Review: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons!

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

A new series of Dungeons & Dragons books aimed at children is scheduled to launch next week and we are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

The Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler. The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures’ and ‘Warriors and Weapons.’ There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and Spring 2020 (Wizards & Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D. The American cover price for each of the books is $12.99, with the Canadian cover price $17.50. Each book is 105 pages long.

Young Advendturer's Guide

Before we take an in depth look at each of the books individually, let’s talk first impressions…

These books look and feel great! They have high quality hard covers, sturdy glossy pages, tons of unique full colour art, and a design aesthetic that’s in line with the adult D&D releases. These books feel like they’re a part of the Dungeons & Dragons line — which is absolutely awesome! It makes my kids feel like these books are just as important as the rest of our D&D books, which in turn makes them feel included and a part of the hobby.

Taken on their own, the Young Adventurer’s Guides have a nice layout, easy to read text, beautiful art, and are well organized. They’re approachable, interesting, engaging, and clearly written for kids, but, at the same time, the books don’t talk down to the reader. These books are written with care, and meant to provide younger audiences an easy to understand introduction to the world of roleplaying games and storytelling, as well as inspire them to make the world and stories their own.

Young Adventurers Guides

I have two children, a seven year old girl and an eight year old boy, making them on the young end of the intended audience for these books. Both of my kids have very good reading comprehension for their age. That said, both of my kids thoroughly enjoyed these books. My son had no problem reading the books and seemed to understand everything he read. My daughter, understandably, had more trouble, having to sound out a tricky word or two with each flip of the page, and often asking for definitions of words. Despite this, she was fully engaged with reading the books, and never got frustrated. As is typical with many fantasy books, the trickiest words are fictional names of characters and places. While many kids will stumble over these words once or twice before internalizing them, just as many will skip over them and move on. My son didn’t come across any content that he found inappropriate or too mature for him, while my daughter came across a few creatures she decided were a little ‘too spooky’ for her right now, so she skipped those pages and continued on enjoying the rest of the book. Considering the age and reading abilities of my kids, I think these books are well suited to the middle-grade reader level they’re advertised as. My kids loved them, and they definitely have room to grow with the books. We haven’t had them long and already my kids have read and re-read them more than a few times. They’ve already started utilizing information they picked up from the books in their play, storytelling, roleplaying, and gaming. These are the sort of books my kids get a ton of use out of, coming back to them often, and using different sections for inspiration at different times.

It’s important to note that these books are NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbook or the Monster Manual. The Young Adventurer’s Guides do NOT contain game mechanics or rules. They lay out the major concepts, roles, gear, and monsters in a way that is easy to understand, approachable, and engaging. They’re meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules. I highly recommend this series for for any kids who love adventure, fantasy, horror, monsters, roleplaying, storytelling, or who have exposure to RPGs.


Monsters & CreaturesMonsters & Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated guide to the many beasts of Dungeons & Dragons. Featuring one-of-a-kind entries for some of its most memorable monsters, and over 60 brand new illustrations, this book is sure to ignite the imagination of young readers. This book begins with a short, one page introduction which gives the book some context and explains the books ‘Danger Levels,’ which is a 0-5 point scale meant to show how tough a creature is. Although similar to Challenge Ratings in D&D, these numbers are NOT equivalent. Beginning at 0, which denotes a creature that is essentially harmless, moving on to 1, which is an acceptable challenge for low-level or beginning adventurers, and ending at 5, which is a difficult challenge for high level heroes. There is one Danger Level higher than this: EPIC, which denotes a creature so powerful only the most legendary heroes could hope to triumph over it.

Monsters & Creatures - Inside Cover

The creatures in this book are sorted by the regions they call home, beginning with underground creatures, which are found in ‘Caverns & Dark Places,’ moving up onto the surface with ‘Forests, Mountains, & Other Terrain’ dwelling creatures (which also includes a special sub-chapter on giants of all kinds). Following this is ‘Moors, Bogs, and Boneyards,’ a chapter which primarily focuses on undead creatures with a special sub-chapter on vampires, and ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways,’ which is packed full of aquatic creatures. Finally, airborne monsters can be found in ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky,’ which also contains a special sub-chapter on dragons. Each monster profile contains information on the size of each beast, its danger level, and tips for how to survive an encounter with one. There’s also lore, special abilities and powers, typical tactics, and a handy list of do’s and don’ts for dealing with these beasts. Finally, new art! This book is packed full of it!

Monsters & Creatures also features encounters, which are short, one page stories that introduce a famous D&D character, place them in a perilous situation involving one of the described creatures, and then ends, leaving each opening scene with a cliffhanger ending. Following this is questions that ask the reader what they think the characters should do next, what would happen in response to those actions, and what the characters should do afterwards. These encounters are meant to guide kids to roleplay their own endings to exciting stories, and question the ramifications of their actions. This problem-solving is a great way to introduce kids to RPGs as both a player and DM.

The book ends with a short chapter on how to use monsters to tell stories, and important questions to contemplate for kids who decide to make stories or engage in RPGs on their own. Things like, ‘who are your characters,’ ‘where does your story take place,’ ‘how do things change as the story proceeds,’ and so on. Finally, there’s a short blurb about Dungeons & Dragons, and how to get into the game.

So what creatures, exactly, are featured in Monsters & Creatures? Plenty! ‘Caverns & Dark Places’ includes the beholder, bugbear, carrion crawler, flumph, goblin, mind flayer, myconid, and the legendary Demogorgon. ‘Forests, Mountains & Other Terrain’ includes the centaur, displacer beast, owlbear, sprite, treant, unicorn, hill giant, stone giant, frost giant, fire giant, cloud giant, storm giant, and the legendary fire giant Duke Zalto. ‘Moors, Bogs & Boneyards’ includes the banshee, skeleton, vampire lord, vampire spawn, and the legendary vampire Count Strahd Von Zarovich. ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways’ includes the aboleth, dragon turtle, and merrow. ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky’ includes the griffon, pegasus, white dragon, green dragon, black dragon, blue dragon, red dragon, and the legendary Tiamat, Queen of Evil Dragons! Encounters are included for the frost giant, green dragon, myconid, skeleton, and unicorn. My son most enjoyed reading about unicorns, flumphs, blue dragons, and vampires. My daughter most enjoyed reading about the beholder, flumph, dragon turtle, dragons, and Tiamat. My daughter also came across a few creatures that she decided, either from the art or after reading the first few sentences, were ‘too spooky’ for her. She promptly skipped those monsters and moved on with the book. The monsters she skipped were the carrion crawler (she’s afraid of bugs), the aboleth (she thought it looked creepy), and the mind flayer (it had a giant brain behind it and she was pretty sure she didn’t want to know why).

The verdict:

As an adult reader, I was pleasantly surprised with the array of creatures featured in this book. There’s a lot of iconic monsters in here, a ton of fantasy staples, and some quirky creatures that most kids will be discovering for the first time. Some of the choices were a bit gutsy for a kids book — the mind flayer and demogorgon, for example — but I’m thrilled to see them included. I’m pleased to see that not all of the monsters are evil creatures, there’s plenty that can be befriended or negotiated with.  The information included in the monster entries is absolutely wonderful. There’s integral information, great advice, and enough engaging descriptions to get my kids interested and curious. The encounters were a definite highlight of the book, as was the beautiful new artwork found throughout. The book is high-quality and sturdy, which is important since our copy is sure to take a beating. I’m far from the intended audience for this book, but I really enjoyed reading it. Even more than that, I loved sharing this book with my kids. I loved watching them discover and wonder over the creatures inside. Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.

My daughter: “I loved this book. It was fun to read and the pictures were beautiful! I give it two thumbs up! I think I will read it again and again. I really loved the flumph! It was the best creature in the book. That’s what I think.”

My son: “I think that I love this book. All kinds of kids should read it. I think most would love it, too! Especially if they already like D&D and RPGs and things. I think that it is fun and I’m going to read it a lot!”

“Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.”

Warriors & Weapons


Warriors & Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated introductory guide to the many kinds of warriors you can create in Dungeons & Dragons, along with the weapons, armour, and adventuring gear that they’ll make use of. Featuring one-of-a-kind content and over sixty new illustrations, this book gives young adventurers the information and inspiration they need to create their own characters.

Warriors & Weapons begins with a quick introduction that makes it clear that this book is meant to help the reader and their friends make characters of their own. The rest of the book is divided into three major sections: fantasy races, character classes, and equipment. There’s a large array of fantasy races covered in this book — most I expected to see included, but a few were surprises that I knew of but didn’t expect to make the cut. Each race is covered in two side-by-side pages. It starts with new art and a few questions that can help kids figure out if they’ll like playing that race. You’ll also find information on their age, size, attributes, and a few paragraphs about the race and how they act or fit into the world. The races included in this book are human, dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, halfling, dragonborn, kenku, tabaxi, tiefling, and tortle.

Gnome

Warriors & Weapons is a book about warriors. It should come as no surprise then, that not all of the character classes are covered in this book. The martial classes are included. That means there are six classes covered in the chapter on classes: barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue. Each class entry contains a few questions that can help kids figure out if they would enjoy making a character of that class, information on the class, its major low level abilities, and the weapons, armour, and gear they’re capable of using. Many also include information on the various archetypes, paths, and specializations available to those classes. After each class entry is a two page spread that takes a look at a famous example of that character class. These ‘legendary heroes’ include Wulfgar the Warhammer, Bruenor Battlehammer, Whey-Shu, Redclay, Minsc the Mighty, and Shandie Freefoot. The class section also includes a little flowchart that can tell kids what class they’re most like, and a short section on character backgrounds, attire, details, inspiration, and flaws.

The Equipment section takes a quick look at weapons (swords, polearms, other melee weapons, ranged weapons, and special weapons), armour (light, medium, heavy, and shields), survival gear, adventuring gear, tools, and some special packs for more specialized endeavours (burglar’s pack, dungeoneer’s pack, explorer’s pack, and vampire hunter’s pack). All of the weapon and armour entries talk about the pros and cons of utilizing items of that types, and showcases a few popular versions. The other equipment entries talk about the purpose of different kinds of gear, being prepared for your adventures, and why selecting the right equipment for your character is important. Finally, this section also contains a quick monster entry about the terrifying… rust monster!

Survival Gear

The book ends with a few comments about how you can use your characters to tell stories of your own, and a quick blurb about Dungeons & Dragons and how to get involved in the game. Most of the information on these back few pages is the same as that contained at the end of Monsters & Creatures.

The verdict: 

My kids both adored this book. They love flipping through the races and classes, answering the questions, and making up characters. My daughter particularly enjoys the flowchart that helps you pick out the class you’re most like, and has spent a lot of time making up her own quizzes to determine our race and class. She often sits down beside me, flips open her book, and announces, “Mama! Pick a race!” I cannot stress enough how much she enjoys using this book to make characters and character concepts. My son really enjoys reading about the legendary heroes, with both of my kids agreeing Minsc the Mighty and his hamster Boo are the coolest characters in the book. (I’m pretty sure Boo the hamster would win in a popularity contest between the two of them around here, haha). When it comes down to it, I think they enjoy the sections on races and classes more than the section on equipment. Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.

My daughter: “I loved this book! Especially the little chart! It’s so much fun! It was a great book and I give it two thumbs up!”

My son: “Warriors & Weapons was pretty much as good as Monsters & Creatures, but I liked Monsters & Creatures better. I love how it lets you make your own characters with races and classes. The legendary characters were the coolest part. Especially Whey-Shu and Boo.”

“Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.”


My family and I had an absolute blast with these books. Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons have both been read a lot by my kids, and I expect them to continue to see heavy use in the future. My kids have already decided they would each like their own copies, so they’re saving up their money to pick up an extra copy of each book. We’re very excited to hear there’s more Young Adventurer’s Guides on the horizon, and will definitely be picking up a copy (or two) of Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells when they come out.

We’d like to give a special thanks to Penguin Randomhouse Canada for sending us advance copies for review.

Thanks for stopping by d20diaries! We’ll chat again soon.

Jessica

 

Chronicle of Legends

Pathfinder Player Companion - Chronicle of Legends
Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends

Hello adventurers! Today we’re taking a peek between the covers of Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends! This delightful softcover book from Paizo Inc. is packed with new character options for all character classes, themed as though they were based on legends plucked from the Pathfinder Chronicles. It contains character traits and magic items that could become more powerful over time, new talents, spells, and feats, two new prestige classes, new capstone abilities for nearly all of the classes, and more. In addition, Chronicle of Legends is the final Pathfinder Player Companion being released for Pathfinder First Edition –– a fact both sad and exciting!

Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends is a soft cover book that is 32 pages in length. As a book in the Player Companion line, it’s aimed at players, which means that you won’t find a ton of world lore or secrets inside. Instead you’ll find character options –– things like feats, traits, spells, and more. Chronicle of Legends was developed by Eleanor Ferron and Luis Loza. Contributing authors include Calder CaDavid, Vanessa Hoskins, Mike Kimmel, Isabelle Lee, Matt Morris, Mikhail Rekun, and Michael Sayre. The cover features dynamic art by David Alvarez which depicts Oloch (the iconic warpriest), Quinn (the iconic inquisitor), Shardra (the iconic shaman), and Kolo (Shardra’s tuatara familiar), all combatting a stone colossus. Interior artists include Nathanael James, Michele Giorgi, Alyssa McCarthy, and Beatrice Pelagatti.

The front inside cover features some fun references to past seasons of the Pathfinder Society, as well as it’s future. After this is the table of contents, the rules index, and the introduction, which contains five new exemplar traits, as well as a heroic figure that represents each of them. Exemplar traits are stronger than regular traits and are each tied to a single category of traits (combat, faith, magic, regional, or social). Each allows you to take more traits from their linked category, and gets stronger for each one. I rather liked the exemplar traits, particularly ‘Faith Unshakeable and Unassailable’, which grants you a bonus on Will saves against charms, compulsions, and fear effects, and ‘Traveler of a Hundred Lands’ which allows you to select extra skills as class skills.

Introduction - Illustration by Nathanael James
Illustration by Nathanael James. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Moving on from the introduction we come to our first chapter: Chronicles of Heroes! This section contains four pages of new character options. It starts with four new banners usable by cavaliers and samurai (I particularly like the ‘knave standard’ which can help out your shifty companions). There’s three new gunslinger deeds (check out ‘thundering shot’!) and four new swashbuckler deeds (check out ‘hilt hammer’ and ‘dodging dance’). After this there are six new ninja tricks which are all really cool. My kids adore ‘spiritual companion’ which can allow your ninja to get an improved familiar from a short list of very interesting options. ‘All the stars in the sky’ will be a great choice for shuriken users, but it’s ‘false face’ that turned out to be my favourite. This little gem allows you to change shape as long as you have some ki. Finally, there’s some talents in this chapter: five for slayers and seven for vigilantes. My favourite was definitely ‘leap and bound,’ a vigilante talent that lets you pull off some fun mid-air attacks and tricks.

Ritualist - Illustration by Alyssa McCarthy
A ritualist. Illustrated by Alyssa McCarthy. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Up next? Chronicles of Prestige! This section contains fourteen feats for characters who have levels in a prestige class from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. They’re all useful and sure to enhance the classes they’re intended for. Following this is two new prestige classes: esoteric knight and ritualist. Esoteric knight is similar to eldritch knight, but for kineticists and psychic spellcasters. Ritualist is accessible to spellcasters of all kinds, and makes it’s user incredibly proficient at performing rituals. Definitely a niche prestige class, but a ton of fun if you’re interested in rituals.

Chronicles of Magic is two pages of new spells and a ritual. There are four new spells –– realm retribution, rival’s ward, greater song of discord, and uncanny reminder. All are high level spells, clocking in at level 6, 8, and 9 depending on the spell and spellcasting class. But, it’s the ritual, egoist’s militia, that turned out to be my favourite. Definitely give it a read if you’ve got the chance.

The next section –– Chronicles of Expertise –– is my husband’s favourite part of this book. These four pages are all about magic tricks! Like equipment tricks, magic tricks allow PCs to get some extra utility out of their abilities. In this case, magic spells. Each spell has five or six special ways you can use it –– presuming you have the feat ‘magic trick’ for the appropriate spell and the necessary skills or feats. The spells that have magic tricks are daylight, fireball, mage hand, obscuring mist, prestidigitation, shield, and unseen servant. Although they’re all really cool, my favourites are the tricks for mage hand and shield.

The nest two sections –– Chronicles of Legacy and Chronicles of Collection –– are all about magical gear. Chronicles of Legacy showcases nine new legacy items, which are unique magical items that grow in power and gain new abilities as their bearers level up or accomplish goals. Although they’re intended to be given out by GMs, not purchased, they do have rules for pricing legacy items included in a sidebar. I enjoyed a lot of these items, but the bracers of antiquity and trailblazer’s boots turned out to be my favourites. Chronicles of Collection presents two feats –– collector’s boon and improved collector’s boon –– that allow PCs to make use of magical equipment sets. Equipment sets are a collection of magical items that, when worn together, become more powerful and unlock new abilities. There are eight equipment sets in this book, each focused on a different theme and featuring magical items already released in other books. For example, the Archmage’s Vestments is great for spellcasters and consists of greater caster’s shield, magician’s hat, ring of counterspells, robe of the archmagi, and staff of power. PCs can only make use of one equipment set at a time. The other equipment sets are Aroden’s Array, Beastmaster’s Will, Besmara’s Bounty, Dread Demoniac Armor, Irori’s Meditation, Pharasma’s Command, and Urgathoa’s Gluttony. Each is powerful in it’s own way, but they are very niche, so not all characters will want to attempt to make use of them. My personal favourite? Beastmaster’s Will, although I admit it’s far from the most powerful option. Haha.

Dwarf Capstone - Chronicle of LegendsWhich brings us to my favourite part of the book: Chronicles of Paragons! I love options. You know what else I love? Reaching 20th level and getting an awesome ability! But, what’s better than achieving your capstone powers? Having a choice of capstone power. This chapter presents an alternative capstone ability for nearly every base class in Pathfinder First Edition. Alchemists and witches instead have a new grand discovery and grand hex to add to their options. In addition, there’s a dozen other capstones, which can be taken by any character that meets the prerequisites. Examples of this include arch-familiar, which grants your familiar higher intelligence and a selection of spell-like abilities of your choice; deep magics, which grants spellcasters an array of new spells known; or old dog, new tricks, which grants you a quartet of new combat feats. I really enjoyed all the universal capstone abilities.  That’s not to say I didn’t like the class-specific capstone abilities –– because I did! –– but it’s the universal ones that caught my interest most, particularly for their versatility and universal appeal. So what were my favourite class-specific capstones? Tough, tough, tough call! Probably ‘proxy,’ the cleric capstone which grants you an additional domain and all of its benefits, and ‘huntmaster,’ the hunter capstone which grants you a second animal companion.

And that’s it! The end of Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends! This book is packed full of cool new character options for all classes that are memorable and unique. Theres literally something for everyone in this book –– quite a few somethings! –– and I would honestly be shocked if someone found this book not worth the investment. I absolutely adored it, and am pleased to see that the Pathfinder Player Companion line went out with a bang.

Arcane Archer - Illustration by Alyssa Michele Giorgi
An arcane archer. Illustration by Michele Giorgi. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

…But wait! There’s more! Last month on Paizo’s blog Luis Loza shared two extra character options written for Chronicle of Legends that they couldn’t fit into the book. Two archetypes for prestige classes! ‘Deadeye devotee’ is an arcane archer prestige archetype that allows divine worshippers of Erastil to enter the prestige class and gain some unique new abilities, while ‘thought thief’ is an arcane trickster prestige archetype for psychic spellcasters. Both prestige archetypes are available on Paizo’s blog for free. Thanks, Luis!

Thanks for checking out d20diaries! I hope that taking a peek at what’s inside this Player’s Companion helped you decide if this is the right book for you. There’s plenty  of great books out there (and I know I’m not the only one who can’t afford them all!).

Shop smart!

Jessica

 

Shackled City: Part Six: Kazmojen

Welcome back to Cauldron, home of the The Shackled City Adventure Path! When we last left off our heroic musicians were investigating a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! They’ve tracked down the kidnappers, and discovered an underground complex run by slavers. They’ll have to work fast if they want to save their fellow citizens before they’re sold!

If none of this sounds familiar you can read this blog post, which details our characters, or continue on with this article to hear a quick summary and jump right into the action! You can also check out our previous adventures in Shackled City: Part OneShackled City: Part Two: A Mystery!Shackled City: Part Three: Jzadirune, Shackled City: Part Four: Enter the Malachite Fortress, and Shackled City: Part Five: This Place is the Pits!

The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.

shackled city adventure path d20diaries
The Shackled City Adventure Path is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure originally printed in Dungeon Magazine by Paizo Publishing.

The Heroes

Our eccentric heroes are all members of ‘Dinorabbit,’ a musical band that changes its name frequently and was most previously known as ‘Boople Snoot.’ The band’s lead singer and song-writer is Falco Rhiavadi, a foppish noble bastard of mixed Tien descent whose father was devoured by a dragon when Falco was just a boy. A well-groomed, handsome man with an easy smile and a winning personality, Falco’s a black sheep among his family. Mechanically Falco is an oracle of life whose familiar is a jealous and demanding thrush named Ruby. Falco is played by my husband.

Mick Frimfrocket is a gnome with dark blue skin, bright pink hair that stands straight up on his head, and light blue eyes with flecks of red around his pupils. He’s energetic, bold, and loves nothing more than a good laugh! Mick acts as the band’s pianist and creative director. He’s the driving force behind the band’s constant name changes, and over-the-top performances. Mick was born in Jzadirune but was brought to the city of Cauldron to escape the Vanishing. Orphaned by the mysterious events and with few memories of those early years, Mick was raised in the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same orphanage that recently had four children kidnpapped right from their beds! Determined to save those little scamps, Mick was very excited to take up this missing person’s case and follow it to its conclusion — particularly when he realized that it led to his one-time home. Mechanically Mick is a monk / bard (prankster) who attacks with wild kicks while playing his piano in battle. Partway through exploring Jzadirune he came into possession of a broken magical construct. He’s played by my seven-year old son.

Rabbity Castalle is a rabbitfolk waitress who works at the Tipped Tankard Tavern. A dancer and singer for the band Dinorabbit, Rabbity also has a pet panther named Panthy. She’s lucky, nimble, and quick, but a little skittish. One of her co-workers is one of the people who was recently abducted, so she’s very keen to solve this mystery and return him home. Rabbity is a hydrokineticist played by my six-year old daughter, using the rabbitfolk race. Rabbitfolk are a Pathfinder Compatible race created by my daughter (with some help) which will soon be published in the upcoming Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion by Sunburst Games (Kickstarter coming in February!)

The final member of our party is Aeris Caldyra, a local locksmith who was cajoled by her roommate, Rabbity, to join the band as a percussionist and set designer. With few friends to call her own, Aeris relented to the rabbitfolk’s request and is the least talented member of the band. The last worshipper of Alseta in Cauldron, with more than a few secrets and regrets, Aeris is a suli bloodrager with a chip on her shoulder. Always one to lend a hand, like her Grandfather Marzio once would have done, Aeris is determined to rescue the missing citizens of Cauldron. Aeris is my character for the Shackled City Adventure Path.

Although that’s the last of our PCs, that’s not the last of our party. The members of Dinorabbit are also travelling with a half-orc janitor named Patch! Patch is a big, stuttering, fool who works at the Lantern Street Orphanage — the very same place he was raised. Patch recently got recruited to the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild and was asked to watch over an orphan named Terrem. Unfortunately, Terrem was kidnapped on the very evening that Patch went out to meet with with the guild. Distraught over the boy’s disappearance, Patch was pressured by Falco and Mick into helping them rescue the kids. And so, the poor one-eyed janitor finds himself heading into danger.

the team - malachite fortress
The team!

The Adventure

Our eclectic crew of musicians, janitors, and locksmiths, retraced their steps and re-entered the forge. Our heroes had battled enemy hobgoblins and goblins here two sessions ago in an effort to free three citizens of Cauldron who had been labouring here. With the battle won they sent their travelling companion, Keygan Ghelve, off with the freed prisoners. It was his job to bring them back up to the city and see them safely to the Church of Adabar.

In the time since they had taken down dozens of hobgoblin guards, but knew there could be more. Seeing nothing amiss Mick headed over to the door they had yet to peek through. He listened against it but couldn’t make out anything. Opening the door led to a large dining room lined with benches and tables. It was empty at the moment, but stray dishes on the tabletop and a distant murmuring told them that enemies were not far away. The group quickly did a sweep of the room, listening at all the various doors. Three were silent, one sounded like a kitchen, and the last was very noisy. My family discussed their options. Noise might mean trouble,  but the kitchen probably mean someone banging on a loud pot which could sound an alarm. And silence meant…

They weren’t sure.

Curious, my kids decided they should check out the quiet room first. They found a threadbare living room that slept at least three people, a pantry, and a larder. Nothing of interest. They moved towards the kitchen, when suddenly Panthy prickled up her ears. She wandered over to the noisy door and growled….

getting ready for game night - shackled city - malachite fortress
Game night!

“What is it, Panthy?” Rabbity asked. “You hear something?” Rabbity pricked her ears around. “I think… I think I hear a kid crying!”

“Well hurry up!” Mick exclaimed.

“Wait!” Falco proclaimed. He whispered something to his bird.

Ruby tweeted back melodically.

Mick drank a few defensive potions, Aeris drew her sword and Patch worried. When they were prepared, Falco quietly cracked open the door and peeked inside.

The room very large, with a raised stage in the back topped by three iron posts. Chains dangled from the top of the posts, ending at the manacled hands of three children. The kids from the orphanage! On the steps stood a strange figure in ill-fitting armour who looked like a mix between a dwarf and a troll. He clutched a fourth child by a chain around its neck and waved the kids face in front of another figure, this one a soft-looking gnomish fellow with blue skin, orange hair, and massive glasses.

“He’s good!” The troll-man bellowed.

“Oh, I don’t know about that Kazmojen!” the gnome-like creature argued. “I agreed I’d pay fifty gold for each child, but this one… This one is defective! There’s something about him I just can’t put my finger on.”

“Nonsense!” Kazmojen argued. “He’s got… spirit! Yes! Break him and he work harder than others. Forty-five!”

The gnome shook his head. “Oh, much too much work… And he spits!”

As if to punctuate this point the child spit in the gnome-like creature’s face. “I bite too!” he grinned.

Kazmojen yanked the child around by the chains clamped tight around his neck. Behind them a strange beast shifted. The quills that coated its back shook back and forth at the movement. The beast stretched its quadrupedal form and growled. It looked like some sort of quilled dog monster. A very large quilled dog monster.

While the trio argued over the cost of the kids, four other hobgoblins guarded the chamber. Two at a pair of double doors, one at a door across the room, and one at the door that Falco was peeking through.

“That’s Terrem they’re f-f-fighting over!” Patch whispered.

“The child that the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild wanted you to protect?” Min asked back.

Patch nodded with worry.

“Ruby!” Falco whispered. “Do the thing!”

The bird fluttered into the room, chirping insults loudly in it’s sweet little voice. “HEY UGLY, OVER HERE!”

As the various ugly enemies turned to look at the offending bird, Rabbity shoved an invisibility potion in Panthy’s mouth with a clever grin. Then she pushed the door open hard so it smacked the hobgoblin on the other side in the back of the head. Rabbity clamped a hand over her mouth and giggled. Then she crouched down and whispered into the ear — she hoped — of her invisible panther.

Patch was too worried over the children — Terrem in particular — to wait any longer. He hurried into the room pointed at the people talking and stammered, “L-l-let the children g-g-go!”

Panthy slunk away from Rabbity — although what the panther was doing was a mystery. Mick stepped casually into the room and whistled a little tune. Then he made a funny face at the hobgoblin guard near the door. The guard let out a laugh. Then a giggle. With a confused look on his face he started laughing at the top of his lungs, then fell to the ground and laughed some more. Mick gave the hobgoblin a wink and casually stepped over him and into the room.

Aeris dashed into the room and held her sword out at the two slavers. “Leave the children or die!”

Falco stepped into the room and whacked the laughing hobgoblin in the head with his fine walking stick. Meanwhile, Ruby continued to taunt the hobgoblins. Rabbity managed to send a blast of water at another hobgoblin before the tall figure — Kazmojen — let out a loud laugh. He pointed at Patch. “You can’t have those three,” he said with a gesture at the crying chilling chained to the posts. “Them bought already. But you can have the biter. Forty-five gold!” Then he turned his hideous face on Aeris and pointed at her. “Kill.”

The dog-beast let out a loud howl and took a few paces forward.

“Now, now, Kazmojen. Kill HER you mean! Yes? Not kill me! Certainly not!” The little gnomish fellow hurried  up the steps to the back of the room and hid behind an iron post.

Finally the hobgoblins leapt into action. One tried to shoot down the irritating bird, while the others moved to attack Patch. He took a few heavy blows and already looked near death! The battle had barely even started! Clutching his daggers tightly Patch fought back against the hobgoblins, with Mick soon joining him.

facing off against kazmojen
The epic battle against Kazmojen, Prickles, and his minions! My daughter can be seen calculating the results of her rolls on the flip-mat.

Aeris swung her blade at Kazmojen, but struck only his sturdy armour. Seeing her outnumbered, Falco hurried over and placed a hex on the leader, lowering his AC. Suddenly Panthy leapt upon Kazmojen, biting, and clawing, and tearing! His armour deflected most of the blows, but Panthy’s teeth tore a hole in the back of his leg. Kazmojen roared in pain and anger, while Rabbity laugh.

Kazmojen pointed at the Panthy. “Prickles, KILL.”

Prickles looked from Aeris to Panthy, trying to decide which looked most tasty. Apparently deciding the panther was the winner, the dog-beast turned on Panthy.

“NO!” Rabbity exclaimed. She raced closer to the dog-beast, pointed at Kazmojen, and shouted, “KILL, Prickles! KILL MASTER!”

Kazmojen scowled at the rabbitfolk. Meanwhile, Prickles turned to consider this predicament. After a few moments he bit Kazmojen! The troll-man roared in outrage and swung his axe at Rabbity, but the nimble little kineticist dodged backwards. Taking advantage of his distraction Terrem yanked his chain away from Kazmojen’s grasp and made a break for it, running across the hall an out of the main doors.

“I’m out of here!”the strange gnomish fellow exclaimed. Then he, too, turned and fled. One of the guards fled with him.

The battle raged on. Mick and Patch took down the hobgoblin guards with daggers and wild kicks. Falco kept up his hexes, lowering Kazmojen’s defences and foiling his aim. Rabbity shot water blasts at Kazmojen from afar, while Aeris fought him in melee with her sword. It was a tough fight! Patch went down halfway through and, with no time to go heal the poor fellow, all they could do was hope he would survive. Kazmojen turned most of his attention to Aeris, nearly knocking her unconscious multiple times. If not for Falco’s constant healing near the end of the fight she would have died.

A short while after Terrem fled they heard his scream. A deep, gravelly voice told him “YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE, TERREM KARATYS.”

Mick dashed over to the main doors and whipped them open, hurrying off to help Terrem. He caught a glimpse of a massive floating head, covered with eyestalks and a huge central eye.

A beholder!

“COME TERREM! I SHALL RETURN YOU TO YOUR HOME.”

There was a sudden flicker of magic, and the beholder and Terrem both vanished.

“B… Be… BEHOLDER!” Mick stammered in shock. “He… Kid… OH, NO!”

By the time Mick rejoined the fight, Kazmojen had fallen and Prickles was eating him.

Exhausted and bleeding from dozens of wounds, Aeris dropped her sword and fell to her knees. Falco and Mick quickly gave her and Patch what healing they could. They drank the rest of their potion reserves and searched the room in the hopes of finding more. Aeris freed the children, while Patch gave them all hugs.

“Terrem?” Falco asked Mick.

Mick shook his head. “Kidnapped by a beholder,” he whispered.

“What? Why would — Huh?” After a moment of shock Falco shook his head and hurried over to the other exit. He peered through the door and saw a bridge, but no signs of the gnome.

“We have to hurry and follow that weaselly guy! He might be about to leave with some slaves.” Mick urged.

Falco walked over to the children. “What’s that way?” he asked them.

Most were too scared to reply, but one of the children, a dwarven boy named Deakon, found his voice. “Cells! That’s where they kept us! Over the bridge and through the door. There’s a whole hallway lined with cells. I… I don’t know how many had people in them, but at least some did. I could hear them.”

Falco thanked Deakon, then beckoned Patch over. “We need to hurry and free everyone else. Patch, you’re in charge of the children. Wait here and wait for my signal. When its safe you can cross the bridge after us. We’ll keep it up as we explore, all right? Hopefully we can keep you guys safe, but if not, it’s up to you to flee with the kids. Get them back to the church.”

Patch nodded with a look of determination in his eye. He tried to stammer out an affirmation, but couldn’t find the words. Instead he nodded again. Then he kept Deakon and the two silent girls close.

Rabbity stood over the quilled dog. “Can we keep him?” she asked the others.

Aeris shook her head. “Rabbity, that’s… that’s not a dog. You can’t keep it as a pet. It’s a howler. They’re foul creature from the Abyss that feed on fear.”

Rabbity shook her head. “What? Nonsense! We’re going to be the best of friends! Aren’t we, Prickles?”

Prickles looked at Rabbity a moment. He growled… then stopped. He stretched his legs and back, and growled.

“We can’t keep it Rabbity,” Aeris repeated. “In fact, we should probably kill it.”

“Nuh-uh! He’s my friend! And he’s coming with us.” Rabbity hopped on top of Panthy, adjusted her saddle, and  loped off towards the door and bridge.

Prickles watched the rabbitfolk go. Then he looked long and hard at Aeris with eyes that showed far more intelligence than a normal animal. He growled at her.

Aeris adjusted her stance and clutched her blade tightly. Howlers were fierce opponents…

Prickles growled some more, then snorted in derision. It turned from her and followed Rabbity out onto the bridge.

“Well, shit.” Aeris remarked.

And so, having ‘befriended’ a howler, Rabbity, Mick, Aeris, and Falco continue hurried across the bridge, intent on saving what people they could.

As I packed up our gear and calculated experience, my daughter grinned. “Prickles is going to be my best friend.”

I tried to explain just how horrible a howler was. Even pulled out its picture.

My daughter just grinned. “Aww, cutie!”

“It’s not cute at all,” I retorted.

“Yes, it is! And we will be best friends! And Panthy, too!”

Faced with her chipper smile, I laughed. If she wanted to try to befriend a howler, I wouldn’t stop her. It had been raised to be a guard dog. And Rabbity was both great with animals, and diplomatic. Perhaps she could control it. But, control wouldn’t keep a howler alive or content. They lived to sow terror, and kill.

Rabbity would have her hands full.

How could it go wrong?! Right?

Wish her luck!

Jessica

life's bazaar d20diaries shackled city beholder
Life’s Bazaar is the first adventure in the Shackled City Adventure Path.

Behind the Screen

The Shackled City Adventure Path is a difficult to get your hands on adventure path published in eleven separate Dungeon Magazines, or available in hardcover from Amazon here or from Paizo Publishing’s website here. The first adventure, Life’s Bazaar is available in Dungeon Magazine #97 from Paizo Publishing’s website here.

Despite being a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Path, we’re running this campaign with Pathfinder (both the campaign setting and the ruleset). Our characters utilize content from many sources, some of which are listed below.

The shaman and the bloodrager classes, as well as the bloodrager archetype spelleater, can all be found in the Advanced Class Guide. The urban bloodrager archetype can be found in Heroes of the Streets. The Kineticist class can be found in Occult Adventures. The monk and bard are base classes found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook (or in a convenient travel-sized edition: Core Rulebook (Pocket Edition)  while the prankster archetype for bards can be found in the Advanced Race Guide.