I watched a strange little documentary last night on Netflix called Dwarvenaut that follows a little company called Dwarven Forge. Dwarven Forge isn’t new, they’ve been around for twenty years, in fact, but their product is new to me. They make game terrain. But not just any terrain! Oh, no. They make AMAZING game terrain.
The pieces look awesome, are easy to build with, are super durable and come entirely painted. The downside? Price! These are super expensive. Take into account the exchange rate and the absurd cost of delivery (they’re American, and I’m Canadian), and WOW! That is SO outside my budget.
Still, they look amazing. It’s definitely going on my Christmas List. Or birthday list. Or, the ‘when I win the lottery’ list…
My daughter and I spent a bit of this morning checking out their website, watching the videos and tutorials, and generally geeking out over them. Her solution? Buy them for my son for his birthday! Haha. Way to get what you want, without giving up your own gift, my dear!
Cheeky little thing.
You can check out these nifty products on their website: Dwarven Forge. Let me know what you think!
Already own some Dawrven Forge products? Cool! Let me know how you like it in the comments below!
As you may have already read, my husband and I are about to start a campaign for just the two of us, to play in the evenings when my children are going to bed. I own a lot of cool campaigns, but my husband has also played a lot of them. From among the ones he hasn’t played we debated for a while between two choices: Wrath of the Righteous and Iron Gods. In the end we chose Iron Gods.
So what IS Iron Gods, anyway?
Iron Gods is a six-part Pathfinder Adventure Path that fuses sci-fi and fantasy into one awesome campaign. Obviously a ton of inspiration spread out across all kinds of media that clearly influenced this campaign, but all in all if I had to name a few things this campaign feels like, I’d mention the Borderlands Video Games (Borderlands Triple Pack – PlayStation 3, Borderlands – Xbox 360), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Blu-ray), Outlander (the film about vikings and aliens, not the tv show about time travel) and the old classic: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This campaign has an aged, grungy sort of atmosphere about it, and does an excellent job of blending sci-fi themes and worn out advanced technology with typical fantasy fare. This campaign isn’t Starfinder, or some kind of new Sci-FI d20 game. It’s the Pathfinder you know and love, with a some sci-fi themes and loot mixed in for your players to encounter.
This campaign takes place in Numeria, a land of insular barbarians that was struck by strange objects falling from the sky in the distant past. These objects are considered cursed by locals, but are sources of wealth, wonder and knowledge to foreigners. Over time, scholars, treasure hunters and adventurers moved to Numeria, intent on taking all the relics from the sky as they could. Now, Numeria is run by the Black Sovereign, a barbarian King, and the Technic League, a group of unscrupulous, tyrannical scholars who are determined to keep all the lore and technology within the country to themselves. Within this volatile nation lays the town of Torch, the starting place of the campaign and home (or temporary home) to the PCs of Iron Gods.
Torch is known for its bright purple flame that burns constantly atop a massive hill the town is built around. This flame is perfect for smelting sky metals, and is the town’s major source of income and tourism. Recently, the Torch has sputtered out. Knowing this spells disaster for the town, various groups have looked into the matter and only one had any success: Khonnir Baine. Khonnir is a town councillor and wizard who returned a while ago with a deactivated robot he discovered under the town of Torch. Believing that the source of the purple flame also lay under the town, he dropped the robot off at his home and returned underground. He never came back. In desperation the town council has offered a sizeable reward to anyone who can restore the purple flames or find Khonnir Baine. And the PCs happen to be the next group to accept the challenge!
The way I see it, there’s two basic kinds of characters you can make for Iron Gods: characters who accept technology and characters who don’t. Characters who accept technology are probably going to be interested in using technology or figuring out how it works. Whatever their reasons for doing so–greed, curiosity, convenience–they’re the kind of character who’s going to pick up a laser gun and either use it or sell it. Characters that don’t accept technology are going to do the opposite. They’re not going to use the tech they find and chances are, they’re going to try to break it.
Obviously, for either type there’s a ton of characters you can make, and these characters are likely going to have different attitudes and outlooks regarding technology. But for us? We’re going to be a small party, so I would prefer to make a character with the same outlook as my husband. So what was he going to play? I’d have to wait and see…
I set about perusing the many classes archetypes and character options available to me and came up with a few ideas that really tickled my fancy.
First up? The sorcerer. A native Kellid who manifested a bloodline tainted by nanites, this sorceress would have been cast from her tribe when her powers manifested. Left to wander the wilds, she reached Torch and stayed out of desperation. Now working as a scrapper, this sorceress is strong and fit. She knows about technology and hates it with a passion, just as she hates her own powers. Bitter, rude and blunt, I would have a blast playing this character. The nanite bloodline has some cool powers. At low levels you can use the nanites inhabiting your body to coat your weapon and poison your enemies, or use the nanites to improve your skills. At later levels you can use the nanites to heal your own wounds, avoid critical hits, and even become a living swarm yourself. Cool!
Second, a character who loves technology so much it borders on worship. A cleric with the iron priest archetype. This character believes that the Rain of Stars which brought technology falling from the heavens was a divine event. The gods intended these objects as a gift for the people of our planet to use as they desire. You know that dirty, crazed weirdo sitting on the street corner preaching about the end times? THAT’S who this character would be. Minus the whole end-times thing. Haha. With the ability to cast make whole and greater make whole spontaneously, and the ability to channel energy that harms or heals constructs instead of undead, this would be one weird cleric. And if there’s anything I love playing, it’s an eccentric! Although worshipping Brigh would be tempting, I think I’d prefer to worship Nethys, and take both the Destruction and Protection domains, believing that the technology was a gift from Nethys–just another form of magic!
The third character concept I’m interested in is the gunslinger. more specifically, the tech slinger archetype. There’s not much description needed here, really. I mean, if you’re going to play a gunslinger, there’s no better time than during a game that’s bound to give out a few guns! The techslinger archetype swaps out some of the gunslinger’s deeds with new deeds that involve using technological guns and gear instead. It’s quirky, it’s thematic, and it’s a chance to finally play a gunslinger! I’m seriously tempted.
The fourth character concept I’m contemplating–possibly my favourite–is an investigator with the scavenger archetype. Scavenger’s make tiny gadgets to deliver their spells instead of brewing potions and extracts. They give up their poison abilities to get some cool thematic abilities that make them good at making, controlling, harming and healing constructs. Finally, instead of using their inspiration for free on knowledge checks, linguistics and spellcraft, they can use it for free on disable device, appraise and knowledge engineering. This archetype is just… awesome! I love the flavour and abilities and I think it would be a great fit for the town of Torch and the Iron Gods campaign as a whole.
But there’s one concept left I’m super excited for… A psychic! Psychic? Yup! More specifically, a psychic with the mindtech psychic discipline who specializes in using psi-tech. In short, this psychic can communicate with electronic machinery and technological devices. They can amplify and focus their powers through the technology around them, and can essentially mind-control constructs and override their programming at higher levels. There’s a host of cool psi-tech abilities which they can take in place of phrenic amplifications or feat, including the ability to shoot lasers, make force field, and even upload their consciousness into technological devices like robots in order to become an AI. Weird. Cool. Awesome. My only problem? Since Iron Gods doesn’t start with technology in the hands of its players, it could be a while before her powers see good use in the game.
So, while I contemplate my character options, I’ll give my player’s guide a read. I’ll crack open my adventure path volumes and ready the awesome Iron Gods Pawn Collection I got for Christmas.
Let me know your thoughts on Iron Gods and your character ideas below! I’d love to hear them!
The nanite bloodline is from People of the River, a book about the River Kingdoms and Numeria and the people who live there. The iron priest archetype for clerics was published in The Technology Guide, as was the techslinger archetype for gunslingers. Scavenger was from Blood of the Beast, a wonderful little player’s book about animal-inspired races including catfolk, grippli, kitsune, ratfolk and more. Finally, the mindtech discipline for psychics is from Occult Realms.
Another weekend has come and gone, and this one was busy! Between swimming classes, birthday parties, errands, and the weekly trip to the laundromat, there wasn’t much time for other activities. We played some board games with my daughter, my son started work on an ambitious dinosaur puzzle, and I posted in the horde of play-by-post games I’m involved in.
My family and I had a bit of time to play Shackled City. Aeris, Mick, Falco and Rabbity headed deep underground through forgotten secret passages and stairwells with Patch and Keygan (very unenthusiastically) accompanying them. They stepped foot into Jzadirune and explored a strange room where they heard birds chirping, gnomes laughing, and felt a breeze blowing on their skin. Massive masks hung on the walls. As they moved into to illusion-draped room to look around they discovered two strange doors–like giant gears that roll into the walls, these were the Doors with Teeth. My children were thrilled! But seeing a glimmer of light coming from the cracks around one of the doors, Aeris and Mick went to peek inside, while Falco moved deeper into the room.
Suddenly the masks on the wall began to sing, welcoming them to Jzadirune and warning them against pilfering. Although my kids loved it, and asked me to sing the song to them over and over, it wasn’t so great for their characters. The illusory song caused the figures beyond the lit door to notice the heroes. Quickly camouflaging themselves, the skulks vanished. They lay in wait to ambush the PCs, but after only one round of battle they ran off, deeper into Jzadirune through makeshift, rough tunnels that had been drilled through the walls.
Our heroes gave chase, engaging in a series of skirmishes against a pair of skulks. Eventually they came to a room with a strange mechanical construct in it, clearly the source of the roughly drilled tunnels. There a dark creeper ordered the construct to attack the intruders, in gnome. Mick laughed and told it to stop. The pair argued and bickered, giving the construct contrary orders until the creeper gave up and fled. Mick was thrilled with his new, neat, half-broken construct, and the group was off again, charging blindly through the tunnels, deeper into Jzadirune.
One battle into this place and they’re already super lost! Haha. But by then we were out of time, so further exploration would have to wait. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
In other news, Pathfinder recently announced a new product coming out soon. A new style of flip map tiles, which honestly look awesome. Similar to their old flip-tiles, these are double-sided, can be used with dry erase markers, and connect wonderfully to one another. The differences are in size (these are a bit bigger, and are square), and in number (these have a whopping 42 tiles per pack, as compared to the old ones which had 18). The tiles look great, and I’m curious to see how they’ll look and handle in person. The map tiles are due out in April.
The other exciting release is for a book called ‘Disciple’s Doctrine‘ Like the other ‘Faith’ books before it (Faiths of Balance, Faiths of Purity, Faiths of Corruption, Faiths & Philosophies, etc.), this book is a soft cover intended for players that takes a look at a dozen complex philosophies that are found throughout Golarion. Including the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, Magnimar’s mystery cults, and the Oracular Council of Po Li, this book is filled with a wide variety of doctrines. The one I’m most excited for? The Prophets of Kalistrade! FINALLY! What are they? I have no idea! What I do know? They’ve been name-dropped since way back in the first Pathfinder release, they’re important, they follow strange taboos, they wear white and gold, they wear gloves, and they like making money. Anything else? Nope! I’ve got no clue! I’ve been curious about this ‘faith’ for years, so I’m excited to find out. Like all the player intended soft covers, this book has a lot of traits, feats, spells and archetypes in it to make use of. I’m curious to see what it contains!
One final bit of excitement happened around my house this week. My husband decided he’d like to play a campaign with just me and him. So I named him the ones I have that he hasn’t played (not a very long list, haha) and he thought about it for a while. He narrowed it down quick, but was torn between Wrath of the Righteous and Iron Gods. So while he debates between two awesome campaigns, I’m going to crack out my first volume of each and give them a reread. It never hurts to be prepared!
That’s all for today. Thanks for checking in with us here at d20 Diaries. We’ll talk again soon.
d20 gaming happens plenty in my house, but Friday nights is special. Friday night is for adults only! While my kids and my brother’s kids run around, eat popcorn and have a movie night together, we parents play some Pathfinder. If all four of us are free we play Mummy’s Mask, and if only three of us are free we play Reign of Winter.
And this week? Reign of Winter.
Reign of Winter is a six-volume Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo Publishing. The campaign begins in the village of Heldren in the nation of Taldor during mid-summer. A blizzard appears out of nowhere, blanketing the nearby Border Wood with snow. When a wounded caravan guard delirious with frost-bite and fatigue staggers into town telling crazy stories about ice fairies, mass slaughter, and a kidnapped noblewoman, the village leaders urge the PCs to investigate his claims. Tasked with finding the missing noblewoman, discovering what happened to the guard’s caravan, and investigating the cause of this unnatural winter, the heroes set out to the Border Wood. Deep in its depths they discover a magical portal to the frozen land of Irrisen, whose supernatural winter will soon engulf all of Golarion unless the PCs can discover the fate of the otherworldly witch Baba Yaga. But following her trail of bread crumbs will take them far from home… Through the eternally frozen lands of Irrisen, and into even stranger lands beyond.
Though the premise is simple–find Baba Yaga and end this unnatural winter before it freezes the whole world–this campaign has a ton of twists, turns, and surprises. Each and every adventure in the series is well-written, fast-paced, and loads of fun. It features a lot of awesome locations, some of which are bound to take your players completely by surprise (parts four and five, here’s looking at you!). One of my favourite parts? Reign of Winter doesn’t always assume what your players do. It leaves it up to them. Although they have destinations to reach and a task that must be completed in each volume to keep them working towards their goals, how they go about achieving it, and who they decide to help or hinder is almost always up to them. This is awesome to see in an adventure path, and really lets the player’s be in control of their destiny, despite being in a pretty tight, ‘on-the-rails’ style of campaign.
In terms of supplemental material, this campaign works well with nearly everything Pathfinder. It’s particularly well-suited to the addition of occult classes and mythic tiers. Surprisingly, gunslingers will also have some distinct advantages during part of the campaign. The only class I don’t recommend is the paladin. Although mechanically they will have a ton of opportunity to shine, and they’re not forced to commit evil acts, the players will not always be able to fight the evil they see. In addition, this campaign’s major goal is to find and save Baba Yaga, an evil witch of tremendous power. Most paladin’s would have a hard time justifying this. Although it can be done, this campaign is much more enjoyable for everyone involved without being constrained by such a strict moral code.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is almost entirely a cold-weather campaign. Your characters will need to find ways to deal with the winter’s chill as soon as possible. But, that doesn’t limit character choices. In fact, as much as playing winter-themed characters can be fun, it’s more beneficial to go in the opposite direction. You are fighting against winter’s spread, after all. In a practical sense, many creatures native to frozen climates have resistances to the cold and weaknesses to heat. Preparation and adaptation to the cold is more important than being at home in cold climates.
I have read a lot of adventures and campaigns over the years, and I can honestly say that Reign of Winter is one of my all-time favourites. Top three, for sure! If you ever get the chance to play, read or run it, I highly encourage you to do so!
My group of players for Reign of Winter is incredibly small. I GM it, while my husband and my brother play it. That’s it. Three people, with a two-person party. Obviously, this brings up some challenges, which will be discussed later. But for now, let’s meet the heroes of my Reign of Winter Campaign: Huxley Rangvald and Aesir Havelok.
Aesir Havelok is a hunter and fisherman of Ulfen descent. During the summer months he lives in the Taldan town of Heldren. During the fall he travels north by ship to meet up with his cousins, and during the winter months he joins his cousins in their longboats, hunting great sea-beasts. He is a cleric of the agathion Ylimancha, the neutral good empyreal lord of seafarers, coastal waters, and creatures that fly. Aesir is particularly good with a bow, and has a way with animals. In addition to summoning creatures to aid him in combat he began the campaign with two beloved pets: his dog, Bjorn, and his seahawk, Bronna. Along the way he also became the proud master of a combat-trained warhorse, Ulbricht, and a wild, giant weasel, Brigga. For a time he was master of a glorious white stag he dubbed Loki.
Aesir is friendly and likeable, but not around Heldren much. He’s not quite considered a local, and is more of a welcome outsider. He’s brave and bold, and tries to inspire others to be the same. He dreams of hunting epic sea monsters, and making a name for himself that his ancestors and future descendants can be proud of! Aesir is my brother’s character.
Huxley Rangvald is a man of contrasts. Raised in a museum with an Ulfen father who longs for adventure, a Taldan mother with a head for business, and a horde of siblings and cousins, Huxley has become a fusion of cultures. Descended from an Ulfen warrior who once protected Taldan royalty and earned all the wealth he could carry as his pay for a decade’s work, Huxley’s great-grandfather used his eye for quality to fill his arms and backpack with priceless relics, valuable antiques and historic artifacts. But instead of heading home, he founded a museum, married a wealthy woman and lived a life of leisure.
Huxley himself grew up well-educated and wanting for nothing. But, living among the relics of legends and heroes, surrounded by history, he yearned to do more. He loves hunting for relics and bargaining for new acquisitions, and has managed to expand his family’s collection tremendously. Huxley is an occultist who uses historic artifacts to unlock and channel his own psychic powers. He is my husband’s character.
The Story so Far…
My group is currently on book one of Reign of Winter, The Snows of Summer. Having set out from the town of Heldren into the Border Wood, the duo fought against strange creatures, frigid icy fey, and the ever-encroaching cold to rescue a missing noblewoman from a group of bandits. But clues discovered in the forest led them to believe that the source of the arctic weather lay within the woods itself. After returning the noblewoman to Heldren and resupplying, Huxley and Aesir returned to the depths of the frozen woods and travelled to its centre, deep in the Somir Valley. Along the way they met a strange doll in a small house within a haunted ice maze. Made from the soul of a child by someone foul, the doll seemed an oddity at first. But as the doll began to act of its own volition, they believed it was haunted, and finally, alive. Aesir though it was creepy and should be destroyed, but Huxley thought it was amazing! He treated the doll kindly and befriended her, learning that her name was Thora. With the creepy doll in Huxley’s care they soldiered on. The cold intensified, and more strange creatures foreign to the woods appeared. After combating terrifying foes amidst a howling blizzard they followed the impossible storm to its centre and found a portal. Suddenly the doll screamed and fought like crazy to prevent them from entering.
Huxley had learned much about the doll during the journey, not only from speaking with her, but from examining her with his occultist abilities and vast arcana knowledge. He knew that whoever had killed the human Thora had captured and used it’s soul to create a dangerous construct known as a guardian doll. Such dolls much follow their creators commands, and can be given tasks to carry out, but are intelligent and cunning. In addition, they lash out against those that they loved in life. But, the dolls are still influenced by the soul used to create them, and as evil as its commands might be, the child inside the doll–little Thora–was a good girl. Huxley had finally discovered the dolls purpose: to prevent anyone from approaching the portal. Knowing Thora would attack them to the best of her ability, he bound her and blindfolded her, and stuffed her inside his bag. Although it was cruel, he hoped that upon leaving the portal behind, the doll would no longer be compelled to harm him. Then her actions would be her own again.
And if she still wanted to harm him? Well, that was her right. He did tie her up and stuff her in a bag….
Just as they were about to approach the portal a nearby tree moved, revealing itself to be a moss troll, the final guardian of the strange portal. Dealing with Thora and the troll at the same time proved a challenge, but Huxley and Aesir triumphed and moved to examine the portal. Huxley determined that the portal was the cause of the unnatural winter, and by closing it they could return the local weather to normal. Unfortunately, the source of the portal wasn’t here, it was on the other side of the portal. Knowing they would be stuck on the other side, wherever that was, they decided to pass through. Only to have something come out of the portal!
A tall figure in black armour, bleeding from many wounds, and clearly near death. The armoured knight removed his helmet and fell into the snow, revealing himself to be an incredibly old man. But this was no mortal… This was Dark Midnight, the Black Rider and one of three Heralds of Baba Yaga’s return. As he was dying, the man drew the others to him and imparted upon them both wisdom and knowledge.
Every hundred years the Great Witch, Baba Yaga, returns to her country of Irrisen to place a new daughter upon the throne. But this year, something went wrong. Queen Elvanna, ruler of Irrisen, did not wish to give her throne to another. Forgetting that the throne was not hers to give, it was Baba Yaga’s, Elvanna set out to kill the Heralds of her return, kill all those loyal to Baba Yaga, and take the entirety of Golarion as her throne. To this end, she has placed magical portals throughout the world, with the intent of spreading endless winter across the globe. Millions will perish, and Elvanna will rule over the frozen world that remains.
The source of this portal was close, within a few days travel once they passed through the portal, in a place called the Pale Tower, but the other portals throughout the world? They were farther, and they were many. Huxley and Aesir would not be able to shut them all down alone, and with even one remaining, the eternal grip of winter would continue to spread.
But Dark Midnight offered them hope.
Baba Yaga is always prepared for betrayal. She set a contingency in place–left a trail of breadcrumbs for the Herald’s to follow. But death was coming for the last of her Heralds, and the PCs would have to take up his cause. After saving their home by destroying the portal in the Pale Tower, they would need to travel to Whitethrone, the capital of Irrisen. There Queen Elvanna had imprisoned Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut as a symbol of her power. If they could free the Hut and step inside they could travel anywhere–even across planes and to other worlds. But to do so they needed the keys to the hut. Objects mundane in appearance but attuned to different locations. Combining these objects provides navigational direction for the Hut to follow. Elvanna had deactivated the keys, but Baba Yaga had already placed a few keys in hiding for her Heralds to find, and Dark Midnight has done so. With these keys, they can follow Baba Yaga’s trail, rescue her from whatever prison she is trapped in, so that Baba Yaga can destroy the portals–all of them.
But Baba Yaga has a way of testing even those who she desires to aid. The keys are but the first in a series of trials. Where they will take the heroes, Dark Midnight doesn’t know, but he does know that there will be more. More keys to find, more clues to follow, and more trials to face. In the end, they will find Baba Yaga and Baba Yaga will put an end to Elvanna’s foolishness. But until then, they would need a final boon from him. For only Baba Yaga and her Heralds can enter the Dancing Hut. To save their world, they would need to become Her Herald in Dark Midnight’s place. They would need to usher in the return of Baba Yaga.
They hesitated only a moment. Huxley needed no incentive to accept a mission involving a MAGICAL LEGENDARY HUT! While Aesir was bound by honour to save the town of Heldren. Accepting Dark Midnight’s offer, the Herald gave them the keys to the hut, and then passed onto them, his powers. The man in the armour had died. But Dark Midnight lived. Huxley Rangvald and Aesir Havelock took on the mantle and responsibilities of the Black Rider, and with it came great power. They achieved their first mythic tier, and charged through the portal only to come out… in Irrisen.
Eventually, Thora stopped screaming and trying to murder Huxley, which made him very happy, but he did not release her from the bag. Not yet. He needed to be sure she was under no further orders before allowing her more freedom.
In time they heard screams on the wind, and hurried off to find the source. Finding a caravan of dogsleds and their riders under attack by a massive praying mantis–a creature native to the Border Wood back in Taldor. Huxley and Aesir helped fight the beast off and introduced themselves to the people they had saved. Turns out it was a group of importers, returning to the nearby town of Waldsby after weeks away acquiring supplies. They thanked Huxley and Aesir, but had no time for chatting. A storm was coming, and they hoped to reach shelter before becoming trapped in it. Together, they all rode off. But they could not outrun the storm. It came upon them before arriving in Waldsby, and they sought shelter in a cave. There they settled in for the night and had a chance to socialize. Huxley and Aesir shared their tale, and their goal to visit the Pale Tower to save their town, but left out all mention of Thora, Dark Midnight and being Heralds of Baba Yaga.
The caravan was run by a woman by the name of Nadya. It had once been her husband’s business, but his death a few years ago left her in charge of the supply runs. Her husband’s business partner and good friend, Laszlo, stayed on to help her, and was here as well. The third member of their group was Inuq, a foreign woman who was the owner, breeder, and trainer of the dogs they used to pull the sleds, as well as owner of the sleds themselves. Typically, the three were the only ones in the caravan, but this last run had been long, and a few more hands had volunteered to join them. Laszlo’s son, Andrei, who had almost been eaten by the mantis, and Nicholai, Nadya’s neighbour, who was a friendly fellow, but didn’t seem comfortable this far from town. As the night wore on, they settled in to sleep, only to have a visitor arrive–a forlarren musician on her way from Waldsby to the Pale Tower. The group begrudgingly let the fey join them in the cave, but clearly the mood was tense. Nadya covered for Huxley and Aesir, lying about their purpose and claiming they were distant relatives of hers. They went along with the lies, knowing something was off, and managed to avoid confrontation with the ice fey. But as she played some local music for the group, she watched the PCs keenly, curious if they knew the words and clearly trying to discover what part of their tale was lies.
The evening was tense, but in time everyone went to sleep. When they awoke it was to the sounds of Nadya screaming in pain. Something had hurt her! Huxley and Aesir charged in to see what had happened to find the forlarren gone, and Nadya wounded from intense cold–a magical spell most likely. The group muttered and worried over the attack, and wondered how the forlarren could slip away so quickly, but Huxley felt a nagging worry. He checked his bag to find Thora there, but unbound, and her tiny footprints heading toward Nadya’s tent. At the back he found a small section of canvas cut away by a sharp object, just large enough for a doll to peek through.
It wasn’t the forlarren that had attacked Nadya. It was Thora. But why?
Huxley kept this news to himself and chatted with the others. They set out for the day and Huxley continued his prying. Eventually he discovered that Nadya had three children. Two boys and a girl named Thora. While Nadya was away on a supply run the Lady of the Pale Tower and her Guard had come through Waldsby on a surprise visit. Thora had been heard making a joke about the witch, and dragged back to the Pale Tower as a prisoner. Her babysitter, Nicholai and his wife, was distraught, and told Nadya what had happened as soon as she returned home. Nadya rode for the Pale Tower, begging for her daughter back, and was promised that if she could bring back more than double her typical shipment of goods to the Pale Tower, her daughter would be released. Nadya agreed and hurried back to Waldsby. Laszlo and Inuq prepared to join her, but to bring back double would be a long trip, and they would need more sleds. Inuq had plenty of sleds and dogs, but they would need others to drive them. Nicholai volunteered out of guilt, knowing that little Thora had been in his care. Laszlo’s son volunteered out of pride and excitement, hoping to join his father on an important journey. Now Nadya was returning to Waldsby, and then on to the Pale Tower to get Thora back.
But she wouldn’t get Thora back, would she? For the witch of the Pale Tower, Nazhena Vassiovna, had killed Thora, captured her soul, and turned her into a guardian doll, sending her through the portal to the Border Wood to stalk and kill all who attempted passage.
Huxley had Thora. And as a guardian doll, Thora would be compelled to lash out and kill all those who she had loved in life. Including her mother, Nadya, and her brothers… Worrying over what to do, Huxley kept his theories (and Thora) to himself. The journey continued, and they triumphed over the dangers of the frozen woods and plains.
But as Walsby came into sight, Huxley made a decision. Taking Nadya aside he told her about Thora’s death, and her rebirth as a doll. Nadya didn’t believe him, and was angry, but as Huxley pulled out Thora, Nadya broke down in tears. The doll wore her daughter’s clothes, and her daughter’s real hair had been used in the doll’s creation. After crying over the fate of her child, Nadya lashed out at the doll, tossing it into the snow. That abomination wasn’t her daughter. Her daughter was dead. That thing needed to be destroyed.
Aesir agreed, but Huxley and Inuq did not. And as Huxley cradled little Thora in his arms, he vowed he would not let anyone harm the girl, whatever form she might be in. Meanwhile, Aesir convinced Nadya that they would seek vengeance against the White Witches on Nadya’s behalf–or alongside her, if she desired.
Setting out to Waldsby with grim determination, the group entered town in order to resupply and rest. Huxley and Aesir would set out for the Pale Tower the next morning, with–hopefully–someone to guide them there.
But Waldsby was not what they expected. It was strange. A mirror image of Heldren in both layout, and its citizens, Aesir and Huxley were both creeped out. They resupplied and socialized, but found the people here hard, and cold where the citizens of Heldren had been welcoming and warm. Huxley determined that the two towns likely lay along the same ley lines, which made the town connected by both magic and psychic powers despite the distance between them. Things occurring in one place would echo across the ley lines and affect the other. Intrigued, Huxley explored the town. Although they made a few friends, more often than not these interactions ended poorly. In the end they decided to leave their animals in Inuq’s care for the night, and sleep in Laszlo’s tiny house.
But the evening was interrupted by the sounds of guards approaching. The Pale Tower Guard were here! Deciding they didn’t want Laszlo to be punished for harbouring them, Huxley and Aesir slipped out a back window and waltzed into the town square. They were immediately approached by the Pale Tower Guard who ordered them to see their commander for questioning. Aesir loudly refused, causing a loud ruckus. Although both groups resorted to intimidation and threats for a while, it ended with violence. Aesir and Huxley defeated the first few guards, but more were on the way. Aesir whistled for his animals, and Huxley used his magic and sword skills. But soon the rest of the Pale Guard were upon them–all nine–as well as their Sergeant. The battle was hard, but together, the group triumphed. With the bodies of the Pale Tower Guard around them, bleeding in the streets, Nadya insisted they leave. More guards would come, and if they were to get vengeance for the death of her daughter, they would need to leave now. Inuq and Laszlo also offered to join Aesir and Huxley on their battle at the Pale Tower.
While Huxley stripped the dying guards of their gear, and the townsfolk yelled at the outsiders to leave, Aesir called the town to arms. Surely SOME amongst the citizens of Waldsby would fight back against the oppression of the Pale Tower Guard and the White Witches? Some seemed convinced, and to these people he bestowed the weapons and gear of the Pale Tower Guard. These people would be the town’s defenders!
Huxley was pretty sure these people would die.
With all the goods they could carry, Huxley, Aesir, and Aesir’s many pets set out with Inuq, Nadya and Laszlo by dogsled to the Pale Tower. The time had come to destroy the winter portal, kill Thora’s murderer and save the town of Heldren.
If they can…
The other side of the screen:
Welcome to the other side of the screen, a place where you’ll find GM notes related to the recent game sessions you’ve read, and links to the adventures themselves. If there’s something different in the adventure, or things I’ve changed and added, you’ll find it here!
So what’s different in this session?
At its core? A bit. In the details? A lot.
For starters, it’s NOT expected that anyone will try to keep the soul bound doll containing Thora’s soul as a companion. Most groups would have left the creepy doll alone. Those that understood what she was would likely consider destroying the soul gem inside her a way to set Thora’s soul free into the afterlife–which it is. Even those groups who kept her with them for a while would likely turn on the doll the first time she tries to attack, harm or hinder the group.
Mine didn’t. No matter how many times the Thora doll tried to hurt, enchant or thwart the PCs progress, Huxley was there to stop her non-violently. He understood Thora, her impulses and her limitations. Plus, she’s a freaking magical doll! Huxley LOVES things like that. This meant that I had to put a lot of thought into what exactly, Thora’s orders were, who she was compelled to listen to, and who she was compelled to attempt to kill if she met them. It’s also important to keep in mind that guardian dolls are subtle, disturbing creatures–not straight up combatants. This turned out to be great fun, and through it all, Huxley still managed to keep her. How much longer he’ll manage when Thora’s mother is travelling alongside them–a person she is compelled to murder–we’ll see. But honestly? I’m rooting for Huxley and Thora! If they can get her through the Pale Tower, destroy her creator and keep her away from the people she loved in life, Thora has an opportunity for growth and a second chance at life. And if they can’t? It will be a heart-breaking climax to a budding friendship between a creepy soul-bound doll and a kindly eccentric.
The second minor change to this campaign so far, was characters. There’s a great primer in the Snows of Summer for both Heldren and Waldsby, which can be used to great effect in the campaign. It’s honestly my two of my very favourite towns to play in. If done well, it will be both memorable and disconcerting for your players. To compliment this collection of quirky townsfolk, everyone was given face pictures to represent them, and characters who had no names (like Nadya’s four helpers) were given identities, personalities and families. Of all the townsfolk in the campaign so far, my players have felt the most connection with Yuln Oerstag, the wounded caravan guard who initially set the PCs out on adventure back in Heldren; Nadya Petska, Thora’s mother and the importer destined to be your guide to the Pale Tower; Laszlo, Nadya’s business partner and a grizzled old hunter; and Inuq, the Varki dog breeder who supplies Nadya with her dogs and dogsleds. Of these, only the first two had names and images in the published adventure.
The major change I instituted was the mantle of Dark Midnight. In the book, accepting the position as a Herald of Baba Yaga grants you a permanent increase to an ability score, a few boons that will come up throughout the campaign (like the ability to enter the Dancing Hut) and a compulsion that makes your characters want to save Baba Yaga. However, shortly after the printing of this book, Mythic Adventures was released. In fact, Baba Yaga herself was one of the first stat blocks I had ever seen printed who had mythic tiers. Taking into consideration that I had a group of only TWO characters, I decided that this would be a great time to try out the mythic rules in one of our campaigns. And thus, taking on the mantle of the Black Rider granted the PCs their first mythic tier. Throughout the course of the campaign I expect them to get a few more. I’m very excited to see how this change affects the campaign. I think it’s going to be a wonderful fit!
That’s all for now! Thanks for joining us on our continuing adventures in the Reign of Winter Adventure Path. This one’s going to be a wild ride!
What do you think of the campaign? Is it one you’d like to play in? More importantly, what would you PLAY if given the chance to make a character for Reign of Winter? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
January 16th is Appreciate a Dragon Day. A day that encourages everyone to explore the cultural significance of the dragon in your society and history. Dragons are a powerful symbol in mythology, from Europe, to Asia and throughout the world. So whoever you are and wherever you’re from, take a second and give a little love to these awesome mythical creatures.
Here at d20 Diaries, we’re celebrating Appreciate a Dragon Day by sharing our top five dragon adventures, because what would Dungeons and Dragons be, without dragons?
Answer? A lot less awesome!
So without further ado… my five favourite adventures that showcase dragons!
Guardians of Dragonfall
Guardians Of Dragonfall is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons written by Anson Caralya and printed by Paizo Publishing. Intended for 11th level characters, this adventure takes the characters to a legendary dragon graveyard on behalf of an aging gold dragon who has spent the last fifty years living as a human scholar. Upon arriving they discover something has gone horribly wrong. The eternal guardians of Dragonfall have abandoned their posts, leaving the graveyard unprotected–an event unheard of in the history of Dragonfall! This adventure takes the group through a wide variety of cool locations including the labyrinthine trenches of the Bonefield, the Emerald Shrine where green dragons deliver their sacrifices, the Throat of Shearphorus at the centre of the graveyard, and the Hall of Guardian’s Rest. This adventure has a few cool draconic characters, including the ghost of the previously mentioned gold dragon, and an insane bronze dragon. It also has a variety of draconic enemies including draconic skeletons, a tribe of half-dragon satyr’s, and even a draconic mohrg. This adventure is big, bold and tons of fun. Most importantly, it makes the player’s feel awesome. After all, sometimes even dragons need a hero!
The Black Egg
The Black Egg is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure written by Steven Montano for Issue #106 of Dungeon Magazine. Intended for 12th level characters, this adventure begins with a meteor falling from the sky which completely obliterates a small town. Investigation sets the characters on a collision course with a mad wizard, a cult of half-dragons, and a powerful artifact that can summon and army of fiendish dragons to conquer the nation–perhaps the world! With some cool side characters including a group of mercenaries also intent on investigating the crater; some great twists and turns, and a ton of unique half-dragon enemies, this adventure’s sure to be a blast. To make it even better, make sure the town destroyed is a place your characters have been before (preferably more than once!) or a place they needed to visit. And what’s in the depths of the crater? I won’t give away much more, but I will say it’s called the Fane of Scales, and within is the mysterious Black Egg. An egg that’s nearly ready to hatch…
The Dragon’s Demand
The Dragon’s Demand is a Pathfinder module written by Mike Shel. Intended for 1st level characters and meant to bring them all the way to 6th, or possibly 7th level, this is a mega-adventure! It sets the player’s characters up to be heroes of the small town of Belhaim, only to have their efforts interrupt the plans of a fierce green dragon. The dragon eventually makes his displeasure known by attacking the town and demanding a massive amount of gold and treasure as tribute. Unable to pay, the characters are given one final job by the citizens: kill the dragon! But killing a dragon is no easy feat–especially not for low-level characters! They’ll need to prepare themselves, use their wits, and pray for some luck before taking on this bad-boy! With cool side locations including a deceased wizard’s home and secret laboratory, the tomb of a dragon-slayer, and a dragon’s lair (of course!), The Dragon’s Demand does an awesome job of showcasing what a dragon should do (or at least a classic villainous D&D dragon!): make plans, amass treasure, scare the heck out of everyone, subjugate entire tribes and towns, and kill whoever fails to obey! It makes dragons feel dangerous and powerful, something that’s often missing when dragons are used in adventures. With theatrics and a great use of build-up and suspense, this dragon feels like a challenge too tough to handle. It’s sure to get your player’s quaking in their boots! I highly recommend this module to anyone who wants to enjoy a great dragon adventure at lower levels.
Into the Wormcrawl Fissure
One of the highest level adventures on this list, Into the Wormclaw Fissure is intended for 19th level characters. Seriously! It’s the second last instalment of the Age of Worms adventure path put out by Paizo publishing back in 2006. Like The Dragon’s Demand, this adventure makes awesome use of foreshadowing, build-up and suspense to make the biggest, baddest, coolest dragon possible–Dragotha, an incredibly powerful dracolich. By this point in the campaign, the player’s have known their characters are going to have to oppose Dragotha in order to stop the Age of Worms for quite a while. They’ve curried assistance, cashed in on favours and done all they could to learn about her–which paid off. The previous adventure is spent hunting down and destroying her phylactery in the Citadel of Weeping Dragons (an awesome dragon adventure in itself!). With that taken care of, the characters can finally enter the Tabernacle of Worms to confront this terrifying undead dragon, and put an end to her for good. …If they can! This wicked foe is protected by huge undead chimeras, an awesome derro psycho mounted on a fierce wyvern, gargantuan worm beasts, and an entire cult to do her bidding. And if they do manage to defeat this terrifying CR 27 beast, her treasure trove is astounding! This adventure is awesome! If you ever get a chance to play the Age of Worms adventure path, I highly recommend you take it!
The Frozen Stars
Note: If you’re playing in my Reign of Winter Campaign, do NOT read this next entry!
The final adventure on this list is filled with as many dragons as you could possibly imagine–and more! Taking place on a wintery planet of dragons, in the middle of a war between the Drakelands and the Skyfire Mandate, The Frozen Stars is part four of the Reign of Winter Adventure Path. So what’s up with this war? The Drakelands are a tyranny of dragons of all kinds and colours as well as their draconic brethren (like wyverns, kobolds, and half-dragons) who believe that dragons should dominate the planet. The Skyfire Mandate is a coalition of Triaxians (furry elves primarily) and their Dragonkin allies (large sized, intelligent dragons who can wield weapons and objects in their front limbs, and who form life-long bonds with their riders). That’s right: it’s an evil dragon country versus a bunch of knights mounted on weapon wielding dragons! AWESOME! The characters land amidst this chaos in their Dancing Hut on the trail of Baba Yaga’s keys. One key lays with each side of the army, and they must determine how they’re going to get them. They can choose to ally with the Skyfire Mandate, earning themselves the chance to bond with a dragonkin of their own and fly through the skies on dragon back to oppose the draconic armies of the Drakelands! Or they can instead choose to ally with the mighty armies of the Drakelands and oppose the other, weaker races of Triaxus. Or they can try anything else they can think of: allying with both, double-crossing either side, double-crossing both sides, siding with none… The list goes on! The players get to discover this awesome conflict on this wicked planet and come up with any plan they want to obtain the keys they require. But, whatever they choose to do, your player’s characters are sure to fight or fight alongside dragons, dragon-kin, and a ton of draconic and winter themed beasts. The most powerful foes of all? Commaner Pharamol, the stalwart leader of the Skyfire Mandate’s Dragon Legion of Spurhorn, mounted atop his gold dragonkin Amerenth; the terrifying General Malesinder, a silver dragonkin and commander of the Drakelands army besieging Spurhorn; and finally, Yrax: Lord of the Howling Storm, one of the most powerful dragon warlords of the Drakelands! Come on! You know you want to play it! I know I DO!
And that’s all for today! Do you want to play any of the adventures listed above? What’s your favourite d20 adventure featuring dragons? Did I miss it? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you discover the wonder of a dragon today!
My daughter loves rabbits. To those of you who know her, this is no surprise. She wears rabbit clothes every day, cuddles rabbit stuffed animals, plays with rabbit toys, reads rabbit books, wears a rabbit toque, has rabbit costumes, and makes drawing after drawing of rabbits. When she says goodbye to my husband every morning she puts her fingers up in a peace sign and says “Rabbit, Dad!” possibly followed by the words “Boing” or “Hop, hop!” This is because peace signs are NOT peace signs. They are rabbit ears. And in addition to being an adorable animal, apparently ‘Rabbit’ is a perfectly acceptable greeting, conversation starter, and farewell.
She. Loves. Rabbits.
It will come as no surprise then, that when she’s making characters for Pathfinder they almost always involve rabbits. She’s had rabbit familiars, rabbit-demon familiars, rabbit non-combat pets, insisted on having a massive rabbit as a mount instead of a pony, and even played an almiraj sorceress who took up adventuring in order to protect her warren of baby almiraj. When she buys gear you can bet it’s not just a tent, it’s a tent with a rabbit painted on the side, or a backpack stitched with a rabbit face, or a cold weather outfit with fake rabbit ears on the hood. She has no problem paying extra to add a rabbit motif to her equipment.
Eventually, since my son was tired of my daughter constantly trying to play an awakened bunny rabbit whose combat tactics only involved running away, we decided to make her a race for Pathfinder: Rabbitfolk.
The Advanced Race Guide for the Pathfinder RPG has a TON of new races inside (in addition to old favourites) as well as alternate race traits, archetypes, feats, spells, and gear–all intended to be used with a single specific race found inside. Probably one of the most used books in my household, Advanced Race Guide is a bunch of awesome stuffed between hard covers.
But we wouldn’t be using any of that to make our Rabbitfolk, we would be heading straight to the back.
The final chapter of the Advanced Race Guide is entitled ‘Race Builder,’ and that’s exactly what it is. A series of short easy steps and decisions to make any kind of race you want. The system runs on points (called race points, or RP), which makes it easy to use, and easy to compare to other races to help determine how powerful yours is. With these rules we would make our Rabbitfolk.
To start with you need a race concept–for us that was pretty straightforward–and then you need to determine their category. Standard (which uses 1-10 RP), Advanced (which uses 11-20 RP) and Monstrous (which uses over 20 RP). Using the point system in the race builder, the core races vary in strength from 9 to 11 RP, with a few other commonly used races: the tiefling and the assimar, coming in at 13 and 15 respectively. Deciding there’s no way a rabbitfolk should be stronger than an aasimar, I gave her a hard limit of 15 points, placing her in either the standard or advanced category depending on how many RP she actually used, and let her get to work.
Once you know the category you’re aiming for and the concept for your race you need to determine their racial qualities. This is a fancy way of saying their type and subtype, speed, size, and ability modifiers.
First we chose the type. Humanoids are the baseline for this and cost 0 points to select. Other types cost more depending on how powerful their extra qualities are. For example, fey costs only 2 RP to select while giving your race the plant type would cost 10 RP and the construct type would cost 20 RP. Rabbitfolk are clearly humanoids with the rabbitfolk subtype.
From there you choose your race’s size, then speed. My daughter decided rabbitfolk would be small, which costs 0 points, and be really fast. She chose normal speed, which is 30 ft. and costs 0 points. However, she was adamant that they be even faster, so we modified it with racial traits, bringing their total base speed to 40 ft. (more details on this later).
Finally it was time for the ability scores. For this you choose what kind of modifiers you’ll get by selecting an array, and then you choose what abilities will receive those modifiers afterwards. Deciding to keep her rabbitfolk on par with most of the core races she gave them the standard array, which costs 0 race points. The standard array grants +2 to a physical ability score, +2 to a mental ability score and -2 to any other ability score. My daughter decided rabbitfolk are very nimble and clever, but not very strong. They get +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Strength.
Finally, you select a language quality. She chose standard for 0 RP, allowing rabbit folk to begin the game speaking Common and Rabbitfolk. You then choose up to seven languages that they can choose to learn from having a high intelligence modifier. She selected Sylvan, Halfling, Gnome and Elven for these optional languages, deciding that rabbitfolk would feel most comfortable with these small or nature loving races, as well as Terran, the elemental language of the earth.
Once you’ve got your racial qualities completed, it’s time to move on to the final step: spending RP to purchase racial traits. Racial Traits are split into categories, including: Ability Score, Defence, Feat and Skill, Magical, Movement, Offence, Senses and Weakness. Each of these categories is further divided into tiers: Standard, Advanced and Monstrous. These tiers coincide to the race’s total RP, as mentioned back in step one. If you are a standard race you can only select racial traits from the standard tier and can have no more than three traits from each category. Advanced races can select from standard or advanced traits and may have up to four from each category, while Monstrous races can select from any tier and may have no more than five from each category.
Depending on what traits my daughter chose she would either be placing her rabbitfolk in the standard or advanced category. To decide where she would end up I asked her what she wanted the rabbitfolk to be able to do the most. If any of those abilities fell into the advanced category we would be spending between 11 and 15 RP so that she could select it, and if they all fell into the standard category then which category rabbitfolk ended up in would depend solely on how many points she spent.
She decided she wanted her rabbitfolk to be even faster, and to be able to burrow. After looking through the options we discovered both of these abilities were in the Movement category under Advanced Traits. Now we knew we’d be in the Advanced category for sure. She selected the Burrow ability for 3 RP, and the Fast ability for 1 RP, granting her a burrow speed of 20 feet, and increasing the base speed to 40 feet.
Having spent only 4 RP total so far, she had plenty of room to add on other abilities if she was going to make it into the Advanced races. My daughter decided she didn’t want the rabbitfolk to have flashy powers. No magical spells or exotic abilities here! She wanted them to rely on their natural, physical advantages. They were alert, nimble, quick, quiet and have great hearing. We gave the abilities a read and came up with list of options. In the end, she decided to give them Quick Reactions, an advanced feat and skill trait that grants them Improved Initiative as a bonus feat at a cost of 2 RP and Skill Bonus, a standard feat and skill trait that gives them a +2 racial bonus on a single skill check at a cost of 2 RP. She decided to select skill bonus three times, for a total of 6 RP, granting the rabbitfolk a +2 racial bonus on acrobatics, perception and stealth. Finally, she gave the rabbit folk their flashiest ability of all (and no, it’s not very flashy, haha): Cat’s Luck. Renaming this standard defence racial trait Hare’s Luck (as a play on those lucky rabbit feet people sometimes use as keychains) this ability is usable once per day and lets them roll a single reflex save twice and keep the better result. With a cost of 2 RP, that brought the rabbitfolk’s abilities up to 13 RP, and made our rabbitfolk complete.
Now all there was left to do was write it down and keep it somewhere safe. But where would that be?
We taped it to the inside cover of the Advanced Race Guide, so rabbitfolk could sit alongside the other races of Golarion, right where they belonged.
So without further ado:
Quick, clever and quiet, the skittish rabbitfolk keep careful watch on their warrens. More likely to wait in silence and hope enemies pass them by than to needlessly provoke danger, rabbitfolk are cautious and rarely seen. When roused to defend themselves, rabbitfolk prefer ambushes and fast-paced skirmishes, attacking from hiding with lightning fast movements before darting out of sight, only to repeat the process all over again.
+2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -2 Strength: Rabbitfolk are physically weak, but nimble and clever. (0 RP) Small: Rabbitfolk are Small creatures and gain a +1 size bonus to their AC, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, a -1 penalty to their Combat Maneuver Bonus and Combat Maneuver Defence, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks. (0 RP) Fast Speed: Rabbitfolk are incredibly fast, with a base speed of 40 feet. (1 RP) Burrow: Rabbitfolk have a burrow speed of 20 feet. (3 RP) Agile: Rabbitfolk receive a +2 racial bonus on acrobatics checks. (2 RP)
Hare’s Luck (Ex): Once per day when a rabbitfolk makes a Reflex saving throw, she can roll the saving throw twice and take the better result. She must decide to use this ability before the saving throw is attempted. (1 RP)
Keen Senses: Rabbitfolk receive a +2 racial bonus on perception checks. (2 RP) Quick Reactions: Rabbitfolk gain Improved Initiative as a bonus feat. (2 RP) Stealthy: Rabbitfolk receive a +2 racial bonus on stealth checks. (2 RP) Languages: Rabbitfolk begin plays speaking Common and Rabbitfolk. Rabbitfolk with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Sylvan and Terran.
Total RP: 13
Thanks for checking out Rabbitfolk today! My daughter and I hope you enjoy it!
For more images of rabbitfolk, check out our Pinterest board, here.
My family and I recently finished playing Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-10: Signs in Senghor, a delightful adventure written by my brother. This marks my husband and both of my children’s first official Pathfinder Society adventure. We made their characters the other day, registered them, and played through the adventure in two sessions; the first yesterday evening after dinner, and the second this morning after breakfast.
Adventures always take a bit longer when my children are playing, as their tactics aren’t always… the most effective, and social encounters and small details always gets expanded by their actions. There’s nothing my kids love more than having conversations in character with NPCs and describing extra fun activities their characters to–whether it be dancing, singing, or playing with their pets. That being said, we finished Signs in Senghor in about five hours, which is the high end for a scenario session, but not exceptionally slow. As mentioned, we split that into two days of play. Not because they ran out of patience or got bored, but because it was their bedtime. Haha. They REALLY wanted to stay up late to finish it last night, but bedtime prevailed and we continued in the morning.
Signs in Senghor begins in Eleder, a colonial port city in the hot and humid country of Sargava. There they meet their Venture Captain for this adventure, Finze Bellaugh. Finze is a scholarly, portly fellow who comes off as educated but personable. Written into the text during his mission briefing are lots of colourful, humanizing actions that my kids really related to. He circles sections of map, rubs his chin in thought, crosses his arms over his big belly, and waves his arms around to calm the group’s excitement. During this part of the adventure my kids really enjoyed introducing themselves to each other, and their Venture Captain. My daughter acted out her shy rabbit-breeding druid (Bunny Paras) and her goofy parasaurolophus who likes to perform tricks at her command (Paras). My son shivered with cold despite the heat, with his ranger, Senton, more commonly known as Mr. Ice. And my husband shared his occultist’s vast knowledge with the group, providing them with all kinds of background on their upcoming mission.
The Pathfinders and their rivals, the Aspis Consortium are constantly butting heads and fighting over control of discoveries throughout the world. Although the Pathfinders are by no means a virtuous organization, the Aspis are most certainly a foul group. Known for exploiting their workers and locals, using slave labour, and caring more for profit than anything else, the Aspis Consortium are a thorn in the Pathfinders side, and a blight upon Golarion. Recently, the Aspis Consortium has started up a suspicious mining operation which doesn’t seem to be netting them any profits. When word reached the Pathfinders of the strange occurrences happening near the mines (which never happened before the Aspis arrived) they were understandably suspicious about what the Aspis Consortium are really up to. Unfortunately, in the Mwangi Expanse, the Aspis Consortium have a lot more power than the Pathfinders. In order to move against the Consortium, the Pathfinders are going to need allies. And while other, more experienced Pathfinders begin to investigate the mines, my group of players gets tasked with making those allies.
Nearby the mining operation is the port city of Senghor and my lovely little group of players are tasked with proving to the ruling council of Senghor that the Aspis Consortium are exploiting the nearby ruins of Boali for profit. Boali is considered taboo and haunted among the citizens of Senghor, and is off limits. Unfortunately, the council of Senghor isn’t just going to take your word for it. You need evidence. And what better place to get evidence than in Boali itself!
After the mission briefing, Bunny Paras and her pet parasaurolophus, Paras, along with the ever cold Mr.Ice, Enzo the Chelaxian occultist and (because all PFS scenarios require at least four players) Amiri, the iconic barbarian from Pathfinder, all socialized a bit. Mr. Ice played up his shivering, despite the hot and humid weather, Bunny Paras made Paras dance and ‘sing‘ by making annoying sounds with her crest, Amiri played up her strong and gruff demeanour by doubting the other weaklings around her would be any help, and Enzo put his noble upbringing to good use by taking charge of the group. They travelled down to the docks to meet Mirian Raas, a sailor and Pathfinder who is scheduled to bring our Pathfinders from Eleder into Senghor on her ship, Daughters of the Mist. Mirian is also the main character in one of the Pathfinder Tales novels, Beyond the Pool of Starsby Howard Andrew Jones.
After a quick sailing summary, they make port in Senghor without difficulty. From there, the group had a chance to traipse around the city, speaking with locals and looking for information about the Aspis Consortium’s work in Senghor. Enzo and Bunny Paras (along with Paras) took advantage of the opportunity, and discovered a lot of information about Boali. Mr. Ice did the opposite, instead using his free time to find a patch of sunlight to sit in. He sat there for a full hour (in game time) shivering in the sunshine while bundled up in his furs. Amiri mocked him. Haha. My son had a blast. He was chattering his teeth and shaking to act out his character.
After an hour in Senghor (in game time) the group returned to the docks where Mirian had procured a fishing boat for them to use to sail to Boali. She offered them a sailor to help, but Mr. Ice insisted he could sail them there. Of course, he has no ranks in profession (sailor), so whether or not he would succeed was entirely up to lucky rolls. Fortunately, luck was on their side, and they made it to Boali in only eighteen hours, a full six hours faster than the expected travel time. My son was extremely proud of himself and took to insisting he was a master sailor.
Upon arriving in Boali they looked around for signs of the Aspis Consortium, eventually discovering their old camp and some muddy, discarded boots with a hole in the toe. Mr. Ice took extreme care in approaching the camp stealthily. An effort which Bunny Paras handily thwarted by telling her parasaurolophus to ‘sing’ loudly and dance. Despite the foiled stealth attempts, the group was unmolested. They found the camp empty. My son thought the holey boot was particularly suspicious, but finding no real troubles, they followed the Aspis’ trail into the ruins of ancient Boali, a city in the jungle now partly-flooded with swamps.
Eventually they came upon a flooded section of the ruins, where they found an interesting statue toppled over in the water–a statue which proved entirely suspicious to my son. He spent a solid five minutes interacting with the statue. Examining it, and offering many, many theories about why it might have toppled over and what it might mean. Listening to my six year old son talk about erosion, and how swamp water might affect a marble statue was thoroughly entertaining. His theories ranged from people knocking it over, to earthquakes, and erosion. But wait! Why, oh why, is the statue irregularly eroded? Why can we still see its helmet clearly?!? Cue another stream of suspicious theories from my son.
Fortunately, boggards hiding in the deeper parts of the flooded ruins ambushed the Pathfinders, putting an end to the many conspiracy theories being put forth by Mr. Ice. The boggards quickly wrapped up Mr.Ice and Amiri with their sticky tongues–preventing them from escaping–but they had less luck actually striking either of the Pathfinders with their morningstars. Mr. Ice took great glee in shouting insults at the frog-people and attempting to chop their tongues off with his short swords, while Amiri laughed. Escape was the furthest thing from her mind. She swung her massive great sword at the boggards and dealt a ton of damage. Bunny Paras made an exceedingly useful tactical decision: she made her parasaurolophus dance and trumpet loudly. Yup. Another wonderful use of a turn from my daughter. Enzo proved far more practical, using a ancient stone figurine of a dog to summon a magical dog, which attacked the boggards on his behalf. The group made quick work of their enemies, but over the sounds of Paras’ loud saurian ‘singing’ they heard something else: a man calling for help from a nearby building.
Curious, the group hurried to the sound. Once inside the building in question they split up: Mr. Ice and Amiri checked one room for dangers, as Mr. Ice was incredibly paranoid this was a trap, while Enzo led Bunny Paras and Paras to the cries for help. Mr. Ice and Amiri found a weird room which Enzo later determined was an arcane laboratory, while Enzo and Bunny Paras discovered a man calling for help. With the lower half of his body stuck in the stone from a magical trap (quick application of transmute stone to mud and then transmute mud to stone made him sink into the floor and then get stuck) and the upper half of his body stuck in a half triggered mechanical trap he only managed to stop from slicing him in two by shoving his metal gauntleted hands into it’s gears, this fellow found himself in a tight spot.
“It’s about time you–” the man exclaimed angrily as Enzo and Bunny found him–only to realize they were not who he expected. “Hi!” he exclaimed with a smile, downplaying his predicament. “The name’s Gideon Wren! What brings you fine folks to my humble home?”
And thus entered my son’s favourite part of this adventure: Gideon Wren. A freelancer for the Apis Consortium who was left for dead by his colleagues, Gideon’s a fast talking, fun NPC to run at the table. With melodramatic, mournful tales of his friends leaving him behind and the boggards who were tormenting him by tossing leeches at him while he was stuck, and promises of telling you everything he knows about the Aspis’ work in Boali and Senghor, if only you’ll get him to safety back in Senghor, Gideon provided a wealth of role-playing opportunities. My son took great pleasure in threatening and intimidating the fast-talking Aspis agent, thinking of a ton of ways in which he could threaten and torment the fellow. Meanwhile my daughter regarded him with worry and suspicion, squeaking with worry at the table, and running around whispering to my husband and son the results of her sense motive checks. Enzo really latched onto the idea of bringing Gideon to safety in order to learn everything he knows. After eliciting promises of not only sharing information with them, but also testifying against the Aspis Consortium in front of Senghor’s ruling council, Enzo finally disabled the trap that threatened Gideon’s life. He then left Amiri to dig the fellow out of the ground, while he explored the other rooms in this building. Bunny Paras spent her time dancing happily to Paras’ irritating and loud ‘musical’ calls. Mr. Ice kept guard over Gideon, informing him of the many ways he would hurt him if Gideon backed out on his promises.
A few hours later Gideon was free, and the Pathfinders moved out into the city in search of more evidence. Unfortunately, the boggards who call Boali home found them soon after, led by their massive ‘Great Queen’, a frog-monster known as a mobogo, which was chasing a group of Aspis Consortium agents through the streets. None of our Pathfinders managed to identify the creature, but they all realized it was incredibly powerful. As the mobogo magicaly makes an eight foot tall wave of water chase the Aspis Agents, carrying rubble and smashing buildings as it goes, they all decided to do what any brave hero would do! Like the great, brave, Sir Robin, they ran away.
So began what I thought would be one of the most fun, and the most difficult parts of the adventure for my lowly level one players: a dramatic chase through the ruined city of Boali with a powerful creature hot on their trail. The DCs for this chase are quite high, but after modifying it as necessary for their level, I was hopeful they’d have a good chance. Fortunately for them, their early arrival to Boali via Mr. Ice’s masterful sailing, and Enzo’s good luck with disabling the trap that held Gideon, meant that Gideon would be helping the Pathfinders during this chase, instead of being in need of their assistance from horrible wounds.
After escaping the waves of water, the Pathfinders had to suffer through the mobogo’s terrifying croaks and a stampede of terrified Aspis Agents, only to have the monster frog leap upon the road and crush most of those same Aspis Agents. After narrowly avoiding being squished by a mobogo bum, they ran from his hurricane-like breath, and got tangled in poisonous vines. After escaping the vines they managed to pick up a few stone tablets the remaining Aspis Agents dropped, dove through a crumbling archway and reached the beach–only to have the mobogo flick its tongue out at them and wrap up Gideon. As Gideon was dragged back towards the gaping maw of the mobogo, the others panicked.
They hacked and slashed at the ‘Great Queen’s’ tongue until it let go of Gideon, then escaped with him on their ship. Deciding they’d had enough of Boali, the Pathfinders sailed back to Senghor.
Despite the difficulty of the chase, my group did awesome, only failing against the poisoned vines, which still allowed them to escape with time to spare.
Upon arriving in Senghor the next day, back in good time thanks again to Mr. Ice’s masterful sailing (luck), they probed Gideon for information. Mr. Ice threatened the poor ex-Aspis agent with bodily harm in many ways (seriously: never underestimate a child’s creativity!) while Bunny Paras listened to everything with great suspicion, and Enzo took thorough records. After learning much about the Aspis Consortium’s purpose in Boali, and their operations in Senghor, Enzo decided he’d like some further evidence before going to the Senghor’s Council. They agreed to head for the Aspis Consortium’s local warehouse from which Gideon’s boss, Shinri Dells, leads the operations in Boali. Unfortunately, there’s no way Gideon was going to fight Shinri. By his account, she’s a terrifying woman.
Enzo and Bunny Paras tried to convince him to wait for them in safety with diplomacy, but Mr. Ice and Amiri decided to threaten his life instead. Shaking in his boots, Gideon waited for the others to finish up at the warehouse at a nearby restaurant–or at least he said he would…. Would he really wait for Mr. Ice to come back and threaten him some more? My children were unsure.
After casing the warehouse (and with some help from the intel they got from Gideon) they decided to split up. Enzo and Amiri went in the front door to speak to the Aspis agent masquerading as a secretary whose job it is to shoo nosy visitors away. Knowing the guard was going to try to warn the others in the warehouse if the Pathfinders didn’t leave, Bunny Paras, Paras and Mr. Ice wait at the loading doors, listening intently for the alarm to be sounded by the secretary, which will also be their signal to enter the warehouse.
The plan goes off without a hitch. As the secretary drops pottery on the floor and loudly bemoans how much trouble he’ll be in, my children’s characters rush into the warehouse, effectively splitting up the guards and getting the jump on them. Facing off against these two, they make poor progress. It doesn’t help that Bunny Paras’ first turn is spent telling her parasaurolophus to ‘sing’ and dance instead of attacking. Still, Mr. Ice gets in a hit with his short swords, while the guards put up a fight. Back in the front room, Enzo slips past the guard as he loudly looks for a broom, and hurries into the warehouse. Angrily, the secretary charges after Enzo and throws a dart at him. Lucky for Enzo his aim is poor. Also lucky for Enzo? The secretary turned his back on Amiri. It’s not a mistake he lived to regret long. She knocked him unconscious with one swing of her massive sword, and finished him off on her next turn. Enzo summoned another dog to battle the remaining guards, while the fight continued. Eventually, Bunny Paras ordered Paras to swing her tail at the enemies–missing, but hey, she tried!–and shoots a few stones at the guards with her sling.
As the Pathfinders triumph over the guards, Enzo hurries to the side door, hoping to catch the fearsome Shinri Dells unaware. Unfortunately the door opens right before he goes through, revealing Shinri herself. Not very scary looking, Enzo knows better from Gideon’s many accounts of her battle prowess. He immediately orders his dog to get in her way. It misses her, and Shinri retaliates, destroying the dog with two quick punches.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” she taunts.
Alone in front of a woman who’s bound to kick his ass, Enzo remarks cleverly: “Eeep!”
Now, this fight is tough. In addition to being a CR 3 enemy, Shinri’s got the monks flurry of blows ability, which lets her make two attacks every turn, and the ability to deliver her sorcerer’s corrupting touch with one of her punches, which can scare her victims. That’s not even taking into account the monk’s handy stunning fist ability. Things are not going to go well for Enzo.
Or so we thought.
Amiri went next, charged at Shinri with her sword raised, and scored a critical hit. Dealing a massive 33 damage in one hit, Shinri Dells fell to the ground, dying.
They are SO lucky! Seriously. I was expecting at least one of them to fall unconscious, but to come out unscathed? I was honestly flabbergasted.
Enzo quickly stabilized Shinri, which prevented her from dying, then stuffed her in a big sack with the intent of brining her to Senghor’s Council as proof against the Aspis Consortium’s presence in the city.
But first? Investigating! My kids LOVE clues. As fans of Scooby-Doo and Murdoch Mysteries, they set out to find clues, clues and more clues–also loot!–on the bodies of the Aspis Agents and the warehouse. Happily, they found lots. Including, that Shinri Dells is in communication with some kind of evil fiend during her daily meditations. This fiend gave Shinri magical powers, new fighting techniques and knowledge of an ancient relic. Known as the Twelve Rites, these stone tablets were what Shinri had her agents searching for in Boali. And our heroic Pathfinders have six of them. Armed with that important bit of information (and lots more that we won’t go into here), the Pathfinders leave the warehouse and look for Gideon.
Who is waiting for them, as promised.
They leave together for an audience with the ruling council. Along the way they meet a poor child, begging for food and coins. Although Amiri rudely ignores the child, the others are all suckers, giving the urchin over five gold. A healthy sum in Pathfinder! As they turn to leave, Bunny Paras suddenly exclaimed in pain. She turned to find the child was not a child after all–he was a tiny asura demon who used illusions to mask his appearance. The asura jabbed her in the back with his poisonous stinger.
Woozy and afraid, Bunny Paras exclaimed “Help! I am poisoned! I’m dying!” and fled down the road in hysterics, with Paras hot on her trail.
Leaving the vicious little assassin fiend to the rest of the group, Amiri and Mr. Ice slaughtered the creature in one turn. Considering the creature was a CR 3 challenge, they are very luck–again! After working together to help the frantic Bunny Paras overcome her poisoning, they set out again for the Council offices, this time arriving without further incident.
They easily earned themselves an audience using their Venture Captains’ letter of introduction–Thanks, Finze! After arriving in the waiting room they are offered dried fruit and water–which Bunny Paras suspiciously checked for poison. It comes out clean, so they eat and socialize with the other guests. Enzo sought out gossip and information about the council members they’ll be meeting with, discovering their identities and how best to influence them.
Soon, they enter the last stage of this adventure: presenting their case to the representatives of the Council of Senghor, and winning them to their cause in the hopes of driving the Aspis Consortium out of Senghor, and gaining the Council’s aid in the Pathfinders efforts to shut down the Aspis Consortium’s suspicious mining operations.
Now, this part is going to be difficult for my players. None of them are well trained in diplomacy, and intimidation won’t work for them here. Other than one of the nature-loving council members who can be influenced by Mr. Ice and Bunny Paras’ knowledge of the natural world, the other methods to get the council on their side are not skills my players are trained in. Fortunately they presented a good case–bringing Gideon to testify, the paperwork and clues from the warehouse, and the six clearly evil tablets of the Twelve Rites–as well as the fiend-tainted Shinri Dells herself–all granted them bonuses on their attempts to influence the council. Even with these bonuses some of the rolls were tight, but the Pathfinders managed to get the entire council on their side!
Happy at their successful first mission, the Pathfinders are dismissed. They bid Gideon farewell, only to have Mr. Ice–the same Mr. Ice who has been tormenting him and scaring him the entire mission–tearfully bid farewell to Gideon.
“Goodbye.” he waved sadly. “I’ll miss you.”
Gideon looked incredibly surprised. He gets only a few steps away before my son decides he couldn’t possibly say goodbye to the shifty ex-Aspis agent. He decides to try to fulfill one of his faction missions, by recruiting a named NPC scholar, archaeologist or similar character to join his faction: the Scarab Sages. Unfortunately, the DC to do this is a 16, and my son’s modifier on his roll? A zero. Zilch. Nothing. He needs to roll a 16 or higher on his d20 to pass. Still, he grabs his dice, and looks incredibly nervous.
“Wait, Gideon! You should join the Scarab Sages!”
“You want to give me a job?” Gideon asks suspiciously.
My son nods vigorously. “YES!”
He rolls his dice…. getting a 16.
My son jumps for joy and exclaims happily, proud to have brought Gideon into the Pathfinder Society.
And so our session came to a close.
We filled out our paperwork, spent their earned coins, and wrapped the session up, bringing their first Pathfinder Society Scenario to an end.
They loved it.
My daughter and husband’s favourite part was the chase scene where they fled from the “frog-bat.” My son’s favourite part was his interactions with Gideon Wren. And mine? I loved how excited they got during this session. I loved seeing their eyes light up in excitement, and their super, creative roleplaying.
Also? I loved this adventure!
So thanks to my family for playing with me. Thanks to my brother, for writing this adventure. And thanks to Paizo, for making scenarios affordable!
I’m sure we’ll be off on another PFS scenario soon!
Big news around my house today! Some new Pathfinder Society Scenarios just released and one of them–Signs in Senghor–is written by my brother.
That’s right! Exciting!
For those of you who don’t know, the Pathfinder Society is a world-wide organized play program. It’s like playing Pathfinder in short sessions with a rotating group of people. All of your characters are members of the Pathfinder Society, which is like a organization of adventurers, explorers, scholars and archaeologists. You just make your character by following the Pathfinder Society Guidelines, take your nifty character and all their paperwork with you to your local game shop, a convention, or to play with your pals, and play a game together. One person GMs, as normal, but they have to use specific, short affordable (five bucks and under!) adventures, called scenarios–and follow them. After a few hours your session’s over, you fill out some more paperwork and show up again whenever you find the time. The GM sends records of the game to Paizo, and voila! Game done. You and some fellow Pathfinders completed a mission together. Maybe you’ll play with those people and their characters again, and maybe you’ll play with a whole new group.
Now, I’ve never played a PFS scenario in person before. Recently, however, I got addicted to Paizo’s message boards. Here, you can play by post. Join the message boards and play your characters–for regular Pathfinder or for PFS–online by posting their actions with your gaming group. Once you find a gaming group, that is. Although competition’s tight for most play-by-post campaigns, it’s quite easy to join a PFS game. They’re short, fun, and you get to play with people from all over the world. It’s a blast.
But, back to the topic at hand: my brother!
Now, this isn’t the first PFS scenario my brother’s written for Paizo. He wrote one other back in Season Six. Of Kirin and Kraken. Intended for play between levels 7 and 11, I haven’t had a chance to play it yet. As a newcomer to the Pathfinder Society I’ve got a bunch of characters, all still enjoying their first level. I’ve a long way to go before I can play through that beauty! So I read it, instead. A lot. Involving ancient sunken ruins, a magical instrument, weird cultists, a tribe of boggards and a spell-casting squid, it’s a fun, memorable romp with a surprising number of opportunities for role-playing with a colourful cast of NPCs. I really enjoyed it.
But his new scenario? Ahh! THAT one I can play right away. Intended for characters from levels 1 through 5, Signs in Senghor isn’t just going to be purchased. It’s getting played. Immediately.
So I bought it last last night, and read it this morning, and as I finished it I told my children: “Uncle Kris wrote an adventure for Pathfinder, and I have it. Do you want to play it?”
They shrieked out “Yes!” in a variety of ways, and jumped around a bit.
“It’s a Society scenario.” I told them. “Do you want to play it by all the proper Society rules? Or should we play it with some characters you already have, just for fun?”
They decided on the Society rules. And when I mentioned they would get to make new characters, no one was more excited than my daughter. She jumped in glee and immediately shouted: “I’m making a rabbit breeder!”
“…A rabbit breeder?”
“Yes! I raise rabbits! I have a whole farm of them! I’m a druid, you know.”
It should be noted, my daughter REALLY loves rabbits. This character concept did not surprise me at all.
“Why did you join the Pathfinders?” I asked her.
“I want to find treasure from the people who used to worship rabbits. Cause I think they’re holy. Oh! And also, Mom, I will be a fox-person!”
I laughed. “You’re a kitsune who raises rabbits? Do you eat them?”
“NO!” she shrieked, clearly offended at the idea. “I am a vegetarian fox-girl. I never eat rabbits. Or other animals. I cuddle them.”
Well, alrighty, then. A kitsune rabbit-breeder it is. And what did she pick for her animal companion? A parasaurolophus. BY NAME. She actually said: “Mom, I want a pet parasaurolophus.”
If you don’t know your dinosaurs as well as my daughter, you can learn about parasaurolophus here.
Looks like we’ve got a lot of (fun) work to do before we play tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what else they create.
Well, Christmas has come and gone, along with a variety of other holidays you might be celebrating, and while I wait for my shiny new copies of Starfinder and the Alien Achieve to arrive in the mail, I’ve been entertaining myself by delving into another great new d20 product, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness.
For those of you who don’t know, Ultimate Wilderness is a new hardcover release from Paizo Publishing, put out for Pathfinder. Pathfinder, as previously noted, is my favourite d20 game by far, and I recently received a copy of Ultimate Wilderness for my birthday (thanks, Kris and Crystal!). Like most of Pathfinder’s hardcover releases, Ultimate Wilderness comes with new class options and some new mechanics for GMs to add to their games, all themed around, you got it, the wilderness. This book introduces one new base class, tons of new archetypes, some new feats and spells, and quite a few rules subsets. Unlike most hardcover releases, this book also drops three new player races, and a ton of new options for familiars and animal companions.
Now, this book’s not cheap. None of the hardcovers for Pathfinder are, so I thought it might be worthwhile to share my two cents about the book, what you’re getting, and whether it’s worth it.
Ultimate Wilderness starts by introducing us to three new race options for players, two of which were previously released in other books. The gathlain, a lovely little fey creature with wooden wings who first was released in the very back of another one of Pathfinder’s hardcovers, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide. Found in the race builder section, gathlain originally had no details provided about their race other than the race entry itself. Now, these delightful little tricksters are given pages worth of information, including some special gear, feats and spells. There’s also a trio of archetypes, including one of my favourites from the entire book, the Season Sage, a druid archetype that got me desperately wanting to play a gathlain. Definitely a favourite of mine, you know you’re going to be producing some quirky characters with this race when the entry points out that ‘gnomes often find gathlains too flighty, foolish and undisciplined for their tastes’ (Ultimate Wilderness, page 9). Seriously. Gnomes think these guys are flighty. As a fan of the absurdity of Pathfinder’s gnomes, I’m going to have a blast with these little guys. I love it!
The second race to get some love in Ultimate Wilderness are the ghorans. Ghorans first appeared in one of Pathfinder’s skinny, softcover books, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Bestiary. They entered the scene with a bang, tempting us with tales of the ghoran’s origins. Magically created as an fast-adapting food source, ghorans achieved sentience and became a race all their own. Now the secret of their creation has been lost, and ghorans have shaped their bodies into a humanoid form, in the hopes that people will be less inclined to consume them, despite how delicious they taste, if the ghoran’s look more like them. Yup. Delicious. Like the gathlain, ghoran’s also come with an array of options, including a few feats, a magic item and a spell. They introduce a new bloodrager bloodline and two new archetypes, including the delightful aromaphile–a mesmerist archetype.
This third and final race introduced in Ultimate Wilderness is brand new. At least as a player race. Although leshy’s were first introduced in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 3, they have only now entered the game as a player race. Vine leshy’s are what you’d come to expect from these adorable little plant spirits. Hardy and clever, with some quirky camouflage capabilities and the ability to speak with plants, vine leshy’s are a fun, colourful addition to the game. Like the gathlain, vine leshy’s have a lot of character options offered alongside them, including some new feats, spells, magical and mundane gear, three archetypes and the addition of the leshy subdomain for all those clerics and druids out there who wish they could summon these little fellows.
Following the races, Ultimate Wilderness gets into what I was most excited for: the Shifter. This new base class is a shapeshifter who can transform parts of their body–and later their entire body–into animal features. It has a full base attack bonus, but suffers from the same armour restrictions as the druid class does–a small price to pay for a chance to make yourself a chimera of animal parts. They gain a nice array of wilderness abilities that are familiar, in addition to unique abilities, including wild empathy, woodland stride, track, trackless step and wild shape–although their wild shape is a weaker version of the druids, allowing them to only transform into animals they have a connection with (you start with one, and can have four by the higher levels of the class progression). As far as new abilities go, it’s the shifter’s claws and shifter aspects abilities which are going to see the most use. Shifter’s claws gives you a claw attack with each hand, dealing 1d4 damage each to start, these claws increase in power as you level up. With an unlimited uses and the ability to extend them as a swift action, these claws are an awesome combat option for the shifter, making it unlikely you’ll need to invest in a melee weapon at low levels. The second major ability of the shifter is shifter aspects. Usable in one minute increments for a number of minutes per day equal to three plus your level, shifter aspects allow you to gain a physical benefit which changes depending upon which animals your shifter is spiritually attuned to. As with wild shape, you only start with one animal aspect, so you’ll need to choose wisely, but you gain more aspects as you level up and can later manifest more than one aspect at a time, making you a chimera of sorts. My personal favourite aspect is the bear, a sturdy choice which can improve your constitution at low levels and lets you transform into a dire bear with wild shape. Other gems include the bat, which grant you darkvision out to great distances and later blind sense, and the mouse, which grants you evasion and allows you to transform into a tiny mouse with wild shape–letting you sneak into tight spaces and the ability to climb, swim and sniff your way around the environment. All in all I really like the shifter class and I’m positively desperate to play one. Now if only I could convince my husband to play a few sessions with me…
After the new classes comes the archetypes, of which there are a TON. Now, not all of the archetypes presented in Ultimate Wilderness are brand new. Some are reprints from their line of softcover books, including the bold Thundercaller bard (originally published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends) and my favourite witch archetype, the green-thumbed Herb Witch (originally published in one of my favourite player companions, Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of the Wild). Now, admittedly I was a little miffed at first, to discover some archetypes here that I’ve already been playing for a while, but after reflection, I’ve changed my tune. I like having the archetypes related to the wilderness that came from the skinny, softcovers collected in Ultimate Wilderness–presuming there are a lot of new archetypes alongside them. Which there are. Tons. Sixty pages of them, and at more than one archetype per page, that’s a lot of archetypes. I had quite a long list of favourites, but I’ll share a few with you.
Topping that list is the already mentioned gathlain archetype, the Season Sage which, thankfully, can be taken by other races with GM permission. Season Sage is a druid which gains the ability to change the seasons of the world around him, using his powers to make plants bloom, animal’s get their warm winter coats, and the weather to change. They can bring their companions the growth of spring (making them grow to twice their size), the might of summer (making them robust and healthy), and harm their enemies with the decay of autumn, and the icy cold of winter. They can literally change the world and the weather around them. And who doesn’t want to travel with a guy who can make it nice and warm in the middle of winter, or hide you in a blanket of fog? Far from over-powered, but filled with cool visuals and some neat new powers, Season Sage is my favourite archetype in the entire book.
My second favourite is a shifter archetype. Now, being a new class, shifter has quite a few cool archetypes going for it, including the elementalist shifter (which lets you harness different elements and fusions of them), the fiendflesh shifter (which lets you harness the power of evil outsiders), and the verdant shifter (which lets you take on the aspects of different plants). But, my personal favourite? The oozemorph. A shifter archetype that lets you become like the T-1000 from ‘Terminator 2’. Seriously. It’s awesome. You want to be made of shiny goo? Check! You want to transform your arms into different weapons? Check! You want to squeeze through tiny holes and compress your body? Check! You want to take on the appearances of different people? Check! How about a climb speed or damage resistance? Check and check! This archetype is awesome, super nostalgic, and has great visual potential. As long as you don’t mind being a protoplasmic blob…
There’s a ton of other awesome archetypes in the pages of this book, and if you pick it up be sure to give some of my favourites a read, including the horticulturist alchemist (who can create seeds that rapidly grow into summoned animals and plants, and who can alter his bombs to affect everything, only plants, or only things that aren’t plants), the saurian champion cavalier (who can ride gigantic dinosaurs: cause who doesn’t want to be a knight that rides a t-rex?), the viking fighter (it’s about time!), the star watcher investigator (who uses horoscopes and astrology to tell the future for his companions and make magical effects), the wood kineticist (blast away with vines, tree limbs and stinging leaves or flower petals), the geomancer occultist (who can use the terrain he’s in as an implement), the flamewarden ranger (who explodes in a burst of fire upon his death, damaging his enemies and healing his allies, and can rise from the ashes a round later), and the avenging beast vigilante (cause the only thing better than being a batman, is being a bat man who can also turn into a dire bat!).
Like all Pathfinder hardcovers, there’s a chapter for new feats and spells. These parts of the book aren’t as vast as some of the others. It’s certainly no Ultimate Combat where feats are concerned, nor does it have the spells of Ultimate Magic. Still, there’s some good options for both sections contained inside. Lots of the feats are very thematic, or specific. For shifters there’s extended aspects and extended animal focus, both of which are going to be staples for most shifters. There’s a new combat style that caught my fancy: beastmaster style, which lets you make handle animal checks to negate attacks that hit your animal companion–presuming you’re beside your beloved pet–much like mounted combat works for mounts. Continuing in this feat progression also lets you substitute your handle animal check in place of your companion’s saving throws. My choice for the best feat in here (that’s more universally useful) adds onto the Spring Attack feat progression. Yes, spring attack’s already an investment, but improved spring attack and greater spring attack add great value to this build by letting users gain an extra attack, or two, with each spring attack, as long as they target different enemies with each subsequent attack.
As for spells, there were a good array of nature based spells spread out among lots of classes. You won’t just find new spells for rangers and druids here, you’ll also find some neat new spell choices for arcane and psychic casters. A few of my favourites include tamer’s lash, a level one bard, bloodrager, magus and ranger spell that creates a sonic whip that damages your enemy and can cause animals to back down for a few rounds in fear. Explosion of rot is a nice level four damage dealing druid spell that makes everything around you rot and decay (living or otherwise!). Rounding out my favourite spells from this book are the various polymorph spells: magical beast shape, ooze form (one through three) and fey form (one through four), all of which allow a wide variety of classes to take on all kinds of new forms.
There are a lot of new mechanics and rules subsets introduced in Ultimate Wilderness, some of which will find more use than others. The new discovery and exploration rules are sure to find home in many exploration games, the new hazards are sure to trip up more than a few characters (look out for spellgorging plants!), and information on the Green Faith and the First World are always welcome. But, it’s the rules for foraging, harvesting poisons, harvesting trophies, herbalism, and wilderness traps that made me the most excited. Finally, a way to make a snare trap in the wild without a weeks worth of work and a sack of gold! (And there was much rejoicing).
The last section I want to touch on in Ultimate Wilderness is a huge part of the book and, in my opinion, a massive draw: familiars and animal companions. Taking up over forty pages of the book, this section collects stats for some of the more obscure animal options you may have missed in the many softcover releases they’ve been spread across, as well as new choices (including the anglerfish, archaeopteryx, dodo, koala, panda, sabre-toothed cat, plenty of plants and vermin, and my daughter’s personal favourite: the rabbit). It also provides a huge host of archetypes, tricks and feats for them to make use of. Most important for me? A nice concise listing of which animal forms have access to which magical item slots. Now, it’s worth noting, some of the information in this section was previously printed in some other softcover releases from Paizo, including Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio and Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive. But, much of the content is new and, in all honesty, I like having it compiled into an easier to access source.
For my money, Ultimate Wilderness is worth it. It provides a lot of fun new options for players and some decent new mechanics for GMs to enrich their games. One of the biggest draws for this release is going to be the many new options for our furry (or scaly or feathered) friends, the familiars and animal companions. If you don’t have this book yet you can pick it up at the link below, and if you do, let me know in the comments what you’re most excited for from Ultimate Wilderness!