and scope. It’s got a very Firefly / Star Wars feel to it.

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself. Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit (Against the Aeon Throne 3 of 3) is a softcover adventure written by Larry Wilhelm that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level five to level seven. The adventure itself is around 39 pages long, and split into three main parts: With Friends Like These, in which the players upgrade their ship and figure out where the heck they’re going; Within Enemy Territory, in which the players travel to and explore the upper levels of a secret research facility located in an asteroid; and Scientific Theories, in which the players finish exploring the research facility, track down the rune drive, and decide what to do with it. After the adventure there’s six pages of ideas on how to continue the campaign after it’s conclusion, with eight short ideas, and two detailed ideas that include a stat block or two. After that there’s an eight page primer on the Stewards, including two character archetypes. There’s seven new creatures in the Alien Archive, and a short Codex of Worlds article on New Thespera, heart of the Azlanti Star Empire. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier 5 starship: the Vanguard Regnant.

My favourite parts of this adventure are the layout, enemy tactics, and defences of the research facility, and the NPCs you unexpectedly discover along the way.

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS.

You have been warned.

Rune Drive

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read and the colours are easy on the eyes. The cover art is wonderful. It showcases Sardat Zolan Ulivestra, an Azlanti nobleman and enemy of the PCs, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind him is an awesome image of Obozaya (the iconic vesk soldier) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) fighting off Azlanti soldiers.

Azlanti Aeon Guard
Azlanti Aeon Guard. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The starship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Regnant. This tier 5 small light freighter is destined to be the final (or second last) enemy the PCs face in this campaign. It’s a well-built luxury ship that’s fast and maneuverable, but still packs a punch. I particularly like the ship layout.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts in Outpost Zed where the PCs (and Cedona) will need to get their ship upgraded by their friend Hasshachir, who they met in the previous adventure. While they wait they’ll run into trouble, which will ultimately provide the PCs with the clues they need to determine their next destination. We won’t talk about these events any further, as it would ruin the surprise for those of us reading this who ignored my spoiler warning. (You know who you are! Haha). What I will say, is that I enjoyed this section of the adventure.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Within Enemy Territory. In this section PCs will need to travel to Aurelos, the secret laboratory the rune drive was taken to, find a way inside, and explore the upper levels. Along the way they’ll have to take on the base’s defences and protectors. As previous mentioned, I was really impressed with the layout of the Aurelos base, both the upper levels featured in this section, and the lower levels featured in the next part of the adventure. It’s functional and easily defensible, and is populated with enemies who know how to use their surroundings. There’s a few complications and other defences to round out these encounters, and an enemy is introduced that I rather enjoyed.

Oliviana Jakub Bazyluk
Oliviana. Illustrated by Jakub Bazyluk. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to part three: Scientific Theories. In this section the PCs finish their exploration of Aurelos, fighting off further enemies and surmounting further challenges. Along the way they’ll have the chance to meet quite a few NPCs (potential friends and enemies), question scientists, explore science labs, and try to figure out what the heck the rune drive is and why it’s so important. Then they’ll have to figure out what to do with it and attempt to make their escape. They’ll face off against the mastermind of this whole debacle, Sardat Zolan Ulivestra, alongside some of his loyal (or not so loyal, depending upon your PCs actions) minions. Finally, they’ll have to engage in a starship battle to make their escape!

Part Three is fun, dynamic, and exciting, with plenty of people to interact with, challenging encounters, and a dilemma or two. I really enjoyed Evandrian, an Aeon Guard the PCs are destined to combat multiple times, and the Sardat’s statistics and tactics. He’s the perfect mix of pompous and skilled. I think PCs are going to really hate him. Haha. He’s a great villain. Finally, I like that some of the encounters in this section are open ended. There’s more than one potential outcome, and the choice ultimately rests in the hands of the PCs, either knowingly or through their actions. On the other hand, Part Three is also where I have some issues. There’s really only one thing to do with the rune drive. It’s cool, and it makes sense, but there’s clearly no real alternatives to the option presented. Which is unfortunate. Also, that option? Wow, it’s… complex? It’s logical, both in terms of the story and in terms of Pact Worlds implications. But I was also left wondering why it also does… some other stuff that seems tacked on. Cool stuff! But odd. I’m being vague, I know, but you’ll understand when you read it.  Haha.

Which brings us to the end of The Rune Drive Gambit and the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path. But, that’s not the end of the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is a lot of ideas for how to continue the campaign. There’s eight minor ideas here, some of which will lead to short adventures, and others which could form the basis of long, epic campaigns. I know my family will want to head back to Nakondis to help out the colony there, so it’s nice to see a few options that deal with the Madelon’s Landing. Other ideas involve the Stewards, the Azlanti Star Empire, and even transitioning into the Signal of Screams Adventure Path (definitely not the option my family will be using, but it’s nice to see it in print). There’s also two longer campaign ideas. One is a direct continuation, which makes a lot of sense, and I’m very likely to make use of. The other is both awesome and out there! I love it! But, it’s way too confusing to run with my kids (which is who I’m currently running through Against the Aeon Throne). If any of you make use of Kellixtrian I’d love to hear about it.

Following this is an eight page primer on the Stewards. Basically the peace-keeping force of the Pact Worlds, the Stewards are warrior diplomats that are organized into four main branches and run by a Director-General. The branches are Constabulary (the police force), Ops (the spies), Overwatch (the starship fleet), and Conclave of Legates (veterans who act as a council and advisory board). This section describes the Stewards origins, history, structure, leadership, purpose, bases, training regimen, and interests. It also presents two new archetypes, the Stewards infiltrator (an ops agent) and Stewards stalwart (self-sufficient agents that often work alone). Both of the archetypes are useful and very cool! I’m really glad the Stewards are getting some attention, as they are a powerful organization that can be utilized and interacted with in a wide variety of campaigns. They’re very usable.

BattleRobot Alexandur Alexandrov
Azlanti Battle Robot. Illustrated by Alexandur Alexandrov. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, three of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: power archon, a CR 5 outsider tasked with destroying corrupting technology; carnivorous crystal, a CR 11 ooze that can turn you to crystal; comanide, a very creepy looking CR 7 fey; entropy slug, a CR 4 magical beast the PCs will face in part one of this adventure; hulsa, a CR 10 fey; Azlanti battle robot, a CR 6 robot the PCs will face in part three of this adventure; and twinsoul, a very strange CR 8 creature also featured in this adventure.

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on New Thespera, the heart of the Azlanti Empire and seat of the Aeon Throne. It’s an incredibly useful article, but very brief. New Thespera’s the sort of important place you could write pages of information on.

And with that, Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit (Against the Aeon Throne 3 of 3) has come to an end.

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the final volume of Against the Aeon Throne much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica

Character Focus: Danicka Raburnus

Hello everyone! I hope you had a great weekend.

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

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

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

Introducing Danicka Raburnus and her vicious dog, Prickles!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mostly, she was embarrassed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Jessica

Happy Mother’s Day

Good morning, everyone!

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

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

Have a great day!

Jessica

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