Kubo and the Two Strings

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Kubo and the Two Strings (DVD & Blu-ray)

Have any of you seen the film Kubo and the Two Strings? I watched it with my children and husband recently, and was literally amazed by it.

Kubo is wonderful stop-motion movie that follows a boy named Kubo on a journey to protect himself from the dreaded Moon King. But Kubo is no ordinary boy. Kubo can make magic happen by playing his samisen. On his journey he’s accompanied by an origami samurai, a talking monkey, and a samurai beetle who has amnesia.

It’s a samurai film and a fantasy film, lovingly made with puppets and gorgeous scenery. Not only was it a joy to look at, the story was well-developed, the characters were lovable (or terrifying) and everyone was… well-rounded. Whole, believable people. No one thought they were the villain, not everyone got along, and not everything came down to killing things. It was a touching tale, and admittedly I was sobbing my face off near the end, but at the same time, it was heartwarming and hopeful.

Although an American movie, Kubo is clearly a Japanese story, and a ton of research went into making it as historically accurate as possible–considering the story, haha. For those of you who haven’t given this movie a chance, I STRONGLY recommend you do.

Watching Kubo made me want to play some of the awesome adventures I have kicking around my house that have an Eastern feel to them, but since I have way too many campaigns on the go as it is, today we’re going to celebrate them on d20 Diaries! Presenting my five favourite d20 adventures that are inspired by Eastern cultures. Whether they’ve got samurai, ninja, monasteries of contemplative warrior monks seeking enlightenment, or a fusion of many places and cultures, these adventures celebrate, embrace, emulate or are inspired by the Far East!

So sit back, and enjoy!


The Winding Way

The first adventure we’re taking a look at is The Winding Way. Written by Nicholas Logue, and Published by Paizo in Dungeon Magazine Volume 117, The Winding Way is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure intended for 14th level characters. Although it was written for a ‘neutral’ campaign setting and is meant to be dropped into any fantasy world, The Winding Way is clearly inspired by contemplative warrior monks like the Shaolin of China. That being said, it’s a horror adventure first and foremost, so don’t expect to be achieving enlightenment, or making friends with this one.

The Winding Way takes place at a secluded temple monastery which was built on the slopes of Darkmoon Mountain. During construction the Master, Marik Draven, discovered an ancient stone door, sealed for untold generations. Marik and his students were unable to decipher much of the text, but what they did translate was ominous: words like death, darkness and plague. Marik halted construction of his temple and meditated in contemplation. Eventually he decided that the door should be left untouched, and that his temple would be built around and above it. In addition to being a school for martial arts and enlightenment, the Temple of the Winding Way would become a guardian of this unholy doorway, ensuring it remained sealed for all time.

But it was not to last. Out of jealousy and greed, a rebuffed student sought to steal the riches of the temple for himself, and discovered the graven door. He picked the locks, disabled the door’s defences, and opened it, sealing the fate of those within the temple. For death was behind the door, and its spread is unstoppable!

This adventure has the PCs explore the Temple of the Winding Way for a variety of reasons, only to find that everyone inside has been turned into undead monstrosities. In order to put an end to this evil, they’ll have to defeat a wide variety of undead including bhuts, dread wraiths, forsaken shells, vampires and–my personal favourite–a pennaggolan monk! That’s right, an undead monk that’s going to use unarmed strike to fight with his own lungs and entrails. It’s going to be AWESOME! In addition, they’ll have to pass through the trials of the Winding Way itself, not all of which can be accomplished with brute strength or agility, and discover the source of the undead plague.


PZOPSS0309E_500The Quest for Perfection

The second adventure we’re taking a look at today is actually a three-part trilogy of Pathfinder Society Scenarios entitled the Quest for Perfection. All three scenarios are Tiers 1-5. Scenario #3-09: The Quest for Perfection Part 1: The Edge of Heaven is written by Jerall Toi, and takes place in Tian Xia, a continent on Golarion strongly inspired by Chinese cultures. This adventure tasks the Pathfinders with travelling through the Wall of Heaven, the tallest mountain range on Golarion, on a journey to reach the Clouded Path Monastery and obtain an ancient relic, the Braid of a Hundred Masters, from the monastery. The trip is dangerous, and has a lot of wonderfully designed encounters where terrain plays a huge part. In addition to the perils of the mountain itself, the players are clearly on a pilgrimage trail, and there’s a lot of neat shrines, and other monuments along their journey. Upon reaching the monastery itself, they find it the lair of violent yetis who make excellent use of their surroundings. Their leader throws relics and nearby objects at the group including foo lion statues (of which there’s a picture)! In addition to enemies, the group can also meet a former monk of the monastery, currently a statue capable of tactile telepathy, who can share much of the history of the monastery with the group. After obtaining the Braid of a Hundred Masters, the Pathfinders discover it’s powers have gone dormant, which leads us into part two.

250px-On_Hostile_WatersScenario #3-11: The Quest for Perfection Part 2: On Hostile Waters is written by Benjamin Bruck, and sets the Pathfinders on a quest to reactivate the Braid of a Hundred Masters by bringing to the last remaining descendant of its rightful owner, a woman from the town of Nesting Swallow by the name of Je Tsun. The journey is a long one, down the Tuunma River and into the Sea of Eels. The river is surrounded on all sides by political turmoil, as it passes through the warring successor states of Lingshen, Po Li and Quain. In addition to the dangers of the river, and banditry, the players have to defend the Braid from soldiers and naval ships from Lingshen who desire to claim its power for themselves.

PZOPSS0313E_500Scenario #3-13: The Quest for Perfection Part 3: Defenders of Nesting Swallow is written by Sean McGowan, and finally sees the Pathfinders arrive in the small town of Nesting Swallow, only to discover it has been under attack from tengu bandits. Je Tsun agrees to aid them in reactivating the Braid of a Hundred Masters–and will even let them keep it–if they can defend Nesting Swallow from the villains who prey upon them. The rest of the adventure allows the players to organize the defence of the town, train the villagers, and set up barricades or whatever else the group might think of. When the bandits finally come, they get to see how their work has paid off (or not!) as the villagers and the Pathfinders fight alongside one another to drive off the bandits. Wave after wave attacks the town, and whether anyone survives is up to your players. In the end, the bandit leader himself joins the battle, the tengu samurai mounted atop his axe beak mount: Khwankonu! This is the adventure’s finale, and is a ton of fun! If Je Tsun lives she makes good on her word and reignites the magic of the Braid, bestowing it upon the Pathfinders for saving her village.


The Palace of Plenty

TSR82130_500The third adventure we’re taking a look at is the Palace of Plenty, a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure written to complement the Oriental Adventures: Dungeons & Dragons Supplement book. This adventure was written by Tito Leati, and was published in Volume 130 of Dungeon Magazine. It is intended for 10th level characters.

This is a wonderful, atmospheric adventure that has the players explore the frozen wastes of Kisarimuke, with the purpose of finding the Amata Goten–the legendary Palace of Plenty–which was said to be a magical palace that once was connected to the city of Okabaimura. After making the journey through Kisarimuke, the group can explore the ruins of Okabaimura, a sombre, mysterious experience. Events in the ruins can give the group clues as to the nature of the Palace of Plenty, and how to get there, but it does so in a very subtle, wonderful way. After eventually finding the way to Amata Goten, the players find a beautiful palace, lush with greenery, that is frozen in time. Within are spirits and ghosts, and many more mysteries. I’ll refrain from giving anything else away about this adventure. But, I will say that I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this adventure hints at the backstory, and the stories and lives of the ghosts and spirits within it, without just giving away information. It’s subtlety is spectacular.


The Ruby Pheonix Tournament

images-1.jpegThe fourth adventure we’re looking at is The Ruby Phoenix Tournament, a Pathfinder adventure written by Tim Hitchcock and intended for 11th level characters. This adventure brings us back to the Wall of Heaven on the continent of Tian Xia. Here, on the island of Xielan, a prestigious fighting tournament takes place, which allows the winners to claim any one object from the treasury of Hao Jin, the Ruby Pheonix. This tournament attracts combatants from all over the world, including from nations inspired by real-world Japan, China, India and many more. The matches the players are going to engage in are varied, with the terrain often playing an important part in the battles. Some places the players might find themselves fighting in are: flooded mud pools, hot coals, atop multiple towers and rope bridges, and even fighting horizontally on the side of a cliff (literally standing on the cliff face with slippers of spider-climb)! Your players are bound to be continually surprised. In addition to the tournament battles, the players can join in extra matches and challenges. But as the tournament proceeds it becomes clear that something is wrong. From entrants being poisoned and assassins attacking, the players will have to work fast to figure out who’s trying to put an end to the Ruby Pheonix Tournament and stop them, before it’s too late!

Although this adventure has a simple premise, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a great, exciting adventure that can be a ton of fun!


Tide of Honor

images-2.jpegThe final adventure we’re talking about today is my very, very favourite. Jade Regent Part 5 – Tide of Honor by Tito Leati. Now, the Jade Regent is a Pathfinder campaign where the last three books take place in Minkai, Paizo’s Japanese inspired nation in Tian Xia, but volume five of the series is my all time favourite. This adventure was clearly written with such LOVE and RESPECT. It’s honestly astounding how clearly that shows in the final product. But enough about the writing, what about the adventure?!

Tide of Honor has the PCs arrive in Minkai with their friend Ameiko Kaijitsu, true heir to the Imperial Throne of Minkai. …But they have no army! Minkai is currently ruled by the Jade Regent, a vicious tyrant who claimed the throne by murdering the emperor. In order to overthrow the Jade Regent the players are going to need allies. A LOT of them. The players single out an honourable Ronin and his small band of masterless samurai as a likely ally, knowing that they were expelled from the capital and are opposed to the Jade Regent. If the players can make contact with the ronin and ally with them, they will gain not only a number of trained warriors, but also allies who know the country, and may be able to help the group get other allies–or at least in contact with them. The leader of the ronin, Hirabashi Jiro attempts to test the PCs character and, if he finds them trustworthy, gives them a task. There is a group of bandits terrorizing the villagers and farmers of the region, but as they operate in two units, the ronin do not have enough warriors to defeat both groups at once. If the players can attack and conquer the bandit fortress, then Jiro and his men can take out the raiders before they harm any innocents. This opening battle is very adaptable and mobile, featuring a lot of ways the players can go about attacking, and organic ways in which the inhabitants respond to attacks. This encounter can benefit a LOT from good planning and scouting, and it’s a great location. To make it better? If the players can defeat the bandits, not only does Jiro agree to join your cause, but he also sets up the fortress as a base of operations for your group and your allies. This fortress is YOURS.

After some deliberation and discussion, Jiro can give the group a list of important political players and potential allies throughout the nation: the ninja clans of Enganoka, the merchants of Minkai who can be contacted by the geisha of Sakakabe, and the samurai of a cruel daimyo! But success isn’t as easy as simply meeting these groups, the players will have to earn their trust, and prove themselves worthy. But, if they can? The players will have an army at their disposal, one which will help them take on the Jade Regent himself and restore the throne to its rightful heir!

But the Jade Regent has many spies, and will not let the players operate without opposition! I hope you’re ready for some fearsome Oni!


And that’s all for us today! I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some of my favourite Eastern styled adventures! What are yours? Did I miss any you think deserve to be on my list?

At the very least, I hope you have a chance to watch Kubo and the Two Strings. You won’t regret it!

Until next time,

Sayonara! Zaijian! Bayartai and alavida!

Jessica

 

Iron Gods Adventure Path

As you may have already read, my husband and I are about to start a campaign for just the two of us, to play in the evenings when my children are going to bed. I own a lot of cool campaigns, but my husband has also played a lot of them. From among the ones he hasn’t played we debated for a while between two choices: Wrath of the Righteous and Iron Gods. In the end we chose Iron Gods.

So what IS Iron Gods, anyway?

Iron Gods is a six-part Pathfinder Adventure Path that fuses sci-fi and fantasy into one awesome campaign. Obviously a ton of inspiration spread out across all kinds of media that clearly influenced this campaign, but all in all if I had to name a few things this campaign feels like, I’d mention the Borderlands Video Games (Borderlands Triple Pack – PlayStation 3, Borderlands – Xbox 360), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Blu-ray), Outlander (the film about vikings and aliens, not the tv show about time travel) and the old classic: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This campaign has an aged, grungy sort of atmosphere about it, and does an excellent job of blending sci-fi themes and worn out advanced technology with typical fantasy fare. This campaign isn’t Starfinder, or some kind of new Sci-FI d20 game. It’s the Pathfinder you know and love, with a some sci-fi themes and loot mixed in for your players to encounter.

This campaign takes place in Numeria, a land of insular barbarians that was struck by strange objects falling from the sky in the distant past. These objects are considered cursed by locals, but are sources of wealth, wonder and knowledge to foreigners. Over time, scholars, treasure hunters and adventurers moved to Numeria, intent on taking all the relics from the sky as they could. Now, Numeria is run by the Black Sovereign, a barbarian King, and the Technic League, a group of unscrupulous, tyrannical scholars who are determined to keep all the lore and technology within the country to themselves. Within this volatile nation lays the town of Torch, the starting place of the campaign and home (or temporary home) to the PCs of Iron Gods.

Torch is known for its bright purple flame that burns constantly atop a massive hill the town is built around. This flame is perfect for smelting sky metals, and is the town’s major source of income and tourism. Recently, the Torch has sputtered out. Knowing this spells disaster for the town, various groups have looked into the matter and only one had any success: Khonnir Baine. Khonnir is a town councillor and wizard who returned a while ago with a deactivated robot he discovered under the town of Torch. Believing that the source of the purple flame also lay under the town, he dropped the robot off at his home and returned underground. He never came back. In desperation the town council has offered a sizeable reward to anyone who can restore the purple flames or find Khonnir Baine. And the PCs happen to be the next group to accept the challenge!

The way I see it, there’s two basic kinds of characters you can make for Iron Gods: characters who accept technology and characters who don’t. Characters who accept technology are probably going to be interested in using technology or figuring out how it works. Whatever their reasons for doing so–greed, curiosity, convenience–they’re the kind of character who’s going to pick up a laser gun and either use it or sell it. Characters that don’t accept technology are going to do the opposite. They’re not going to use the tech they find and chances are, they’re going to try to break it.

Obviously, for either type there’s a ton of characters you can make, and these characters are likely going to have different attitudes and outlooks regarding technology. But for us? We’re going to be a small party, so I would prefer to make a character with the same outlook as my husband. So what was he going to play? I’d have to wait and see…

I set about perusing the many classes archetypes and character options available to me and came up with a few ideas that really tickled my fancy.

First up? The sorcerer. A native Kellid who manifested a bloodline tainted by nanites, this sorceress would have been cast from her tribe when her powers manifested. Left to wander the wilds, she reached Torch and stayed out of desperation. Now working as a scrapper, this sorceress is strong and fit. She knows about technology and hates it with a passion, just as she hates her own powers. Bitter, rude and blunt, I would have a blast playing this character. The nanite bloodline has some cool powers. At low levels you can use the nanites inhabiting your body to coat your weapon and poison your enemies, or use the nanites to improve your skills. At later levels you can use the nanites to heal your own wounds, avoid critical hits, and even become a living swarm yourself. Cool!

Second, a character who loves technology so much it borders on worship. A cleric with the iron priest archetype. This character believes that the Rain of Stars which brought technology falling from the heavens was a divine event. The gods intended these objects as a gift for the people of our planet to use as they desire. You know that dirty, crazed weirdo sitting on the street corner preaching about the end times? THAT’S who this character would be. Minus the whole end-times thing. Haha. With the ability to cast make whole and greater make whole spontaneously, and the ability to channel energy that harms or heals constructs instead of undead, this would be one weird cleric. And if there’s anything I love playing, it’s an eccentric! Although worshipping Brigh would be tempting, I think I’d prefer to worship Nethys, and take both the Destruction and Protection domains, believing that the technology was a gift from Nethys–just another form of magic!

The third character concept I’m interested in is the gunslinger. more specifically, the tech slinger archetype. There’s not much description needed here, really. I mean, if you’re going to play a gunslinger, there’s no better time than during a game that’s bound to give out a few guns! The techslinger archetype swaps out some of the gunslinger’s deeds with new deeds that involve using technological guns and gear instead. It’s quirky, it’s thematic, and it’s a chance to finally play a gunslinger! I’m seriously tempted.

The fourth character concept I’m contemplating–possibly my favourite–is an investigator with the scavenger archetype. Scavenger’s make tiny gadgets to deliver their spells instead of brewing potions and extracts. They give up their poison abilities to get some cool thematic abilities that make them good at making, controlling, harming and healing constructs. Finally, instead of using their inspiration for free on knowledge checks, linguistics and spellcraft, they can use it for free on disable device, appraise and knowledge engineering. This archetype is just… awesome! I love the flavour and abilities and I think it would be a great fit for the town of Torch and the Iron Gods campaign as a whole.

But there’s one concept left I’m super excited for… A psychic! Psychic? Yup! More specifically, a psychic with the mindtech psychic discipline who specializes in using psi-tech. In short, this psychic can communicate with electronic machinery and technological devices. They can amplify and focus their powers through the technology around them, and can essentially mind-control constructs and override their programming at higher levels. There’s a host of cool psi-tech abilities which they can take in place of phrenic amplifications or feat, including the ability to shoot lasers, make force field, and even upload their consciousness into technological devices like robots in order to become an AI. Weird. Cool. Awesome. My only problem? Since Iron Gods doesn’t start with technology in the hands of its players, it could be a while before her powers see good use in the game.

So, while I contemplate my character options, I’ll give my player’s guide a read. I’ll crack open my adventure path volumes and ready the awesome Iron Gods Pawn Collection I got for Christmas.

Let me know your thoughts on Iron Gods and your character ideas below! I’d love to hear them!

Jessica


Sources and Products

Iron Gods is a six part Pathfinder adventure path by Paizo Publishing. The Player’s Guide is a free download, available here. The campaign consists of: Part 1 – Fires of CreationPart 2 – Lords of RustPart 3 – The Choking TowerPart 4 – Valley of the Brain CollectorsPart 5 – Palace of Fallen Stars, and Part 6 – The Divinity Drive. The entire campaign is easy to get your hands on, and each volume is available (at the time of writing this blog post) for between $20 and $30 Canadian on Amazon. There’s plenty of supplemental material written for the campaign, two of which I highly recommend: Iron Gods Pawn Collection, which has a ton of unique pawns for use in this campaign, and The Technology Guide, a book which is packed full with rules and loot you’ll be using throughout the course of the Iron Gods Adventure Path, and some nifty archetypes. Although the Pawn Collection is a steal of a deal, the Technology Guide is currently out of print and costs a pretty penny. It’s available for much cheaper as a PDF download on Paizo’s website, here.

What classes did I talk about today? Clerics and sorcerers are from the Core Rulebook or the Core Rulebook (Pocket Edition). Gunslingers are from Ultimate Combat. Investigators are from the Advanced Class Guide and the Psychic is from Occult Adventures.

The nanite bloodline is from People of the River, a book about the River Kingdoms and Numeria and the people who live there. The iron priest archetype for clerics was published in The Technology Guide, as was the techslinger archetype for gunslingers. Scavenger was from Blood of the Beast, a wonderful little player’s book about animal-inspired races including catfolk, grippli, kitsune, ratfolk and more. Finally, the mindtech discipline for psychics is from Occult Realms.

 

Appreciate a Dragon Day

January 16th is Appreciate a Dragon Day. A day that encourages everyone to explore the cultural significance of the dragon in your society and history. Dragons are a powerful symbol in mythology, from Europe, to Asia and throughout the world. So whoever you are and wherever you’re from, take a second and give a little love to these awesome mythical creatures.

Here at d20 Diaries, we’re celebrating Appreciate a Dragon Day by sharing our top five dragon adventures, because what would Dungeons and Dragons be, without dragons?

Answer? A lot less awesome!

So without further ado… my five favourite adventures that showcase dragons!



Guardians of Dragonfall

Guardians Of Dragonfallis a 3.5 adventure intended for level 11 characters.

Guardians Of Dragonfall is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons written by Anson Caralya and printed by Paizo Publishing. Intended for 11th level characters, this adventure takes the characters to a legendary dragon graveyard on behalf of an aging gold dragon who has spent the last fifty years living as a human scholar. Upon arriving they discover something has gone horribly wrong. The eternal guardians of Dragonfall have abandoned their posts, leaving the graveyard unprotected–an event unheard of in the history of Dragonfall! This adventure takes the group through a wide variety of cool locations including the labyrinthine trenches of the Bonefield, the Emerald Shrine where green dragons deliver their sacrifices, the Throat of Shearphorus at the centre of the graveyard, and the Hall of Guardian’s Rest. This adventure has a few cool draconic characters, including the ghost of the previously mentioned gold dragon, and an insane bronze dragon. It also has a variety of draconic enemies including draconic skeletons, a tribe of half-dragon satyr’s, and even a draconic mohrg. This adventure is big, bold and tons of fun. Most importantly, it makes the player’s feel awesome. After all, sometimes even dragons need a hero!

The Black Egg

The Black Egg is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure written by Steven Montano for Issue #106 of Dungeon Magazine. Intended for 12th level characters, this adventure begins with a meteor falling from the sky which completely obliterates a small town. Investigation sets the characters on a collision course with a mad wizard, a cult of half-dragons, and a powerful artifact that can summon and army of fiendish dragons to conquer the nation–perhaps the world! With some cool side characters including a group of mercenaries also intent on investigating the crater; some great twists and turns, and a ton of unique half-dragon enemies, this adventure’s sure to be a blast. To make it even better, make sure the town destroyed is a place your characters have been before (preferably more than once!) or a place they needed to visit. And what’s in the depths of the crater? I won’t give away much more, but I will say it’s called the Fane of Scales, and within is the mysterious Black Egg. An egg that’s nearly ready to hatch…

The Dragon’s Demand

The Dragon’s Demand a Pathfinder Adventure for 1st level characters.

The Dragon’s Demand is a Pathfinder module written by Mike Shel. Intended for 1st level characters and meant to bring them all the way to 6th, or possibly 7th level, this is a mega-adventure! It sets the player’s characters up to be heroes of the small town of Belhaim, only to have their efforts interrupt the plans of a fierce green dragon. The dragon eventually makes his displeasure known by attacking the town and demanding a massive amount of gold and treasure as tribute. Unable to pay, the characters are given one final job by the citizens: kill the dragon! But killing a dragon is no easy feat–especially not for low-level characters! They’ll need to prepare themselves, use their wits, and pray for some luck before taking on this bad-boy! With cool side locations including a deceased wizard’s home and secret laboratory, the tomb of a dragon-slayer, and a dragon’s lair (of course!), The Dragon’s Demand does an awesome job of showcasing what a dragon should do (or at least a classic villainous D&D dragon!): make plans, amass treasure, scare the heck out of everyone, subjugate entire tribes and towns, and kill whoever fails to obey! It makes dragons feel dangerous and powerful, something that’s often missing when dragons are used in adventures. With theatrics and a great use of build-up and suspense, this dragon feels like a challenge too tough to handle. It’s sure to get your player’s quaking in their boots! I highly recommend this module to anyone who wants to enjoy a great dragon adventure at lower levels.

Into the Wormcrawl Fissure

One of the highest level adventures on this list, Into the Wormclaw Fissure is intended for 19th level characters. Seriously! It’s the second last instalment of the Age of Worms adventure path put out by Paizo publishing back in 2006. Like The Dragon’s Demand, this adventure makes awesome use of foreshadowing, build-up and suspense to make the biggest, baddest, coolest dragon possible–Dragotha, an incredibly powerful dracolich. By this point in the campaign, the player’s have known their characters are going to have to oppose Dragotha in order to stop the Age of Worms for quite a while. They’ve curried assistance, cashed in on favours and done all they could to learn about her–which paid off. The previous adventure is spent hunting down and destroying her phylactery in the Citadel of Weeping Dragons (an awesome dragon adventure in itself!). With that taken care of, the characters can finally enter the Tabernacle of Worms to confront this terrifying undead dragon, and put an end to her for good. …If they can! This wicked foe is protected by huge undead chimeras, an awesome derro psycho mounted on a fierce wyvern, gargantuan worm beasts, and an entire cult to do her bidding. And if they do manage to defeat this terrifying CR 27 beast, her treasure trove is astounding! This adventure is awesome! If you ever get a chance to play the Age of Worms adventure path, I highly recommend you take it!

The Frozen Stars

Note: If you’re playing in my Reign of Winter Campaign, do NOT read this next entry!

The Frozen StarsPart 4 of the Reign of Winter Adventure Path.

The final adventure on this list is filled with as many dragons as you could possibly imagine–and more! Taking place on a wintery planet of dragons, in the middle of a war between the Drakelands and the Skyfire Mandate, The Frozen Stars is part four of the Reign of Winter Adventure Path. So what’s up with this war? The Drakelands are a tyranny of dragons of all kinds and colours as well as their draconic brethren (like wyverns, kobolds, and half-dragons) who believe that dragons should dominate the planet. The Skyfire Mandate is a coalition of Triaxians (furry elves primarily) and their Dragonkin allies (large sized, intelligent dragons who can wield weapons and objects in their front limbs, and who form life-long bonds with their riders). That’s right: it’s an evil dragon country versus a bunch of knights mounted on weapon wielding dragons! AWESOME! The characters land amidst this chaos in their Dancing Hut on the trail of Baba Yaga’s keys. One key lays with each side of the army, and they must determine how they’re going to get them. They can choose to ally with the Skyfire Mandate, earning themselves the chance to bond with a dragonkin of their own and fly through the skies on dragon back to oppose the draconic armies of the Drakelands! Or they can instead choose to ally with the mighty armies of the Drakelands and oppose the other, weaker races of Triaxus. Or they can try anything else they can think of: allying with both, double-crossing either side, double-crossing both sides, siding with none… The list goes on! The players get to discover this awesome conflict on this wicked planet and come up with any plan they want to obtain the keys they require. But, whatever they choose to do, your player’s characters are sure to fight or fight alongside dragons, dragon-kin, and a ton of draconic and winter themed beasts. The most powerful foes of all? Commaner Pharamol, the stalwart leader of the Skyfire Mandate’s Dragon Legion of Spurhorn, mounted atop his gold dragonkin Amerenth; the terrifying General Malesinder, a silver dragonkin and commander of the Drakelands army besieging Spurhorn; and finally, Yrax: Lord of the Howling Storm, one of the most powerful dragon warlords of the Drakelands! Come on! You know you want to play it! I know I DO!


And that’s all for today! Do you want to play any of the adventures listed above? What’s your favourite d20 adventure featuring dragons? Did I miss it? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you discover the wonder of a dragon today!

Jessica

d20diaries dragon

OutPost 2018

I’ve got exciting news for you today from the world of Play-by-Post gaming and the Pathfinder Society. It was recently announced on Paizo’s messageboards that they’ll be hosting the an online Pathfinder Society Convention. Awesome!

Why?

First of all, Conventions give out cool boons. Boons are rewards granted to a character at the end of a scenario. Most conventions give out special boons. Sometimes even the chance to use a special race on a future character. But, getting to a convention can be a problem. There’s none near me, that’s for sure.

Second, this convention is hosting 115 tables of gamers. Most are hosted on the Paizo messageboards, but some on other platforms like Mythweavers. There’s even a few tables running entirely in Spanish or French.

GrandLodgeSymbol
The Glyph of the Open Road, sigil of the Pathfinder Society and its Grand Lodge Faction.

Third, this convention is hosting a huge variety of games. Core and Standard Pathfinder games are up for grabs, with Standard being most popular. There’s also the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game available to play and a bunch of Starfinder games. Also, there’s the Solstice Scar Special. These game options are all spread across a variety of tiers, meaning whatever level your PFS character is, there’s sure to be a game open for them.

Fourth, and for some the most compelling reason, it’s first come first served. This is usually the case with PFS, but by play-by-post there’s always more players than there are games. This means for some, getting into a play-by-post PFS game can be hard. Maybe they always fill up before you get home from work, or maybe you just constantly get passed over for other players. Whether you have trouble getting into games or not, the beauty of OutPost is you don’t need to get chosen to play. You simply sign up and you’re in.  This is especially awesome for groups of players. Want to play online with a friend? Sign up for the same game. Done. Easy.

Finally, Pathfinder’s awesome! Haha.

The convention is called OutPost and it’s games start on March 5th, and run until they are complete, with a maximum end date of April 30th. There’s a limit of three games each player can sign up for, which is great. It ensures no one hogs too many games or overburdens themselves. But admittedly, I wish I could sign up for more, haha. I decided to sign up for three games, and after choosing a few, I realized something: my kids might want to join.

d20 games can teach kids a bunch of awesome skills. Reading, writing, spelling, math, strategy, creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork… The list goes on. But the one thing it doesn’t teach my kids? How to use a computer. Usually this isn’t a problem for children, as most get plenty of screen time these days. But mine don’t. My son, who is in grade one, had a computer class the other day and he told me he had barely managed to sign into the laptop by the time some other kids had finished their work. Alright, MAYBE he’s old enough to practice on our laptop at home. Haha.

And wouldn’t this be the perfect place? He’s always asking to play more Pathfinder. He needs to practise his spelling (and his coding, believe it or not), and he needs to get used to typing on a computer. Perfect.

I asked if he’d like to, and both of my kids were thrilled. Mr. Ice and Bunny Paras were ready and waiting for adventure. After a quick check with my husband, he decided he’d be willing to try it out if he could play with our kids. Enzo Jeggare had agreed to the mission.

I quickly hopped onto the online sign up sheets and checked the GM names. …None that I recognized. So I found one that had four open spaces, was for level one characters, and that I knew contained NO WEREWOLVES. As recently discovered, my daughter has a thing about werewolves. Not long afterwards, a GM I knew would be great as a GM for my kids signed up to host a game that was also level one. After checking with my kids, they decided they wanted to play in both, so I quickly signed us up for a second. My husband passed on the extra game. I warned both the game’s GMs that there would be children playing at their tables, and soon got an enthusiastic welcome for my kids from both. Things have fallen into place wonderfully.

Soon I’ll get to play alongside my kids in a Pathfinder game without also GMing. This is unheard of. I’m thrilled! And my kids? They began immediately tossing  around character concepts for their second PFS characters.

So what ARE we playing?

Our experienced Pathfinder trio, Bunny Paras alongside her trusty parasaurolophus Paras, the ever-cold Mr. Ice, and occultist Enzo Jeggare alongside his summoned servitors, are joining up with two other characters to take on an old Pathfinder scenario from Season 0. I chose my character Everbloom to team up with them. Everbloom’s a kitsune kineticist capable of blasting her enemies with razor sharp flower petals and leaves, lashing vines, and tree branches. She’s a part of the Dark Archives faction–the same as Enzo. Plus, I thought my daughter would love to meet a fellow kitsune. The Season 0 adventures only allows five people to play, so we’ll be joined by only one other person who seems to be an oracle. We’ll be playing Black Waters, which is the sixth scenario ever written for the Pathfinder Society. Intended for level 1-5 characters, this scenario will be sending our Pathfinders into an elite school that was destroyed by an earth quake over a decade ago. Now half-flooded and known as the Drownyard, they’ll need to navigate the haunted, flooded ruins in order to find an ancient treasure lost in the disaster. Although a bit spooky for most young children, my kids have played through the entire first book of Carrion Crown (Pathfinder’s horror adventure path) so we don’t expect to have any issues. This scenario is written by Tim and Eileen Connors, and is available for purchase on Paizo’s website for only a few dollars.

For our second game we had signed up for Delirium’s Tangle (Season One, #45). Also an old scenario, this game would allow for five players maximum, and we would fill up three of those slots. Delirium’s Tangle is intended for level 1-5 characters and sends a group of Pathfinders on the hunt for Nuar Spiritskin, a famous minotaur prince who has gone missing–but don’t tell anyone! Apparently the minotaur is lost in an infamous underground maze, and he’d be terribly embarrassed if word got out that he couldn’t find his way. This scenario is written by Crystal Frasier and is also available for purchase on Paizo’s website for only a few dollars.

I decided to play my fighter, Juno Berik, a dwarven woman who thinks far too highly of herself and is atrocious at social encounters. She’s a ton of fun to play, and I thought my kids would get a kick out of interacting with her.

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Art chosen from Pinterest to represent Fuzzy, my son’s forgetful wizard. Artist unknown. Let me know in the comments if you know the artist so proper credit can be given.

My son decided to make a forgetful old wizard named Fuzzy with his owl familiar Bobby. Why is he named Fuzzy?

“My name? Oh dear! I can’t recall. It’s all a little fuzzy you know. A-ha! That must be it! Fuzzy! It’s a pleasure to meet you!”

With his memory problems, Fuzzy is constantly asking Bobby for advice. “What was that spell again?” “Who is that person?” “Where are we going?” The list goes on. And the ever helpful Bobby always replies immediately with a calm: “Hooooooo…”

Just the thing to spark Fuzzy’s memory!

My daughter came up with about ten character ideas ranging from Fuzzy’s equally old and forgetful sister, to an gnome ninja and everything in between. In the end she discovered a picture on Pinterest and became inspired. Pictured in the side bar, this young girl is much older than she seems. As a child, the young noble played around her family’s vast estate alongside her stuffed rabbit Miss. Whiskers. One day they happened upon a fairy ring and found themselves far from home. There they met brownies and pixies and other fey. They played games, and played tricks and had fun, fun, fun. The experience filled the young girl with magical powers–which she believed came from Miss. Whiskers. Eventually, Naysha and Miss Whiskers found their way home, but Naysha was forever changed. Despite the passage of time, she

Lady Naysha and Miss Whiskers
Art that inspired my daughter’s creation of Lady Naysha and Miss Whiskers. Discovered on Pinterest, artist unknown. If you know the artist let me know in the comments so proper credit can be given.

never seemed to grow up. She appeared to be a young girl even as an adult woman, and her love of play, imagination and tricks never diminished. With a heart full of childish joy and wonder, Lady Naysha and Miss Whiskers have become quite a topic of discussion around aristocratic circles. Lady Naysha works as a magician part-time, bringing wonder and joy to children of all ages, and for the Pathfinders the rest of the time, discovering new sights, sounds and treasures. When she’s in trouble, Lady Naysha can call upon her fairy friends for aid, allowing them to play dirty tricks on her enemies, can summon small woodland creatures (rabbits, most likely) and can heal her companions. All thanks to her beloved Miss. Whiskers! Lady Naysha is an oracle of whimsy.

I love both their creations!

For my final game I signed up for the Unseen Inclusion with my half-orc monk, Kenza Bloodborn. The Unseen Inclusion is a season nine scenario (#9-04) which sends a team of Pathfinders into the haunted ruins discovered under a construction site in the Thuvian city of Merab. Tasked with not only learning about the newly discovered ruin, but also putting the unquiet spirits to rest, Kenza’s going to have her hands full. Intended for characters from levels 1-5, this scenario is of particular importance for members of the Scarab Sages and contributes directly to their story-line. In a few months the Scarab Sages Faction will be retired, and its members will be forced to join other factions instead. A member of the Scarab Sages herself, my beloved monk will have to find a new faction to call home in the coming months. For now, I’m excited to get this introspective Osiriani a chance to play among some of her faction mates. Written by Mike Kimmel, the Unseen Inclusion is available for a few dollars on Paizo’s website, here.

OutPost is going to be a load of fun, and slots in its games are filling fast. But for now, there’s still openings. For more information on OutPost you can check out this post on Paizo’s message boards here. To see what games are still available, click here, then click the tab on the bottom labelled Entry.

At the moment of posting, there’s plenty of room to play in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and in Core Pathfinder scenarios. If you’re into Core adventures I’d recommend joining Black Waters (tier 1-5), or one of the Scarab Sages scenarios up for offer: The Unseen Inclusion (tier 1-5) or Salvation of the Sages (tier 7-11). For mid-level play I’d recommend the highly adaptable repayable scenario, Beyond the Halflight Path, (tier 3-7) which takes place in my favourite city on Golarion, Kaer Maga.

There’s a ton of Starfinder openings. For those of you looking to play a scenario that introduces you to the factions at work in the Starfinder Society I’d recommend joining the Commencement (tier 1-2). But for those of you looking for a more thrilling adventure, I strongly recommend signing up for Cries from the Drift (tier 1-4) or Yesteryear’s Truth (tier 1-4). Both are lots of fun.

Standard PFS scenarios are clearly the most offered and popular game choice at OutPost. It’s my format of choice, as well. Despite that, there’s still plenty of spots up for grabs. If you’re interested in low level play I’d highly recommend joining GM Rinaldo’s Murder on the Silken Caravan (tier 1-5), which is a great adventure run by a very friendly GM. I’d recommend picking up a hot-weather outfit for that one, as it takes place in the Qadiran desert. Echoes of the Overwatched (tier 1-5) is also great fun. For mid-level play I’d highly recommend To Scale the Dragon (tier 5-9, bring cold-weather gear!), Voice in the Void (tier 3-7), the previously mentioned Beyond the Halflight Path (tier 3-7), or GM Gustavef’s Song of the Sea Witch (tier 3-7). For high-level play I’d highly suggest Ancient’s Anguish (tier 7-11).

I hope you give OutPost a chance, and help make this convention a success! Already signed up? Got a favourite PFS Scenario to recommend? Is a favourite scenario of yours missing? Let me know in the comments below!

See you there!

Jessica

 

Mummy’s Mask: Game Aids

I love to GM. As mentioned already on this blog, I do it a lot, but mostly for my children. Playing d20 games with a five and six year old is considerably different than playing with a group of adults. Currently, there’s only two games I play face-to-face that do not involve my kids: Mummy’s Mask and Reign of Winter. I GM both.

It’s been weeks since we’ve played, but that’s understandable. November and December are a time full of birthdays and holiday events in my family. Add to that all of us suffering through a weeks-long illness and it’s no wonder my beloved games have been put on a bit of a pause.

We play on Friday nights: Reign of Winter when my brother’s free to join my husband and I, or Mummy’s Mask when both he and his wife are available. Our kids spend the evening playing and watching a movie before heading to bed for the night, and we have a few rare hours of adults-only d20 gaming.

And tomorrow, FINALLY, we’re playing Mummy’s Mask! Needless to say I’m excited.

One of the things I enjoy about GMing and playing is the environments you can create. With a simple description and a series of short social interactions it’s easy to make each city and town feel different and memorable. But a city’s not just buildings and climate, it’s also the is people who live there. Not just the few NPCs who hold plot-hooks, but all of them. From the lowly baker to the mayor’s foppish cousin, I love making an eclectic cast of NPCs for my players to interact with. Shopkeeps have names and families, minor social encounters occur when travelling through cities, and even that random urchin who tries to con you out of a few coppers has a name and a friend or two. I don’t expect the group to interact, befriend, or get into deep conversations with all of them, but I find it’s enriching for them to be able to. To know that they can. Every once in a while there’s an NPC who becomes special to them. Maybe it’s the baker’s daughter who’s been dumped by her boyfriend, the crime-lord’s bodyguard who they try to entice into switching sides, or the down on his luck priest whose temple is in need of repairs. And nothing makes side characters more memorable than a few lines of dialogue and an image to represent them.

Mummy’s Mask is a campaign bursting with opportunity for NPCs. Right at the beginning of the campaign the group stays at a local inn, the Tooth and Hookah. Run by a husband and wife duo, this hookah bar and watering hole is also home to tables staffed by merchants, and a tiny crocodile who lives in the well named Toothy. Now, what player’s NOT going to want to talk to the innkeeper when he’s got a croc in his well? Answer: none.

Beyond their base of operations, the PCs join a lottery put on by the church of Pharasma. Run by it’s High Priestess, a woman with green painted lips known as Sebti the Crocodile, even this distant personality is bursting with interesting quirks. There’s also gate guards and patrols of Voices of the Spire, militant Pharasmins who patrol the Necropolis the tombs are found within.

And the most fun, exciting NPCs to make in the early days of this campaign? The other lottery entrants. See, this campaign is special. Your players join a lottery where the right to explore ancient tombs is handed out to registered groups of adventurers by draw. Some of these groups have a chance to interact with your PCs. And what’s more fun than making a bunch of adventuring parties for them to socialize with?

Playing, obviously, but making adventuring parties is pretty cool, too.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post: GM Aids.

Periodically I’ll post supplementary information, images, encounters, locations and side-trek adventures intended to be used in published campaigns. Today’s focuses on the many NPCs–especially the rival adventuring groups–found in the first book of Mummy’s Mask. Please note that none of the following images are my property. Some belong to Paizo Publishing, and others were discovered on Pinterest and belong to the artists who created them (signatures are on many of the images).

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The Half-Dead City,by Jim Groves. Book One of the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path.

So without further ado: let’s get rolling!

Mummy’s Mask is an adventure path printed by Paizo Publishing which takes place in the town of Wati, within the desert nation of Osirion. A six-part adventure path, the first of these volumes is entitled The Half-Dead City and is written by Jim Groves. Additional details on the city of Wati are included in this book, written by Crystal Frasier, while a short story in the back of the book that uses the Tooth and Hookah as a backdrop is written by Amber E. Scott. A player’s guide for this campaign is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here.

The Tooth and Hookah

One of the places players of Mummy’s Mask are going to visit most often is the Tooth and Hookah. This affordable little establishment will become their temporary home. A place for them to sleep, eat, rest, get out of the sun and to plan. Owned by a Garundi fellow named Farhaan, the Tooth and Hookah, its owner, and it’s delightful little crocodile mascot, Toothy, are given a bit more detail in the short story found at the back of the Half-Dead City. For my version of this campaign we gave Farhaan a wife, Maatkare, a meek but hardworking woman who busies herself around the Tooth and Hookash as a cook and waitress.

Along one wall of the Tooth and Hookah are a few tables available for rent by merchants and peddlers. These merchants aren’t detailed, so I got to make some additions. At the start of the campaign these tables are staffed by Mila Ansretti, a friendly Varisian traveller who loves the vast deserts of Osirion and makes a living selling maps, books, herbs and scarves of all kinds; and Ishpi, an awkward young man who (poorly) sells hand beaded jewelry created by his ailing grandmother. Later in the book Jarha Psenmin joins the merchants here, loudly shouting at patrons and acting like your typical pushy, market haggler–though this one deals in potions! Jarha doesn’t last long at the Hookah, and moves on to the Sunburst Market after only a single evening. If no one’s given Mila a reason to stay at the Hookah, she moves on by the end of this book, finding a new location to sell things in Wati.

For entertainment, the Tooth and Hookah features performances by Wahka, a sleazy half-elven bard who secretly lusts after Maatkare, and Senja Messeniah, a streetwise, lesbian belly-dancer who is good friends with Farhaan.

The Grand Mausoleum

Wati’s temple of Pharasma is incredibly large and has a lot of political power. It’s called the Grand Mausoleum, and is the organizer of Wati’s Necropolis lottery. Each day of the lottery sites are drawn and announced by High Priestess Sebti, pictured in the sidebar. Sebti is detailed thoroughly in the Half-Dead City adventure and the article on Wati later in the book. She’s helped by some acolytes which are undetailed. In my campaign these acolytes are Henna, a scribe who handles all the lottery’s record keeping and can sometimes be found working as a secretary at the Grand Mausoleum, and Ammon, a charismatic mysterious fellow who handles inquiries and explains the details of the lottery and their site with the PCs while Sebti continues with the lottery.

Other NPCs added into the Grand Mausoleum are Elder Neferaba, one of the oldest and most respected clerics in the temple, and Inet, a young woman with no formal education who works as Sebti’s personal secretary.

There’s one more member of the Grand Mausoleum who is written directly into Mummy’s Mask. Introduced with full character art and given a thorough backstory, Ptemenib is found in the second book of this adventure path, Empty Graves, he’s a colourful character your players are bound to love. I highly recommend introducing him right from the start. In addition to being found at the Grand Mausoleum, Ptemenib could also be spotted at the Tooth and Hookah spying on a suspicious patron he suspects of being a member of the Silver Chain (a local gang of smuggler’s who operate within Wati and it’s Necropolis). Ptemenib is joined by his (invisible) friend, a  nosoi psychopomp by the name of Qasin.

The Voices of the Spire

The Necropolis is under the control of the Voices of the Spire, a militant wing of the Church of Pharasma, led by the Commander of Voices, Nakht Shepses. Nakht is a character written into books one and two of Mummy’s Mask (though no art was provided for him), and is destined to butt heads with Sebti and the player characters in book two, Empty Graves.

Only one member of the Voices is given a name and artwork, Bal Themm, a woman who guards the front gates to the Necropolis and is introduced in book two, Empty Graves. Bal is easy to include right from the start, as the players walk right by the gate guards twice a day while they’re in the lottery. Starting professional, Bal can grow to respect the group for their accomplishments in the Lottery and even become a friend and source of information. By the time she needs their aid in the second book she’ll already be a companion–or at least remembered–and her fate will have more of an effect on the group.

The Half-Dead City makes mention of Voices of the Spire patrolling the Necropolis and performing inspections during the lottery. However, no other Voices are detailed. In my campaign we added in Shenanda, an experienced Voice who is professional and serious. She’s also Bal’s superior, and Nakht’s lover. Working with Shenanda is a nervous new recruit to the Voices, Menes. Although Menes looks up to Shenanda, he thinks that Commander Shepses is too proud, and needs to treat his lower-class subordinates better. Other Voices on patrol in the Necropolis include the young dwarf Ankhet, the stern female oread Faiza, and the charming and flirtatious Sebkay (Sebkay’s art is from a soldier token in Magic: The Gathering’s Amonkhet set, available in booster packs here.).

The Scorched Hand

There’s a lot of adventuring parties mentioned in the Half-Dead City. Most are little more than a title and a sentence or two of information, but one of them, the Scorched Hand, are destined to play a major role in this adventure. A group consisting of three followers of Nethys and their sword for hire, the Scorched Hand are introduced in a scripted social encounter that takes place after the first day spent in the Necropolis. I recommend utilizing them at least once more, either before or after that encounter as a social interaction. Make Velriana brush against them while passing by your players in the streets and demand they apologize to her for the insult! Or have them show up at a market stall while your players are trying to purchase an item and insist upon buying that same object–for a bit more coin. Small clashes like this will make the Scorched Hand a group to remember. By the time your players spot Velriana’s feathered hat in the final part of this adventure, they’ll know exactly who they’re about to butt heads with–again.

The Scorched Hand is lead by a pompous, Taldan noble who worships Nethys, Velriana Hypaxes, a wizardess with attitude to spare and ostentatious fashion sense. Her second in command is Khelru, a cleric of Nethys who began life as a peasant and slowly worked his way through the clergy. Khelru’s the only member of the Scorched Hand that Velriana respects. Khelru’s lover is a spoiled, nobleman by the name of Azaz Arafe. Azaz is infatuated with Khelru and converted to Nethys’ faith in order to impress the clergyman. Azaz is a wizard–a poor one–and has a scorpion familiar. Velriana thinks he’s useless–and isn’t shy about showing her feelings. Idorii is a half-elf mercenary hired by Velriana to protect her, then the rest of the Scorched Hand. Idorii sympathizes with Azaz, and thinks Velriana’s stuck-up, but business is business, and Velriana’s the one paying her.

 The Cryptfinders

Another group conceptualized in the book but lacking details are the Cryptfinders. They’re a group who met in Absalom, the City at the Centre of the World, and joined up specifically for the purpose of entering Wati’s lottery. Including members from throughout the world, the Cryptfinders are lead by a roguish, womanizing bravo by the name of Falto. Falto is joined by Ilpatrus Nexonus, a Nexian summoner who looks down on other magic users (and barely notices non-magic users). Hesham ibn Gathbiyya is a Qadiran cleric of Sarenrae and the group’s healer. He hates undead and tries to convert everyone he meets to his faith–an unpopular habit in a town so controlled by the Pharasmin clergy. Their final member is Vittoria Etrovain, a Chelaxian cavalier that worships Asmodeus and despises every woman Falto interacts with. The Cryptfinders are present at a single scripted social encounter and, like the Scorched Hand, benefit from additional social interactions. A fellow wizard could study alongside Ilpatrus, the players could come across Falto making a scene as he duels a few local men over his recent dalliance with their sister, or they can help Hesham talk his way out of an angry crowd of locals that he’s tried to convert to his faith.

Daughters of the Desert

This entirely female adventuring party is led by Sigrun Firehair, an Ulfen skald from the Land of the Linnorm Kings who claims to be descended from a genie. Joined by Firadora Fal-Shiek, a paladin of Iomedae exiled from Rahadoum for daring to have (and spread) faith; Sati, a Thuvian desert nomad with no tongue who looks fierce and is constantly splattered with blood stains; and The Twins, Rua and Naat, mysterious Osirian witches who refuse to speak or socialize with outsiders and seem to communicate with glances. These adventurous women make their sole appearance in the same scripted social encounter that the Scorched Hand and the Crytfinders appear in. Sigrun takes the lead for this group, telling epic tales of their adventures in the Necropolis. These women, Sigrun especially, are incredibly easy to add to the campaign further. Sigrun can often be found boasting about her many accomplishments at a variety of drinking establishments, hawking her newly acquired treasures in a market and haggling with the best of them. My favourite location to add them is immediately outside the Necropolis, Sigrun works up the crowd, telling tales about their adventures that day and waving around the treasures they acquired. She then immediately attempts to sell the goods to the crowd. The Twins stand by mysteriously silent, Sati roars and brandishes her bloody blade for the crowd and Firadora poses dramatically. Sigrun is also a great choice to use again in book two, representing the Daughters of the Desert alongside the Twins at the auction at the Canny Jackal.

Dog Soldiers

The Dog Soldiers are an all halfling adventuring group whose obnoxious leader, Mad Dog Marrn, fights alongside his pack of trained Katapeshi hunting dogs. Joined by his ‘bitches:’ Rita, a flirtatious and curvaceous warrior; Madge, a trapsmith who doesn’t care at all what you think of her; and Ninette, a sorceress who’s quite likely insane. The Dog Soldiers are scheduled to appear in the same scripted social encounter as the previously mentioned groups. Unfortunately, half of Marrn’s dogs die that day fighting a gelatinous cube. I highly recommend making the Dog Soldiers stay at the Tooth and Hookah in a suite upstairs, alongside the PCs. This gives your players plenty of time to interact with the bombastic group before Mad Dog and the girls are in mourning over their dogs. The next morning be sure to place Mad Dog in the Sunburst Market, sadly trying to find replacements to join his remaining pack.

It’s noted in the next book that not all of the groups who entered the lottery return. Some lose members to death, while others never return at all. I chose to make the Dog Soldiers one of these unfortunate groups. Tasked with clearing out Tahetep’s Dance Hall the day after losing most of his dogs, Marrn, Rita and Madge were all killed in the haunted ruin, while Ninette survived, driven mad by her experiences. Have the players go through dinner that evening, then breakfast the next day, without any sign of the noisy halflings at the Tooth and Hookah. That evening Farhaan can ask if you’ve seen any sign of them. After hearing they haven’t Farhaan sighs and remarks ominously “They’ve still got a bit of time.” After another day with no word from the Dog Soldiers Farhaan places their personal possessions out for sale at his merchant’s tables. This can be a poignant sign to the group that their line of work is more than just dangerous, it’s deadly. The next time the players are in the Necropolis they should discover something of the Dog Soldiers–perhaps it’s Mad Dog’s medium +1 longsword engraved with his name or, if you’re feeling really cruel, they can discover one of his dogs–now an undead ghoul hound–gnawing on Mad Dog’s rotting arm. During the second book, while the players are in the Necropolis on other business they can discover that not all of the Dog Soldiers are dead–the insane wreck that Ninette’s become still resides in the haunted dance hall. Mute, deaf and blind, she dances to a song that only she can hear.

Sand Scorpions

This all-rogue group of adventurers is on the hunt for an arcane combatant to assist them before the lottery starts, but by the morning of the first draw they’ve filled that role. To best showcase this I highly recommend making the Sand Scorpions the second adventuring party to stay at the Tooth and Hookah. This group is led by Black Kiss, an assassin who specializes in poisons that I made mysterious, aloof and literally deadly–her skin is coated in a paralytic poison that she’s immune to. Joined by Briggs, a trapsmith party girl who’s secretly in love with her best friend and other member of the group: Tama. Tama’s a gruff, half-orc locksmith who–along with Briggs–lives in the floating slums of Bargetown. Their newest member is Atticus Bant, a magus who tries his best to get along with all his new female companions, and is failing horribly. He’s terrified of Black Kiss and attracted to Tama. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of letting Briggs seduce him after the first day in the Necropolis and he’s only recently realized she’s both conniving and manipulative. Briggs soon spends her free time bad mouthing Atticus to Tama, while Atticus tries to woo Tama, and Tama poorly ignores the both of them. Desperate for less needy companionship, Tama’s very likely to try to socialize with the player’s characters. An act which is guaranteed to draw both Briggs and Atticus to the conversation in short order. Allowing your players to get involved in the drama of this catty, dysfunctional group can be amusing, and can drive home how important teamwork is. Near the end of the lottery, have fun showcasing Atticus’ desperate final attempts to get Tama to go on a date with him–only to find him later, drunk and mournful at the bar, wailing about his unrequited ‘love.’ Tama and Briggs are also good choices to use as contacts in the second book of Mummy’s Mask, when the players are looking for information about Bargetown and the Veins.

One of my players got obsessed Black Kiss, insisting that his character was destined to be with her (he’s a firm believer in fate). A chubby catfolk who looks like an overgrown housecat, the many, many ways he tried to prove his love to the toxic, aloof woman provided endless entertainment for us. Even more so were her challenges–the most daring of which was taking shots of poisoned drinks with her at the bar. Unfortunately for the smitten catfolk, he was so busy playing coy with her that he missed his chance to say goodbye. After the lottery, Black Kiss heads off to Tephu on the search for ancient alchemical secrets. They’ll have a chance to meet her again in book three.

Amethyst Dragons

This adventuring party is detailed in the random encounters section of the Half-Dead City. Consisting of an Osirion enchantress, Melu, and her charmed companions, each of the men in this group vies for her attention and would give their lives for her. Originally consisting of Ahotep, a warrior who’s been charmed so long he can’t imagine life without her; Djaal Sidrim, a young and inexperienced ranger; and Karem Afir, a streetwise cutpurse; this group’s membership is destined to be shuffled around a bit. The first time you meet the Amethyst Dragons, Melu attempts to charm the strongest looking player’s character, while the other members of the Amethyst Dragons sit jealously by. If Melu survives this encounter, be sure to show her a few days later with all new companions–she had to replace them after they gave their lives to allow her to escape the dangers of the Archives of the Ibis.

Flickering Four

This adventuring party is also detailed in the random encounters section of the Half-Dead City. Intended to be encountered in the Necropolis, they’re found sitting outside a tomb. Their leader, a halfling sorcerer by the name of Fergrim Flame, toys with a ball of fire, while their studious wizard, Verichi Denger, studies a few tomes on the side of the road. Verichi is wary, but claims that the group needs to wait just a while longer while he memorizes some necessary spells. Lirgana Ahmose, an optimistic half-elf bard, tries to pass the time happily, while the group’s half-orc fighter, Kha, loudly complains about Verichi’s obvious cowardice and picks apart Lirgana’s every suggestion and comment. Verichi is a great choice to use in book two, representing the group alongside Lirgana during the auction at the Canny Jackal.


There’s plenty of other colourful characters kicking around Wati. Patrons of the Tooth and Hookah, the Abadaran Marketwives, merchants, students of the Hall of Blessed Rebirth, and even a thief or two, but those will come in time. For now, I hope you enjoyed–or even better: make use of–the colourful characters I’ve shared today.

Our next Mummy’s Mask game aids will be entirely different. Featuring details on the Shrine of Wadjet, Ubet’s Folly and the tattered remains of a drug-addled cult found within, as well as the lots up for auction at the Canny Jackal in book two.

Until then, have fun, and keep gaming. I wish you plenty of criticals!

Jessica

Bright…

Those of you with Netflix might have noticed an interesting film that just recently released on our televisions: Bright. If you haven’t watched the film–or even the trailer–I highly recommend you give it a chance. This movie’s an urban fantasy buddy-cop film revolving around a dangerous magic wand in a city populated by humans, elves, and orcs–with plenty of other wonderful weirdness. Yes. I’m serious. And it stars Will Smith.

In short: I loved this movie. 

Now, this is not a movie review. This is a blog about d20 games. But watching Bright got me thinking. See, in addition to being a fantasy movie and a comedy movie, Bright cast a glaring light on some important topics. Chief among them: racism and corruption. Now, I’m not going to spoiler any more of the film than I already have, but I am going to say one last thing: Bright handled these topics very well. And to celebrate that we’re going to make a short list.

Now lists are likely something you’re going to see a lot of on d20 Diaries. I’m a fan of a good list. So today we’re looking at my five favourite d20 adventures that deal with prejudice.

You will not find adventures about wanton destruction or wiping out ‘evil races’ or anything like that in here. These aren’t orc-hating, demon-hunting or goblin-slaying tales. Here you’ll find adventures that have environments heavily tainted by prejudice, mysteries where killers prey upon the downtrodden and social encounters where the player’s may wonder whose side they should really be on. So without further ado:

My picks for top five d20 adventures that feature prejudice:

#5 – War of the Wielded by Michael Kortes

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‘War of the Wielded’ by Michael Kortes. Art by UDON. Printed in Issue 149 of Dungeon Magazine, August 2007.

Although many of the top five adventures I’ve chosen are serious in tone, the first one is anything but. It’s an unabashedly absurd, fun little adventure printed in Issue 149 of Dungeon Magazine, back in 2007. War of the Wielded, by Michael Kortes focuses on a centuries old fight for dominance between two rival thieve’s guilds, The House of Oquon, and the Cabanites. The descendants of these groups despise each other with a passion reminiscent of the Montague’s and the Capulet’s from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s a fifth level 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure, but can easily be adapted to Pathfinder or other systems.

The adventure begins with the player’s stumbling upon a violent battle between the rival factions, and by the end has the player’s wondering which side of the war they should throw themselves behind. But, wait! There’s a twist!

The Oquons and the Cabanites are long gone. Dead. Caput. Only their intelligent blades remain, still battling each other to this day by possessing the people who happen to touch them, and using everyday people in their never ending war. That’s right. You heard me. The prejudice and hate featured in this adventure is perpetuated by two rival factions of magical swords.

It’s insane. It’s wonderful. I love it. Your player’s will love it. And by the end they’ll be torn between greed–come on, who doesn’t want a magical sword that can talk–and the need to save the people being used by these powerful blades. So give this adventure a whirl and see if you side with the Oquons or the Cabanites. Or perhaps, put an end to the hate and battle them both! I hope you’ve brought a rust monster…

#4 – Siege of the Spider Eaters by Tim and Eileen Connors

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‘Siege of the Spider Eaters’ by Tim and Eileen Connors. Art by James Ryman. Printed in Issue 137 of Dungeon Magazine, August 2006.

This next entry is an interesting adventure that in a lot of ways feels like classic dungeons and dragons, but has a neat twist. Siege of the Spider Eaters is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure made for 1st level characters, that can easily be transferred into any other fantasy world. It was printed in Issue 137 of Dungeon Magazine. Siege of the Spider Eaters takes place in a secretive little village called Haven-Fara founded by pirates. When the players get there they find the entire town carpeted by a blanket of thick spider webs and more than half the townsfolk are missing. Of course, the player’s need to save the townsfolk, right? You can’t just let them get eaten by the spiders who’ve clearly dragged them away! And so they set out on a spider-squishing mission. But this adventure’s got some twists in it, and things aren’t going to be nearly that simple.

Now, Siege of the Spider Eaters has some cool things going for it. First of all: the town, Haven-Fara. This village is built around a beached pirate ship. Yup. Right there in the middle of the town, taking up a solid sixth of the entire village. A big, freaking, pirate ship. What makes that even better? The interior’s a pub. Haven-Fara’s also got ramshackle huts made of driftwood and scavenged ship parts, it’s surrounded by jungle, and it’s covered in thick spider webs. This town has atmospheric written all over it.

The beginning of this adventure is an investigation, and leads into a simple monster-killing mission, but when the locals you need to befriend and save are shifty, scuzzy, pirates, scuttlers, sailors and the descendants of thieving buccaneers, even small social encounters are memorable. And when a walk down the road is through massive spider web tunnels, it’s not the kind of adventure that will not soon be forgotten.

Once the player’s get to the spider’s den, though, things take a bit of a turn. For the spiders aren’t all what they seem. Some are aranea–intelligent spiders who can also turn into human-like people–and are in fact, the missing townsfolk. Yup. Spider people. Let’s hope the group didn’t kill too many of their pets on the way here… But if the missing townsfolk are spider people, why web up the town? Well, I’m not going to give the whole adventure away, as the surprises are part of the fun, but let’s just say it involves, spider-eaters, pirate treasure, secrets and greed.

As the players navigate the secrets of Haven-Fara’s aranea population they’ll be making plenty of choices. Who to help, who to hinder, and what secrets to keep and expose. The players actions can save Haven-Fara, or see it torn apart by hate and mistrust.

#3 – Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves

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Pathfinder Module: Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves . Art by Dave Allsop.

Murder’s Mark is a Pathfinder murder mystery intended for level one characters. It’s a fun, solid adventure that keeps moving along even if the players get stuck thanks to well-timed events and flavourful encounters.

Murder’s Mark takes place in the city of Ilsurian, an independent trade town in Varisia (a part of Pathfinder’s Golarion campaign setting), whose citizens are mostly foreign colonizers (Chelaxians) who harbour deep distrust and resentment towards the native Varisian population (a very gypsy-like peoples). The adventure begins when a traveling carnival comes to town, and the player’s pay it a visit.

The opening is a fun, light-hearted romp, where the players get to engage in games of skill and chance at the carnival, and end up distinguishing themselves as heroic and trustworthy when trouble breaks out.

But trouble’s brewing in Ilsurian. People begin turning up dead and the locals suspect a member of the traveling carnival–an enigmatic sphinx said to be tame. With tensions mounting between locals and performers, and the body count rising on both sides, the player’s have to discover what’s really going on before Ilsurian erupts into ethnic violence.

Murder’s Mark does a great job of using the rampant racism found in Ilsurian, and making it a focus of the adventure. With the townsfolk being Chelaxians and the carnival folk being Varisians, every encounter has the potential to take a violent turn due to prejudice, fear and stupidity. Players have a real chance to change Ilsurian, and save a lot of lives. But they also can fail. And when lives are in the balance, failure can be a huge disappointment–and an instigator of even greater violence.

Murder’s Mark is a great, well-written adventure filled with wonderful twists and turns, and social encounters that really matter. When your players finally discover the architects behind this string of murders, they’ll be dying to give them a whooping! I guarantee it.

For those of you that don’t own this little gem, you can pick it up online at one of the two links below.
Pathfinder Module: Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves
Pathfinder Module: Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves

#2 – Steel Shadows by Keith Baker

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‘Steel Shadows’ by Keith Baker. Art by Jonathan Hill. Printed in Issue 115 of Dungeon Magazine, October 2004.

Another great murder mystery, Steel Shadows was published in Issue 115 of Dungeon Magazine. It’s a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure intended for level seven characters and set in Sharn, a city in the Eberron Campaign Setting.

Steel Shadows takes us on an adventure in the seediest, poorest districts of Sharn, where a murderer is preying upon the city’s most oppressed citizens: it’s warforged. Warforged are essentially golems given life, souls and sentience by magic. They’re like robot men, or droids, but made by magic instead of technology. Warforged were made by rich people in order to fight their wars, but when the wars finally came to an end, the government made the surviving warforged citizenship. Unfortunately, these naive new peoples were taken advantage of. Many of them are poor, live in horrible conditions, suffer through tremendous racism, and were tricked into taking jobs that are little more than indentured servitude. It is on these people, that a killer is preying.

While investigating the murders, the players don’t just need to confront the dregs of society, and the dangers and sadness of the slums, but they also need to battle indifference. Why? No one really cares about a few dead warforged.

Finding justice is entirely up to your players.

Steel Shadows has some twists and turns, plenty of interesting characters, and a good deal of red herrings. It’s a great, unique adventure and I highly recommend it to anyone that manages to get their hands on it.

#1 – River Into Darkness by Greg A. Vaughn

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‘River into Darkness’ by Greg A. Vaughan (2008-04-22). Art by Ben Wootten. Paizo Publishing. 

River Into Darkness is a Pathfinder Module made before their ruleset came out, which means it’s technically a 3.5 adventure. It’s intended for level four characters and takes place in the Mwangi Expanse, a vast jungle dotted with newly settled colonies and commercial ventures found in Pathfinder’s Golarion Campaign Setting. This adventure is not your typical fantasy fare. It’s darker than most, not because of violence or horror, but because this adventure does not take a simple view of the world. It is not black and white, good and bad. It’s mostly written in shades of grey. But that’s what I love about it. It’s fluid, and adaptable. And what the player’s decide to do is entirely up to them. Honest! This adventure doesn’t assume your players choose one ending, it acknowledges (and even better, plans for) multiple possible endings.  So get ready to pick a side–or flip flop a lot–cause the River Into Darkness is here!

This adventure begins with the players in the port city of Bloodcove, a tropical town built around a massive mangrove tree. After battling one of the city’s more natural hazards the player’s are offered good paying, simple work: protect a river boat owned by the Aspis Consortium as it travels to its destination deep in the country’s jungle interior. How hard could it be?

Answer: hard.

The hazards are simple at first. Dangerous animals, bad weather, ship trouble and sickness. Players can triumph (or not) and get to know the ship’s crew. In time, the dangers begin to involve a group of jungle elves known as the Ekujae. As the players finally get their ship to its destination they are offered further work, protecting the colonial trade station from incursion and attack. But as the skirmishes with the Ekujae continue, and the players get a chance to explore this trade station they’ll begin to wonder why the elves are so intent on destroying the Aspis Consortium. And how far both sides are willing to go to put an end to the other. However deep your players are willing to delve into the mysterious rivalry, one thing’s for sure, choosing a side won’t be easy–if they decide to at all. As the violence escalates, the players could be major players, or get caught in the crossfire. Should they side with the Aspis? The Ekujae? Try to broker peace? Abandon them both? Only protect themselves? This module leaves that decision firmly in the hands of the players. And the hardest route of all? That of peace.

Not an easy module to run (and not an adventure for everyone), River Into Darkness tops my list for the five best d20 adventures that heavily involve or focus on prejudice. If you don’t own it, you can pick up River into Darkness by clicking the link below.

‘River into Darkness’ by Greg A. Vaughan (2008-04-22)

What did you think of the adventures? Have you played any? Did any tickle your fancy? Do you have a favourite adventure that would fit that I missed? Let me know what you think of d20 Diaries or this article in the comments below!

Now go get those dice rolling!

Jessica