Character Focus: Dead Suns

Over a year ago my family started playing the Dead Suns Adventure Path by play-by-post. The hows and whys of our decision to play online instead of at a table in our own home, and why we started playing it in the first place, is something I’ve already written about. Suffice to say, time is a factor (it always is, isn’t it?). Time to play, time to prep, time we could be dedicating to other games or other things.

Life’s busy. But, my kids adore the Dead Suns Adventure Path. They love their characters, and have a blast playing them. So, due in no small part to the requests of both of my children, we’re finally bringing our Dead Suns campaign to a proper table! Which means, it’s time to talk Dead Suns…

Dead Suns is a six-part Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that sees your PCs join the Starfinder Society, and race to gain control of an ancient super weapon before the undead Corpse Fleet or the terrifying Cult of the Devourer get their hands on it and lay waste to the galaxy! Dead Suns and its supplementary products include:

You can also check out the awesome trailer for Dead Suns below:

Dead Suns is the first campaign that was released for Starfinder, which means there’s a few kinks to iron out, particularly in regards to the difficulty of starship combat. It’s a fun, tough adventure, and my family is sure to have their hands full surviving to the end. There’s only three of them (four if we include my NPC), and my children don’t always make the most sound tactical decisions. To top it all off, my family did NOT make a balanced party AT ALL. But, you know what we did make? A goofy, group of weirdos that are a ton of fun to play.

So who are the heroes of our Dead Suns campaign?

So glad you asked!

At the centre of our team is my NPC T’Kesh. I know, I know. I’m the GM so why the heck is my character the heart of the team? For reasons I’ve already written about here! Haha. It makes sense, I swear!

sfs 1-16 - ikeshti - congregant merthinett - nicolas espinoza
An ikeshti from Starfinder Society Scenario #1-16: Dreaming of the Future. Illustration by Nicolas Espinoza. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

T’Kesh is a red-scaled ikeshti (think of them as alien kobolds) from Akiton who, like most of her people, has a voracious appetite, a knack for surviving in the harshest of environments, and a willingness to stick pretty much anything in her mouth. She’s a hunter and a cook, and soon found she was exceptional at both. Like all ikeshti, life changed when she reached adulthood. Ikeshti who are in heat become incredibly aggressive, growing larger and angrier until they successfully mate and lay eggs. Those who cannot mate successfully turn into ravenous, violent monsters known as riveners. Luckily, T’Kesh found a mate and laid a clutch of eggs. Then, she and her mate fought to the death! (Which is absolutely normal behaviour for ikeshti parents. I blame the hormones…). TKesh won, which allowed her to become something known as a Congregant — a female ikeshti that is overcome with the need to ensure the success of her people as a whole. Not necessarily her individual eggs or young, but the whole of the ikeshti race. So T’Kesh set out to find a male brood-minder to tend to her eggs, dragged him back to her nest, and took off, heading for the nearest city. She marketed her talents at hunting and cooking, entering contests, competitions, and making home-made survival and cooking videos until she went viral. She bought herself a ship and convinced a local holo-vid station to let her have her own reality show: T’Kesh: Killer Chef! In the time since T’Kesh has travelled the Pact Worlds and beyond, surviving in harsh environments, hunting her own prey, and turning it into delicious gourmet meals. Whatever she doesn’t eat she turns into her own line of R2Es named after each episode of her show. T’Kesh: Killer Chef became a hit, allowing T’Kesh to send a hefty amount of credits back to her people.

T’Kesh is a bombastic, self-centred, resourceful ikeshti with a habit of narrating her exploits to the constantly filming video drones that follow her around. She fights with a survival knife, tactical pistol, and a sniper rifle. Mechanically, T’Kesh is an icon operative explorer that uses her surroundings to her advantage. She’s well-versed in a variety of physical, social, and survival skills, but knows next to nothing about technology.

pact worlds sro
A pair of SRO from Starfinder: Pact Worlds. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

While on Akiton T’Kesh met an SRO named Rabbot. Small in stature and rather slender, with a square squat base with large treads, a pole-like body, two stick-like arms, and two skinny antennae that stick up out of her head like the rabbit ears on an old tv, Rabbot is a bit of an enigma. She doesn’t talk about where she comes from, nor why she felt the need to work with T’Kesh. But, when T’Kesh was in need of a cinematographer for her hit show, Rabbot showed up for the job. In addition to working the cameras, Rabbot’s antennae function as a signal booster, and her torso can reconfigure itself into a small stove. Unknown to all but Rabbot, the little SRO has a hidden compartment in her forearm which contains a single, tiny, rabbit stuffed toy. Rabbot is very protective of her ‘baby’ and pets it when no one it looking. At all other times she denies its existence.

Rabbot is two and a half feet tall but can adjust her telescopic body and neck to be taller and shorter at will. Her treads allow her to be highly mobile, but make stairs and getting up onto high surfaces difficult. In such terrain Rabbot activates ‘jump mode’ which allows her to bounce up onto higher surfaces with ease and is likely the origin of her name. Rabbot has a robotic, monotone voice, and always begins every sentence with “Beep…. bop… rabbot…” making her seem rather serious and dim — which couldn’t be further from the truth! Rabbot is intelligent, cunning, and fond of telling jokes.

Mechanically, Rabbot is a roboticist operative with the ghost specialization. She’s prone to quickly building barricades for cover and protection, before slinking off to another location entirely without anyone noticing. She’s exceptionally good at acrobatics, disguise, stealth, and sleight of hand, and is a fair judge of character. She’s a solid pilot and engineer with a preference for tinkering with mechanical devices over computers. Rabbot fights with an azimuth laser pistol and is my seven-year old daughter’s character.

My daughter is the driving force behind us playing Dead Suns in the first place, and finally bringing it to the table. Her absolute love for Rabbot and her companions, and passion for the game is absolutely astounding to see in one so young. She’s thrilled to share Rabbot with all of you!

250px-Space_goblin
A space goblin from Starfinder: First Contact and Starfinder: Alien Archive. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The next person to join the T’Kesh: Killer Chef crew was Nubb, a snot-nosed goblin with a habit of sticking everything in his mouth. Yes, everything. Once experimented on by unknown parties, Nubb has an advanced AI installed in his brain which makes him exceptionally intelligent and good with technology. Of course, Nubb himself is exceptionally dumb, even by goblin standards, which makes the Nubb of today a strange mix of reckless stupidity, wanton destruction, and computer genius, mixed with bouts of astounding brilliance. Interfacing with his AI through a series of holographic screens transmitted directly to his eyes, Nubb is often seen poking randomly at the air and talking to himself, going through the motions of touching screens only he can see. Nubb works as T’Kesh’s editor, prepping the footage into episodes of her show, and transmitting them to the show’s producers back on Akiton.

Mechanically, Nubb is a cyberborn operative with the hacker specialization. He’s nimble, smart (most of the time), and a whiz with technology of all kinds. He fights with a survival knife, needler pistol, and a laser pistol, but the majority of his wealth is invested in the AI and computer installed in his brain. Nubb is my husband’s character and the resident trapfinder, disabler, and hacker.

critical hit deck skittermander taylor fischer
A skittermander from the Starfinder Critical Hit Deck. Illustration by Taylor Fischer. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Finally, we have Skitt. Skitt is a super helpful yellow skittermander that desperately misses the little ‘tummy mouth’ he was born with. It was so helpful for eating! And Skitt LOVES eating. Eventually he had a new one made and installed as an augmentation, which he thinks is really neat. Skitt met the crew of T’Kesh: Killer Chef on Vesk-6 and, after hearing the word ‘chef’ Skitt couldn’t help but offer them his friendly services! T’Kesh told him to get lost — over and over again — but Skitt was always good with people! So he cast charm person and her and she didn’t complain anymore. …For a few days, at least! And so Skitt became a member of the crew! He works cameras (usually accidentally filming his feet) and helps with dialogue (which usually results in scenes having to be reshot). T’Kesh fires him at least once a week, but his magic-friend-making-smiley-spell always fixes that up real quick! Despite the many ways that Skitt messes everything up, he is friendly, helpful, enthusiastic, and cheery, making him the cheerleader and emotional heart of the group. He loves to sing and dance, and can even talk to animals — a trait which T’Kesh occasionally makes use of on her hunts.

Mechanically, Skitt is a priest mystic who worships Weydan, god of discovery, exploration, and freedom. He has the xenodruid connection and knowledge of a variety of living things. His favourite spells are charm person, life bubble, and mystic cure, while his favourite zero-level spells are ghost sound, stabilize, telekinetic projectile, and token spell. Although Skitt carries a survival knife and a laser pistol, he much prefers to use telekinetic projectile to throw things around with his mind — always being sure to point his many hands at his enemies like guns and shout ‘PEW PEW PEW!’ at them. Skitt is my eight-year-old son’s character.

Yes, you read that right. My family of four made three operatives for an adventure path. All the characters are small and dextrous, and none of them are physically strong. Far from a balanced party, I know. But, you know what we’re good at? Skills! Haha.

Dead Suns Crew 2
Our heroes are ready to begin their journey!

The Dead Suns Adventure Path begins with Incident at Absalom Station. The PCs have just arrived on the station to meet with a dwarf by the name of Durovar Kreel, who is supposed to be their contact in the Starfinder Society. Unfortunately, he dies in the first scene and it’s up to the PCs to work with the Starfinder Society to solve his murder. This leads the PCs to joining the Starfinder Society, and sets in motion a series of events that will take them farther and farther away from their home in order to save the Pact Worlds.

When my family started playing this adventure path we were already playing in the Starfinder Society, and didn’t want our AP characters to be doing the same thing. So, we decided to make a few changes. Although the AP itself and its characters would remain the same, the organization we work for would have a different name and purpose. It’s name?

That’s a story for another time!

We’ll be back later this week with our first campaign update for Dead Suns: Busted Up Dreams! See you then!

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

 

Free RPG Day 2019

Today is Free RPG Day 2019!

Did you participate?

We sure did!

Established in 2007, Free RPG Day works with participating hobby game retailers and RPG publishers to bring new and exclusive RPG products and adventures into the hands of gamers worldwide. Fans can grab brand new material for a variety of RPGS for free by stopping by their local participating game and hobby shop.

Last year my family had a ton of fun with Free RPG Day, particularly with Paizo’s two releases: Skitter Shot, a first level Starfinder adventure featuring a crew of excitable skittermanders, and We Be 5uper Goblins, a hilarious sixth level Pathfinder adventure featuring some infamous goblin heroes on their most epic and amazing adventure yet! For those of you who missed FREE RPG Day 2018, both modules are available as a free download on Paizo’s website, or as a physical copy for five dollars.

Free RPG Day BooksThis year Free RPG Day was held on June 15, 2019, with Paizo’s free downloads of the PDFs being available on July 1, 2019.

My husband, my children and I headed out for a trip to our local game shop. There’s a few places you can go in Winnipeg for RPG products, but our shop of choice is Game Knight Games and Cool Stuff. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, two buses and at least an hour and a half of travel time for us, but it has a great selection of RPGs, board games, miniatures, and collectible card games. They also have a spacious game space. It’s a wonderful store. The buses were accommodating, and we made good time. In no time at all we headed inside and perused the goodies on offer. There was quite a selection!

There were two products we knew we wanted to bring home with us: Skitter Crash, a third level Starfinder adventure featuring skittermanders, and We Be Heroes? a Pathfinder Playtest adventure for first level goblins. My seven-year old daughter immediately scampered over to the table and swept up Skitter Crash, while my son grabbed We Be Heroes? This left my husband and I a bevy of books to browse. In the end, my husband settled on The Witcher Easy Mode: An Introductory Booklet to the Witcher TRPG, and I scooped up Modern Age Threefold Quickstart.

Free RPG Day 2019

The Witcher Easy Mode: An Introductory Booklet to the Witcher TRPG is just that –– an easy introduction to The Witcher TRPG. 30 pages in length it includes rules, six pre-generated characters and a short adventure called Still Waters.

Modern AGE Threefold Quickstart is an easy to understand gateway to the Modern AGE RPG that comes with streamlined rules, reference sheets, five pre-generated characters, and an introductory adventure called Burning Brighter. It’s 40 pages long and has a lot of nice art inside.

we be heroes? free rpg day 2019
We Be Heroes?

We Be Heroes? is an adventure we knew we wanted to bring home with us. It’s a Pathfinder Playtest adventure, using the final version of the Playtest rules. We Be Heroes? is a first level adventure written by Brian Duckwitz which continues the tradition of the super popular We Be Goblins series (We Be Goblins!, We Be Goblins Too!, We Be Goblins Free!, We B4 Goblins!, and We Be 5uper Goblins!). However, this adventure features a whole new team of goblin adventurers who are set to take on the minions of the Whispering Tyrant! (And zombie pigs?!) Driven by hunger and the orders of their chief, the goblins of the Crookedtoes tribe are tasked with finding out why all the animals in the forest have fled the region, and what happened to the tribe’s best scout. They get to meet up with some heroic knights, explore a wrecked farmhouse, and… be heroes! We absolutely adored reading this adventure and intend to play it soon — although whether we’ll play it as a Playtest adventure, switch it over to Pathfinder First Edition so we can play it right away, or wait for August and switch it over to Pathfinder Second Edition rules remains to be seen. Either way, we’re going to have a blast with it. If you didn’t get your hands on this amazing product, don’t worry. You’ll be able to download it for free on Paizo’s website in two weeks or so.

skitter crash - free rpg day 2019
Skitter Crash

Finally, there’s my personal favourite… Our skittermander heroes from Skitter Shot are set to continue their adventures in Skitter Crash! Written by Jason Keeley, this is a third level Starfinder module that sees our skittermander heroes crash their ship on a mysterious swampy planet after a run in with space pirates and an interstellar cyclone! They’ll need to find their ship, deal with the space pirates, and (of course!) make some nu-friends! The adventure was a lot of fun. So fun, in fact, that we played it today at our local gaming store with a wonderful GM (you’re awesome, Wil!) and another player new to RPGs (I hope you had fun, Robin!).

The verdict?

This adventure is a BLAST. I highly recommend it.

Skitter Crash Battle

I hope a lot of you got out to Free RPG Day! If you did, I’d love to hear what kind of products you got your hands on, and what you thought of them.

Happy gaming!

Jessica

 

Dead Suns Pawn Collection and a Trip Down Memory Lane…

Dead Suns Pawn CollectionWell would you look at this lovely package that arrived in the mail?!

Gorgeous!

I’m a huge fan of Paizo’s Pawn Collections, but it’s been ages since I’ve got my hands on a new set. Today that changes! It’s time to crack open Starfinder: Dead Suns Pawn Collection!

The Dead Suns Pawn Collection contains over a hundred pawns that include allies, enemies, monsters, and starships. The minis in this set are highly versatile, and definitely going to see some heavy use even after the campaign is over.

 

There’s a lot of awesome pawns in this collection, so narrowing down our favourites was tricky! Our favourite medium figures are the dwarf, Durovar Kreel, and the Downside Kings thugs. Both are incredibly versatile, easy to use, and look awesome. Our favourite large pawns are the whiskered renkroda, Ilthisarian, Gatecrasher, and scavenger slime. Why? They look like nothing else I own. Of the big pawns, I like the sky fisher a lot, while for ships I like the Crypt Warden, a ‘Batplane’-like Eoxian ship, and the Barrow Catacomb, which looks fierce!

Favourites

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why Dead Suns? It’s been out a while now. Surely I’d rather have Against the Aeon Throne or Alien Archive 2?

Our story begins back when Starfinder was new… The rulebook had just hit my hands and I was scouring it for character concepts and cool locations to adventure in. ‘Eww, bugs!’ I thought, ‘NOT playing a shirren.’ (My, how the tables have turned! I love those fellas!). I was excited to check out the first Adventure Path and see what the Starfinder Society would look like. So imagine my surprise when I realized the first adventure path would feature the Starfinder Society. Why would I want to adventure with them when I’m going to get a ton of that in the Starfinder Society? In short, I didn’t. A little disappointed I gave Dead Suns a cursory glance and decided to jump into the Starfinder Society with both feet.

It wasn’t a mistake. I adore the Starfinder Society, both it’s structure, low price point, and exciting adventures. 100% huge fan. But, later down the line when I was getting into the world of play-by-post gaming I was looking for some fun Starfinder games to join –– I was up to date with all the SFS scenarios at the time –– when I stumbled across a recruitment for the Dead Suns Adventure Path. I created a character, applied, and was accepted. We had some rough patches at first. Players arguing and some drop-outs. But the GM crafted a really detailed world for us to adventure in, and it showed. Unfortunately, we played together only a few months before the GM stopped posting, and my glitching, emotionless, android mechanic hung up her adventuring shoes. I was disappointed, of course. But, I was also hooked.

I loved Dead Suns.

So, a short while later, when my brother asked if I’d let him practise GMing a one-shot of Starfinder I hopped at the chance. I offered him one of my SFS scenarios to practise on, but he declined. He owned the first volume of Dead Suns and wanted to give it a shot.

I spent a solid week planning my character. There would only be myself and an NPC run by my brother, and we would only have a single afternoon to play together (while our kids ran around my house causing havoc), so it needed to be something easy to play, and have a personality or background I could capitalize on quickly. Something fun! Something crazy! With a race I couldn’t use in SFS.

I decided to make an ikeshti congregant who left Akiton to make her fortune. She could send her money back home to support her people and adventure for both excitement and coin. Simple motivations that would let her hop into the action. So how, exactly, would she make her fortune? Reality TV! My ikeshti, named T’kesh, would be a reality star known for hunting down exotic prey, cooking it, and eating it. Everything she didn’t eat she would craft into her own line of R2Es named after the episodes and dishes she created! She was a hunter, chef, and daredevil! I decided to call her show ‘T’Kesh: Killer Chef!’ I made her an operative with the explorer specialization. She fought with a knife, tactical pistol, and sniper rifle.

When I told my brother he laughed and decided to create his character to be her cameraman. A mystic lashunta who dreams of creating award winning documentaries, the poor guy was stuck filming my crazed ikeshti’s absurd hunting-cooking show.

Thus prepared we sat down to play. We only got a few minutes into the session before my daughter stuck her head up to the table. She was six at the time, and had only learned how to play Starfinder a week or two before. “Can I play, Uncle?” she asked.

“…Uh…. No, I don’t think so. I don’t have time to help you play today.”

My daughter gave him a pouty scowl and stayed there, stubbornly perched at the edge of the table with her eyes and nose just barely above the tabletop.

Soon the first fight broke out. “Can I at least roll something?” My daughter asked. “I can count, you know.”

My brother said no again, but I’m a sucker for including kids in RPGs. “Oh, let her roll something. She can grab a mini from your bucket and act like a bystander. You use an enemy stat block and she’ll just move and roll. It’ll be fine.”

My brother relented and my daughter peeked into the mini bucket. She found little droid mini from the Star Wars RPG and plopped it on the table. “This is Rabbot!” she announced grandly. “I am an SRO operative with the ghost thing! I will sneak around really quiet like a bunny! I have antenna on my head, and they look sort of like skinny rabbit ears! Also, I am your second cameraman! My eyes record pictures and sound like a camera and my tummy can turn into a stove.” She moved her mini onto the board. “Beep… bop… rabbot… Oh no…. what is with this… fighting…”

When it was her first turn she looked at the board and then looked up at my brother. “Does rabbot have a tactical pistol or an ‘az-ma’ laser pistol? I hope it is a laser one. They shoot way further.”

“Uh… sure. Laser pistol.”

“YAY!” she moved her mini around behind some cover then snuck up on top of a crate. “Trick attack with stealth!” she yelled, rolling her dice. Then she did her best robot voice. “Beep… bop… rabbot… eat this…” She fired her laser pistol, scored a critical hit, and spent the rest of the fight being an absolute rockstar. She was focused, remembered all her rules, and spontaneously created an adorable, thoroughly entertaining character.

When the game was done my brother left and my daughter grinned, “When do we play next, Mom?”

“We don’t,” I told her. “Sorry, baby. We were just playing Dead Suns that one time.”

“But, Rabbot is the coolest.” She gave me a pouty face then added in her best robot voice, “Beep… bop… rabbot… don’t let me… die…” She stuck out her tongue and closed her eyes, making a very silly ‘dead face.’

We didn’t have time to play another game at the table, so I had to say no. But, weeks passed, then months, and she never lost interest. Eventually, I buckled. Sort of. I told her we could all make characters and try Dead Suns out as a play-by-post. But, it would be up to all of us to take the time to write out our turns. She was absolutely thrilled and forced everyone in the house to get characters made. She insisted I keep T’Kesh, of course, and that she would play Rabbot. My son made a skittermander mystic with the xenodruid connection. He named him Skitt and decided that he tried to be a helpful cameraman too, but he was horrible! In fact, the only reason T’Kesh allowed Skitt on her team was through Skitt’s heavy use of charm person spells. Also, he could talk to animals. My husband gave it some thought and ended up making a space goblin operative with a supercomputer implanted in his brain. He named him Nubb, and decided he could act as an editor for T’Kesh: Killer Chef!

Yes, we had a mystic and a whopping three operatives. SUCH a balanced team (not). Surely this would turn out great…

We didn’t always have the time to post in our Dead Suns campaign, but we never stopped playing it. Just this month both of my kids insisted that their Dead Suns characters were their very favourites and they really wanted to bring Dead Suns to the table. So, we did some shuffling and carved out some time. Dead Suns would enter out weekly game rotation.

I didn’t need to pick up the Dead Suns Pawn Collection. A lot of the minis I already have from the Core Rulebook, Pact Worlds, and Alien Archive could cover what I needed. But, my kids really love Dead Suns, and I wanted to make it special.

Plus, did I mention I love Pawn Collections? What better excuse could I have to pick them up!? Haha.

Minis in hand and statistics transferred to proper character sheets, we’re ready to bring this game to life.

My daughter couldn’t be happier. This morning she looked at me with her big brown eyes and gave me a giant hug. “Thanks for not letting Rabbot die, Mom.”

Totally worth it.

 

5-Minute Dungeon

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5 Minute Dungeon

Today we’re taking a look at a board game my kids recently got for their birthday: 5-Minute Dungeon! This real-time card game tasks up to five players with working together to escape a dungeon in under five minutes. Each dungeon consists of a randomized deck of cards that features obstacles, monsters, people, and events to overcome. At the end of each dungeon is a powerful boss to defeat. To beat the game you’ll need to triumph over five separate dungeons.

This game is frantic, fast-paced, and more than a little chaotic! Communication and teamwork are essential to your success. Player’s win or lose as a team. 5-Minute Dungeon is intended for players ages eight and up. Although a single dungeon takes five minutes, playing through a whole game takes about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending how many times you fail to escape a dungeon.

Box Contents

Players take on the role of one of ten characters by selecting a character board. Each board is colour-coded and double-sided, with one male and one female character per board. Every character board makes use of one of five matching decks, and every character has their own unique ability which can be triggered by discarding three cards from your hand. That means that up to five people can play at a time.

Characters include the blue sorceress and wizard, green huntress and ranger, purple ninja and thief, red barbarian and gladiator, and yellow paladin and valkyrie. Most of the special abilities of these characters fall into two types: those that help get someone in your group extra cards and those that automatically defeat a certain category of card. There’s also the wizard’s unique ability to stop time. We found that it was very helpful to play with the wizard and a character who can help the group draw cards, with the rest of the players taking on abilities that can auto-defeat either monsters, obstacles, or people. Once you’ve got your character picked out you place the matching deck on their board.

Next you set up the dungeon. Start by selecting a boss. There are five to choose from and each is numbered 1 though 5. You simply start at Boss #1: Baby Barbarian and work your way up to Boss #5: Dungeon Master. Each boss also has a number of cards written on it. Baby Barbarian has 20, The Grime Reaper has 25, Zola the Gorgon has 30, and so on. This is the number of dungeon cards you’ll randomly select and place on the boss board. Then you’ll pick out two challenge cards per player and shuffle them into the deck of dungeon cards. This is the boss’s dungeon. You simply place the deck of cards into the space marked with the dotted line and you’re ready to begin.

Boss

Player’s begin by drawing a number of cards. This number is variable and determined by how many people are playing the game. Chances are you’ll start with three or four cards. Then you start the five minute timer, flip over the first card in the dungeon deck, and get adventuring!

Cactus wants a hug!
To reach ‘The Grime Reaper’ you’ll need to defeat the ‘A Cactus that wants a hug.’ Oh, no! I hope you’ve got some shields….

This game doesn’t come with a physical timer. Instead there’s a timer app you can download on your phone, tablet, and other handheld device. It’s a quick download and easy to use. You simply select a voice for the announcer (I love the ‘fearful’ voice, but my daughter’s a fan of ‘spiteful’) and click start. Sometimes you’ll need to pause the game (such as with the wizard’s ‘time stop’ ability) in which case you simply push pause. If you defeat the dungeon you click ‘We Won,’ if you lose you click ‘We Lost’ and if you run out of time you don’t need to click a thing. It’s an enjoyable, humorous little timer app and my kids really like it.

There are four major categories of dungeon cards: event, person, monster, and obstacle. Events are the simplest to resolve. They each have a sentence explaining what you need to do, you do it, then you move on to the next card. Examples of events are ‘Sudden Illness’ which forces every player to discard their hand, or ‘Trap Door’ which forces all players to discard three cards. The rest of the cards — monster, obstacle, and person — have circular symbols on them. These symbols match the cards that you must play to defeat them. These cards can be played in any order and by any player. There are no turns. As soon as all the needed cards are played you have defeated the card, it gets moved to the discard pile, and you flip over the next dungeon card. Once all of the dungeon cards are defeated you will see the symbols needed to defeat the Boss.

This makes gameplay fast and chaotic, with players slapping down cards, shouting out what they’re playing, and calling out what’s still needed to defeat the card. It’s the sort of game where everyone feels a sense of urgency and excitement, and get’s a thrill of triumph when a card is defeated.

Enemy Types
The four types of cards you’ll find in a dungeon.

So what the heck are all these symbols?

There are five major symbols in the game, which are colour coded. These same symbols are seen across all the boss cards and all character decks. Called ‘Resources’ they include the red sword, yellow shield, green arrow, blue scroll, and purple jumping person (which my family always calls ‘sprint’ or ‘dash’ but is probably called ‘leap’). Every deck will have cards of these five types, although they will have them in different combinations. The red barbarian/gladiator deck will have a lot of red swords, for example, while the blue sorceress/wizard deck will have a lot of blue scrolls. In addition to these single symbol cards there’s double symbol cards — cards that have two red swords, two blue scrolls, and so on. These are seen in much lower quantities than the single symbol cards, and not every deck will have them in every kind. While the sorceress/wizard deck may have a few double scroll cards, the huntress/ranger deck won’t. One of the decks — the red barbarian/gladiator has special double symbol cards which consist of a red sword and a second other symbol.

The rest of the cards found in the character decks are black bordered and have a special ability written on them. The most common are abilities that let you auto-defeat a certain category of dungeon card. ‘Fireball’ defeats a monster, ‘Backstab’ defeats a person, and ‘Mighty Leap’ defeats an obstacle. These are super useful cards which can be found throughout all of the different coloured decks in differing quantities. While the sorceress/wizard has a lot of ‘Fireballs’ the ninja/thief has more ‘Mighty Leap’ and ‘Backstab’ cards. Finally, every colour deck has some unique black bordered ability cards. ‘Enrage’ from the red barbarian/gladiator deck lets you choose two players who may draw three cards each. ‘Divine Shield’ from the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck pauses time until someone plays a card and lets every player draw one card. ‘Magic Bomb’ from the blue sorceress/wizard deck counts as one of each type of resource. My personal favourite card? ‘Heal’ which lets you select a player who can put their entire discard pile back on top of their draw pile. Awesome!

Card Types 2
The many card types found in 5-Minute Dungeon

As mentioned, every deck is different but equally useful. You’ll soon discover which play style you prefer and find a favourite, so I highly recommend trying each deck out. I love the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck best — particularly when played with the valkyrie character who can help her fellow players draw cards. The yellow deck has a lot of different healing cards, which I find can be incredibly helpful. My son, on the other hand, prefers the to play as the blue wizard. He’s a huge fan of the wizard’s ‘Time Stop’ ability — which is so helpful I’d go as far as to call it a necessity. He also loves the ‘Magic Bomb’ card which can only be found in the blue deck. Finally, my daughter prefers to play as the green huntress — solely because she loves the art. To each their own, I guess. Haha.

With all the decks in their places, cards in hand, and the timer started, play can begin. There’s a few other rules you need to know, but not many. Whenever you have less cards than your opening hand consisted of you can immediately draw cards to fill your hand back up to maximum. Discard piles do not get shuffled back into the draw pile once the draw pile is empty. This means that if your deck ever runs out you can no longer draw cards — unless someone plays a card that gives you cards from your discard pile or something similar.

Winning will take teamwork, speed, and luck. If you win you reshuffle your decks, select your character (you do not need to keep the same character throughout all the dungeons), set your boards back up, and build the dungeon for the next Boss. When everything’s ready you begin play again. If you defeat all five dungeons you win the game.

If you ever fail to defeat a dungeon you’re supposed to reset, going all the way back to the Baby Barbarian and his dungeon again, but my family didn’t like this rule. Instead we just replayed the dungeon we were on.

We’ve played this game quite a few times. Sometimes we finish it all the way through, and sometimes we only play a round or two. My kids and I really like it. They enjoy the teamwork aspect, and that they can always be playing. There’s no waiting for your turn or getting beat on by your friends. It’s fun and fast. It’s not a game for everyone, though. My husband doesn’t really like it. He’s a fan of strategic, complex games. Chances are whatever game we’re playing he’s going to be that player taking the longest turns. Unsurprisingly, the chaotic, real-time gameplay of 5-Minute Dungeon is not to his tastes. It’s also not the kind of game you can play anywhere. Players are going to get loud. Although you could bring to a party, family gathering, or friend’s house, it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to bring to play at the library, local coffee shop, laundromat, or airport. Finally, it’s not the sort of game you want to let the kids play late at night. Mine get antsy, excited, and leap and jump around. Not really a relaxing, winding-down sort of game.

All in all, we really liked 5-Minute Dungeon — especially my son. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and enjoyable. My only complaints? I wish the boss cards were double sided so you could choose which of the two to face off against and I wish there were more dungeon and challenge cards included in the game so the dungeons felt more varied. But, I suppose wanting more of a game isn’t much of a complaint. More like a wish list. Haha. 5-Minute Dungeon is a pretty easy game to find that currently retails for around $30 Canadian. Our copy belongs to my eight-year old son, and made an excellent gift. He loves it.

Happy gaming!

Jessica