Well, Spring has finally sprung here on d20 Diaries. In the last few short weeks we saw our last snowfall of the winter, we’ve watched the sandy snow melt, and we’ve seen the grass begin to green. My children went from complaining it’s too cold, to whining it’s too hot and bemoaning the lack of prepared swimming pools all within the same two weeks. We had our first sprinklings of rain, and the line-ups for slurpees have officially tripled.
My kids are very interesting in making our planet a brighter, healthier place, so they took to our apartment’s patio at the first opportunity, insisting we spend ‘just a little bit of money’ on some potted plants.
“It will help bring back the bees, Mom!” (Thanks for that tag line, Cheerios, by the way).
“It will bring beautiful butterflies!” (which will leave their cocoons splattered all over my patio walls)
“The rabbits can eat them!” (Not a very compelling argument…)
“They are great for smelling!” (I’m allergic).
“They help us breathe. Well, maybe not YOU, Mom, cause you are allergic to EVERYTHING. But it will help everyone else breathe great!” (Fair.)
Compelling (and not so compelling) arguments aside, I always encourage my kids to follow their passions. My daughter’s embraced her love of rabbits with wild abandon, while my son carries gardening gloves and extra bags in his school backpack, so he’s always ready to clean up the litter we pass by. So, I had every intention of helping my kids do some gardening, despite how ill it was going to make me.
Well, five trips to Rona, nine pots, four tiny bags of soil and infinitely more than ‘a little bit of money’ later, and my kids have transformed our dour little concrete slab into a riot of colourful pots and flowers. They planted three pine seeds they got from the Earth Rangers. (If you don’t know, the Earth Rangers is a Canadian kids conservation organization which challenges kids to help the environment and save endangered species one mission at a time. They have a kid-friendly website, mission lists that give kids easy to accomplish ways they can make a difference close to home, rewards for completing tasks, and nature themed games and articles the kids can play or read. You can also donate or fundraise on behalf of their various missions to save endangered species, but my kids don’t do that part cause I’m a big stick in the mud. For more information on the Earth Rangers, check out their website!). We’ve also got a lovely fern, plenty of flowers and an overpriced rabbit planter. We’ve got a bag of wildflower seeds to plant, as well, which we recently got free from the Cheerios Bring Back the Bees campaign. If you haven’t done so, check out their website, where you can get a free book for your kids and a packet of wildflower seeds (Note: I have no idea which countries can receive the free seeds and book, but it doesn’t hurt to try!).
Admittedly, some plants aren’t doing so well. My kids can be overly eager with the water, we don’t get much sun, it was still below freezing some mornings, and rabbits have been eating all the petals off of the yellow flowers (much to my daughter’s delight). But, that doesn’t really matter. My kids are thrilled to be doing their part to help our local environment, and they’re learning how to be responsible for another living thing. And hey, if it feeds a few rabbits and brings back a bee or two, that’s a bonus. It’s their smiles that really make it worthwhile.
On the gaming front, OutPost has finally come to an end. It was a lot of fun, and my whole family enjoyed themselves. Despite the many games I was a part of, I never managed to win one of the special convention boons, nor did my husband or any of my kids. Happily, what my kids did manage to win was respect. Both of their GMs from the convention were impressed with their crazy characters and their handle of the game. Not long after the end of their convention games they applied for more. My daughter easily scored herself a spot in another play by post, despite worries about her age, after providing a link to her last game to prove she was a decent player. One of the people who played alongside my kids during Outpost decided to GM a scenario and opened a sign up for prospective players which got a ton of interest. My son’s character earned a spot with ease, with an admission from the GM that he had enjoyed playing alongside my son’s character so much that he was the first person selected to play in his scenario. Suffice to say my son was pleased. Both games have been running for a few weeks now, and are going well.
Closer to home, my kids have been plugging away at the The Shackled City Adventure Path. It’s been six play sessions, and we’re still in Jzadirune. The end of their exploration is in sight, and soon we’ll be descending into the Malachite Hold! I’ve had to make some changes to the dungeon. After the first few play sessions my son was getting a little bored of all the fights and what felt like a lack of progress. I streamlined the encounters, removed the unnecessary ones, and added some flavourful fluff. We refocused slightly, and have been really paying attention to the things my son’s character recalls from Jzadirune. He did live there as a child, after all! Last session ended with my son discovering his family’s old home, and meeting the ‘King’. He’s grown to love this haunted little dungeon, and has every intention to fixing up when we’re done down there and living in it. What could go wrong?!
My daughter, meanwhile, has been on the edge of her seat, exclaiming after every session, “But, we have to finish it! I have to save my good friend Griffin who I work with! He was supposed to be married! His girlfriend is so sad she cries everyday! We must hurry! He could DIE!” She says the word ‘die’ with such drama. It’s adorable.
We’re about to undertake a side quest in our Carrion Crown campaign (we’re currently on: Carrion Crown Book 1: Haunting of Harrowstone), but were stymied by an excess of laundry, and a need to purchase summer shoes. More details on these characters will come in an upcoming blog post.
Out in the wider universe, my family is currently one battle into the delightful Starfinder Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth! They’ve just fought their way past Elytrio’s automated defences, deployed their drift beacons, and are about to touch down on the surface. You can pick up this awesome scenario for a few dollars on Paizo’s website. You’ll need the Starfinder Core Rulebook to make characters and play.
My kids have been hard at work creating their own custom adventures, which they’ll be running through as GMs for our family soon. Not long after that they’ll be up on d20 Diaries for your enjoyment. We’re keeping it under wraps for now, but what I will tell you is that they both involve islands, and lost treasure. But, while my son’s gone for a pirate adventure, my daughter’s taken a different approach. And yes, before you ask, hers has some rabbits in it. Haha.
In other exciting news, I’ve cashed in my various gift cards left over from Christmas and have a delightfully tall pile of Pathfinder and Starfinder books to read through sitting on my dresser. I’ve recently finished reading through Pathfinder Player Companion: Legacy of the First World, and have just begun reading the highly anticipated (in my house at least!) Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Pact Worlds! My daughter’s particularly excited for the SROs race, for reasons we’ll go into another time.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for us to water the plants.
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. Please note that none of the following images are my property. Some belong to Paizo Publishing, and others were discovered on Pinterest and belong to the artists who created them (signatures are on many of the images).
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 (Sebkay’s art is from a soldier token in Magic: The Gathering’s Amonkhet set, available in booster packs here.).
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!