Pathfinder Playtest – Review

Welcome back to d20diaries!

Wow, finding the time to fully read the new Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook took longer than I expected! Well, not to read it, so much as to digest it. Understand it. Plenty of rules are different, so I had to really focus. Considering that I normally find time to read while overseeing screaming, bickering, playing, laughing, children of various ages (hey, moods change quick!), finding quiet time to get some reading done was more than a little difficult.

That said, I’m a quick reader. I finished it in about two days, then spent some time crafting characters in order to try out the creation process. Before I can take the time to teach my husband and kids how to play, I need to be able to explain it. Properly. Haha. After that I helped my family through the creation process, read through Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn (the first adventure we would be trying out), and we got to work playing.

It’s been a whirlwind! But a fun one.

And then I got sick. Still am.

LAME. Haha.

So whats on the agenda for today?

Today we’re going to take a look at Pathfinder Playtest. Not in depth — this isn’t a replacement for the rulebook. After all, the rulebook’s a free download. It’s my impressions, thoughts, and experiences. Things I’ve discovered, and even some questions I’ve got. Got an opinion of your own? Or an answer to a question I have? Let me know! This game system is brand new and we’re all learning together. Once you’ve had a chance to try out Pathfinder Playtest, be sure to head over to Paizo’s website and give them some feedback. They’re running surveys right now, and have forums up for you to share broader comments.

Ready? Let’s begin!

Pathfinder Playtest RulebookPathfinder Playtest is a new set of rules and gameplay for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended to streamline the game, while retaining its robust character creation options. Running combat, monsters, and characters should go smoother. Learning the rules from scratch should be easier. Levelling up should be simpler. The book and rules are supposed to be user friendly — even for those who don’t know how to play d20 games.

In theory.

Pathfinder Playtest features gorgeous cover art by Wayne Reynolds which showcases Seoni (the iconic sorceress), Valeros (the iconic fighter), and Fumbus (the iconic alchemist) battling a white dragon! Wait! Fumbus who? Fumbus the goblin alchemist. Thats right! Not only are goblins a core race, but alchemist is a base class. Both are available options to try out in the playtest.

Open the covers (or flip to the next page on the pdf) and you’ll find an introduction by the Paizo staff, followed by the overview. This is where you’ll learn what the heck a d20 game is and how to play. There’s also an overview of the basic terms used in the game, including a few that are new, an explanation of the modes of play, and a list of what you’ll need to play. This section was easy to understand, even for a layman, although not as easy as I expected. It’s a difficult read for my children, for example, and my son (who is more than capable of reading chapter books aimed at pre-teens, published adventures for d20 games, and other Pathfinder products) would definitely get bored and flip past a few pages. Would my teenage/adult siblings read it all the way through? …Tough to say. Probably not. It’s more likely they’d give it a skim and see how it goes. So… sort of an easy read. An easy read for this genre and its audience, I suppose.

Many of the terms in this chapter will be familiar to those of you who have played d20 games before, but even experienced gamers need to give this section a thorough read. Calculations for some of the familiar statistics are different, and there are some very important brand new game mechanics that are explained here. Be sure to pay extra attention to the types of actions, the modes of play, and proficiencies. We won’t get into them in too much detail right now, but for those of you who are curious, these three aspects form a huge part of the game.

There are three modes of play in Pathfinder Playtest. Encounter mode is what you enter when your every moment matters. This is used during a battle, for traps, ambushes, hazards, and anything else similar. You play encounter mode in rounds which are six seconds long, and encounter mode ends when the danger has passed. This is a huge part of the game and the rules. But, it’s not all there is to the Playtest. Exploration mode is used for any situation where you’re not in immediate danger, but you’re not entirely safe, either. This includes exploring a town, ruin, forest, or even a hallway between encounters. It’s what you’re playing in when you’re not fighting something. It’s more than just walking, or a segue between the ‘exciting stuff.’ Exploration mode has its own rules, and has proved quite fun around my house so far. Finally, there’s downtime mode, which is what you use when you’re completely safe.

There are three major kinds of actions in Pathfinder Playtest. Actions, free actions, and reactions. Pretty much all the game is based around this. Nearly every feat, ability, and spell that has a non-passive effect has a symbol beside it right near the top showing what it costs to use. Free actions are free, obviously, Reactions can be taken once per turn, even on your opponents turns, as long as its triggering conditions are met. An example of this is an attack of opportunity (which only fighters can utilize right away!), but there are plenty others for different classes and characters. Lastly, there’s actions. Everything takes actions. Moving, attacking, special attacks, spells and such. Most spells take two actions to cast, although some take one or three. Each turn during encounter mode you’re allowed three actions, and most things you can imagine take one. Walking forward, drawing a sword, and swinging it? Three actions total. Attacking, attacking, and attacking a third time? Three actions. And totally allowed (each successive attack in a round takes a cumulative -5 penalty).  Lastly, there’s proficiencies. Yes, this includes armours and weapons. But in the Playtest proficiencies also replace your base attack bonus, base saving throws, and skill ranks. If you’re trained in something you add your level to the rolls you make with it. If you’re untrained you add your level subtract two. If you’re an expert you add your level plus one, master is your level plus two and if you’re legendary you add your level plus three. For example, if you’re trained in athletics you roll a d20, add your proficiency modifier (your level), your strength modifier, and any other item or extra modifiers you have. Expert in your weapon? Add the expert proficiency (your level plus one), your ability modifier (strength for melee, dexterity for ranged), and any other bonuses from your items. Master at reflex saves? Add your level plus two, plus your Dexterity modifier, anything else special you might have and off you go.

Got it? Good! If not, read the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook!

After this we get into the fun stuff. Character Creation. The Playtest has a great step-by-step guide to making your characters. In short, you come up with a concept. Then you pick and apply their ancestry (race), background, and class. Each of these will increase some of your ability scores, but you also gain four increases to apply as you see fit. Once you’ve finalized your ability scores, select your trained skills and do some simple math to make it all come together. Spend your coin (150 sp), pick your spells (if you’re a caster) and fill in all your finishing details. Done. Relatively simple. The levelling up process is also simple, as well.

After this there’s an easy to follow example of how you make your ability scores. As I previously mentioned, ancestry, background, class, and your personal preference all play a part. So how does it work?

For starters, you need to know how much to increase an ability score. Increases are referred to as an ‘ability boost’. If the score you’re increasing is under 18 you increase it by 2 points. If it’s over 18 you increase it by 1 point. At character creation, you cannot make a character with over 18 in any one ability score, so all of your boosts will be increasing your ability scores by +2.

When you create a character all of your ability scores start at 10. Now you pick your ancestry. Most will give you two ability boosts that are applied to a specific ability, one ability boost that you can apply as you see fit (called ‘free’), and one flaw (which is a -2 in a specific score). For example, dwarves get ability boosts to Constitution, Wisdom, and Free. They also suffer an ability flaw to Charisma. Humans are different from most races in that they receive no flaw, and no specific ability boosts. Instead they get two free ability boosts, which can be applied at your whim.

Now that you know what to increase you apply it. However, there is a limitation. During each step that you apply your ability boosts, you must apply each to a different ability. In our previous example with dwarves, that means you’re getting +2 Con, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and a +2 to be added to any other ability score (Str, Dex, or Int). The next time you apply your ability scores you can increase any scores you want, but again, only one time each in that phase.

Backgrounds grant an ability boost in a single specific ability score chosen from a selection of two, and then grant a free ability boost. For example, acrobats get an ability boost to either Strength or Dexterity, and then a second ability boost that is free. Meanwhile, a barkeep gets an ability boost to either Constitution or Charisma, and then a second ability boost that is free. (This is not all that a background grants you, just the part that applies to ability scores). As mentioned before, during this step, each ability can only be boosted once. So, our example dwarf could apply the barkeep ability boosts to Constitution, and Strength, but couldn’t apply it to Constitution twice.

Classes offer a single specific ability boost to that classs’ key ability score. Alchemist’s increase Intelligence, bards increase Charisma, and so on. Some classes, like the fighter, can choose one of two ability scores to be their key ability score (in the case of fighters this is a choice between Strength and Dexterity).

Lastly (or second last if you choose to apply these before your class), you get four free ability boosts. You can assign these however you want — although each ability score can only be boosted once in this phase. Essentially this means that four different ability scores will increase by +2.

And that’s the ability score creation process. It’s quite simple when you get the hang of it, and can create a diverse array of balanced characters. There’s also a random generation method offered, for those of you who prefer to roll out your stats, but the characters they create will not come out as powerful as those created with the standard method. Still, it’s nice that its there.

After this we get into the chapter on ancestries and backgrounds. There are six major ancestries you can choose: dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, halfling, and human. Those of you looking to be half-elves or half-orcs will select ‘human’ as your ancestry, and then choose a heritage feat which allows you to be either of those two ‘half-breed’ races.  This method opens up a unique design space which has potential for an interesting take on some uncommon races when the full game releases next year.

Each ancestry grants you some ability boosts and flaws (as already noted). It also grants you some hit points (which you will only receive at first level), your speed, size, and languages. Some of them also grant you a vision type, or a single special ability. That’s it. You won’t be getting a ton of racial abilities built into your ancestry. I know, I know. This seems like you get so much less. In a way, at low level, you do get less. But, as you level up you also get more out of your race. You see, each ancestry has a list of feats to choose from that only members of that ancestry can select. This is where you’ll find a lot of familiar ‘racial’ abilities like weapon familiarity, ancestral hatred, stonecunning, sure-footed, and other such features that would have once been found under ones race. There’s plenty of new ones, as well. You start the game with one ancestry feat of your choice, and gain more as you level up. This allows you to make your ancestry work for your character as an individual. After all, not all elves are the same.

After I got over the initial shock of seeing ‘how little’ each race gave me, I gave the different ancestry feats a read and, in the end, decided I like this method. It’s adaptable, easy to use, and enjoyable. I found it worked well during character creation. I particularly enjoyed the gnome ancestry feats, so be sure to give them a read!

Pathfinder Playtest Doomsday DawnNext up is backgrounds. These represent the things your character did before becoming an adventurer. In addition to the ability boosts mentioned previously, each background grants you one skill feat and training in a single Lore skill tied to that background. What’s a lore? A lore is like a very specific knowledge skill. You can have lore in pretty much anything, as long as it has a very narrow focus. Examples include Vampire Lore, Desna Lore, Circus Lore, and Farming Lore. During downtime, lore skills can also be used to make an income. There are a lot of backgrounds up for offer in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook (nineteen!) and you can expect to see a whole lot more in the future. Each adventure path will offer new backgrounds that will tie your characters to the story. The Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is the first example of this, and provides a further six backgrounds to choose from. The Playtest Rulebook backgrounds include: acolyte, acrobat, animal whisperer, barkeep, blacksmith, criminal, entertainer, farmhand, gladiator, hunter, labourer, merchant, noble, nomad, sailor, scholar, scout, street urchin, and warrior. Although all of the backgrounds are equally ‘good,’ I particularly like the entertainer and the nomad, while my daughter enjoys the animal whisperer, and my son enjoys the warrior.

Past the Background we get to a short section on selecting languages. Players with very high intelligence scores will be surprised to find they don’t get as many languages as in Pathfinder First Edition, with an intelligence over 14 now granting a single bonus language!

Up next is the chapter on Classes. The classes available for the playtest include Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Despite these being familiar to you, each class has plenty of new features, and offers a lot of adaptability. In addition to hp, special abilities and a selection of class feats you can choose from in order to tailor your class to your character, each class also gives you proficiencies in saving throws, perception, and in various weapons, armour and shields. It also gives you a number of skills you can choose to be trained in. Spellcasters get spells, characters get abilities and so on. Now, you really need to read the classes to get a feel for them, so we’re not going to take too close of a look at them. What I will say is that each class we’ve tested in my house has turned out to be a lot of fun. My favourites include Bard (who can use some of their performances an unlimited number of times per day!), Sorcerer (whose spell list and type of magic is determined by their bloodline), and Paladin (who are just plain awesome!). My children particularly enjoyed the druid.

Next up is Skills. This chapter goes over each of the skills, how to calculate their modifiers, and what they can be used for. This is also where you’ll find the rules for crafting, performing and lore. Even experienced players need to give this chapter a read, as there are some changes to the skills. For example, grabbing, grappling and shoving are all tied to your Athletics skill. Yeah. Neat. Skills definitely do more for you now, than they used to. Also, anyone can make attempt any skill check. Obviously, they won’t all be as good at it, but the potential is there, which is nice. That said, some skills have uses that can only be used by characters trained in that skill, which is a nice feature.

After skills we get to the chapter on feats. Now, this section doesn’t have all the feats available in the book. Ancestry feats can be found under ancestries. Instead, it contains all the general, and skill feats available. This chapter is particularly important, because you will gain a LOT of feats.  Beginning characters start with two (at minimum!). One from your ancestry, and one from your background. Most classes grant at least one other feat (sometimes a class feat, sometimes a general or skill feat, and sometimes both). This is a wonderful surprise, which allows customization in a simple way.

After feats you’ll find Equipment. Pathfinder Playtest uses silver as the core coin (instead of gold) which means that the price of gear will be different than what you’re used to. There’s also been some changes to the armour, weapons, and weight systems — all for the better in my opinion! Definitely give the information at the start of this chapter a read before trying to spend your coin! Haha.

Past equipment you get into spells. This begins with a lot of important information about magic, spells, and how they work. Definitely don’t skip this part! Haha. There are four major spell lists: Arcane, Divine, Occult, and Primal. I’m fond of all of them. In addition, you’ll find tenth level spells. After the spell lists are spell descriptions. Amongst these spells you’ll also find a lot of class abilities that are cantrips, or run off of spell points. This includes domain powers, and bardic compositions (among others). Although I understand the purpose of including them here (in alphabetical order alongside the spells), it made it hard to make class choices. For example, if I’m looking for all the bardic compositions (which are a type of cantrip) I have to search through the entire chapter and read the spell traits to find them. There is no compiled list of bardic compositions and, as they are not class spells, they don’t appear on any of the Spell Lists. It’s a giant pain in the butt. Haha. I sincerely hope they find a better way to sort this in the future, cause all that sifting sucks. Not only that, it’s a drain on your time.

I also found (after a lot of jumping between chapters to hunt them down) that a lot of the domain powers weren’t as good as they used to be. Which is unfortunate. I’d gladly trade my cleric of Desna’s domain power from the Playtest with pretty much any other Domain power from First Edition. An unfortunate outcome! Still, it will take more playtesting to determine if it all balances out in the end.

Past this we come to a short chapter on how to level up your characters. In addition, you’ll find the rules for multiclassing and archetypes here. The system for this is very easy to understand, and allows for a lot of cool character concepts. Essentially, you can choose to take archetype or multiclass feats in place of your class feat at any given level — presuming you meet the feat requirements. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course, but not by much. It’s a simple, elegant way to handle multi classing and archetypes without causing characters to fall behind the powers of their peers. I really like it. Definitely give it a read!

Later in the chapter you’ll find the rules for animal companions, familiars, and gods. The rules in all of these categories were fun and easy to use, particularly the rules for familiars. We got ours created in only a few minutes! Wonderful! Of course, I did have questions. It’s specifically pointed out that you can only have one animal companion. But, this is not specified under familiars. Does this mean you can potentially have more than one? My son chose a gnome ancestry feat which granted him a familiar, and then later earned a vine leshy familiar from being a plant druid. Does this mean he gets both? I’ve yet to find a definitive answer, but if you’ve read an official answer somewhere, (or know the page its on that I’ve missed) let me know! I’d love to read the ruling. Another problem with familiars turned out to be damage. Although it mentions the attack rolls they can make, it doesn’t say how much damage one does if it tries to attack. This came up on one of our first combat rounds in our first playtest when my son sent his vine leshy to attack. He hit! And… we had no damage. Haha. I decided that it would do 1 damage unless I found an official ruling that says otherwise. Know of one? Let me know! We’d love to see it!

After this comes a very important chapter entitled ‘Playing the Game.’ Reading it is mandatory. Haha. It’s around 35 pages long and includes all the rules you need to play as a player, as well as the conditions found in the game. Important stuff.

After that is another very important chapter called ‘Game Mastering.’ This chapter includes everything you need to know to run the game as a GM (in addition to the content for players). This chapter is shorter — at only around twenty pages — but its also denser and more complicated. Admittedly, I had to go back and reread parts a few times, particularly regarding exploration mode, downtime mode, hazards, and DCs. I expect I’ll have to reference both this chapter and the ‘Playing the Game’ chapter plenty over the next year, as I get a handle on the rules. In my opinion, the game is easier to learn to play and GM that Pathfinder First Edition was, so I’m pleased, even if reading these chapters caused me a few headaches.

After this we come to (pretty much) the last chapter. Treasure. This is where you’ll find information on wealth, treasure distribution, special nonmagical gear, alchemical items, runes, trinkets, and magic items. There’s a lot of fun stuff in here that you’re going to love reading. I highly recommend discovering these on your own. I will say that I particularly enjoyed the addition of snares, and that I expect to make a character who utilizes them in the near future. I also really like the rune system for making magical weapons and armour. Its very similar to the fusion system in Starfinder.

Past this is the appendices and then the book is over.

That’s it, that’s all! But, that’s not all that I have to say. There are a few things I’d like to mention before wrapping up.

First: Hero Points. I loved them. Each character starts each session with one hero point, and can earn up to one extra each session as a player (for doing something awesome for the group like bringing snacks, tracking gear, or hosting the game) and one extra as a character (for doing something awesome in character like saving someone’s life, being generous, expert teamwork, or accomplishing an important task in game). These points can be used to save yourself from death, reroll a d20, or take an extra action. They’re useful, awesome, and add a great new element to the game. (My daughter’s determined to be the loot-tracker from now on in order to earn that extra point!).

Second: Dying. During our first play session, my husband’s character died. Quickly. All things considered, from the moment he fell unconscious at Dying 1, only a single full round occurred before he died. Two ill-aimed splash damage brought him to Dying 2, and then to Dying 3 with the second instance, and on his turn he failed his first and only fortitude save against death, which brought him to Dying 4: Dead. This was WAY too fast. Sure, he could’ve used Hero Points to save himself. If he had any. He had already fallen unconscious two other times that session, and had used up all his Hero Points. And he wasn’t the only one. My daughter also fell unconscious once during the session, and my son nearly did. Ouch! I found not only did we fall unconscious quite a bit, but we died too QUICK. For a lot of players, a dead character is an end to fun. Especially if your chances for recovery were so brief.

Third: Identifying Magical Items: After you realize something is magical (or alchemical), it takes an HOUR to identify the object. An HOUR. This means, that if you’re the kind of group who doesn’t rest unless its necessary, you can go an entire adventure without knowing what any of your treasure does. In fact, when we played Doomsday Dawn in my house, we went the entire first adventure without knowing what anything did. That means we didn’t get any use out of any treasure. At all. That’s absurd! Now, there are some ways for your characters to shorten this time to ten minutes (or evens shorter at higher levels), which is more manageable. Heck, I even understand the intent. If it takes more time and effort to identify magical objects, that makes them more special. They’ve got an air of mystery about them. That’s cool. But, if it takes so long to identify a healing potion, that without someone specialized in identifying magical or alchemical objects, the group can’t even figure out its a healing potion during their adventure, than what good is it? Now, I know plenty of players like to stop a LOT when they play. Maybe you’re even one of them. The group that gets loot or takes a few wounds and says, ‘We should head back and recover!’ or ‘We should go sell what we’ve found and come back!’ That’s fine. You won’t be hampered by this. But, I’m not that kind of player. Neither are my family or my friends. We very often take on entire missions until we HAVE to rest, due to our wounds. Or we HAVE to recover our spells. Or we’ve spent the whole day and our characters are actually sleepy. This is particularly true in Pathfinder Society missions, which very often occur in a single day on a timeline. This system strikes me as very problematic, unless you specifically ensure your groups always have a way to shorten it. But, why force a group to do so? That’s going to replace another skill or class feat they could have taken. It just… Reading the rules for identifying magical objects didn’t sit right with me. Then we made our characters, brought them to playtest, and it turned out to be both a problem and a handicap. An unfortunate occurrence which we’ve given feedback on.

Fourth: Resonance. This is your character’s natural ability to activate and utilize magical objects. You have a number of resonance equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier. You can invest resonance ahead of time in an object that grants a long-term effect, or spend resonance on the fly to activate a magical object upon use. It’s meant to help replace gear slots (head, hand, and so on). Kind of cool, right? Sure. Until you start counting it out. Want to wear a magical cloak? Cool, 1 point. Want to drink a potion? Cool one point! Wait! One point? What if you only start with one point? What if you’re dying and you have no points? A friend can’t even shove a potion in your mouth to save you?Sort of. When you’re out of points you can attempt to overspend resonance you don’t have in order to activate the magical object anyway. This is a flat check with a DC equal to 10 + the number of points you’ve overspent (including any times you’ve tried and failed). If you pass the magic works, and if you fail it doesn’t (and you can’t attempt to activate that item again until the next day). If you critically fail (roll a 1) you can’t attempt to invest any other magical items at all that day. Ouch! Resonance is of particular interest to alchemists, who need to infuse their alchemical items with resonance in order to craft them. Okay, I can see that, I guess. Particularly for potions and such. Luckily, alchemist’s get to base their resonance off of their Intelligence, instead of their Charisma. But why should the alchemist have to spend resonance to make an acid flask when a wizard can cast cantrip and deal comparable damage at will? Yeah, I get WHY. There’s plenty of justifications. It’s an item, they’re not spell casters, so on and such. But… I don’t know. Both resonance, and the alchemist’s reliance on it is one of those new rules that I read, and just didn’t sit right. So far in playtests around my house it’s been a bit of a problem. Our alchemist was out of resonance within the first fight and had to rely on overspending resonance the entire rest of the adventure. She didn’t critically fail, thank goodness, but if she had, her character would have been completely shut down. She literally would have had to punch people with her gauntlet (a bad idea with her low strength and poor AC) or throw a rock at them (another bad idea). And if a whole character can be shut down so easily (at low levels, at least), that’s probably a problem. Similarly, our dwarf started with no resonance at all. Feeding him a potion in order to save his life was a fifty-fifty chance the first time, with the odds getting worse from there. Considering how quickly he died when he fell unconscious, that’s brutal. Ugh. Now, that said, I haven’t play tested the game enough yet, to make a final decision on resonance. Maybe it’s better with other classes. Maybe it’s less trouble at higher levels. Maybe this is meant to show that magic items are rare and special, tying it into the length of time that it takes to identify them. Maybe we’re not meant to really use something like a healing potion at low level. Maybe other groups didn’t have trouble at all. But so far, it’s been trouble for our groups. I hope that’s not the case in the future. I’d be particularly interested to see how resonance has worked out for you. If you’ve got an experience to share let me know!

Fifth: Initiative. You don’t have one. Instead you initiative is based on your perception modifier. Occasionally, if your character is doing something specific, you can roll a different skill in its place. For example, if you’re swimming your GM might rule you can use Athletics as initiative this time, or stealth if you’re in hiding. And so on. I loved this.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Pathfinder Playtest so far. I like the changes they’ve made to the game system, character creation, and treasure. I like it a lot, actually. That said, I have some questions which need clarifying, and we did run into trouble. We felt it took too long to identify magical items. We felt resonance was too limiting — especially for alchemists. And we felt the that dying turned into dead way too fast. It’s a good game, and we’re going to play it a lot more over the next year so that we can turn our feedback in to Paizo and they can make this next edition the best that it can be.

At the moment, do I think it’s better than Pathfinder First Edition? …I don’t think I can answer that. It’s new, and going to take some getting used to. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing Pathfinder since before it was Pathfinder. It’s nostalgic and homey. You know? I think it would be unfair to compare the two in that manner until I completely get the hang of the new rules. That said, I can answer a similar question. When it comes down to it, I like Pathfinder better than Starfinder. But do I like Pathfinder Playtest better than Starfinder? …No. Not yet. Maybe one day. But, at the moment, the Drift’s got more sway over me.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed this short look at the Pathfinder Playtest, and my opinions on it. I’d really love to hear your opinions and experiences with the Playtest rules, so if you’ve given it a try be sure to leave a comment. If you haven’t downloaded the free PDFs for the Pathfinder Playtest I highly recommend you head on over to Paizo’s website and do so. It’s free! There’s not much you’ve got to lose. Haha. Those of you hoping to get physical copies can find them here: Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Deluxe Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn, Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack.

Until next time,
Jessica

Playtest

Nidal, Land of Shadows

Welcome, welcome! Gather round! Today we’re taking a look at an awesome new release for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game that focuses on the dark and creepy land of Nidal. That’s right! Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Nidal, Land of Shadows.

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.

However, if you’re the kind of reader who enjoys exploring the dark side of Golarion, then I highly recommend this book. A few similar products that it reminded me of are Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Horror Adventures, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Book of the Damned, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Horror Realms, GameMastery Module E1: Carnival of Tears, and the Pathfinder Adventure Paths Second Darkness (specifically Book Four: Endless Night) and Hell’s Vengeance (which begins with Book One: The Hellfire Compact). Use these other products as a measure to judge whether or not this book is right for you.

nidal land of shadows - openerThose 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.

PZO92108Pathfinder 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.

nidal, land of shadows - illustrated by federico musettiThe 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.

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For more information on Zan-Kuthon and the other gods of Golarion, check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Gods

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.)

nidal land of shadows - skrialsikenI 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.

nidal land of shadows - opener - illustrated by federico musettiNote 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).

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Stormhollow from Nidal, Land of Shadows

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!

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Unholy symbol of Zon-Kuthon, god of envy, pain, darkness and loss.

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.

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Castle of the Captive Sun from Nidal, Land of Shadows

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.

Those of you looking to more fully immerse yourself in Nidal should pick up the Pathfinder Tales novels: Nightglass and Nightblade, both of which are written by Liane Merciel. Player’s looking to make characters from Nidal, should check out Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of Shadows, or Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Horror Adventures.

Thanks for taking a walk through the darkness with me!

Jessica

shadow plane by jay epperson
The Shadow Plane by Jay Epperson

July New Releases!

School’s out for summer, Canada Day has passed, and Independence Day (for all you American’s out there) has just ended. It’s a new month, with new releases in the gaming world. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for some of this month’s products!

PZO1141Last month there were some awesome releases, including Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Planar Adventures, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Distant Realms, the finale of the Dead Suns Adventure Path: Empire of Bones (Dead Suns 6 of 6), and The Reaper’s Right Hand (War for the Crown 5 of 6)! Tricky to top! So what’s on the schedule for this month?

First off, Pathfinder Playtest.

Now, this isn’t out until AUGUST, but if you want to get your hands on a print copy now is your chance. Paizo is releasing the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook in hardcover, softcover, and in a special edition cover. They’re also releasing the Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn and the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat: Multipack. All of these products will be available for free as PDF downloads on August 2nd, but print copies will be quite hard to come by. Preorder or bust! In addition they’re releasing three Pathfinder Society Scenarios for Pathfinder Playtest. One series of quests at tier one, and two scenarios at tier five. An interesting choice! All three will be available as PDFs for free on August 7th. For more information, or to preorder print copies, check out Paizo’s website.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some products you can get your hands on this month!

In the world of Pathfinder there are only two new products up for grabs. The Six-Legend Soul (War for the Crown 6 of 6) is the much anticipated finale to the War for the Crown Adventure Path! Oh, it’s gonna be a good one! I’m SUPER curious! Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes from the Fringe 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. Pocket Editions of Ultimate Combat and Bestiary 5 also come available this month.

PZO7108Starfinder also has two exciting releases: The Dead Suns Pawn Collection, which has over 100 custom pawns from the Dead Suns Adventure Path, including a bunch of awesome starships! It looks amazing! What’s more exciting than that? A new hardcover book! Starfinder: Armory. Aww, yeah! This book is packed full of tons of new weapons and armour, as well as magical, technological, hybrids and mundane gear. There’s new bioaugmentations, weapons fusions… Every kind of item type has some new choices in this book. Also? New character options which focus on equipment! I don’t have a clue what they’re going to be, but I sure am intrigued!

In the world of Organized Play there will be four new scenarios coming out at the end of this month. Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-24: Beneath Unbroken Waves is a tier 5-9 scenario written by Kate Baker of particular importance to the Concordance Faction. It tasks the PCs with investigating underwater ruins. Scenario #9-25: Betrayal in the Bones is a tier 12-15 scenario written by Tom Phillips which continues the ongoing story of the Grand Lodge Faction. It allows players to finally get back at some old enemies! For more details, check out a previous blog post where we spoke about events leading up to this scenario! Starfinder Society Scenario #1-18: The Blackmoon Survey is a tier 1-4 scenario written by Jesse Benner which tasks players with exploring an ancient Eoxian ruin to determine why the workers on the excavation have been going missing. This one sounds like a ton of fun. Scenario #1-19: To Conquer the Dragon is a tier 5-8 scenario written by Matt Duval which send the players to Triaxus to open a Starfinder Lodge! This scenario builds on events from #1-13: On the Trail of History, and involves starship combat. I can’t wait until I get my hands on them later this month!

What’s left? Maps of course! And this month certainly brings us a LOT. Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Watch Station is a pretty handy map set which gives is a solid dungeon or underground prison on one side, and a moderately sized sheriff’s office/town barracks on the other. It can also sub in as any small building that includes barracks, such as a thieves den, guild headquarters or school. Pathfinder Flip-Mat Multi-Pack: Forest is a useful set of two flip mats which feature woodlands, rocky banks, and small rivers. These two mats each connect to each other in multiple ways, which means that you can continue your game with a rolling scene, over and over again. They look gorgeous. Starfinder Flip-Mat: Asteroid is an interesting map release. One side is an incredibly useful map of a canyon, impact site or crater which is going to see a ton of use. It’s super adaptable, and can even work in Pathfinder play. The other side is a complex built into the interior of an asteroid. It looks quite interesting. Clearly intended to be used in the Diaspora, it can double as a lot of other complexes, including an underground bunker, base, laboratory, military instalment or even a school. Unfortunately, all three map sets are not yet released on Amazon, so if you’re Canadian, like me, or from another place in the world where the cost of having anything delivered from Paizo is ABSURD you’ll need to wait a while before getting these beauties on order.

PZO4073There’s also a whole new type of map being released this month: Pathfinder Flip-Tiles! We’ve talked about these before on d20diaries, but in short, they’re a collection of 6×6 tiles with images on both sides which easily can connect to form a large complex. This month brings us two sets of map tiles. Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon Starter Set, includes basic dungeon features including halls, stairs, turns, entrances and rooms. It has a whopping 42 double sided map tiles. The second set, Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Dungeon perils Expansion Set, is an expansion which works will the Dungeon Set (and will work with other sets in the future). It contains 24 double sided flip-tiles which depict hazards including trapped and lit hallways, chemical spills, chasms, rock falls, magical devices, and fungal growths. They look pretty cool. Much like this months flip-mats, these products aren’t yet available on Amazon. As a brand new product, I haven’t yet seen these in person, so I’m not sure how easy they’ll be to adapt and use in a live game, but I’d love to find out. If any of you get your hands on these tiles, let me know! I’d love to hear what you think!

That’s it for this months new releases! What products are you most excited for? I know my household can’t wait to get our greedy little hands on Starfinder: Armory! Here’s hoping!

Jessica

New Starfinder Society Scenarios: Dreaming of the Future & Reclaiming the Time-Lost Tear

Today we’re going to take a look at the two most recent Starfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers I recommend you check out a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Starfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So sit back, and get ready to explore the Pact Worlds!

Scenario #1-16: Dreaming of the Future is a Tier 1-4 adventure written by Natalie Kertzner, Nate Wright, Sasha Lindley Hall, and Tineke Bolleman. Unlike most scenarios, this is a Quest. Each quest contains multiple one-hour long adventures that link together to form a cohesive story. These four quests send the PCs across the Pact Worlds. It begins in Absalom Station, but also visits Aballon, the Diaspora, Liavara and Verces. This scenario has the Repeatable tag, which means that you can play this scenario once per character (as opposed to once per player). One of the Quests, ‘River Rat,’ features Starship combat. This scenario tasks the PCs with unravelling the mysterious visions of a Liavaran Dreamer (Whisperer of Solar Winds) who works for the Starfinder Society, and obtaining three fragments of a sandstone tablet. Together, this tablet is thought to unlock a variety of tools and relics from a Pre-Gap Liavaran Dreamer, which will empower and enhance Whisperer of Solar Winds’ prophetic dreams. Maybe. The only recurring cameo from previous scenarios is from Venture Captain Arvin.

sfs 1-16 - ikeshti - congregant merthinett - nicolas espinoza
Ikeshti Congregant Merthinett from SFS #1-16: Dreaming of the Future. Illustrated by Nicolas Espinoza. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

This Quest works great as an introductory adventure for new players and GMs. It has lots of helpful hints throughout it, some fun player handouts, and is a real tour de force of the different kinds of scenarios you might play in the Starfinder Society. The first three quests can be completed in any order, although the fourth quest is the culmination of the previous three and should be done last. The first Quest is entitled ‘Megaplex’ and is set in the Towershadow region of the Megaplex settlement of ‘Striving’ on Aballon. This is a pretty straightforward Quest which involves a battle in and around cramped spaces, and some negotiation. It’s quite brief in feel, and was probably the Quest I enjoyed least. That being said, it’s also the easiest of the Quests to run and play through, so if you’re a new GM or player I highly recommend starting with this one! Megaplex utilizes Starfinder Flip-Mat: Urban Sprawl. The second Quest is entitled ‘River Rat’ and is set in the asteroid belt known as the Diaspora. It features a very strategic, unique starship combat which I really, really enjoyed. To make it even better, there’s some great opening social interactions you can engage in with your opponents before the battle. It was lovely to see! River Rat utilizes Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield. The third Quest is entitled ‘Bad Chameleon’ and takes place in the sector of Verces’ Ring of Nations known as Vanos. This area is known for it’s high-end nightlife. In this scenario you’ll need to blend in among the wealthy clientele of this neighbourhood, and perform a heist. It’s very free-form, and really allows players to be creative. It has some fun social encounters and a delightfully foul enemy, with some creepy artwork which really made it memorable. I really enjoyed this quest. It makes use of the Starfinder Flip-Mat: Cantina. The final Quest is entitled ‘Nightmare,’ and is a lovely little delve into a ruin where you can utilize your tablet pieces and achieve your goals. If you can get past the obstacles contained within! Nightmare takes place on Praehan, one of the moons of Liavara. In addition to being a ‘dungeon delve’ style of adventure, it also features a bunch of awesome environmental hazards. You’ll have to deal with weather, atmosphere, gravity, and attempt to swim through liquid methane (which is much harder than it sounds). It has an exciting enemy with a great premise, stats, and art which serves as a wonderful climax to this adventure. I thought it was awesome. It utilizes Pathfinder: Flip Mat: Tech Dungeon. Overall, I really enjoyed this series of Quests, and highly recommend it — especially for newer players. I give it four out of five stars.

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Prima from SFS #1-17: Reclaiming the Time-Lost Tear. Illustrated by Graey Erb. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Scenario #1-17: Reclaiming the Time-Lost Tear is a Tier 5-8 adventure written by Larry Wilhelm. Yes, you read that right. Tier 5-8! It takes place on the scorching hot, barren moon called Repository, which orbits a planet in the Vast called Izal-4. There you’ll explore a dangerous complex filled with ancient, advanced alien technology. This scenario has the Faction (Second Seekers [Luwazi Elsebo]) tag, and continues the ongoing Scoured Stars storyline. It does not feature starship combat. This scenario tasks the PCs with acquiring a mysterious key that will lower the barrier around the Scoured Stars. It builds directly off of events that happened in Scenario #1-13: On the Trail of History, which in turn builds off events that happened in Scenario #1-11: In Pursuit of the Scoured Past. I highly recommend you play both of those scenarios before this one. As for the scenario itself? I really enjoyed it. But, beware! This scenario is challenging! It’s got some good environmental challenges, makes use of an interesting new kind of radiation, fun battles, cool traps, and has a great pay off in the end. There was also some interesting back-plot that you can unravel as you progress, which I always enjoy. This scenario features two custom maps, and no flip-mats. I give this scenario four out of five stars!

I hope you enjoyed taking a look at this months new Starfinder Society Scenarios with me! I certainly enjoyed reading them. Tune in later this week for out look at the new Pathfinder Society Scenarios!

Jessica

 

Gameday! Custom Creations!

Well, it’s Gameday!

Okay, okay, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Play-by-Post Gameday VII was recently announced!

If this doesn’t sound exciting to you, trust me. It is.

This is another wonderful play-by-post convention. It will be run in two sessions, with Session One running from August 13th to September 30th, and Session Two running from October 1st to November 12th. Anyone is welcome to volunteer to run a game, just like everyone is welcome to sign up to play a game. Currently, you can sign up for only three games, but come July 1st you’ll be able to sign up for however many games you desire. Most of these sign ups are first come first serve, but I have seen some that are going to be drawn by lottery. There’s already a wide variety of games up for offer, with more being added daily. Definitely check out the sign ups often. The majority of the games that are open right now are Pathfinder, with Starfinder coming in second. There’s also some Core Pathfinder games openly recruiting, and even some new Pathfinder Playtest sessions! Yeah! Now, that’s exciting!

Interested?

We are!

For full details on Play-by-Post Gameday VII, check out this wonderful discussion thread, Want to sign up to GM a game? Simply head on over to the website and scroll down to the bottom. Click on ‘Submit Another Game Listing,’ and fill out the form. Select what you’d like to GM from a list, and away you go.

What about players? Looking to join a game? Head on over to the website and take a look at the games currently recruiting. Be sure to keep an eye on the dates! Once you’ve found something you’d like to try follow the links and see if there’s space. Be sure to check back often, as new games are constantly being added.

If you’re interested in playing a Special, you’ll need to head on over to the website on July 1st, which is when registration begins.

I wish you the best of luck!


In other news, we’ve added a new feature to d20diaries. Take a peek up at the main menu riiiiight at the top. Custom Creations. This is where you can find anything I (or my children) have made for use with the Pathfinder or Starfinder Roleplaying Games. Free fan content. Currently in it’s infancy, this page will soon be home to NPC stat blocks, monsters, adventures, locations, archetypes, themes, races and more. All kinds of goodies from me, to you.

I hope you enjoy.

Jessica

Wayfinder 18: Fey and the First World

As you may have heard, the latest issue of Wayfinder Magazine was recently released. Wayfinder is full of fan-created content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and is a free download on Paizo’s website. Over the years they’ve made an astounding 18 issues of Wayfinder, as well as a Bestiary! Nearly every issue has a theme, with this latest one being Fey and the First World! So whether you you’re a fan of the fey, or a fan of free, I highly suggest you give this little gem a chance!

But, what’s inside it anyway? A lot! At around 75 pages for each issue, that’s a lot of free stuff! The articles inside offer new player races, archetypes, feats and spells. As well as new equipment, both magical and mundane. In addition to player options, there’s plenty for GMs with adventure ideas, plot hooks, characters that can be used as allies or enemies, unique monsters, and even short adventures. Both players and GMs can make use of a ton of locations, personalities and gazetteers that are described throughout. To round things out there’s also songs, poetry, and fiction. And let’s not forget the awesome art!

There was a lot that I loved inside Wayfinder 18. My favourite archetype was the ‘Bogeykin,’ a spiritualist who has formed a bond with a dead bogeyman that urges her to sow terror! This archetype is written by Calder CaDavid, features art by Adam Munger, and can be found on page 26.

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For more information of the First World, check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The First World, Realm of the Fey

For spells, check out ‘liar’s light,’ ‘mother’s embrace,’ and ‘seneschal’s rebuke,’ all of which are inspired by Eldest of the First World, and can be found on pages 34-35. These spells are written by Jason Daugherty and Wojciech “Drejk” Gruchala, while the art in that article is by Jess Door.

I’m not a big fan of style feats, so imagine my surprise when my favourite feats all turned out to be styles! I’d suggest giving both the ‘Cold Iron Style’ (page 37) and the ‘Quickling Style’ (page 50) feat trees a read. These are written by Stewart “Reduxist” Moyer, and Matt “Helio” Roth, with art by John Bunger.

If it’s gear you’re interested in, be sure to check out the ‘living spear,‘ a +3 living wood called spear which is home to a dryad! This sure-to-be-fun weapon is on page 39. If you’re a worshipper of the Lantern King, then you should also check out the ‘vagabond’s cloak,’ found on page 40.

There are a lot of cool new creatures inside, but my favourites turned out to be the poppy leshy, a CR 1/2 creature found on page 65-66 which has adorable artwork. I also love the zolavoi, a somber little CR 5 creature found on page 67-68.

My favourite campaign inspiration was a plot hook on page 48 entitles ‘Rise of the Gerbie,’ which was written by Amanda Plageman and features art by Adam Munger. I also adored the article entitled ‘Sailing Across Eternity: Locales and Personages of the Sea Without a Shore‘ on page 54. Written by Matt Roth, with art by Fil Kearney, this is a mini gazetteer which takes a look at a few super unique settlements located within the Sea Without a Shore.

My children also enjoyed the Wayfinder Magazine. My daughter’s favourite part was an article on how animal companions can become altered by the First World. This is in no small part due to the wonderful art of a rabbit shooting fairies out of it’s mouth by Beatrice Pelagatti. The article itself is written by Calder CaDavid and features a ton of cool, creative ideas. I’m sure my daughter will be using some in the near future.

Meanwhile, my son’s favourite part was an article about the unintended side effects of bartering with fey. I highly suggest you check it out for yourself on page 14. Entitled ‘First World Trade,’ it’s written by Taylor Hubler, and features art by Jeremy Corff. It’s hilarious!

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For more fey-themed player options, pick up Pathfinder Player Companion: Legacy of the First World

For more information on Fey and the First World, be sure to pick up official Paizo products, Pathfinder Player Companion: Legacy of the First World, and Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The First World, Realm of the Fey.

Want some more Wayfinder? Be sure to check out their many, many other issues on Paizo’s website!

Want to contribute to the next Wayfinder issue? You can! The next issue’s topic is Stafinder: Absalom Station! Head on over to the Paizo message boards, here, for more information on how and what you can submit! Each person is only allowed three potential submissions, so send your best! My children have both already submitted a creature each for consideration, while I’ve penned a ‘Weal or Woe’ article which I’ve submitted for consideration. I’ve also got an archetype and a theme in the works, but we’ll keep those under wraps for now. If you don’t own them, be sure to pick up the Starfinder Core Rulebook, and Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Pact Worlds before penning your submissions. Best of luck!

I hope you’ve enjoyed checking out the contents of the latest Wayfinder with me. If you happen to have contributed to it: Thanks! And if you’re thinking of applying for the next issue: I wish you the best of luck!

Have fun!

Jessica

 

Free RPG Day 2018

Saturday, June 17th was Free RPG Day 2018.

Did you participate?

We sure did!

Free RPG Day 2018 d20diaries

My husband, my children and I headed out for a trip to our local game shop. There’s a few places you can go in Winnipeg for RPG products, but our shop of choice is Game Knight Games and Cool Stuff. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, two buses and at least an hour and a half of travel time for us, but it has a great selection of RPGs, board games, miniatures, and collectible card games. They also have a spacious game space. It’s a wonderful store. The buses were accommodating, and we made good time. In no time at all we headed inside and perused the goodies on offer. There was quite a selection! Over ten books to choose from, but with only one per customer. Luckily, there were four of us.

There were two products we knew we wanted to bring home with us: ‘Skitter Shot,’ a Level 2 adventure for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game written by Jason Keeley; and ‘We Be 5upergoblins,’ a Level 6 adventure for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Crystal Frasier. But the other two? We had no idea. Something new.

Deciding we should pick out our purchases before picking up our free RPG books, we spread out around the store to browse.

For Father’s Day, we wanted to get my husband a book of his choice, so we set him loose on the store. He ended up choosing Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Ancients. Those of you who follow this blog will know that I’ve been dying to get my hands on this awesome new release, so we were very pleased with his decision. Haha.

My kids also got a small budget of five dollars to spend on themselves. Not much, I know, but they accepted the challenge with enthusiasm. My daughter fell in love with a set of pink dice, which was too expensive. As she agonized over the cost and attempted to convince me she would empty out her piggy bank (which contains about two dollars) to make up the difference, my son browsed the boxed minis. All too expensive, of course. So, the three of us moved on to the singles cabinet. They looked over the plastic pre-painted minis, and squealed over all the expensive ones. They each found a mini they liked, but we moved on too keep browsing. In the end, they pooled their budget and picked out three boxes of unpainted miniatures. Pathfinder Goblin Pyros (89002), Dragoth (Dark Heaven Bones, 77201) and Shadow Hound (Dark Heaven Bones, 77366) which is a lovely clear purple colour.

With our purchases in hand we headed over to peruse the Free RPG books up for offer. As already mentioned, there were a lot of cool choices, most of which we didn’t know anything about. Exciting!

My six-year old daughter immediately scampered over to the table and swept up Skitter Shot! While I grabbed We Be 5upergoblins! This left my son and my husband a bevy of books to browse. In the end, my husband settled on a book for Numenéra, which he had heard good things about. My son fell in love with the maps inside a Dungeon Crawl Classics book, so he hugged it close, I paid for our products and left.

We took a walk down the road for lunch to eat at a local Mexican restaurant called Carlos and Murphy’s, which everyone enjoyed, and then headed home for the best part: reading them. In short: they were awesome!

Dungeon Crawl Classics, by Goodman Games, came with basic rules and character details for making characters of up to second level, as well as character creation rules and two different adventures. One for level 0, entitled ‘The Portal Under the Stars,’ and one for level 2 entitled ‘Man-Bait for the Soul Stealer.’ This game has a definite old-school D&D feel to it. Also, it’s SUPER deadly. You roll up a bunch of meek peasants and hopefully one of them will survive long enough to reach level 1 where they can choose a class. The random character creation rules were quite fun, and the adventures were entertaining. My son loved all the black and white artwork in this book — of which there was a lot! He also loved the maps. All in all, it’s not my cup of tea, but as a family we liked the system — especially my son. He’s super excited to get to put it on his bookshelf, instead of mine. For the full rulebook, pick up: Dungeon Crawl Classics .

‘Ashes of the Sea’ is a complete adventure for the Numenera Corebook, which uses the Cypher System and is published by Monte Cook Games. The adventure is written by Sean K. Reynolds. Chances are, both of those names are familiar to you. Haha. In addition to containing the adventure, it also contains details on the setting, some of the rules, a mini-bestiary, a link to a collection of pre-generated characters. It also comes with a nifty coupon that could earn you a second free adventure if you purchase a Numenéra sourcebook from the same store you got the Free book from. A pretty solid pay off! We really enjoyed the Cypher System, although it will certainly take some getting used to. I also like that the focus of the game is discovery. Not battle or influence. Discovery. I feel like it’s going to be very character and role play driven. I can’t wait to give it a try.

PZO9500-12We Be 5upergoblins!‘ is a level 6 Pathfinder Module written by Crystal Frasier. It’s the fifth instalment in the much beloved ‘We Be Goblins’ series. It should go without saying — but I’ll say it anyway — that this adventure was AWESOME. Hilarious. Entertaining. I burst out laughing many times while reading it. It’s just a ton of fun! It’s also sanctioned for Pathfinder Society Play, which is an extra bonus, and comes with four regenerated goblins: Chuffy Lickwound, Mogmurch, Poog of Zarongel, and Reta Bigbad. So what’s up this time around? These crazy goblins explore the wonderful world of Bagland. It’s awesome, I promise. My kids particularly enjoyed the character ‘Golgum the Tall.’ And the ending? So good! If you didn’t get your hands on this amazing product, don’t worry. You’ll be able to download it for free on Paizo’s website in two weeks or so, and can purchase a physical copy for around five dollars American.

PZO9500-13The last book we got out hands on was ‘Skitter Shot,’ which is a level two module for the Starfinder RPG written by Jason Keeley. It’s sanctioned for use in the Starfinder Society, and even gives you a boon which can (with a lot of work) allow you to unlock Skittermanders as playable race! AWESOME! But, enough about the boons, what’s up with the book? This delightful adventure lets your players take on the role of four adorable and enthusiastic skittermanders who work on a salvage ship with their vesk boss. Unfortunately, their boss went out to scavenge what he could from an abandoned luxury liner, and hasn’t returned! Lucky that skittermanders love to help! The pregenerated characters are really fun to play and sufficiently unique. The adventure was a lot of fun. So fun, in fact, that we played it today.

The verdict?

It’s a BLAST. I highly recommend it.

If you weren’t able to get a copy on Free RPG Day, a free download will be available in another few weeks on Paizo’s website. Keep your eyes open!

The products we purchased were great. My kids love their new minis, and Blood of the Ancients was as great as my husband and I hoped. I’ll be dedicating an entire post to it later this week.

I hope a lot of you got out to Free RPG Day! If you did, I’d love to hear what kind of products you got your hands on, and what you thought of them.

Happy gaming!

Jessica