I watched a strange little documentary last night on Netflix called Dwarvenaut that follows a little company called Dwarven Forge. Dwarven Forge isn’t new, they’ve been around for twenty years, in fact, but their product is new to me. They make game terrain. But not just any terrain! Oh, no. They make AMAZING game terrain.
The pieces look awesome, are easy to build with, are super durable and come entirely painted. The downside? Price! These are super expensive. Take into account the exchange rate and the absurd cost of delivery (they’re American, and I’m Canadian), and WOW! That is SO outside my budget.
Still, they look amazing. It’s definitely going on my Christmas List. Or birthday list. Or, the ‘when I win the lottery’ list…
My daughter and I spent a bit of this morning checking out their website, watching the videos and tutorials, and generally geeking out over them. Her solution? Buy them for my son for his birthday! Haha. Way to get what you want, without giving up your own gift, my dear!
Cheeky little thing.
You can check out these nifty products on their website: Dwarven Forge. Let me know what you think!
Already own some Dawrven Forge products? Cool! Let me know how you like it in the comments below!
Looking for Game Aids related to the Shackled City Adventure Path? Look no further! What follows is a compiling of the player’s handouts, and necessary maps for the beginning of the first adventure in the series, Life’s Bazaar.
If you haven’t read about our ongoing adventures in the Shackled City, check out our characters in this blog post, our first session here, and our second session here.
Given to the group by Jenya Urikas of the local Church of Abadar, this riddle is the result of divinations that enquired “Where are the children who were taken from the Lantern Street Orphanage?”
The riddle reads:
“The lock are key to finding them. Look beyond the curtain, below the cauldron. Beware the doors with teeth. Descend into the malachite hold, where precious life is bought with gold. Half a dwarf binds them, but not for long.”
There have been a lot of missing people in Cauldron over the last few months. And whether your player’s get a list of them from the town guard or the Church of Abadar, they’re sure to ask an important question: “Who exactly went missing?” Be sure to look through this listing ahead of time and choose a few people on it that a PC or two knows either well, or in passing. Perhaps an old friend, a co-worker, or a shopkeep whose store closed suddenly. The missing persons are:
Tiervan Wispwort – male gnome, age 91: A local alchemist, lived with two cats and ran a marginally successful business. Disappeared from his home 88 nights ago.
Jorl Seerkin – male gnome, age 72: A law clerk who worked for a local gnome barrister named Aeryk Gylbar. Disappeared from his home 83 nights ago.
Azmi Dresker – female human, age 19: A known prostitute who plied her trade at the Slippery Eel Tavern, she disappeared from her residence 81 nights ago. She and a coworker, Shellen Rycah, rented the house from an old woman named Martira Hathaway, who was asleep in the house that night and didn’t hear or see anything.
Shellen Rycah – female human, age 20: Another prostitute who frequented the Slippery Eel Tavern and shared a house with coworker Azmi (above) and their landlord. Disappeared 81 nights ago.
Krylscar Endercott – male human, age 24: Kicked out of the local militia for drunk and disorderly conduct, he vanished from his parents’ home 74 nights ago. Neither parent saw or heard anything suspicious, but they believe Krylscar may have robbed them and fled town in disgrace.
Callum Sunnyrush – male halfling, age 37: He groomed horses and ponies for the Lathenmire noble family. He vanished from his room at the Laughing Horse Inn 69 nights ago.
Gryffon Malek – male human, age 33: He worked as a barkeep at the Tipped Tankard Tavern. Disappeared 66 days ago, three days before his planned wedding to tavern barmaid Imelie Deranti.
Szordra Callagher – female human, age 35: A self-proclaimed sage, she ran her own small bookstore. She was last seen 60 nights ago by her 18 year old son, Leagan, a mason’s apprentice.
Tembor Kalavan – male human, age 25: A local minstrel of some repute, he vanished 52 nights ago from his room at the Laughing Horse Inn.
Irruth Mercadi – female human, age 36: A local chandler who disappeared from the apartment above her shop 47 nights ago.
Deven Myrzal – male human, age 18: A lamplighter who vanished 45 nights ago. Guards found his pole (used to unhook lanterns) in the street a few blocks from his home (which was not robbed).
Jeneer Everdawn – female halfling, age 42: A jeweler’s apprentice who did volunteer work at Bluecrater Academy. She disappeared 40 nights ago.
Lorthan Ironfold – male dwarf, age 125: A skilled cartwright. He and his wife, Sondor, vanished from their home 35 nights ago.
Sondor Ironfold – female dwarf, age 127: Wife of Lorthan (above). Assists her husband in his labours.
Rikaldo Veskar – human male, age 34: His ransacked home contained blood droplets and blood-encrusted knives—not surprising as he works as a skinner. He disappeared 31 nights ago.
Lestor Coldwater – male human, age 22: A trained scribe and struggling poet. He and his girlfriend, Jelluth, vanished from her home 26 nights ago. His home was no robbed.
Jelluth Sirlana – female half-elf, age 33: A struggling shoemaker who inherited her father’s failing business. She vanished (along with Lestor, above) from her home 26 nights ago.
Elethor Ashstaff – male half-elf, age 58: A wizard and trickster who occasionally performed minor feats of prestidigitation at birthday parties for upper-class children. A dead rat—possibly his faimliar—was found in his home. He vanished 22 nights ago.
Maple – female halfling, age 32: Last name unknown. Rumoured to be associated with the Alleybashers (a small street gang). She disappeared 18 nights ago.
Corystan Pike – female human, age 35: A retired adventurer who was living on stolen loot. She walked with a cane and disappeared from her modest home 16 days ago.
Jasper Drundlesput – male gnome, age 74: A reclusive and eccentric mathematician who worked at Bluecrater Academy. Believed to have vanished 9 days ago. Pieces of parchment covered with numbers and symbols litter the floor of this ransacked house.
Deakon Stormshield – male dwarf, age 20: A bright dwarf, Deakon was taken from the Lantern Street Orphanage three nights ago. he orphanage took him in when he was six years old when his parents failed to return from an adventure.
Evelyn Radavec – female human, age 9: A quiet, sullen girl, she was taken from the Lantern Street Orphanage three nights ago. Her father and mother succumbed to the filth fever plague that struck Cauldron seven years ago.
Lucinda Aldreen – female human, age 8: A gregarious but superstitious child given to the Lantern Street Orphanage at age four by her poverty-stricken mother. Lucinda was abducted three nights ago.
Terrem Kharatys – male human, age 9: A dour and temperamental lad taken from the Lantern Street Orphanage three nights ago. His parents died shortly after his birth (circumstances unknown).
Ghelve’s Locks is the first major location that has a map in the Shackled City Adventure Path. For information on the rooms and building, check out the adventure itself. The hardcover edition is available here, while the first adventure in the adventure path, Life’s Bazaar is available here. You can find the map for Ghelve’s Locks here.
The Map of Jzadirune
The final player’s handout we’ve come across so far, is an old map of Jzadirune. This image is for giving directly to your players! Let them pore over it all they like. It’s no longer accurate anyway…
That’s all the player’s handouts we have for you today. See you again soon!
Hello! Welcome back to Cauldron, home of the Shackled City Adventure Path! When we left off our heroic musicians were retiring to their homes to contemplate a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! (If none of this sounds familiar, read this blog post first.)
Although the time between reading Part One and Part Two of our adventures is only a moment away for you, it was not so for my son. We paused here for a few days, and let me tell you, my son’s imagination went WILD! He spent two days straight CONSTANTLY working out theories and suggestions about the riddle they received from Jenya Urikas, and coming up with possible connections between the missing persons (for a full list of missing persons, click here). On the walks to school, during dinner, at bedtime… CONSTANTLY. And there were A LOT of theories. Surprisingly, some of his ideas were pretty close to accurate. Still, I said nothing aside from: “Mick will have to wait and see.” and “You think so?” He got out his detective’s notebook–a copy of Detective Murdoch’s notebook from Murdoch Mysteries that he adores–and began writing all of his ideas and theories down with a big red crayon.
Obviously, my son was insistant that the locks and keys were very important. He had a ton of theories about why, all of which were crazy, but whatever the reasoning, he settled on them being literal locks and keys. He alto took the curtain and cauldron part of the riddle literally, insisting everyone check behind their curtains at home, and at the orphanage, and that everyone look underneath every cauldron they own or come across.
He had no idea what was up with the doors with teeth, but was pretty sure he would recognize a giant mouth door when he found one, so he wasn’t too worried about that. My daughter was though, and had a few-hour-long fear of doors, worried as she was that they might grow teeth and chomp on her.
My son was very excited with the next part of the riddle: descend. He knew that meant going down, and he was very hopeful that would lead us to his character’s birthplace: Jzadirune. An underground enclave of the gnomes, Jzadirune was hit by a mysterious vanishing plague, and shut down when Mick was only a child. Many people died, and although Mick made it to the surface, he was orphaned by the experience. Nearly all of his madcap theories involved Jzadirune in one way or another. He was pretty sure that whatever was going on, Jzadirune was either a secret base for the bad guys, or a way to get to their secret base. He didn’t know what the bad guys might be, but he was hopeful it was invisible evil gnomes.
My son does understand the concept of slavery, so he was pretty sure that was involved because of the next line in the riddle. After giving it some though he decided it probably wasn’t invisible evil gnomes after all, but duergar. He’s got a decent knowledge of the races and monsters of D&D and not only does he know that duergar are evil underground dwarves, he also knows they’re slavers. With those his current suppositions, he made a TON of crazy ideas about what’s going on, why it’s going on, and how it’s going on. Magic showed up in his detective’s journal a lot. How’d they get in? Magic. How’d they stay silent? Magic. How come there were no footprints? Magic. Also, the doors with teeth? Were they a real toothy door? Or a monster’s mouth? Was it magic? He thought it might be a literal monster’s mouth we’d have to enter, which would be pretty awesome…
The next time we sat down to play the Shackled City, the PCs had breakfast together, chatted a bit, and headed out to the Lantern Street Orphanage to begin their investigation. The headmistress, a halfling by the name of Gretchyn Tashykk, was suspicious of the group–and rightly so! But Mick and Aeris managed to earn her trust. Aeris often donated money (from her occasional midnight criminal activities) to the orphanage, and Mick had grown up here. Although Gretchyn hadn’t been there to raise him, she did recognize him. Occassionally he came by to tell jokes to the children.
After explaining their purpose, the characters asked for information on the abductions, and for permission to interview the staff. Gretchen agreed. She told them everything she knew, and gave them a tour, then introduced them to each member of the staff in turn. They learned a bit from Gretchyn–which is listed below:
The children who are missing are Deakon, Evelyn, Lucinda and Terrem. Two boys and two girls.
The orphanage has two common bedchambers on the second floor: one for boys and one for girls. Two children were taken from each room.
None of the children slept nearest to the windows or door. They did not sleep beside each other. No one saw or heard anything.
The orphanage has lockable windows and doors. In addition to the orphanage locking during the night, the bedchamber rooms are locked as well.
There were no signs of forced entry and nothing was broken.
The PCs aren’t the only ones to investigate the children’s disappearance. The day the children were discovered missing the town guard came by, looked around and spoke with everyone. Two days ago a pair of half-elf investigators sent by the Mayor’s Office came by to look around and speak to Gretchyn. Yesterday that young priest came by offer help and speak with the children (Rufus Laro). And today the PCs arrived.
Aeris set out to inspect the locks on the doors and windows, while the characters asked further questions of Gretchyn, and spoke to the children. Mick ran a ton of crazy theories past her, but Gretchyn had no insights to offer.
Shortly, Aeris had confirmed that there was no signs of a break in. The locks were of fine quality and were in working order. There was no sign they had been picked. She decided to check the other locks in the building, while the others started interviewing the staff.
They started with Jaromir Copperbeard, the dwarven gardener who seemed to genuinely love the children despite his gruff demeanour. He also informed the group that one of the children, Terrem, was a troublemaking brat. He couldn’t imagine HIM going quietly. He confirmed he had found no signs of a break-in that night, and found no prints in his flower beds or scuffs along the outer walls.
Then they visited Neva Fanister, the old human nurse. Neva was always busy tending bruises, cuts and wounds. Kids were rough and rambunctious. She knew the kids quite well and confirmed that Terrem was a handful and was often in her care for scrapes and bruises he received in fist-fights and play-wrestling. The others were very different from him. Deakon was a smart, hard-working dwarf boy who had been with them a long time (dwarves grew up slowly), Evelyn was a sullen, quiet girl, and Lucinda was a happy but superstitious child. They didn’t have much in common with one another. Although, they did have their good health!
The characters tried to visit the half-elf schoolteacher, Willow Atherfell, next, but finding her overwhelmed with trying to handle the children, they moved on to see the cook, Temar Flagonstern, instead. Temar was a relatively new addition to the orphanage, having only worked there three years–the same as Willow. He complained about the huge amount of labour he had to do, and told the characters that he barely knew the children. He spent all his time cooking for them, washing their dirty dishes and cleaning up after their messes, only to do it all over again. Clearly a grumpy fellow, Temar seemed to be telling the truth. In addition, he confirmed that one of the children, Terrem, was a hall-raiser and was constantly making huge messes in the dining hall. Temar was NOT impressed.
Then they went to speak with the janitor, Patch. Patch was a strong half-orc with an eye patch over one eye, a nervous demeanour and a stutter. It was immediately clear that Patch adored the children and knew his way around the place well. In fact, Patch had grown up here and took work as a janitor when he was too old to stay any longer. Of course, it was also clear he was stupid. My son was immediately suspicious of the poor half-orc and soon Falco, Mick and Rabbity began asking questions about the orphanage, the children, the Last Laugh and the night of the abductions. Eventually, the nervous, stuttering fellow admitted he did know something but that he couldn’t speak about it here. Falco responded by doing what any fine gentleman would do: he invited Patch for tea at his flat.
Aeris rejoined them before they left the building. She had discovered that all the locks were in fine working order and great quality. In addition, she recognized the maker’s mark. It was a competitor of hers, Keygan Ghelve. As the others headed off with Patch to Falco’s flat, Aeris decided to separate from them for a while. She took the list of missing persons and visited all the places she thought she would be able to gain access to in order to examine their locks. If the locks truly were the key to finding the missing people, as the riddle had suggested, then perhaps there was something in common between them.
After inviting Patch inside and giving him a tour of the house, Falco, Mick and Rabbity sat down for tea with the awkward fellow. Patch was wary at first, and clearly had information to share that he wasn’t sure he should. But working together, the characters diplomacy was through the roof, so Patch soon believed he could trust them. Patch told the group in his stuttering, nervous way, that the Last Laugh wasn’t responsible for the kidnappings. A few years ago, when Terrem came to the orphanage, a man approached Patch while he was drinking away his earnings at the Slippery Eel Tavern. He was a halfling who was missing both of his pinkies and introduced himself as Regis Two-fingers. Patch and Regis became pals, and soon, Regis told Patch that he had a favour to ask him–as friends. Patch accepted (having not many people who he could call friends) and learned that Regis was a member of the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild, a group that had a very keen interest in ensuring that a young orphan named Terrem was kept safe and in the orphanage’s care. Patch was confused. How did Regis even know about that little human child? But, he agreed to watch over Terrem and keep Regis informed of his health. Patch promised, more than a little scared for his life, that Regis would be the first to know if anything happened to Terrem. The day that Terrem and the other orphans went missing, Patch had slipped out to tell Regis as soon as he could. And Regis was furious! Patch swears that the Last Laugh wants to protect Terrem, and get him back, not hurt him or take him someplace else.
The PCs were a little confused. They asked Patch some clarifying questions and discovered that Patch was out drinking the night the kids went missing, and returned late. He slept like the dead, and felt horribly guilty that he didn’t hear anything happen at all that night!
The group pressed him further, using his guilt and his love of the children against him, until Patch had told them everything he knew (which wasn’t much more) and promised that if they found out who had taken the children, Patch would go with them to help save the children. Satisfied, they took Patch back to the orphanage, asked the overwhelmed school-teacher Willow a few questions, and bid everyone farewell.
Before heading out to regroup with Aeris, the PCs decided to pay a visit to the Mayor’s Office in the hopes of pooling their information with the half-elf investigators that had been sent to the orphanage. Upon arriving the secretary, Lucia Reynald, asked their business. When they inquired about the Lantern Street Orphanage investigation she told them that she was not privy to which guards were placed on which cases. That was up to the guard Captains. When they pressed for information about the Mayor’s special investigators she informed them they were mistaken–the Mayor’s Office employs no investigators at all. Certainly not a pair of half-elven ones!
The plot thickens!
On the way out of the Town Hall and Lord Mayor’s Office the characters ran into a chipper, young woman named Cynarra Navalant, who turned out to be the mayor’s daughter. Falco introduced himself politely, but Mick was too scared! He didn’t want to get in trouble for talking to important people like the mayor’s daughter! He ignored her completely and hurried out into the streets. The others followed him–after a polite farewell.
Regrouping with Aeris after a hard day’s investigating, the players shared information with each other. Aeris was skeptical about the Last Laugh’s ‘benevolent’ involvement, and Patch, but there were more pressing things to consider. She had checked the locks at six other sites of disappearances and discovered none of them had been tampered with. In addition, they were all crafted by the same locksmith–Keygan Ghelve. With a new suspect (or at least accomplice) in mind, the group set off straight for his shop, Ghelve’s Locks.
Arriving late-afternoon they found Ghelve’s Locks open for business and went right in. Keygan was there on a pair of stilts covered by long pants. He strutted around the place comfortably, and wandered over to ask how he could help his new customers. And then he recognized Aeris (his competition).
With a scowl, he asked her to wait while he handled his customers, but Aeris cut in and assured him they ALL had business with him. Business regarding the recent disappearances. Surely he must know something about them, right? They all used his locks!
Keygan told the group to get out, but Falco stalled, using diplomacy to try to get some answers. Keygan looked nervous, and began gesturing with his head and eyes to a curtained back-room. Mick was pretty sure that Keygan wanted to hug and kiss him or something, but Falco understood his meaning: Keygan wasn’t alone, and whoever was with him was back there…. Beyond the curtain.
Unfortunately for Keygan, the group proved less keen on playing along and pretending to leave than they did with tearing through the shop to get past the curtain. Mick seized a pile of what he hoped was stinky, smoky leaves and tossed them onto the fireplace’s flames, while Rabbity hopped on Panthy, Aeris pushed her way past the curtain, and Falco moved to follow her. Keygan had had enough! He cast a spell at the trio, just as Mick summoned his piano and began to taunt the little locksmith with his mock ability. Solely focused on Mick now because of his rude insults, the gnomes battled it out with wits, words and magic spells in the shop front while Aeris charged into the darkness of the storage room. Three steps into the room and she recoiled in pain. Looking down in shock she realized she had been shot by a crossbow bolt.
“Someone’s… here!” she grunted through the pain. Rabbity and Panthy charged into the room, Falco healed Aeris and then moved to open the window curtains, revealing their attacker was up on the landing of the stairs to the second floor. An unnatural calm came over Aeris as her goddess’ will and purpose overtook her. Replacing her fiery temper and impulsiveness with an eerie calm and righteousness, the now bloodraging Aeris stalked up the steps to engage her enemy.
Her companions soon joined the battle, and in a few short rounds it was done. The mysterious, grey skinned figure was unconscious, and the trio rejoined Mick and Keygan–who promptly surrendered.
Aeris scolded the man and began blaming him for his crimes, causing Keygan to break down in sobs. Keygan explained that a few months ago strange humanoids had come up from his basement and attacked him! They stole his rat familiar, Starbrow, and asked him tons of questions about the city. Keygan told them everything they wanted to know, and they left–but they took Starbrow with them. In addition, one of them stayed behind in his home to ensure he never spoke about them to the guard. Keygan was a prisoner in his own home and his beloved pet was their hostage! Not long afterwards they demanded Keygan make them a set of skeleton keys which could open any lock he had crafted. He did so, and worried in silence as they began rifling through his records. Every few nights since they’ve taken a few addresses from his books and headed off into the city, only to bring unconscious Caudronites back down into the tunnels below his home…
Keygan was ashamed, and regretful, but not truly sorry. He would do it again to save Starbrow. Aeris was disgusted and wanted to turn both Keygan and the gray-skinned man over to the town guards, but Falco had a different plan. Falco told Keygan that they were going to go underground and rescue the missing people (and rats!) but that Keygan would have to come with them. Seeing no other choice, Keygan agreed.
They tied up the gray-skinned man, tossed him in a trunk, and then tied up the trunk from outside with thick ropes, before sitting down to speak. They had some questions, and Keygan would have to tell them everything he knew if they were going to succeed. Luckily, Keygan had plenty of information.
In his basement are old tunnels that were sealed up long ago and lead to Jzadirune. (At this news my son jumped for joy). This is where he assumes the kidnappers are currently lairing.
The doors in Jzadirune are gear-shaped and designed to roll to one side or the other. Most of them had traps that only the gnomes could safely bypass. Unfortunately, Keygan was too young to remember much more than this. He knows they had keys that looked like long sticks. He also knows his father had a leather map that showed the layout of Jzadirune (though whether or not it’s accurate he has no idea).
The kidnappers took Starbrow someplace dark within one mile. Through his empathic link with the rat, Keygan can tell he is hungry and scared.
There are two kinds of people who come up from his basement: ‘tall ones’ and ‘short ones’. Neither of them seem to like the sunlight. The tall ones resemble naked, hairless, genderless humans with blue pupilless eyes, and grey skin that changes colour, allowing them to blend perfectly with their surroundings. They are usually encountered in pairs or threes and often leave the shop wearing cloaks. They carry repairs and light crossbows.
The short ones are sinister gnome-like creatures with pallid skin, large noses and black hooves for feet. They wear black cloaks and cowls that help them hide in the shadows. The wield filthy looking daggers.
The kidnappers share a common language that Keygan doesn’t recognize.
If the kidnappers have a leader, Keygan hasn’t seen it. They seem to get along fine without one.
With this information, Rabbity, Panthy and Mick stayed behind to keep an eye on Ghelve and study the map of Jzadirune, which was old, faded and unlabelled. Aeris went home to fetch a backpack no one had seen her wear before that contained a surprisingly large number of objects useful for breaking into places and adventuring in the dark… Falco also left. First he did some shopping (he was rather ill-equipped for adventuring!) and then he went by the Lantern Street Orphanage to get Patch.
Together, this motley group of heroes, cowards, crooks and musicians are about delve beneath Cauldron to a gnomish enclave abandoned for over 75 years, braving the dark, the unknown, and the myserious disease known as the Vanishing, to find the missing citizens of Cauldron or die trying.
Wish them luck!
The other side of the screen:
Welcome to the other side of the screen, a place where you’ll find GM notes related to the recent game sessions you’ve read, and links to the adventures themselves. If there’s something different in the adventure, or things I’ve changed and added, you’ll find it here!
So what’s different in this session? Not much!
The major change came right near the end: Patch and Keygan Ghelve are not intended to join the player’s on their quest below Cauldron. However, Falco’s diplomacy checks came out absurdly high, and the characters managed to leverage the things those NPCs cared about to their advantage (Starbrow, guilt, and the fate of Terrem and the children). This coupled with the deadliness of their upcoming adventure, the PCs small group size, and the likelihood of my children making poor tactical decisions during combat, caused me to decide that instead of offering other types of aid, Keygan and Patch would join them. However, that meant that their statblocks would need to be updated. Although using their 3.5 stat blocks included in the Shackled City Adventure Path is fine for a battle or two, if they were joining the party they’d need to be proper Pathfinder characters. Patch was originally written as a commoner 1/rogue 1, while Keygan was an expert 3/wizard 1. While converting them to Pathfinder I streamlined their levels, making Patch a rogue (acrobat) 1, and Keygan an illusionist wizard 1. Despite these changes their tactics, gear and the general build and feel of the stat blocks remained true to their original intent.
The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.
Thanks for joining us on our adventures in Cauldron! Tune if later this week for an update on an ongoing Reign of Winter campaign, and a review of Paizo’s Iron Gods Adventure Path!
I love to GM. As mentioned already on this blog, I do it a lot, but mostly for my children. Playing d20 games with a five and six year old is considerably different than playing with a group of adults. Currently, there’s only two games I play face-to-face that do not involve my kids: Mummy’s Mask and Reign of Winter. I GM both.
It’s been weeks since we’ve played, but that’s understandable. November and December are a time full of birthdays and holiday events in my family. Add to that all of us suffering through a weeks-long illness and it’s no wonder my beloved games have been put on a bit of a pause.
We play on Friday nights: Reign of Winter when my brother’s free to join my husband and I, or Mummy’s Mask when both he and his wife are available. Our kids spend the evening playing and watching a movie before heading to bed for the night, and we have a few rare hours of adults-only d20 gaming.
And tomorrow, FINALLY, we’re playing Mummy’s Mask! Needless to say I’m excited.
One of the things I enjoy about GMing and playing is the environments you can create. With a simple description and a series of short social interactions it’s easy to make each city and town feel different and memorable. But a city’s not just buildings and climate, it’s also the is people who live there. Not just the few NPCs who hold plot-hooks, but all of them. From the lowly baker to the mayor’s foppish cousin, I love making an eclectic cast of NPCs for my players to interact with. Shopkeeps have names and families, minor social encounters occur when travelling through cities, and even that random urchin who tries to con you out of a few coppers has a name and a friend or two. I don’t expect the group to interact, befriend, or get into deep conversations with all of them, but I find it’s enriching for them to be able to. To know that they can. Every once in a while there’s an NPC who becomes special to them. Maybe it’s the baker’s daughter who’s been dumped by her boyfriend, the crime-lord’s bodyguard who they try to entice into switching sides, or the down on his luck priest whose temple is in need of repairs. And nothing makes side characters more memorable than a few lines of dialogue and an image to represent them.
Mummy’s Mask is a campaign bursting with opportunity for NPCs. Right at the beginning of the campaign the group stays at a local inn, the Tooth and Hookah. Run by a husband and wife duo, this hookah bar and watering hole is also home to tables staffed by merchants, and a tiny crocodile who lives in the well named Toothy. Now, what player’s NOT going to want to talk to the innkeeper when he’s got a croc in his well? Answer: none.
Beyond their base of operations, the PCs join a lottery put on by the church of Pharasma. Run by it’s High Priestess, a woman with green painted lips known as Sebti the Crocodile, even this distant personality is bursting with interesting quirks. There’s also gate guards and patrols of Voices of the Spire, militant Pharasmins who patrol the Necropolis the tombs are found within.
And the most fun, exciting NPCs to make in the early days of this campaign? The other lottery entrants. See, this campaign is special. Your players join a lottery where the right to explore ancient tombs is handed out to registered groups of adventurers by draw. Some of these groups have a chance to interact with your PCs. And what’s more fun than making a bunch of adventuring parties for them to socialize with?
Playing, obviously, but making adventuring parties is pretty cool, too.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post: GM Aids.
Periodically I’ll post supplementary information, images, encounters, locations and side-trek adventures intended to be used in published campaigns. Today’s focuses on the many NPCs–especially the rival adventuring groups–found in the first book of Mummy’s Mask.
So without further ado: let’s get rolling!
Mummy’s Mask is an adventure path printed by Paizo Publishing which takes place in the town of Wati, within the desert nation of Osirion. A six-part adventure path, the first of these volumes is entitled The Half-Dead City and is written by Jim Groves. Additional details on the city of Wati are included in this book, written by Crystal Frasier, while a short story in the back of the book that uses the Tooth and Hookah as a backdrop is written by Amber E. Scott. A player’s guide for this campaign is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here.
The Tooth and Hookah
One of the places players of Mummy’s Mask are going to visit most often is the Tooth and Hookah. This affordable little establishment will become their temporary home. A place for them to sleep, eat, rest, get out of the sun and to plan. Owned by a Garundi fellow named Farhaan, the Tooth and Hookah, its owner, and it’s delightful little crocodile mascot, Toothy, are given a bit more detail in the short story found at the back of the Half-Dead City. For my version of this campaign we gave Farhaan a wife, Maatkare, a meek but hardworking woman who busies herself around the Tooth and Hookash as a cook and waitress.
Along one wall of the Tooth and Hookah are a few tables available for rent by merchants and peddlers. These merchants aren’t detailed, so I got to make some additions. At the start of the campaign these tables are staffed by Mila Ansretti, a friendly Varisian traveller who loves the vast deserts of Osirion and makes a living selling maps, books, herbs and scarves of all kinds; and Ishpi, an awkward young man who (poorly) sells hand beaded jewelry created by his ailing grandmother. Later in the book Jarha Psenmin joins the merchants here, loudly shouting at patrons and acting like your typical pushy, market haggler–though this one deals in potions! Jarha doesn’t last long at the Hookah, and moves on to the Sunburst Market after only a single evening. If no one’s given Mila a reason to stay at the Hookah, she moves on by the end of this book, finding a new location to sell things in Wati.
For entertainment, the Tooth and Hookah features performances by Wahka, a sleazy half-elven bard who secretly lusts after Maatkare, and Senja Messeniah, a streetwise, lesbian belly-dancer who is good friends with Farhaan.
The Grand Mausoleum
Wati’s temple of Pharasma is incredibly large and has a lot of political power. It’s called the Grand Mausoleum, and is the organizer of Wati’s Necropolis lottery. Each day of the lottery sites are drawn and announced by High Priestess Sebti, pictured in the sidebar. Sebti is detailed thoroughly in the Half-Dead City adventure and the article on Wati later in the book. She’s helped by some acolytes which are undetailed. In my campaign these acolytes are Henna, a scribe who handles all the lottery’s record keeping and can sometimes be found working as a secretary at the Grand Mausoleum, and Ammon, a charismatic mysterious fellow who handles inquiries and explains the details of the lottery and their site with the PCs while Sebti continues with the lottery.
Other NPCs added into the Grand Mausoleum are Elder Neferaba, one of the oldest and most respected clerics in the temple, and Inet, a young woman with no formal education who works as Sebti’s personal secretary.
There’s one more member of the Grand Mausoleum who is written directly into Mummy’s Mask. Introduced with full character art and given a thorough backstory, Ptemenib is found in the second book of this adventure path, Empty Graves, he’s a colourful character your players are bound to love. I highly recommend introducing him right from the start. In addition to being found at the Grand Mausoleum, Ptemenib could also be spotted at the Tooth and Hookah spying on a suspicious patron he suspects of being a member of the Silver Chain (a local gang of smuggler’s who operate within Wati and it’s Necropolis). Ptemenib is joined by his (invisible) friend, a nosoi psychopomp by the name of Qasin.
The Voices of the Spire
The Necropolis is under the control of the Voices of the Spire, a militant wing of the Church of Pharasma, led by the Commander of Voices, Nakht Shepses. Nakht is a character written into books one and two of Mummy’s Mask (though no art was provided for him), and is destined to butt heads with Sebti and the player characters in book two, Empty Graves.
Only one member of the Voices is given a name and artwork, Bal Themm, a woman who guards the front gates to the Necropolis and is introduced in book two, Empty Graves. Bal is easy to include right from the start, as the players walk right by the gate guards twice a day while they’re in the lottery. Starting professional, Bal can grow to respect the group for their accomplishments in the Lottery and even become a friend and source of information. By the time she needs their aid in the second book she’ll already be a companion–or at least remembered–and her fate will have more of an effect on the group.
The Half-Dead City makes mention of Voices of the Spire patrolling the Necropolis and performing inspections during the lottery. However, no other Voices are detailed. In my campaign we added in Shenanda, an experienced Voice who is professional and serious. She’s also Bal’s superior, and Nakht’s lover. Working with Shenanda is a nervous new recruit to the Voices, Menes. Although Menes looks up to Shenanda, he thinks that Commander Shepses is too proud, and needs to treat his lower-class subordinates better. Other Voices on patrol in the Necropolis include the young dwarf Ankhet, the stern female oread Faiza, and the charming and flirtatious Sebkay.
The Scorched Hand
There’s a lot of adventuring parties mentioned in the Half-Dead City. Most are little more than a title and a sentence or two of information, but one of them, the Scorched Hand, are destined to play a major role in this adventure. A group consisting of three followers of Nethys and their sword for hire, the Scorched Hand are introduced in a scripted social encounter that takes place after the first day spent in the Necropolis. I recommend utilizing them at least once more, either before or after that encounter as a social interaction. Make Velriana brush against them while passing by your players in the streets and demand they apologize to her for the insult! Or have them show up at a market stall while your players are trying to purchase an item and insist upon buying that same object–for a bit more coin. Small clashes like this will make the Scorched Hand a group to remember. By the time your players spot Velriana’s feathered hat in the final part of this adventure, they’ll know exactly who they’re about to butt heads with–again.
The Scorched Hand is lead by a pompous, Taldan noble who worships Nethys, Velriana Hypaxes, a wizardess with attitude to spare and ostentatious fashion sense. Her second in command is Khelru, a cleric of Nethys who began life as a peasant and slowly worked his way through the clergy. Khelru’s the only member of the Scorched Hand that Velriana respects. Khelru’s lover is a spoiled, nobleman by the name of Azaz Arafe. Azaz is infatuated with Khelru and converted to Nethys’ faith in order to impress the clergyman. Azaz is a wizard–a poor one–and has a scorpion familiar. Velriana thinks he’s useless–and isn’t shy about showing her feelings. Idorii is a half-elf mercenary hired by Velriana to protect her, then the rest of the Scorched Hand. Idorii sympathizes with Azaz, and thinks Velriana’s stuck-up, but business is business, and Velriana’s the one paying her.
Another group conceptualized in the book but lacking details are the Cryptfinders. They’re a group who met in Absalom, the City at the Centre of the World, and joined up specifically for the purpose of entering Wati’s lottery. Including members from throughout the world, the Cryptfinders are lead by a roguish, womanizing bravo by the name of Falto. Falto is joined by Ilpatrus Nexonus, a Nexian summoner who looks down on other magic users (and barely notices non-magic users). Hesham ibn Gathbiyya is a Qadiran cleric of Sarenrae and the group’s healer. He hates undead and tries to convert everyone he meets to his faith–an unpopular habit in a town so controlled by the Pharasmin clergy. Their final member is Vittoria Etrovain, a Chelaxian cavalier that worships Asmodeus and despises every woman Falto interacts with. The Cryptfinders are present at a single scripted social encounter and, like the Scorched Hand, benefit from additional social interactions. A fellow wizard could study alongside Ilpatrus, the players could come across Falto making a scene as he duels a few local men over his recent dalliance with their sister, or they can help Hesham talk his way out of an angry crowd of locals that he’s tried to convert to his faith.
Daughters of the Desert
This entirely female adventuring party is led by Sigrun Firehair, an Ulfen skald from the Land of the Linnorm Kings who claims to be descended from a genie. Joined by Firadora Fal-Shiek, a paladin of Iomedae exiled from Rahadoum for daring to have (and spread) faith; Sati, a Thuvian desert nomad with no tongue who looks fierce and is constantly splattered with blood stains; and The Twins, Rua and Naat, mysterious Osirian witches who refuse to speak or socialize with outsiders and seem to communicate with glances. These adventurous women make their sole appearance in the same scripted social encounter that the Scorched Hand and the Crytfinders appear in. Sigrun takes the lead for this group, telling epic tales of their adventures in the Necropolis. These women, Sigrun especially, are incredibly easy to add to the campaign further. Sigrun can often be found boasting about her many accomplishments at a variety of drinking establishments, hawking her newly acquired treasures in a market and haggling with the best of them. My favourite location to add them is immediately outside the Necropolis, Sigrun works up the crowd, telling tales about their adventures that day and waving around the treasures they acquired. She then immediately attempts to sell the goods to the crowd. The Twins stand by mysteriously silent, Sati roars and brandishes her bloody blade for the crowd and Firadora poses dramatically. Sigrun is also a great choice to use again in book two, representing the Daughters of the Desert alongside the Twins at the auction at the Canny Jackal.
The Dog Soldiers are an all halfling adventuring group whose obnoxious leader, Mad Dog Marrn, fights alongside his pack of trained Katapeshi hunting dogs. Joined by his ‘bitches:’ Rita, a flirtatious and curvaceous warrior; Madge, a trapsmith who doesn’t care at all what you think of her; and Ninette, a sorceress who’s quite likely insane. The Dog Soldiers are scheduled to appear in the same scripted social encounter as the previously mentioned groups. Unfortunately, half of Marrn’s dogs die that day fighting a gelatinous cube. I highly recommend making the Dog Soldiers stay at the Tooth and Hookah in a suite upstairs, alongside the PCs. This gives your players plenty of time to interact with the bombastic group before Mad Dog and the girls are in mourning over their dogs. The next morning be sure to place Mad Dog in the Sunburst Market, sadly trying to find replacements to join his remaining pack.
It’s noted in the next book that not all of the groups who entered the lottery return. Some lose members to death, while others never return at all. I chose to make the Dog Soldiers one of these unfortunate groups. Tasked with clearing out Tahetep’s Dance Hall the day after losing most of his dogs, Marrn, Rita and Madge were all killed in the haunted ruin, while Ninette survived, driven mad by her experiences. Have the players go through dinner that evening, then breakfast the next day, without any sign of the noisy halflings at the Tooth and Hookah. That evening Farhaan can ask if you’ve seen any sign of them. After hearing they haven’t Farhaan sighs and remarks ominously “They’ve still got a bit of time.” After another day with no word from the Dog Soldiers Farhaan places their personal possessions out for sale at his merchant’s tables. This can be a poignant sign to the group that their line of work is more than just dangerous, it’s deadly. The next time the players are in the Necropolis they should discover something of the Dog Soldiers–perhaps it’s Mad Dog’s medium +1 longsword engraved with his name or, if you’re feeling really cruel, they can discover one of his dogs–now an undead ghoul hound–gnawing on Mad Dog’s rotting arm. During the second book, while the players are in the Necropolis on other business they can discover that not all of the Dog Soldiers are dead–the insane wreck that Ninette’s become still resides in the haunted dance hall. Mute, deaf and blind, she dances to a song that only she can hear.
This all-rogue group of adventurers is on the hunt for an arcane combatant to assist them before the lottery starts, but by the morning of the first draw they’ve filled that role. To best showcase this I highly recommend making the Sand Scorpions the second adventuring party to stay at the Tooth and Hookah. This group is led by Black Kiss, an assassin who specializes in poisons that I made mysterious, aloof and literally deadly–her skin is coated in a paralytic poison that she’s immune to. Joined by Briggs, a trapsmith party girl who’s secretly in love with her best friend and other member of the group: Tama. Tama’s a gruff, half-orc locksmith who–along with Briggs–lives in the floating slums of Bargetown. Their newest member is Atticus Bant, a magus who tries his best to get along with all his new female companions, and is failing horribly. He’s terrified of Black Kiss and attracted to Tama. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of letting Briggs seduce him after the first day in the Necropolis and he’s only recently realized she’s both conniving and manipulative. Briggs soon spends her free time bad mouthing Atticus to Tama, while Atticus tries to woo Tama, and Tama poorly ignores the both of them. Desperate for less needy companionship, Tama’s very likely to try to socialize with the player’s characters. An act which is guaranteed to draw both Briggs and Atticus to the conversation in short order. Allowing your players to get involved in the drama of this catty, dysfunctional group can be amusing, and can drive home how important teamwork is. Near the end of the lottery, have fun showcasing Atticus’ desperate final attempts to get Tama to go on a date with him–only to find him later, drunk and mournful at the bar, wailing about his unrequited ‘love.’ Tama and Briggs are also good choices to use as contacts in the second book of Mummy’s Mask, when the players are looking for information about Bargetown and the Veins.
One of my players got obsessed Black Kiss, insisting that his character was destined to be with her (he’s a firm believer in fate). A chubby catfolk who looks like an overgrown housecat, the many, many ways he tried to prove his love to the toxic, aloof woman provided endless entertainment for us. Even more so were her challenges–the most daring of which was taking shots of poisoned drinks with her at the bar. Unfortunately for the smitten catfolk, he was so busy playing coy with her that he missed his chance to say goodbye. After the lottery, Black Kiss heads off to Tephu on the search for ancient alchemical secrets. They’ll have a chance to meet her again in book three.
This adventuring party is detailed in the random encounters section of the Half-Dead City. Consisting of an Osirion enchantress, Melu, and her charmed companions, each of the men in this group vies for her attention and would give their lives for her. Originally consisting of Ahotep, a warrior who’s been charmed so long he can’t imagine life without her; Djaal Sidrim, a young and inexperienced ranger; and Karem Afir, a streetwise cutpurse; this group’s membership is destined to be shuffled around a bit. The first time you meet the Amethyst Dragons, Melu attempts to charm the strongest looking player’s character, while the other members of the Amethyst Dragons sit jealously by. If Melu survives this encounter, be sure to show her a few days later with all new companions–she had to replace them after they gave their lives to allow her to escape the dangers of the Archives of the Ibis.
This adventuring party is also detailed in the random encounters section of the Half-Dead City. Intended to be encountered in the Necropolis, they’re found sitting outside a tomb. Their leader, a halfling sorcerer by the name of Fergrim Flame, toys with a ball of fire, while their studious wizard, Verichi Denger, studies a few tomes on the side of the road. Verichi is wary, but claims that the group needs to wait just a while longer while he memorizes some necessary spells. Lirgana Ahmose, an optimistic half-elf bard, tries to pass the time happily, while the group’s half-orc fighter, Kha, loudly complains about Verichi’s obvious cowardice and picks apart Lirgana’s every suggestion and comment. Verichi is a great choice to use in book two, representing the group alongside Lirgana during the auction at the Canny Jackal.
There’s plenty of other colourful characters kicking around Wati. Patrons of the Tooth and Hookah, the Abadaran Marketwives, merchants, students of the Hall of Blessed Rebirth, and even a thief or two, but those will come in time. For now, I hope you enjoyed–or even better: make use of–the colourful characters I’ve shared today.
Our next Mummy’s Mask game aids will be entirely different. Featuring details on the Shrine of Wadjet, Ubet’s Folly and the tattered remains of a drug-addled cult found within, as well as the lots up for auction at the Canny Jackal in book two.
Until then, have fun, and keep gaming. I wish you plenty of criticals!