May New Releases

May is here and plethora of new gaming products are hitting shelves! Check out this month’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons is releasing two very exciting products this month. Stranger Things D&D Roleplaying Game Starter Set contains everything players need to get started playing D&D – a basic rulebook, an adventure, a set of dice, five character sheets, and an awesome enemy to face off against – all in a retro red box with a Stranger Things twist. The adventure is written in the style of Mike Wheeler, a character and DM from Stranger Things, and pits PCs against a mysterious castle and the Demogorgon! The pre-made character sheets feature the kids D&D characters from Stranger Things, including Dustin the Dwarf, Will the Wise, and so on. Finally, the set comes with two Demogorgon figures (one painted and one unpainted). You can watch Stranger Things on Netflix (I highly recommend it!).

Due out May 21, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a collection of seven nautical and coastal themed adventures that vary from levels 1-12. These adventures can be run separately, or combined by DMs into one larger campaign. The adventures contained in this volume are all previously published adventures, including some of the most popular first edition D&D adventures and some from Dungeon Magazine. Adventures in Ghosts of Saltmarsh include:

  • The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1981)
  • Danger at Dunwater (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1982)
  • The Final Enemy (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1983)
  • Isle of the Abbey (originally written by Randy Maxwell for Dungeon Magazine #34)
  • Tammeraut’s Fate (originally written by Greg A. Vaughan for Dungeon Magazine #106)
  • The Styes (originally written by Richard Pett for Dungeon Magazine #121)
  • Salvage Operation (originally written by Mike Mearls for Dungeon Magazine #123)

In addition to the adventures themselves there’s details on the port of Saltmarsh, mechanics for ship-to-ship combat, new monsters, and new magic items.

Launching next month is Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Currently available for pre-order on their website, the Sinister Silver Edition contains twelve high quality player handouts, a detailed ship map, a reusable ship map, two large scale battle maps, a map of the Styes, 30 encounter cards (which are designed to be hung over a DM screen so players can see images of the monsters they fight while the DM sees it’s statistics), custom DM screen, two objects, bonus encounters, and characters!


Pathfinder

Highlights from last month’s releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 141: Last Watch (Tyrant’s Grasp 3 of 6) by Larry Wilhelm, and Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Concordance of Rivals. This month’s releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 142: Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) by Crystal Frasier and Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends, which is the last Pathfinder Player Companion being released for Pathfinder First Edition. Said to include traits and relics that grow in strength with your PCs, feats to support characters who have prestige classes, magic items that gain new abilities when together as a set, and new capstone abilities for all classes! The Player Companion line is certainly going out with a bang! Definitely one I want to get my hands on. Pocket Editions are available this month for Ultimate Wilderness and Occult Adventures.

New maps out this month for Pathfinder include Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Tyrant’s Grasp Poster Map Folio and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Bigger Temple.

This month’s Pathfinder Society Scenarios have not yet been announced, although canny players can find them on the schedule for PaizoCon (which takes place later this month in Seattle). For more information on PaizoCon and to register for events head over to https://paizo.com/paizocon!


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Very exciting news, as this month the new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game in unveiled! Players can test it out in person at PaizoCon or pick up a copy at the end of the month. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set is the base game, which include all the rules, the Dragons Demand adventure series, and a ton of cards. They’re also releasing Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path which is designed to be mixed into the Core Set to create a whole new series of adventures. For more information on some of the changes you can expect to see in the newest version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game check out this post, or head straight to the source and check out Paizo’s blog!


Starfinder 

Highlights from last month’s Starfinder releases include Starfinder Adventure Path 15: Sun Divers (Dead Suns 3 of 6) by Joe Pasini and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box! For more information on the Starfinder Beginner Box you can check out the videos below:

You can also check out a liveplay utilizing the beginner box rules and starring members of Paizo’s staff here.

This month there’s Starfinder Adventure Path 16: The Blind City (Dawn of Flame 4 of 6) to look forward to, as well as Starfinder Flip-Mat: Spaceport. Starfinder Society Scenarios include #1-38: The Many Minds of Historia, a tier 5–8 scenario written by Lyz Liddell and #1-39: The Herald’s War, a tier 7–10 scenario by Mikko Kallio.


WizKids

WizKids releases some lovely products this month, primarily Pathfinder Battles: Ruins of Lastwall! This brand new set of pre-painted miniatures comes in blind booster boxes that contain four minis each – one large figure and three small or medium figures. In addition to buying a single standard booster box you can order a brick of boosters (which contains eight boosters) or a case of boosters (four bricks for a total of 32 boosters). Anyone who orders an entire case of boosters may also order Pathfinder Battles: Ruins of Lastwall: Cemetery of the Fallen Set which is a collection of graveyard themed set dressing! For images you can check out this blog post from last month, or head straight to the source and view the images on WizKids and Paizo’s blog.

Also out this month is Wave 3 of the Wardlings pre-painted miniatures. My kids and I absolutely adore this line of minis. Each one is interesting, highly detailed, and comes with one youthful adventurer and their pet. A few of the new releases also include male and female versions of eccentric adventurers (such as ghosts, goblins, and zombies), or a single large mini (such as a troll of treefolk).


Wayfinder

Wayfinder Fanzine is a free magazine of fan-created content that releases every year at PaizoCon. Typically filled with Pathfinder content, this years topic is Starfinder – more specifically, Absalom Station! Wayfinder #19 is due out later this month, and will be a free download on Paizo’s website. Although not currently on Paizo’s website, you can find all of the previous Wayfinder issues available, which I highly recommend you download and give a read.

My kids and I are particularly excited for this issue, as each of my kids created an alien that’s going to be featured in the magazine! I wrote a few articles as well (which is awesome!) but not nearly as impressive as my kids doing it. Haha. (Pardon my ‘proud mom’ bragging).


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

Happy shopping!

Jessica

 

Review: Tyrant’s Grasp: The Dead Roads!

Today we’re taking an in depth look at the first 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!

The Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path: The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6). Written by Ron Lundeen, The Dead Roads is an adventure intended for first level characters, which should bring PCs up to level five by its conclusion. This adventure begins when the PCs awaken already defeated in the Boneyard, a land where the dead go to be judged. There’s just one problem… They’re not quite dead. Trapped inside a tomb that doesn’t belong to them, they’ll need to escape, figure out what happened to them, and find a way to return home. But, how could one possibly escape the land of the dead?

Let me start by saying that The Dead Roads — and 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. Often you’ll 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. It’s definitely a horror campaign — though not your typical horror. It’s suspenseful survival horror, with a good deal of body horror in the first book, as well.  The Dead Roads contains imagery that is inappropriate for children and some adult gamers will even consider an image or two disturbing. It’s definitely not a campaign I could play with my family.

That said, I loved The Dead Roads. Absolutely, positively, adored it.

The Dead Roads Cover

For starters, it looks great. From cover to cover it’s a wonderful, high quality book filled with nice maps, and beautiful, dark artwork. The cover depicts Mictena (a catrina psychopomp the PCs are destined to interact with) in the foreground. Behind her is an image of Seelah (the Iconic paladin) and Yoon (the iconic kineticist) battling ostovites. Both images are by Igor Grechanyi. There’s a lovely map of The Gravelands (Lastwall and parts of Ustalav) on the inside cover. There’s a ton of artwork throughout the book — of enemies, allies, and characters who could become either. I particularly enjoyed the art for Prince Uspid and Mictena. Colulus was the most disconcerting image in the book. If any image is going to bug a squeamish player it’ll be that one. There’s a few characters that I wish had art but don’t (which is expected! Art’s not cheap and there’s only so much space!). Ayuki, in particular, would have been nice to see, as well as the jitterbone creature in the bestiary. The maps, all drawn by Matthias Rothenaicher, are really nice. They look great, of course, but they’re also well thought out, executed, and each has a unique feel to it. I particularly enjoyed ‘Roslar’s Tomb’ and ‘Deathbower.’ I wish that the maps of the various Dead Roads locations were given a bit more space, though. Squishing three multi-floor maps for three different locations onto one page is good for page count, but makes some of the maps difficult to read. Part of the eastern end of the ‘Palace of Teeth’ is nearly lost in the creases of the binding, while the entrance to ‘Salishara’s Scriptorium’ is hidden in the creases. If both of those maps were a few grid squares further to the left that would have been less of a problem. Finally, flipping back and forth  between the map page and the various locations depicted in it (which is spread out over 28 pages) is a bit irritating. Have a bookmark or post-it note handy and try not to tear your pages. Much to my surprise there was also two player handouts which represent puzzles the group comes across. I’m really glad they’re depicted instead of just described. They’re necessary and a really nice touch.

Maps in the Crease
Part of the maps lost in the creases.

The Dead Roads starts with a bang (HA!) and doesn’t let up. The entire opening has the feel of an ominous, suspenseful mystery. Your PCs don’t know where they are, how they got there, or what’s going on. Their locations hide clues to both their situation and the history of wider events, which the PCs may or may not be able to uncover. In time they will discover the answers to some of their questions, just as they realize it’s tied to an even bigger mystery.

There’s a lot of wonderful social encounters and NPCs in this adventure. Number Three, Barple Stonebreaker, Prince Uspid, Queen Carnassial, Kishokish and his portrait, Ayuki, Salighara, Berthold, the wyrwoods, Mrs. Pedipalp, Aydie, Reedreaper, Mictena — there’s just so many great interactions in this adventure! Among them, three particularly stand out amongst the crowd: interacting with the townsfolk of Roslar’s Coffer is poignant and amazing; speaking with Barzahk the Passage; and — my personal favourite characters — Umble and Thoot! This pair of friendly psychopomps are the best!

Many of the creatures and NPCs you come across don’t look friendly — which doesn’t mean they aren’t friendly. Of course, it doesn’t mean they are friendly, either. Which I love! Appearances have no bearing on what a creature acts like and I appreciate that this adventure used that so effectively. It’s bound to throw players for a bit of a loop and make them feel… off-kilter. Which is great!

There’s a lot of challenging encounters in this adventure and plenty of unique monsters to face off against. I particularly enjoyed that so many can end in ways other than violence. But, don’t let that last sentence lull you into a false sense of security! There’s a lot of combat encounters in this book that cannot be avoided.

And the ending! Oh, the ending! I love it! I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in this Adventure Path! I have a feeling Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer is going to be just as good.


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 where we’ll talk about the extra content in this book!


SPOILERS

The Dead Roads adventure is split into four major parts: Awake in Roslar’s Tomb, Among the Dead, Walking the Dead Roads, and Deathbower. One of these parts Walking the Dead Roads is particularly dense and is made up of three major locations: The Palace of Teeth, Nine-Eaves, and Salighara’s Scriptorium. All told The Dead Roads adventure is 52 pages in length with six pages afterwards dedicated to three NPCs: Mictena, Mrs. Pedipalp, and Reedreaper. All three of these are enemies the PCs will come across, but only one of them has to stay that way. The PCs have a chance to convince the other two to step aside without violence (although it’s extremely hard to accomplish for one of those two!).

Through this adventure the PCs will get to interact with psychopomps, a type of outsider native to the Boneyard who work to ensure that the processing of souls is done accurately and efficiently. Typically functioning as guides for the souls of the deceased, the psychopomps are confused over what to do about the mysterious PCs. Some will help them along their way (especially the delightful Umble and Thoot!) , and others with hinder them — particularly Mictena, a catrina psychopomp obsessed with putting the PCs spirits properly to rest. Through a good thorough death, of course! Psychopomps aren’t the only enemies and NPCs the players will interact with. The Boneyard is a huge realm, and there’s plenty of creatures living/stranded/invading there. Other major groups of enemies include fey, vermin, sakhil, and nightmarish beings from the Dimension of Dreams.

Fittingly, The Dead Roads begins with death. Lots of it. The entire town of Roslar’s Coffer has been destroyed in one terrifying instant. Including the PCs. I’ll leave the details out of this article, but suffice to say this will have a lasting effect on your players and their characters. Any family, friends, and companions — pets included — that lived in Roslar’s Coffer are dead. Although it might be tempting to warn some players about this in advance, that also will ruin some of the surprise and likely result in players purposely making no personal connections to the town of Roslar’s Coffer — which would be a mistake in my opinion. Every GM will need to judge their players accordingly, and perhaps provide them with some hints and warnings while they build their characters and backstories. In my opinion this event is handled incredibly well throughout this adventure, and I highly recommend allowing players to make a character with personal connections to Roslar’s Coffer. It adds so much to the story. However, it is important to inform PCs that if they have animal companions, mounts, or they are a wizard with a familiar, they will not have access to their pet at the start of the campaign. Player’s who have read the Tyrant’s Grasp Player’s Guide will already be aware of this, although they won’t (accurately) know why.

Happily, the player’s experience doesn’t begin with the death of Roslar’s Coffer. Instead, Part One: Awake in Roslar’s Tomb begins with the PCs waking up in a stone coffin. Literally entombed they need to push their way out of the stone box and into a cold, dark, mausoleum. It’s a great opening. Players and characters alike are bound to be curious what has happened and where they are. Players begin with any gear they had that could reasonably fit in a coffin with them. Any familiars who share a soul with your PCs (a shaman or witch familiar) will be in a coffin of their own, while all other companions are not present (as they are dead). Eidolons and phantoms can be summoned back normally, although all other familiars and companions will need to be replaced at a later time.

Soon, the PCs will discover they’re in someone else’s tomb — Ervin Roslar, Knight of Ozem and hero of the Shining Crusade. The same man that Roslar’s Coffer is named after, in fact. Interesting! As they navigate the tomb they’ll find strange creatures, animated bones (sort of…), a trapped spirit, and a tribe of mites. They’ll also discover that Ervin Roslar may have had a few secrets of his own, although it’s unlikely they’ll unravel his history completely. This section of the adventure is a suspenseful series of explorations, mysteries, tantalizing clues, and challenging combats. It’s going to be a ton of fun to both run and play.

Part Two: Among the Dead begins when the PCs exit Roslar’s Tomb to find themselves face to face with a pair of spooky looking (and absolutely delightful) psychopomps: Umble and Thoot! Seriously, they’re awesome. This quirky pair give the PCs some answers to their most pressing questions and explains that not only are the PCs dead and not dead at the same time — weird! — the rest of Roslar’s Coffer is well and truly dead. They ask the PCs to lend them a hand in convincing the spirits of the dead of Roslar’s Coffer that they are, in fact, dead. These poor fellows need a hand moving everyone on to the afterlife in a calm and orderly fashion! The PCs get to travel to a phantom version of Roslar’s Coffer where they interact with all the people in town — now dead. This is an amazing section of the adventure. Short and poignant, the GM has a chance to show the PCs what has happened to all their family and friends. They’ll need to convince loved ones to move on, and will have a chance to say goodbye. If they have any pets they’ll find them here as well. The adventure itself provides rules for interacting with these spirits, how to convince them to move on, and some tactics that will let them do it in a timely fashion — namely convincing the town leaders of their death. Some PCs will want to stay behind and die along with their family, others won’t have personal connections to the townsfolk, and others still will want to ‘save’ some of these spirits and attempt to return them back to life. There’s plenty of guidance in this book for handling PCs of every kind. After accepting their death the people of Roslar’s Coffer — even familial loved ones — want answers for what happened to them. The PCs are uniquely positioned to uncover this. And, of course, any spirits who can’t be convinced to move on (including those your PCs may want to bring back) will deteriorate in time until they become undead ghosts and other malevolent entities. Umble and Thoot can explain this to the group and ensure no PCs attempt anything so foolhardy. Also in this section the PCs are first introduced to the antagonist of this adventure, Mictena. Overall, this section of the book is among my very favourites. It’s exceptionally well handled and sure to be an emotional experience for players and characters alike. It’s a truly unique roleplaying opportunity. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I’m quite certain that if I was playing this with any character who had even a modest amount of family or friends in Roslar’s Coffer, under an even remotely talented GM, I would cry — in a good way! It has the potential to really tug at the heartstrings.

Part Three: Walking the Dead Roads begins after the PCs have helped the people of Roslar’s Coffer accept their death. Umble and Thoot, who are grateful and believe that since the PCs are only slightly dead they’re not truly dead at all, offer the PCs a way out of the Boneyard. The Dead Roads. They explain that this secret path is only ever trod by psychopomps and gatekeepers, the beings who watch over what amounts to traveller’s checkpoints along the road. Capable of leading anywhere, the PCs can use the Dead Roads to get home to Roslar’s Coffer (so they can figure out what’s happened) by taking a certain path. They’ll need to stop at the three checkpoints along the way and get stamped by that location’s master. Convincing them to grant the stamp should be the hardest part of the journey. Unbeknownst to Umble and Thoot, politics and turmoil have overtaken the three waystations, making each location more dangerous than expected. These locations may be visited in any order, although they are presented in order of difficulty (which is also how I recommend playing them).

The Palace of Teeth is a small castle ruled over Queen Carnassial and her court of tooth fairies. Not long ago her son, Prince Uspid, led a coup against her, and the two factions have been locked in a stalemate ever since. Although Queen Carnassial is the only one with the authority to stamp the PCs (at least until her death) it’s Prince Uspid the PCs are destined to meet first. They’ll need to navigate, bargain, and battle their way through bickering fey factions. They might even get to keep all their teeth…. This location is simultaneously goofy in a crazed sort of way and disconcerting. Although the Palace of Teeth was once a beautiful castle it’s undergone a rather morbid makeover since the fey moved in. The place is creepy and it’s denizens literally want to yank your teeth out. That can make bargaining… weird. Haha. I love the art for both the tooth fairy monarchs (particularly Prince Uspid!) and the stained glass angel. But, in my opinion, the creepiest encounter involves a pair of soulbound dolls in the midst of acting out a rather bloody play about dentistry. They attempt to make the PCs their next patients, using deep slumber and some particularly creepy statements. It’s awesome! Haha. The Palace of Teeth is my favourite location on in part three.

Nine-Eaves is a three storey manor owned by an old shoki psychopomp with a fondness for games and puzzles. Unfortunately, Kishokish’s manor has been invaded by sahkil and he’s now a prisoner in his own home. They PCs will need to free him if they want to get his stamp. Luckily they’re not without allies. An animated portrait created to pose riddles to visitors can lend the PCs a hand — if they can solve his puzzles! There are three puzzles total, and each one solved can earn the PCs information and advice. They’ll need to traverse the house as they seek answers, battling vermin, sahkil, and an unfettered phantom named Ayuki. I really enjoyed the puzzle aspects of this location.

Salighara’s Scriptorium was created by Salighara, a reclusive viduus psychopomp who is studying the Dimension of Dreams and oversees a crew of wyrwood scribes. Mictena attempted to convince Salighara to kill the PCs on her behalf, but was rebuffed. Mictena then offered the same deal to Salighara’s assistant, a plump woman named Mrs. Pedipalp (actually an aranea from a nightmarish section of the Dimension of Dreams). Happy to take the powerful psychopomp up on her offer, Mrs. Pedipalp has ousted Salighara from her own scriptorium and remade the building in her own image. Now a dark place of nightmares and horror, the PCs will need to set things right. This is definitely the most horror-themed location in The Dead Roads, with traps, haunts, and horrifying enemies. Colulus, a flayed ettercap and long-time minion of Mrs. Pedipalp is by far the most horrifying. But, even the Scriptorium is not without potential allies. PCs get to meet Salighara, some upset wyrwoods, and a ratling named Berthold. Mrs. Pedipalp herself is a great opponent — a capable liar, powerful spellcaster, and nightmarish foe all wrapped up in a kindly looking package. I particularly like her tactics. That said, it’s likely Colulus who will give parties the most trouble.

After receiving their stamps the PCs can finally traverse the rest of the Dead Roads and return to the land of the living — not! Mictena refuses to let them go! She magically relocated her domain, Deathbower, right onto the Dead Roads so that she and her dangerous shabti gardeners can kill your PCs properly. Which brings us to the final section of the Dead Roads adventure, Part Four: Deathbower. I love this location and its map. I love the inhabitants — gardeners, friends, and foes. And I love Mictena herself. Despite being an enemy of your PCs she’s not a bad being. She’s a psychopomp just doing what she thinks is right. Which is cool! Although some of the hazards and enemies in this glorious garden must be confronted head on, some characters can be swayed and may even join you for a while. Reedreaper is a particularly interesting character, although it’s unlikely he sticks around long enough to play much of a role. Even Mictena can be talked down — theoretically. The chances your PCs will be able to roll high enough are incredibly slim, but it could happen. Which I really like.

After leaving Deathbower behind the PCs find themselves back on the Dead Roads and greeted by an incredibly powerful psychopomp, Barzahk the Passage, a demigod and master of the Dead Roads. This enigmatic figure whisks the PCs off to their home in a matter of moments, giving them a bit of time to ask him any questions they might have. I thought this was a great moment and a wonderful way to end the adventure.

SPOILERS OVER


In addition to The Dead Roads adventure, this volume contains two articles intended for both GMs and players, one article solely for the GM, a campaign outline, and a bestiary containing five new creatures.

Tools of the BoneyardThe first article, Tools of the Boneyard, is written by Matt Morris. In it you’ll find new gear and character options aimed at dealing with the dead. There is one alchemical remedy, one alchemical tool, and two alchemical weapons — bone burn is my favourite, so be sure to check it out! There are two new special materials useful for crafting — cryptstone can be used for ammunition and weapons, while spiresteel can be used for ammunition, weapons, and armour. Finally, there are five new magic items: crypt rod, grim helm, harbinger’s scythe, Lady’s Mercy, and Momument’s Truth. Although I enjoyed a lot of the items, it’s the character options that I found were most exciting. Graveslinger is a gunslinger archetype that specializes in combatting incorporeal undead. Soul Shepherd is a monk archetype that calm incorporeal undead and haunts with a touch. They also gain some otherworldly resistances and interesting ways to use their ki. Reaper is a new oracle mystery which I really enjoyed. Tightly themed and flavourful it’s capable of both killing the living and destroying undead. There are also six new barbarian rage powers including the psychopomp totem powers.

shabti-1.jpg
Thrilled to see shabti get some attention!

The second player friendly article is written by Mikhail Rekun and entitled The Half-Dead. This section talks about four races that have a strong connection to death and the undead. In addition to providing details and character options for dhampir, duskwalkers, and shabti, it also talks about the new subtype of creatures, mortics. Dhampir appear alongside two magical items, duswalkers have access to five new feats, and shabti have access to five new feats. I was particularly excited to see shabti included.

The next article, To Exceed Their Grasp, is written by Crystal Frasier and intended for GMs only. This article discusses some of the important concepts, characters, and events of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path and the role they play in the overarching story. It also contains a timeline. This is incredibly useful for GMs an will likely be referenced throughout the entire Adventure Path.

Tyrant's Grasp -Shining Crusade - Death of Arazni
The Death of Arazni (Herald of Aroden) during the Shining Crusade. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The Bestiary is up next! It contains a random encounter chart, two interesting social encounters, and five new creatures written by Ron Lundeen, Kyle T. Raes, and Mike Welham. All of the monsters in this book have ties to death and the Boneyard and two of them are featured in The Dead Roads adventure. Bonewrought Willow is an ominous looking intelligent plant capable of growing in Boneyard. Attracted to light and more benevolent than it appears this is a great CR 3 creature I can’t wait to confront my players with. Kaicherak are nasty little fanged worm beasts with ties to Achaekek and a fondness for messily gorging themselves on blood. At CR 4 they are among the most powerful new creatures in the bestiary. Mortics are living beings with strong connections to negative energy which makes them sort of like living undead. There are two mortic stat blocks included in the bestiary — the ghoulish elf-like angheuvore (CR 2) and the incredibly flexible halfling-like jitterbone (CR 4). As previously mentioned, more information on mortics is also included in The Half-Dead article. The final creature is the tooth fairy monarch, a CR 3 version of the lowly tooth fairy.

The last article is a campaign outline, written by Crystal Frasier and Ron Lundeen, that briefly details the events of the upcoming volumes of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path.  Not the sort of thing you want your players peeking at! The campaign outline is incredibly useful for GMs.

Which brings us to the end of  Pathfinder Adventure Path: The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6). Want more? So do I! Tyrant’s Grasp continues with Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer (Tyrant’s Grasp 2 of 6) by Jason Keeley, Last Watch (Tyrant’s Grasp 3 of 6) by Larry Wilhelm, 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 the upcoming Tyrant’s Grasp volumes here.

Thanks for joining us today!

Jessica


EDIT: Check out the Tyrant’s Grasp trailer!

Review: Return of the Runelords: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove!!

Today we’re taking an in depth look at the first book in the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path! Return of the Runelords is a six volume Pathfinder Adventure Path that is intended to take your characters from levels 1 to 20! The issues in this Adventure Path are longer than usual, and the final issue is supposed to be the biggest adventure of the series. Each of the six Runelords (excluding the seventh: Karzoug) is featured on one of the covers, with gorgeous artwork drawn by Ekaterina Burmak.

The Adventure Path takes place in Varisia, and is a direct sequel to the Rise of the Runelords and the Shattered Star Adventure Paths. In addition, the events of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, the novel Pathfinder Tales: Lord of Runes, and Season Four of the Pathfinder Society: Year of the Risen Rune, are all presumed to have taken place. Although playing through these other adventure paths first will definitely make this campaign more enjoyable, it’s not necessary. You can hop right into Return of the Runelords and still have a blast.

So, what is Return of the Runelords? For starters, you can check out a previous blog post I wrote on the topic: Return of the Runelords. Then head down to the video immediately below this paragraph and give the AWESOME Return of the Runelords trailer a watch. Trust me! It’s worth it!



Got it?

Good! Let’s dive right in!

The first book of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path is #133: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove. Written by Adam Daigle, this adventure is intended to take you from level one right through to level five. In addition to the adventure itself the book contains an NPC Gallery which features detailed information and statistics on three major characters in the adventure, a delightful primer on Roderic’s Cove which will be invaluable to GMs, a short chapter about the Runelords (their history, how they escaped Earthfall, and what’s happened to them since), a bestiary containing four new creatures, and a campaign outline that lets GMs know what’s coming further down the road.

Secrets of Roderics Cove Adam Daigle Return of the Runelords 1
Return of the Runelords: Book One: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove by Adam Daigle.

The layout and appearance of this book is nice. It looks good, is easy to read (which isn’t always the case with Adventure Paths), and features gorgeous artwork of the Runelord of Wrath Alaznist on the cover by Ekaterina Burmak. Behind Alaznist is an image of Jirelle (the iconic swashbuckler) and Erasmus (the iconic medium) getting ambushed by some reefclaws! Awesome!

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS.

You have been warned!

Carrying on the wrathful theme of the front cover, the inside covers feature images and information on a few key topics related to the Runelord Alaznist. The inside front cover shows two weapons: Alaznist’s Hateful Ranseur (her weapon of rule) and Garvok the Sword of Wrath. Meanwhile, the inside back cover showcases Hollow Mountain, once the capital of Alaznist’s Empire and the place within which she retreated when Earthfell drew near. In addition it contains information on Yamasoth, a qlippoth lord and ally of Alaznist’s — although whether he was her minion, or she was his unwitting pawn is debatable. After the covers we hop right into the adventure background, followed by the adventure itself.

Kolton Nikolai Ostertag
Kolton, a citizen of Roderic’s Cove. Illustrated by Nikolai Ostertag

Secrets of Roderic’s Cove is split into five parts: Bubbling Tensions, Roderic’s Wreck, Into the Churlwood, Humbling Pride, and Calming Wrath. Unlike many premade adventures, it doesn’t really feature a ‘patron’ type character. There’s no employer or mentor around to tell the PCs what to do or where to go next. A lot of different NPCs will give you suggestions if you ask. And there’s one character who asks the PCs to help the town. Well, two if you count the dead. Instead, the entire book is driven by the PCs. This means that its imperative your players make characters who want to drive the story forward. Characters who care about the town of Roderic’s Cove — where our story begins — but will be willing to leave for a time when events lead them elsewhere. Characters who would meddle in gang politics, protect their neighbours, and put a spirit to rest. Characters who care. That doesn’t mean the characters have to be a bunch of do-gooders. It just means that players need to think of a reason that their characters would do these things voluntarily, and without the promise of monetary reward.

Roderics Cove by Matthias Rotenaicher
Welcome to the town of Roderic’s Cove! Cartography by Matthias Rotenaicher.

Our story begins in the tiny town of Roderic’s Cove, which is located along the coast very near to Riddleport. It’s a prosperous town with neither homeless or poor. However, the town is periodically home to unusual occurrences and oddities. The ghost of the town’s founder, Sir Roderic, lurks in the town, emerging from the decrepit remains of his haunted home only when the town is in great danger. Roderic’s Cove is home to two different gangs: the Horned Fangs and the Roadkeepers, both of which are little more than thugs and bullies. It’s also home to a strange but harmless scholarly society known as the Order of Resplendence. Recently, the gangs have been at each others throats, strange deformed creatures have been seen in town, Sir Roderic’s ghost has resurfaced, and there’s even been a murder!

It’s best if the PCs all know each other at the start of this adventure but, even if they don’t, all they truly need is to be in ‘Circle Market’ shopping (or passing through) on Market Day. Here they find two gangs about to come to blows. The PCs have just enough time to interfere before another joins them — the ghost of Sir Roderic himself! As the gangs and citizens run for it Sir Roderic wails about the safety of his town! Then he vanishes as quickly as he appeared. The town guard is on the scene shortly afterwards to thank you for your help before bidding you farewell.

After that the PCs are on their own. They can explore Roderic’s Cove, chat up the locals, learn about Sir Roderic, the local murders, and the gang violence. Eventually they’ll either approach or be approached by a forlorn elf and local grave digger by the name of Audrahni. She’s very concerned over the spirit of Sir Roderic, and is hopeful that the PCs can be the ones to put his spirit to rest again by bringing peace back to the town. They had the courage to stop the gangs from fighting this morning, surely they’re brave enough to do it again?

It’s assumed that the PCs take up this task with aplomb, but even if they don’t it’s a simple matter to get them back on track. After another run-in or two with the various gangs they should want to take them on — even if its not for the good of the town.

However they get involved the PCs goal for this adventure is to bring peace to Roderic’s Cove and put Sir Roderic’s spirit to rest. How they go about this is relatively free-form. The most likely place to start is with the recent murder that happened in the Circle, and the two gangs that are reputed to be involved. They’ll get to speak with witnesses, rumourmonger, search for clues, investigate the victims and their death, and question suspects. They’ll need to keep in mind that they’re citizens of Roderic’s Cove, not law enforcement, so simply busting into a suspected gang hideout and bashing in heads isn’t going to fly. They need evidence. As time passes they’ll come across strange creatures lurking in the town at night, mysterious hauntings, and even learn of some other crimes that have taken place.

It Came From Hollow Mountain Mike Shel Return of the Runelords 2
Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came From Hollow Mountain

This first section of the adventure is very loosely scripted. It’s got information on some witnesses and some scripted events — some of which relate to the murders, and some of which lead to further mysteries. It’s really well written, but it’s definitely a slow start to a campaign. It’s not one of those openings that will grab your characters right off the bat and send them off on some immediate, daring adventure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enjoyable! But it’s not the mind-blowing, gripping, epic, opening I expected for this campaign. It’s subtle. It requires players who are good role-players, and a really solid GM to make this part of the adventure shine. Anyone can play it. But, it takes a solid group to make it something special. New GMs and players have the potential to flounder.

At some point during their investigation of the murders the PCs are bound to decide to investigate the dilapidated haunted house of Sir Roderic himself. The haunted house is interesting and engaging, but it’s also a grind! Only two halls don’t feature either a battle or a haunt, which is a lot for a house. This will be a tough place to explore, particularly if the PCs want to check the house out quite early in the adventure. However, there’s no immediate time constraints, so they’re welcome to leave and return at a later time, or explore the house in more than one trip.

Sir Roderic Valeria Lutfullina
Sir Roderic. Illustrated by Valeria Lutfullina.

Overall, I really like the haunted house. The haunts are a wonderful touch, as are some of the encounters. But, I think that some of the vermin encounters would have been better served as flavourful non-violent encounters that contain clues, and serve to set a more ominous mood. Of course, considering it will be the first chance the PCs have to actually engage in a fight, I’m sure plenty of groups will be happy for the opportunity to flex their combat muscles. Haha.

Either way, the house can give the PCs some important clues as to what’s happening in town, and allow the group a chance to speak with Sir Roderic’s ghost. Totally worth it!

In time, the PCs investigation will lead them outside of the town and into the Churlwood Forest, which is the focus of Part Three of this adventure. There’s multiple reasons they’ll want to come here. Perhaps they’ll come out one mission at a time and make a total of three or more forays out into the woods, or perhaps they’ll come out to accomplish all three at once. It all depends on how your group has proceeded with their investigation. Whatever they’re after, there are three major tasks that can be accomplished in the Churlwood. In addition, there’s a few scripted encounters that can lead the PCs onto these tasks and progress the story. For starters, they could be here to pay a visit to the Roadkeepers gang of bandits. They might also be here to find a pair of local dwarves who were kidnapped by goblins. Finally, they might be here looking for a mysterious location that Sir Roderic mentioned. As these locations are all interconnected, it’s likely that one task will lead into another. Overall I rather enjoyed this part of the adventure. It’s free-form enough to allow players to decide their own priorities and courses of action, but the actual locations are very detailed, well-scripted, and interconnected. It looks like a lot of fun. And as an added bonus? PCs will get their first taste of ancient Thassilonian ruins, and pick up some awesome treasure. In fact, they’ll pick up their first minor artifact in this place!

Runeplague Return of the Runelords 3 Richard Pett
Return of the Runelords: Book Three: Runeplague

Eventually the characters will return to Roderic’s Cove having done some good, solved some problems, and discovered further clues that will lead them to an odd location: Peacock Manor. This is a series of houses that were connected into a large, confusing manor, and is occupied by the scholarly group known as the Order of Resplendence. On the surface they’re a bunch of obsessive scholars who study ancient Thassilon. Most folks in town think they’re a harmless cult. But, looks can be deceiving. By now your players will have more than enough reason to suspect the leader of this group as being the true culprit behind the recent murders in the Circle. How? Why? Well, I don’t want to give away everything, but I will say that it’s leader has come into possession of one of the Seven Swords of Sin — a powerful artifact she’s unable to properly wield. But, investigating Peacock Manor is not a simple task! For starters, they’re a secretive group, and are highly unlikely to allow you in. Second? Not everyone there is a criminal. Many are simple scholars. Bringing unnecessary violence against such people could put you on the wrong side of the law. And finally? Gossip! Folks who just force their way into the manor, or spend a long time fighting there are sure to attract the attention of the local citizens of Roderic’s Cove. And when supposed heroes attack a bunch of defenceless, harmless scholars and eccentrics, chances are folks won’t consider them heroes anymore. All of these factors combine to make paying a visit to Peacock Manor more difficult than it seems. I really enjoyed it! This section’s got some awesome character art! Also? Players can pick up a second super cool artifact in the halls of Peacock Manor: Baraket, the Sword of Pride!

But, that’s not the end of this adventure! There’s still a second gang to deal with! The Horned Fangs who, quite mysteriously, bear the Thassilonian sigil of Wrath as their emblem! Characters will have to find the lair of the Horned Fangs and give them what for! But, the Horned Fangs are more than what they seem! They lair in the ancient Thassilonian ruins beneath town and, although once a simple group of thugs, they’ve recently come under the control of a foul sin spawn named Mozamer who travelled there via a magical one-way portal from Hollow Mountain. It’s Mozamer himself who’s behind the strange creatures that have been terrorizing the town, and behind the Horned Fangs recent violent behaviour! The PCs will get to explore the ruins, bring down a gang, discover their surprising leader, and battle otherworldly allies. But, not before the sinspawn invites you to join his army and serve the cause of his mistress, the Runelord of Wrath. Who’s already AWAKE.

SecretsCover Ekaterina Burmak
Trouble in Roderic’s Cove. Illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak.

Wanna join?

Haha.

Mozamer and the ample surrounding evidence show that the sinspawn came from Hollow Mountain, which was once the heart of Alaznist’s Empire, and is where she waited out Earthfall. Although bringing down the Horned Fangs and Mozamer is enough to put Sir Roderic to rest and save Roderic’s Cove — sort of — the Runelord of Wrath is an enemy that will have to be dealt with. Particularly since there’s that one-way portal under the town that Alaznist could send an army through at any moment…

THAT brings us to the end of the adventure. And what an adventure! It’s got urban adventure, a murder mystery, crime fighting, horror, wilderness exploration, ancient ruins, dangerous relics, awesome treasure, and you get to come out of the ordeal already the hero of your town. There’s nice, obvious, compelling reasons to continue on to the next adventure, and — unlike this series’ predecessors — the villain is already revealed and obvious from the start. From here on out you’ve got to take down the Runelord Alaznist before she can conquer Varisia and rebuild Thassilon!

Although I hoped book one of Return of the Runelords would completely blow me away and I’d give it five stars, in the end the shaky opening means I’m only giving it four out of five stars. I expected epic perfection! And, although this was a solid, super fun adventure that I can’t wait to play, perfect it was not.

But, the end of the adventure isn’t the end of the book! There’s more to look at!

After the adventure are three two-page spreads focusing on three major characters in this adventure. Two are enemies, and one is an ally. Audrahni the forlorn elf who is going to have a continuing role in book two; Corstela Rostrata, leader of the Order of Resplendence; and Mozamer, sinspawn leader of the Horned Fangs and general pain in the ass. The artwork in this section is awesome (as expected), the stat blocks are solid, and the background is useful for roleplaying these characters.

Return of the Runelords Book Four Temple of the Peacock Spirit
Return of the Runelords: Book Four: Temple of the Peacock Spirit

Following this is an incredibly important part of the book: a gazetteer on Roderic’s Cove. GMs will find this chapter absolutely invaluable. You need it to inject detail and interest into the entire first section of the book. In addition, you’ll reference it in between all the other sections of the book, whenever the PCs wander the town of Roderic’s Cove. The gazetteer itself is interesting. Roderic’s Cove is a neat, engaging, town with plenty of secrets and colourful characters to visit. It’s a fun place to adventure in.

Up next is one of the most fun sections for GMs to peruse — or I thought so anyway! An entire chapter on the Runelords, what they’ve been up to, how they survived Earthfall, and what Alaznist has been doing since she awakened. Which, but the way, is A LOT. It involves powerful magic, assassination, and even TIME TRAVEL! COOL! (And confusing!)

This brings us to the Bestiary, which contains three new creatures and one new creature template. My favourite of the creatures is the Cyphergull, a CR 2 magical beast that’s essentially an intelligent seagull with an innate understanding of magic and glowing Thassilonian runes upon its wings. They can devour scrolls and thereafter cast those spells. What an awesome little beast to lurk around the Lost Coast — particularly near Riddleport! Other creatures include the Nochlean, a CR 3 fey that delights in stealing children and causing terror; and the Warpglass Ooze, a CR 2 ooze that can enthral passersby and tempt them into it’s acidic body. Beware the reflection in the pool! Haha. The creature template will be incredibly useful not only in this adventure, but also in any of the others that involve the Runelords or Thassilonian ruins: a Runewarped Creature. This template can be applied to any animal, humanoid, or monstrous humanoid, and is essentially a precursor to sinspawn. They’re twisted abominations that are driven to consume magic.

Finally, this book contains a Campaign Outline, which provides GMs with information on what’s happened before this campaign, and what each of the upcoming volumes entails. Before we get into specifics, let me just say: Return of the Runelords is going to be AWESOME!

Return of the Runelords Book Five The City Outside of Time
Return of the Runelords: Book Five: The City Outside of Time

So where do we go from here?

Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came From Hollow Mountain is written by Mike Shel and intended for levels 5-7. In it, the PCs travel to Magnimar to tell the Sihedron council about Alaznist’s rise in Hollow Mountain only to realize that they already knew! In fact, they sent a powerful group of heroes there to investigate in secret, and they haven’t returned. Your PCs are charged with travelling to Hollow Mountain to figure out what’s going on.

Return of the Runelords: Book Three: Runeplague is written by Richard Pett and intended for levels 8-11. By now the PCs know for certain that Alaznist is awakening, not only that, many of the others are as well! They need to travel to four different cities in Varisia — wonderfully familiar cities to many of us — to stop a few different groups that are related to the Runelords and are causing trouble. These groups include the Cult of the Peacock Spirit (who have ties to Xanderghul, Runelord of Pride); cultists of the qlippoth lord Yamasoth (who have ties to Alaznist, Runelord of Wrath); and the Whispering Way (who seek to rebuild Zutha, the Runelord of Sloth’s phylactery). They’ll get a chance to adventure in Korvosa, Magnimar, Riddleport, and, my personal favourite, Kaer Maga! In addition, they’ll have a chance to speak with Sorshen, Runelord of Lust in this adventure. Yes, you read that right. Speak with. Sorshen is a potential ally and source of information for the PCs!

Return of the Runelords: Book Four: Temple of the Peacock Spirit is written by Jason Keeley and is intended for levels 12-14. With intel obtained from Sorshen, the PCs discover that the most powerful Runelord, the Runelord of Pride Xanderghul, is weakened due to Alaznist’s actions. This is their chance to bring the battle to him! Cause what’s better than kicking a big bad when they’re down?! Taking down a big bad who also turns out to be a GOD! That’s right! In it we discover that Xanderghul is the Peacock Spirit himself! An ancient Thassilonian god of secrets! They’ll have to head to his hidden temple and defeat this tyrant before he regains his full powers!

Return of the Runelords: Book Five: The City Outside of Time is perhaps the book I’m most excited for. It’s written by Amanda Hamon Kunz and is intended for levels 15-17. Now that they’ve taken down Xanderghul (hopefully), your PCs will be fully aware that Alaznist is the mastermind behind pretty much everything (although it’s likely they’ll be well aware of this before hand… Haha). Alaznist is building a realm for herself in Varisia, dubbed ‘New Thassilon’, and has used powerful magic, including messing up the past with time travel, to set her plans into motion. To defeat her they’ll need to get their hands on a relic from the Shattered Star Adventure Path known as the Sihedron Star. This artifact is currently trapped in Crystilan, which is essentially a section of the Runelord of Envy Belimarius’ dominion that was locked in a time-loop since the fall of Thassilon. They’ll need to slip into the city via the Plane of Shadows and sieze the artifact. Along the way they’ll get to explore a little part of Thassilon and see what it was like in its heyday. Unfortunately, Alaznist has messed everything up with her time meddling, so the people within are no longer stuck in a time loop. Instead they’re just… stuck. With Runelord Belimarius’ hold over her people slipping the PCs will have a chance to make an ally or an enemy out of Belimarius! Plus, they get to rescue the Sihedron Heroes (your previous campaign’s heroes) from the city! This is going to be amazing! I can feel it!

Return of the Runelords Book Six Rise of New Thassilon
Return of the Runelords: Book Six: Rise of New Thassilon

Return of the Runelords: Book Six: Rise of New Thassilon is the finale of this grand campaign! It’s written by Greg A. Vaughan and is intended for levels 18-20. The PCs have a daring plan: use the Cyphergate in Riddleport to travel back in time. Once there, they can repair all the damage that Alaznist has done to the past. There’s just one problem: they don’t know how to use the Cyphergate. The person who does? Karzoug, Runelord of Greed! …Except he’s dead. The Sihedron Heroes killed him in Rise of the Runelords. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean they can’t speak to him. They’ll simply need to speak with his ghost! Yes! you get to try to convince the dead Runelord of Greed’s spirit to help you screw over Alaznist! Hahaha! I love it! And for those players who have played through Rise of the Runelords this will be a huge surprise! Once they’ve convinced Karzoug to lend his aid they’ll need to use the Cyphergate an travel to a city in the Dimension of Time, which will allow them to send copies of themselves back to the past to repair the damage done to the timeline. What becomes of these copies and how much do your players actually get to experience of the past? I don’t know, but I sincerely hope they get to play in the past for at least a little while. It’s just… awesome! Once they’ve repaired the past they can return to the present and take on Alaznist herself in Hollow Mountain!

And that’s it! The end.

I’m not sure I can express how excited I am for this campaign. Just know it’s a LOT.

Thanks for joining us today! We’ll see you later this week when we take a look at the newly releasing Pathfinder and Starfinder Society Scenarios!

See ya’!

Jessica


Want more Return of the Runelords? Check out these awesome images from the Adventure Path!

 

 

 

 

Return of the Runelords – Player’s Guide!

The Return of the Runelord’s Player’s Guide has recently been released by Paizo. Meant to go with the Return of the Runelord’s Adventure Path, which takes place in the nation of Varisia, this player’s guide is a free download on their website. The Return of the Runelords Adventure Path is already underway, with volume one, Secrets of Roderic’s Cove, released at the start of this month, and volume two, It Came from Hollow Mountain, released at the end of this month. The other four volumes have yet to be released (but are available for pre-order).

Return of the Runelords Players Guide
Return of the Runelords: Player’s Guide is a FREE download!

Now, I’m not sure about all of you, but I’ve been supremely excited for the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. I have loved every adventure path set in Varisia, and played through or GMed quite a few of them. It’s a place of adventure, history, mystery, and — for me — fond memories. It’s right up there with my favourite nations of Golarion.

Like the Adventure Path Player’s Guides before it, this one is filled with all the information you need to create a character well-suited to the (Return of the Runelords) Adventure Path, and invested in its major plots and purpose. It contains advice and short compiled lists of which classes and archetypes are best suited to the campaign.  It briefly describes the region that the Adventure Path will be taking place in (Varisia, in this instance), as well as the races found there. It gives advice on which religions are common — including information on some obscure faiths.  It also contains suggestions for animal companions and familiars that are appropriate to the region. However, these lists (excluding the animals) are very brief. This is because the Return of the Runelords is very broad in scope. There is no one class that is better suited to it than others, and no classes that are unheard of. Characters of any race are more than welcome to play. This is a great time to pull out the wacky, weird, obscure, and eccentric character options you’ve been mulling over and give them a try.

There was plenty of interesting information in this little guide, including six new traits specific to the Adventure Path (called Campaign Traits), of which each character is expected to have one. I particularly enjoy ‘accidental clone,’ and ‘scion of legend.’ The player’s guide left me happily inspired. Although there’s lots of neat tidbits we could discuss here, I’m not going to go into details. It’s free! You might as well download it yourselves. What I will say is that all of your PCs must play people who have been in Roderic’s Cove for at least a month, and that you all are acquainted with one another. Not friends, or anything. That’s not required. But you know of each other and would be willing to work alongside one another for this adventure. Furthermore, your characters should be ambitious, and curious. They need to be willing to seek out answers and adventure for themselves. This adventure path does not rely on NPCs hiring you to complete a task or ordering you around. The drive to continue needs to come from your player’s characters. Finally, your characters need to be willing to protect not just the city of Roderic’s Cove, but the nation of Varisia as a whole. This is not a campaign that stays idle. It travels the width and breadth of the country.

Secrets of Roderics Cove Adam Daigle Return of the Runelords 1
Pathfinder Adventure Path 133: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove (Return of the Runelords 1 of 6)

In addition to your typical Player’s Guide information, this one also had a few extra goodies. For starters, Return of the Runelords is the direct sequel to the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path and the Shattered Star Adventure Path (which begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path 61: Shards of Sin (Shattered Star 1 of 6)). It assumes that heroes   — probably your PCs from those campaigns — defeated the Runelord of Greed, Karzoug, and reforged an ancient Thassilonian artifact known as the Sihedron. Of the many heroes who accomplished these feats, a few have decided to stay in Varisia and act as the nation’s defenders. Each player gets to select one of their heroes from either Rise of the Runelords or Shattered Star and make them one of these so called ‘Sihedron Heroes.’ These heroes will be in the background of the campaign, doing… stuff! Haha. (I have no idea what they’ll be doing, but you can bet its important!). As for the other PCs from those campaigns? That’s up to you. They will not play a major role in the adventure path. If you’ve never played either previous adventure path, that’s alright! Your fellow players can select their past PCs and you can make a concept (or stats) of your own hero. It’s a nice touch that ensures none of your players will be left out of the fun. Finally, if you’re from a group where none of your players completed Rise of the Runelords or Shattered Star, the GM will make the entire team of Sihedron Heroes themselves. Full details on the Sihedron Heroes role in Return of the Runelords (for GMs) will appear in other issues of the adventure path, beginning in Pathfinder Adventure Path 134: It Came from Hollow Mountain (Return of the Runelords 2 of 6). It should be noted that at the start of Return of the Runelords, the current location of the Sihedron Heroes is unknown.

It Came From Hollow Mountain Mike Shel Return of the Runelords 2
Pathfinder Adventure Path 134: It Came from Hollow Mountain (Return of the Runelords 2 of 6)

And the second? The maps! SO MANY MAPS! Return of the Runelords begins in the town of Roderic’s Cove, but moves on to other settlements and parts of the country. Other cities that play a major role in this campaign are Kaer Maga, Korvosa, Magnimar, and Riddleport. This player’s guide has a map of every one of those locations, plus a map of Varisia! Now, there’s obviously not enough room in the player’s guide to put full information on those cities, but the fact that maps are provided is a really nice touch. For more information on those other places you’ll have to check out a variety of sourcebooks. Roderic’s Cove is detailed in Pathfinder Adventure Path 133: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove (Return of the Runelords 1 of 6). Kaer Maga (which is my favourite city in Golarion) is detailed fully in Pathfinder Chronicles: City of Strangers. Korvosa is the location of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path (my personal favourite adventure path) and is detailed fully in Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to Korvosa (also available as a much more affordable PDF download). Magnimar is the home base of the Shattered Star Adventure Path and is fully detailed in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Magnimar, City of Monuments. Finally, Riddleport is the starting location of the Second Darkness Adventure Path, and is detailed in Pathfinder Adventure Path 13: Shadow in the Sky (Second Darkness Book 1 of 6). Looking for more books about Varisia and Thassilon? Check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Lost Kingdoms, Pathfinder Player Companion: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends, Pathfinder Comics: Hollow Mountain, and Pathfinder Tales: Lord of Runes.

The last little bit of extra fun involves the campaign’s starting event: you’re attending the weekly Circle Market in Roderic’s Cove. During the first session you have a chance to find a great deal in the market. You’ll get 10% off of a single item chosen from either basic gear, alchemical items, weapons, potions, scrolls, or even a magical object. Although you’re free to choose the object itself, what category of item it is is determined by a d20 roll. It’s think its a nice bit of fun. Particularly if its repeated each time you attend the Circle Market. It is a weekly event, after all!

Runeplague Return of the Runelords 3 Richard Pett
Pathfinder Adventure Path 135: Runeplague (Return of the Runelords 3 of 6)

But, this is a Player’s Guide! It’s not about treasure, or cities, or Varisia. Not at its core. At its beating heart the Player’s Guide is a free tool to help players like us make characters who will work well within the Adventure Path they’re going to commit to. It should inspire us to make characters, entice us with ideas, provide us with some cool traits, and let us go crazy. And this one did.

So after reading the guide, what would I make?

A good question!

There’s a huge number of character concepts you could run with for this campaign, and a ton of classes that would work. In fact it’s one of those nice campaign where pretty much anything goes. I wouldn’t suggest using an aquatic mount or animal companion, but other than that it’s pretty open. I gave all the classes a lot of thought and came up with way too many ideas. I would adore playing the children of some of the other PCs from my family’s Varisian campaigns. Children of the heroes of Curse of the Crimson Throne, Second Darkness, and Rise of the Runelords adventure paths would be a ton of fun. Or, perhaps a spiritualist whose spirit companion is an NPC or a PC who died during one of those campaigns! I’ve always wanted to utilize the harrower prestige class, especially coupled with the deadly dealer feat, but have never had the chance. Someone descended from ancient Thassilonians would be a blast. There’s some fun character options from Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Ancients which would make that enjoyable. I have a soft spot for the Shoanti peoples, and playing a member of the Spire Clan would be particularly fun (they practically worship the ancient monuments dotting Varisia). I would have a blast playing a ex-gray maiden whose trying to start fresh and has the masked maiden vigilante archetype. And that’s not even counting all the other things I’d like to do! Chronomancer wizard, twinned summoner, relic raider rogue, and an arcanist are all on my list of things I’d love to play.

How about you? What character concepts and builds would YOU like to play for Return of the Runelords? I’d love to hear them!

Until then,

Get reading! You’ve got a free Player’s Guide to download!

Jessica


All six issues of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path are listed below.

Pathfinder Adventure Path 133: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove (Return of the Runelords 1 of 6)

Pathfinder Adventure Path 134: It Came from Hollow Mountain (Return of the Runelords 2 of 6)

Pathfinder Adventure Path 135: Runeplague (Return of the Runelords 3 of 6)

Pathfinder Adventure Path 136: Temple of the Peacock Spirit (Return of the Runelords 4 of 6)

Pathfinder Adventure Path 137: The City Outside of Time (Return of the Runelords 5 of 6)

Pathfinder Adventure Path 138: Rise of New Thassilon (Return of the Runelords 6 of 6)

 

September New Releases

Secrets of Roderics Cove Adam Daigle Return of the Runelords 1
Pathfinder Adventure Path: Return of the Runelords: Book One: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove by Adam Daigle.

Last month was a busy one, with some awesome new releases, but also some delayed products. Fans of Starfinder were treated to the Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Armory, Starfinder Flip-Mat: Asteroid, Starfinder: Dead Suns Pawn Collection, and two awesome Starfinder Society Scenarios: #1-20: Duskmire Accord 9, and #1-21: Yesteryear’s Sorrow. Fans of Pathfinder were finally got their hands on the finale of the War for the Crown Adventure Path: War for the Crown: Book Six: The Six-Legend Soul! There were Pocket Editions released of Ultimate Combat and Bestiary 5, and three amazing Pathfinder Society Scenarios: #10-01: Oathbreakers Die, #10-02: Bones of Biting Ants, and #10-03: Death on the Ice. There were also a lot of map releases, with Pathfinder Flip-Mat Multi-Pack: Forests, Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Watch Station, Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon Starter Set, and Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon Perils Expansion. They also released the Ultimate Wilderness Add-On Deck for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

Of course, there was also a wide array of Pathfinder Playtest releases including the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook Updates, Pathfinder Playtest Bestiary, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn, Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack, Character Sheets, Tracking Sheets, Pregenerated Characters, and three Pathfinder Playtest Society Scenarios: #1: Rose Street Revenge, #2: Raiders of Shriekers Peak, and #3: Arclord’s Envy. All of these products are available as a free download on Paizo’s website!

Against the Aeon Throne Reach of the Empire Ron Lundeen
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book One: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen.

Because of the recent website outages over at Paizo, shipment of their newest adventure path volumes were delayed a bit, meaning plenty of subscribers didn’t receive their copies until the start of this month, as opposed to the end of last month. That means that this month there is a WHOLE LOT of Adventure Path Volumes coming out! Both Starfinder and Pathfinder are launching new Adventure Paths. Pathfinder takes us back to Varisia with the highly anticipated Return of the Runelords! It begins in Return of the Runelords: Book One: Secrets of Roderick’s Cove, and continues on later this month/the start of next month with Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came from Hollow Mountain . This campaign looks like a ton of fun! It’s going to take you all the way to level 20, and pits you against not one, but all five of the remaining Runelords (or their minions)! For more information on the Return of the Runelords, check out my recent blog post: Return of the Runelords. As for Starfinder, they’re shaking things up with a special three-part adventure path that starts with a bang and just keeps the excitement coming! The Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path pits your players against the Azlanti Star Empire, a massive tyrannical governing body that controls a whopping three solar systems! Your players will be taking on the role of some rebels who are out to help a friend, and cause some trouble for the Empire. Although they won’t be taking on the entire Azlanti Star Empire, they get some good licks in and get out safe and sound (hopefully). This adventure path feels very Star Wars themed to me, and seems very personal and exciting. It begins with Against the Aeon Throne: Book One: The Reach of Empire, which is already out, and continues at the end of this month with Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon! For more information on this adventure path check out my previous blog post: Against the Aeon Throne.

It Came From Hollow Mountain Mike Shel Return of the Runelords 2
Pathfinder Adventure Path: Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came from Hollow Mountain  by Mike Shel.

While we’re on the topic of adventures, let’s take a look at what else is on the agenda this month, shall we? War for the Crown Poster Map Folio comes out, which features three poster-sized maps for use with the War for the Crown Adventure Path. The maps are of Oppara, the capital city of Taldor (which is also where the adventure path begins in War for the Crown: Book One: Crownfall, and ends in War for the Crown: Book Six: The Six-Legend Soul), Meratt (a Taldan county featured in War for the Crown: Book Two: Songbird, Scion, Saboteur), and the nation of Taldor itself. There’s also the new Pathfinder Module: Cradle of Night coming out.

Pathfinder Module: Cradle of Night is an adventure that was outlined, worked on, and written by, a large number of people including Wes Schneider, Neil Spicer, James Jacobs, Greg Vaughan, and Ron Lundeen. It’s an awesome sounding adventure intended for level eight characters which will be around 64 pages in length. Of course, it’s also cursed! This poor thing has been perpetually delayed. With an original release date of last year, it was bumped to a January release, then mid 2018, and has finally shown up on the soon to be released products page. Preorder begins now (again), and hopefully will be out in a month or so. The adventure itself takes place in Nidal and begins when a refugee Caligni from the Darklands comes to the surface for help! He needs someone to save/stop his people from releasing darkness upon the world and bringing about the rebirth of a “shattered god.” It moves from Nidal, down into the Darklands, includes a lot of information on the origins of the Caligni peoples (darkfolk), and the Shadow Plane. Plus, it just sounds epic! Curious who the “shattered god” is? So am I! Haha. I’m particularly excited that this book will allow me to make use of my Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Nidal, Land of Shadows sourcebook!

Against the Aeon Throne Escape from the Prison Moon Eleanor Ferron
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron.

There are two Pathfinder Player Companion books out this month, Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes from the Fringe, which presents a look at a lot of non-human, unique character options. Examples of this include the Ekujae elves of the Mwangi Expanse, and Pahmet dwarves of Osirion’s deserts, and many more. The part I’m most excited about? Whimsical phantoms for spiritualists! Come on, you know you want to be haunted by a chipper gnome ghost! I’m very intrigued with this product and can’t wait to see what’s inside. There’s also Pathfinder Player Companion: Plane-Hopper’s Handbook, which is a great tie-in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Planar Adventures. It provides a host of new player options and equipment for characters who traverse the planes, including new eidolon subtypes for the unchained summoner, alternate race traits and favoured class bonuses for extrapljnar raves (like ganzi!), and some archetypes. I’m definitely curious what’s inside!

There are a wide variety of maps out this month. Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Wizard’s Dungeon, Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Desert (which is very usable), Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Seedy Tavern, and Starfinder Flip-Mat: Ghost Ship! Whoo! And that’s not all! There’s also the release of the Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Forest Starter Set, which I am very curious to give a look see.

Heroes of the Fringe
Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes from the Fringe

And the product my son is most excited for? Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon Decor Pawn Collection! This product contains a ton of set dressing, from fireplaces, curtains, and bookshelves, to windows, stairs, doors, and statues! There’s a ton of useful bits and bobs in here. It’s very similar to the previous release Pathfinder Pawns: Traps & Treasures Pawn Collection. My son has officially added both to his Christmas list. Haha.

Finally, this month sees the release of two Pathfinder Society Scenarios, and two Starfinder Society Scenarios. Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-04: Reaver’s Roar is a tier 7-11 scenario of special importance to the Silver Crusade faction, which tasks you players with retrieving a relic of the Shining Crusade from it’s guardians. This mission could get complicated, as it sounds like you’re not the only ones after the relic. Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-05: Mysteries Under Moonlight, Part 1: Testament of Souls is a tier 3-7 scenario which takes place in Magnimar and revolves around the mysterious corruption of some of their monuments. This scenario is the first of a two part series which concludes with Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-07: Mysteries Under Moonlight, Part 2: The Howling Dance. I’m a huge fan of Varisia and its many eclectic cities, so I’m pretty excited for this one!

Plane-Hopper's Handbook
Pathfinder Player Companion: Plane-Hopper’s Handbook

Starfinder Society Scenario #1-22: Protectorate Petition is a tier 1-4 scenario that tasks the players with traveling to a planet in Near Space to determine whether the alien ‘copaxis’ should be granted protectorate status in the Pact Worlds. You’ll have to visit their planet, review their claims, explore some ruins, learn some history, and decide whether or not these guys deserve to join the Pact Worlds. Starfinder Society Scenario #1-23: Return to Sender is a tier 5-8 scenario which is a direct sequel to the special Starfinder Scenario #1-99: The Scoured Stars Invasion! Its of particular importance to both the Exo-Guardians and the Dataphiles. Your players will have to take a stolen spaceship into enemy territory and complete their objectives without getting caught. If they’re successful they’ll enable the Starfinders to launch an offensive against the jinsul empire! This is going to be awesome!

And that’s all for this month! I don’t know about you, but I’m most excited for the Return of the Runelords, and Against the Aeon Thrones Adventure Paths!

Jessica

 

Return of the Runelords

It’s been teased for a decade and finally — FINALLY — the Runelords are making their move! Yes! Today we’re taking a look at the brand new Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.

Back before Pathfinder had its own rules set I was a huge fan of Dungeon Magazine. So, when it was announced that the run of the magazine was coming to an end, transitioning to Paizo’s new Pathfinder adventures was a no brainer. I didn’t have much extra cash at the time, so transitioning to 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t an option. Pathfinder didn’t involve new rulebooks (…yet. Haha), and I could keep reading some awesome adventures.

Secrets of Roderics Cove Adam Daigle Return of the Runelords 1
Return of the Runelords: Book One: Secrets of Roderick’s Cove by Adam Daigle. Features Alaznist Runelord of Wrath on the cover, as illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak.

I enjoyed the free module Hollow’s Last Hope, and it’s sequel Crown of the Kobold King. I loved the desperate, hopeless air of Falcon’s Hollow, and enjoyed the flavourful non-combat encounters in the adventures. But Rise of the Runelords?! I bought part one and was completely hooked. It was a fun, new twist on a classic style of adventure. As its sequels came out I was continually impressed. I loved that it took a bit of a tour of different adventure themes, from the horror of the The Skinsaw Murders, the depravity of The Hook Mountain Massacre, and even the vast, sandboxy exploration featured in the finale Spires of Xin-Shalast. It featured classic enemies, right alongside new ones, in a way that was fresh and exciting. I loved exploring the lost ruins of Thassilon, and discovering the history and culture of the ancient empire and its tyrannical rulers as you went.

We started playing Rise of the Runelords nearly right away. Unfortunately, we had a few false starts. Players came and went, and games ended each time. I swear we tried to play it three or four times before we finally got a solid group together. We ended up playing other campaigns before returning to Rise of the Runlords. We played an entire run of Curse of the Crimson Throne (which now has an awesome anniversary edition available: Curse of the Crimson Throne: Anniversary Edition) and to this day Curse of the Crimson Throne is my all-time favourite campaign. Heck, we even named my son after my husband’s PC. (For the record, it’s an awesome name. Haha). We also finished the entire Legacy of Fire Adventure Path in that time (which begins with Legacy Of Fire: Book One: Howl Of The Carrion King).

So when it came time to finally replay Rise of the Runelords — this time as Rise of the Runelords: Anniversary Edition! — we were ready for it. I was GMing, my husband, brother, and a friend of ours were playing, and I made an NPC to join them. We created characters who were the children of our characters from our Legacy of Fire campaign, and had an absolute blast. In time one of the characters split from the group and they rolled up a new one. They continued playing this second character online via email, and I created an entire new campaign for them, linked to the main events of Rise of the Runelords, but dealing with the other Runelords. The main Rise of the Runelords game (but not the email spin-off) paused for nearly a year when my brother had his second child, and when we finally got back to playing it was without him. We got all the way to the final book. And there we were, ready to make the trek to Xin-Shalast and confront Karzoug, the Runelord of Greed himself! And our extra player stopped showing up. In time my brother was ready to play with us again and we got ready to finally finish the last book — when my husband decided he wanted to play something new.

I swear we’re cursed!

In the time since my kids have been asking to play Rise of the Runelords. They saw it on the Adventure Card Game app and were mindblown at Aldern Foxglove’s character arc. Literally AMAZED. I promised them we’d start it in time, only to have my husband say he wanted to make someone to play alongside them. Uh… okay? Haha. I guess it’s waiting until after we finish Carrion Crown (we’re currently on Carrion Crown: Book Two: Trial of the Beast) and The Shackled City Adventure Path together then! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to play it as a family, but I found the request odd! He’d played so much of it that I was surprised he’d want to do so again. Since I’ve never really gotten to experience the campaign as a player I also joined a play-by-post game of it, which is a lot of fun.

Suffice to say, my experiences with Rise of the Runelords are both positive and enduring. I was thrilled to see the Runelord Sorshen mentioned in Curse of the Crimson ThroneAdventure Path, see the Runelord’s predecessor Xin featured in the Shattered Star Adventure Path (which begins with Shattered Star: Book One: Shards of Sin), and see Krune and the followers of Lisalla showcased in Pathfinder Society Season Four: Year of the Risen Rune (culminating in Scenario #4-26: The Waking Rune). Readers of the previous campaigns will know that the other Runelords have always been coming. They’re there, waiting to rise…

And now it’s time!

Return of the Runelords is a new six-part Adventure Path that revolves around the return of the rest of the Runelords and the rise of New Thassilon. The events of Rise of the Runelords and the Shattered Star have already happened. But, if you’ve never played either, never fear! You can still enjoy this campaign. It begins with some trouble brewing in the Varisian town of Roderic’s Cove (more on that later!). The issues in this Adventure Path are longer than usual, and the final issue is supposed to be the biggest adventure of the series. (Pardon me while I squeal in glee). This Adventure Path will take you all the way from levels 1 to 20, which allows you to take on the incredibly powerful Runelords without delving into mythic tiers. Each of the six Runelords (excluding the seventh: Karzoug) is featured on one of the covers, with gorgeous artwork drawn by Ekaterina Burmak (you’ll see them featured throughout this article).

Before we get too far into what we know about Return of the Runelords, we’re going to talk a bit about the Runelords and Thassilon.


What the heck is Thassilon, and what’s a Runelord?

Thassilon is an ancient empire founded over 11,000 years ago by First King Xin. Xin was Azlanti, but thought that place sucked. He was exiled and decided to found his own nation. Things seemed to be working fine, and his country spread far and wide. He appointed seven wizard governors to oversee the provinces of his empire. Each was an expert in a specific school of magic which was originally based on the seven virtues of rule (charity, generosity, humility, kindness, love, temperance, and zeal). In time, these virtues became twisted into the seven sins (envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath) and the Runelords betrayed Xin. In the aftermath Xin was destroyed, the Runelords seized control of Thassilon, Xin’s son was placed on the throne as a puppet emperor, and the tyrannical Runelords continued ruling their own provinces. But the Runelords were greedy. They bickerer, bargained, and plotted for more power and territory over each other. In addition, they were big jerks. They enslaved races, subjugated their people, and so on. They built massive monuments which survive throughout Varisia to this day. You ever hear of the Irespan in Magnimar? Thassilonian. The Old Light in Sandpoint? Thassilonian. The black pyramid underneath Castle Korvosa? Thassilonian. Skull’s Crossing? Lady’s Light? Yup! Thassilonian!

In time, Earthfall drew near. And the Runelords? They saw it coming. They prepared for the coming apocalypse and enacted magical countermeasures. Each waited out the end of their empire and the coming Age of Darkness in their own ways. But Earthfall devastated Golarion more than they had ever imagined, and most of their countermeasures and failsafes either failed or malfunctioned. The Runelords slumbered on throughout the ages.

Until Karzoug: Runelord of Greed. Now, Karzoug wasn’t the only Runelord of Greed. There were seven before him: Kaladurnae, Fethryr, Gimmel, Ligniya, Mazmiranna, Aethusa, and Haphrama. But, at the time of Earthfall, he was the big shot. He ruled all of the province of Shalast from its capital of Xin-Shalast, was a master of transmutation magic, and wielded a powerful burning glaive which was decorated with meteorites. Just over a decade ago Karzoug stirred. His minions spread throughout his realm of Xin-Shalast, and then out into Varisia, but Karzoug himself could not quite manifest into the Material Plane. His minions’ efforts to bring him back into Golarion are thwarted by heroes during the course of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path. I won’t go into detail on its events — that’s what playing is for! — but I will say that if your players have done their job, the Runelord Karzoug is no more.

But there, at the very back of Rise of the Runelords final volume, it reads:

“The runelords will return.”

Tease much? Haha.


So what’s Shattered Star? More Runelords?

Nope! During the Shattered Star Adventure Path you play as Pathfinders under the command of Venture-Captain Shield Heidmarch of Magnimar. She gives you one of seven pieces of a ancient Thassilonian artifact and tasks you with using it’s magical connection with the other six pieces to track down the artifacts components and put it back together. You explore ancient Thassilonian monuments from throughout Varisia, briefly visit a lot of fun places showcased in other Varisian Adventure Paths, and reforge an ancient relic, only to discover Thassilon’s capital of Xin, and come up against the First King himself. It’s awesome! But no, it does not feature any of the Runelords, which means that there are six Runelords left.

Sort of.


Sort of? What’s up?

It Came From Hollow Mountain Mike Shel Return of the Runelords 2
Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came from Hollow Mountain  by Mike Shel. Features Krune Runelord of Sloth on the cover, as illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak.

Pathfinder Society Season Four: Year of the Risen Rune pits the Pathfinder Society against the cult of Lissala, an ancient Thassilonian goddess. At the time of Earthfall, Lissalla’s highest ranking priest was also a Runelord: Krune, Runelord of Sloth. Krune ruled the province of Haruka, from his capital of Xin-Haruka, and wielded a longspear made from a dragons tooth that could move and attack on its own. His skin was said to be tattooed with countless magical spells and runes. There were six other Runelords of Greed before Krune: Xirie, Ilthyrius, Azeradni, Zalelet, Krenlith, and Ivarinna. It’s said Krune was the least violent of the Runelords, mostly cause he was lazy. During the course of the Year of the Risen Rune, the Lissalan cult tries to bring about the return of the Runelord Krune. And succeeds. This campaign arc includes Scenarios: #4-00: Race for the Runecarved Key, #4-02: In Wrath’s Shadow#4-07: Severing Ties, #4-08: Cultist’s Kiss, #4-10: Feast of Sigils, #4-12: The Refuge of Time, #4-20: Words of the Ancients, and #4-26: The Waking Rune. In the finale they face off against Krune himself. And hopefully kill him. Haha.


So who were these other Runelords?

Good question! In addition to Karzoug, The Runelord of Greed, and Krune, The Runelord of Sloth, there were five other Runelords. Runelords that we will, hopefully, get to face off against (or thwart the minions of) throughout the course of Return of the Runelords.

The Runelord of Envy is Belimarius, an aged, overweight woman who adored gossip and politics. She was a paranoid schemer who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She’s generally considered to have been an efficient ruler, and among the weakest of the Runelords. She ruled the realm of Edasseril, was a master of abjuration magic, and wielded a gold and mithral halberd that could steal the memories of her enemies. (Awesome!). There were a whopping nine Runelords of Envy before her, including Naaft, Tannaris, Ivamura, Jurah, Chalsardra, Esedrea, Zarve, Desamelia, and Phirandi. It’s said that when Belimarius usurped her throne from Runelord Phirandi, she locked him in a clear coffin and put him on display in her palace (safe to assume it was a magical coffin). Belimarius had a lot of trouble preparing for Earthfall. In the end, her magical ritual backfired and she accidentally locked her entire city in a week-long time loop (the city is surrounded by an impenetrable forcefield and is known by local Varisians as Crystilan). Also? Apparently she had a magic mirror, like the one from Snow White. Cool! Belimarius has long been one of my favourite Runelords. I’ve always liked the idea of the scheming, jealous old woman who’s super powerful. Plus, her specialty is abjuration! It’s about time someone made that badass. (I know, I know. Not many people would say she’s their favourite Runelord. Haha.)

The Runelord of Gluttony was Zutha, a unique undead who could experience life as vividly as any living man. He ruled the realm of Gastash, was a master of necromancy magic, and wielded a scythe made of bone that could drain the life from his enemies, and a collection of powerful ioun stones. He was a ravenous gourmand who constantly sought new foods (including living humanoids), experiences, and luxuries. He nation was the breadbasket of Thassilon, and he was not above cutting off food supplies to any Runelords who dared to cross him. There were four Runelords of Gluttony before him including Kaliphesta, Atharend, Aethusa, and Goparlis. With the fall of Thassilon Zutha bound his life to a magical tome which was then split into three parts. These books were given to his servants who were supposed to rejoin them once it was safe. His spirit would then subsume them until they became him. These books and one of their owners (the taiga giant lich necromancer Thulos) are described in detail in the extra articles at the back of the Shattered Star Adventure Path: Book Six: The Dead Heart of Xin.

The Runelord of Lust was Sorshen, an incredibly beautiful woman rumoured to have used blood magic to become eternally youthful. She ruled over the realm of Eurythnia, was a master enchantress, and wielded a double-headed guisarme. Sorshen was the only Runelord of Lust to have ever existed. That’s right! The one and only. The famous Lady’s Light monument in the Mushfens (which is explored in Shattered Star: Book Two: Curse of the Lady’s Light) depicts Sorshen. Other monuments of her rule include the Sunken Queen (which is showcased in Curse Of The Crimson Throne: Book Six: Crown Of Fangs), while her tomb is located underneath Castle Korvosa in the Grand Mastaba. There she is said to be sleep eternally alongside her awakening vampiric servants.

The Runelord of Pride was Xanderghul, an absurdly arrogant, silver-tongued diplomat who tried to rise above the petty squabbling of the other Runelords. He ruled the realm of Cyrusian, was a master of illusions, and wielded a lucerne hammer made from skymetal. Like Sorshen, Xanderghul ruled for the entire reign of Thassilon. There was no Runelord of Pride either before or after him. He is widely regarded as the most powerful Runelord of them all. He publicly worshipped the Peacock Spirit, a mysterious deity that he encouraged his followers to venerate (which was actually himself). Xanderghul always struck me as the big bad of the remaining Runelords, and when I made my own custom campaign revolving around their return, it was him who I had envisioned as the final boss. Although I can only speculate on what role he’ll play in the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path, he is definitely not the ‘final boss.’

The Runelord of Wrath was Alaznist, an angry, impulsive woman who waged war against Karzoug throughout her reign. She ruled the realm of Bakrakhan, was a master evoker, and wielded a ranseur upon which she impaled the skull of the first Runelord of Wrath, Alderpash. Other than good old Alderpash, there were three other Runelords of Wrath: Angothane, Xiren, and Thybidos. Alaznist worshipped demons, particularly Yamasoth, and channeled the anger of her people in order to create monsters for her armies (including sinspawn, and reefclaws). It’s said she also modified her troops with fleshwarping, alchemy, and other methods. The ruins of Hollow Mountain are part of her domain and have her face carved on the side of the mountain. More details on Hollow Mountain can be found in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Dungeons of Golarion, where they showcase an entire level of this massive complex, as well as Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-02: In Wrath’s Shadow. She’s also the creator of the Irespan in Magnimar, and the Old Light in Sandpoint, which is actually a magical siege machine called a hellfire flume which could shoot fireballs at invading armies. As far as I can recall, Alaznist escaped Earthfall by entering some kind of otherworldly (or maybe it was extraplanar?) refuge or hideout (don’t quote me on that, haha) within Hollow Mountain.


Enough with the history lesson! Tell me about Return of the Runelords!

Return of the Runelords is a six part adventure path that tasks your players with preventing the return of not one, but all the remaining Runelords of Thassilon. These volumes are extra long, with the final issue promising to be the largest adventure path volume yet! It’s intended to bring your player’s characters all the way from levels 1 to 20!  There’s going to be plenty of references to previous events, places, treasures and characters who first appeared in Rise of the Runelords and Shattered Star, and of course, you’ll get to hear what happened to any heroes from those adventures.

Return of the Runelords begins with Book One: Secrets of Roderick’s Cove, written by Adam Daigle, and showcasing the Runelord of Wrath Alaznist on its cover. It takes place in the port town of Roderic’s Cove, where some strange things are happening! What sort of things? Well, I won’t go into it too much, but it involves multiple factions violently vying for control of the little town (and utilizing Thassilonian magics and relics to do so!), and a mysterious ghost. As your PCs become embroiled in trying to bring peace to Roderic’s Cove, they’ll also learn that the Runelords of Thassilon are reawakening! In addition to the adventure itself, this issue features an awesome gazetteer on Roderic’s Cove, some new monsters (including the nochlean, and the warpglass ooze), and an article on the history of Thassilon and how each Runelords survived Earthfall. It’s going to be awesome! This adventure should bring your characters from level 1 to 5.

Now that your PCs know the point of the campaign, it’s time for them to do something about it! Return of the Runelords: Book Two: It Came from Hollow Mountain is written by Mike Shel, features the Runelord of Sloth Kruth on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 5 to 8. Your PCs travel to the Varisian city of Magnimar to deliver a powerful relic, and tasks them with following up on rumours of the Runelords.   They head to the infamous Hollow Mountain — a mountain on Rivenrake Island where the Runelord Alaznist once hid from Earthfall. This dungeon complex is massive, and filled with monsters and traps. There they’ll discover secrets that can help them in their coming fights. And as for Alaznist? She’s already awake! In addition to the adventure itself, this issue has an article and statistics on the empyreal lord Ashava, as well as an article on the always nasty sinspawn! Creature in this issue include the choking shade, and the shriezyx queen.

Runeplague Return of the Runelords 3 Richard Pett
Return of the Runelords: Book 3: Runeplague by Richard Pett. Featuring Zutha Runelord of Gluttony on the cover, as illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak.

Return of the Runelords: Book 3: Runeplague is written by Richard Pett, features the disgusting Runelord of Gluttony Zutha on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 8 to 12. Armed with new information (and haunted by weird visions!) your players learn of a magical plague that begins in Magnimar and is set to spread across all of Varisia! They travel the country, face cultists of Yamasoth, and stop the Polymorph Plague from turning people into monsters! Its also hinted that they might be able to stop as many as two different Runelords from being awakened (My bets are on Zutha and Sorshen, but that’s conjecture). Interestingly, this book raises the question: are all of the Runelords equally dangerous and can some of them become your allies? Well, colour me intrigued! In addition to the adventure itself you’ll find an articles on the cult of Yamasoth, the Polymorph Plague, magical pools, and some new monsters (including misery siktempora and kasthezvi). 

The next volume in this adventure path is Return of the Runelords: Book Four: Temple of the Peacock Spirit. It’s written by Jason Keeley, likely features artwork of Xanderghul on the cover, and is intended to bring your characters from level 12 to around level 15 (or 16, perhaps? I’m guessing). In this issue your players face off against the cult of the Peacock Spirit, travel to their temple in the mountains, and stop them from bringing Xanderghul back into the world. An important task, since he’s among the most powerful of the Runelords! Details on this issue are scant, and I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.

Return of the Runelords: Book Five: The City Outside of Time is written by Amanda Hamon Kunz, probably features the Runelord of Envy Belimarius on the cover, and is likely to bring your characters from around level 15/16 to level 18 or so (I’m guessing on the level range). In it, your players head to Crystilan, a city encased in a crystal sphere where the Runelord Belimarius and her citizens live out the same week of their life over and over again. You’re heading there to stop the Runelord Alaznist from utilizing time altering magic to do… something! But getting past Crystilan’s inpenetrable walls is not going to be easy! You’ll have to head to the shadow plane, perform a ritual, enter the eternally preserved Thassilonian city of Edasseril, and figure out a way to stop her. But, Alaznist’s presence has altered this place, and things are changing for the first time in ages. This adventure sounds like it has a lot of fun social interactions, intrigue, and politics, which is going to be AMAZING. I’m actually the most excited for this volume of the Adventure Path, out of all of them! I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.

Return of the Runelords: Book Six: Rise of New Thassilon is the final instalment of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. It promises to be the longest yet! Written by Greg A. Vaughan, and featuring artwork of… The Runelord of Lust Sorshen, I think (don’t quote me on that, haha!), and is intended to bring your characters all the way up to level 20. In this volume Alaznist has messed with time, affecting both the past and the future! Your characters will need to fix the damage she’s caused, and take down the Runelord of Wrath Alaznist! That’s right! It’s got time travel! Oh yeah, and you’ll have to figure out what becomes of ‘New Thassilon.’ Yes. You read that right! It’s going to be epic! I am not yet sure what extra articles and monsters will be featured in its pages.

This brings us to the end of the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path. The first issue is already out, multiple other issues are available for pre-order, and the final volumes are due out by year’s end! This campaign sounds like a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I’ll race you to it!

Jessica


UPDATE: For a more recent look at Return of the Runelords check out this blog post: Review: Return of the Runelords: Secrets of Roderic’s Cove!


Note: All of the art below is by Ekaterina Burmak, and was featured on Paizo’s blog. Gorgeous, isn’t it?