Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit! So hop aboard and get ready to rebel!

Against the Aeon Throne is a three part Starfinder Adventure Path that begins with Part One: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen, continues with Part Two: Escape from the Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron, and concludes with Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm. All together these three adventures should take your characters from level one through to level seven. You can also pick up the Against The Aeon Throne Pawn Collection.

To read our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne click the links below:

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign than most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. It’s a great change of pace that will allow the folks at Starfinder to tell shorter, more personal stories. In addition, this three part length makes it easier to purchase and play through an entire adventure path. It’s awesome for gift giving and the budget conscious! Six books is a huge investment, but three? Well, that’s a lot more manageable for those of us without much extra cash laying around. On the other hand, with the three book format I feel like I blinked and the whole adventure path was over. I didn’t get my hands on the first book until the third came out and I missed the Signal of Screams Adventure Path completely. In general, it’s both easier to collect and easier to miss. Although I enjoy the three book format, I also enjoy the six book format, so I hope they continue to rotate between the campaign lengths.

Against the Aeon Throne

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit all about? In previous adventures, the PCs defeated an Azlanti military force that had annexed the small colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet of Nakondis. But saving the fledgeling colony was just the beginning. The PCs discovered that an experimental starship engine and their friend, the android Cedona, were transported off of Nakondis and back to the Azlanti Star Empire. Giving chase the PCs made some allies and rescued Cedona. All that’s left is to find the experimental starship engine, steal it or destroy it, and escape with their lives. Along the way they’ll fight Aeon Guard soldiers, rescue captive scientists, and face off against the man responsible for sending troops to Nakondis in the first place! No problem! …Right?

the-rune-drive-gambit-against-the-aeon-throne-book-3-of-3-e1557809255646.jpgNow, let me take a moment to be clear. The Azlanti Star Empire is a pack of giant, pompous, jerks. They’re great villains for the PCs to clash with, but an overwhelming opponent. This adventure path does not send your PCs off to take down the entire Azlanti Star Empire. It’s much smaller in scale than that. And frankly? I love it. It lends a sense of suspense to the series and makes it feel like you’re playing real people in a living breathing world universe doing what they can, rather than heroes so powerful they change the whole world universe. It’s a wonderful change of pace and scope. It’s got a very Firefly / Star Wars feel to it.

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself. Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit (Against the Aeon Throne 3 of 3) is a softcover adventure written by Larry Wilhelm that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level five to level seven. The adventure itself is around 39 pages long, and split into three main parts: With Friends Like These, in which the players upgrade their ship and figure out where the heck they’re going; Within Enemy Territory, in which the players travel to and explore the upper levels of a secret research facility located in an asteroid; and Scientific Theories, in which the players finish exploring the research facility, track down the rune drive, and decide what to do with it. After the adventure there’s six pages of ideas on how to continue the campaign after it’s conclusion, with eight short ideas, and two detailed ideas that include a stat block or two. After that there’s an eight page primer on the Stewards, including two character archetypes. There’s seven new creatures in the Alien Archive, and a short Codex of Worlds article on New Thespera, heart of the Azlanti Star Empire. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier 5 starship: the Vanguard Regnant.

My favourite parts of this adventure are the layout, enemy tactics, and defences of the research facility, and the NPCs you unexpectedly discover along the way.

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

You have been warned.

Rune Drive

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read and the colours are easy on the eyes. The cover art is wonderful. It showcases Sardat Zolan Ulivestra, an Azlanti nobleman and enemy of the PCs, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind him is an awesome image of Obozaya (the iconic vesk soldier) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) fighting off Azlanti soldiers.

Azlanti Aeon Guard
Azlanti Aeon Guard. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The starship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Regnant. This tier 5 small light freighter is destined to be the final (or second last) enemy the PCs face in this campaign. It’s a well-built luxury ship that’s fast and maneuverable, but still packs a punch. I particularly like the ship layout.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts in Outpost Zed where the PCs (and Cedona) will need to get their ship upgraded by their friend Hasshachir, who they met in the previous adventure. While they wait they’ll run into trouble, which will ultimately provide the PCs with the clues they need to determine their next destination. We won’t talk about these events any further, as it would ruin the surprise for those of us reading this who ignored my spoiler warning. (You know who you are! Haha). What I will say, is that I enjoyed this section of the adventure.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Within Enemy Territory. In this section PCs will need to travel to Aurelos, the secret laboratory the rune drive was taken to, find a way inside, and explore the upper levels. Along the way they’ll have to take on the base’s defences and protectors. As previous mentioned, I was really impressed with the layout of the Aurelos base, both the upper levels featured in this section, and the lower levels featured in the next part of the adventure. It’s functional and easily defensible, and is populated with enemies who know how to use their surroundings. There’s a few complications and other defences to round out these encounters, and an enemy is introduced that I rather enjoyed.

Oliviana Jakub Bazyluk
Oliviana. Illustrated by Jakub Bazyluk. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to part three: Scientific Theories. In this section the PCs finish their exploration of Aurelos, fighting off further enemies and surmounting further challenges. Along the way they’ll have the chance to meet quite a few NPCs (potential friends and enemies), question scientists, explore science labs, and try to figure out what the heck the rune drive is and why it’s so important. Then they’ll have to figure out what to do with it and attempt to make their escape. They’ll face off against the mastermind of this whole debacle, Sardat Zolan Ulivestra, alongside some of his loyal (or not so loyal, depending upon your PCs actions) minions. Finally, they’ll have to engage in a starship battle to make their escape!

Part Three is fun, dynamic, and exciting, with plenty of people to interact with, challenging encounters, and a dilemma or two. I really enjoyed Evandrian, an Aeon Guard the PCs are destined to combat multiple times, and the Sardat’s statistics and tactics. He’s the perfect mix of pompous and skilled. I think PCs are going to really hate him. Haha. He’s a great villain. Finally, I like that some of the encounters in this section are open ended. There’s more than one potential outcome, and the choice ultimately rests in the hands of the PCs, either knowingly or through their actions. On the other hand, Part Three is also where I have some issues. There’s really only one thing to do with the rune drive. It’s cool, and it makes sense, but there’s clearly no real alternatives to the option presented. Which is unfortunate. Also, that option? Wow, it’s… complex? It’s logical, both in terms of the story and in terms of Pact Worlds implications. But I was also left wondering why it also does… some other stuff that seems tacked on. Cool stuff! But odd. I’m being vague, I know, but you’ll understand when you read it.  Haha.

Which brings us to the end of The Rune Drive Gambit and the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path. But, that’s not the end of the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is a lot of ideas for how to continue the campaign. There’s eight minor ideas here, some of which will lead to short adventures, and others which could form the basis of long, epic campaigns. I know my family will want to head back to Nakondis to help out the colony there, so it’s nice to see a few options that deal with the Madelon’s Landing. Other ideas involve the Stewards, the Azlanti Star Empire, and even transitioning into the Signal of Screams Adventure Path (definitely not the option my family will be using, but it’s nice to see it in print). There’s also two longer campaign ideas. One is a direct continuation, which makes a lot of sense, and I’m very likely to make use of. The other is both awesome and out there! I love it! But, it’s way too confusing to run with my kids (which is who I’m currently running through Against the Aeon Throne). If any of you make use of Kellixtrian I’d love to hear about it.

Following this is an eight page primer on the Stewards. Basically the peace-keeping force of the Pact Worlds, the Stewards are warrior diplomats that are organized into four main branches and run by a Director-General. The branches are Constabulary (the police force), Ops (the spies), Overwatch (the starship fleet), and Conclave of Legates (veterans who act as a council and advisory board). This section describes the Stewards origins, history, structure, leadership, purpose, bases, training regimen, and interests. It also presents two new archetypes, the Stewards infiltrator (an ops agent) and Stewards stalwart (self-sufficient agents that often work alone). Both of the archetypes are useful and very cool! I’m really glad the Stewards are getting some attention, as they are a powerful organization that can be utilized and interacted with in a wide variety of campaigns. They’re very usable.

BattleRobot Alexandur Alexandrov
Azlanti Battle Robot. Illustrated by Alexandur Alexandrov. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, three of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: power archon, a CR 5 outsider tasked with destroying corrupting technology; carnivorous crystal, a CR 11 ooze that can turn you to crystal; comanide, a very creepy looking CR 7 fey; entropy slug, a CR 4 magical beast the PCs will face in part one of this adventure; hulsa, a CR 10 fey; Azlanti battle robot, a CR 6 robot the PCs will face in part three of this adventure; and twinsoul, a very strange CR 8 creature also featured in this adventure.

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on New Thespera, the heart of the Azlanti Empire and seat of the Aeon Throne. It’s an incredibly useful article, but very brief. New Thespera’s the sort of important place you could write pages of information on.

And with that, Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit (Against the Aeon Throne 3 of 3) has come to an end.

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the final volume of Against the Aeon Throne much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica

Heroes of Golarion

Hello adventurers! Today we’re taking a peek between the covers of Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of Golarion! This delightful softcover book from Paizo Inc. is packed with new character options from all around Golarion, sorted by location. The regions covered include Arcadia, Avistan, the Crown of the World, Casmaron, Iblydos, Garund, and Tian Xia. It also contains a lot of new options for occult-themed mythic heroes.

Heroes of Golarion - Nathanael James
Illustrated by Nathanael James. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

When I heard about Heroes of Golarion I was very excited. It immediately made it onto my (way too long) ‘wishlist.’ Why? For starters, this is the second-last Pathfinder Player Companion being released for Pathfinder First Edition –– a fact both sad and exciting! Second, I love the topic. I adore thematic character options, so seeing new archetypes, feats, traits, and so on from a ton of different regions is always enjoyable for me. But, it’s not so niche that I’ll have trouble getting to use the options inside. Third? Mythic rules! Now, I know not everyone is a fan of mythic rules. I like them, but even then, I don’t use them often. That said, I adore the occult classes. And you know what they’re lacking? Awesome mythic options! Sure, you could make something work with the current options, but it’s not going to be as great as it would be if you were a different class. And honestly? Of the mythic characters I’ve interacted with as a GM and a player, half of them are occult classes. Yeah. Poor things! Haha. So seeing some awesome mythic options for occult classes is pretty amazing. I’m thrilled it’s happening before Pathfinder First Edition comes to an end. And finally? Controversy! There are two sorcerer bloodlines in this book that I had already heard plenty about. I’ve heard people condemning them, and I’ve heard people praising them. Why? They both give the sorcerer the ability to use healing magic (or healing abilities). Now, I knew I would not be in the ‘sky-is-falling’/’it’s-broken’ group. I’m a pretty laid back player, and no, I don’t think letting a sorcerer get some ways to heal or healing spells is going to break my beloved game. But, I was curious to see how it was handled. Also? Pathfinder Second Edition has sorcerers that can heal. I like that these bloodlines act as a thematic bridge between First and Second Edition sorcerers. So how did I like the bloodlines? We’ll get to that in time! For now, let’s start at the beginning…

heroes-of-golarion-cover.jpgPathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of Golarion is a soft cover book that is 32 pages in length. As a book in the Player Companion line, it’s aimed at players, which means that you won’t find a ton of world lore or secrets inside. Instead you’ll find character options –– things like archetypes, feats, traits, spells, and more. Heroes of Golarion was developed by Eleanor Ferron and Luis Loza. Contributing authors include Saif Ansari, Alexander Augunas, Mara Lynn Butler, Michelle Jones, Avi Kool, and Alex Riggs. The cover features dramatic art by Setiawan Lie which depicts a cleric of Kazutal and a cloaked adventurer armed with both magic and blade, combatting a tzitzimitl –– an incredibly powerful undead from Bestiary 3. Interior artists include Nathanael James, Craig Maher, and Marcel Mercado.

Casmaron - Wyrwood
A wyrwood.

The front inside cover features a glimpse at some thematic documents from Golarion, including a recipe, travel documents, and other paperwork. All these documents are layered across each other, though, so you can’t read the full text on any. They’re intended for flavour, not player handouts or anything. Although interesting, it’s not useful.

After this is the table of contents, the rules index, and the introduction which contains a brief summary on Golarion, its continents, and other major regions. Each summary is a paragraph long and lists information on the region, it’s nations, and most common peoples.

Moving on from the introduction we come to our first region: Arcadia! This section contains two pages of new character options, and two pages on wyrwoods (which are most commonly found in Arcadia). Arcadian character options include four gun feats (all of which are useful), three jaguar-themed slayer talents intended for worshippers of the goddess Kazutal, and two legendary spirits for mediums from Valenhall (Adril, the Would-Be King, a Champion, and Father of Legends, a Marshal). Wyrwood options include two alternate race traits (check out experimental body), favoured class options, and eight new feats (my favourites were lifecrafting  and sword’s shadow).

Avistan - Unicorn Sorcerer
A unicorn bloodline sorcerer.

Up next are four pages of character options from Avistan and the Crown of the World. This section contains one archetype for bards, Speaker of the Palatine Eye. There’s some new options for mesmerists themed around exploring subterranean locations, including two new feats (I love them both), three new tricks, and three new bold stares. There’s five hilarious (and awesome!) feats for heroic goblins. I particularly enjoyed mental derail and piercing chant. Finally, there’s the frost shaman spirit, which is one of my very favourite character options in this book, and the unicorn bloodline. Yup! A sorcerer bloodline that grants you healing magic for your bloodline spells, and lets you heal a target of some hp whenever you cast a spell as your bloodline arcana! It’s amazing! Although some players argue it’s too powerful, or makes other healers less important, I think it’s going to be great fun. Plus, I love the theme! Who doesn’t like unicorns?

Heroes of Golarion - Psomeira - Nathanael James
Psomeira, a legendary spirit from Iblydos. Illustrated by Nathanael James. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Leaving behind Avistan we get to Casmaron. Here you’ll find two pages of character options from Casmaron, followed by another four pages of character options from Iblydos, an island in Casmaron. Casmaron character options include holy beast, a shifter archetype that focuses on combatting outsiders, and plague eater, a spiritualist archetype that is haunted by the restless dead killed by plague. Although I adore the plague eater, it’s very tightly focused on resisting and healing diseases, so I’m not sure how much use I’d actually get out of it. Other options include the peafowl shifter aspect, and four Vudrani phrenic amplifications for psychics. Iblydos character options include an oracle curse called god-meddled which can be either a help or a hinderance, two new legendary spirits for mediums (Kelksimides the Hierophant and Psomeira the Champion), and a lot of witch hexes and grand hexes that I loved. Beast’s gift, combat hypnosis, swine, and animal servant are all among my favourites. There’s also priest of the fallen, a spiritualist archetype that channels the phantoms of various hero-gods, and the medusa bloodrager bloodline that I really enjoyed.

Heroes of Golarion - BeastSpeaker- Marcel Mercado
A Tekritanin Beast Speaker. Illustrated by Marcel Mercado. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc. 

Up next? Six pages on Garund! Here you’ll find new gun options and ammunition for characters from Alkenstar, an investigator archetype called the Holomog demolitionist that focuses on destroying your surroundings and creating difficult terrain, eight new vigilante talents, six new arcanist exploits that focus on primal magic, and five new shifter aspects (elephant, giant wasp, horse, lion, and snapping turtle). There’s also the sphinx bloodrager bloodline, which I enjoyed, and two feats that allow characters to gain an intelligent magical beast as an animal companion. Along with these feats are five options for magical beast companions: basilisk, behir, bulette, death worm, and sun falcon. Tough decision, but I like the basilisk and sun falcon best.

With that we reach our final destination: Tian Xia. Here you’ll find four pages of character options, two of which are dedicated to new kineticist options! Of the new kineticist wild talents, eleven are utility wild talents, and only four are infusions (three substance and one form). These options are themed around clockworks, toxins, wind, and amplifying your race’s natural abilities. Although plenty of them are cool it’s the bolt form infusion and the various clockwork utility wild talents that I liked the best. But, there’s more than just kineticist options in Tian Xia. In these four pages you’ll also find a wide variety of alchemist discoveries themed around calligraphy and drawing with specially prepared magical inks. My favourite is living pigments, which lets the creatures you draw come to life! There’s also the spirit eater, a medium archetype, and the phoenix sorcerer bloodline! This thematic bloodline lets you do all sorts of cool things, like surround yourself in fire, grow wings of flame, and even come back to life! Perhaps its niftiest ability is it’s bloodline arcana, which allows your fire spells to heal your targets instead of harming them. Of course, these purifying flames don’t heal as well as they could burn…  I love it!

Although that’s the end of our whirlwind tour of Golarion, that’s not the end of this book. Heroes of Golarion wraps up with one page of rules for occult mythic characters, and three pages of new mythic path abilities. These path abilities are all useful to, or themed around, the various occult classes and abilities. Although many are specific to a certain mythic path, some are universal, and can be chosen by characters following any mythic path. Although there are plenty of cool options for all the occult classes, it’s the mythic abilities intended for kineticists that I like best.

And that’s it! The end of Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of Golarion! This book is packed full of cool new character options from around Golarion. In the end, it’s the frost shaman spirit, medusa bloodrager bloodline, and the phoenix and unicorn sorcerer bloodlines that I enjoyed the most. They’re all definitely going to see use in my house! And honestly? I don’t see why some players were worried over the sorcerer bloodlines. They’re going to be great fun.

But, even more than the character options, it’s the new mythic path abilities and supplementary rules that made this book worth the money for me. Although brief, these new options allow occult characters to make use of mythic paths as effectively as the other character classes can––an incredibly important addition to Pathfinder First Edition, that I’m relieved got to see print before Second Edition rolls around and it’s too late.

Those of you that participate in the Pathfinder Society Organized Play community will be happy to know that Heroes of Golarion is already sanctioned for use, with nearly all of the content in this player companion legal for PFS play! For more information, check out the Additional Resources on Paizo’s website. (And yes, for those of you excited or worried, both sorcerer bloodlines are legal for play. It’s going to be great!).

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

Shop smart!

Jessica

 

Faiths of Golarion

Faiths of Golarion CoverHey everyone! Thanks for stopping by. Today we’re taking a look between the the covers of the latest ‘gods’ book: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Faiths of Golarion! Although I’ll be mentioning what’s in this book and talking about my favourite parts, this is not meant to replace the book itself. The opposite, in fact! It’s meant to let you know what’s inside so you can decide for yourself whether this is a book that will be of use to you. For me? Definitely! Curious what’s inside? Read on!

Featuring cover art by Igor Grechanyi that showcases the gods Gruhastha, Hei Feng, and Nivi Rhombodazzle, this soft cover book is 64 pages in length. Other contributing artists include Gislaine Avila, Emanuele Desiati, Vlada Hladkova, Sandra Posada, Luca Sotgiu, and Vicky Yarova. Contributing authors include Kate Baker, John Compton, Adam Daigle, Crystal Frasier, Ron Lundeen, Liane Merciel, Michael Sayre, and Owen K.C. Stephens.

Like the many god and faith themed books before it, this book takes an up close look at a variety of faiths, talking about the gods and goddesses, their faith, church, priests, worshippers, holy texts, holidays, aphorisms, planar allies, and so on. It also features information on their alignment, domains, subdomains, favoured weapons, centres of worship, paladin and anitpaladin codes (if there is one), obediences, and boons (usable by those who take the deific obedience feat, or take levels in the exalted, evangelist, or sentinel prestige classes from Inner Sea Gods). There’s plenty of awesome art in this book, with each faith discussed having four images: one of the deity, one of the holy symbol, one of a worshipper, and one action shot of the deity.

Faiths of Golarion - FaithsThere are ten faiths discussed in this book. Each is a lesser detailed but very important faith. This includes a few racial faiths — the halfling goddess Chaldira Zuzaristan, the gnome goddess Nivi Rhombodazzle, the elf god Ketephys, and the dwarf god Magrim. It also includes information on deities from other regions of Golarion such as the Tien gods Hei Feng, Shizuru, and Tsukiyo, as well as the anadi goddess Grandmother Spider who is popular in the Shackles and Sodden Lands, the Vudrani god Gruhastha who is popular in Vudra, and the Razatlani goddess Kazutal who is popular in Arcadia. Each of these faiths is incredibly important to their respective cultures and I’m thrilled to see them get some of the attention they deserve. Information on the racial deities, especially, I feel was long overdue. Before sitting down to read this book I was most excited for further information on Ketephys, Shizuru, and Tsukiyo. All of the entries were great, but after reading I was most inspired to make worshippers of Grandmother Spider, Kazutal, and Tsukiyo.

So who, exactly, are these deities?

So glad you asked!

Chaldira Zuzaristan is a brash and reckless halfling demigoddess of battle, luck, and mischief. She fights against oppressors, tyrants, and injustice, trusting in her luck and companions to see her through. A bit of a thieving troublemaker, but not malicious, Chaldira is good friends with the goddess Desna, who shares her love of travel. One of my favourite parts of the article on Chaldira is her eccentric planar allies, particularly her herald The Button Fellow.

Chaldira Zuzaristan

Grandmother Spider is a cunning goddess of twilight, illusions, family, and weaving. Created by the gods as a tool be used alongside her brother, Achaekek, Grandmother Spider was tasked with weaving the world and the destiny of the mortals in it. But she rebelled against the gods and wove a new destiny for herself, granting herself free will and divinity. She’s a trickster, teacher, and folk hero. I particularly enjoyed reading about her relationships with the other gods — she once stole Asmodeus’ keys and enjoys teasing her brother Achaekek. Who doesn’t want to irritate the assassin of the gods?! Haha. I also adore all the art in this section!

Gruhastha is the vudrani god of  peace, understanding, and self-improvement. Once Irori’s nephew he sought to record his knowledge for the world. Upon completing his perfect book, the Azvadeva Pujila, he became the divine embodiment of that holy text. Now Gruhasta seeks to enlighten the world so that one day it will be so perfect it becomes one with Nirvana. Interesting!

Hei Feng is a wild and unpredictable tengu god who is very popular in Tian Xia. A moody god of the sea, storms, thunder, and wind, he is always accompanied by his four companions, the Counts of Lightning, Rain, Thunder, and Wind. Drunken, boisterous, and easily angered, Hei Feng is a dangerous deity. As one of the most popular Tian gods I’m happy to see he got some attention. Turned out Hei Feng is my son’s favourite god in the book.

Hei Feng
Hei Feng and his four Counts.

Kazutal is a deity I didn’t know much about, but wow! She is awesome! Haha. Also known as Mother Jaguar, she’s a war goddess whose focus changed over the Age of Darkness, when community and togetherness became integral for survival. Now a goddess of war, family, togetherness, community, liberty, and safety, she promotes a love of your neighbours, family, and friends. This love should be spoken of plainly and without shame, for its these bonds of love that cause neighbours to have the courage to stand up and protect one another. It’s love that makes communities strong. Those who don’t show love of others are considered cowards. Which is awesome! I really enjoyed reading about her faith’s take on love, and the evolution of her religion. I also adore the art in this section! It’s amazing!

Ketephys is the calm, stoic elven god of hunting, the moon, and the forest. He’s a god of archery, and urges his followers to respect nature, replace what they take, and never waste. This is one of the gods I was most excited to see included in Faiths of Golarion, as the elven deities were among those created back when Pathfinder didn’t have it’s own rules, and I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for further details on them. There are some details, of course. A paragraph or two throughout the various Paizo products, but I wanted more. I would have been happy to see details on any of them, but I’m particularly pleased to see its Ketephys.

Ketephys Worshipper
A worshipper of Ketephys planting a garden.

Magrim is another deity that’s been around since the beginning of Pathfinder but lacked much information. The dwarven god of death, fate, tradition, and the underworld, he’s fair, unflinching, and unwavering. Magrim considers Pharasma a respected elder, and is often tasked by her to repair damaged spirits that enter the Boneyard. I really enjoyed learning how Magrim fit alongside Pharasma, and his role in the dwarven afterlife.

Nivi Rhombodazzle is about as different as Magrim as you can get. This gnome gambler fled underground to escape her many angry creditors and ended up becoming the first of the svirfneblin after she traded a rare gem to Torag in exchange for divinity. Talk about a deal! Nivi’s an impulsive daredevil addicted to the thrill of a wager. She urges others to test their skill, push their luck, and experience the best life has to offer. And when luck turns against you and you’re in a lot of debt? Run, of course! Best of luck! Haha. She’s a tricky, thieving little thing whose faith is said to hold the key to staving off the Bleaching.

Vicky Yarova
Hei Feng proves to be a poor loser in this art featuring Gruhastha, Hei Feng, and Nivi Rhombodazzle. Illustrated by Vicky Yarova. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Shizuru is another of the gods I was most interested in reading about. This draconic Tien goddess is also known as the Empress of Heaven, and is the main deity of the Tien pantheon. A goddess of honour, swordplay, the sun, and ones ancestors, she’s incredibly popular among the people of Tian Xia and players of Pathfinder. I particularly enjoyed reading about her relationship with Tsukiyo, her lover who died and came back to life changed.

Which brings us to Tsukiyo, the final deity in Faiths of Golarion. Killed by his own jealous brother, Tsukiyo was the beloved of Shizuru. But his lover couldn’t accept his death and she ordered Qi Zhong, god of medicine and healing, to bring his back to life. It worked, but Tsukiyo came back changed. Now quiet, contemplative, and possessing an uncommon outlook, he is god of the moon, spirits, and outsiders. He teaches that no matter a person’s perceived flaws and oddities, all are a whole person deserving of respect. This applies to those society shuns, deems insane, are disabled, or those suffering from mental illness. I absolutely love what they did with Tsukiyo. Delightful from start to finish.

Which brings us to the end of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Faiths of Golarion! If you’re a fan of learning about the many deities of Golarion (like I am) I highly recommend picking up this book!

Enjoy!

Jessica

 

Starfinder Society Scenarios: Enter the Ashen Asteroid and Siege of Civility

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!

Enter the Ashen Asteroid by Larry WilhelmStarfinder Society Scenario #1-36: Enter the Ashen Asteroid is a Tier 1-4 adventure written by Larry Wilhelm. It takes place on Sledgehammer, a mining facility and exploration vessel owned by Ulrikka Clanholdings, a dwarven mining consortium that may be familiar to PCs who’ve played Starfinder Society Scenario #1-12: Ashes of DiscoveryFrom there the PCs enter Asteroid AA-126D, an asteroid in the Diaspora that contains duergar ruins dating back to the time of the Gap — and marked with the unholy symbol of Droskar. There you will explore the the site and collect any objects of archaeological importance. This does not feature any tags and does not contribute to the ongoing Scoured Stars storyline. PCs who are dwarves, speak dwarven, or have the Contractor’s Respect (Ulrikka Clanholdings) boon from Starfinder Society Scenario #1-12: Ashes of Discovery will find they have an edge in this scenario.  Enter the Ashen Asteroid does not feature starship combat. It includes two custom half-page maps (which are beautifully detailed!) and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Elemental Planes. It makes use of the Starfinder Core RulebookStarfinder Armory, and Alien Archive 2. Although this scenario doesn’t feature any recurring characters it does introduce a new NPC of importance, dwarven Venture-Captain Thromkendal. In addition, five other NPCs you’ll have a chance to influence are introduced, most of which (but not all!) are dwarves.

Enter the Ashen Asteroid -VCThromkendal.jpg - Illustration by Bryan Syme
Venture-Captain Thromkendal. Illustrated by Bryan Syme. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

At it’s core, Enter the Ashen Asteroid is a dungeon delve. PCs enter an enclosed location, look around, unearth some secrets, and fight some bad guys. It’s a type of adventure that’s underrepresented in Starfinder, so I think it’s a nice change of pace. Happily this delve is packed full of opportunities to use a wide variety of skill checks, has interesting environmental hazards, and features a few obstacles in it that can be overcome in multiple ways. There’s some complex devices and backstory to untangle, which keeps the dungeon interesting, and plenty of important finds to collect. I particularly enjoyed the interconnectivity of the dungeon. Each room has ties to those around it, which is really nice to see. The battles in this scenario are challenging, particularly one against an old foe from Pathfinder whose new art looks amazing! At the end of the scenario PCs will have to report to some Ulrikka Clanholdings bigwigs and offer them a recommendation in regards to the fate of the asteroid. It should be noted that this is a complex adventure to run. There’s some subsystems at work here that new or inexperienced GMs could find confusing — luckily this is mitigated by a super handy player handout. One of the locations also has a complex obstacle some PCs might struggle with. Overall I really enjoyed this scenario. I give it four out of five stars.

1-37 - Siege of CivilityStarfinder Society #1-37: Siege of Civility is a Tier 5-8 adventure written by Kalervo Oikarinen. It takes place on a fortress moon named the Eye of Gideron, that orbits a gas giant named Maelstrom’s Maw. These areas are located within the territory of the Gideron Authority, a mostly-hobgoblin militant space empire at war with the Marixah Republic, both of which are introduced in Starfinder Society #1-24: Siege of Enlightenment. Although the two scenarios are linked, playing them is order isn’t necessary. In fact, characters who haven’t played Siege of Enlightenment are likely to have a different outlook on the Gideron Authority than those who have, which can make for some fun roleplaying between the party members. I think it’s best to have a mix of PCs who have and haven’t played Siege of Enlightenment. Whatever the party composition, your PCs mission is to convince representatives of the Gideron Authority to lend the Starfinder Society their aid — the Wayfinders flagship Master of Stars needs a drift engine only the Gideron Authority can provide, and the Starfinder Society would like exploration rights to some of their archaeological sites. This scenario features the Faction (Wayfinders) tag and does not contain starship combat. It makes use of one half-page custom map and no flip-mats. It includes content from Starfinder Core RulebookAlien Archive, and Alien Archive 2. There are two recurring characters in this scenario: Fitch, leader of the Wayfinders Faction, and Ceobarn Zeizerer, a drow who first appeared in Starfinder Society Scenario #1-06: A Night in Nightarch. There are five other new NPCs from the Gideron Authority who are likely to be of further importance in the future. PCs who have the Victory Over Authority boon will need to slot it for this mission.

Siege of Civility -CommanderImakoo - Illustraton by Bryan Syme
Commander Imako. Illustrated by Bryan Syme. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Overall, this is a really fun social scenario. There’s plenty of interesting NPCs to talk to and sway to your side. The social engagements are well planned out, and interspersed with opportunities for other skill checks and a really cool combat encounter. It think it’s going to be an absolute blast to play! This is a great scenario to crack out your diplomats, envoys, and other charismatic characters. PCs who prefer to pound face all day are better suited to other scenarios, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a chance to shine. The Gideron Authority is an aggressive, military-based society that values strength and experience, so even PCs with a martial focus will find someone they get along with.  Overall, I give this scenario four out of five stars. It’s one of my favourite influence-based Starfinder Scenarios. 

Thanks for joining us today! Tune in later this week when we take a look at the newest Pathfinder Society Scenarios!

Jessica

 

Starfinder Critical Hit Deck

Hello everyone and welcome to d20diaries!

Today we’re taking a look a delightful little pack of cards…. Starfinder Critical Hit Deck!

Starfinder Critical Hit Deck

critical hit deck skittermander taylor fischer
A lucky skittermander! Illustrated by Taylor Fischer. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Starfinder Critical Hit Deck is the size and shape of a deck of playing cards. It retails for around $10.99 USD (or around $15 Canadian dollars). There’s an adorable little skittermander playing with a d20 on the box, with some product information on the back.

The cards inside are high quality and easy to read with a colour scheme matching the Starfinder Core Rulebook. There’s fifty-five cards inside. One contains product information, the open game license, and cites Owen K.C. Stephens as the author and Taylor Fischer as the illustrator. The second card lists the rules of using the Critical Hit Deck. And the other 53 cards are Critical hit Cards.

All of the cards follow a specific set of rules laid out on the rules card. All critical hits deal double damage unless the card specifies otherwise. Any effects listed as ‘Crit Effect’ can replace your weapons regular critical hit effect (if it has one) if you want it to, but you don’t get both. Any effects listed as ‘Bonus Effect’ apply in addition to the critical hit effects of your weapons. There’s some other simple rules for DCs, scaling, and so on, but they’re all easy to get a handle on.

You’ll also need to decide ahead of time how to use the Critical Hit Deck. That is to say, when you use it. For players that’s simple. Every time you score a critical hit (a natural 20 on a d20 dice) you draw a card and apply it’s effects. For GMs it works a little differently. The deck provides three options for the GM to select from. First, the GM draws a card whenever a major villain, creature, or NPC scores a critical hit. Second, drawing a critical hit card is a special ability that NPCs can take, and the GM selects which NPCs have it. And third, the GM draws a card every time a villain, creature, or NPC scores a critical hit. Personally, my family uses it for all PC critical hits and for major villain, creature, and NPC critical hits, but I like that there’s a variety of ways to integrate this deck into your game.

When you score a critical hit you draw a card. Each card has four different critical hit effects. One for energy attacks, one for kinetic attacks, and one for spell attacks. The fourth critical hit effect is an ‘extreme blow’ and lists a single specific damage type (such as electricity or slashing). You simply read the card, select the critical hit effect that matches your damage type, and carry out the effect listed. If you happen to deal the exact same type of damage as the extreme blow you use that critical effect instead. Easy.

Most importantly? It’s fun! My family loves pulling out a card and getting some extra effects. Particularly the extreme blows. It always ends in laughter. Of course, they’re not so thrilled when an enemy does it, but hey, that’s the way the dice land. Haha.

Some of our favourite effects include blast back (energy), lodged in the bone (kinetic), shrapnel by the bone (kinetic), blood magic (spell), vampiric magic (spell), disintegrate (extreme spell), it’s a gusher (extreme melee), mega-smash (extreme bludgeoning), punctured lung (extreme piercing), sound of victory (extreme sonic), severed spine (extreme slashing), and disarmed (literally!)(extreme slashing).

 

Got a favourite critical hit card? Let us know in the comments!

Enjoy!

Jessica

Review: Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Starfinder Adventure Path #8: Escape from the Prison Moon! So hop aboard and get ready to rebel!

Against the Aeon Throne is a three part Starfinder Adventure Path that begins with Part One: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen, continues with Part Two: Escape from the Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron, and concludes with Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm. All together these three adventures should take your characters from level one through to level seven. You can also pick up the Against The Aeon Throne Pawn Collection.

To read our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne click the links below:

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign than most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. It’s a great change of pace that will allow the folks at Starfinder to tell shorter, more personal stories. In addition, this three part length makes it easier to purchase and play through an entire adventure path. It’s awesome for gift giving and the budget conscious! Six books is a huge investment, but three? Well, that’s a lot more manageable for those of us without much extra cash laying around. On the other hand, with the three book format I feel like I blinked and the whole adventure path was over. I didn’t get my hands on the first book until the third came out and I missed the Signal of Screams Adventure Path completely. In general, it’s both easier to collect and easier to miss. Although I enjoy the three book format, I also enjoy the six book format, so I hope they continue to rotate between the campaign lengths.

Against the Aeon Throne

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon all about? In short, the PCs defeated an Azlanti military force that had annexed the small colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet of Nakondis. But saving the fledgeling colony is just the beginning. The PCs have discovered that an experimental starship engine and their friend, the android Cedona, were already transported off of Nakondis and back to the Azlanti Star Empire. Determined to rescue Cedona and retrieve the starship drive the PCs travel to the Azlanti Star Empire and attempt to rescue Cedona from the prison moon she’s being held on. Exciting stuff!

Now, let me take a moment to be clear. The Azlanti Star Empire is a pack of giant, pompous, jerks. They’re great villains for the PCs to clash with, but an overwhelming opponent. This adventure path does not send your PCs off to take down the entire Azlanti Star Empire. It’s much smaller in scale than that. And frankly? I love it. It lends a sense of suspense to the series and makes it feel like you’re playing real people in a living breathing world universe doing what they can, rather than heroes so powerful they change the whole world universe. It’s a wonderful change of pace and scope. It’s got a very Firefly / Star Wars feel to it.

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself. Starfinder Adventure Path 8: Escape from Prison Moon (Against the Aeon Throne 2 of 3)  is a softcover adventure written by Eleanor Ferron that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level three to level five. The adventure itself is around 35 pages long, and split into three main parts: A Distant Call, in which the players travel to the Azlanti Star Empire; Outpost Zed, in which the players explore a space station and plan their caper; and Jailbreak, in which the players infiltrate the Prison Moon to free Cedona. After the adventure there’s an eight page primer on the Azlanti Star Empire and an eight page primer on the non-human races of the Azlanti Star Empire. There’s also seven new creatures in the Alien Archive, and a short Codex of Worlds article on Outpost Zed. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier 3 starship: the Vanguard Parapet.

My favourite parts of this book are the large number of new player races (there’s six of them), the incredibly varied and quirky NPCs (Glest, Half-Red, Xaarb, and Talmrin are all great fun), and how free-form the locations are. Yes, you have to go to ‘A’ place, and accomplish ‘B’ goal, then go to ‘C’ place, and accomplish ‘D’ goal, but how you go about achieving your goals in ‘A’ and ‘C’ — the order and methods — are up to you. I really like that. Another minor thing I really enjoyed is that every enemy has a name. It sounds like a silly thing to enjoy in an adventure, but giving every villain a name allows for PCs to take approaches to dealing with them that amount to more than ‘attack’ and ‘loot.’ That’s incredibly important in this adventure, particularly in Part Three: Jailbreak.

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

You have been warned.

Escape from the Prison Moon

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read and the colours are easy on the eyes. The cover art is wonderful. It showcases Cedona, an android, retired Steward, and ally of the PCs, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind her is an awesome image of Raia (the iconic lashunta technomancer) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) fighting off Azlanti prison guards.

The starship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Parapet. This tier 3 medium transport is destined to be the final enemy the PCs face in this adventure. All in all it’s a well-built ship, that packs some serious firepower. I particularly like how it’s shield points are balanced, with barely any shields in the quadrants where they have the most guns, and the excess shields where they have the least guns. The art is nice and the ship layout is useful.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts a bit slower than its predecessor. It begins with some necessary bookkeeping. The PCs likely have some loose ends and social encounters to wrap up in Madelon’s Landing after the conclusion of Reach of the Empire (Against the Aeon Throne 1 of 3) and they’ll need to upgrade their starship to tier 3. Afterwards they receive a recorded transmission from The Stewards which should help nudge them on their way and get the adventure going. For many groups this transmission is unnecessary. PCs should already know their goals for this one: retrieve the drive and rescue their friend. But, for those groups that need a little more guidance, this recording gets the job done quick and efficiently. The PCs will need to fly to the Azlanti Star Empire, get their bearings, and find their way to the Prison Moon Cedona is being held at. On the way they run into a witchwyrd merchant ship where they’ll have a chance to make friends, barter, and pick up some valuable intel. This social encounter also gives them a destination where they can learn some more about the Azlanti: Outpost Zed.

Glest
Glest, a nervous screedreep from Outpost Zed.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Outpost Zed. In this section PCs will need to travel to Outpost Zed, a rebellious little space station on the fringes of Azlanti space, figure out where Cedona was taken, and determine a way to properly disguise their ship. This is done primarily through interacting with the locals. Of course, not all the locals are friendly or willing to talk to obvious foreigners. Other hurdles the PCs will come up against are learning how to communicate with the locals, and figuring out Outpost Zed’s societal structure. As previously mentioned, this section of the adventure is a little free-form. There’s plenty of people to talk to, a section of the spaceport to explore, some quick battles (some of which can be avoided), and the PCs can go about their socializing in any order. However, they can’t really stray outside this area or get too off track. Still, it’s fun and enjoyable. Many of the NPCs they’re destined to meet are from races the PCs know nothing about.  I particularly enjoyed Glest (a nervous, shifty screedreep), Half-Red (a tiny squid-like stellifera that floats in an orb of water), Xaarb (an agressive creature who’s mostly mouth), and Talmrin (a very useful NPC who looks like a weasel-person). This section does a great job of showcasing that your PCs are obvious outsiders, which is something they’ll need to address if they want to break their friends out of prison without fighting their way through the whole place. Overall, it’s a fun, flavourful place to explore, filled with plenty of memorable social encounters. Before you move on, the PCs will need to take what they’ve learned and concoct a plan to travelling to and infiltrating the Prison Moon Gulta, for rescuing Cedona, and for escaping alive. Good luck! Haha. In all seriousness, the pieces of the puzzle the PCs need should come relatively easily, and there’s an NPC around who can help with the planning in a major way if the PCs are in need of inspiration or assistance. The actual planning shouldn’t be too hard once they’ve got their ducks in a row.

Glimmshar pirate
One of the many denizens of Outpost Zed!

Which brings us to part three: Jailbreak. This is by far the longest and most challenging section of the adventure. As the PCs approach Gulta, the prison moon, they should already know that non-Azlanti are typically held in Cell Block J. With their destination narrowed down considerably, they’ll need to disguise their ship, approach Gulta, and dock in Cell Block J. From there it’s more free-form. Depending upon what races the PCs are they’ll need disguises to manage any kind of infiltration mission. They’ll also need a way to speak Azlanti, someone who’s decent at lying, and someone who’s handy with a computer or at engineering. Then they’ll need to explore Cell Block J without tipping off the guards or raising an alarm. Plus there’s the security cameras and patrols to worry about. PCs who choose to go in guns blazing will instead need to be quick and get the security feeds shut down as soon as possible. Either way, once the PCs manage to get Cedona free (and hopefully some other prisoners as well), they’ll need to find a way to escape with her — a job much harder than getting in. Finally, before they escape they’ll need to contend with this volume’s big bad — an Azlanti woman named Iolastrila — and the Zandamant, a prison ship that pursues the PCs as they make their escape.

This section of the adventure is incredibly well presented, but not easy for GMs to run. It lays out the entirety of Cell Block J, what security measures are in place, labels every security camera, and shows where guards are located. Every guard has a name and some information about them — all useful information for PCs attempting an infiltration. There’s also notes on what things the PCs can do to raise or lower the alertness of guards, and cause alarms to sound. It describes what changes throughout the Cell Block in such circumstances, and what the various guards do. It’s really detailed, and really well thought out. Which is incredibly important! Your PCs are going to go in there and going to make a scene. GMs will need to keep track of what cameras are in operation, who’s suspicious of them, what the various guards are doing, and so on. It’s complex, and a lot to track. But pulling off this caper — both for the PCs and the GM — is a rewarding, exciting, experience. This place is dynamic, detailed, and reacts to the PCs. It will be different for every group and I really, really enjoyed it.

EronesseBy the end of this chapter the PCs will have freed Cedona, made their escape from the Prison Moon, and retreated to Outpost Zed. But their mission’s not yet complete. The PCs and Cedona know they need to get back the experimental drive from the Azlanti before its too late.

Which brings us to the end of Escape the Prison Moon! But, that’s not the end of Against the Aeon Throne, or the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is an incredibly useful primer on the Azlanti Star Empire entitled Empire of the Aeon Throne. This eight page article provides a short history of the Azlanti Star Empire, information on the solar systems under it’s control (there’s twelve of them!), and information on their culture, and society. Finally, it’s got some new gear, including five new aeon stones, four new magitech augmentations, and two new weapons.

Talmrin
Talmrin, a gosclaw from Outpost Zed.

The second primer is entitled Citizens of the Star Empire. Also eight pages in length, this section describes a whopping nineteen races common to the Azlanti Star Empire, most of which are new. Six of these races is also given much more information and full racial traits to allow you to play these races. Playable races include the brakim, gosclaw, neskinti, screedreep, stellifera, and vilderaros. I really enjoyed all of these races, but the brakim and screedreep turned out to be my favourites. The brakim are also featured in Starfinder Society Scenario #1-27: King Xeros of Star Azlant.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, four of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: Aeon Stone Network, a CR 7 construct made from a swarm of aeon stones; Radiation Drake, a CR 9 drake; Iztheptar, a CR 6 shellfish-like humanoid that’s featured in both Escape from the Prison Moon and Starfinder Society Scenario #1-27: King Xeros of Star Azlant; Ooheo, a tiny CR 1 vermin with a long harpoon-like tongue; Paralith, a CR 4 aberration they’ll meet on Outpost Zed; Void Palm, a CR 7 gravity controlling plant; and Xaarb, an aggressive CR 5 magical beast they’ll meet on Outpost Zed.

Against the Aeon Throne - Escape the Prison Moon - Paralith David Franco
Paralith by David Franco. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on the Outpost Zed. Despite its short length, the information contained therein is useful for this adventure, and a must read for any GMs who expect their PCs to do a bit more exploring of the space port than is scripted in this adventure.

OutpostZed Mirco Paganessi
Outpost Zed by Mirco Paganessi. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

And with that, Starfinder Adventure Path 8: Escape from Prison Moon (Against the Aeon Throne 2 of 3) has come to an end. So where does it go from here?

Against the Aeon Throne: Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit is written by Larry Wilhelm and intended for level five characters. In it, the PCs head to a secret Azlanti science station in an asteroid where the experimental starship drive is being held. They’ll need to get inside, infiltrate or fight their way to the Rune Drive, and learn what the heck it is. Then they’ll need to find a way to steal it. Along the way they’ll fight Aeon Guard soldiers, rescue captive scientists, and face off against the man responsible for sending troops to Nakondis in the first place! Awesome!
EDIT: You can read our review on it here: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit.

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the second volume of Against the Aeon Throne much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica

 

5-Minute Dungeon

Welcome to d20diaries!

5 Minute Dungeon

Today we’re taking a look at a board game my kids recently got for their birthday: 5-Minute Dungeon! This real-time card game tasks up to five players with working together to escape a dungeon in under five minutes. Each dungeon consists of a randomized deck of cards that features obstacles, monsters, people, and events to overcome. At the end of each dungeon is a powerful boss to defeat. To beat the game you’ll need to triumph over five separate dungeons.

This game is frantic, fast-paced, and more than a little chaotic! Communication and teamwork are essential to your success. Player’s win or lose as a team. 5-Minute Dungeon is intended for players ages eight and up. Although a single dungeon takes five minutes, playing through a whole game takes about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending how many times you fail to escape a dungeon.

Box Contents

Players take on the role of one of ten characters by selecting a character board. Each board is colour-coded and double-sided, with one male and one female character per board. Every character board makes use of one of five matching decks, and every character has their own unique ability which can be triggered by discarding three cards from your hand. That means that up to five people can play at a time.

Characters include the blue sorceress and wizard, green huntress and ranger, purple ninja and thief, red barbarian and gladiator, and yellow paladin and valkyrie. Most of the special abilities of these characters fall into two types: those that help get someone in your group extra cards and those that automatically defeat a certain category of card. There’s also the wizard’s unique ability to stop time. We found that it was very helpful to play with the wizard and a character who can help the group draw cards, with the rest of the players taking on abilities that can auto-defeat either monsters, obstacles, or people. Once you’ve got your character picked out you place the matching deck on their board.

Next you set up the dungeon. Start by selecting a boss. There are five to choose from and each is numbered 1 though 5. You simply start at Boss #1: Baby Barbarian and work your way up to Boss #5: Dungeon Master. Each boss also has a number of cards written on it. Baby Barbarian has 20, The Grime Reaper has 25, Zola the Gorgon has 30, and so on. This is the number of dungeon cards you’ll randomly select and place on the boss board. Then you’ll pick out two challenge cards per player and shuffle them into the deck of dungeon cards. This is the boss’s dungeon. You simply place the deck of cards into the space marked with the dotted line and you’re ready to begin.

Boss

Player’s begin by drawing a number of cards. This number is variable and determined by how many people are playing the game. Chances are you’ll start with three or four cards. Then you start the five minute timer, flip over the first card in the dungeon deck, and get adventuring!

Cactus wants a hug!
To reach ‘The Grime Reaper’ you’ll need to defeat the ‘A Cactus that wants a hug.’ Oh, no! I hope you’ve got some shields….

This game doesn’t come with a physical timer. Instead there’s a timer app you can download on your phone, tablet, and other handheld device. It’s a quick download and easy to use. You simply select a voice for the announcer (I love the ‘fearful’ voice, but my daughter’s a fan of ‘spiteful’) and click start. Sometimes you’ll need to pause the game (such as with the wizard’s ‘time stop’ ability) in which case you simply push pause. If you defeat the dungeon you click ‘We Won,’ if you lose you click ‘We Lost’ and if you run out of time you don’t need to click a thing. It’s an enjoyable, humorous little timer app and my kids really like it.

There are four major categories of dungeon cards: event, person, monster, and obstacle. Events are the simplest to resolve. They each have a sentence explaining what you need to do, you do it, then you move on to the next card. Examples of events are ‘Sudden Illness’ which forces every player to discard their hand, or ‘Trap Door’ which forces all players to discard three cards. The rest of the cards — monster, obstacle, and person — have circular symbols on them. These symbols match the cards that you must play to defeat them. These cards can be played in any order and by any player. There are no turns. As soon as all the needed cards are played you have defeated the card, it gets moved to the discard pile, and you flip over the next dungeon card. Once all of the dungeon cards are defeated you will see the symbols needed to defeat the Boss.

This makes gameplay fast and chaotic, with players slapping down cards, shouting out what they’re playing, and calling out what’s still needed to defeat the card. It’s the sort of game where everyone feels a sense of urgency and excitement, and get’s a thrill of triumph when a card is defeated.

Enemy Types
The four types of cards you’ll find in a dungeon.

So what the heck are all these symbols?

There are five major symbols in the game, which are colour coded. These same symbols are seen across all the boss cards and all character decks. Called ‘Resources’ they include the red sword, yellow shield, green arrow, blue scroll, and purple jumping person (which my family always calls ‘sprint’ or ‘dash’ but is probably called ‘leap’). Every deck will have cards of these five types, although they will have them in different combinations. The red barbarian/gladiator deck will have a lot of red swords, for example, while the blue sorceress/wizard deck will have a lot of blue scrolls. In addition to these single symbol cards there’s double symbol cards — cards that have two red swords, two blue scrolls, and so on. These are seen in much lower quantities than the single symbol cards, and not every deck will have them in every kind. While the sorceress/wizard deck may have a few double scroll cards, the huntress/ranger deck won’t. One of the decks — the red barbarian/gladiator has special double symbol cards which consist of a red sword and a second other symbol.

The rest of the cards found in the character decks are black bordered and have a special ability written on them. The most common are abilities that let you auto-defeat a certain category of dungeon card. ‘Fireball’ defeats a monster, ‘Backstab’ defeats a person, and ‘Mighty Leap’ defeats an obstacle. These are super useful cards which can be found throughout all of the different coloured decks in differing quantities. While the sorceress/wizard has a lot of ‘Fireballs’ the ninja/thief has more ‘Mighty Leap’ and ‘Backstab’ cards. Finally, every colour deck has some unique black bordered ability cards. ‘Enrage’ from the red barbarian/gladiator deck lets you choose two players who may draw three cards each. ‘Divine Shield’ from the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck pauses time until someone plays a card and lets every player draw one card. ‘Magic Bomb’ from the blue sorceress/wizard deck counts as one of each type of resource. My personal favourite card? ‘Heal’ which lets you select a player who can put their entire discard pile back on top of their draw pile. Awesome!

Card Types 2
The many card types found in 5-Minute Dungeon

As mentioned, every deck is different but equally useful. You’ll soon discover which play style you prefer and find a favourite, so I highly recommend trying each deck out. I love the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck best — particularly when played with the valkyrie character who can help her fellow players draw cards. The yellow deck has a lot of different healing cards, which I find can be incredibly helpful. My son, on the other hand, prefers the to play as the blue wizard. He’s a huge fan of the wizard’s ‘Time Stop’ ability — which is so helpful I’d go as far as to call it a necessity. He also loves the ‘Magic Bomb’ card which can only be found in the blue deck. Finally, my daughter prefers to play as the green huntress — solely because she loves the art. To each their own, I guess. Haha.

With all the decks in their places, cards in hand, and the timer started, play can begin. There’s a few other rules you need to know, but not many. Whenever you have less cards than your opening hand consisted of you can immediately draw cards to fill your hand back up to maximum. Discard piles do not get shuffled back into the draw pile once the draw pile is empty. This means that if your deck ever runs out you can no longer draw cards — unless someone plays a card that gives you cards from your discard pile or something similar.

Winning will take teamwork, speed, and luck. If you win you reshuffle your decks, select your character (you do not need to keep the same character throughout all the dungeons), set your boards back up, and build the dungeon for the next Boss. When everything’s ready you begin play again. If you defeat all five dungeons you win the game.

If you ever fail to defeat a dungeon you’re supposed to reset, going all the way back to the Baby Barbarian and his dungeon again, but my family didn’t like this rule. Instead we just replayed the dungeon we were on.

We’ve played this game quite a few times. Sometimes we finish it all the way through, and sometimes we only play a round or two. My kids and I really like it. They enjoy the teamwork aspect, and that they can always be playing. There’s no waiting for your turn or getting beat on by your friends. It’s fun and fast. It’s not a game for everyone, though. My husband doesn’t really like it. He’s a fan of strategic, complex games. Chances are whatever game we’re playing he’s going to be that player taking the longest turns. Unsurprisingly, the chaotic, real-time gameplay of 5-Minute Dungeon is not to his tastes. It’s also not the kind of game you can play anywhere. Players are going to get loud. Although you could bring to a party, family gathering, or friend’s house, it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to bring to play at the library, local coffee shop, laundromat, or airport. Finally, it’s not the sort of game you want to let the kids play late at night. Mine get antsy, excited, and leap and jump around. Not really a relaxing, winding-down sort of game.

All in all, we really liked 5-Minute Dungeon — especially my son. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and enjoyable. My only complaints? I wish the boss cards were double sided so you could choose which of the two to face off against and I wish there were more dungeon and challenge cards included in the game so the dungeons felt more varied. But, I suppose wanting more of a game isn’t much of a complaint. More like a wish list. Haha. 5-Minute Dungeon is a pretty easy game to find that currently retails for around $30 Canadian. Our copy belongs to my eight-year old son, and made an excellent gift. He loves it.

Happy gaming!

Jessica