Wayfinder 19: Destination Absalom Station

Wayfinder #19 CoverAs you may have heard, the latest issue of Wayfinder magazine was recently released. Wayfinder is full of fan-created content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, and is a free download on Paizo’s website. Over the years they’ve made an astounding 19 issues of Wayfinder, as well as a Bestiary! Nearly every issue has a theme, with this latest one being Starfinder’s Absalom Station! So whether you’re a fan of fun, or a fan of free, I highly suggest you give this little gem a chance!

But, what’s inside Wayfinder #19? A lot! At around 72 pages for each issue, that’s a lot of free stuff! The articles inside offer new aliens, themes, equipment, and starships. In addition to player options, there’s plenty for GMs with adventure ideas, plot hooks, characters that can be used as allies or enemies, unique NPCs, and even a short adventure. Both players and GMs can make use of a ton of locations, personalities and gazetteers that are described throughout. To round things out there’s also songs, poetry, and fiction. And let’s not forget the awesome art!

Over eighty people contributed to this fanzine, from authors and artists, to directors and editors. My kids and I were both surprised and honoured to be among them this year. I submitted a ‘Weal or Woe’ article entitled ‘Victims of the Vat Gardens,’ as well as two themes, ‘Ghost Level Delver’ and ‘Scrounger.’ My seven year old daughter submitted ‘Galactic Rabbits’ and their smaller counterparts ‘Galactic Bunnies’ to the Alien Archive,  while my eight year old son submitted ‘Radioactive Robots.’   Both of my kids have been showing off their creations to their teachers and friends at school, which proved rather difficult. First they had to explain what Starfinder and Wayfinder are. Haha. We’re all very proud. Their favourite part? Getting to see the wonderful art that was created for their monsters!

But, enough parental bragging. Today we’re talking Wayfinder!

There was a lot that I loved inside Wayfinder #19. From player options and monsters, to fun locations and fiction, everything was really well done. My favourite player options were the many themes available, particularly the ‘Guttersnipe,’ ‘Laborer,’ and ‘Eyeswide Aspirant.’ I really enjoyed an article on the goblin hero-gods entitled ‘Blessings of the Barghest‘ by Joshua Hennington, with awesome art by Tyler Clark. There’s some really creative cortex options for mechanics written by Nicholas Flitter, which is sure to be a fan favourite. It’s accompanying art is by Paul Chapman.

If it’s gear you’re interested in, be sure to check out the ‘gloves of experience’ and ‘detective’s duster,’ magic items by Jonathan Hendricks. There’s also some snazzy new weapon properties, fast draw and low-velocity, by Adam Kessler and Nicholas Hite.

Starships. Some people love them and some people hate them. Most fall somewhere in between. Whatever your preferences I highly recommend you check out an advice article entitled ‘Making the Best of Starship Combat.’ The GM Guide, written by Hilary Moon Murphy, and the Player’s Guide, written by Brett Indrelee, are packed full of helpful advice for running and engaging in starship combat. This article alone is worth the effort of downloading the fanzine. It’s really great work. For those of you interested in more mechanical options, you’ll find many starships in this book, as well as crews and personalities to man them, and new build options. I particularly enjoyed an article on ‘Iceforged Ships’ by John Laffan with art by Beatrice Pelagatti. (You know you want to bring Winter Witches into space!)

There are a lot of cool new creatures inside Wayfinder #19, but my favourites (other than those my kids made!) turned out to be the trashbot, a CR 1 robot made of scrap, and the gelatinous z-sphere, a CR 3 ooze that can zip around even in zero-g. Oh, your poor low-level players!

My favourite campaign inspiration was an adventure seed entitled ‘The Show Must Go On,’ which was written by K. M. B. Kovalcik and features art by Todd Westcott. It involves skittermander pop stars who are in need of some help if they’re going to get to their performance on time. I also adored the many articles on Absalom Station itself, particularly ‘Ollie’s Option Bar‘ by Hilary Moon Murphy, and ‘Urban Myths of Absalom Station‘ by Alex Riggs.

Want less inspiration and more adventure? Check out ‘The Disappearance of Sector G17‘ by Paris Crenshaw, an adventure for 4–6 4th-level characters that tasks the PCs with tracking down an entire missing sector of the Spike. This adventure features art by Tanyaporn Sangsnit and maps by Alex Moore.

For more information on Absalom Station, be sure to pick up official Paizo products, Starfinder Core Rulebook, and Starfinder Pact Worlds.

Want some more Wayfinder? Be sure to check out their many, many other issues on Paizo’s website!

I hope you’ve enjoyed checking out the contents of the latest Wayfinder with me. If you happen to have contributed to it: Thanks! And if you’re thinking of applying for the next issue: I wish you the best of luck!

Have fun!

Jessica


Update: The topic for the next Wayfinder Fanzine is Starfinder: The Diaspora! Stay tuned for more information.

Holiday Wish List!

The holidays are on their way! For many of us that means its time to buy the people around you gifts. But, what do you buy for those d20 gamers on your list? Well, read on! We’re sharing our top picks for gift giving!

First off: books! More specifically: new books that those gamers in your life probably don’t have yet. Our favourites?

Next up? Minis! Perfect for your favourite GM!

Also a perfect gift for the GMs in your life? Maps.

Finally? Accessories! Here’s our favourite awesome d20 related products!

But wait! Got young ones? So do I! Here’s my favourite d20 products to pick up for your kids!

We hope you enjoyed our top picks for holiday gift giving!

All the best, everyone!

Jessica

 

Starfinder: Armory

Hello and welcome to d20 diaries! Today we’re taking a look at Starfinder: Armory! This is one of the few Starfinder sourcebooks that’s available for purchase. It’s a hardcover book that focuses on new gear and equipment for use in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

This article isn’t meant to be a thorough review or critique of Starfinder: Armory. It won’t replace the book (nor would I want it to!). It’s a quick breakdown of what’s found inside, and what I liked best in each chapter. It’s a collection of my favourites parts of the book, and some highlights. It’s here so that fellow gamers and fans can take a look and get a real a feel for what they’ll get out of the book. Hopefully it helps you decide whether this product is right for you.

Starfinder: Armory is a hardcover sourcebook 159 pages in length. Nearly all of that is dedicated to gear, with the remaining pages offering new character options for each of the seven Starfinder core classes. It features delightful cover art by Remko Troost which depicts Obozaya (the iconic vesk soldier) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) shopping. The inside covers feature a nice image of the Pact World System (which is not to scale). Following that is the table of contents and the ‘Overview.’ Basically, the two page introduction just lets you know what kinds of gear you’ll find in this book, and explains the difference between the different types of equipment categories. Perhaps the most useful tidbit? A tiny sidebar about minor equipment. Basically, any random technological item you want to invest in that’s not a weapon — things like cameras, clocks, headphones, so on and so on. Each of those items is available if GM approval for a price of 5 credits. Easy. Done. Love it. My daughter tends to try to purchase a lot of frivolous gear like this, so it’s nice to have a proper baseline for it.

PZO7108
Starfinder: Armory

After this its on to Chapter 1: Equipment. At a whopping 130 pages long, this chapter is by far the bulk of the book. These pages are filled with all new gear (not reprints) sorted by category. Equipment categories include: weapons, weapon accessories, weapon fusions, special materials, armour, powered armour, armour upgrades, augmentations, technological items, magic items, hybrid items, personal items, drugs, medicinals, poisons, other purchases, and vehicles.

Up first? Weapons. In general this book provides a wider array of weapons for each damage type at various levels, and some new abilities. And the number of choices? Huge! Just looking at the weapon charts there are six pages of melee weapons, four pages of small arms, three of long arms, three of heavy weapons, one of sniper weapons, a quarter page of untyped weapons, a quarter page of ammunition, a half page of solarian crystals, and a half page of grenades. That’s hundreds of new weapons up for sale — not even counting the new modifications and weapon fusions. There’s some awesome artwork in this section, with the art for the Bravado Handcannon (a small arm projectile with critical knockdown), the Exhorter Shout Projector (a sonic heavy weapon with critical demoralize), the Grave-Class Void Rifle (a cryo longarm with critical suffocate), the Matrix Resonant Pistol (a sonic small arm with critical deafen), the traditional battle ribbon (an uncategorized advanced melee weapon), and the warfan (and uncategorized advanced melee weapon), all numbering among my favourites. There are 46 new weapon special properties (breach, drain charge, free hands, and gravitation are my favourites), and sixteen new critical hit effects (blind and stifle are my favourites). There’s also an array of weapons manufacturers, each of which can add special abilities to your gun (for an extra fee, of course!). I’d be sure to buy from AbadarCorp and Ringworks Arsenal Group’s lovely weapon selection.

Kent Hamilton-Armory Spread
Some of the many weapons available in Starfinder Armory. Illustrated by Kent Hamilton.

But that’s not all! There’s also new weapon accessories, weapon fusions, and special materials up for offer. For accessories be sure to check out the bayonet bracket and collapsing weapon. I like a lot of the new weapon fusions, but my favourites probably turned out to be accurate, conserving, guarded, obscuring, rebounding, and soulfire. For special materials I was surprised to find I enjoyed horacalcum and inubrix the most.

 

After leaving behind sixty pages of weapons and weapon-related products we’re heading out into the wide world of armour. There’s six pages dedicated to light and heavy armour (with two of those being full-page art), followed by six pages dedicated to powered armour (with two of those being full-page art), and finally six more pages of armour upgrades. The upgrades are a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed adaptive energy shield, agility enhancer, auto injector, easy access kit, glamour projector, long strider module, medical interface, stabilizer springs (a nice low-level option), and (my personal favourite) the computer interface, which essentially lets you make a ‘Jarvis’ for your ‘Iron Man’ suit.

Up next? Augmentations. Biotech has two pages dedicated to it (be sure to check out the mighty vocal chords and regenerative blood), Cybernetics has two pages (I like the optical laser), Magitech has four pages of options (check out antimagic skin and arcane lenses), and finally Necrografts fill the last four pages (I like the bore blade and the healing larynx).

Armory - Power Armor Spread Leonardo Borazio
Some of the Powered Armour found in Starfinder Armory. Illustrated by Leonardo Borazio.

Then we move right on to Technological items. This section fills up a whopping twelve pages! Some of it is new, while others are pleasantly familiar, either because you can find them in our world, or because they were introduced in Pathfinder’s Technology Guide (such as ion tape and zipsticks). I particularly enjoyed the auto cartographer, datapad, domestic drive, emergency raft, evenfire unit, holographic sashimono, hoverskates, ion tape, nanite hypopen, and the many new tool kits. There’s lots of useful stuff!

Magic Items are up next, where you’ll find ten more pages of new equipment to spend your credits on. To start with there’s some cool aeon stones, my favourite of which is the kaleidoscopic icosahedron. The very expensive containment tesseract is also pretty nifty. I also enjoyed the cover seed, darksight goggles, dented kasa, diffraction cloak, figurine of wondrous power (which summon creatures to fight for you), ofuscated journal, plasma beads (pretty much a necklace of fireballs), Starfinder backpack, and the tangle burst seed. This is followed by three new artifacts: Atrocite Sphere, Trafodi Paradox, and, my personal favourite, the Book of Unwritten Truths.

Fusing Technological Items and Magic Items are the delightful Hybrid Items, which take up eight pages. I enjoyed the captive-star amulet and various vital seeds most, although I’m sure there’ll be lots of fans of the new hybrid grenades (of which there are many). I got a great laugh out of computer idols, and the software imp! Be sure to give them a read.

Ysoki Gear - RatAfter this is four pages of Personal Items. Although not the most exciting category of items, it’s certainly useful. My favourites are staples! The gear maintenance kit, mess kit, and books. (I know, I know. I’m really stepping out of my comfort zone there! Haha!).

Drugs, Medicinals, and Poisons all share the next two pages (which aren’t really my cup of tea), followed by two pages of ‘Other Purchases.’ This section is mostly flavour, but I found I really enjoyed reading about the types of cuisine created and favoured by the core races of the Pact Worlds. The ysoki were hilarious! (Don’t eat their food. In fact, I’d stay away from Shirren cuisine, as well!).

Finally, there’s two pages of new vehicles, the cheapest of which is the level two motorcycle for 1,900 credits. And that brings us to the end of the new equipment. 140 pages have flown by just like *snaps* that! But, that’s not the end of the book. That simply brings us to the next chapter.

Armoury Android Envoy Alexander Nanitchkov
Android Envoy by Alexander Nanitchkov.

Chapter 2: Character Options. Here you’ll find one new archetype, plus two pages of new class options for each of the core classes. All of these options are focused on equipment —- typically using your equipment to the best of its ability (or beyond its normal capabilities). The archetype comes first and is called Augmented. These guys are great with — you guessed it — augmentations! They get more, pay less for them, and can make their augmentations do more than they’re built to. The Augmented grants alternate class features at 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 9th levels. I really enjoyed it (and know at least one character created by my family who’ll be using it!).

The Envoy’s class options include four new low level improvisations, two sixth level improvisations, and two eighth level improvisations, followed by seven new expertise talents. Be sure to check out fire support, brace yourselves, improved brace yourselves, terrifying blast, and improved terrifying blast for improvisations, and expert advice for talents.

The Mechanic’s class options include four new level two tricks, three more level eight tricks, two more level fourteen tricks, and four new drone modifications. My favourite tricks were provisional repair and recalibrate engine, both of which are available at level two. My favourite drone mods were barricade, and grease.

The Mystic class options were both the least adaptable, and my favourite! They introduced a new mystic connection, and two new spells granted by that connection. So what is it? The Geneturge! These guys are capable of altering their genetic code (and even those of others). In application their abilities mostly involve biotech, and sudden evolution. I particularly enjoyed their Personal Modification third level ability, their Warping Strain ninth level ability, and their Instant Evolution fifteenth level ability. The two new spells are detect augmentation, and reject augmentation (which sounds awesome! Haha).

Armoury Human Mystic Alexander Nanitchkov
Human Mystic Genethurge by Alexander Nanitchkov.

The Operative class options include sixteen new exploits (six at level 2, five at level six, four at level ten, and one at level fourteen). and one new operative specialization. Of the exploits, I particularly enjoyed armour optimization, fast aim, pistol whip, trap spotter, and ricochet shot. The new Specialization is the Gadgeteer, a very cool inventor which makes use of two new exploits: utility belt, and quick deployment. His trick attacks involve using a custom device to distract the enemy. Such fun!

The Solarian class options include one new stellar revelation and one new graviton revelation for each level (level two, six, ten, and fourteen), and for zenith revelations. That makes for ten cool new options total. I had a hard time picking my favourites, but in the end I decided I liked constructive interference, stellar equilibrium, attractive force, debris field, particle field, and particle wave, which turned out to be an even split between stellar and graviton powers. Awesome!

The Soldier class options include ten new gear boosts and a new fighting style called ‘Shock and Awe.’ The fighting style is supposed to focus on making a real spectacle of yourself. I like it in theory, but in execution I wasn’t that impressed. Still, it’s different. Fighters who take this style will want to make use of sonic weapons and weapons with the bright special quality. As for gear boosts, there’s a ton of useful options. My favourites were steady sniper, twinned threat, and unstoppable strike.

StarfinderCover
Starfinder Core Rulebook

Finally we come to the Technomancer’s class options which include five new magic hacks of varying levels, and three new spells. My favourite magic hacks were recode gem (which is available at level two), and enchanted fusion (which is available at fifth level). As for spells, I rather enjoyed animate armour, and incompetence. The third spell, electroplating, is also quite useful.

And that’s it! All that’s left is the index and the end. 160 pages of awesome.

Honestly, I think that Starfinder: Armory is one of those books you’ve got to invest in. It’s not a frivolous extra purchase. You’ll reference it ALL the time. Every time you need to spend your credits you’ll crack out the Starfinder Core Rulebook and the Armory. For players, I’d say its more important than the Alien Archive (and Alien Archive 2) and Pact Worlds. For GMs? Well, hard to say. If you only GM it’s going to be less useful for you than the Alien Archives and Pact Worlds. But you’ll still get your use out of it. I adore this book and think it’s well worth the money.

I hope you enjoyed taking a peek inside Starfinder: Armory with us!

See you in the Drift!

Jessica

 

Pathfinder Playtest – Review

Welcome back to d20diaries!

Wow, finding the time to fully read the new Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook took longer than I expected! Well, not to read it, so much as to digest it. Understand it. Plenty of rules are different, so I had to really focus. Considering that I normally find time to read while overseeing screaming, bickering, playing, laughing, children of various ages (hey, moods change quick!), finding quiet time to get some reading done was more than a little difficult.

That said, I’m a quick reader. I finished it in about two days, then spent some time crafting characters in order to try out the creation process. Before I can take the time to teach my husband and kids how to play, I need to be able to explain it. Properly. Haha. After that I helped my family through the creation process, read through Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn (the first adventure we would be trying out), and we got to work playing.

It’s been a whirlwind! But a fun one.

And then I got sick. Still am.

LAME. Haha.

So whats on the agenda for today?

Today we’re going to take a look at Pathfinder Playtest. Not in depth — this isn’t a replacement for the rulebook. After all, the rulebook’s a free download. It’s my impressions, thoughts, and experiences. Things I’ve discovered, and even some questions I’ve got. Got an opinion of your own? Or an answer to a question I have? Let me know! This game system is brand new and we’re all learning together. Once you’ve had a chance to try out Pathfinder Playtest, be sure to head over to Paizo’s website and give them some feedback. They’re running surveys right now, and have forums up for you to share broader comments.

Ready? Let’s begin!

Pathfinder Playtest RulebookPathfinder Playtest is a new set of rules and gameplay for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended to streamline the game, while retaining its robust character creation options. Running combat, monsters, and characters should go smoother. Learning the rules from scratch should be easier. Levelling up should be simpler. The book and rules are supposed to be user friendly — even for those who don’t know how to play d20 games.

In theory.

Pathfinder Playtest features gorgeous cover art by Wayne Reynolds which showcases Seoni (the iconic sorceress), Valeros (the iconic fighter), and Fumbus (the iconic alchemist) battling a white dragon! Wait! Fumbus who? Fumbus the goblin alchemist. Thats right! Not only are goblins a core race, but alchemist is a base class. Both are available options to try out in the playtest.

Open the covers (or flip to the next page on the pdf) and you’ll find an introduction by the Paizo staff, followed by the overview. This is where you’ll learn what the heck a d20 game is and how to play. There’s also an overview of the basic terms used in the game, including a few that are new, an explanation of the modes of play, and a list of what you’ll need to play. This section was easy to understand, even for a layman, although not as easy as I expected. It’s a difficult read for my children, for example, and my son (who is more than capable of reading chapter books aimed at pre-teens, published adventures for d20 games, and other Pathfinder products) would definitely get bored and flip past a few pages. Would my teenage/adult siblings read it all the way through? …Tough to say. Probably not. It’s more likely they’d give it a skim and see how it goes. So… sort of an easy read. An easy read for this genre and its audience, I suppose.

Many of the terms in this chapter will be familiar to those of you who have played d20 games before, but even experienced gamers need to give this section a thorough read. Calculations for some of the familiar statistics are different, and there are some very important brand new game mechanics that are explained here. Be sure to pay extra attention to the types of actions, the modes of play, and proficiencies. We won’t get into them in too much detail right now, but for those of you who are curious, these three aspects form a huge part of the game.

There are three modes of play in Pathfinder Playtest. Encounter mode is what you enter when your every moment matters. This is used during a battle, for traps, ambushes, hazards, and anything else similar. You play encounter mode in rounds which are six seconds long, and encounter mode ends when the danger has passed. This is a huge part of the game and the rules. But, it’s not all there is to the Playtest. Exploration mode is used for any situation where you’re not in immediate danger, but you’re not entirely safe, either. This includes exploring a town, ruin, forest, or even a hallway between encounters. It’s what you’re playing in when you’re not fighting something. It’s more than just walking, or a segue between the ‘exciting stuff.’ Exploration mode has its own rules, and has proved quite fun around my house so far. Finally, there’s downtime mode, which is what you use when you’re completely safe.

There are three major kinds of actions in Pathfinder Playtest. Actions, free actions, and reactions. Pretty much all the game is based around this. Nearly every feat, ability, and spell that has a non-passive effect has a symbol beside it right near the top showing what it costs to use. Free actions are free, obviously, Reactions can be taken once per turn, even on your opponents turns, as long as its triggering conditions are met. An example of this is an attack of opportunity (which only fighters can utilize right away!), but there are plenty others for different classes and characters. Lastly, there’s actions. Everything takes actions. Moving, attacking, special attacks, spells and such. Most spells take two actions to cast, although some take one or three. Each turn during encounter mode you’re allowed three actions, and most things you can imagine take one. Walking forward, drawing a sword, and swinging it? Three actions total. Attacking, attacking, and attacking a third time? Three actions. And totally allowed (each successive attack in a round takes a cumulative -5 penalty).  Lastly, there’s proficiencies. Yes, this includes armours and weapons. But in the Playtest proficiencies also replace your base attack bonus, base saving throws, and skill ranks. If you’re trained in something you add your level to the rolls you make with it. If you’re untrained you add your level subtract two. If you’re an expert you add your level plus one, master is your level plus two and if you’re legendary you add your level plus three. For example, if you’re trained in athletics you roll a d20, add your proficiency modifier (your level), your strength modifier, and any other item or extra modifiers you have. Expert in your weapon? Add the expert proficiency (your level plus one), your ability modifier (strength for melee, dexterity for ranged), and any other bonuses from your items. Master at reflex saves? Add your level plus two, plus your Dexterity modifier, anything else special you might have and off you go.

Got it? Good! If not, read the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook!

After this we get into the fun stuff. Character Creation. The Playtest has a great step-by-step guide to making your characters. In short, you come up with a concept. Then you pick and apply their ancestry (race), background, and class. Each of these will increase some of your ability scores, but you also gain four increases to apply as you see fit. Once you’ve finalized your ability scores, select your trained skills and do some simple math to make it all come together. Spend your coin (150 sp), pick your spells (if you’re a caster) and fill in all your finishing details. Done. Relatively simple. The levelling up process is also simple, as well.

After this there’s an easy to follow example of how you make your ability scores. As I previously mentioned, ancestry, background, class, and your personal preference all play a part. So how does it work?

For starters, you need to know how much to increase an ability score. Increases are referred to as an ‘ability boost’. If the score you’re increasing is under 18 you increase it by 2 points. If it’s over 18 you increase it by 1 point. At character creation, you cannot make a character with over 18 in any one ability score, so all of your boosts will be increasing your ability scores by +2.

When you create a character all of your ability scores start at 10. Now you pick your ancestry. Most will give you two ability boosts that are applied to a specific ability, one ability boost that you can apply as you see fit (called ‘free’), and one flaw (which is a -2 in a specific score). For example, dwarves get ability boosts to Constitution, Wisdom, and Free. They also suffer an ability flaw to Charisma. Humans are different from most races in that they receive no flaw, and no specific ability boosts. Instead they get two free ability boosts, which can be applied at your whim.

Now that you know what to increase you apply it. However, there is a limitation. During each step that you apply your ability boosts, you must apply each to a different ability. In our previous example with dwarves, that means you’re getting +2 Con, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and a +2 to be added to any other ability score (Str, Dex, or Int). The next time you apply your ability scores you can increase any scores you want, but again, only one time each in that phase.

Backgrounds grant an ability boost in a single specific ability score chosen from a selection of two, and then grant a free ability boost. For example, acrobats get an ability boost to either Strength or Dexterity, and then a second ability boost that is free. Meanwhile, a barkeep gets an ability boost to either Constitution or Charisma, and then a second ability boost that is free. (This is not all that a background grants you, just the part that applies to ability scores). As mentioned before, during this step, each ability can only be boosted once. So, our example dwarf could apply the barkeep ability boosts to Constitution, and Strength, but couldn’t apply it to Constitution twice.

Classes offer a single specific ability boost to that classs’ key ability score. Alchemist’s increase Intelligence, bards increase Charisma, and so on. Some classes, like the fighter, can choose one of two ability scores to be their key ability score (in the case of fighters this is a choice between Strength and Dexterity).

Lastly (or second last if you choose to apply these before your class), you get four free ability boosts. You can assign these however you want — although each ability score can only be boosted once in this phase. Essentially this means that four different ability scores will increase by +2.

And that’s the ability score creation process. It’s quite simple when you get the hang of it, and can create a diverse array of balanced characters. There’s also a random generation method offered, for those of you who prefer to roll out your stats, but the characters they create will not come out as powerful as those created with the standard method. Still, it’s nice that its there.

After this we get into the chapter on ancestries and backgrounds. There are six major ancestries you can choose: dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, halfling, and human. Those of you looking to be half-elves or half-orcs will select ‘human’ as your ancestry, and then choose a heritage feat which allows you to be either of those two ‘half-breed’ races.  This method opens up a unique design space which has potential for an interesting take on some uncommon races when the full game releases next year.

Each ancestry grants you some ability boosts and flaws (as already noted). It also grants you some hit points (which you will only receive at first level), your speed, size, and languages. Some of them also grant you a vision type, or a single special ability. That’s it. You won’t be getting a ton of racial abilities built into your ancestry. I know, I know. This seems like you get so much less. In a way, at low level, you do get less. But, as you level up you also get more out of your race. You see, each ancestry has a list of feats to choose from that only members of that ancestry can select. This is where you’ll find a lot of familiar ‘racial’ abilities like weapon familiarity, ancestral hatred, stonecunning, sure-footed, and other such features that would have once been found under ones race. There’s plenty of new ones, as well. You start the game with one ancestry feat of your choice, and gain more as you level up. This allows you to make your ancestry work for your character as an individual. After all, not all elves are the same.

After I got over the initial shock of seeing ‘how little’ each race gave me, I gave the different ancestry feats a read and, in the end, decided I like this method. It’s adaptable, easy to use, and enjoyable. I found it worked well during character creation. I particularly enjoyed the gnome ancestry feats, so be sure to give them a read!

Pathfinder Playtest Doomsday DawnNext up is backgrounds. These represent the things your character did before becoming an adventurer. In addition to the ability boosts mentioned previously, each background grants you one skill feat and training in a single Lore skill tied to that background. What’s a lore? A lore is like a very specific knowledge skill. You can have lore in pretty much anything, as long as it has a very narrow focus. Examples include Vampire Lore, Desna Lore, Circus Lore, and Farming Lore. During downtime, lore skills can also be used to make an income. There are a lot of backgrounds up for offer in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook (nineteen!) and you can expect to see a whole lot more in the future. Each adventure path will offer new backgrounds that will tie your characters to the story. The Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is the first example of this, and provides a further six backgrounds to choose from. The Playtest Rulebook backgrounds include: acolyte, acrobat, animal whisperer, barkeep, blacksmith, criminal, entertainer, farmhand, gladiator, hunter, labourer, merchant, noble, nomad, sailor, scholar, scout, street urchin, and warrior. Although all of the backgrounds are equally ‘good,’ I particularly like the entertainer and the nomad, while my daughter enjoys the animal whisperer, and my son enjoys the warrior.

Past the Background we get to a short section on selecting languages. Players with very high intelligence scores will be surprised to find they don’t get as many languages as in Pathfinder First Edition, with an intelligence over 14 now granting a single bonus language!

Up next is the chapter on Classes. The classes available for the playtest include Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Despite these being familiar to you, each class has plenty of new features, and offers a lot of adaptability. In addition to hp, special abilities and a selection of class feats you can choose from in order to tailor your class to your character, each class also gives you proficiencies in saving throws, perception, and in various weapons, armour and shields. It also gives you a number of skills you can choose to be trained in. Spellcasters get spells, characters get abilities and so on. Now, you really need to read the classes to get a feel for them, so we’re not going to take too close of a look at them. What I will say is that each class we’ve tested in my house has turned out to be a lot of fun. My favourites include Bard (who can use some of their performances an unlimited number of times per day!), Sorcerer (whose spell list and type of magic is determined by their bloodline), and Paladin (who are just plain awesome!). My children particularly enjoyed the druid.

Next up is Skills. This chapter goes over each of the skills, how to calculate their modifiers, and what they can be used for. This is also where you’ll find the rules for crafting, performing and lore. Even experienced players need to give this chapter a read, as there are some changes to the skills. For example, grabbing, grappling and shoving are all tied to your Athletics skill. Yeah. Neat. Skills definitely do more for you now, than they used to. Also, anyone can make attempt any skill check. Obviously, they won’t all be as good at it, but the potential is there, which is nice. That said, some skills have uses that can only be used by characters trained in that skill, which is a nice feature.

After skills we get to the chapter on feats. Now, this section doesn’t have all the feats available in the book. Ancestry feats can be found under ancestries. Instead, it contains all the general, and skill feats available. This chapter is particularly important, because you will gain a LOT of feats.  Beginning characters start with two (at minimum!). One from your ancestry, and one from your background. Most classes grant at least one other feat (sometimes a class feat, sometimes a general or skill feat, and sometimes both). This is a wonderful surprise, which allows customization in a simple way.

After feats you’ll find Equipment. Pathfinder Playtest uses silver as the core coin (instead of gold) which means that the price of gear will be different than what you’re used to. There’s also been some changes to the armour, weapons, and weight systems — all for the better in my opinion! Definitely give the information at the start of this chapter a read before trying to spend your coin! Haha.

Past equipment you get into spells. This begins with a lot of important information about magic, spells, and how they work. Definitely don’t skip this part! Haha. There are four major spell lists: Arcane, Divine, Occult, and Primal. I’m fond of all of them. In addition, you’ll find tenth level spells. After the spell lists are spell descriptions. Amongst these spells you’ll also find a lot of class abilities that are cantrips, or run off of spell points. This includes domain powers, and bardic compositions (among others). Although I understand the purpose of including them here (in alphabetical order alongside the spells), it made it hard to make class choices. For example, if I’m looking for all the bardic compositions (which are a type of cantrip) I have to search through the entire chapter and read the spell traits to find them. There is no compiled list of bardic compositions and, as they are not class spells, they don’t appear on any of the Spell Lists. It’s a giant pain in the butt. Haha. I sincerely hope they find a better way to sort this in the future, cause all that sifting sucks. Not only that, it’s a drain on your time.

I also found (after a lot of jumping between chapters to hunt them down) that a lot of the domain powers weren’t as good as they used to be. Which is unfortunate. I’d gladly trade my cleric of Desna’s domain power from the Playtest with pretty much any other Domain power from First Edition. An unfortunate outcome! Still, it will take more playtesting to determine if it all balances out in the end.

Past this we come to a short chapter on how to level up your characters. In addition, you’ll find the rules for multiclassing and archetypes here. The system for this is very easy to understand, and allows for a lot of cool character concepts. Essentially, you can choose to take archetype or multiclass feats in place of your class feat at any given level — presuming you meet the feat requirements. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course, but not by much. It’s a simple, elegant way to handle multi classing and archetypes without causing characters to fall behind the powers of their peers. I really like it. Definitely give it a read!

Later in the chapter you’ll find the rules for animal companions, familiars, and gods. The rules in all of these categories were fun and easy to use, particularly the rules for familiars. We got ours created in only a few minutes! Wonderful! Of course, I did have questions. It’s specifically pointed out that you can only have one animal companion. But, this is not specified under familiars. Does this mean you can potentially have more than one? My son chose a gnome ancestry feat which granted him a familiar, and then later earned a vine leshy familiar from being a plant druid. Does this mean he gets both? I’ve yet to find a definitive answer, but if you’ve read an official answer somewhere, (or know the page its on that I’ve missed) let me know! I’d love to read the ruling. Another problem with familiars turned out to be damage. Although it mentions the attack rolls they can make, it doesn’t say how much damage one does if it tries to attack. This came up on one of our first combat rounds in our first playtest when my son sent his vine leshy to attack. He hit! And… we had no damage. Haha. I decided that it would do 1 damage unless I found an official ruling that says otherwise. Know of one? Let me know! We’d love to see it!

After this comes a very important chapter entitled ‘Playing the Game.’ Reading it is mandatory. Haha. It’s around 35 pages long and includes all the rules you need to play as a player, as well as the conditions found in the game. Important stuff.

After that is another very important chapter called ‘Game Mastering.’ This chapter includes everything you need to know to run the game as a GM (in addition to the content for players). This chapter is shorter — at only around twenty pages — but its also denser and more complicated. Admittedly, I had to go back and reread parts a few times, particularly regarding exploration mode, downtime mode, hazards, and DCs. I expect I’ll have to reference both this chapter and the ‘Playing the Game’ chapter plenty over the next year, as I get a handle on the rules. In my opinion, the game is easier to learn to play and GM that Pathfinder First Edition was, so I’m pleased, even if reading these chapters caused me a few headaches.

After this we come to (pretty much) the last chapter. Treasure. This is where you’ll find information on wealth, treasure distribution, special nonmagical gear, alchemical items, runes, trinkets, and magic items. There’s a lot of fun stuff in here that you’re going to love reading. I highly recommend discovering these on your own. I will say that I particularly enjoyed the addition of snares, and that I expect to make a character who utilizes them in the near future. I also really like the rune system for making magical weapons and armour. Its very similar to the fusion system in Starfinder.

Past this is the appendices and then the book is over.

That’s it, that’s all! But, that’s not all that I have to say. There are a few things I’d like to mention before wrapping up.

First: Hero Points. I loved them. Each character starts each session with one hero point, and can earn up to one extra each session as a player (for doing something awesome for the group like bringing snacks, tracking gear, or hosting the game) and one extra as a character (for doing something awesome in character like saving someone’s life, being generous, expert teamwork, or accomplishing an important task in game). These points can be used to save yourself from death, reroll a d20, or take an extra action. They’re useful, awesome, and add a great new element to the game. (My daughter’s determined to be the loot-tracker from now on in order to earn that extra point!).

Second: Dying. During our first play session, my husband’s character died. Quickly. All things considered, from the moment he fell unconscious at Dying 1, only a single full round occurred before he died. Two ill-aimed splash damage brought him to Dying 2, and then to Dying 3 with the second instance, and on his turn he failed his first and only fortitude save against death, which brought him to Dying 4: Dead. This was WAY too fast. Sure, he could’ve used Hero Points to save himself. If he had any. He had already fallen unconscious two other times that session, and had used up all his Hero Points. And he wasn’t the only one. My daughter also fell unconscious once during the session, and my son nearly did. Ouch! I found not only did we fall unconscious quite a bit, but we died too QUICK. For a lot of players, a dead character is an end to fun. Especially if your chances for recovery were so brief.

Third: Identifying Magical Items: After you realize something is magical (or alchemical), it takes an HOUR to identify the object. An HOUR. This means, that if you’re the kind of group who doesn’t rest unless its necessary, you can go an entire adventure without knowing what any of your treasure does. In fact, when we played Doomsday Dawn in my house, we went the entire first adventure without knowing what anything did. That means we didn’t get any use out of any treasure. At all. That’s absurd! Now, there are some ways for your characters to shorten this time to ten minutes (or evens shorter at higher levels), which is more manageable. Heck, I even understand the intent. If it takes more time and effort to identify magical objects, that makes them more special. They’ve got an air of mystery about them. That’s cool. But, if it takes so long to identify a healing potion, that without someone specialized in identifying magical or alchemical objects, the group can’t even figure out its a healing potion during their adventure, than what good is it? Now, I know plenty of players like to stop a LOT when they play. Maybe you’re even one of them. The group that gets loot or takes a few wounds and says, ‘We should head back and recover!’ or ‘We should go sell what we’ve found and come back!’ That’s fine. You won’t be hampered by this. But, I’m not that kind of player. Neither are my family or my friends. We very often take on entire missions until we HAVE to rest, due to our wounds. Or we HAVE to recover our spells. Or we’ve spent the whole day and our characters are actually sleepy. This is particularly true in Pathfinder Society missions, which very often occur in a single day on a timeline. This system strikes me as very problematic, unless you specifically ensure your groups always have a way to shorten it. But, why force a group to do so? That’s going to replace another skill or class feat they could have taken. It just… Reading the rules for identifying magical objects didn’t sit right with me. Then we made our characters, brought them to playtest, and it turned out to be both a problem and a handicap. An unfortunate occurrence which we’ve given feedback on.

Fourth: Resonance. This is your character’s natural ability to activate and utilize magical objects. You have a number of resonance equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier. You can invest resonance ahead of time in an object that grants a long-term effect, or spend resonance on the fly to activate a magical object upon use. It’s meant to help replace gear slots (head, hand, and so on). Kind of cool, right? Sure. Until you start counting it out. Want to wear a magical cloak? Cool, 1 point. Want to drink a potion? Cool one point! Wait! One point? What if you only start with one point? What if you’re dying and you have no points? A friend can’t even shove a potion in your mouth to save you?Sort of. When you’re out of points you can attempt to overspend resonance you don’t have in order to activate the magical object anyway. This is a flat check with a DC equal to 10 + the number of points you’ve overspent (including any times you’ve tried and failed). If you pass the magic works, and if you fail it doesn’t (and you can’t attempt to activate that item again until the next day). If you critically fail (roll a 1) you can’t attempt to invest any other magical items at all that day. Ouch! Resonance is of particular interest to alchemists, who need to infuse their alchemical items with resonance in order to craft them. Okay, I can see that, I guess. Particularly for potions and such. Luckily, alchemist’s get to base their resonance off of their Intelligence, instead of their Charisma. But why should the alchemist have to spend resonance to make an acid flask when a wizard can cast cantrip and deal comparable damage at will? Yeah, I get WHY. There’s plenty of justifications. It’s an item, they’re not spell casters, so on and such. But… I don’t know. Both resonance, and the alchemist’s reliance on it is one of those new rules that I read, and just didn’t sit right. So far in playtests around my house it’s been a bit of a problem. Our alchemist was out of resonance within the first fight and had to rely on overspending resonance the entire rest of the adventure. She didn’t critically fail, thank goodness, but if she had, her character would have been completely shut down. She literally would have had to punch people with her gauntlet (a bad idea with her low strength and poor AC) or throw a rock at them (another bad idea). And if a whole character can be shut down so easily (at low levels, at least), that’s probably a problem. Similarly, our dwarf started with no resonance at all. Feeding him a potion in order to save his life was a fifty-fifty chance the first time, with the odds getting worse from there. Considering how quickly he died when he fell unconscious, that’s brutal. Ugh. Now, that said, I haven’t play tested the game enough yet, to make a final decision on resonance. Maybe it’s better with other classes. Maybe it’s less trouble at higher levels. Maybe this is meant to show that magic items are rare and special, tying it into the length of time that it takes to identify them. Maybe we’re not meant to really use something like a healing potion at low level. Maybe other groups didn’t have trouble at all. But so far, it’s been trouble for our groups. I hope that’s not the case in the future. I’d be particularly interested to see how resonance has worked out for you. If you’ve got an experience to share let me know!

Fifth: Initiative. You don’t have one. Instead you initiative is based on your perception modifier. Occasionally, if your character is doing something specific, you can roll a different skill in its place. For example, if you’re swimming your GM might rule you can use Athletics as initiative this time, or stealth if you’re in hiding. And so on. I loved this.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Pathfinder Playtest so far. I like the changes they’ve made to the game system, character creation, and treasure. I like it a lot, actually. That said, I have some questions which need clarifying, and we did run into trouble. We felt it took too long to identify magical items. We felt resonance was too limiting — especially for alchemists. And we felt the that dying turned into dead way too fast. It’s a good game, and we’re going to play it a lot more over the next year so that we can turn our feedback in to Paizo and they can make this next edition the best that it can be.

At the moment, do I think it’s better than Pathfinder First Edition? …I don’t think I can answer that. It’s new, and going to take some getting used to. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing Pathfinder since before it was Pathfinder. It’s nostalgic and homey. You know? I think it would be unfair to compare the two in that manner until I completely get the hang of the new rules. That said, I can answer a similar question. When it comes down to it, I like Pathfinder better than Starfinder. But do I like Pathfinder Playtest better than Starfinder? …No. Not yet. Maybe one day. But, at the moment, the Drift’s got more sway over me.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed this short look at the Pathfinder Playtest, and my opinions on it. I’d really love to hear your opinions and experiences with the Playtest rules, so if you’ve given it a try be sure to leave a comment. If you haven’t downloaded the free PDFs for the Pathfinder Playtest I highly recommend you head on over to Paizo’s website and do so. It’s free! There’s not much you’ve got to lose. Haha. Those of you hoping to get physical copies can find them here: Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Deluxe Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn, Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack.

Until next time,
Jessica

Playtest

July New Releases!

School’s out for summer, Canada Day has passed, and Independence Day (for all you American’s out there) has just ended. It’s a new month, with new releases in the gaming world. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for some of this month’s products!

PZO1141Last month there were some awesome releases, including Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Planar Adventures, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Distant Realms, the finale of the Dead Suns Adventure Path: Empire of Bones (Dead Suns 6 of 6), and The Reaper’s Right Hand (War for the Crown 5 of 6)! Tricky to top! So what’s on the schedule for this month?

First off, Pathfinder Playtest.

Now, this isn’t out until AUGUST, but if you want to get your hands on a print copy now is your chance. Paizo is releasing the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook in hardcover, softcover, and in a special edition cover. They’re also releasing the Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn and the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat: Multipack. All of these products will be available for free as PDF downloads on August 2nd, but print copies will be quite hard to come by. Preorder or bust! In addition they’re releasing three Pathfinder Society Scenarios for Pathfinder Playtest. One series of quests at tier one, and two scenarios at tier five. An interesting choice! All three will be available as PDFs for free on August 7th. For more information, or to preorder print copies, check out Paizo’s website.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some products you can get your hands on this month!

In the world of Pathfinder there are only two new products up for grabs. The Six-Legend Soul (War for the Crown 6 of 6) is the much anticipated finale to the War for the Crown Adventure Path! Oh, it’s gonna be a good one! I’m SUPER curious! Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes from the Fringe presents a look at a lot of non-human, unique character options. Examples of this include the Ekujae elves of the Mwangi Expanse, and Pahmet dwarves of Osirion’s deserts, and many more. The part I’m most excited about? Whimsical phantoms for spiritualists! Come on, you know you want to be haunted by a chipper gnome ghost! I’m very intrigued with this product and can’t wait to see what’s inside. Pocket Editions of Ultimate Combat and Bestiary 5 also come available this month.

PZO7108Starfinder also has two exciting releases: The Dead Suns Pawn Collection, which has over 100 custom pawns from the Dead Suns Adventure Path, including a bunch of awesome starships! It looks amazing! What’s more exciting than that? A new hardcover book! Starfinder: Armory. Aww, yeah! This book is packed full of tons of new weapons and armour, as well as magical, technological, hybrids and mundane gear. There’s new bioaugmentations, weapons fusions… Every kind of item type has some new choices in this book. Also? New character options which focus on equipment! I don’t have a clue what they’re going to be, but I sure am intrigued!

In the world of Organized Play there will be four new scenarios coming out at the end of this month. Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-24: Beneath Unbroken Waves is a tier 5-9 scenario written by Kate Baker of particular importance to the Concordance Faction. It tasks the PCs with investigating underwater ruins. Scenario #9-25: Betrayal in the Bones is a tier 12-15 scenario written by Tom Phillips which continues the ongoing story of the Grand Lodge Faction. It allows players to finally get back at some old enemies! For more details, check out a previous blog post where we spoke about events leading up to this scenario! Starfinder Society Scenario #1-18: The Blackmoon Survey is a tier 1-4 scenario written by Jesse Benner which tasks players with exploring an ancient Eoxian ruin to determine why the workers on the excavation have been going missing. This one sounds like a ton of fun. Scenario #1-19: To Conquer the Dragon is a tier 5-8 scenario written by Matt Duval which send the players to Triaxus to open a Starfinder Lodge! This scenario builds on events from #1-13: On the Trail of History, and involves starship combat. I can’t wait until I get my hands on them later this month!

What’s left? Maps of course! And this month certainly brings us a LOT. Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Watch Station is a pretty handy map set which gives is a solid dungeon or underground prison on one side, and a moderately sized sheriff’s office/town barracks on the other. It can also sub in as any small building that includes barracks, such as a thieves den, guild headquarters or school. Pathfinder Flip-Mat Multi-Pack: Forest is a useful set of two flip mats which feature woodlands, rocky banks, and small rivers. These two mats each connect to each other in multiple ways, which means that you can continue your game with a rolling scene, over and over again. They look gorgeous. Starfinder Flip-Mat: Asteroid is an interesting map release. One side is an incredibly useful map of a canyon, impact site or crater which is going to see a ton of use. It’s super adaptable, and can even work in Pathfinder play. The other side is a complex built into the interior of an asteroid. It looks quite interesting. Clearly intended to be used in the Diaspora, it can double as a lot of other complexes, including an underground bunker, base, laboratory, military instalment or even a school. Unfortunately, all three map sets are not yet released on Amazon, so if you’re Canadian, like me, or from another place in the world where the cost of having anything delivered from Paizo is ABSURD you’ll need to wait a while before getting these beauties on order.

PZO4073There’s also a whole new type of map being released this month: Pathfinder Flip-Tiles! We’ve talked about these before on d20diaries, but in short, they’re a collection of 6×6 tiles with images on both sides which easily can connect to form a large complex. This month brings us two sets of map tiles. Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon Starter Set, includes basic dungeon features including halls, stairs, turns, entrances and rooms. It has a whopping 42 double sided map tiles. The second set, Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon perils Expansion Set, is an expansion which works will the Dungeon Set (and will work with other sets in the future). It contains 24 double sided flip-tiles which depict hazards including trapped and lit hallways, chemical spills, chasms, rock falls, magical devices, and fungal growths. They look pretty cool. Much like this months flip-mats, these products aren’t yet available on Amazon. As a brand new product, I haven’t yet seen these in person, so I’m not sure how easy they’ll be to adapt and use in a live game, but I’d love to find out. If any of you get your hands on these tiles, let me know! I’d love to hear what you think!

That’s it for this months new releases! What products are you most excited for? I know my household can’t wait to get our greedy little hands on Starfinder: Armory! Here’s hoping!

Jessica

Adventurer’s Armory 2

Things are pretty crazy around my house right now. My son’s sick (again), and both of my children had their birthdays this past week. But, as things begin to settle, we’re ready to get right back into the swing of things here on d20 Diaries. So today, we’re taking a look at another book I recently got my hands on: Pathfinder Player Companion: Adventurer’s Armory 2!

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Pathfinder Player Companion: Adventurer’s Armory 2

The Adventurer’s Armoury 2 is a sequel to the ever-popular Adventurer’s Armory, which was also released as a Player Companion back in April 2010. As a product from the Player Companion line, it’s a thin, soft-cover book intended for use by players, which clocks in at 32 pages in length. In my opinion, the Adventurer’s Armory was among the most universally useful books in the Player Companion line, so I was thrilled to pick up the sequel.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s inside…

The inside covers both feature purchasing charts showcasing the new equipment in this book. The front inside cover’s home to weapon and armour charts, while the back inside cover’s where you’ll find everything else. This includes adventuring gear, alchemical remedies, alchemical tools, alchemical weapons, poisons, clothing, magical items, and mundane tools. Looking past the covers we find the table of contents and then the introduction.

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Pathfinder Companion: Adventurer’s Armory

Although it doesn’t sound very exciting, the introduction’s home to one feat, Equipment Trick, which is an old, quirky feat originally printed in Adventurer’s Armory which allows your characters to make interesting uses out of a specific type of equipment chosen at the time of taking the feat. Only certain items have equipment tricks written for them, and in order to use each trick you must meet its specific requirements. Sound confusing? No worries. You take the feat and select which kind of item you’re going to learn tricks with, then read the list of tricks. If you meet the requirements for any of those tricks, you can use them. If not, keep an eye on them. You can use the trick as soon as you do meet the requirements, even if its many levels down the road. Curious what kind of equipment you can utilize? We’ll touch on that again later. For now, just know there’s plenty.

After the feat, you’ll find a collection of five traits which are all themed around where you buy your goods and feature some of the most infamous marketplaces in the Inner Sea. Including Absalom’s Coin District, Cassomir, Katapesh, Ostenso, and Riddleport, each of these traits are flavourful and fun. That being said, they’re not staples. You won’t read them and decide every one of your characters has to have it. My personal favourite? Absalom’s Amiable Briber, which is a social trait allows you to offer bribes without fear. The first time someone refuses a bribe you offer, that person’s attitude towards you doesn’t worsen, even if the offer normally would offend the person. Cool! Cassomir’s Bountiful Herb-Lore and Riddleport’s Master Messenger are also pretty cool, so be sure to check them out.

Lastly, the introduction features a handy rules index that lists the page numbers of each feat, trait and other rules option presented in this book. By now, one thing’s already clear: not everything in Adventurer’s Armory 2 is new. Some of the equipment and player options in this book are reprints from other out-of-print books. An understandable move, and helpful for those of you who might not own the original sourcebooks.

Moving on from the introduction we come to one of my favourite sections of the book: Equipment Packages! What, you may ask, is an equipment package? Simple! It’s a big collection of gear that your characters can choose to start with. What does it cost you? Two things! First, it costs a trait: Well-provisioned Adventurer. Second, it costs your starting gold. That’s right! If you take this trait you don’t staring gold at all. So, are these equipment packages worth it? That depends. In terms of value, each of these packages is worth about a thousand gold pieces. That’s a lot! In addition, the gear is well-chosen, and varied. Each allows for a minor amount of tweaking with GM approval, which should make them even more accessible. Having that much extra wealth can mean the difference between life and death at level one. However, whether or not you personally feel the gear is better than a +1 to a saving throw, a bonus to a few skills, turning a skill into a class skill, or picking up a quirky minor ability, is entirely a personal preference. My husband wasn’t wowed by it, but I certainly was, and my kids also loved it. I wouldn’t use it for all of my characters, of course, but for plenty these equipment packages are an option I’d consider. In addition to a well-chosen set of equipment geared at many different class types, these packages also include the weight for both medium and small characters already calculated. A wonderful thing if you don’t really like number crunching weights and carrying capacities, determining the adjusted weights for small sized characters, or coin counting to the copper piece. These equipment packages can also be purchased for 1,000 gp, for those of you who don’t want to use a trait to get one. As an aside, GMs can also use these equipment packages as rewards, care packages and gifts to be handed out to your players by grateful NPCs.  The only obvious downside? They’re heavy. With the lightest weighing in at 44 pounds (28 3/4 for small characters) your low-strength characters are bound to be overburdened by them. I’d love to see some more light-weight options appear in the future. My favourite equipment packages turned out to be the Arcane Adept (intended for arcane spellcasters) and the Daring Bravo (intended for any lightly armoured combatant). My young son loved the Wilderness Warrior, while my daughter loved the Mystic Guide (which she’d like to use on her next druid). After you’ve given the equipment packages a read, leave us a comment and let us know if you intend to use any. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next up we come to what most people will purchase this book for: armour and weapons. First up’s the armour. With eight new choices varying in price from 1 gp to 2,100 gp, there’s a wide variety of new armour, even if there aren’t many. My personal favourites are the Erutaki coat, the Varisian dancing scarves, and the reinforced tunic. In addition to armour, this book introduces a new type of item called a modification. Modifications can be applied to armour by a skilled smith, and offer both a benefit and a drawback. You’ll also find a feat later in the book that allows players to better utilize armour modifications. Although cool, none of these modifications are cheap, so invest with care. I’d recommend the nimble modification, which increases an armour’s Max Dex by two, reduces its check penalty by one, but costs 1,000 gp, and adds five pounds to its weight. Burnished also sounds like lots of fun at lower levels. For a cost of 500 gp, five pounds of added weight, and a -10 penalty to stealth in areas of bright light, you can dazzle your enemies with your brilliantly shining armour! Capable of targeting everyone who can see you within 30 feet, this ability has the potential to be really effective. However, each target can only be affected once per day. Other armour modifications include deflecting, double-plated (which I expect will see a lot of use), jarring, nimble, razored, slumbering (which is SUPER handy) and vitalguard.

With that we come to the Weapons. There’s a whopping twenty-five new weapons in this book, most of which are exotic, and only one of which is simple. I’m pretty partial to the cutlass, the lantern staff, and the spiral rapier. That being said, the flask thrower’s going to be incredibly handy for some characters. Past the new weapon options you’ll find a handy list showing what weapon group each belongs to, followed by seven weapon modifications. Weapon modifications work in the same way as armour modifications do, and also feature some feats which can improve their efficiency and capabilities. In addition, modified weapons have their weapon type increase by one step (from simple to martial, and martial to exotic). The weapon modifications included in this book are brutally weighted, dual-balanced, jagged hooks, razor-sharp, serrated edge, tactically adapted, and versatile design. Personally, I think that dual-balanced (which reduces the penalties for two-weapon fighting by -1) and tactical adapted (which allows you to add weapon qualities like blocking, disarm, and nonlethal to a weapon) are bound to see the most use in play.

All in all, I like the idea of modifications more than I like them mechanically. I’m unlikely to invest in them due to their hefty price tag, and the extra weight. Of course, if I’m playing a character who has extra cash to spend, a wide array of proficiencies and carrying capacity to spare, I’d give definitely them a try. I’m very curious to see them in action.

Next up we have a single page of feats. There’s nine of them total, and all of them are combat feats. Seven have to do with armour and weapon modifications, while the last two involve utilization of the dwarven dorn-derger, an exotic weapon that appears in this book. Although I’m sure some people are bound to try out the modification feats, especially Creative Armorsmith and Creative Weaponsmith, I found the feats on offer so specialized that I’m highly unlikely to use them. It’s a shame, but luckily these aren’t the only feats up for offer in Adventurer’s Armory 2.

Leaving the weapons and armour behind we come to the next section of the book, which showcases eighteen new pieces of mundane gear. Of them, I’d guess that only five or six will see play with any kind of frequency. The most useless item on the list would definitely be the false teeth, while the most universally used would probably be the charcoal. It’s so much better than buying ink and an inkpen! But, my favourite? The spring-loaded scroll case. This snazzy little case is five gold, and can be hung from a belt or backpack. It holds a single scroll which can be retrieved as a swift action. Shiny!

After the adventuring gear is a new type of equipment known as preparatory gear. These are items that you practise with for an hour everyday, then make a specific skill or ability check. If you pass, you gain a benefit that lasts for 24 hours. For example, the drowner’s helmet can help train you to hold your breath longer and the practise straitjacket can help train you to escape from bindings. There’s only two other preparatory gear in this book: the hanging board and a thief trainer. Each option’s a bit pricey–between 35 and 200 gp–but is certainly useful. The one hour daily training requirement might be a turn-off for some players, but I don’t mind at all. It’s particularly useful for non-spellcasters who travel with spellcasters and can give them something to do while your casters  prepare their spells or pray to their deities. Since the benefits of each last 24 hours, training can also be done at night before heading to bed. All in all I think it’s an intriguing concept, and I’m excited to see them put to use.

Up next is some equipment tricks for use with a few fun bits of mundane gear: ladders, lanterns, mirrors and poles. Each type of gear has between three to five tricks associated with it (poles have three, ladders have four, while lanterns and mirrors have five each).  Some of these tricks require a number of ranks in an associated skill to utilize, while others require specific feats as the prerequisites. The lantern tricks are the most utilitarian, and allow users to make their lanterns burn brighter or dimmer and explode like alchemist’s fire when thrown. When being held in the same hand as a shield, your lantern can deal some fire damage with each shield bash. Finally, you can toss lantern oil in an opponent’s eyes with the dirty trick maneuver (your lantern or theirs) which can both blind and burn them. The mirror tricks also sound like lots of fun. My personal favourites let you shine light into your opponents eyes, reflect gaze attacks, and even penetrate illusions! No longer is your mirror just for looking around corners!

Leaving behind the mundane adventuring gear we head into the exciting world of more mundane gear! This time it’s tools and tool kits we’re taking a gander at. Both of these sections are small, with only six items in each. As far as tools go, I was excited for a duo of new bear traps, while my daughter insisted that the portable terrarium was the greatest item in the entire book. (Warning: She may have been biased by the adorable picture of the terrarium, which features a cute little frog in a glass globe…). As for tool kits, I’m partial to the elemental explorer’s kit, and the underground survival kit, although I’m more than ready to admit that the fiendslayer’s kit and the undead survivor’s kit will see more use in play. And what other kits are up for offer, you ask? The emergency interrogation kit, and the invisible enemies kit.

The next section is a single page that features seven new poisons. The cheapest poison up for offer is the delightfully named rainbow scarab shell. At a price of only 150 gp per dose, this iridescent toxin deals strength damage upon injury once per round for four rounds. Although it’s not particularly difficult to resist or overcome, victims who reach 0 strength also begin to suffocate. The priciest poison also happens to be my favourite.  Grinding joint paste is an ingested poison with a ten minute onset which costs a whopping 2,100 gold per dose. Made from dried and ground up cockatrice organs it causes a decent amount of Dexterity damage for six minutes. In addition, movement becomes so painful that the victims take damage whenever they swing a two-handed weapon or move more than ten feet in a round. Ouch! I’m also pretty partial to the Leng’s tears, which is a fast acting contact poison which causes vivid hallucinations and paralysis. Failing just once causes a full ten minutes of paralysis, with unlucky victims being unable to move for an entire hour. Nasty!

Following these nasty poisons is another set of equipment tricks, this one for instruments. Of all the equipment tricks offered in this book, this set are by far my favourite. In fact, they might be my favourite equipment tricks ever. I love them! Attention grabber lets your character draw attention to themselves in order to cover their allies movements. Goad animal lets you command friendly animals to perform tricks they know as a free action or push them to perform tricks they don’t know as a standard action. Jaw-dropping distraction lets you feint with a perform check instead of a bluff check. Play to the crowd let’s you use a perform check in place of an initial diplomacy check to influence an NPC, and finally, ruffian’s riff lets you treat an instrument as an improvised weapon with the performance special feature. Got a masterwork instrument? Then it counts as a masterwork weapon. Got a magical one? It’s treated as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. Awesome. I’m definitely going to be giving these tricks a try.

Side by side on the same page with the instrument equipment tricks is a column that I actually loved a lot. Examples of masterwork tools. I know, it doesn’t sound very exciting. But, think of it. How often do you purchase the generic ‘masterwork tools’ from the Core Rulebook. On occasion, right? Maybe if you’ve got a character who has a craft or profession. But this list reminds us that these tools are far more useful than the average player has been giving them credit for. This lists a large number of skills (which don’t already have a designated tool or tool kit), and provides example tools that you could purchase to improve those skills. Want to improve your acrobatics check? Pick up a balancing pole, gymnast’s slippers or a vaulting pole. Feel like being menacing? You could invest in frightening tattoos, an executioner’s hood, or a set of torturer’s tools. How about a reference book to help with a knowledge check, or lubricating oils to help escape bonds. This list really got me thinking about the term ‘tool’ and how they can be applied to a wide variety of characters and skills. I was honestly surprised how useful I found this little column, and I’m sure plenty of other players will get good use out of it, as well.

The next two pages revolve around clothing, with the first page being ten new articles of clothing, and the second being six new spells that need to be cast upon specific articles of clothing. The burglar’s outfit, courtesan’s outfit and squire’s outfit all provide great new options for starting outfits, while the spells allied cloak, grappling scarf, and surefoot boots were all great fun.

Past clothes we get to one of my favourite sections in the book: impromptu equipment. That’s right! Want a list of example objects and their damage for reference? It’s here! Want some magical items that help improvised weapons? Also here! There’s also a few neat feats and, my personal favourite: special qualities that some improvised weapons can possess. So whether you’re wielding a pronged taxidermic moose head, a gross hunk of rotting meat, a heavy anvil, or a burning log, these improvised weapons qualities are a lot of fun that can really get your player’s creativity flowing. It’s going to be a blast! As for feats, check out hook fighter, which lets you turn a grappling hook into a deadly weapon. For magical gear be sure to pick up gloves of improvised might and quick metal bracers, both of which are awesome options for characters interested in focusing on improvised weapons.

As we near the end of the book we find ourselves among a pile of products that can be created with arguably the most popular type of crafting in Pathfinder: alchemy. This section features two new alchemical remedies, three new alchemical tools, and seven new alchemical weapons (four of which are forms of alchemical bolts). My personal favourites were troll stypic (a painful paste which can grant users fast healing for up to 8 rounds) and the tress tincture (an alchemical weapon that causes raid hair growth, which can be terribly irritating, as your opponents hair constantly gets in their eyes and obscures vision. Yes, you read that correctly!). In addition to new alchemical substances we also get three new sets of equipment tricks which showcase the classics of alchemy: smokesticks, tanglefoot bags, and thunderstones. Exciting! Although all three are awesome, the tanglefoot bag tricks are my favourite. If you’ve got a sneaky or stealthy character, definitely give the smokestick tricks a read. The final part of the alchemy section is a new kind of brew called concoctions. These creations are less stable than your typical alchemical creations and are known for having bad side effects. In addition, players who consume more than one concoction at a time roll on a table of random effects. Half of these effects are good, and half are bad. Of those, they vary from alright and not too bad, all the way up to amazing and horrible. If you’re a gambler this can be great fun to fiddle with, but with the options ranging from ‘unleash the full potential of my body and mind’ which allows you to gain a +4 bonus on two ability score for 24 hours, all the way to the concoction explodes within your stomach, or is highly toxic, I’m not really into to testing my luck. The concoctions themselves are typically 50 gold each with the priciest being 100 gp. Each offers a benefit and a drawback. The crystal-sweet concoction gives you +2 on diplomacy and -4 on sense motive, while the sphere-song concoction gives you +1 on Will saving throws and a -2 on initiative. Although interesting, I think these items have great potential for GM

use. These can easily be added into drug dens, dangerous bars and high-end noble parties. They can also be focal points for social encounters, or used as a ‘test of faith’ or as ‘dares’ by gangs, religious organizations and the nobility. Whatever use your group happens to find for them, they’re certainly a colourful (and potentially dangerous) experience.

The next two pages of Adventurer’s Armory 2 feature a variety of equipment from two distinct regions: the Dragon Empires and the Padishah Empire. Each region has an entire page to itself, and contains a few articles of clothing, alchemical remedies or tools, and a special material. Spirit-vision ink turned out to be my favourite piece of equipment from Tian Xia, while the special material, sunsilver, was my favourite object to come from the Keleshite culture.

The final section of this book turned out to be among my favourites. It releases rules for a brand new type of construct you can make right from level one: poppets. If crafting’s not your cup of tea, you can also purchase these little fellows. Although too costly to purchase as a brand new level one character, they’re certainly affordable by the time level two rolls around. These tiny or small creations can be upgraded and modified with a host of abilities, and can even be taken as familiars with a special feat. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you may have already heard me speak about poppets. My seven-year-old son made a mad scientist who is obsessed with creating new life, and currently has two poppets he’s hand-crafted with care. To read more about poppets and our experiences using them in games, read my blog post Character Focus: Professor McMaan, and Crown of the Kobold King: Part One. Short summary: we love them.

And that’s it. We’ve reached the end.

So when it comes down to it, what do I think of Adventurer’s Armory 2? Was it worth the money?

d20diaries Ultimate Equipment
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Equipment

I think so. This books features a lot of new equipment and gear, as well as some cool new rules to go with them. Although most of the rules are quite specialized and exclusive to certain character builds, the items in the book are much more varied and useful. It’s one of those books that you’ll pull out every time you’re making a new character, and pull out again for your first few level ups. Certainly, it’s not as useful as Ultimate Equipment. And with the upcoming change to Pathfinder Playtest this next August, it’s unlikely to be as popular as its predecessor, Adventurer’s Armory, was. But as far as Player Companions go, it’s definitely one of the most universally useful ones they’ve printed. In my opinion, it’s worth it.

Have a copy of Adventurer’s Armory 2 at home? Let us know what you think in the comments! Do you have a favourite item featured in its pages? Let us know that, too!

I hoped you’ve enjoyed this look at Adventurer’s Armory 2.

Until next time,

Jessica