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!
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!
Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp Book 4 of 6)
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!
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 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!
Today on d20 Diaries we’re taking a peek between the covers of one of the wonderful new products that came out at the end of last year: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. If you’re a follower of this blog you’ll know this was a book I was thrilled to get my hands on this past holiday season, and I was not disappointed.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook is a thick softcover book that is 64 pages long. Although the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line typically contains world lore (for all players) and some extra material for GMs, this book is a bit different. Equally geared at both players and GMs, it contains detailed rules on creating constructs, class archetypes, magic items, and a lot of new golems and golem templates. The cover features some atmospheric artwork by Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, which depicts the iconic arcanist Enora giving commands to her adamantine golem, as it battles a quantium golem. (Talk about epic career goals! Haha).
The front inside cover shines a light on some famous construct innovators, providing an image and a paragraph of information on each. The crafters showcased are Sidrah Imeruss, founder of the Technic League and an expert in the robots of Numeria; Toth Bhreacher, founder of the prestigious Golemworks in Magnimar; and Hadia Al-Dannah, a world renowned Qadiran mathematician, former scholar of the Clockwork Cathedral in Absalom, and expert on clockwork construction. The information is brief but lends a face to the construct trade, which is really nice. It also serves to give any characters interested in crafting golems a famous mentor or role model to live up to. A nice bit of fluff and backstory for any characters interested in seizing it.
After that we have the table of contents, and then we hop right into the introduction. In addition to touching on what’s going to be in this lovely little tome, the introduction also discusses how the general populace of Golarion views golems and their crafters (both positives and negatives), and the difficulty in obtaining appropriate raw materials to craft a golem (which can often become an adventure in and of itself!). The Construct Handbook primarily focuses on clockworks, golems, and robots, but explains that there are may other kinds of constructs. For each of these major kinds of contracts it doesn’t touch upon, it contains a paragraph of information that lets you know where those constructs were first introduced, how compatible they are with the templates in this book, and where you can look for further information on them (if applicable). Constructs mentioned in this way are animated objects, colossi, and homunculi.
Leaving behind the introduction we hop right into the first chapter: ‘Crafting Constructs.’ This section of the book is six pages long and is really, really useful for anyone who wants to make a construct. Not sure I can stress that enough! Haha. It starts by taking a look at every step in the construct crafting process and explaining it fully and clearly. That includes everything from the requirements, cost, and finding materials, to time, and skill checks. It then details other methods that you could use to craft a construct, such as the use of the infamous golem manuals, purchase, and theft. After that it talks about construct modifications, which were first introduced in Pathfinder RPG: Ultimate Magic. It offers four new basic modifications (I particularly liked the movement and resistances modifications) and six really cool new complex modifications (be sure to check out construct shelter, mind link, and self-repair).
The next chapter is six pages in length and contains eleven new archetypes. Some of these archetypes fell into expected themes: those that create or destroy constructs, but others I found quite surprising. My favourite archetype was definitely the clocksmith, a wizard archetype that falls solidly in the ‘create construct’ category. This delightful archetype lets you create a magical clockwork familiar in place of your regular familiar, and gives you craft construct as a bonus feat at level one instead of scribe scroll. In place their arcane school powers, clocksmiths gain a bonus on saving throws against effects created by constructs, and increase their effective spell level when casting spells that target constructs. At later levels they can tinker with their clockwork familiars, granting them eidolon evolutions. Super cool and thematic! I love it!
Other archetypes that fall solidly in the ‘create construct’ category include the construct caller, an unchained summoner archetype that allows your eidolon to be a construct; the cruorchymist, an alchemist archetype that gives up its poison abilities and mutagen to have a homunculus familiar which he can heal or alter on the fly with his own blood. Although I enjoy the construct caller, I find the cruorchymist is really rough on your CON score, with one ability dealing CON drain and another dealing CON damage to your character. Ouch!
Of the archetypes that focus on destroying constructs, I found that I liked the construct saboteur best. This rogue archetype swaps out knowledge (dungeoneering) and knowledge (local) as class skills in exchange for knowledge (arcana) and knowledge (engineering). They gain arcane strike at first level instead of trap finding, and gain a special kind of ability called an arcane sabotage, which is essentially construct hindering rogue talents accessible only though this archetype. My favourite of the arcane sabotage options are diminish senses (which can blind a construct for a turn) and magic vulnerability (which replaces a construct’s magic immunity with spell resistance instead). Most of the arcane sabotage options also allow you to extend of bolster their effects by giving up any sneak attack damage that you would deal. Super cool!
I was pleasantly surprised by the Forgefather’s seeker paladin archetype that enables pious worshippers of Torag to destroy dangerous artificial creations. They can smite constructs, cut through their DR with ease, and, at level 20, they even have a chance to automatically destroy a construct with a single blow. Not only was this archetype really solid and thematic, it was not something I expected to see. Construct killing paladins? I like it! The final ‘construct killing’ themed archetype was an arcanist archetype called the arcane tinkerer.
After reading the archetypes in this chapter, another theme became apparent: archetypes that can hijack or otherwise assume control of enemy constructs. Here you’ll find the construct collector occultist archetype, and the voice of Brigh bard archetype. The voice of Brigh was an interesting archetype. They have the ability to effect constructs with their bardic performances, which is very cool. But, most of it’s offensive performances have changed so that they only effect constructs. Essentially this means that you can use your bolstering music on allies of all kinds, including constructs, but that your hindering ones, like dirge of doom, fascinate, and frightening tune can only affect constructs. It’s a balanced trade if you’re going to be facing off against or allying with constructs on a regular basis, but otherwise is a rather large negative. However, their new bardic performance, Brigh’s Spark, allows them to reanimate a destroyed construct and force it to fight on your behalf. Each round they use this performance the construct regains more hp, and if it ever reaches full hp before they stop performing, it remains animated and under their control for 24 hours. So worth it!
I rather enjoyed the construct collector, as well, particularly because it gives up my least used of the occultist abilities for some cool new powers. They sacrifice magic circles, outside contact, binding circles, and fast circles, for the ability to temporarily halt a constructs destruction and control it for a turn (at the cost of some mental focus). At higher levels this ability’s duration is extended to a few rounds, and then a few minutes. They also gain the ability to harvest parts from broken constructs, which hold a point of generic focus. They can use the generic mental focus stored in these parts to fuel their focus powers on a one-for-one basis, which renders the parts useless. A nice touch!
The last few archetypes are much less focused and more easily used in a wide variety of games. The engineer is an investigator archetype that creates mechanisms that can aid them in a specific task for a few minutes. These mechanisms cost an inspiration point to create, grant the inspiration dice to the check it was made for throughout its duration, and can be shared with allies. They also gain a bonus on identifying constructs and on engineering checks. The scrapper is a fighter archetype that scavenges the parts from armour or broken constructs and uses them to augment their own armour. How much the makeshift modifications help and last depend on how powerful their source was. I found that archetype one of the most surprising I read! Really wasn’t expecting it, but I like it! Finally, there’s the wild effigy, a shifter archetype whose aspects and wild shape take on the appearance and consistency of stone instead of flesh and blood.
Chapter three is four pages of magic items, all with a very strong construct theme. It’s mostly golem manuals, but eight other magic items exist as well. I particularly like the chirurgeon cube and the oculus of magnetic fury.
Which brings us to our last and largest chapter: the bestiary. This thing is a forty three pages long, making it well over half the length of the book. In this chapter you’ll find fifteen new constructs and nine construct templates (each of which includes one sample stat block). Five of these constructs are a new intelligent kind of construct with ties to the Jistka Imperium, called an automaton. There’s also four new clockworks, three new robots, and three new golems. My favourite new constructs were the champion automatons (who can grab an enemy in their pincers and then whack another enemy with them! Hahaha! I love it!), clockwork songbird, dragonhide golem, and sand golem. My favourite construct templates include the energized golem, haunted construct, and recycled construct.
Which brings us to the end of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s got some cool archetypes and a lot of awesome new enemies. New beasties for your players to battle against is always a great investment as a GM, so it was worth my money based on creatures alone. It’s an invaluable book for anyone who want to get into construct crafting. That said, it is very tight on its theme. Chances are if you’re a player who isn’t planning on crafting constructs or playing in a construct heavy campaign, you won’t find much of use in this book. It should be noted that although I’ll get the most use out of this book (as a GM), all of my family — my husband and my two young children — read this book and got inspired by the class archetypes. The three of them are now begging me to make them a construct themed campaign. (Do we not have enough campaigns?! Pretty sure we do!). I suppose it’s more use for players than I thought! Haha.
All in all, we’re happy to have this lovely little book on our shelf!
Do you own the Construct Handbook? Got some favourite creatures from it or stories about construct crafting you want to share? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
As mentioned this past Monday, today we’re going to be taking a look at one of the wonderful Pathfinder books I happen to own: Blood of the Sea!
Blood of the Sea is a Pathfinder Player Companion compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This means it’s a thin, soft-cover book with plenty of new options intended for players creating characters. More specifically, this volume focuses on some of the aquatic races of Golarion, how you can use them in water and on land, and on underwater adventuring. This book goes hand in hand with Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures, which contains information on each of the oceans of Golarion, underwater combat, a host of new rules and some new character options.
The races detailed in Blood of the Sea include aquatic elves, cecaelias, gillmen, locathahs, merfolk, tritons, adaro, grindylow, and sahuagin. Statistics for playing these races as characters are including for all of these races except for aquatic elves, gillmen and merfolk. Aquatic elves, gillmen and merfolk can be found in a variety of sources, including the the Advanced Race Guide and Inner Sea Races. Gillmen can also be found in the Inner Sea World Guide, and the Inner Sea Monster Codex, while merfolk can also be found in the first Bestiary.
Blood of the Sea features dynamic cover art by Kiki Moch Rizky, which showcases Hakon, the iconic skald, battling an enraged cecaelia on the beach. The inside cover has a really useful map of Golarion with all of its oceans and seas labelled. I definitely read some I didn’t recognize, which is nice to see. The oceans include Abari, Antarkos, Arcadian, Embaral, and Okaiyo, while the seas depicted are Castrovin, Fever, Ivory, Inner, Shining, Songil, Steaming, and Valashmai. For more information on these major waterways you’ll need to check out Aquatic Adventures.
Up next is the table of contents and the introduction. Unlike most Pathfinder Player Companion introductions, this one does not contain any traits or character options. It does still contain a handy rules index, which lists all the new archetypes, feats, and other new rules options contained in the book, alphabetically by type with the page numbers so they can be found on for easy reference. After this we move right into the bulk of the book: aquatic races. The goodly races are presented first, each with two pages dedicated to them. Each contains information about the race in general, how they might come to be adventurers, and some new rules options which typically include statistics for playing them as a race, alternate race traits, favoured class options, feat, and archetypes. Villainous races are showcased afterwards, with two pages shared between then three of them.
Up first? Aquatic elves! Curious and respectful, these elves take it upon themselves to explore and protect underwater ruins — although they have the wisdom to leave the most dangerous ruins untouched. There’s some nifty artwork featuring an aquatic elf with a dagger that has a handle made from a conch shell, which looks pretty cool. As already mentioned, the statistics for playing an aquatic elf are not included in this book. Instead, there is a nice rogue archetype called ‘seeker of the lost‘ which I rather enjoyed. It focuses on exploring underwater ruins, disabling magical traps (which are some of the only kind to survive long periods of time underwater without deteriorating), and underwater combat. Although it’s not ground-breaking or anything, I rather like it. There are also three alternate race traits, and a total of nine favoured class options. ‘Deep sea dweller‘ allows aquatic elves to survive in the dark, depths of the ocean — sort of. It grants you dark vision and cold resistance at the cost of low-light vision and elven immunities. It does not, however, grant and protections from pressure. So it allows you to be in the lightless parts of the ocean, but not too far down. It’s my favourite of the race traits for sure! ‘Surface features‘ allows you to blend in with surface elves which, although useful, doesn’t really tickle my fancy. Why be a weird race and then choose to look like everyone else? Still, it’s sure to see use in play. It replaces keen senses. Lastly, ‘surfacer antagonist‘ is for all the aquatic elves out there who have been harmed by those nasty humans. (Ugh. Filthy land-lubbers. Am I right? lol). This trait grants you a +1 bonus on attack rolls against humans at the cost of elven magic. Yeah, against HUMANS. This trait is going to be really good in pretty much any adventure or campaign. I honestly can’t think of one where you don’t fight a human at some point. Despite it’s usefulness, ‘deep sea dweller’ beats it as my favourite character option for aquatic elves.
Next we come to cecaelias, which first appeared in Pathfinder as an enemy in Bestiary 3. I can honestly say that before reading this book they were not one of the races I ever thought I would want to play. They seem relatively impractical for a PC (being aquatic, and having tentacles), and I’m not big into octopi. It just wasn’t interesting to me. But, after reading the book, I’m probably the most excited for playing a cecaelia. For starters the artwork is awesome, and makes them a lot more relatable than the bestiary image. Their racial traits are fun looking. They have enough of the monster’s original abilities, while still being playable as a PC. They’re a powerful race, of course, at 23 RP, which puts them on par with grindylow, sahuagin, ogres, and svirfneblin. They have great flavour and cultural information. I adore that they’re super curious and social. They’re out to enjoy life, which is always fun to play. They come with three alternate race traits: ‘dextrous tentacles,’ ‘garrulous,’ and ‘tripping tentacles.’ They’re all pretty good, with ‘dextrous tentacles‘ allowing you to use your tentacles to hold and manipulate objects and increase the range of your tentacle sense ability (which gives you blindsight underwater) at the expense of being able to shoot an ink cloud; ‘garrulous‘ gives you a bonus on linguistics and diplomacy skill checks as well as allows you to learn two languages each time you invest a rank into linguistics at the expense of being able to shoot an ink cloud; lastly, ‘tripping tentacles‘ makes you really good at tripping your opponent but causes you to lose your tentacle sense ability. I like ‘garrulous‘ best, but I’m one of those players who enjoys learning a ton of languages, so I’m definitely biased. Haha. As for class options, they have only a single feat up for offer. That said, I like it, so its enough for me. The feat is ‘cecaelia focus tattoo’ which gives you a magical tattoo. Although you can have any number of tattoos, you can only activate one at a time. Once activated a tattoo functions for one hour. There are currently eight different tattoos which can increase your saves against poison or death effects, your stealth or survival skill checks, or the distance of your darkvision. Once you have the feat you can also choose to take another tattoo or increase the potency of one of your tattoos in place of a favoured class bonus, which is a pretty nifty option.
Leaving behind our tattooed cephalopods we get to a race I’ve liked since they were introduced ages ago: gillmen. I know, I know, having to submerge yourself in water or die a horrible death is tricky for a lot of campaigns, but what can I say? I like them! As mentioned previously, statistics for playing gillmen are not included this book. Instead, we get some nice flavour and cultural information (some of which is new), and a lot of class options. There’s the ‘hidden current‘ vigilante archetype which allows gillmen to take on the identity of a nonaquatic humanoid when they’re on land, and at higher levels can even let them magically travel between the land or sea. There’s also four feats, four alternate race traits, an four favoured class bonuses. Also? Awesome artwork! Its my favourite of the entire book. My favourite class options are the feats ‘surface survivor‘ (which makes playing gillmen more manageable) and ‘aphotic explorer,’ as well as the ‘venomkissed‘ alternate race trait.
Locathahs are up next, which is another one of those races I’ve never really felt an urge to play. That said, the flavour really sold it for me, and I think I’d enjoy creating one. My favourite part? They’re stinky and proud of it! Haha. Locathahs use their scent to communicate, even underwater, which is pretty cool. Locathah racial traits are a great conversion from their statistics from Bestiary 2, and the race comes in at 10 RP, which makes them approximately on par with the core races. There are also three feats here, all of which are a part of a combat style called ‘electric eel‘ that utilizes the ‘elemental fist‘ feat. I’ve mentioned in other blog posts that combat styles aren’t really my cup of tea, but I’m actually quite fond of this one. I recommend giving it a read. There are also five alternate race traits available for locathah characters, and six favoured class bonuses. I like all of the alternate race traits, but I think my favourites are ‘blunt head‘ which gives you a bite attack but reduces your swim speed, and ‘coastal emissary.‘ I also love ‘powerful smell,’ but its bound to irritate your companions. Haha.
Up next is merfolk. As mentioned, the statistics for merfolk are not provided in this book. Instead there’s a lot of music-themed class options and six favoured class bonuses. In fact, they have some of my very favourite class options in the entire book. For starters there the oracle archetype ‘ocean’s echo‘ which gives you a nice selection of sound-themed bonus spells, and the ability to use some bardic performances. I’m in! (It should be noted: I love bards). There’s also a new oracle curse which is bound to be a ton of fun: ‘song-bound,’ which compels you to sing loudly whenever you speak. Yes, always. How fun is that? I don’t know about you, but I would literally sing everything my character says (I’m an average singer at best, by the way). My kids love it, too. Lastly, there are two new masterpieces in this section, one of which can grant your companions a swim speed, and the other that can scare off trespassers. Both can be sung or played on a string instrument.
Tritons are the final goodly aquatic race in this book. Just over half of the entry is racial and cultural information, most of which is new (as far as I know, haha). Their racial traits are well done, but wow! Are they ever slow on land! Haha. They’re a great conversion from their statistics in Bestiary 2, and come out to a total of 11 RP which makes them approximately on par with the core races and locathahs. There’s a paladin archetype in this section called ‘kraken slayer‘ which looks interesting, but isn’t going to see much use in non-aquatic campaigns. There’s also two feats which work well together: ‘ally caller‘ which lets you use your innate spell-like ability to summon water elementals and dolphins two extra times per day (this feat can be taken multiple times) and ‘aquatic squires‘ which makes that same spell-like ability last 1 minute per level. Not amazing or anything, but fun and flavourful. I like it. All told, though, triton is my least favourite of the goodly races featured in this book.
With the good guys over and done we come to two pages entitled ‘Enemies of the Sea.’ Here we find statistics for playing adaros, grindylow, and sahuagin, as well as a paragraph of racial information on each. Grindylow and sahuagin are both 22 RP, putting them on par with the cecaelia, while adaro are a whopping 32 RP, which makes them among the toughest races you can choose, just under gargoyles and driders. I’ve always enjoyed adaros and grindylow, so I’m happy to see they were included.
Flipping the page we get to three pages on gear — most of which is mundane. Air breathing creatures can make use of artificial gills to survive underwater for a while, while aquatic creatures with slow base speeds like merfolk and tritons can make use of land limbs to improve their speed on land. There’s also a lot of practical gear like underwater paper, pens and compasses, as well as wall hooks. But, my personal favourite mundane bit of gear? Sponge suit! This is a mandatory purchase for the next gillman I make!
There are only four magical items, but they’re all quite useful. The ‘crystal helm‘ fills with water while on land and with air while underwater, allowing a PCs out of their environment the ability to breathe. The familiar bubble can keep your familiar breathing underwater, and shimmering kilt can turn an aquatic humanoid’s tail into legs. (No need to barter with evil cecealia witches anymore… Poor Ursula’s going to be unemployed). But, my personal favourite? The ‘cloak of eternal mist.’ In addition to making you character count as if they were submerged in water, it grants you a bonus to hide in fog and mist, and can grant you concealment when immobile. The best part? Its relatively affordable.
There are four spells on the next page. They are nicely thematic, but none of them blew me away. I think my favourite is ‘arid refuge,’ a spell that can help enable prolonged underwater adventures for land-bound characters by giving them a safe place to rest. Other spells include ‘instant clot,’ ‘silt sphere,’ and ‘suspend drowning.’
Leaving magic behind we get to four pages of aquatic class options that can be taken by most races. There’s a total of five class archetypes, one cavalier order (order of the eel) and one eidolon subtype (deepwater eidolon). I particularly like the ‘aquatic beastmaster‘ archetype for hunter, which contains a whole new array of water themed animals to use with the animal focus ability. I also really like that the ‘coral witch‘ witch archetype allows you to grow your familiar out of coral, an that the ‘keeper of the current‘ inquisitor archetype can track underwater by reading traces of eddies and currents. Very cool! The last two archetypes are ‘crashing wave‘ for the cleric (which has a very interesting form of channel energy that leaves neutrally aligned creatures unaffected) and the ‘tempest tamer‘ druid archetype (which taps into the powers of typhoons, whirlpools, and other storms).
After this is a very useful chapter on the challenges facing underwater creatures who find themselves on land, and ideas and methods for overcoming those challenges (both magical and mundane). I found these four pages a huge help. It not only urges you to think about some troubles you might not have thought of, but it also makes playing aquatic races in a land-based campaign a lot more… attainable. There were certainly some topics discussed that I’d never thought of. Not because it’s obscure or anything, but just… I don’t know. I never thought about it. Haha. For example, weight. If you’re used to being buoyant, walking on land would be hard. How would you act? Imagine how heavy your body would feel to you. Sounds exhausting! What about weather? It’s a lot different than the sway of the currents. And climate? In a lot of places the ocean is cold. How does someone used to that feel on land? What about little things, like seeing a fire or cooking your food? Or keeping up with your companions? This section also has some awesome artwork of a serious ranger on a horse looking off into the distance. Except he’s not just a ranger. He’s a merfolk ranger riding sidesaddle. It’s great. Haha.
Which bring us to the last part of the book. Two pages discussing how air-breathing creatures can adventure and travel on or under water. Like the chapter before it, this section brings up some interesting topics. It also works as a handy reference for spells and magical gear that are useful for underwater exploration. There’s also a small sidebar that lists the oceans of Golarion, a few of its seas, and gives you a one sentence description about that body of water. It’s super brief, but better than nothing. As previously mentioned, players looking for more information on Golarions major waterways should pick up a copy of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures.
And that’s it! Then end.
This was a really fun, useful book that presented a lot of unique race and class options for players. I think it’s well-worth the investment. That said, due to its topic, it is quite niche. It’s not a book you’ll be able to use with every character or adventure you’re in. It’s quite focused: underwater races, and underwater class options. That said, this book invested a lot of effort into making underwater races playable on land indefinitely, and it succeeded. Some of the class options are just as usable above water as they are underwater — the ‘ocean’s echo‘ oracle archetype and the ‘tempest tamer‘ druid archetype are great examples of this. The rest, though, cleave pretty tightly to the waves. That said, there are plenty of places in Golarion where water is plentiful. The oceans, seas, and underwater, of course. There’s also the Shackles, Sodden Lands, and River Kingdoms, as well as many port towns, and the coasts throughout Golarion. There’s some settlements which are located both above and below the waves, like Acisazi (there’s at least one more, but I can’t recall its name at the moment… Hmmm… If you happen to remember it let me know in the comments!), and even Absalom has a the half-flooded district of the Puddles.
Those of you looking for adventures to play aquatic races or aquatic themed archetypes in should try the Pathfinder Modules: Plunder & Peril (which is a level four adventure that takes place in the Shackles), Ire of the Storm (which is a level one adventure that takes place in Sargava), River into Darkness (which is a level four GameMastery Module for 3.5 that takes place almost entirely along the Vanji River in the Mwangi Expanse), or — my personal favourites — Seers of the Drowned City (a level six adventure that takes place in a half-flooded ancient city in the Sodden Lands), and From Shore to Sea (a level six adventure that involves ancient Azlanti ruins and a super insular town on the coast of Cheliax). Those looking for a longer campaign should check out the Ruins of Azlant Adventure Path (which begins with Ruins of Azlant: Book One: The Lost Outpost), Skull and Shackles Adventure Path (which begins with Skull & Shackles: Book One: The Wormwood Mutiny), or even the Kingmaker Adventure Path (which begins begins with Kingmaker: Book One: Stolen Land). I know, I know, Kingmaker seems like an off choice. But, it takes place in the River Kingdoms (which has a whole lot of rivers), it’s encounters and adventure structure allow for regular resting (and taking a dunk in the nearest water source), and you can build your own town. Perfect for those high-maintenance aquatic races looking to make a unique mark on the world.
Now, before we get started, there’s one thing I need to state plainly, right up front. This is NOT a family friendly book. It’s not the book you want to bring with you to read at the laundromat or on the bus, and it’s not a book you’re going to get a lot of ideas from for games involving children, or the many gamers who prefer a fun, carefree kind of game. This book is dark. It’s disconcerting. More specifically, it features body horror, mental and physical torture, as well as imagery and content that may disturb some readers. If you’re a gamer who doesn’t enjoy (or enjoy experimenting with) such content in your d20 games, then this is NOT the book for you. I’d suggest such readers pass on it, and pick up another of the wonderful books that are available for Pathfinder.
Those of you who regularly read my blog may wonder why I bothered to invest in a book with mature content when most of the time when I GM my children are involved (a six and seven year old). That’s a fair question! This book was not chosen with them in mind. This book was for me. Why?
For starters, I have no other content outside of the Inner Sea World Guide, and the Pathfinder Module: The Midnight Mirror, that features Nidal. None. To me, that spot on the map is a giant question mark. I know the basics, but nothing else. Second, I’m the kind of player that likes a wide variety of experiences in my games. Yes, I love a happy, feel-good, fun game. I love character development, social interactions, and humour. But, I also love horror. I want my dark locales to actually be dark. The evil in my games should be disturbing, and disconcerting, not shallow and cliche. Within reason. Games are only worthwhile when the players find them fun, after all. This book on Nidal did just that.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Nidal, Land of Shadows is written by Liane Merciel, with additions by Lyz Liddell, Ron Lundeen, and Mark Moreland. It’s cover features awesome artwork by Kiki Moch Rizky that depicts the iconic hunter, Adowyn, and the iconic bard, Lem, facing off against an umbral dragon! This book is a thick softcover book which weighs in at 63 pages long. As a book in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line, it contains information on the locations of Golarion (Nidal, specifically). It does not feature new archetypes, or other character options. But, that doesn’t mean this is only a book for GMs! They’re awesome for GMs, of course, but they’re also great for helping players of all kinds create fully-formed characters from different locations. In addition, I find these books really fire up the imagination. They spark ideas for both adventures, side quests, villains and characters.
The inside cover features a gorgeous map of Nidal, complete with labels, scale, and beautiful tiny depictions of the major settlements, drawn with care. The book is split into four chapters. ‘Living in Shadow’ is a ten page look at what life is like for most citizens. ‘Gazetteer’ is a thirty page look at the locations found within Nidal. ‘Threats in the Gloom’ is a twelve page look at the various locations which are particularly well suited to adventuring. And ‘Bestiary’ is a nine page look at some of the unique creatures found within Nidal’s borders. The entire book is filled with darkly beautiful artwork, some of which may be disturbing to some readers.
The first chapter of the book, ‘Living in Shadow,’ begins with a wonderful Nidalese sermon which really helped put their view on their (horribly evil) religion into perspective. If read with the proper gravitas I swear it could make a shiver run down your spine. Very atmospheric! Its accompanied by some gothic artwork of a vampiric noblewoman looking out across the city. After this is a short, half-page summary of Nidal, it’s origins, and its culture. Up next is a gorgeous image of a Nidalese Horselord and about a page worth of text on the history of Nidal. This includes what life was like before they became thralls of Zon-Kuthon. There’s also information on the government of Nidal and some of its important personages. Nidal is a theocracy dedicated to Zon-Kuthon, headed by the Black Triune, and governed by the Umbral Court. After this there is information on some of the rare citizens you might come across in Nidal, including Caligni, Fetchlings, and the terrifying Kytons. Then we get a glimpse of what life is like in the decadent cities of Nidal, and the rural countryside. Spoiler Alert: It’s WAY different. Haha. There’s also a short section about the different kinds of religious and underground resistance found within Nidal. There’s also a discussion on Nidal’s relations with other nations, and a full page timeline showing important dates in Nidal’s history. Oh! And a delightful (disturbing) image of Zon-Kuthon, the benevolent (NOT) god who rules Nidal! Such a photogenic guy! (Note the sarcasm.)
I found this chapter was the incredibly useful in helping me understand life in Nidal. I had forgotten that the Nidalese people used to be horselords. Although I knew that they were the only civilization to survive Earthfall and the Age of Darkness (sort of), I hadn’t quite realized how important it was to their history. It’s a source of constant pride. Proof of the validity of their beliefs. It also means that they have relics, written works, books, maps, and actual, reliable artifacts and history from that time. From before that time. Refugees from other places — say… Azlanti and Thassilon for example — would have fled to Nidal for safety as refugees. it was once the literal centre of civlization in the Inner Sea. The Absalom of it’s time in a world of darkness, death, and barbarism. Even the poorest farmer would still have housewares and relics handed down through the millennia. Family heirlooms that are older than nations. Even if you only count Nidal’s history from the moment they made a pact with Zon-Kuthon, they’re a nation over 10,000 years old. That’s… monumentous. This nation’s history makes it particularly useful for anyone wanting to make a character with ties to ancient civilizations, including some of the new character options from Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Ancients.
I particularly enjoyed reading about the difference between city life and rural life, as well as about the Black Triune. For those of you who don’t know, they were the original horselords who beseeched Zon-Kuthon for protection for their people from Earthfall. Although the evil Zon-Kuthon granted their desires and saved their people (making them the only civilization to survive Earthfall and the Age of Darkness without crumbling) it also transformed the horselords into literal servants of Zon-Kuthon’s. They are his will made flesh. Eternal and unloving. They rule Nidal to this day, though they are rarely seen by any outside the Umbral Court.
The Gazeteer begins with a moving quote from a retiring Chelish Ambassador to her replacement about the cold beauty, harsh cruelty, and ancient knowledge which can be found in Nidal. I particularly loved the last line:
“…It is a place, for better or worse, that you will never forget. You can’t. The scars remain forever.”
Such a wonderful, atmospheric quote — again. Whoo! Love it! It’s accompanied by artwork depicting a Varisian caravan approaching a Nidalese city, surrounded by wildlife that looks rather ominous. Past the opening quote is about a page and a half of information about Nidal’s culture and politics, followed by details on their four major holidays.
Note to self: Don’t celebrate the Eternal Kiss. Or The Festival of Night’s Return. Or The Shadowchaining. Or anything, really. In fact, let’s amend that to: never visit Nidal. Haha. Honestly, I adored reading about the holidays! They were the perfect balance of ‘holiday’ and dark horror. Shivers!
After this we get to the bulk of the Gazeteer: details on a ton of locations, all of which are shown on that loverly inside-cover map I mentioned earlier. There’s a total of 55 locations which are detailed in this chapter, including two major cities (Pangolais and Ridwan) which include their own maps, and multiple locations within them. The Gazeteer’s locations include cities, towns, settlements, ancient ruins, dangerous locales, and natural features. They run the gamut from ‘safe’ and ‘unique’ to ‘deadly’ and ‘disturbing.’ It’s got a really great variety. A lot of these places sparked ideas for campaigns, adventures, and character origins — not all of which are evil. In fact, the most useful part of this chapter may be in it’s ability to make you realize that you can adventure here. You can be a hero in Nidal. I don’t mean just as a sweeping revolutionary who tries to change Nidal, but as a Nidalese person who lives and survives here. A local hero. In addition to details on the places, there’s information on important figures, enemies, and plenty of plot-hooks. There’s also a ton of useful references for where you can find further information on those places, people, and topics (both within this book, and in other books).
Some of my favourite places to read about were the Atteran Ranches (which is a great place to create characters who want to be members of the underground resistance), Auginford (a small settlement which recently unearthed a disturbing monument), Blacksulfur Pond (a pond connected to the Shadow Plane), Brimstone Springs (where a devil is enjoying a ‘delightful’ prank), Grayfrond (home to a creature based off a chilling Inuit folk creature), Stormhollow (a village whose inhabitants were slaughtered by kytons — and still walk the streets today as mutilated husks), and, my personal favourite, The Library Without Light, which is home to ancient texts and relics dating back to before Earthfall. If any of you own this book, I’d be curious to hear what your favourite locations were!
The next chapter, ‘Threats in the Gloom,’ begins with a recounting of an adventure in Nidal, by an Aspis Agent. It’s dour and dark, and perfect. And the art that comes with it? Creeeeeeepy! After this is looks at eleven different dangerous locations in Nidal, dedicating about a page to each. It includes the classes of powerful denizens, the kinds of creatures you can encounter there, features common to the area, as well as history, and plot-hooks for these locales. Once again, there’s a wide variety of locations here, from dungeons, dangerous wilds, haunted places, and urban areas. Those of you looking for more information on hidden bastions of good should check out the ‘Plains of Night’ and ‘Undervale.’ ‘The House of Lies’ is a great location for those of you looking for reasons for foreigners to visit. ‘Shadowreach’ revisits the legacy of a character from the Council of Thieves Adventure Path (Ilnerik Sivanshin who was mentioned in Council of Thieves: Book 3: What Lies in Dust, and featured in Council of Thieves: Book 5 – Mother of Flies). Looking for something darker? Check out the ‘Tower of Slant Shadows.’ Not only does it have connections to the wonderful Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, it’s also (in my humble opinion) the creepiest thing in the entire book. Yikes! I wish I had thought of that for my home game of Second Darkness… My personal favourite locations in this chapter are ‘Castle of the Captive Sun’ wherein a vampire keeps a collection of divinely descended beings prisoner, and tortures himself with holy artifacts! Very cool! And Barrowmoor, which is land filled with ancient burial mounds of the Nidalese Horselords. It’s steeped not only in creepy a atmosphere and a bunch of undead, but also in the occult, which I ALWAYS love. Barrowmoor is also the setting of the Tomb of Attai Horse-Speaker, which was published in its entirety in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Tombs of Golarion. Honestly, it’s one of my favourite tombs I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.
The last chapter of this book is the Bestiary, which collects six random encounter tables (which contains a few entries which pleasantly surprised me!) and six new monsters. The creatures vary from CR 2 to CR 8. There’s a new kyton, of course, called the suffragan. It’s born from the souls of another new creature, the joyful thing, which definitely is my pick for the most disturbing creature in this book! Yikes! The strongest monster on offer is the hive brute. For more information on hives you can check out Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Horror Adventures. I’m not a big fan of most plant creatures, but there is a cool shadow plant called the shadow fern which I actually really like. There’s also the smokeshade, which is a tiny extraplanar, incorporeal, aberration that looks like a patch of shadow. In addition to being an enemy, these little guys can be taken as familiars by casters of at least 7th level with the Improved Familiar feat. They’re actually quite fun, flavourful critters, that enjoy forming themselves into different rude shapes in order to mock other people or pantomime insults. I want one! Haha. But, the definite winner for the most useful creature is the shadow animal template. Not only can it be used to make shadow tainted creatures, it’s abilities are chosen from a list, which makes it very adaptable. It’s super useful, and really well done.
And that brings us to the end of Nidal, Land of Shadows. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It made me think about Nidal in a new way, which made it playable. It also gave me a lot of good ideas for characters and adventures set in this morbid, horrible place. But, keep in mind, this book is NOT for everyone. Only purchase this book if you enjoy adding dark horror to your games.