It’s summer vacation here, so my kids and I are trying to fill our time with as much swimming and trips to the park as possible. They each set themselves a few goals this summer, so we’ve been working on that. My son wanted to learn about robotics and make himself a robot. My daughter wanted to learn how to sew, make herself a stuffed rabbit, and learn how to bake. My son has had a lot of fun checking out books from the library, and trying to put together a robot from a little kit. He’s discovered that making robots takes precision and attention to detail — both of which he’s decided to needs to practise. There were a lot of points where he noticed he’d done something backwards because he wasn’t paying close enough attention. Still, with some help he made himself a cute little spider robot that can motor around a bit. It drains the battery like CRAZY though, so he’s decided the next one needs a better power source. He wants me to teach him about solar panels, which I am not afraid to admit is not my forte. Sounds like another trip to the library is in order! Haha.
My daughter’s sewing and baking lessons are going better. I told her we would not have time to make a stuffed rabbit this summer, but I have been teaching her sewing safety and some basic stitches. She’s constantly looking around the house for socks and clothes with rips in them so she can mend them herself. It’s adorable. She always loves helping with baking, but this summer she wanted to make something (almost) all on her own. She’s made a few batches of cookies that turned out well. She adores watching Nailed It, Sugar Rush, and Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix, so she was determined to enter a baking competition this summer. This past weekend she challenged some of our extended family to a bake-off for a family birthday party.
Everyone had to make a LEGO-themed cake. It had to include a bit of real LEGO on it somewhere, but otherwise, whatever you baked was up to you. She was positively thrilled everyone agreed, and set to work drawing cake plans. In the end she made a vanilla rainbow-chip cake with chocolate icing that she decorated to look like mud covered in grass. Then she stuck a big LEGO rabbit she built on top of it. My son baked a chocolate cake with chocolate icing that was in the middle of being demolished by LEGO construction workers, and I made a strawberry shortcake-style cake that was dyed inside to look like the cake was made of LEGO. So tasty. Other cakes were made to look like LEGO blocks, while my mother made a massive three-tiered cake covered with fondant work. Everyone had a great time and my kids were thrilled when some people voted their cakes the most creative, or tastiest. They really enjoyed tasting all the cakes and giving it their nit-picky judge’s remarks. They had a blast.
But, my kids aren’t the only ones with goals this summer. I’ve been working on not one, but four different freelancing assignments (currently top secret!), all of which are going really well. And of course, there’s the release of Pathfinder Second Edition! The game is highly intuitive, which makes it wonderfully easy to learn, but the Core Rulebook is a massive tome! It definitely takes a while to read through. Plus there’s the Bestiary, Hellknight Hill (Age of Ashes 1 of 6), The Fall of Plaguestone, and a whopping five Pathfinder Society Scenarios available already, which I’ve been trying to find the time to read.
We’ll be participating in an online gaming convention via play-by-post soon, which is hosted on Paizo’s message board. There’s a really welcoming community of people playing there, so if any of you are considering playing a game via play-by-post I highly recommend you sign up for the convention and give it a try. Play-by-post Gameday VIII begins on August 26th and runs until November 3rd. There’s still some room for players to join games, but there won’t be for long. For more information or to sign up for games, check out the announcement thread here! If you need guidance, assistance, or information about playing via play-by-post, stop by the Flaxseed Lodge, check out the helpful links at the top of the page, and make a post in the Discussion thread, letting everyone know what you need help with. There’s always people willing to lend a hand and help a new players get started.
Closer to home, this coming weekend my family and I will be attending Convocation, an annual Pathfinder and Starfinder Society convention in Winnipeg. We’ve signed up for a short demo game of Pathfinder 2e and PFS Scenario #10-16: What the Helms Hide on Saturday afternoon, followed by PFS #10-12: Breath of the Dragonskull on Sunday afternoon. Last time we played Pathfinder Society in person at a Con we all died a horrible death, so we’re hoping we have better luck this time! Haha. My kids are bringing some of their favourite characters, so wish us luck!
And after that…? My kids and I will be starting work on submissions for the upcoming issue of Wayfinder. For those of you who don’t know, Wayfinder is a digital magazine full of fan-created content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that releases each year at PaizoCon. Over the years they’ve made an astounding 19 issues of Wayfinder, as well as a Bestiary! Nearly every issue has a theme, with this latest one being Starfinder’s Absalom Station. This years topic is the Diaspora! Previous issues are all a free download on Paizo’s website. Everyone is welcome to submit an article to Wayfinder — a fact my children were thrilled to take advantage of last year — and I highly recommend any of you interested in getting into freelance RPG writing give it a shot. Just download a few back-issues, give them a read to see what kind of content they’re looking for, then head over to the Call for Submissions for full details. This year, my kids have decided to submit more than one article, so they’re already wracking their brains for ideas. My daughter, in particular, is thinking of more ways to include rabbits without actually being obvious about including more rabbits. This, of course, should surprise no one.
Well, I’ve got to run. My daughter is currently waving my new Core Rulebook at me, and mouthing the words ‘GOBLIN.’ Something tells me we’re making characters today…
Whew! Another busy week has come and gone and I feel like I’ve barely come up for air! This month is flying by! But, enough about chores, work, and responsibility! Let’s talk about something fun.
d20 games in the media.
(Around my house).
Every once in a while I mention we’ve seen an episode of a show or movie that references D&D in some way. Stranger Things is and obvious (and amazing) example. iZombie has a wonderful set of episodes that feature Dungeons and Dragons, and my kids had a blast watching Voltron’s ode to the game. Just the other day we saw another on one of our family’s favourite kids cartoons: Teen Titans GO! In case you’re unaware, the Teen Titans are a teenage super hero team created by DC comics. Back in 2003 they had an awesome cartoon that played on the Cartoon Network, and a few years ago they re-released a spin-off of the show as… well an inane comedy. They’re the same characters and the same voice actors, but the show is goofy, irreverent, and rarely features any actual crime fighting. It’s a comedy above all else, and my whole family loves it. Seriously! My favourite episode, ‘And the Award for Sound Design Goes to Rob’ (Season Two, Episode 48) involves silence taking over the world, and the Teen Titans making their own sound effects for everything. When dolphins say ‘Booya!’ and Beast Boy makes punches sound like a fart, you know you’re about to have some laughs. My kids were rolling on the ground in laughter. (Seriously). Anyway, there we were, enjoying some Teen Titans Go! when the episode ‘Riding the Dragon’ (Season 3 Episode 51) started. (Most of) The Teen Titans are enjoying a fantasy game where they attempt to ride a dragon, only to have Robin appear and tell them they’re not playing by the rules. He proceeds to force them to, and spends the entire episode sucking all the fun out of their D&D style game. It’s hilarious.
And then today? My kids had the chance to have their weird and wacky characters ride a dragon in game. They were so excited! They even started singing a song from the Teen Titans episode. The look of absolute joy on their faces was truly a delight. Special thanks to GM Dennis for giving them the opportunity! (Thanks!)
On a similar note, my kids finally discovered the glory of Critical Role! How? Why? …Beastmaster!
My kids saw a picture online of Terry Crews holding up a fake warhammer and roaring. Immediately they exclaimed: “Hey! I know that guy! He was a judge on Beastmaster! Let’s watch that!” (My daughter LOVES Ultimate Beastmaster). So we clicked play.
It was an episode of World of Warcraft themed CelebriD&D starring Terry Crews. (I imagine more than a few of you have watched it!). Long story short we gave it a try and my kids were enthralled! They thought it was hilarious. My son thought that Terry Crews’ character ‘Thodak the Blacksmith’ was the coolest, but my daughter loved Marisha Ray’s goblin ‘The Ritz.’ If you haven’t watched it (or any of the other CelebriD&D episodes) and you like that sort of thing I suggest you give it a shot. It was great fun. Of course, my kids have never played World of Warcraft, so when we finally finished watching all the CelebriD&D episodes we watched the World of Warcraft movie, which is currently on Netflix. My husband fell asleep (he’s recently given up coffee, so I wouldn’t hold that against the film), but the rest of us liked it.
We’ve been watching Paizo’s Twitch Channel recently. The Doomsday Dawn live play episodes look interesting, but I’ve yet to give them a try. Admittedly, I don’t have the time to watch them. Haha. I don’t watch anything live, but when I can find the time (usually while preparing vegetables for dinner or something) I put on a shorter video. I regularly watch the Pathfinder Friday episodes (which are a whole lot of Deconstructing Doomsday Dawn recently!). But my favourite? I ADORE Starfinder Wednesdays! May of the recent episodes preview the Against the Aeon Throne adventure path (and information related to it). Recently they started making episodes about different planets in the Pact Worlds. Eox was first. Then Aucturn. And tonight they’re going further afield to the planet Daimalko. Awesome! My kids even love sitting down to watch these ones. It’s such a great way to get the feel for the many planets across in an engaging way. I hope they keep it up!
Speaking of making gaming engaging, I recently stumbled upon the work of Craig Bailey, a GM who makes props to go along with his games. Most of them are from Starfinder’s Dead Suns adventure path and WOW! Are they ever amazing! Field notes, passports, news clips, and even mock websites where the players can attempt to sift through an NPCs emails! AWESOME! If you haven’t heard of him (and especially if you’re GMing Dead Suns) be sure to look him up on twitter or youtube!
I can’t even imagine the effort put into these ‘handouts.’
In other news (sort of) I read the Dragon+ Magazine whenever I have the time (which is rarely. Did I mention I’ve been busy lately? Haha). For those of you who don’t know it’s a free Dungeons and Dragons web-magazine you can view online or through the Dragon+ app. But, this last issue I made sure to make the time to give it a read. Why? RAVNICA!
As some of you may be aware, I don’t just plat d20 games. I love all kinds of games. Including collectible card games. And, although my kids love Pokemon, my game of choice is Magic: The Gathering. By far. Love it. I love the game, the art, the lore, the worlds… Everything except the COST! Haha. So when I heard that Dungeons and Dragons was joining forces with Magic: the Gathering and releasing a Ravnica campaign sourcebook I squealed in glee. Then I thought: “It’s about time!” Cause, really! They’re both Wizards of the Coast! Why did this take so long?!? D&D: Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is due out near the end of November, but is already available for preorder on amazon. Even better? At the time of posting it’s twenty dollars off the regular price. If only I had someone to buy it for! (Other than myself…).
Well, it took about a week, but Paizo’s website is finally up and running properly. Oh. Actually, it’s down again. Haha. Well, it was up for a day, at least. (You can do it, Paizo!).
It was strange, having my play-by-posts out of reach for so long. But, I got plenty of others things done. I got by house in order, helped my Mom move, and got my kids prepared for the new school year (which starts in another week and a half). I saw my youngest brother for his birthday. He asked for books and some socks, so I picked him up Naruto socks, Akasuki socks, and two books I thought he’d like: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which is also an awesome movie, by the way), and the first three books in The Legend of Drizzt series (Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn) by R. A. Salvatore. Drizzt’s origins are actually my favourite books he’s in, and my brother’s never read them. (Blasphemy! Haha). I think he’ll really like them. While we were shopping I found an awesome Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Coloring Book which I was super tempted to pick up for my kids (but didn’t). Maybe I’ll buy it for one of them for Christmas in a few months. Haha.
My daughter and I finished creating our newest Pathfinder Society characters, Croak and Sereia, whom we won race boons for, and my husband and son are about halfway done theirs. My daughter completed creating her second character for the Pathfinder Playtest adventure Doomsday Dawn, and I’ve just started mine. I got a lot of reading done, and have a few extra blog posts underway already. Be on the lookout for posts about Starfinder: Pact Worlds (I know, I’m slow, haha) and Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea in the coming days.
I never have time for video games anymore, but with my play-by-posts down my kids and I started playing one of my very favourite video games of all time: Chrono Cross for the PlayStation. I was a kid when I played it the first time, and it literally blew my mind. Twist after twist I was just… Stunned. It’s got time travel, alternate dimensions, death, life, fate, a ton of NPCs you can get to join your party (many of which you meet well before you can convince them to join you), and (perhaps the coolest part) halfway through the game, after rallying friends and allies to help you defeat the villain, you have an epic confrontation which culminates with the villain using a magical ritual to swap your minds around. Your mind goes into his body and his goes into yours. All of a sudden those friends and allies are hanging around with the villain, trying to fight you. And you? Well, at least you don’t have to worry about fighting all those minions of the villain anymore. Cause they’re yours now. Sort of. Haha. So, if all your good friends are doing the work of the bad guy now, and they think they’re still doing good, but you and the other villains are working to stop them, are they still good guys? As a kid, I was amazed. Haha. Anyway, I started the game, which made my kids want to try, so we each started our own file. They’ve already reached the first big twist in the game, and were so shocked. They concocted a whole lot of crazy theories in an effort to figure out what’s going on. It’s adorable to watch. It’s been fun. I definitely owe fellow play-by-poster PaleDim a shout out for getting the music from Chrono Cross stuck in my head the other day. (Thanks!)
My husband and kids have been watching Voltron since it launched on Netflix quite a while ago, so they took the opportunity to delve into the newest season. One of the episodes was absolutely hilarious. The characters play a mock version of Dungeons and Dragons called ‘Monsters and Mana’ which is just a blast. I particularly like the GMs in campaign twists, and that one of the characters just kept playing a paladin no matter how many times he died. The other characters kept pointing out that he was a paladin in real life, so maybe he should try something else, but he thought that was absurd. There’s nothing better than a paladin, after all! My kids, my husband and I were laughing so hard. If you ever get a chance to watch Voltron Season 6: Episode 3: Monsters and Mana you should definitely take it! (It’s from the remake on Netflix, in case that needed clarifying, not the original show from when my husband was a kid, haha.)
Recently my husband suggested we build our own starships out of LEGO for use in Starfinder starship battles , which we all thought was an awesome idea. I’ve always loved playing with LEGO, but I wouldn’t say I’m great at it. I’m more of a ‘follow the directions’ or ‘build a square house’ kind of girl. But, I took to the challenge with aplomb! Turns out I did a pretty good job! My kids made some really nice ones. But, my husband turned out to be the LEGO Master of the house. Most of our ships came out way too big, but we had a lot of fun.
Well, it’s time for me to sign off now. I’m at the local laundromat and my laundry’s almost done. I’ll leave you with some pictures of our wonderful LEGO starships!
I recently started watching iZombie (iZombie: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)) on Netflix. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a show about zombies that is currently starting its fifth season. Now, this isn’t some depressing ‘Walking Dead’ (The Walking Dead: Complete Series) type show (although I also love that…). It’s more like a funny cop/murder mystery show. Except if one of the main characters was a zombie who needed to feast on brains in order to retain her humanity. Oh, and she works in a morgue. It’s loosely based on the comics (iZombie Volume 1: Dead to the World) that were written by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, and published by Vertigo.
My husband and both thoroughly enjoy it, and are currently nearing the end of the third season. Anyway, we were watching last night and suddenly came upon an episode entitled “Twenty-Sided, Die” wherein our beloved zombie heroine devours the brains of a dungeon master in order to help solve his murder. It was a hilarious episode, and completely absurd, but halfway through she convinces her friends to play a session with her, in order to help stimulate memories of the deceased. So there they are, sitting at the table: four people attempting to humour their friend. One secretly wants to play, one’s there to give it a shot, and the other two would rather be doing anything else. By the end of their session nearly everyone has had a blast, and gotten right into it. At the end the episode one of the serious cop characters tells the zombie girl that she should run a game every week. It was just SO refreshingly entertaining.
Which got me thinking.
It’s rare you get to see d20 games featured in popular media. I adored this episode of iZombie, and of course, there’s plenty of wonderful Dungeons and Dragons cameos and references in Stranger Things (Stranger Things (Season 1: Collector’s Edition))). But where else have I seen good d20 references? I know there’s others out there, but I couldn’t recall any specific instances.
More than that, though, it brought back memories.
The first time you played a d20 game.
Trying to figure out the rules while you make your first character? Being a little nervous at first, as you figure out what you can and can’t do? Finding your voice? The laughter?The nerves?
The first time I made a character for Dungeons and Dragons I was in high school. A friend had insisted a big group of us make characters and get together to play. Most of my friends said no, but I was one of the few who said I would. A few years before that I had stumbled across a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook (3.5) in a bookstore and flipped through it. I wanted the book so bad, but had no idea what it was. I must have looked at it over the next twenty trips. Passing by, browsing, but never buying. Flash forward a few years and I suddenly went ‘A-ha! That’s how you use that book!’ I made myself a dual-wielding elven ranger with long red hair named Meloriel. We went to the store and browsed minis until I found the perfect one. And then…. Nothing. We never played.
It wasn’t until many, MANY years later that I finally had the opportunity to play again. This time I made a half-elven bard named Lorelei. My husband (we had just started dating at the time) played her boyfriend, a gnome illusionist named Blount who worked as her stage-hand. My brother played a fierce minotaur warrior, while co-workers of my brother and husband played a lizardfolk and a half-orc monk. It was DMed enthusiastically by another co-worker of my brother’s. The game wasn’t very long-lived, but it sure was fun. We immediately began buying the rulebooks and campaign settings. I got addicted to Dungeon Magazine. We went out and bought pewter miniatures, only to paint them ourselves with whatever we had on hand. I even cracked out my pencil crayons and drew my own character art. Sadly, the campaign came to an abrupt end when my husband and I went on a vacation, but we never lost our love of the game. We were hooked from that first roll of the dice!
In the years since we must have remade our characters at least three times. But, each time, they never get further than a few sessions into their tales. Maybe we’ll make them again one day. Perhaps as Pathfinder Society characters, or in a home game with my kids.
It’s funny, I suppose, that something as simple as playing a game for the first time can change your life so completely. But, here we are.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Have any stories to tell me about your first characters or first experiences playing a d20 game? Know any awesome shows or films that reference d20 gaming? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what you have to say.
I watched a strange little documentary last night on Netflix called Dwarvenaut that follows a little company called Dwarven Forge. Dwarven Forge isn’t new, they’ve been around for twenty years, in fact, but their product is new to me. They make game terrain. But not just any terrain! Oh, no. They make AMAZING game terrain.
The pieces look awesome, are easy to build with, are super durable and come entirely painted. The downside? Price! These are super expensive. Take into account the exchange rate and the absurd cost of delivery (they’re American, and I’m Canadian), and WOW! That is SO outside my budget.
Still, they look amazing. It’s definitely going on my Christmas List. Or birthday list. Or, the ‘when I win the lottery’ list…
My daughter and I spent a bit of this morning checking out their website, watching the videos and tutorials, and generally geeking out over them. Her solution? Buy them for my son for his birthday! Haha. Way to get what you want, without giving up your own gift, my dear!
Cheeky little thing.
You can check out these nifty products on their website: Dwarven Forge. Let me know what you think!
Already own some Dawrven Forge products? Cool! Let me know how you like it in the comments below!
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
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
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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!