September New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! Today we’re taking a look at September’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons & Dragons

September is a huge month for Dungeons & Dragons, with the release of a new adventure, associated accessories, two new children’s novels, and a board game expansion!

Up first? Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus ! Releasing September 17th, Descent into Avernus is an adventure that will take players from levels 1–13 as they travel from the infamous Baldur’s Gate into Avernus, the first layer of Hell! Releasing alongside it is Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus: Dice & Miscellany , which contains a dice tray, a really nice looking set of dice, map, and a variety of player and DM handouts.

Earlier this month the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit finally hit game-store shelves. This collection includes quickstart rules, character sheets, a dice set, DM screen, maps, a new adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, and more.

Dungeon Mayhem Expansion: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is the first expansion for the easy to play card game, Dungeon Mayhem, which my kids absolutely adore. With art by Jake Parker, the expansion includes two new decks featuring the ranger Minsc (with his miniature giant space hamster, Boo), and the shapeshifting druid Jaheira. This expansion went right onto my kids’ wish list for Christmas. For more information on Dungeon Mayhem check out our review of the game here.

Finally, at the start of this month two new kids novels were added to the Endless Quest lineup. Written by Matt Forbeck, Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts readers into the role of a cleric trapped in Count Strahd’s castle, and Endless Quest: The Mad Mage’s Academy casts readers in the role of a foolhardy thief set on stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself. What could go wrong?! For full details on the newest Endless Quest books check out our review on them here.


Pathfinder

Last month marked the launch of Pathfinder Second Edition, so there were a ton of new releases meant to welcome gamers into the new game system, include Pathfinder Core Rulebook (also available in a Deluxe Edition), Pathfinder Bestiary (also available in a Deluxe Edition), Lost Omens World GuideThe Fall of PlaguestonePathfinder Flip-Mat: The Fall of PlaguestonePathfinder Adventure Path 145: Hellknight HillPathfinder Adventure Path 146: Cult of Cinders, a whopping five new Pathfinder Society Scenarios, two GM Screens (landscape or portrait), Pathfinder Character Sheet PackPathfinder Combat Pad, and Condition Cards. That’s a TON of product!

This month may be slower, but there’s still plenty for fans to explore. The Age of Ashes Adventure Path continues with Pathfinder Adventure Path 147: Tomorrow Must Burn, written by Ron Lundeen and Stephanie Lundeen. There’s also the Pathfinder 2e Critical Hit Deck and three new Pathfinder Society Scenarios. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-04: Bandits of Immenwood is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by a colleague and friend of mine, Scott D. Young, Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-05: Trailblazer’s Bounty is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Tineke Bolleman, and Pathfinder Society Quest #2: Unforgiving Fire is a Tier 1–4 mini adventure written by Leo Glass.

Finally, Paizo has released a mini-adventure meant to be an introduction to Pathfinder Second Edition for new players and new GMs alike. Written by Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Torment and Legacy: A Pathfinder Second Edition Demo Adventure is available as a FREE download on their blog, here. I highly suggest you pick it up!

Pathfinder First Edition wraps up this month with the Tyrant’s Grasp Pawn Collection, and two new Pocket Editions: Bestiary 6 (Pocket Edition) and Villain Codex (Pocket Edition).

For maps this month check out Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Ambush Sites Multi-Pack, which looks really useful.


Starfinder

Last month’s Starfinder releases included Starfinder Adventure Path #18: Assault on the Crucible (finale to the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path!), Starfinder Adventure Path #19: Fate of the Fifth (beginning of the Attack of the Swarm! Adventure Path!), Starfinder RPG: Alien Archive 3, which contains over 100 new aliens, and over a dozen playable races, Starfinder Pawns: Tech TerrainStarfinder Flip-Mat: Ice World, and two delightful Starfinder Society Scenarios.

This month fans can get their hands on Starfinder Adventure Path #20: The Last Refuge (Attack of the Swarm! book 2 of 6), written by Mara Lynn Butler, Starfinder Flip-Mat: Starliner, and two new Starfinder Society Scenarios. Starfinder Society Scenario #2-07: Four for the First is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Thurston Hillman that introduces four potential candidates for First Seeker, while Starfinder Society Scenario #2-08: The Stumbling Society, Part 2: Sangoro’s Gifts is a Tier 5–8 scenario written by Kendra Leigh Speedling.


Third Party Publishers

Everybody Games

Everybody Games also added another entry into their popular and always entertaining ‘Pop Culture Catalog’ line of products for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Pop Culture Catalog: Infosphere Shows is written by George “Loki” Williams.

Monte Cook Games

Monte Cook Games released a free download that discusses how to include mature content in roleplaying games in a responsible manner, particularly in regards to content consent from your players. Consent in Gaming is written by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain.

Rogue Genius Games

Rogue Genius Games released the first of its Monster Omnicrons, a series of short one monster, two stat block, articles compatible with the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This month’s release is Monster Omnicron: Pyreborn, by Luis Loza!

Rusted Iron Games

Rusted Iron Games recently launched Tombstone, a gritty alternate history wild west setting compatible with Pathfinder Second Edition rules that pits PCs against monsters, magic, and The Blight, a terrifying infection from beyond the stars. A mixture of western, fantasy, and occult horror, it’s shaping up to be a fun and quirky twist on RPGs. This month adds another new ancestry to the line, with Ancestries of Tombstone: Centaur, by Andrew Mullen. Previous releases in this line include Ancestries of Tombstone: Chupacabra by Joshua Hennington, Ancestries of Tombstone: Jackalope by Jacob W. Michaels, and Ancestries of Tombstone: Rougarou by Dennis Muldoon, all of which are available on DriveThruRPG.


Root: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game


And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy

I’ve always loved interactive books that let the reader make decisions, so last year when Dungeons & Dragons released a series of four ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style children’s books, successfully relaunching the ‘Endless Quest’ series, I picked them up for my children right away. Written by Matt Forbeck, each of these four books cast you in the role of different classes, explored different iconic locations, and tied in with other Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. They were fun, exciting, filled with colourful characters, and featured a bigger sized font perfect for my children. My kids and I were impressed with the quality and content of these books.

Currently consisting of four books — Big TroubleEscape the UnderdarkInto the Jungle, and To Catch a Thief — the Endless Quest series is expanding on September 3rd, 2019 to include two more releases, Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy! We are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

But first, what is Endless Quest?

Endless Quest 2

Endless Quest is a series of six ‘choose your own adventure’ style novels aimed at middle-grade readers (eight to twelve year olds). My kids are seven and eight years old, placing them at the young end of the intended audience. To Catch a Thief lets your kids (or you!) be a halfling rogue, Into the Jungle casts you in the role of a dwarf cleric, Escape the Underdark lets you play as a human fighter, Big Trouble lets you play as an elf wizard, Escape from Castle Ravenloft lets you play as a cleric, and The Mad Mage’s Academy lets you play as a rogue. While reading the book your character’s gender — and often their race — has no bearing on perspective or story. It’s invisible, honestly. Only the image on the front reveals your gender. Which is awesome! Both of my kids immediately assumed the character was just like them, irrelevant of the cover image, slipping into the role without hesitation.

Each book is exactly 122 pages long. Most of the pages are filled completely with text and images (no wasted pages here!), and both of my kids found the font size comfortable. All of the books contain a lot of awesome artwork. Some images are in full colour — typically locations or a main character/villain — while the rest are in sepia tones. You’ll find images of allies, enemies, items, equipment, scenery, and locations. Some of the images in the earlier books are even tactical maps, which everyone in the house enjoyed examining, although the two newest books do not contain any maps. Some of the images are on the gory or creepy side, and both of the new books are quite suspenseful.

Each of the Endless Quest books follows a different kind of story, features different main characters with unique motivations and personality traits, involves different situations and enemies, and takes place in vastly different locations. You’ll get to visit actual places from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, both on a large and small scale, which fans of D&D will love. Each book also has cameos from known D&D personalities (including Elminster, Volo, and Xanathar, to name a few, with the new books featuring Count Strahd von Zarovich and Halaster, the Mad Mage). The decisions you get to make are important. Common choices include deciding which way to go, how you choose to deal with other characters, and how you react to situations. Each of the books has ways to ‘win,’ to happily survive but fail, to survive but fail horribly, and to die. The number of these outcomes varies between each book, with the most deadly having more than half of its endings fatal. None of the deaths are graphic, and many are suggested more than described. Some of the endings are quite abrupt, and if you make poor decisions right from the start your story could be over in only a few pages. But, that’s to be expected in books of this kind. The first four books in the series feature some very hard to pronounce names, although the two newest didn’t, which my kids found an improvement. In the earlier books battle was nearly always fatal, although the two newest books allow you to fight and win at least half the time, which made your adventurer seem much more capable. My kids loved this! Particularly because one of the two newest books are the spookiest of the series, and being able to overpower some of the opponents made my kids feel more in control, and less scared.

endless-quest.jpg

Escape from Castle Ravenloft is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Adam Paquette, Autumn Rain Turkel, Ben Oliver, Brynn Metheney, Chris Seaman, Claudio Pozas, Conceptopolis, Baarken, Eric Belisle, Jedd Chevrier, Jesper Ejsing, Kiernan Yanner, Lake Hurwitz, Lars Grant-West, Mark Behm, Milivoj Ceran, Richard Whitters, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Vincent Dutrait, Vincent Proce, Wayne England, Zack Strella, and Zoltan Boros. Cover illustrations are by Eric Belisle, Mark Behm, and Ben Oliver.

Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts you in the role of a cleric of Tyr, god of justice. Originally from Waterdeep, you character finds themselves in the mist-shrouded, gothic realm of Ravenloft where you catch the eye of the infamous vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich. The story begins with you awakening in a bedroom in his castle, bereft of all your gear except for your holy symbol. Count Strahd welcomes you to his castle, informing you that you’ll be staying indefinitely as his guest. Not wanting to become his vampire spawn or dominated thrall, your character will need to find a way to escape Castle Ravenloft alive. This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Curse of Strahd.

My kids both agreed that this was the spookiest of the books. They were on the edge of their seats the entire time, slinking through eerily silent halls, peeking into dark chambers, and desperately hoping they don’t run into any vampires or werewolves. They squealed in surprise quite a bit — in a good way — and decided they did not want to read this book near bedtime. Haha. It’s a light horror story that my kids really enjoyed. However, it is definitely the scariest Endless Quest book to date, so it will not be for everyone.

This was a bit of a deadly book, but also had quite a few ‘successful’ endings. The majority of the endings involving dying trapped within the castle, a good number involving dying during or after your escape, a few endings leave you trapped within the castle but alive, and a good number result in your escape and survival. Despite its lethality, both of my kids adored it.

There’s a few different characters for you to interact with during the course of the book, two of which my kids really enjoyed — the clockwork jester Pidlwick and a naive young woman called Gertruda. Most of the time my kids were invested in trying to save themselves and figure out which characters were trustworthy and which would betray them. But, after the introduction of Gertruda, their priorities changed, and they became determined to save both her and themselves. Some of the endings involving Gertruda give you difficult decisions to make, such as putting yourself in danger and potentially missing your chance to escape in order to save an innocent — or not! My kids agonized over that a bit, but never chose to abandon the girl — unless they were sifting through the book to try to find the endings they missed.

Although there’s a lot of cool places to explore in this book, it all takes place in and around Castle Ravenloft, meaning there is very little drastic changes of scenery. My son’s favourite part of the book involved combating minor undead with his holy symbol and strength of faith, which always made him feel very proud. He also really liked an ending where you escape the castle but get transformed into a werewolf. My daughter, who has a terrible fear of werewolves, did NOT like that ending at all. Instead, her favourite parts of the book involved interacting with the traitorous Pidlwick!

The Mad Mage’s Academy is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Allen Douglas, Andrew Mar, Bryan Syme, Chris Seaman, Christopher Moeller, Clint Cearley, Conceptopolis, Cynthia Sheppard, Cyril Van Der Haegen, David Palumbo, David Vargo, Emily Fiegenschuh, Eric Belisle, Ilya Shipkin, Jason Juta, Jim Pavelec, John Stanko, Kiernan Yanner, Kurt Higgins, Michael Berube, Olga Drebas, Scott Murphy, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Wayne England, and Zelda Devon. Cover illustrations are by Cynthia Sheppard, Jesper Ejsing, and Titus Lunter.

The Mad Mage’s Academy casts you in the role of a thief tasked with stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself, Halaster Blackcloak. You’ll need to pose as a student at Halaster’s magic academy, locate and steal the spell book, and escape — all without getting caught! This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

This book involves a lot of subterfuge, interacting with other characters, lies, and betrayal — both from you and the people you meet along the way! My kids really enjoyed this, and were often surprised at the results of their choices. There were lots of interesting characters to interact with, including the mind flayer Cephalossk, tiefling sisters Violence and Turbulence, and the night hag Wormriddle. Both of my kids favourite character was Spite, a child wizard protected by a half-ogre named Dumara (or so they first appear…).

Of all the Endless Quest books to date, The Mad Mage’s Academy felt like the least deadly. Although over half of the endings left you dead and without one of the multiple spell books hidden throughout the academy, the rest all involved your survival, with about half of those also letting you escape with one of the spell books. Much like Escape from Castle Ravenloft, this book all takes place within a single complex, so there’s not much variation in the locations you can visit.

My son’s favourite part about this book was interacting with Cephalossk, and seeing all of the cool traps and magical defences you can come up against your quest for the spell books. My daughter’s favourite parts of this book was interacting with Spite, a wide variety of the ‘escape with the spell book’ endings, and an ending that allows you to take over the academy, which she thought was amazing.

Both my kids and I really enjoyed the Endless Quests books. I highly recommend them for any kids who have an interest in fantasy novels, adventure novels, choose your own adventures, or tabletop RPGs. They’re engaging, variable, and a ton of fun, with each book very different from the others. Fans of D&D will particularly enjoy all the famous places you can visit and people you can meet. Best of all? My kids have read and re-read these books over and over again. They’re going to see a lot of use.

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and Endless Quest: The Mad Mage’s Academy are scheduled for release on September 3rd, 2019.

My family and I would like to give a special thank you to Penguin Randomhouse Canada, for providing us with advance copies for review.

Jessica

 

August New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! August 2019 is a crazy month for d20 releases, so buckle up! We’re in for one exciting ride!


Dungeons & Dragons

Although there’s no big D&D releases this month, highlights from last month include the first two releases in the Young Adventurer’s Guide line: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons! Both of my kids are huge fans of these books. For more information check out our review on the Young Adventurer’s Guides here.


Pathfinder

Last month marked the finale of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path with Pathfinder Adventure Path 144: Midwives to Death by John Compton. This was the final Pathfinder First Edition adventure to be released. But, as First Edition comes to an end, Second Edition begins. And WOW, there is a LOT of Pathfinder Second Edition products coming out this month!

First and foremost: The Core Rulebook (also available in a Deluxe Edition). This massive 638 page tome contains (almost) everything you need to get started playing Pathfinder Second Edition. With a highly intuitive gameplay system, and incredibly varied character development choices that can be made at every level, Pathfinder Second Edition is shaping up to be absolutely awesome. We’ve just finished reading the rules and can’t wait to get started playing some mini-adventures. GMs, like myself, will also need one other book to play: Bestiary! The Bestiary (also available in a Deluxe Edition) is 357 pages long and contains over 400 creatures with dynamic and diverse abilities. Coming out later this month is another hardcover I’m particularly excited for, Pathfinder Lost Omens World Guide, which advances Golarion’s timeline ten years and shows us what’s happening throughout ten mega-regions of the Inner Sea Region. There’s plenty of changes coming, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.

The start of this month saw the launch of the first Pathfinder Second Edition Adventure Path: Age of Ashes! The first volume, Pathfinder Adventure Path 145: Hellknight Hill, is written by Amanda Hamon, while the second volume, Pathfinder Adventure Path 146: Cult of Cinders, is written by Eleanor Ferron. The first stand-alone Second Edition Adventure, The Fall of Plaguestone, is written by Jason Bulmahn.

Other Pathfinder Second Edition releases include Pathfinder GM Screens (available in landscape or portrait), Pathfinder Character Sheet PackPathfinder Combat Pad, and Pathfinder Condition Cards.

Maps this month include Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Urban Sewers Expansion, Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Hamlet, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: The Fall of Plaguestone. Fans looking for a deluxe gaming experience can check out Dwarven Forge’s Plague Stone series of terrain, which just went up for pre-sale.

Finally, this month brings us five Pathfinder Society Scenarios! Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-00: Origin of the Open Road, written by Ron Lundeen, is an introductory adventure that takes place in Quantium and is intended for level five pregenerated characters. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-01: The Absalom Initiation, written by Lyz Liddell, is a repeatable scenario designed for Tiers 1–4 that takes place in Absalom. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-02: The Mosquito Witch, written by Eleanor Ferron, is a Tier 1–4 scenario that tasks the PCs with tracking down a cryptid in the River Kingdoms. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-03: Escaping the Grave, written by Adrian Ng, is a Tier 1–4 scenario that sends the PCs on a rescue mission to the Gravelands. Finally, Pathfinder Society Quest 1A: Sandstone Secret, written by Linda Zayas-Palmer, is a short, one-hour repeatable quest that takes place in Osirion.


Third Party (Pathfinder 2e) Releases

It may be new, but there’s already plenty of exciting Third Party Publisher releases for Pathfinder Second Edition. Although we haven’t had a chance to read many, below are a few we’re particularly excited for.

Everybody Games

Everybody Games has two issues of their ‘Files for Everybody’ line out. Issue 1: Nashi, by Alex Augunas, brings raccoon-folk to Second Edition, while Issue 2: Acrobatics Feats, by Dustin Knight, contains ten new General Acrobatics Skill feats.

Fat Goblin Games

Fat Goblin Games has two great looking products already out. Fellow Travellers: Animal Companions by Taylor Hubler contains over fifty new animal companions, while Game Changer: Alchemical Tools by Matt Roth contains over one hundred new or expanded alchemical tools from levels one through twenty.

Rusted Iron Games

Rusted Iron Games recently launched Tombstone, a gritty alternate history wild west setting compatible with Pathfinder Second Edition rules that pits PCs against monsters, magic, and The Blight, a terrifying infection from beyond the stars. A mixture of western, fantasy, and occult horror, it’s shaping up to be a fun and quirky twist on RPGs. Current releases in this line include Ancestries of Tombstone: Chupacabra by Joshua Hennington, Ancestries of Tombstone: Jackalope by Jacob W. Michaels, and Ancestries of Tombstone: Rougarou by Dennis Muldoon, all of which are available on DriveThruRPG. Upcoming releases include more ancestries, and class feats. My daughter has decided to make at least five jackalope characters — one for each heritage — so my PDF is proving well worth the money.


Starfinder

Although Pathfinder Second Edition is drawing a lot of attention, the Starfinder team is not to be outdone! This month’s releases include Starfinder Adventure Path 18: Assault on the Crucible (finale to the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path!), Starfinder Adventure Path 19: Fate of the Fifth (beginning of the Attack of the Swarm! Adventure Path!), and Starfinder RPG: Alien Archive 3, which contains over 100 new aliens, and over a dozen playable races.

Other Starfinder releases include Starfinder Pawns: Tech Terrain and Starfinder Flip-Mat: Ice World. Starfinder Society Scenarios include #2-05: Meeting of Queens, a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Kiel Howell that involves the formians of Castrovel, and Starfinder Society Scenario #2-06: The Stumbling Society, Part One: Sangoro’s Lament, a Tier 5–8 scenario written by Mike Kimmel that delves into abandoned Exo-Guardian’s fortress of Sangoro’s Bulwark.


WizKids

And finally, WizKids! This month saw the launch of the Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures Preview Pack, an 8 miniature sneak peak of the upcoming Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures miniatures. Later this month D&D: Icons of the Realms: Baldur’s Gate: Descent in Avernus is scheduled to launch! This set of random booster boxes features 45 different plastic pre-painted miniatures.


And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

Review: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons!

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

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

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

Young Advendturer's Guide

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

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

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

Young Adventurers Guides

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

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


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

Monsters & Creatures - Inside Cover

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

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

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

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

The verdict:

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

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

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

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

Warriors & Weapons


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

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

Gnome

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

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

Survival Gear

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

The verdict: 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Jessica

 

July New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! Summer is here and a plethora of new gaming products are hitting shelves! Check out this month’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons & Dragons

Last month’s exciting releases include Dungeons & Dragons: Acquisitions Incorporated and Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! The Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit is scheduled to release at Target this month, but other retailers won’t be selling it until September.

A new series of Dungeons and Dragons books aimed at children is launching this month. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler, and published by Ten Speed Press (a part of the Crown Publishing Group). The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons. There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D. My kids and I are incredibly excited to be in possession of advance copies of both of these books, which we’ll be posting a full review on within the next few days. We can’t wait to share them with you!


Pathfinder

Highlights from last month’s releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 143: Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza and Pathfinder Pawns: Enemy Encounters Pawn Collection. This month’s most exciting Pathfinder release is Pathfinder Adventure Path 144: Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) by John Compton. This adventure wraps up the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path and is the final Pathfinder First Edition adventure to be released. Also out this month is  Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Druma: Profit and Prophecy.

This month’s Pathfinder Society Scenario is #10-23—Passing the Torch, Part 2: Who Speaks for the Ten, a Tier 12-18 scenario that is the sequel to last month’s  #10-22—Passing the Torch, Part 1: Who Wears the Mask. Together with Pathfinder Society Special #10-98: Siege of Gallowspire, these three scenarios are the grand finale to Pathfinder Society Organized Play for Pathfinder First Edition.


Starfinder

Last month’s Starfinder releases include Starfinder Adventure Path: Solar Strike (Dawn of Flame 5 of 6) by Mark Moreland and the Starfinder Rules Reference Cards Deck. Although I expected Starfinder Adventure Path: Assault on the Crucible (Dawn of Flame 6 of 6) to release this month, it’s been delayed until August.

Last month marked the start of the second season of the Starfinder Society, Year of a Thousand Bites, with #2-01: The Pact World Warriors and #2-02: Waking the Past. This month’s scenarios are #2-03: The Withering World and #2-04: Future’s Fall. #2-03: The Withering World is a series of five repeatable quests for Tier 1-4. The quests are written by Arc Riley, Jennifer Povey, Rigby Bendele, Shahreena Shahrani, and myself! This project was an absolute blast to be a part of and I can’t wait to see it hit game tables at the end of the month! #2-04: Future’s Fall is a Tier 7-10 scenario by Matt Duvall that takes players back to Salvation’s End!


And that’s it for this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

 

Chronicle of Legends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shop smart!

Jessica

 

Review: Tyrant’s Grasp: Last Watch

Today we’re taking an in depth look at the third book in the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path! This survival horror campaign pits the players against the return of the Whispering Tyrant, the lich-king Tar-Baphon, who was defeated and sealed away long ago. Tyrant’s Grasp will be the final Pathfinder 1st Edition Adventure Path released before the switch is made over to Pathfinder 2nd Edition in August. Intended to take characters from levels 1 to 17, Tyrant’s Grasp is six volumes long.

Tyrant's Grasp - Player's GuideA wonderful Player’s Guide for Tyrant’s Grasp is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here. The Player’s Guide gives players a relatively spoiler-free way to properly prepare for and integrate their characters into the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. I highly recommend checking it out.

It should be noted that the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path is not for everyone. Terrible tragedies will occur and you won’t always be able to prevent them. These events are bound to have a lasting effect on your characters, so players should be prepared to consider and role-play the marks left by the trials you face. Depending on the generosity of your GM you could be in dire situations with limited resources, so players will need to be resourceful to survive. Plenty of the imagery and events in this adventure are dark, morbid, and sorrowful. Although I wouldn’t call all of the volumes in this series horror adventures,  some are — though not your typical horror. I’d call it… a morbid tragedy. There’s plenty of undead, necromancers, and disaster. It’s definitely not a campaign to play with kids or if you’re looking for a light-hearted game.

Tyrant's Grasp - Last Watch CoverLast Watch is the third volume of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. Written by Larry Wilhelm, this is an adventure intended for 8th-level characters, which should bring PCs up to level 11 by its conclusion. This adventure begins when the PCs arrive in Lastwall’s capital of Vigil, intent on telling the Knight of Ozem what’s happened in Roslar’s Coffer. Luckily, their arrival coincides with the Whiteblade festival, making it easy to gain an audience with a wide variety of government officials, military officers, and other important people. All that’s left it to tell them your tale.

Right?

Yeah, not so simple. Haha.

As with the other volumes in this adventure path, Last Watch looks great. From cover to cover it’s a high quality book filled with nice maps and beautiful, dark artwork. The cover depicts Yosiduin, an elven antipaladin, in the foreground. Behind him is an image of Yoon (the iconic kineticist) and Imrijka (the iconic inquisitor) battling a gnome and some thugs in the streets of Vigil. Both images are by Igor Grechanyi. There’s a nice map of The Gravelands (Lastwall and parts of Ustalav) on the inside cover again, as there has been with the previous volumes. There’s a lot of awesome artwork throughout the book — mostly of humanoid allies and enemies. Interior artists include Yanis Cardin, Hai Hoang, Joel Holtzman, Oksana Kerro, Valeria Lutfullina, Dave Melvin, and Firat Solhan. I particularly enjoyed the art for Cleverquill, pest drakes, and the many NPC portraits. The maps, all drawn by Matthias Rothenaicher, are really nice. They look great, of course, but they’re also well thought out and executed. unfortunately, some of the map rooms are too close to the binding, which makes them difficult to see. Also, one important room is partially cut off by the page’s decorative border. Unfortunate!

Kellen ShayleeIn terms of content, Last Watch is a diplomatic mission, investigation, and exploration.  PCs will need to convince the powers that be in Vigil that something horrible happened in Roslar’s Coffer and that Vigil needs to prepare for the worst. Of course, your PCs tale is rather far fetched… The PCs will need proof to go along with their words. The adventure is rather free form at the start but, as the PCs uncover clues that will lead them to further discoveries and encounters, the adventure becomes more linear.

Vigil is a great location to adventure in and this book did a good job of conveying atmosphere and populace through encounters and short descriptions. That said, the city isn’t fleshed out very much in this book, and I wish it was. I highly recommend GMs give Pathfinder Chronicles: Cities of Golarion a read if they own it, as it contains a ten-page gazetteer on Vigil which can be used to really make this place shine. Either way, this is a great time to let players explore, make friends, forge alliances, rest, properly equip themselves, and generally enjoy being among the living while they go about their duties.

Last Watch has a more balanced array of encounter types than it’s predecessor did. It begins heavy on the social encounters, then quickly transitions to heavy on combat encounters, before finishing with a welcome mix of both. Throughout the course of the book there’s chances for different skills and different character types to shine. The combats were interesting, but it’s those in the final chapter that I particularly enjoyed. I like the social encounters a lot, both in the beginning and end of the adventure, although I think some groups will flounder a bit with the beginning. GMs will need to pay close attention to their player’s behaviour to determine if more guidance is required. Personally, I think I’d have a lot of fun with it. But, again, it’s the social encounters in the final section of this adventure that really shine.


And now it’s time for a warning:

We’ve got more to say about this adventure, but it’ll come with spoilers! Don’t want to read them? Skip on past this next section until you see the large words ‘SPOILERS OVER.’ Got it? Good! See you on the other side!


SPOILERS

Last Watch is split into three major parts: Explosive Tidings, Into the Undercity, and Grim Dawn. The adventure is 53 pages in length with six pages afterwards dedicated to three NPCs: Ceto Malderra, a famous crusader who’s not what she seems (and has amazing artwork!); Kilibrandt Erstwhile, a gnome entrepreneur and criminal; and Yosiduin, an elven antipaladin and leader of the local Seal-Breaker cell.

Evark NoxPart One: Explosive Tidings begins with the PCs entering Vigil during a holiday with the intent of informing the Knights of Ozem what’s happened to Roslar’s Coffer. But no one believes them! Obviously. Their story sounds crazy. It’s awesome. Haha. PCs will have opportunities to approach a variety of different authority figures and try to convince them to believe their outlandish tales. In most cases the PCs will need more evidence, which could frustrate some players and groups. But, with work, PCs should be able to win over some of the dignitaries. Doing so can earn your PCs rewards, allies, and have an effect on the final chapter of this adventure.

Figuring out where to start your hunt for evidence is a bit more troublesome. Although many groups will know which clues they have of merit, make the right connections, and tug on the right threads, some won’t. Those groups will likely be lost and get a bit frustrated. GMs should be prepared to improvise and throw in a bit more clues or rumours at the start of the investigation process if needed. All in all, I like the places the investigation goes and what drives it.

CleverquillPart Two: Into the Undercity begins when the PCs investigation leads them into the sewers beneath Vigil, where they’ll take on the Seal-Breakers in their base of operations, an abandoned temple of Arazni. This location is dark and haunted, and there’s more than one way for the players to explore it, which is really nice. But, who are these Seal-Breakers, anyway? In short, they’re an evil cabal intent on freeing the Whispering Tyrant in order to acquire a really old book he had in his possession when he was sealed away. Yes, a book. And yes, the founder of this group is the person who borrowed the book to the Whispering Tyrant. Sure, it might seem a little weird, and yes, founding a cult and unleashing an undead tyrant is a rather drastic step to get your evil book back, but it’s a really special book. With it the Seal-Breakers hope to do even worse things, like unleash Rovagug and destroy Golarion. Fun stuff! All humour aside, I like this part of the adventure. The location is appropriately atmospheric, the battles are challenging, and the villains are properly… villainous! The PCs are going to figure out a lot in their time here, particularly in regards to what’s happened to Roslar’s Coffer, what’s driving this adventure path, and what’s at stake if they fail. They’re going to learn about the Whispering Way, the Whispering Tyrant, and how he destroyed Roslar’s Coffer. They’ll learn a bit about the Seal-Breakers, what this group was doing in Vigil, and that they intend to free the Whispering Tyrant, but they won’t learn enough to know their ultimate aims and goals of the Seal-Breakers. It’s likely the group will come off as a militant ally of the Whispering Way –– which is exactly how the Seal-Breakers like it! (More on Seal-Breakers later!)

But, what I like best about this section of the adventure is the twist ending… Your PCs have fought long and hard to find the evidence they need to convince the city’s officials to trust them. They’ve scoured the city for clues, tracked down a gang, descended into the stinky sewers, and fought of a cult of violent fanatics, and now –– finally! –– they have what they need.

Suddenly there’s a muffled sound echoing down from the city above…. Was that an explosion? The ceiling shakes…

Geist

Part Three: Grim Dawn begins when the PCs exit the sewers after taking on the Seal-Breakers. They emerge to find Vigil destroyed…

Which is awesome! Horrible! But, awesome! This is such a great gaming moment that will be much more meaningful if the players have had time to get to love Vigil, so be sure to play that up while you can!

Now, Vigil is a big city, and the death toll is absolutely devastating, but there are a few pockets of survivors. In this section of the adventure the PCs explore the ruins of Vigil –– which has clearly suffered the same fate as Roslar’s Coffer –– fight off undead abominations, and meet up with the survivors. They’ll see some familiar faces and be happy to realize that their efforts did do some good, even if it didn’t save the city. There’s a direct correlation between the number of survivors in Vigil and how much the PCs managed to convince the various authority figures in Part One that the threat to this city was real. Although it’s not mentioned until the end of the chapter, GMs should definitely take the time to highlight this the entire way through!

The PCs need to rally these survivors, hatch a plan, and bring this group to meet up with another group of survivors. Together they’ll have to attack a terrifying foe that’s intent on ensuring no one leaves Vigil alive. If they can accomplish this the PCs can escape Vigil with their fellow refugees and live to fight another day.

In addition to the Last Watch adventure, this volume contains three articles and a bestiary containing five new creatures. All three articles are intended for GMs, but only one needs to be kept secret from players: Seal-Breakers, by Greg A. Vaughan. This article takes an in-depth look at the history and goals of the Seal-Breakers, it’s founders, members, and structure. It also mentions some places the Seal-Breakers are active and what their goals are in those locations.

SPOILERS OVER


There are two other articles in the book’s backmatter that players can hear about without it affecting the adventure. The first article, Into the Void, is written by Patchen Mortimer. It details the Negative Energy Plane, exploring its locations, ecology, denizens, and threats. This has always been a plane that I’ve considered pretty hard to wrap my head around. How does one adventure in a place that’s the antithesis of life? But, this article did a great job of making it a potential adventure location. It’s still horribly dangerous, but as a player and GM it seems a lot more accessible now. Really great job!

Into the Void

The final article is Relics of the Shining Crusade by Alexander Augunas. As the name implies, this article details some relics –– magical objects that can improve under certain conditions when utilized by PCs. The included relics are all objects from Lastwall that were used in the wars against the Whispering Tyrant, and are great options for dropping into the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. Keep in mind that the triggering conditions that can cause these objects to improve should be kept hidden from players.

Relics of the Shining Crusade

The Bestiary is up next! It contains a random encounter chart and four special encounters, all suitable for use in the third part of Last Watch. There’s also eight new creatures written by Mike Headley, Isabella Lee, Meagan Maricle, Kendra Leigh Speedling, and Larry Wilhelm. Five of them are featured in the Last Watch adventure. Creatures include Lifeleecher mortic, a CR 8 mortic based off of orcs; pallid angel, a CR 12 evil outsider blessed by Urgathoa that’s a mockery of the angels they appear to be; pest drake swarm, a CR 9 swarm of colourful little dragons; sceazir, a CR 9 outsider from the Negative Energy Plane; sump steward, an intelligent plant that nurtures the growth of other plants (and my personal favourite of the new monsters); and finally, three swarms and troops of undead: the CR 10 clacking skull swarm, CR 7 barrier breaker troop, and the CR 9 sodden draugr troop.

Pest Drakes
Pest Drakes from the Last Watch Bestiary

Which brings us to the end of  Last Watch by Larry Wilhelm! I think this is an absolutely awesome adventure that packs an emotional punch. I enjoyed it start to finish, but it’s the entire final chapter and the ominous foreshadowing of terrible tragedies that really makes this adventure special. GMs willing to put in the work to make Vigil and it’s people shine will definitely be rewarded!

Tyrant’s Grasp continues with Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) by Crystal Frasier, Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza, and Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) by John Compton. You can also check out a previous blog post I wrote on Tyrant’s Grasp before its release here, or our review of The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6) and Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer (Tyrant’s Grasp 2 of 6).

Thanks for joining us today!

Jessica