Today on d20 diaries we’re taking a look at the lost.
You know the lost.
The abandoned, the deceased, the forgotten, the retired. The characters whose stories were over before they even started. Who began a journey that would never come to a close. Who died in action.
Not all of them, of course. Just one.
A character of mine who recently died in action. An inglorious end for an ambitious, (possibly deranged) woman with way too many voices in her head.
Today we meet Lara.
Lara Belfast had always had strange dreams. They were vivid, immersive… lasting, and always featured other people. She would wake, and for hours after have the feelings of these others inside her. Their hopes and fears and memories. It was like she had really been there. Lived through it. As other people.
It was normal, her parents told her. Dreams were just dreams, and they would pass. But they didn’t pass. They got worse. When they started to occur during the day, her parents finally began to worry. But when she woke up one day from a dream where she was a shipwright and immediately set to work building a fully-functioning wooden sailboat,she realized the truth. They weren’t dreams. They were people.
Lara was reliving her past lives. Not only that, she could learn from them.Her family moved after that. Got a fresh start. Her parents didn’t want their neighbours realizing she was odd.
As she grew older, Lara’s connection with her past lives grew. She learned new skills, saw new places, took up new professions, and felt things she had never felt before. She was wise and experienced beyond her years. And when one night she threw a chair across the room with her mind, or answered a question her parents had only thought — not spoken — they weren’t even surprised. Nothing surprised them anymore. Not when it came to Lara.
Lara always loved her Dreamers — as she liked to call her previous incarnations. She was an echo of them — all of them — and that’s what she started to call herself. Sure, they made it hard to have friends, and boyfriends, but her connection with them was so real, so… intimate, that she never regretted her powers. Not once.
Well, maybe once.
There were many dreamers, but one of them in particular had always come to her strongest. He was a shipwright, young, strong, and handsome. He had a sister named Gilly, and a girlfriend who he stole kisses from under the dock at night. Sara, was her name. And one night everything went horribly wrong.
A few men found them. They were drunk and rough. Her dreamer was punched right in the face. She could feel the pain, and hear the crack of her nose breaking. She could taste the blood. But that wasn’t the worst part… The worst was the screams of his beloved. That’s what got to Lara the most. That’s what made her cry. And the way her dreamer had felt… Helpless. Broken. Scared.
When the dreamer awoke, things were worse. Her dreamer and his beloved had been sold to slavers. Life on the ship was hard for her dreamer, but for Sara it was hardest. Her dreamer struggled, and planned, and when he could take no more he fought back. She Her dreamer had to save Sara. He loved her, and she was in so much pain.
But, suddenly it’s not sorrow her dreamer feels, but agony. Her dreamer’s dying — his arm is broken, and as the first mate of the ship stomps his way across the deck…
STOMP, STOMP, STOMP…
Her dreamer hears another sound. His name: Benjamin.
Sara’s here… She can see him. Her dreamer looks up at the first mate — he’s tall, and strong, in nobleman’s clothes, with slicked back hair and a waxed moustache, not much older than her dreamer. The first mate smiles as he brings the blade down across her dreamer’s neck. Then everything spins and for a moment — a crazy, painful, terrifying moment — she can see her dreamer’s body.
He would be handsome if he still had his head.
There were plenty of other dreamers — the lumberjack, the warchief, the chef, the sickly child, even an old dame — but it was Benjamin who stuck with her most. Benjamin whose memories haunted her. He was the last, she knew. The person she had been before she was herself. Gilly, Sara, his killer… They might all still be alive. She had to find out. She had to know.
So she left home — barely a grown woman — to do research, and to find them. Sara especially. But it was the first mate she found first. Still alive, aged 46, and still working on slave ships. And Lara (Echo, she went by now) did the craziest thing she had ever done (which was saying a lot). She used her psychic powers to get hired as a sailor on his ship. She used them again to get close to him, and to make others ignore her when she snuck into his quarters. She had finally found his old ledgers when he caught her in his quarters. She tried to talk her way out of it, but it was useless. She would soon be joining Benjamin…
He drew his blade, stalked towards her…
And then the storm struck.
It tossed the ship so hard the both of them went flying. She struck her head against something hard — the bunk maybe, perhaps the floor — and when she awoke she was alone, shivering with cold, dripping wet, on a strange beach. The ledger was gone.
She would never know what happened to Sara.
Never get revenge against her beloved dreamer’s murderer.
But then another dreamer reared her head: the lumberjack. Echo was shipwrecked on an unknown island. She would need food, and shelter, and warmth. It would be a struggle just to survive. The lumberjack always was the practical one. But she was right. So Echo let go of her disappointment, and shame, and let the lumberjacks skills come to the forefront. There was work to do, and she didn’t plan on dying yet.
She wasn’t ready to be the next dreamer.
Echo was created for an online play-by-post campaign run by GM Fuzzfoot called Castaways. The premise?
“Slavery in parts of Golarion is legal, but there are plenty who still abhor it. Working undercover – some as slaves, some as slavers – you are on a slave ship trying to discover the key players and document the slave routes in order to disrupt the business. Unfortunately, fate has another plan for you. A terrible storm strikes while the ship is deep at sea. You remember rain and lightning, and terrible thunder! The ship broke into two, and you were tossed into the sea. You were sure you drowned, and yet you find yourself washed up on a shore. Which shore? You have no idea.”
Applicants had to create third level characters, and wow were there a lot of good ones! Happily, of the twenty-one submissions, Echo was one of those chosen to play. Along with five other lucky unfortunates, she washed up on the shores of an unknown island. Wounded, confused, lost, but not broken!
Echo was joined by Pharithstillis Euduethistle, a chipper gnomish sorcerer who enjoyed making jewelry; Nathan Bensson, a kineticist with control over water; Celebeth Quinciel, a free-spirited elven unchained rogue (arcane scoundrel) who grew up on the frontier with her parents; Aki Mori, a multiclass ninja arcanist who spent most of her time in human form, but made excellent use of her ability to transform into a small fox; and Molothor the Bloodhound, a hobgoblin druid who had long ago become accustomed to his life as a slave.
Echo was a human woman in her early twenties with a lean body, pale skin, and blond hair. She’s attractive, intelligent and wise beyond her years. Her eyes are gray, and fathomless, the only feature she bears which belies her soul’s unknowable age. Her effect on people is varied, sometimes hypnotic and sometimes disconcerting.
Echo herself is kind and self-sacrificing. She’s obsessed with her past lives — most especially that of Benjamin — and not only learns from them, but lives for them. Her dreamers still visit her every night, but she is in control of her mind, and no longer loses herself to their memories.
Mechanically, Echo was a psychic with the rebirth discipline. Her discipline powers were past-life memories, which allowed her to make all knowledge checks untrained, and add half her psychic level as a bonus on all knowledge checks. Her second was mnemonic esoterica, which allowed her to choose a spell from another spell list she could cast each day (which she most often used for create water).
Her phrenic amplifications included defensive prognostication, which allowed her to see a glimpse of her future whenever she cast a divination spell (which could increase her AC for a round), and intense focus, which allowed her to gain a bonus on concentration checks.
For traits she chose dangerously curious, to allow her to make better use of magical devices, and self-reliant, which prevented her from taking penalties on craft checks made without the proper tools, and even make craft checks without tools at all. For feats she chose skill focus (sense motive), and magical aptitude, both of which played well to her backstory, particularly when coupled with her ability to detect thoughts.
Her spells were great fun to select, as Echo was the first (and only) psychic I ever made. Her starting knacks were detect magic, light, mage hand, prestidigitation, and telekinetic projectile, while her first level spells were burst of insight, mage armour, mind thrust, and true strike. She made the most use of burst of insight, which was incredibly helpful for both survival, and creating shelter.
Together the castaways struggled for survival, facing the elements, exhaustion, dangerous beasts, and ominous portents. They explored the beach and sunken wrecks for their gear and supplies. In time some of them met a young child, who spoke strange words and led them to his people — who unfortunately turned out to be cannibals. Echo and Aki were captured, but managed to escape without too much difficulty. Echo spent her time tossing telekinetic projectiles at her captors, while Aki simply transformed into a fox and slipped through the bars.
Eventually Aki returned to free Echo and they fled, but the cannibals were soon on their trail. They escaped, eventually running into the rest of their companions. Together they abandoned their camp and headed further into the jungle. But the cannibals knew these jungles far better than our heroes. They woke up one night to find themselves surrounded and vastly outnumbered. Captured again they were led back through the jungles — until a tribe of grippli attacked! The grippli ended up the victors, and brought the castaways back to their village. Echo and her friends spent quite a bit of time there. They learned the grippli’s language and what they could of the island. Eventually, they decided to help the grippli defeat the cannibals. The group made a plan, and the castaways set out to begin phase one. Unfortunately, fate intervened. While exploring a cave they came under attack by a massive lobster. Echo was slain within moments of the battle beginning, with Aki following suit soon afterwards. Nathan fell unconscious next and, with Malothor lost long before this battle, that left only Celebeth and Pharithstillis still fighting. Deciding to beat a hasty retreat they grabbed the bodies they could — Echo and Nathan — and fled back to the grippli village. The grippli gave up hopes of changing their fate, and Celebeth and Pharithstillis spent the remainder of their days among the grippli village.
We started our campaign at third level, and it came to an end at fourth. Echo was burnt and given a burial at sea.
Just another of the Dreamers.
As to who she became next…?
That’s a mystery for another time.
So ends the tale of Lara Belfast.
Thanks for joining us for our first ‘Ode to the Lost.’ I hope you enjoyed it!
Got an abandoned, forgotten, or deceased character whose tale you want to share? Let us know in the comments! I’d love to read all about them.
May you have better luck than Lara! (And your ghosts never come back to haunt you!)
Yup! That’s right. Our weird and kooky crew of eccentric Pathfinders have completed their first mission! We played, we laughed, we triumphed. Oh, yeah, and WE RODE A DRAGON!
Who? What? Why?
Read on and be enlightened!
A while ago my family and I were gifted some boons as part of a delightful contest run by the overly generous Hmm. With them we made a team of goofy eccentrics! (Cause what ELSE should we have done with them?). An exiled aquatic elf magus struggling to adapt to life on the surface, a hyperactive grippli ranger who always looks on the bright side of life, a wise stump-tailed vanara shaman with hair growth issues and a pet pig, and a ratfolk shifter who gnaws on everything he can get his hands on. For more detailed information on our characters and their creation you can check out my previous blog post: Character Focus: Wacky and Weird.
Not long after creating these delightfully fun characters we were offered the chance to play an adventure all together via play-by-post: the incredibly hard to find Heroes for Highdelve! Our kooky characters took the time to think of a reason they were in Highdelve, and then we got cracking! They arrived just in time for the annual Brightbloom Festival. In addition to exploring the festival, stuffing our faces (and our pigs) with carnival food, riding barrels, competing in sack races, and assisting a puppet show, we each had specific goals we were trying to achieve.
My daughter’s grippli Croak was on the hunt for some stuffed rabbits she had recently purchased and misplaced on a wagon. My son’s vanara Pinesong Rippleroot was looking for some pet pigs he had accidentally sold to a merchant instead of a loving home. My husband’s ratfolk Lomo was in the market for a crafter to repair his father’s magical necklace that Lomo had chewed on. And my aquatic elf Sereia who was trying to track down a coral idol sold by an antiquities smuggler. Their efforts were hampered by the festival, but they had fun and found some promising leads.
Suddenly, the festival was interrupted by screams! The teenaged flower collectors for the festival (known as the Bloomgivers) came back to town wounded! They had been attacked by a pair of young troublemakers. In addition to being beaten up, they were robbed of their protective amulet, and their wagon of Brightbloom flowers was broken. The people gasped. Some called for the village’s legendary draconic protector Aurelliax to bring justice to the wayward youths, but she strode out of the crowd in human form and declined. She had promised the founders of the village long ago that she would protect them, but not interfere in village politics and citizenry. If someone was going to retrieve the protective amulets, gather the brightblooms, capture the teens, and save the festival, it was going to have to be someone else.
Obviously my kids hopped at the chance to volunteer! Their characters announced rather boldly that we would handle it, and once again my aquatic elf was roped into some spontaneous adventure. My daughter’s character Croak assured everyone that this would be the perfect grand adventure! Sereia was unsure.
Still, they were nothing if not true to their word, so the band of outcasts set out from Highdelve, through the hills and wilds until they reached the brightbloom meadow. There they found a field of flowers as far as the eye could see (along with the Bloomgivers’ broken flower wagon). They also found an old cabin, a recently used campsite, and a cave. The group split up, with Lomo and Pinsong checking out the cabin, Croak hopping right into the flower field to pick some brightblooms, and Sereia examining the campsite. But after only a moment the two teenaged hooligans hopped out from behind a rock and started attacking Croak!
What kind of dastardly villains would attack an innocent grippli who was plucking flowers?
Ahhh! The horror!
Croak leapt into action, tossing a net at the girl. Much to my daughter’s glee the enemy was stuck in the net the entire fight. (She laughed about this endlessly!). Everyone else rushed over to the meadow while Croak battled the remaining teenager with her blowgun. Pinesong arrived on the scene next, alongside his pig Cutie Pie. While Cutie Pie hid behind a rock, Pinesong clambered up on top of it and formed magical stormclouds around the enemy, making it difficult for them to see. Lomo arrived next and tore into the guy with his claws — dealing less damage than you might imagine since he’s a Dexterity based combatant. But before Sereia could arrive another enemy showed up on the scene! A tiefling who had hired the teenagers to steal the protective amulet from the Bloomgivers. Why? It was a mystery!
The trident wielding Sereia was the last to arrive, but as the character with the highest damage potential she turned the tide of battle pretty quickly. With the tiefling dead, and the two teenagers prisoner (but conscious) the quartet set about questioning the kids.
They learned that it was the tiefling who had something horrible planned for the town. Apparently he was keeping a monster in the cave, which he was going to unleash upon Highdelve! And the amulet? It would keep the monster protected from Highdelve’s gold dragon defender!
Knowing that they had a monster to defeat but unwilling to risk their prisoners escaping, the group transported the two teens and the tiefling back to Highdelve. After turning them in to the guard’s custody they headed back out to the cave and went right in. It was time to go monster hunting!
The caves were dark, but they could hear strange bellows echoing down the tunnels. In time they found the source — a massive ettin with strange markings carved into its flesh! Tangled in its fingers was the amulet!
When my kids looked at the battle map and the picture of the creature my kids both stopped and said: “Uh oh… That looks strong!”
Despite their fears we waded into battle with enthusiasm.
Now… When you’ve got four players who make characters always intended to play alongside one another, chances are good they’ll make a balanced team. And we did. But… we also aren’t exactly based around damage. We’re more like… a swarm of gnats that flits around the enemy poking it and causing it minor hinderances. Lomo is a melee guy, but his claws do 1d3 damage. No strength bonus. Pinesong is our healer but for damage? Well, he usually uses his storm burst ability to make the enemy treat Pinesong and his pals as if they had concealment. He’s got a crossbow but he’s not a very good shot. My daughter’s little grippli Croak? She fights with nets and poisoned blowgun darts. Considering the ettin beat every single saving throw against her poisons she dealt a whopping 1 damage per shot! Oh, yeah! And Sereia? She’s a magus, so she can deal some solid damage, but she also has to wear a lot of hats in the party. She’s the spellcaster, she’s the second melee character, she’s the academic, and she’s the trap finder. That’s a lot! As a result her attack rolls are good, but not amazing. They’re fair at best if she’s using her spell combat ability. So when she hits she hits hard. But she wasn’t hitting all the time. Meanwhile, Lomo and Croak hit practically every round! (My daughter was very proud of her consistent one damage darts. Haha.
Anyway, the battle was great fun! It lasted quite a few rounds without dragging on too long, we hindered him enough that we rarely got hit, and we bottlenecked him in a tunnel so he couldn’t reach our squishier team members (Pinesong and Croak) with his massive, skull-crushing flail.
We spent a little time gloating when we finally defeated the ettin — okay, mostly it was Croak mocking the dead ettin for looking like a giant plucked chicken with all those darts sticking out of him. Then we looked around, collected the amulet, and left.
Outside we found a dragon.
Not just any dragon.
A freaking HUGE dragon. Thankfully it was gold.
Pinesong and Cutie Pie hid, Croak gave it a chipper hello, and Lomo froze like a character in a Jurassic Park movie who’s squaring off against T-Rex. Cause a dragon can’t see you if you stay still, right? RIGHT?
….Yeah, not how it works Lomo. But hilarious!
Sereia made the connection between the gold dragon and Aurelliax, guardian of Highdelve, and soon they spoke. The dragon thanked them for their aid and offered them a ride back to town.
My kids were flabbergasted. Literally amazed. My daughter squealed in delight (“UH, YEAH! OF COURSE!”). My son started singing a song from Teen Titans Go! all about riding a dragon (literally).
“We’re gonna ride that dragon! THAT DRAGON! We’re gonna ride that dragon! THAT DRAGON!”
He was so excited he insisted on sending our wonderful GM a link to the exact song and episode. You’re welcome! Haha.
Anyway, we rode that dragon all the way back to Highdelve and learned that the townsfolk had banded together to help us wrap up our tasks! Lomo’s necklace was being repaired, Pinesong’s piglets were being given new homes, Croak’s missing rabbit stuffed animals had been found, and the name of the client that the antiquities smuggler had sold the coral idol to had been found. Soon Sereia could track it down and return it to her people.
My kids were amazed! Big smiles all around. And then they settled in for a feast and dance as the guests of honour. Aurelliax gifted them a magical statuette which turned out to be a super cool boon! Both of my kids transformed the statuette into a magical creature: Pinesong used it to make Cutie Pie covered in golden scales, and my daughter used it to create a pet flying squirrel with giant golden bulging eyes called Roadkill. My husband and I are going to hang onto it to use one of it’s other cool benefits.
We got our chronicles just the other day and the adventure came to an end. And what a good one! Particularly for kids! It had such a nice feel-good ending. Both of my kids said it was among their very favourite adventures they’ve ever played! (My son said he had two favourites: this run of Heroes for Highdelve, and his play through of Signs in Senghor, which was written by my brother and I wrote about in a previous blog post: Signs in Senghor: Part One, and Signs in Senghor: Part Two).
In short, we had a blast!
And if our wonderful GM happens to be reading this: a thousand thanks!
I’m not sure what’s next for our weird and wacky crew. Finding a game all four of us can get into can be tricky, but I do know that whatever we play, we’re going to have fun.
Whew! Another busy week has come and gone and I feel like I’ve barely come up for air! This month is flying by! But, enough about chores, work, and responsibility! Let’s talk about something fun.
d20 games in the media.
(Around my house).
Every once in a while I mention we’ve seen an episode of a show or movie that references D&D in some way. Stranger Things is and obvious (and amazing) example. iZombie has a wonderful set of episodes that feature Dungeons and Dragons, and my kids had a blast watching Voltron’s ode to the game. Just the other day we saw another on one of our family’s favourite kids cartoons: Teen Titans GO! In case you’re unaware, the Teen Titans are a teenage super hero team created by DC comics. Back in 2003 they had an awesome cartoon that played on the Cartoon Network, and a few years ago they re-released a spin-off of the show as… well an inane comedy. They’re the same characters and the same voice actors, but the show is goofy, irreverent, and rarely features any actual crime fighting. It’s a comedy above all else, and my whole family loves it. Seriously! My favourite episode, ‘And the Award for Sound Design Goes to Rob’ (Season Two, Episode 48) involves silence taking over the world, and the Teen Titans making their own sound effects for everything. When dolphins say ‘Booya!’ and Beast Boy makes punches sound like a fart, you know you’re about to have some laughs. My kids were rolling on the ground in laughter. (Seriously). Anyway, there we were, enjoying some Teen Titans Go! when the episode ‘Riding the Dragon’ (Season 3 Episode 51) started. (Most of) The Teen Titans are enjoying a fantasy game where they attempt to ride a dragon, only to have Robin appear and tell them they’re not playing by the rules. He proceeds to force them to, and spends the entire episode sucking all the fun out of their D&D style game. It’s hilarious.
And then today? My kids had the chance to have their weird and wacky characters ride a dragon in game. They were so excited! They even started singing a song from the Teen Titans episode. The look of absolute joy on their faces was truly a delight. Special thanks to GM Dennis for giving them the opportunity! (Thanks!)
On a similar note, my kids finally discovered the glory of Critical Role! How? Why? …Beastmaster!
My kids saw a picture online of Terry Crews holding up a fake warhammer and roaring. Immediately they exclaimed: “Hey! I know that guy! He was a judge on Beastmaster! Let’s watch that!” (My daughter LOVES Ultimate Beastmaster). So we clicked play.
It was an episode of World of Warcraft themed CelebriD&D starring Terry Crews. (I imagine more than a few of you have watched it!). Long story short we gave it a try and my kids were enthralled! They thought it was hilarious. My son thought that Terry Crews’ character ‘Thodak the Blacksmith’ was the coolest, but my daughter loved Marisha Ray’s goblin ‘The Ritz.’ If you haven’t watched it (or any of the other CelebriD&D episodes) and you like that sort of thing I suggest you give it a shot. It was great fun. Of course, my kids have never played World of Warcraft, so when we finally finished watching all the CelebriD&D episodes we watched the World of Warcraft movie, which is currently on Netflix. My husband fell asleep (he’s recently given up coffee, so I wouldn’t hold that against the film), but the rest of us liked it.
We’ve been watching Paizo’s Twitch Channel recently. The Doomsday Dawn live play episodes look interesting, but I’ve yet to give them a try. Admittedly, I don’t have the time to watch them. Haha. I don’t watch anything live, but when I can find the time (usually while preparing vegetables for dinner or something) I put on a shorter video. I regularly watch the Pathfinder Friday episodes (which are a whole lot of Deconstructing Doomsday Dawn recently!). But my favourite? I ADORE Starfinder Wednesdays! May of the recent episodes preview the Against the Aeon Throne adventure path (and information related to it). Recently they started making episodes about different planets in the Pact Worlds. Eox was first. Then Aucturn. And tonight they’re going further afield to the planet Daimalko. Awesome! My kids even love sitting down to watch these ones. It’s such a great way to get the feel for the many planets across in an engaging way. I hope they keep it up!
Speaking of making gaming engaging, I recently stumbled upon the work of Craig Bailey, a GM who makes props to go along with his games. Most of them are from Starfinder’s Dead Suns adventure path and WOW! Are they ever amazing! Field notes, passports, news clips, and even mock websites where the players can attempt to sift through an NPCs emails! AWESOME! If you haven’t heard of him (and especially if you’re GMing Dead Suns) be sure to look him up on twitter or youtube!
I can’t even imagine the effort put into these ‘handouts.’
In other news (sort of) I read the Dragon+ Magazine whenever I have the time (which is rarely. Did I mention I’ve been busy lately? Haha). For those of you who don’t know it’s a free Dungeons and Dragons web-magazine you can view online or through the Dragon+ app. But, this last issue I made sure to make the time to give it a read. Why? RAVNICA!
As some of you may be aware, I don’t just plat d20 games. I love all kinds of games. Including collectible card games. And, although my kids love Pokemon, my game of choice is Magic: The Gathering. By far. Love it. I love the game, the art, the lore, the worlds… Everything except the COST! Haha. So when I heard that Dungeons and Dragons was joining forces with Magic: the Gathering and releasing a Ravnica campaign sourcebook I squealed in glee. Then I thought: “It’s about time!” Cause, really! They’re both Wizards of the Coast! Why did this take so long?!? D&D: Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is due out near the end of November, but is already available for preorder on amazon. Even better? At the time of posting it’s twenty dollars off the regular price. If only I had someone to buy it for! (Other than myself…).
My family and I entered a contest a few weeks ago. Hosted by the overly generous Hmm on Paizo’s message boards, she was going to give away all the boons necessary to create a mermaid in PFS play. There were a few ways to enter — for yourself with a mermaid character concept, for a group of friends with a team created from the other boons she was giving away, or by nominating someone else who you thought deserved to win. My family and I entered together, and were lucky enough to be chosen as one of the winners.
I’ve mentioned this contest before on my blog, and I promised that when our characters were complete I would share them with the world.
That time is now! (Finally! Haha.)
My family and I wanted to make a quartet of characters who are (and were) universally considered outcasts among their people and Golarion at large. They’re weird, and different. But what’s strange for one culture isn’t strange for others, and it’s those very oddities that the others embraced and connected with. After all, who cares if the vanara has unnaturally large eyes, if he’s hanging out with a grippli? These guys are friends, companions, and (in many ways) family. They don’t have the same interests, and they don’t always get along. But, hey? What family does?
My daughter was the first person to create her character. She’s always the first person to do so. Admittedly, I would beat her to it, except I always wait to see what my kids want to make before creating my own character.
My daughter made a grippli named Croak. In her original character pitch she had said she was gong to make an energetic, poisonous grippli who fought with a blowgun. She was going to be a ranger with the poison darter archetype (rangers can be found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook, grippli can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide, and the poison darter archetype for rangers can be found in Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Beast). When it came time to make her character and actually get her down on paper, she stuck to it. But, she also added to it. In addition to being a poison darter, she’s chosen to be a skirmisher, which is an archetype for rangers which sacrifices their spellcasting in order to use some nifty tricks a few times each day that can benefit yourself and your companions. This won’t have an effect on her character now, but in the future it definitely will! (The skirmisher archetype for rangers can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide).
Croak is incredibly nimble, and rather wise. She’s decent with people and animals, and pretty healthy. She’s not one for book learning, and she’s physically weak. Her final stats are Str 8 / Dex 18 / Con 12 / Int 10 / Wis 16 / Cha 13. As a grippli she’s small, has dark vision, a base speed of 30 feet and a climb speed of 20 feet. She has the ability to camouflage herself while in a swamp, and has no problem travelling in such environments. She speaks Common and Grippli. She was sorely tempted to take the toxic skin variant racial trait, but decided against it. Croak loves to swim, so my daughter didn’t think it made since to give up swamp stride. As a ranger she has the track ability, which she’s excited for. However, she does not have a favoured enemy or wild empathy. These are both abilities she gave up for her archetype. Instead she has poison use, and she secretes a paralytic toxin from her skin which she can use to poison her weapons a few times each day. At higher levels she’ll give up her combat style for rogue talents and give up her hunter’s bond ability for sneak attack that only works with a blowgun.
Now, you might be saying, blowgun? Really? They’re not very good. Well, too bad! My daughter thinks they’re the coolest. She bought a toy one for herself the other day at the local dollar store. I warned her they were tricky to use, but she insisted, and she’s been practising ever since. By now she can get the foam dart to sort of fall out of the blowgun and land on the floor. This is a great improvement from her first few attempts which resulted in the dart moving slightly and staying inside the blowgun. Haha. Admittedly, I’m not much better. As an out of shape asthmatic I can make the dart fly no more than five feet. I’m quite proud of this, actually, as I expected to do much, much worse. (Hooray for low expectations!).
Croak decided to use her favoured class bonus on a special grippli ranger option: she gets a +1 bonus on swim checks. When this bonus hits +8 she also gains a swim speed of 15 feet. She finds this very exciting. She chose to put her skills into acrobatics, climb, diplomacy, perception, perform (song), and swim. She’s also naturally good at stealth and survival, but she did not invest ranks into those skills yet. Perhaps in the future. For traits she chose insider knowledge, which gives her a +1 on diplomacy checks and made diplomacy a class skill. She also chose reckless, which gives her a +1 on acrobatics checks and made acrobatics a class skill. (Insider knowledge can be found in the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide, while Reckless can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Campaign). All things considered, acrobatics turned out to be her best skill, which is just how she wanted it. For her feat she chose agile tongue. This grippli feat allows her to use her tongue to lift light objects, make sleight of hand checks, and perform steal and disarm maneuvers. It also lets her make melee touch attacks, but that won’t have any benefit for her right now. (Agile tongue can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide).
When it came time to buy her equipment, my daughter certainly took her time! Haha. She bought a blowgun with a ton of blowgun darts, a net, and a pair of poisoned sand tubes. But for her melee weapon? Oh, it took forever! Melee is not going to be Croak’s forte. She’s intended to be a close range combatant who stays mobile, and hinders her foes. Her strength score is poor, but she still wanted to be able to have a melee weapon for those times she she gets locked down. The problem? My daughter has no idea what most weapons actually are. She can read their names and statistics, but rarely does she actually know what they look like. There are some she knows, of course: longsword, short sword, dagger, gauntlet, cestus, scimitar, sickle, whip, spear, quarterstaff, net, blowgun, bow, crossbow and darts. She also sort of knows what a sling is. Or rather, she knows what it is, but she likes slingshots better, so she insists the sling is a slingshot. Not the case, of course, but hey, she’s six. It’s a slingshot! As a ranger she had proficiency in a lot of weapons she didn’t recognize, so we spent some time looking up pictures of each weapon, and even watched some videos of how you use each one in battle. In the end, she chose a light flail for her weapon. She became so enamoured with this dangerous weapon that the same day she was at our local dollar store and bought a blowgun, she also bought a little toy flail that’s perfectly sized for her. She’s been hard at work learning how to swing it without whacking herself in the head. For her armour, she picked out a reinforced tunic. In addition to basic adventuring gear she bought a sunrod, a healing potion, and a few vials of acid.
So who is Croak? What’s she like?
Croak is a beautifully coloured grippli, with bright pink and purple skin. Her big, yellow eyes are so bright they practically glow. Her big wide mouth is always curved up in a happy smile. She wears a bright yellow tunic with a belt made of vines. She has a blowgun on her belt, along with a LOT of darts, some vials, and a light flail. She wears a backpack which she’s drawn on with chalk to make look fancy (it mostly looks messy). She taps her toes while she waits, wiggles her fingers, and flicks her tongue around. She never seems to stop moving.
Croak’s a hyperactive, bouncy little thing that’s constantly moving and talking. She’s impulsive, impatient, and finds it difficult to settle. She loves to climb, swim, and play. She’s a very mobile and acrobatic fighter, cartwheeling, dancing, and diving across the battlefield. This makes her a big target. But, she doesn’t mind! They’ll never catch her! Especially once she’s tangled them up in a net, or poisoned them!
Croak is the funny member of the team. She is naive, and boundlessly optimistic. She looks on the bright side of everything, even if she has to get pretty creative to find that bright side! She’s the team member who keeps everyone moving, and brings a smile on a dour day. She’s their spirit.
Croak grew up in a tribe of grippli who lived in the Mushfens of Varisia. Life there was hard! It required patience, and relied on stealth and camouflage. Croak did not fit in. She was bright, chipper, and NOISY! Plus, she never sat still. After a particularly disastrous fishing expedition involving sixteen butterflies, a rubber ball, a fishing net, and seven very upset grippli, Croak was cast out from her tribe.
It sucked! She was very upset!
She travelled a lot after that, and had a lot of trouble fitting in. Lots of people thought she was WEIRD. But, in time, she made new friends. They didn’t mind that she never sat still. After all, they were always travelling anyway! And Croak never slowed them down. They didn’t mind that she squirmed around and bounced through the battlefield. She was a very distracting target! They didn’t mind that she talked all the time. They didn’t even mind her singing! Well, okay, maybe they minded her singing. She couldn’t really be sure when she was singing, after all. She was rather loud.
Croak loves to explore nature with her friend Pinesong Rippleroot. She loves to go swimming with her friend Sereia. And she loves to make discoveries in cities with her friend Lomo.
With my daughter’s character made, we sat down to work on my son’s: Pinesong Rippleroot.
In his original character pitch, my son decided to make an eco-conscious vanara druid with a stumpy tail and hair growth issues. He kept his character concept the same, but while creating his backstory he decided he would have a pet pig. While we explored the druid class and its archetypes together, we also checked out some similarly themed classes, including the shaman, and nature-themed oracles, sorcerers, and witches. Although he loved the idea of a lot of the druid’s abilities, he fell in love with the idea of using his pig as a spirit animal. He debated for a time, but in the end decided that Pinesong Rippleroot would be a shaman. (Vanara can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide. Shamans can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Class Guide, sorcerers can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook, while oracles and witches can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide).
Pinesong is incredibly wise and nimble. He’s surprisingly charismatic and friendly. His final statistics are Str 10 / Dex 16 / Con 10 / Int 10 / Wis 16 / Cha 14. As a vanara, he has a thirty foot base speed, 20 foot climb speed, and low-light vision. He’s nimble, and gains a +2 bonus on his stealth and acrobatics checks. Pinesong gave up his prehensile tail ability and instead chose risky troublemaker, which lets him roll twice on his use magic device checks. He speaks Common and Vanaran. As a shaman he forms a bond with a single spirit, which grants him magic spells, abilities, hexes, and other benefits. He also has a magical spirit animal who acts as a conduit between himself and his spirit. My son immediately decided to select the nature spirit. This would grant him some nifty plant and animal themed spells and abilities. Right now it lets him use the spell charm animal as his spirit magic spell, and create little hindering storms around his enemies with the storm burst ability. It also allows his spirit animal (a pig named Cutie Pie) the ability to move through any undergrowth and natural difficult terrain without penalty or harm. Shamans are prepared casters, so for his first adventure he chose to prepare daze, detect magic, stabilize, cure light wounds, and goodberry.
My son chose to invest his skill ranks into acrobatics, climb, knowledge (nature), survival, and use magic device. He’s also naturally good at stealth. There’s a lot more skills he wants to invest in at higher levels, including handle animal, knowledge (arcana), and spellcraft. For traits he selected dangerously curious, which gave him a +1 bonus in use magic device and made it a class skill, as well as reckless (that’s a pretty popular trait in my house!). (Dangerously curious can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Campaign and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide). For feats he chose weapon finesse.
When it came time to buy his gear my son knew exactly what he wanted. Pinesong adores fancy, complicated objects, which my son wanted to reflect in his gear choices. He purchased a light crossbow and lamellar cuirass. (Lamellar cuirass can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Equipment and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Combat). Of course, Pinesong also tries to make his own gear — and does a horrible job at it. He uses hand carved wooden stakes for his melee weapon, and wears a braided belt of grass and vines. For his other gear he invested in some basic adventuring equipment, a vial of acid and a flask of holy water.
Pinesong Rippleroot is a chubby, vanara with a bulging tummy, thin white fur, and a short stubby tail. His eyes are much too big, which makes them look like they’re bulging out of his head, but his smile is wide and happy. His hair on the top of his head is styled into an outlandish hair do! It looks very odd! With every breeze his fur moves around, showing off his many bald spots.
Pinesong wears a belt he fashioned himself from a braided vines and grass. There’s a wooden stake hooked onto it, and a belt pouch. On his back is a crossbow and a backpack, and over his chest he wears some odd looking armour made of little squares that he thought was fascinating! He does not wear pants or shoes.
Pinesong was always a strange vanara. He was born hairless, with massive, bulging eyes, and a short stunted tail. The other vanara thought he was hideously deformed! As he grew it didn’t get any better. His hair never grew in, his tail never got longer, and his eyes? Well, they got bigger, but that just creeped everyone out more. Eventually, the tribe could take it no more and Pinesong (whose birthname is Bug-eye Manycurse) was abandoned. He was still a child then, but he took to life in the forests with enthusiasm. The birds never complained or called him ugly. The bugs never screamed when he came to play with them. The animals became his friends, and the wilds his home. He was happy, and free. In time, Pinesong’s hair did grow in. It’s very thin, and a good breeze shows off his many bald spots, but he’s very proud of it. He keeps it long and refuses to trim it, worried that it won’t grow back. He brushes it all the time and styles it in outlandish hair-dos. His tail is still too short, and never really grew in. He’s also quite chubby and big for a vanara, with a bulging tummy, and a wide, happy, face.
Eventually, Pinesong reached the edge of the woods and found something amazing! A TOWN. They had homes made from dead trees, and could shape the earth into little cute rectangles for making things! Apparently they were called bricks and they were not for throwing. Pinesong was fascinated! He moved in right away, but still finds the ways of the city strange. He doesn’t understand why they get mad when he sleeps on rooftops. Or why they greet him with shrieks and screams. His concepts of ownership are, admittedly, in need of some work. They offered him a home at this place with barred windows, but he got bored so he left. They didn’t like that very much. He loves trying to build beautiful things like the city folk do, but he’s horrible at it. His inventions always malfunction and break, usually causing him to hurt himself. A minor price to pay for mastering a craft!
In time, Pinesong made some great friends. There was a grippli who was delightfully exciting! She thought his big eyes were beautiful, which made him blush all the way to the tips of his wonderfully styled fur. There was an elf who could breathe water! A feat he’d like to accomplish one day! And there was a ratfolk who knew the many intricacies of city life which so eluded him.
One day he found a little pig who was being chased by naughty children with sticks! Pinesong swooped in to save the pig, and he hasn’t left his side since. He’s decided to call the pig ‘Cutie Pie.’ Pinesong loves his curly little tail and his happy squeals. Pinesong was very surprised to find that Cutie Pie is magical! When he asks Cutie Pie for magical power, nature listens, and the magic flows up into Cutie Pie and into Pinesong. It’s pretty cool!
Despite his newfound fascination with city-life, Pinesong cares deeply for the natural world. He wants to protect the many animals, plants, and delicate eco-systems of Golarion. He has a soft spot for lost things, foundlings, and orphans of all kinds. He’s a happy fellow, with a jolly, screeching laugh. He’s a bit oblivious to the intricacies of society, and the cultures around him, but loves learning about such things. He’s constantly trying to make friends, even though most people are creeped out or irritated by him. Despite his goofy demeanour, Pinesong is uncommonly wise, and his group of friends often turn to him for advice, comfort, healing, and guidance.
When I sit down to make characters I come up with a character concept first, then I browse through all the different classes and archetypes that I think might work for them and take notes on which ones I like, why, and how that class choice would affect my character concept. Sereia was no different. As I went through arcanist and a bunch of other casting classes, I decided two extra important things: she would have poor charisma and use a trident. Arcanists sort of need charisma, so I had a bit of an issue. In addition, both of my children had chosen ranged options, and I knew we’d be in need of a melee fighter of some sort. In the end, I decided to make Sereia a magus. It blended my arcane magic with some decent combat capabilities in a way that I enjoy. In addition, I don’t have a magus in PFS play (although I do have a ranged magus in a different play-by-post), so I was excited to get the chance to use one. Arcanist will have to wait for another time. Again. (Poor arcanist!). I decided to give her the hexcrafter archetype. The hexes would which would give her some fun ranged options and, in terms of flavour, Sereia believes herself to be cursed. I liked the idea of reflecting that in her class choices. (The magus and the hexcrafter can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Magic).
Sereia is smart and strong. She’s nimble — though not nearly as much as her companions — and is relatively healthy. She’s impulsive, and prone to acting before thinking. She’s unused to interacting with surface races. Her final statistics are Str 16 / Dex 14 / Con 12 / Int 16 / Wis 10 / Cha 8. As an aquatic elf she’s amphibious, has a base speed of 30 feet, and a swim speed of thirty feet. She’s a naturally gifted arcane caster, and has keen senses. She took the deep sea dweller alternate race trait which gives her dark vision and cold resistance at the expense of low-light vision and her elven immunities. She speaks Aquan, Common, Celestial, and Elven. As a magus she has an arcane pool, spellbook, cantrips, and the spell combat ability. Her archetype adds a variety of curse spells to her spell list, although at the moment she only has brand in her spellbook. At higher levels she’ll also gain access to a variety of witch hexes. The level one spells I chose to add to her spellbook include colour spray, grease, hydraulic push, obscuring mist, shield, and shocking grasp.
I had such a wide array of skills I wanted Sereia to be able to use that I had a hard time narrowing it down. In the end I invested skill ranks into disable device, knowledge (arcana), linguistics, perception, spellcraft, and swim. At her next level up she will diversify a lot, spreading out her ranks to a wide variety of new skills. I chose to give her criminal (disable device) and observant (perception) for her traits, and arcane strike for her feat. In addition to basic adventuring gear I bought her a trident, darts, a few vials of acid, leather armour, and thieve’s tools.
Sereia is a calm and proud aquatic elf with blue skin, long white hair, and a wiry frame. Constantly hot and feeling like typical surfacer clothes are suffocating her, Sereia wears as little clothes as possible to remain ‘decent’ in public. Typically this consists of tiny, tight shorts, a crop top, a belt, sandals and a backpack. While on missions she adds leather armour. She wears golden earrings, and an elaborate golden hair piece — ancient Azlanti relics she scavenged herself on an expedition made before she was cursed. She also wears a thick necklace of shell and coral which her sister made her many years ago. In her hands she carries an elaborate trident.
Sereia is descended from a long line of aquatic elf explorers who ply ancient, sunken ruins in search of relics. The exploration of these locations, and the handling and care of the treasures and lore found within is considered a great honour. However, her people take great pride in knowing when a dangerous ruin, or powerful artifact should be left untouched, and unsullied. Insatiably curious, Sereia revelled in the joy of discovery, and earned a place of respect among her people. For a time. For Sereia’s greatest strength was also her weakness. She was too curious. Too ambitious. Too bold. And it was her downfall. When her exploration team discovered a ruin marked with ominous sigils, they labelled it taboo. Off limits. But Sereia forged ahead. She discovered a strange pearl on an altar, literally pulsing with magical energy. Where others would have backed down, she reached out… and touched it.
Her world fell apart.
The pearl transported her to a strange place where the seafloor was hard, and the oceans were hot air that burned and cracked her skin. She could breathe — thank the gods! — but swimming was off limits with water nowhere in sight. She learned to walk, an exhausting experience, for never before had her body felt so heavy.
And there, on the surface of Golarion, Sereia faced a harsh reality. She had been reckless. She had broken taboos. She had been banished by her own foolishness. Even if she found her way home, she would not be welcome. Not without penance. She needed a great offering for her people. An ancient relic that belonged under the waves, which she could return to her people with pride. And so she set out to acquire such a prize, and — impossibly — find her way home.
Sereia is calm, proud, ambitious, and bold. She’s insatiably curious, and deeply interested in relics, history, and exploration. Since her recklessness brought her to the surface, Sereia believes herself to be cursed by her ancestors or her people’s gods. She was distant and aloof for a very long time, and still seems to be among strangers.She tries to temper her recklessness and curiosity by ponderously thinking things through. A strategy much harder to use since she befriended her strange new friends.
Sereia joined the Pathfinder Society as an excavator and a scholar. She went on missions, but made few friends. She was aloof, and distant. Her fellow agents found her strange — particularly her habit of eating everything raw. She never sought companionship, but in time, it found her.
She met a grippli as curious as she was, who made no effort to reel in her excitement and urges. She met a vanara with a respect for the natural world as deep as her own. And she met a ratfolk who didn’t seem to care he had no place in the world. They befriended her. Changed her. Inspired her. And, in time, she changed them. She sponsored their entry into the Pathfinder Society, and now they work together as a single, very strange, team. With their help, the ancient relic Sereia needs in order to return home has never been closer.
And she’s never wanted it less.
For, what need was there to earn a prize to return home, when she had a family right here in Absalom?
My husband went last. He usually does. It takes him a long time to decide not only on what he’s going to be, but also to come up with some engaging, fun quirks that will keep him interested in his character. In his original character pitch he decided to make a nimble ratfolk shifter name Lomo who chews on everything (including magical objects). He’s stayed very close to that concept. He’s a shifter with the mouse aspect (which will look like a rat in play). (Ratfolk are from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide, while the shifter is available in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness). He’s incredibly nimble. He’s also quite cunning, intelligent, and hardy. His final statistics are Str 10 / Dex 18 / Con 12 / Int 13 / Wis 14 / Cha 10.
As a ratfolk, Lomo is slow, but has darkvision. He’s good with rats, and enjoys tinkering with stuff. He gave up his swarming racial trait to instead have bulging cheek pouches that he likes to hide tasty bits and bobs in. As a shifter he has sharp retractable claws, wild empathy, and (as previously mentioned) the mouse minor aspect, which gives him evasion. He chose the feat weapon finesse, and intends to take shifter’s edge feat tree in the future. He’s a nimble, scrappy shifter, not a bruiser.
Lomo invested skill ranks into acrobatics, climb, knowledge (nature), perception, and stealth. For traits he chose ratfolk avenger, a trait from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Races which gives him +1 damage against enemies he’s seen attack his companions. He’s very protective of his friends! He also chose sacred touch.
Lomo is a rough looking ratfolk with thick gray fur, bright beady eyes, and soft ears. His cheeks bulge out, as if filled with something, and he nibbles on the end of a fancy looking stick. His long hairless tail is crooked from a magical mishap suffered long ago.
Lomo is the eldest son of a powerful and well-respected wizard. His father once took great pride in passing on his magical teachings and excellence to Lomo, who proved completely and totally ungifted in the arcane arts. Disappointed in his son’s failure, Lomo’s father gave up on him, and began training Lomo’s younger brother instead. Jealous, Lomo spent his nights sneaking into his father’s arcane laboratory and library, desperately trying to make the various wands and magical devices work. He failed. A lot. In frustration he gnawed on the objects he failed to activate. A horrible trait which eventually became habitual. To this day Lomo’s constantly chewing on things — including valuable magical objects. One night he found himself chewing on a powerful artifact of his fathers, which crumbled to pieces in his mouth. Horrified and unable to fix it, Lomo set off to find someone who could.
He left with his friend, Croak, and eventually became companions with Pinesong and Sereia. When Sereia offered to sponsor their entry into the Pathfinders, the trio took her up on her offer. Now the group works together. He’s become very protective of them and, whenever they’re hurt, he tends to shriek “OH, NO YOU DIDN’T!” and go a little… feral.
Lomo desperately wants to be a member of the Dark Archives, but keeps getting turned down. They won’t let him anywhere near the relics. Still, he’s hopeful he’ll not only get in, but he’ll come to lead them one day! Despite his troubles with the Dark Archive, Lomo’s a good Pathfinder Agent. He’s nosy, curious, and good at getting into places he shouldn’t.
Lomo is a nimble, scrappy ratfolk who is constantly gnawing on things — particularly magical objects. He’s greedy,nosy, and a little self-centred — but not obviously so. He tries to be friendly, but it always comes off a bit desperate and awkward. He’s the street-wise member of the group. Lomo knows how the world works and how to get by in it.
And that’s our quirky crew! Together they would do…. stuff! But, that’s not it. In the contest we could choose to write a song for bonus points, which we did. Songs and poetry are not my forte. I love to sing (badly), play the piano (I’m not very good), and dance (with my family). And yes, a lot of the time I burst into spontaneous songs made up off the top of my head. But that doesn’t mean they’re any good. They’re usually jokes, or lullabies, or just a song about my kids, or what we’re doing. Writing a song is outside of my comfort zone. But, we went for it. My son wanted to add jokes into the song, and my daughter wanted it to have a lot of animal sounds (since we were nearly all animal people of one kind or another). And I just… sort of tried to put it together.
Our song’s a mess. Which is exactly how it should be. It’s a song written by Croak the grippli, and sung by the whole team. But, like any group of friends, a song’s not just a song. It’s interspersed with conversation, heckling, and a fair amount of confusion! It’s a song, but it’s also them singing it. Enjoying it. And messing it up. It’s a work in progress that will never be perfect. And even if it could be, they wouldn’t want it that way.
A super wonderful amazing song…
Everyone: Croak! Croak! Oo! Oo! Ee! We like swamps and we like trees! Whee! Wahoo! Sniffle scrounge! We like to play and we like to lounge!
Croak: “Wait! What? I don’t like to lounge! That’s boring!” Lomo: “Nothing wrong with sitting still once in a while, Croak.” Sereia: “Sniffle? Is someone sick?” Croak: “Nope! That’s Lomo! His nose twitches like crazy.” Lomo: “Hey! I’m not some hound dog, ya’ know!” Pinesong: “Mmm… Treeeees… Oh, yeah! I love a good climb!” Sereia: “Oh, dear. I’m not sure I can climb a tree. My limbs are far too heavy to — “ Croak: “Come on! Back to the song guys!”
Everyone: Boing! Boing! Ribbit! Croak! Croak! Croak! Time to splash and time to soak! Nibble Nibble! Whisper! Sing! We love adventure! What will the tomorrow bring?
Sereia: “We should call ourselves the Children of the Waves.” Croak: “Waves? The swamp doesn’t have waves! Let’s call ourselves the Bog Jumpers!” Sereia: “Bog? Ugh, that water’s filthy.” Pinesong: “It’s not filthy! Bog’s are a very important eco-system, you know.” Lomo: “Yeah, yeah. For bugs and junk, maybe. Let’s call ourselves The Rat Kings!” Croak: “Kings? I want to be Queens!” Sereia: “Rat Queens? That’s taken already, dear.” Pinesong: “Aaaaand, cue the finale!”
Everyone: Chitter, chatter! Talk, talk, talk! We swim, we climb, we dance and walk! We’re all different. We’re not the same. But we’re all friends!
Croak: “Something, something… aim?” Pinesong: “That’s not it! Think of something else… tame? blame?” Sereia: “I don’t like any of those words. Let’s think positive.” Lomo: “Pfft! Songs don’t have to rhyme! Conformity’s lame.” Croak: “That did rhyme.” Lomo: “Nope. Definitely didn’t.” Sereia: “It certainly did.” Pinesong: “I’ve got it! Everybody smile!?”
Croak: “Wow! Great job! That was an awesome ending! Sereia: “The end is where we’re supposed to stop talking, dear.” Croak: “Stop? Aww, shucks! I’ll stop when —“ Lomo: *nibble nibble* Sereia: “Are you chewing on a stick?” *GASP* “Spit that wand out this instant!” Lomo: “Hey, if it ain’t meant for chewing, its shouldn’t taste this good.” Sereia: “No respect for history…”
(Note: The Rat Queens are an amazing fantasy comic book series which you should definitely read! It is by far my favourite comic book currently in print. Scratch that. It’s my favourite comic book EVER. So good! Be forewarned: it is not intended for children. The Rat Queens begins with Rat Queens: Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery.)
Despite singing about naming our group, they’re perpetually nameless. I highly doubt they’ll ever agree on a name for themselves.
So what’s this weird, wacky, nameless team up to?
We were lucky enough that a fellow play-by-poster offered to run us through our inaugural mission as Pathfinders! We’ll be starting Heroes for Highdelve online on Paizo’s website soon.
At the request of our GM, and in order to better link ourselves to the plot line of Heroes for Highdelve, each of us decided on a reason we were heading there, and something that we were seeking. Shockingly (not) my daughter managed to make hers include rabbits.
One day, Croak found a toy store that sold stuffed rabbits. Croak thought they were beautiful! So she bought one! But, she had trouble deciding which one was the prettiest so she bought a lot! She put them in her waterproof bag — so they wouldn’t get wet — and went about her business in town with Lomo. She danced and played, and climbed on roofs and wagons — and got scolded by the people who owned those things. Then she reached for a rabbit toy to play with it. BUT IT WAS GONE! Somewhere along the way Croak had put down the bag! She looked everywhere for itand asked all kinds of people. Eventually she realized she had left it on top of a carriage! Croak tried to track down the carriage, but it was too fast! Adventure awaits! Croak has been following the wagon’s trail and tracked it to Highdelve. She hopes to find the carriage and get back her bag of stuffed rabbits! Who know what will happen along the way!
Pinesong recently helped out at an animal shelter, where he found homes for a variety of animals. Happy he was so helpful, Pinesong went out around town to check on the pets. Unfortunately, one of the people he sold some pigs to turned out to be a merchant who was on his way to Highdelve to sell the pigs to a butcher shop! Pinesong knows that people tend to eat meat, but those pigs were NOT for eating! They were for lovng! Pinesong has set out to stop the salesman from selling the pigs at the fair in Highdelve! (Or, to at least ensure they get sold to someone who won’t eat them!)
Sereia has recently been searching for a coral idol of Gozreh which was fished up out of a ruin off the coast of Andoran by an elderly fisherman. The idol was sold a few times before it got in the hands of an antiquities smuggler by the name of Jacobi. Always a few steps behind the idol, Sereia hopes to catch up the the smuggler in Highdelve so she can acquire the idol before it is sold. And, if she’s too late, she’s hopeful she can at least get the name of the person Jacobi sold the relic to.
While Lomo’s in Highdelve with his friends, he hopes to find a magical craftsman capable of fixing his father’s artifact. Having been let down before, he’s not hopeful.
Unbeknownst to Lomo his father’s artifact is, and always has been, a fake. It can’t be fixed, because it was never magical in the first place. And if it was? Well, obviously it would have taken something stronger than his teeth to break it. If only Lomo had paid a bit more attention to his father’s lessons…
NOW that’s it. The end.
Or, is it the beginning?
Either way, we’ve had a blast.
Thanks for joining us on d20diaries. I hope you have the opportunity to find a gaming group as great and fun-loving as I have.
Well, hello, world! Today’s a big day around the d20 Diaries family! So crack out your party hats and get ready to clap. I want to hear you all the way in Canada.
To start with, it’s the beginning of another school year. My daughter is entering grade one so this marks the first year she’ll be in school all day long, the first year she’ll be enjoying recess, and the first year she’ll be staying for lunch. My daughter loves school, so she couldn’t be happier! She’s bouncing in excitement and smiling so big her cheeks will probably hurt by days end. And as for my son? My son is entering grade two and although he’s happy to get to see his friends… Well, he’d rather stay home and play video games. Haha. He’s growing up so fast!
But, we’re celebrating not just the start of another school year for my children. Oh, no! We’re also celebrating our one hundredth post! That’s right. Cue the happy, cheering crowds!
Thank you, thank you… Hold your applause.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re still new around here. We’ve only been around nine months. Yup! Just nine. d20 Diaries is still in it’s infancy. There’s plenty more features we hope to add in the future, and more stories we hope to share. There’s a pile of articles waiting to be fleshed out, and many, many more adventures to be had. So for us, one hundred is a BIG DEAL.
d20 Diaries has become something bigger and grander than I could have ever imagined. We have some followers through wordpress, a lot through email, and regular readers from all over the world. Sometimes we get visitors from places I admit to never having heard of, which causes me to smile, think ‘that’s awesome!’ and look that country up. Clearly I’ve got to brush up on my world geography! Our views are increasing regularly and each time we get a comment I still squeal in surprise and delight. (Seriously).
The future’s looking bright!
So while I drink my celebratory cup of tea, and my kids get ready for another school day, let’s all raise our drinks and let out a cheesy ‘CLINK’ sound. Cheers, guys!
Thanks for reading. We appreciate it more than you know!
Well, it took about a week, but Paizo’s website is finally up and running properly. Oh. Actually, it’s down again. Haha. Well, it was up for a day, at least. (You can do it, Paizo!).
It was strange, having my play-by-posts out of reach for so long. But, I got plenty of others things done. I got by house in order, helped my Mom move, and got my kids prepared for the new school year (which starts in another week and a half). I saw my youngest brother for his birthday. He asked for books and some socks, so I picked him up Naruto socks, Akasuki socks, and two books I thought he’d like: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which is also an awesome movie, by the way), and the first three books in The Legend of Drizzt series (Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn) by R. A. Salvatore. Drizzt’s origins are actually my favourite books he’s in, and my brother’s never read them. (Blasphemy! Haha). I think he’ll really like them. While we were shopping I found an awesome Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Coloring Book which I was super tempted to pick up for my kids (but didn’t). Maybe I’ll buy it for one of them for Christmas in a few months. Haha.
My daughter and I finished creating our newest Pathfinder Society characters, Croak and Sereia, whom we won race boons for, and my husband and son are about halfway done theirs. My daughter completed creating her second character for the Pathfinder Playtest adventure Doomsday Dawn, and I’ve just started mine. I got a lot of reading done, and have a few extra blog posts underway already. Be on the lookout for posts about Starfinder: Pact Worlds (I know, I’m slow, haha) and Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea in the coming days.
I never have time for video games anymore, but with my play-by-posts down my kids and I started playing one of my very favourite video games of all time: Chrono Cross for the PlayStation. I was a kid when I played it the first time, and it literally blew my mind. Twist after twist I was just… Stunned. It’s got time travel, alternate dimensions, death, life, fate, a ton of NPCs you can get to join your party (many of which you meet well before you can convince them to join you), and (perhaps the coolest part) halfway through the game, after rallying friends and allies to help you defeat the villain, you have an epic confrontation which culminates with the villain using a magical ritual to swap your minds around. Your mind goes into his body and his goes into yours. All of a sudden those friends and allies are hanging around with the villain, trying to fight you. And you? Well, at least you don’t have to worry about fighting all those minions of the villain anymore. Cause they’re yours now. Sort of. Haha. So, if all your good friends are doing the work of the bad guy now, and they think they’re still doing good, but you and the other villains are working to stop them, are they still good guys? As a kid, I was amazed. Haha. Anyway, I started the game, which made my kids want to try, so we each started our own file. They’ve already reached the first big twist in the game, and were so shocked. They concocted a whole lot of crazy theories in an effort to figure out what’s going on. It’s adorable to watch. It’s been fun. I definitely owe fellow play-by-poster PaleDim a shout out for getting the music from Chrono Cross stuck in my head the other day. (Thanks!)
My husband and kids have been watching Voltron since it launched on Netflix quite a while ago, so they took the opportunity to delve into the newest season. One of the episodes was absolutely hilarious. The characters play a mock version of Dungeons and Dragons called ‘Monsters and Mana’ which is just a blast. I particularly like the GMs in campaign twists, and that one of the characters just kept playing a paladin no matter how many times he died. The other characters kept pointing out that he was a paladin in real life, so maybe he should try something else, but he thought that was absurd. There’s nothing better than a paladin, after all! My kids, my husband and I were laughing so hard. If you ever get a chance to watch Voltron Season 6: Episode 3: Monsters and Mana you should definitely take it! (It’s from the remake on Netflix, in case that needed clarifying, not the original show from when my husband was a kid, haha.)
Recently my husband suggested we build our own starships out of LEGO for use in Starfinder starship battles , which we all thought was an awesome idea. I’ve always loved playing with LEGO, but I wouldn’t say I’m great at it. I’m more of a ‘follow the directions’ or ‘build a square house’ kind of girl. But, I took to the challenge with aplomb! Turns out I did a pretty good job! My kids made some really nice ones. But, my husband turned out to be the LEGO Master of the house. Most of our ships came out way too big, but we had a lot of fun.
Well, it’s time for me to sign off now. I’m at the local laundromat and my laundry’s almost done. I’ll leave you with some pictures of our wonderful LEGO starships!
Way back in March I shared my family’s experiences creating their first Starfinder characters. We had a lot of fun making a kooky crew, and tried them out a bit before deciding they would join the Starfinder Society. There were some changes that needed to be made. Tucker was a halfling, which would have to change, but otherwise the transition went smoothly. Then we sat down and played Into the Unknown. Life got busy. We moved on to play Starfinder Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth, which was great fun.
So today, when I turned on my computer with the intent of writing a blog post, my daughter put her little hands on her hips and said, “Mom, you did not write about our Wayfinders in a long time! You need to do that.”
Has it really been that long?
Yup! It certainly has.
And so, at my daughter’s insistence, we’re rejoining the crew of Infinity and heading out into the Vast! So strap in, and get ready for wild ride!
Our crew consisted of three mercenaries and a single Starfinder Agent. The Starfinder Agent Hoponisa (Hops for short), is a ysoki technomancer from the dark side of Verces who loves to dance. She’s on a mission to find herself the ‘perfect mate’ and is handy both in the pilot’s chair, the engineering bay, and at a computer console. She has a robot rabbit dubbed ‘Snowball’ who is a glorified computer with some minor mobility that she crafted herself, then wrapped in fuzzy faux fur for ultimate cuddle-ability. It’s also her spell cache. Hops is a member of the Wayfinders faction who acts as a contact with a specific group of mercenaries — the other PCs. Together, Hops and her hired help travel the Vast, deploying drift beacons for credits at the behest of the Wayfinders. After discovering new planets, collecting data on their environments, and deploying drift beacons, the group prepares a report on the planet for the Wayfinders, which allows the spacefaring faction to better prepare proper Starfinder teams for further exploration on these locations. The mercenaries make some decent credits, and the Wayfinders get to expand their influence without using up valuable Starfinder resources and personnel.
Hops and the crew of the Pegasus Class ship, Infinity, have gone on plenty of missions together. Led by their Captain Aya, a wise, enigmatic kasatha mystic who believes that every life is precious, they’ve charted planets and discovered new places. Their roles on the starship change a lot, with the rest of the crew rotating between pilot, engineer, science officer, and gunner as the mood strikes them. Aya and Hops are joined by Tucker Aetherfoot, a ysoki operative with the daredevil speciality who’s nimble, acrobatic, and full of boundless energy. He wears a t-shirt with a shirren design on it (to represent his long-time friendship with the shirren Vishkesh), and wears a racing helmet with a rose-tinted visor and stylized mouse ears on the side (which was given to him by Hops as a birthday gift). Tucker’s insatiably curious, and runs a blog in his spare time about his experiences exploring the Vast. He’s a devout Desnan from Absalom Station, prone to dancing when he’s idle too long. …Even in the middle of a mission. Lastly, there’s Vishkesh, a shirren mechanic with a little flying spy drone named Rijin. Rijin is trained to help Vishkesh with repairing starships, and is also outfitted with a flare gun. He’s a chipper little thing, with a bubbly artificial personality. Vishkesh has a fondness to caring for (and rescuing) larval shirren, and currently has a dozen dangling off of him in their protective canisters at all times. Vishkesh is the proud owner of a pig stuffed animal — a rare creature he’s never seen in in the flesh! He’s also from Absalom Station, and is a long time friend of Tucker’s. Vishkesh worships Hylax.
Recently a fellow scouting ship hired by the Starfinders, Unbounded Wayfarer, went missing. Worried for their friends and fellow mercenaries Aya, Tucker, and Vishkesh urged Hops to inquire with Venture-Captain Arvin after the other ship’s status. The news? Bad.
The crew of the Infinity were dispatched to find the Unbounded Wayfarer, save them (if possible), and return with the information they had acquired on their recent voyages. The mission was different than anything they had done for the Starfinders before, but they accepted. They made friends along the way, particularly with a vesk pawn-broker by the name of Julzakama, and a family of enterprising ysoki who run the Vat Gardens. They fought their way through undead from Eox, alien creatures, and space pirates. In the end they discovered that their friends from the Unbounded Wayfarer were dead. They retrieved their bodies, the information they had discovered, and learned of a few planets worth exploring. Then they returned to Absalom Station to report to Venture-Captain Arvin, and mourn the loss of good friends.
Upon completion of their mission, Arvin offered the crew of the Infinity a rare opportunity. He would sponsor their entry into the Starfinders as actual agents, then he would grant them right of first exploration on all of the planets that they had received intelligence on from their companion’s ship. Aya, Tucker, and Vishkesh did some soul searching, and decided to officially join the Wayfinders faction of the Starfinders on the condition that they would always work as a team, and they would retain their ship.
With the bargain struck, the crew of the Infinity spent a bit of time in Absalom Station resting and upgrading their ship to meet Starfinder standards. They interviewed fellow Starfinder agents, eventually hiring two rookies to assist them with rounding out their crew: Gizdara, a half-orc technomancer who’s a whiz with computers, and Diggs Drifthopper, a burly ‘rabbitfolk’ whose planet was conquered by the Vesk years ago. Diggs was forced into the military, but was recently allowed his freedom and was looking for work. He’s good with a gun, but not much else (which he can’t use in SFS play, as a non-combatant hireling, haha). Still, my daughter insisted on hiring him because he was destined to be Hops’ mate. (Uhhh… Okay? Haha). Diggs’ job is mostly to watch the ship while we’re away from it.
With their crew rounded out Infinity set off into the Vast to check out the first of the planets their friends on the Unbounded Wayfarer had discovered before dying. This planet was called Elytrio, and was reported to be protected by powerful automated defences. Hops took the pilot’s chair, and Captain Aya gave her the order to set off. Gizdara programmed the coordinates into the ship’s databanks. Vishkesh and Rijin headed down to the engineering room to ensure the ship was in tip-top shape. And Diggs wandered around aimlessly. As they entered the Drift the stars outside became replaced by a swirling mass of colours and motion. The journey was underway….
After ten days they came into communication range of another ship.
“Registration information?” Aya asked Gizdara.
The half-orc techie clicked away at her console for a few seconds. “Identified as Clutter Collector. It has docking certifications for Absalom Station. Looks like a salvage barge run by a ysoki called Winks.”
Aya considered this a moment. “Open communications.”
“Got it. Hailing the Clutter Collector.” Gizdara replied.
The rest of the crew gathered round just as Winks appeared on the view screen. “Hey, pal! The name’s Winks! I’ve been in the Drift 25 days, and I am BORED!” the ysoki exclaimed. “SO happy to meet ya’! You?”
Aya chatted with Winks for a minute before passing control of the comms over to her crew. Hops, Tucker, and Vishkesh all had a blast chatting away with the ysoki and his familial crew. But, after about an hour, they were nearly out of range of each other.
“Thanks for the chatter,” Winks said with a wink. “You can save my frequency. Maybe we’ll chat again in the future, eh?”
And with a crackle of static, he was gone.
“Out of communication range,” Gizdara announced.
“Thank you,” replied Aya. “End transmission.”
The crew headed back to their normal routine, performing their duties, eating, gaming, dancing and chatting. Nine days later they exited the Drift. Seeing the blackness of space and its brightly twinkling stars for the first time in weeks, the crew heaved a sigh of relief.
“The Drift makes me nervous,” Diggs admitted. “This is how space is supposed to be.”
Hops laughed. “Space is beautiful! But, we can’t travel like this all the time! We’d never get anywhere!”
“To your stations,” Aya announced. “Hops, prepare for approach. Vishkesh and Rijin, begin pre-descent systems check. Gizdara and Tucker, what can you discern about the planet?”
Everyone got to work, and soon Tucker grinned. “Elytrio is the fourth planet orbiting an unnamed sun. It has two barren moons, but I’m seeing minor energy fluctuations. There might be the remains of an installation up there. Whatever it is, it’s no longer functioning.” Tucker clicks a few more buttons on the computer console before continuing. “As for the planet itself… looks like some kind of wasteland. I’m seeing blasted deserts, strong winds, and higher than normal levels of radiation. Nothing harmful, but we should activate our armour’s environmental defences just in case. Air is breathable, gravity normal. …I’m not seeing any plants or water, and little signs of animal life. I’m not detecting any settlements left or — wait! I’ve pinpointed a large energy output from what seems to be a fully functioning city in the Southern Hemisphere. My readings indicate that the city has a level of technology similar to the Pact Worlds, though it seems… outdated. It’s hard to learn more. The entire city and surrounding area it is encased in a powerful force field.”
Aya nodded. “Thank you, Tucker. Gizdara, try to find us a safe landing zone near the city. Tucker, triangulate suitable locations on the planet’s surface to deploy four drift beacons. Let’s get this planet on the grid, shall we?”
“Got it!” Tucker replied.
“Vishkesh, prepare for battle. We’ll be making our descent any minute, and I want to be ready for the planet’s automated defences.” Aya ordered calmly.
“Check!” Vishkesh replied.
“I am happy to be useful!” Rijin added in an overly happy voice. “Oh, yeah! The joy is filling me up!”
“Now listen children,” Vishkesh told his larval shirren. “This is how we activate our ship’s shields. First press this… and then…”
“Hops, take us down.”
“On it, Captain!” Hops exclaimed.
Infinity began its approach… After only a few minutes, a loud klaxon alarm sounded.
“Approaching ship!” Tucker exclaimed. “Scanning it now!”
“Incoming transmission!” Gizdara announced.
“Play it over the comms.” Aya replied.
The message that played over their speakers was in a crackling, robotic voice. It’s language was foreign and unknown to them, but the tone seemed serious.
“It’s a warning,” Aya announced. “Gizdara, activate the tetrad certified translator. I want to know what it’s saying.”
“The message won’t be enough for the translator to get a handle on the language.” Gizdara retorted.
“It’s a start.”
The message repeated a few more times, then cut out in a crackle of distortions and static, like a corrupted audio file. Only the proximity alert continued to chime, breaking the silence with an irritating whine.
Suddenly, a hemispherical ship emitting a ring of red light from the edges of its lower hull came into view.
“Ship in sight!” Tucker exclaimed.
Vishkesh quickly examined it. “Intel was accurate. It’s a launch platform. Fully automated. Unmanned. Feel free to blow it up without worry!”
“Confirmed! Not reading any signs of life inside the ship.” Tucker added. “Take over Gizdara, I’ll man the guns!” With a grin, Tucker nodded at Diggs. “Come on, pal. Make yourself useful. We’ve got more than one gun.”
Tucker and Diggs hurried over to the gun controls as the enemy ship began to open.
“It’s launching a combat drone.”
Aya let out a sigh. She preferred to avoid a fight whenever possible. Still, at least the only loss of life they had to worry about was their own. “Engage.”
Hops tore off through space at breakneck speed as Tucker and Diggs fired at the launch platform. (GM Comment: technically, it was only Tucker. As a hireling Diggs cannot actually aid in battle. I only described him doing so in session for flavour).
The battle was a tricky one, and the launch platform managed to deploy three combat drones before we destroyed it. The combat drones stood little chance after that. My daughter had great fun flying our ship and acting as pilot, but did need help to properly move the ship and select her fancy flight maneuvers. My son rather enjoyed being engineer with his drone (which is my personal favourite starship role). My husband’s character is a solid gunner, and even when firing an extra gun most rounds he managed to do a number on the enemy fighters. And me? I enjoyed bossing everyone around with serene, super serious commands. I even put on my serious face for the occasion. Haha. We made use of Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield for this battle, which I highly recommend picking up if you don’t already own it.
With the enemy drones defeated, Vishkesh examined the wreckage for information and made a few nifty discoveries. Although outdated, there were some interesting algorithms in the platform’s programming which would be helpful in improving their own automated defences. Soon Infinity continued its descent to the planet.
Due to our characters backstory we had some tasks to accomplish before landing (in addition to completing our actual mission). With Tucker’s coordinates, we set out to deploy some drift beacons on Elytrio. This was a fun way to provide some hints to the planet’s purpose and past without hitting my family over the head with a massive information dump. The first deployment location was a rocky mesa on top of a small mountaintop. From there the crew found the remains of a destroyed city on an uneven plateau near the base of the mountain. They discovered that it had been blown up long ago and eroded over the centuries. At our second location the group found themselves on a dried up lake-bed, which gave them some clues to Elytrio’s past eco-systems. They also discovered a new species of bug scurrying across the ground, which Tucker collected for further study, and some razor sharp weeds that they thought would easily be blown around by the wind and could cause some irritating cuts and wounds. The third location was in the desert beside a metal spire. They discovered the spire was the antenna or technological device that topped a building of some kind. After some examining from Vishkesh, he deduced that this was a power relay that sent energy and messages to a distant loctation just outside the atmosphere. Likely one of Elytrio’s two barren moons. Interesting!
The final drift beacon location was also going to be our final landing site. It was located as close to the city’s force field as we could get. After setting up the beacon in the desert wastes the group bid Diggs and Gizdara goodbye, leaving them behind to keep and eye on the starship. Then Aya, Hops, Snowball, Tucker, Vishkesh, and Rijin set off across the sands towards the city’s glowing forcefield.
Suddenly there was a shifting in the sands… a grumble of the earth… and a massive beast that looked like an oversized lion with a beige mane and a body covered in dark brown scales leapt out of the sand and chomped at Tucker! It had a stubby face with a maw filled with razor sharp fangs, and a long, segmented tail.
“Aaaah!” Tucker exclaimed as he dodged out of the way. “We’ve got company!”
“Bad kitty!” Rijin scolded the sand brute in an overly happy robot voice.
“Yeah!” Vishkesh said with a nod. “BAD CAT! SHOO!”
The creature let out a terrifying roar. Hops’ eyes widened in fear. “Let’s get out of here!”
“Hold your ground!” Aya commanded. “If you run it will follow. Weapons out. Engage!”
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He fired a shot at the sand brute with his azimuth laser pistol, only for the creature’s hide to reflect the blast. Tucker let out a surprised shriek and ducked, causing the reflected laser beam to strike the sand right behind him. “It’s got a reflective hide!”
“No lasers,” Aya quickly commanded.
Vishkesh gave Rijin a nod. “Battle mode, Rijin!”
Rijin’s little metal hands waved around in excitement, drew a flare gun and loaded it. “Okay! I am so happy to be engaging in deadly battle with you today!”
Vishkesh stroked his multiple guns. “Oh, my… Decisions, decisions! This feels like a flame-thrower moment to me!” He pulled out his flamethrower, took aim, and unleashed a torrent of fire at the sand beast. The creature howled in pain.
Aya drew her battle staff and gave it a whirl. It spun through the air with a ‘whoosh’ sound. “I’ll distract the creature. Keep up the assault at range.” With her orders given, Aya dashed into honourable battle against the sand brute. She swung her battle staff, striking the beast in it’s forelimb. It growled in pain and bit at her, but she knocked it’s jaws out of the way with her staff — the first time. It growled and snapped at her again, tearing into the flesh on one of her four arms.
Hops nodded at Snowball. “Let’s hop to it!” she exclaimed (my daughter giggled in glee at her rabbit joke). Then she got to spell casting! She fired an icy cold ray of energy at the monster, while Snowball hopped around her feet.
Meanwhile, Tucker frowned. “But I only have laser guns!” He holstered his gun, drew his survival knife and took a deep breath. “Let’s dance!” (my daughter giggled in glee at my husband’s dancing joke). Tucker dove and tumbled across the battlefield and joined Aya in melee combat, stabbing at the sand brute as he danced around it. Aya whacked it with her staff, while Rijin and Vishkesh burnt it up with their flame-throwers and flare guns.
The battle was surprisingly short, but we took heavy damage. Aya had to cast multiple healing spells on the group, and use up some resolve to utilize her healing channel ability. Yesteryear’s Truth makes use of Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Terrain for this encounter, but (since I don’t own that) we used Pathfinder Flip Mat: Bigger Basic instead.
With the beast finally down she moved to cast another healing spell, only to see figures surround them. They were small beetle-like people with hard outer shells and protruding mandibles. They wore tattered cloaks and big goggles over their eyes. In their hands they held rifles, but they did not aim them. Instead, one of the bug-men approached and spoke.
Unable to understand, Aya pulled out the translator again, and got it working. It would take ten minutes of conversation, but eventually it would be able to translate simple sentences back and forth between the common tongue and… whatever the bug-men were speaking. It sounded the same as the language transmitted by the defence platform.
Aya led the crew through some pantomime in order to put the bug-people at ease. In time, they approached closer and the translator began to work. They learned that these people were called -untranslatable word-
For the record, I had great fun roleplaying the translators capabilities in this adventure, and the interactions of the group. It was awesome to watch my kids try to puzzle out messages that wouldn’t get garbled or messed up in translation, and to pantomime and act when translation was inadequate. So much fun!
Eventually they earned enough of the leader’s trust that Aya was allowed to cast a spell upon him (share language), which granted the bug-leader, Dystane, the ability to speak and understand Common, Kasathan, and Akitonian. From there, communication got much easier. They learned that the bug-people were known as ghibrani, and that this group were hunters, out scouring the deserts for food for their tribe. Aya offered the ghibrani the corpse of the sand brute and together they helped haul the lion-monster back to the ghibrani’s home. The crew was surprised to discover that was in the opposite direction of the city. Interesting!
Still, they all prioritized befriending the locals over investigating a city they might not be able to a access, so they followed the ghibrani into the desert without fuss. After half an hour they came to a drab cliff pockmarked with holes and cracks. More ghibrani crawled in and out of the crevices, which were clearly serving as their homes. Most of them wore plain scraps of clothing, while a few also wore make-shift goggles and carried a battered old gun in a holster at their side. There was a tiny, little garden off to the side which was clearly in poor health. That it was growing at all in these conditions caused Aya to raise an eyebrow ridge in surprise. There was also a crumbling well nearby, and a pair of older looking ghibrani wearing colourful necklaces who were surrounded by ghibrani children. It looked like they were telling them a story, or perhaps educating them.
At the sight of the hunters returning with a massive sand brute, the ghibrani cheered — until they noticed the weird strangers that accompanied them. Then the little beetle-people shrieked and scurried into their caves in a panic. Only the two elderly ghibrani and the few armed with guns remained in sight.
Dystane spoke to the elders in their harsh, chittering language while the the translator tried its best to keep up.
“Greeting brother -untranslatable word- sister -untranslatable word-. I will that mother -untranslatable word- watch you close. Find strangers who kill sand brute. Gift to us. Food. Many. “
The conversation continued and Dystane gestured the PCs forward. “This is Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir. They serve Mother Touloo and lead our colony. Come. I will assist with translating.”
Everyone introduced themselves, then my family began asking questions of the ghibrani. They were surprised to find that none of the ghibrani asked questions of them! Turns out that Mother Touloo was a god who promised to save the ghibrani if they left behind the comforts of civilization and lived a life of hardship in the deserts. Although the ghibrani were happy to receive visitors — a joyous event which had only happened twice in recent memory — they were not interested in learning about whatever comforts and technologies the strangers from the sky possessed.
After only a short conversation Brother Koseemo beckoned at the caves and chittered some more.
The translator tried it’s best. “Stop speak. No deep speak. Welcome return hunter special ceremony. Happy feelings follow participate.”
Dystane’s mandibles clacked. “Brother Koseemo says that before we can speak in depth our people must perform the Welcoming. This is a special ritual where we officially receive our returning hunters. We would be overjoyed if you would join us.”
Aya bowed respectfully. “We would be honoured.”
The others agreed and soon were ushered into a large cave in the cliff. It was stuffy inside, with a fire burning in the centre of the room. It was surrounded by ghibrani, all standing in lines. There were a few piles of furs and leathers around the edges of the room where some ghinbrani set up drums and instruments made of stone and hide. Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir crossed the room and stood at the opposite side of the entrance, while the hunters and the PCs waited at the cave mouth. There was some chittering, which the translator couldn’t quite translate from across the room, and then the ghibrani began to play a surprisingly stately tune. There was some waving, some bowing, and then the lines of the ghibrani — including the hunters — began a clearly choreographed processional dance. A few of the ghibrani looked at them expectantly.
“They want us to join in,” Aya explained.
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He watched the dancers for a moment and then began to mimc their movements. A natural dancer, and incredibly graceful, Tucker caught on incredibly quick and was soon dancing even better than the locals. Hops, who loved dancing nearly as much as Tucker, noticed the patterns in the ghibrani movements and joined in with confidence. Vishkesh and Aya tried to join in, but proved incapable of mimicking the ghibrani’s movements, despite their best efforts. As the dance drew to a close the ghibrani cheered and clapped. A few hurried over to Hops and Tucker and drew them into hugs as family. They chittered at Tucker, who had added a few creative flourishes to the dance.
“You teach us rhythmic movement pretty,” the translator announced.
Tucker smiled and tried to teach the ghibrani some of his dance moves. Hops joined in and the pair had a ball. Vishkesh approached the musicians and enquired after their instruments (with Dystane assisting as translator). As he attempted to learn about their music Aya wandered the room nodding her head in greeting at the ghibrani. Everywhere she looked was poverty and hunger. She beckoned Dystane join her, then approached Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir.
“I understand Mother Touloo protects you because you choose to live here. It is a hard life, yes? You seem to be proud, capable survivors. But, tell me. Survival is taking what you can when you can find it, yes? We have plenty of food on our starship — ” She considered her words before continuing. “On our moving home. May I bring you some food in exchange for your hospitality? As an offering to your people?”
Dystane translated and the elders chittered at each other for a while. Eventually Dystane nodded at Aya. “You are one of us now. Ghibrani welcomed home. Here we share all that we have with one another. We accept your offer of food and in exchange call you Hunter. This is a great honour. But, please, keep your other comforts on this ‘moving home’ of yours. We will accept nothing else.”
Aya nodded. “Thank you.” Then she fetched Vishkesh who clapped his hands happily at the news. The duo went outside and contacted Gizdara and Diggs on their communicators, telling them to move the ship closer — but not within sight of the caves. Then they began unloading food for their new friends. Tucker and Hops soon came out to help, as did Dystane. At the sight of their ship he stood stunned for a moment and turned around, pointedly refusing to look at the technological marvel any longer. After a few trips to and from the ship, the PCs returned to the party to find themselves welcomed with cheers. A few children had already snuck into the food stores and were eating flavoured protein sticks with excitement — a joyous event which the nearby ghibrani pretended not to notice.
As the festivities continued they were approached by a strange ghibrani. Where the others were short and stocky looking, this ghibrani was tall and slender. Where the others were brown, this ghibrani was blue. And where the others clambered and climbed over everything, this ghibrani flew. The ghibrani held a hand to its throat and then pointed at Vishkesh’s. Curious, Vishkesh went closer. The ghibrani cast a spell and then placed a hand on Vishkesh’s throat. Then she did the same to the others. With a clack of her mandibles she said “Greetings, strangers from the sky. I am Klarima. You are different from any I have met before. Are you a Husk or a Membrane among your people?”
Despite that the ghibrani had spoken in her native tongue, everyone understood her perfectly. With a wide grin Hops introduced everyone, then she asked, “What are Husk and Membranes? And why do you look so different than everyone else?”
Klarima clapped her hands. “If you do not know of Membranes and Husks, then surely you must be uneducated Husks! This makes sense. Do not worry about your lack of knowledge. I will teach you. Membranes like myself know much.”
Klarima explained that long ago a great war raged across Elytrio’s many ghibrani nations. Their weapons killed each other and most living creatures across the planet. Arkeost was the name of one of the cities that survived, locked behind a powerful forcefield. That was Klarima’s home. Some of the surviving ghibrani chose to worship a new god — their Mother Touloo — who promised them protection if they lived in the wastes. Due to the radiation, these ghibrani lost the use of their wings and became known by the citizens of Arkeost as Husks. The other ghibrani stayed in Arkeost and became known as Membranes by the Husks. Apparently Arkeost was a city of automated luxury, where the citizens want and work for nothing. All is provided for them.
“Unfortunately, I have been afflicted with a severe case of wanderlust!” Klarima joked. “I wanted to see the world outside of Arkeost, but I was wounded by soarnettles. Foolish of me, I know. The Husks bandaged my wounds and gave me shelter, but I was hoping to return home soon. This place is…. not to my liking.”
The group was grateful for the information, and thanked Klarima.
“Can we accompany you?” Tucker asked. “We were hoping to view Arkeost ourselves.”
“Oh, I would enjoy that very much! You will be the first Husks to visit Arkeost since the separation!”
Hops laughed. “We’re not Husks, Klarima.”
“Oh? You can fly?”
“Then you are Husks! I am sad for you, of course. But you should accept your heritage.”
Aya looked around the cave, then at the frail looking membrane. “I do not wish to burden our hosts with accommodating all of us. I suggest we offer our gratitude and then some of us retire to our starship.” She looked at her crew, who nodded at her in turn. Then she continued, “Would you like to see our ship, Klarima? You may spend the night with us, and we can fly to your city at dawn. I will spend the night with the Husks.”
Klarima clapped her hands in glee, clearly happy at the thought of leaving the caves. “I would like that very much.”
So the group enjoyed the rest of the party, bid their hosts farewell, and then returned to Infinity. Tucker, Hops and Vishkesh gave Klarima a tour and found her incredibly curious about… everything! Although, she was oddly incapable of doing anything for herself. Meanwhile, Aya enjoyed the simple but welcoming hospitality of the Husks.
My kids had a wonderful time with this whole section of the scenario. They adored interacting with the Husks, winning their friendship, and then showing Klarima around their ship. It’s why we picked this one to play, actually. I knew they’d love it.
The next morning Aya rejoined the group with some gifts from the Husks (a few healing serums that smelt like licorice, and a rifle) then they flew off back to a safe landing zone near Arkeost. Klarima used her magic to make the crew understand the ghibrani tongue, and then they approached the forcefield. Klarima pulled out a clunky, old fashioned data-pad and clicked away on it. Nothing happened, and Klarima’s mandibles clacked in impatience. She re-entered the commands and this time a gap opened in the forcefield, like a little door. The group filed in and Klarima tapped a few commands on her data-pad, causing the forcefield to close back up.
Arkeost was a sprawling metropolis with tall buildings lined with open doorways in place of windows. Membranes flitted through the air without a care, while robots and drones traversed the city’s lower levels, flying higher only when necessary. The streets and roads at ground level were in horrible condition, broken, jagged, and impassable in many places. Flowerbeds and gardens were overgrown, and all of the structures were suffering under years of rust, wear, and neglect. Although Arkeost was still standing, it was clearly not well maintained.
A group of Membrane guards wearing matching armour and carrying fine looking laser pistols approached the group and demanded to know the PCs business, but Klarima calmed them.
“Fear not, Honoured Guards! These Husks are my guests. I am taking them to see the Most Elevated!”
The guards, who did not seem very comfortable with their gear, eyed the group warily. “Very well,” the finally chittered. “We will escort you on your journey.”
And with that, a few more Membranes fell in line behind the group.
“Who is the Most Elevated?” Hops asked curiously.
“Oh, my! What a question to ask! Although, I suppose you are only Husks. The intricacies of proper Ghibrani society were lost to your people long ago. The Most Elevated are Arkeost’s governing council of most elder, wise, and important ghibrani. They will want to see you for themselves! It is a great honour!”
Hops rolled her eyes at being called a Husk and shrugged, following along with the others. Klarima and the guards flew relatively low to the ground, making keeping up with them only a little difficult. They were led through the city to the tallest and grandest building, located right at the heart of Arkeost. There, Klarima and the guards flew up towards an open doorway.
“Where did you go? Ah! Of course! You are Husks! I have forgotten again.” Klarima laughed. “I am afraid our city if not meant for ghibrani unable to fly. We have always had the ability, you see.” Klarima pulled out her data-pad and tapped a few commands into it. Soon a quartet of floating platforms arrived in front of the group. “There are hover disks used to transport goods and supplies through the city. You may ride on them. However, I recommend hanging on tight! They have no safety harnesses. Also, I hear Husks have a great fear of heights!”
The guards let out a chittering laugh.
Everyone climbed aboard their hover disks and held on. It was an unstable, jolting ride. Clearly very dangerous! There was a sudden puffing sound, and then a whine, as Hops’ hover disk malfunctioned. Her eyes widened, and she began to plummet back down to the ground.
“Eeeek!” she shrieked. But, as she neared the ground her hover platform let out another puff and a whine, and it’s engine turned back on. Hops once again began her ascent, although this time she wore a terrified, panicked look.
“Oh, dear!” Vishkesh exclaimed. “I think your drones could use some maintenance.”
“Maintenance?” Klarima asked. “You mean labour?” she laughed. “Oh, everything is done for us in Arkeost. I am sure if it is in need of main-ten-ants it will be taken care of.”
Vishkesh’s antennae twitched in agitation. He was pretty sure there was a lot of things around here that could use fixing…
After a shaky ride the hover disks dropped the group off at the entrance forty feet above the ground. Hops quickly scurried onto solid ground and clutched Snowball tight. Her robot rabbit twitched its nose and nuzzled her, guided by the artificial personality she had programmed in it. “That was… scary!” Hops muttered. Snowball made a clicking sound and cuddled up closer to Hops.
“Yes, I was afraid that Husks would not enjoy the flight.” Klarima replied.
Hops scrunched up her face. “Hey! I LOVE flying. I’m a pilot, you know! I just don’t like riding malfunctioning death platforms!”
The Membranes let out a chittering laugh, and ushered the group inside. Hops put down Snowball and followed after the others.
Rijin flew up to Hops. “You did not die a horrible death! I am pleased!”
Vishkesh laughed. “Me too!”
They travelled down winding hallways and came to a large central chamber that held a massive table surrounded by chairs. A collection of five Membranes dressed in elaborate clothing sat in the chairs chatting amongst themselves. At the sight of the group they regarded the PCs with their shimmering, multifaceted eyes. They stood, bowed to the group, and then gestured for them to approach. Klarima and the guards bowed in return, so Aya, Tucker, Hops and Vishkesh did the same.
“I cannot bow!” Rijin exclaimed happily. “I do not possess a waist!”
Snowball twitched its nose.
Klarima introduced the group and everyone took a seat at the table.
“Do all of your people look like you?” one of the Most Elevated asked.
Vishkesh shook his head. “Oh, we are not all of the same people at all! I am shirren, Hops and Tucker are ysoki, and Aya is kasathan. Snowball and Rijin here are drones created by myself and Hops.”
“I see!” Another nodded. “And all of your people are Husks?” the same Membrane asked.
“It is unfortunate your servants seem so small.” another added, clearly referring to the robots in the group.
Hops crinkled her nose. “We’re not Husks. We’re all different races from different worlds.”
“But you cannot fly?” One of the Most Elevated pointed out. “So you are Husks.”
“Other worlds?” Another asked. “You are referring to other cities on the far side of Elytrio?”
Aya shook her head. “We are not, Most Elevated. We come from outer space. The skies.” She paused a moment and added, “At night the stars shine brightly. Yes? If you were to travel to those stars, each is a sun, like the one you have here. Many of those suns are surrounded by other planets — worlds like Elytrio, but different. Some of those planets bear life, and others do not. Each of us comes from a different planet in space. Our galaxy is known as the Pact Worlds. It — “
Suddenly there was a chiming of bells. The Most Elevated clapped their hands.
“Yes, yes, I see,” replied one of the Most Elevated. They seemed unsurprised at such talk. “Dinner is served!”
Klarima smiles. “You are in for a real treat, my friends! It feels like ages since I have had a proper meal!”
Hover drones flew into the room from hidden hatches and placed ceramic bowls and a flat, stick-like utensil at every spot at the table. Others came out and squirted a serving of thick tan liquid filled with chunks of…. something. It smelt like smoke and cheese.
Rijin waves its hands at the hover drones. “Greetings friend robots! I am smiling in my heart! Pleasing to meet you!”
The hover drones didn’t respond, but that didn’t stop Rijin from speaking to/at them.
Some of the drones made an unappetizing sound when they served the food, while others flew irregularly. One of them missed a bowl completely and poured food all over the tabletop and Tuckers hand.
Klarima didn’t seem to notice. “This is called kahlgee! It’s delicious!”
The ghibrani all began to eat, while the Starfinders eyed the food suspiciously. Aya picked up her flat stick and used it as a spoon to scoop food up to her mouth (behind her mouth-mask). The others followed suit only to find the food was disgusting. Vishkesh ate it without complaint, Aya gagged but forced it down, Hops spit it out across the table in shock. Everyone turned to look at her. She chuckled nervously and tried to eat the rest of the food, which made her very ill. Still, she managed. Meanwhile Tucker spent the meal pretending to eat and subtly disposing of the food wherever he could without being caught. Halfway through the meal the lights flickered, and Tucker quickly dumped the rest of his food into another nearby bowl. Finished, he smiled brightly and began to chat with the other diners.
“That was lovely, thank you. Is there anything we can do to show our gratitude to you? Anything we can do to aid the ghibrani of Arkeost?” Tucker asked.
The Most Elevated laughed in unison. “We thank you for your generosity, but nothing is wrong here. Nothing needs to be done. We require no aid. Life in Arkeost is perfect.”
Tucker raised an eyebrows. “I see… Those power disruptions. The… uh… flickering lights and malfunctioning drones. Do those happen often?”
“Oh, there is no need to worry,” one of the Most Elevated replied. “The Mainframe acts up on occasion, but it always self-corrects in a few seconds.” They seemed unconcerned.
“I see. May I hear more about the Mainframe? We’re all fascinated with technology.” Tucker added with a smile. Perhaps the ghibrani could become allies of the Starfinders if Tucker and the team were able to repair their power grid.
“The Mainframe is located at the outskirts of the city. It was constructed by our ancestors to provide continuous power to Arkeost, and to house the many servants that cater to our whims.” One of the most Elevated gestures to a nearby robot. “Unfortunately I know no more of it than that. It is taboo for ghibranis to enter the area of the city where it is housed.”
“You’re not allowed to access your city’s own Mainframe? Uh… Aren’t you concerned about that? Who maintains it?” Tucker asked in surprise.
“The servants, of course.” Another answered happily. Clearly they were not concerned.
“I think that your servants could use a bit of help.” Tucker remarked with a smile. “May we visit the Mainframe ourselves to assist them? We are not ghibrani.”
The Most Elevated shook its head. “You clearly are Husks…”
The dinner bell sounded again. A flurry of hover drones flew out of the wall and set the table again — right on top of old dishes and uneaten food. A moment later a second set of drones flew out of the walls and poured more kahlgee into the bowls. The table was a massive mess. The drones flew back into the walls.
The Most Elevated clacked their mandibles serenely as if nothing was amiss. No one moved to eat a second helping.
“I’m sure the cleaning servants will be along any minute…” Klarima pointed out.
“About that Mainframe,” Tucker prodded.
One of the Most Elevated nodded its head vigorously. “You may be Husks but, as you say, you are not ghibrani Husks.” The others considered this. Without waiting for their response, the speaker continued, “It is not taboo for you. You may view the grandeur of our glorious Mainframe for yourselves.” He gave the group directions.
Tucker smiled. “Thanks. We’d like to head there soon, if you don’t mind.” He dreaded the thought of dessert.
The Most Elevated smiled. “Klarima will show you the way. Farewell.”
And with that, the Starfinders quickly left the messy, smelly table behind and hurried back out to the hover disks.
Hops groaned. “Not this again! Auw… When we get back to Absalom Station I need to invest in some jump jets!”
Vishkesh smiled. “I hope you do not fall to your doom!” He looked at the disks. “Hmm… Decisions, decisions… I will select… this one!” He squealed in delight. “I hope it is stable!”
My kids had great fun interacting with the Membranes. They tried their best to think of sneaky ways to avoid eating the kahlgee without offending their hosts. I found their attempts at conversation a blast. It was so fun watching them try to figure out how to explain things to the Membranes without being offended. Particularly when the Membranes didn’t seem to get the point. My daughter crossed her arms and scrunched up her nose every time someone called her a Husk, but couldn’t quite think of an argument that proved she wasn’t one. And those hover disks? They were so excited at first, but on the way back? Ha! They were terrified of stepping back on those things. It was hilarious. We had a blast.
The group descended down to ground level, then Klarima guided them through the city. The Starfinders examined the city as they travelled, and spoke with the locals. By the time they reached the edge of the city the streets and buildings were in much worse repair. The building was small and squat, but a constant stream of drones of all kinds moved in and out of the building. Massive signs reading “TABOO!” “NO ENTRY!” and “Off limits to ghibrani!” were hung all around the building.
Klarima waved farewell to the Starfinders. “I will wait out here for you.”
The Starfinders headed inside and were greeted by a series of ramps that descended down into the earth in a wide spiral, like a parking garage — although instead of storing vehicles it stored drones. They turned on the flashlights built into their armour and headed down the ramps. Eventually they reached a hallway different than the others. They headed inside and found themselves in a white plastic room lit by incredibly bright lights. The group filed in and looked around. Fans spun overhead, and a series of coveralls lined one wall.
Hops eyed the coveralls. “Should we be wearing those?”
Tucker shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt.”
Aya nodded. “I recommend it, if you can.”
Hops and Tucker put on coveralls, although they were too small for Vishkesh and Aya. Vishkesh squished himself into a pair, but Aya refrained. Together they approached a nearby door. Aya moved to open it and was electrocuted. She grunted in pain and surprise.
“Oh, dear! That looked painful!” Vishkesh happily pointed out.
“Whoah!” Tucker exclaimed. “I… didn’t expect that. Sorry.” He turned to the door and pulled out a series of tools and gadgets from his backpack. “I’ve got this.” As he worked he told the others, “Nobody touch anything unless I give the go ahead. There might be more traps or malfunctioning systems in here.”
Aya drew herself up to standing. “Agreed.”
“Is that maybe why this place is taboo?” Hops wondered aloud. “Because it’s dangerous?”
Aya considered this. “It is possible. Or, perhaps the city’s builders wanted to prevent meddling.”
“It is possible,” Hops mimicked. Aya didn’t seem to mind.
With a swoosh, the door slid open. Tucker put away his tools and led the way inside the next room. It’s walls were also made of plastic, and it’s entire floor was a bright light. Four pillars covered in circuitry and four waist-high generators circled the centre of the room. One of the generators was surrounded by flashing red lights, clearly showing it was in need of repairs.
Tucker led the group inside and began to look around for traps and hazards. Suddenly panels on the walls slid open and a trio of robots that looked like a mix between Husk and Membrane ghibrani stepped into the room.
“Restricted area!” The robot announced. “Leave immediately or be terminated!”
Despite the warning, the robot did not wait for the group to leave. Instead, it shot laser beams out of its eyes right at them.
“Eeek!” Hops shrieked.
“Engage!” Aya ordered.
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He dove across the room and fired his laser pistol at the nearest robot. “BOOM!”
“Rijin!” Vishkesh commanded. “Battle mode!”
“Yes, sir! I will happily assault my fellow robots on your behalf!” Rijin replied. He pulled out his flare gun and aimed it at a robot. “Pew pew!” he called out as he fired the flare.
Rijin examined his guns. “Decisions, decisions… This feels like a — “
A laser beam zipped past his head and nearly singed an antenna. “Yup! Laser pistol it is!” He drew and fired his pistol at the robots. “I adore my flame thrower, but I do not want to cause unnecessary harm to the room’s generators!”
“Get behind me Snowball!” Hops exclaimed as she fired off energy rays at the robots.
Aya strode into honourable melee combat with her combat staff.
Once again, this battle was short but painful! Aya used up nearly all of her magic on healing spells for the group. Once the battle was over they took a ten minute break to rest and recuperate, then Aya finished healing the group with her magic. Meanwhile, Vishkesh, Rijin, and Tucker got to work repairing the generators, and Hops ran a diagnostics check and fixed some faulty programming. As the red lights stopped flashing, the group smiled.
“Well, that should stop the power fluctuations,” Tucker remarked.
Vishkesh smiles happily. “Joyous news!”
“High five’s team!” Rijin exclaimed. “Although my hand appendages only possess three digits!”
When they were done the group moved on, heading over to another nearby door. Tucker checked it out and decided it looked safe. They headed inside and found the room full of computer servers. They looked around, then approached the access terminal. Hops clicked away for a while and gained access to the mainframe.
“Oh, wow!” Hops exclaimed. “I thought this would control the mainframe, but it’s… like… everything! It looks like a long time ago they took all the information from the local databases and transferred them here. Some of its classified. Information from past leaders and stuff…” Hops began to sift through the data, and transferred all the important information about Elytrio and it’s society to Snowball — who was a walking computer.
As she read, she frowned. “Oh my… Uh… Well, some of this we guessed already. Elytrio used to have a variety of ecosystems until it was ravaged by nuclear war a few years after the Gap. There were a lot of different ghibrani nations up until then, and it looks like this city is the only place that survived the devastation. Lots of people died.” Hops shook her head sadly. “They used to worship Damoritosh. Before the war they managed to achieve orbital flight and built some stuff on their moons, but never actually got into outer space. Hmm… Looks like they anticipated a lot of trouble with keeping the population in Arkeost fed…. Something about automation… and…. Oh, my….”
Hops pressed a button and a video clip played on the screen. It showed a ghibrani who displayed features of both Husks and Membranes dressed in fine clothes. “…without a doubt food will runout before the end of one hundred years. As such, we have decided to enact protocol Exodus…” the video glitches before continuing. “…purposefully engineer several disasters to befall the surviving population. Rumours will be seeded throughout the lower and middle quarters that an angry Damoritosh was responsible for this ‘divine punishment.’ Select personnel, officers and delegates will know this to be false. Such agents will work to spread the creation of a false deity we’re going to call ‘Mother Touloo” who will promise salvation to those ghibrani who give up the comforts of civilization and head out into the wastes. One of our eldest — Most Elevated Gaulwen — is ill. He will serve as the leader of this false faith and lead a sizeable contingent of ghibrani’s into the wastelands. They will die, of course, but the leaders of Arkeost, our most trusted advisors, government officials, and military personnel, along with our closest friends and family, will remain behind…” the video glitches again. “Thus ensuring the continued survival of the great ghibrani people. Long live Arkeost. Praise Damoritosh. The war will be won.”
The video fell silent.
My daughter looked thoughtful. “Huh.”
My son shook his head. “So… they made up a fake god and tricked people into leaving their city? But the people who left became the Husks, right? The didn’t all die. Some lived.”
I nodded. “And the people who stayed in Arkeost became the Membranes. They also lived.”
My son shook his head again. “They were so… MEAN.”
I nodded noncommittally. This is the kind of thing I prefer to let my kids puzzle out and form an opinion of themselves, before throwing my two cents in there.
My daughter shrugged. “At least some people lived. Maybe they would all be dead if they didn’t do that.”
“But… They thought the Husks would DIE! I love the Husks!” My son replied.
“Wait.” My daughter said. “Does this mean the Membranes are bad?”
I shrugged. “What do you think?”
They thought. My daughter eventually said, “I will use my computers to see what happened after that stuff. When this mean guy was going to die or something.”
Hops sifted through the datalogs and eventually found some more videos and reports. Turns out only select personnel were told that Mother Touloo was fake. The remaining ghibrani held a ceremony bidding those who left farewell, then continued on with their lives. They completed automation on the city, ensuring that they and their descendants would live a life of leisure for centuries to come. A few decades later it became clear that some ghibrani has survived the wastes. The leaders of Arkeost publicly called this a blessing, but warned their people to stay clear of them and their strange religion. They had ordered all data of the past be transferred to the central mainframe and, as those ghibrani who created Mother Touloo neared the end of their lives, they closed off the Mainframe to prevent any of their fellows from learning the truth of Mother Touloo. Such knowledge could be dangerous.
My kids thought some more.
“Well… it is not really the fault of the Membranes that are left… Their grandparents and stuff were the mean ones….”
My kids thought some more. Their characters gathered all the information they could, and then left the Mainframe, locking it up behind them. Back outside, they found Klarima.
“How was it?” she asked.
“We learned much,” Aya replied.
“And we fixed the power fluctuations!” Vishkesh added helpfully.
My kids looked at each other.
“Are you going to tell anyone in Arkeost about Mother Touloo?” I asked them.
My kids shook their heads.
“What about the Husks? Will you tell them the truth?”
My kids shook their heads.
“Doing so might cause a war.” My husband pointed out. “But, they also deserve to know.”
My kids thought some more. They shook their heads.
“You’re keeping it quiet?” I confirmed.
The Starfinders returned to the centre of Arkeost and spent the night among the Membranes. The next day they left the city, with Klarima at their sides in order to access the forcefield.
“Something happened in the Mainframe,” Klarima pointed out. “I can feel it. You are burdened.”
My kids (and their characters) fell into guilty silence.
Aya stepped forward. “We learned much. Not all was good. But, it is the past. We would prefer not to dredge it back up. Divisions and anger can help neither Husk, nor Membrane at this stage.”
Klarima thought on this. “We have plenty, and they have nothing. But, I wonder who is better off. After seeing the Husks…. They can care for themselves. Membranes cannot.” She drifted off into silence. “Arkeost is great. I wish the Husks would accept its wonders. But then, I suppose their Mother would no longer protect them.” She shrugged. “I wish I could help them both.” With a clack of her mandibles she held out her hands in farewell. “It was a pleasure to meet you. I hope you enjoy your other worlds.”
“You should come with us!” Hops exclaimed.
My son grinned. “Yeah!” Vishkesh announced. “Come fly on our starship with us. You can join the Starfinders and see the galaxy! Maybe you’ll learn something helpful. That can help all ghibrani.”
Klarima clapped her hands. “Really? You would take me with you? Oh, I would love to!”
The Starfinders and Klarima, travelled to Infinity and headed back out into the Vast. They taught Klarima all they could — minus the history of her people — and soon returned to Absalom Station. Venture-Captain Arvin asked for a report, which they gave honestly. They provided him all the information they had learned from the Mainframe about Elytrio, it’s ruins, and history — including about Mother Touloo. Then they spoke of the cultures of the Husks and Membranes. Lastly, they told Arvin all about Klarima and the other friends they had made.
“You faced a difficult decision,” he pointed out. He made no comment on whether he agreed with their actions. “I will enter Klarima into training shortly.” After a pause, he smiled, “You did your friends from the Unbounded Wayfarer proud. I’ll contact you when the next expedition is ready to begin.”
The Starfinders fetched Klarima and brought her to see Arvin. Then they headed out into Absalom Station to recover from their adventures.
My kids had a ton of fun in this adventure. They loved interacting with the Husks and Membranes, enjoyed the starship combat against foes they didn’t have to feel bad about shooting, and made tough decisions that could affect the future of their new friends.
Well, it’s official! Season Nine: Year of Factions’ Favour has come to an end, and the Pathfinder Society has launched Season 10: Year of the Ten. Faction Cards have been updated, and the newest edition of the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide has been released. If you don’t have the newly updated versions of these documents then I highly recommend you head on over to Paizo’s website and give them a download. They’re free.
For those of you who don’t know, the Scoured Stars Invasion special also brought with it the introduction of a new faction: Second Seekers (Jadnura). Who the heck is Jadnura? Jadnura is the First Seeker who led the Starfinders into the Scoured Stars system. That’s right. He’s the kasatha who got everyone stuck and lost in an event now known as the Scoured Stars Incident. So why would you still follow this guy when Luwazi Elsebo is the current First Seeker? For starters, it lets you make a character who was a loyal Starfinder before the advent of the Scoured Stars Incident. You can be the guy left behind, whose still loyal to a leader no longer present. Second? Well, the special is called the Scoured Stars Invasion, and it’s main purpose is to enter the Scoured Stars System and rescue as many lost agents as you can. I suppose some might call that a spoiler, but honestly, it’s obviously the point of the scenario right from the first few sentences of playing. Why else go there? Want more details? I can’t give them to you! Haha. I’m currently playing this scenario for Gameday VII and don’t know how it ends. If you want more information (and some spoilers) feel free to check out Paizo’s blog post on First Seeker Jadnura here.
So what the heck is Season Ten: Year of the Ten all about, anyway? Judging by the title, something to do with the Decemvirate. But what? It’s been hinted that it has something to do with the infamous Grandmaster Torch, and that some of the Decemvirate might find their anonymity threatened and their mysteries unveiled. Interestingly, most of the missions this season will revolve around the Hao Jin Tapestry. For those of you who don’t know, the Hao Jin Tapestry is a literal tapestry that leads to a demiplane which contains mysteries, relics, ruins and other places collected by the wizard Hao Jin. This object was acquired by the Pathfinder Society way back in Season Three and has been a source of tons of adventures. It’s also been harnessed by the Pathfinders in order to allow their agents to travel the world quickly and efficiently. This season the Hao Jin Tapestry is beginning to unravel and, if we can’t fix it, it’ll dump everything inside it into the Astral Plane. An unfortunate event for not only the Pathfinder Society, but also all the people and creatures who still live inside the demiplane itself. Unfortunately, you can bet that fixing it won’t be as easy as just casting mending. I’m sure there’s plenty of adventure involved! There’s a few other things that have been revealed to be a part of this season. There’s plenty of relics related to the lich Tar Baphon that will be surfacing. There’s also a demon who wants to utilize the Worldwound’s collapse to launch his apotheosis into full demon lord. Pretty nifty! I think I’m most excited for the missions involving Grandmaster Torch, but hey, I’m biased! I’m also excited to learn more about Tar Baphon. I love a good (BAD) lich!
There’s a few more exciting things going on around my house right now. My daughter’s begun work on creating her second Pathfinder Playtest character so that we can continue with our Doomsday Dawn Playtest. She’s decided to make a gnome fighter who wields an absurdly large sword. She’s very excited to be the melee character for a change.
My family and I entered a contest a week or so ago. Hosted by the overly generous Hmm on Paizo’s message boards, she was going to give away all the boons necessary to create a mermaid in PFS play. There were a few ways to enter — for yourself with a mermaid character concept, for a group of friends with a team created from the other boons she was giving away, or by nominating someone else who you thought deserved to win. Now, when we play in the Pathfinder Society, the question my kids ask me most often is:
“Mom, why can’t I be any race I want?”
Unfortunately, at the ages of six and seven, the idea of holding out for race boons is absurd. Haha. The follow up question I most often get after any explanation I can concoct is:
“Yeah. But WHY?”
So, as soon as I read the contest I told my family about it. My kids were jumping up and down in joy. They spend that night brainstorming, and spent the next day planning their characters while I madly tried to keep up with them. And then we got to the end. They were ready! Sort of. For bonus points you could also write a song.
….yup. A song.
Not my forte. My son wanted to add jokes into the song, and my daughter wanted it to have a lot of animal sounds (since we were nearly all animal people of one kind or another).
It was… hard. Haha.
But, in the end we handed in our entry with pride. So what was it?
My family and I wanted to make a quartet of characters who are (and were) universally considered outcasts among their people and Golarion at large. They’re weird, and different. But what’s strange for one culture isn’t strange for others, and it’s those very oddities that the others embraced and connected with. After all, who cares if the vanara has unnaturally large eyes, if he’s hanging out with a grippli? These guys are friends, companions, and (in many ways) family. They don’t have the same interests, and they don’t always get along. But, hey? What family does?
My daughter made an energetic poisonous grippli, my son made an eco-conscious vanara with a stumpy tail who has hair growth issues, my husband made a ratfolk who chews on everything (including magical objects), and I made an overly adventurous aquatic elf whose curiosity got her abandoned on the surface. Together, these quirky characters would do… stuff!
Just the other day the winners were announced. There were a ton of great ones. And some of the songs were awesome! Hmm ended up giving out boons to winners of each category, which is incredibly generous! We won in the ‘buddies’ category, and my kids have been hard at work ever since, plotting out their character mechanics. We were lucky enough that a fellow play-by-poster offered to run us through our group’s first PFS scenario together, so once everyone is ready and formatted for online play we’ll be starting Heroes for Highdelve! My daughter got to work first and is almost done. She’s thrilled!
We’ll post more about these lovable weirdos once they’re ready for a game. One thing’s for certain: they’re going to be the most eccentric group of characters we’ve ever made! (And that’s saying something…)
Now it’s time to say goodbye,
Or, more accurately: ‘Now it’s time to get to work on my next article.’
Wow, finding the time to fully read the new Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook took longer than I expected! Well, not to read it, so much as to digest it. Understand it. Plenty of rules are different, so I had to really focus. Considering that I normally find time to read while overseeing screaming, bickering, playing, laughing, children of various ages (hey, moods change quick!), finding quiet time to get some reading done was more than a little difficult.
That said, I’m a quick reader. I finished it in about two days, then spent some time crafting characters in order to try out the creation process. Before I can take the time to teach my husband and kids how to play, I need to be able to explain it. Properly. Haha. After that I helped my family through the creation process, read through Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn (the first adventure we would be trying out), and we got to work playing.
It’s been a whirlwind! But a fun one.
And then I got sick. Still am.
So whats on the agenda for today?
Today we’re going to take a look at Pathfinder Playtest. Not in depth — this isn’t a replacement for the rulebook. After all, the rulebook’s a free download. It’s my impressions, thoughts, and experiences. Things I’ve discovered, and even some questions I’ve got. Got an opinion of your own? Or an answer to a question I have? Let me know! This game system is brand new and we’re all learning together. Once you’ve had a chance to try out Pathfinder Playtest, be sure to head over to Paizo’s website and give them some feedback. They’re running surveys right now, and have forums up for you to share broader comments.
Ready? Let’s begin!
Pathfinder Playtest is a new set of rules and gameplay for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended to streamline the game, while retaining its robust character creation options. Running combat, monsters, and characters should go smoother. Learning the rules from scratch should be easier. Levelling up should be simpler. The book and rules are supposed to be user friendly — even for those who don’t know how to play d20 games.
Pathfinder Playtest features gorgeous cover art by Wayne Reynolds which showcases Seoni (the iconic sorceress), Valeros (the iconic fighter), and Fumbus (the iconic alchemist) battling a white dragon! Wait! Fumbus who? Fumbus the goblin alchemist. Thats right! Not only are goblins a core race, but alchemist is a base class. Both are available options to try out in the playtest.
Open the covers (or flip to the next page on the pdf) and you’ll find an introduction by the Paizo staff, followed by the overview. This is where you’ll learn what the heck a d20 game is and how to play. There’s also an overview of the basic terms used in the game, including a few that are new, an explanation of the modes of play, and a list of what you’ll need to play. This section was easy to understand, even for a layman, although not as easy as I expected. It’s a difficult read for my children, for example, and my son (who is more than capable of reading chapter books aimed at pre-teens, published adventures for d20 games, and other Pathfinder products) would definitely get bored and flip past a few pages. Would my teenage/adult siblings read it all the way through? …Tough to say. Probably not. It’s more likely they’d give it a skim and see how it goes. So… sort of an easy read. An easy read for this genre and its audience, I suppose.
Many of the terms in this chapter will be familiar to those of you who have played d20 games before, but even experienced gamers need to give this section a thorough read. Calculations for some of the familiar statistics are different, and there are some very important brand new game mechanics that are explained here. Be sure to pay extra attention to the types of actions, the modes of play, and proficiencies. We won’t get into them in too much detail right now, but for those of you who are curious, these three aspects form a huge part of the game.
There are three modes of play in Pathfinder Playtest. Encounter mode is what you enter when your every moment matters. This is used during a battle, for traps, ambushes, hazards, and anything else similar. You play encounter mode in rounds which are six seconds long, and encounter mode ends when the danger has passed. This is a huge part of the game and the rules. But, it’s not all there is to the Playtest. Exploration mode is used for any situation where you’re not in immediate danger, but you’re not entirely safe, either. This includes exploring a town, ruin, forest, or even a hallway between encounters. It’s what you’re playing in when you’re not fighting something. It’s more than just walking, or a segue between the ‘exciting stuff.’ Exploration mode has its own rules, and has proved quite fun around my house so far. Finally, there’s downtime mode, which is what you use when you’re completely safe.
There are three major kinds of actions in Pathfinder Playtest. Actions, free actions, and reactions. Pretty much all the game is based around this. Nearly every feat, ability, and spell that has a non-passive effect has a symbol beside it right near the top showing what it costs to use. Free actions are free, obviously, Reactions can be taken once per turn, even on your opponents turns, as long as its triggering conditions are met. An example of this is an attack of opportunity (which only fighters can utilize right away!), but there are plenty others for different classes and characters. Lastly, there’s actions. Everything takes actions. Moving, attacking, special attacks, spells and such. Most spells take two actions to cast, although some take one or three. Each turn during encounter mode you’re allowed three actions, and most things you can imagine take one. Walking forward, drawing a sword, and swinging it? Three actions total. Attacking, attacking, and attacking a third time? Three actions. And totally allowed (each successive attack in a round takes a cumulative -5 penalty). Lastly, there’s proficiencies. Yes, this includes armours and weapons. But in the Playtest proficiencies also replace your base attack bonus, base saving throws, and skill ranks. If you’re trained in something you add your level to the rolls you make with it. If you’re untrained you add your level subtract two. If you’re an expert you add your level plus one, master is your level plus two and if you’re legendary you add your level plus three. For example, if you’re trained in athletics you roll a d20, add your proficiency modifier (your level), your strength modifier, and any other item or extra modifiers you have. Expert in your weapon? Add the expert proficiency (your level plus one), your ability modifier (strength for melee, dexterity for ranged), and any other bonuses from your items. Master at reflex saves? Add your level plus two, plus your Dexterity modifier, anything else special you might have and off you go.
Got it? Good! If not, read the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook!
After this we get into the fun stuff. Character Creation. The Playtest has a great step-by-step guide to making your characters. In short, you come up with a concept. Then you pick and apply their ancestry (race), background, and class. Each of these will increase some of your ability scores, but you also gain four increases to apply as you see fit. Once you’ve finalized your ability scores, select your trained skills and do some simple math to make it all come together. Spend your coin (150 sp), pick your spells (if you’re a caster) and fill in all your finishing details. Done. Relatively simple. The levelling up process is also simple, as well.
After this there’s an easy to follow example of how you make your ability scores. As I previously mentioned, ancestry, background, class, and your personal preference all play a part. So how does it work?
For starters, you need to know how much to increase an ability score. Increases are referred to as an ‘ability boost’. If the score you’re increasing is under 18 you increase it by 2 points. If it’s over 18 you increase it by 1 point. At character creation, you cannot make a character with over 18 in any one ability score, so all of your boosts will be increasing your ability scores by +2.
When you create a character all of your ability scores start at 10. Now you pick your ancestry. Most will give you two ability boosts that are applied to a specific ability, one ability boost that you can apply as you see fit (called ‘free’), and one flaw (which is a -2 in a specific score). For example, dwarves get ability boosts to Constitution, Wisdom, and Free. They also suffer an ability flaw to Charisma. Humans are different from most races in that they receive no flaw, and no specific ability boosts. Instead they get two free ability boosts, which can be applied at your whim.
Now that you know what to increase you apply it. However, there is a limitation. During each step that you apply your ability boosts, you must apply each to a different ability. In our previous example with dwarves, that means you’re getting +2 Con, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and a +2 to be added to any other ability score (Str, Dex, or Int). The next time you apply your ability scores you can increase any scores you want, but again, only one time each in that phase.
Backgrounds grant an ability boost in a single specific ability score chosen from a selection of two, and then grant a free ability boost. For example, acrobats get an ability boost to either Strength or Dexterity, and then a second ability boost that is free. Meanwhile, a barkeep gets an ability boost to either Constitution or Charisma, and then a second ability boost that is free. (This is not all that a background grants you, just the part that applies to ability scores). As mentioned before, during this step, each ability can only be boosted once. So, our example dwarf could apply the barkeep ability boosts to Constitution, and Strength, but couldn’t apply it to Constitution twice.
Classes offer a single specific ability boost to that classs’ key ability score. Alchemist’s increase Intelligence, bards increase Charisma, and so on. Some classes, like the fighter, can choose one of two ability scores to be their key ability score (in the case of fighters this is a choice between Strength and Dexterity).
Lastly (or second last if you choose to apply these before your class), you get four free ability boosts. You can assign these however you want — although each ability score can only be boosted once in this phase. Essentially this means that four different ability scores will increase by +2.
And that’s the ability score creation process. It’s quite simple when you get the hang of it, and can create a diverse array of balanced characters. There’s also a random generation method offered, for those of you who prefer to roll out your stats, but the characters they create will not come out as powerful as those created with the standard method. Still, it’s nice that its there.
After this we get into the chapter on ancestries and backgrounds. There are six major ancestries you can choose: dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, halfling, and human. Those of you looking to be half-elves or half-orcs will select ‘human’ as your ancestry, and then choose a heritage feat which allows you to be either of those two ‘half-breed’ races. This method opens up a unique design space which has potential for an interesting take on some uncommon races when the full game releases next year.
Each ancestry grants you some ability boosts and flaws (as already noted). It also grants you some hit points (which you will only receive at first level), your speed, size, and languages. Some of them also grant you a vision type, or a single special ability. That’s it. You won’t be getting a ton of racial abilities built into your ancestry. I know, I know. This seems like you get so much less. In a way, at low level, you do get less. But, as you level up you also get more out of your race. You see, each ancestry has a list of feats to choose from that only members of that ancestry can select. This is where you’ll find a lot of familiar ‘racial’ abilities like weapon familiarity, ancestral hatred, stonecunning, sure-footed, and other such features that would have once been found under ones race. There’s plenty of new ones, as well. You start the game with one ancestry feat of your choice, and gain more as you level up. This allows you to make your ancestry work for your character as an individual. After all, not all elves are the same.
After I got over the initial shock of seeing ‘how little’ each race gave me, I gave the different ancestry feats a read and, in the end, decided I like this method. It’s adaptable, easy to use, and enjoyable. I found it worked well during character creation. I particularly enjoyed the gnome ancestry feats, so be sure to give them a read!
Next up is backgrounds. These represent the things your character did before becoming an adventurer. In addition to the ability boosts mentioned previously, each background grants you one skill feat and training in a single Lore skill tied to that background. What’s a lore? A lore is like a very specific knowledge skill. You can have lore in pretty much anything, as long as it has a very narrow focus. Examples include Vampire Lore, Desna Lore, Circus Lore, and Farming Lore. During downtime, lore skills can also be used to make an income. There are a lot of backgrounds up for offer in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook (nineteen!) and you can expect to see a whole lot more in the future. Each adventure path will offer new backgrounds that will tie your characters to the story. The Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is the first example of this, and provides a further six backgrounds to choose from. The Playtest Rulebook backgrounds include: acolyte, acrobat, animal whisperer, barkeep, blacksmith, criminal, entertainer, farmhand, gladiator, hunter, labourer, merchant, noble, nomad, sailor, scholar, scout, street urchin, and warrior. Although all of the backgrounds are equally ‘good,’ I particularly like the entertainer and the nomad, while my daughter enjoys the animal whisperer, and my son enjoys the warrior.
Past the Background we get to a short section on selecting languages. Players with very high intelligence scores will be surprised to find they don’t get as many languages as in Pathfinder First Edition, with an intelligence over 14 now granting a single bonus language!
Up next is the chapter on Classes. The classes available for the playtest include Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Despite these being familiar to you, each class has plenty of new features, and offers a lot of adaptability. In addition to hp, special abilities and a selection of class feats you can choose from in order to tailor your class to your character, each class also gives you proficiencies in saving throws, perception, and in various weapons, armour and shields. It also gives you a number of skills you can choose to be trained in. Spellcasters get spells, characters get abilities and so on. Now, you really need to read the classes to get a feel for them, so we’re not going to take too close of a look at them. What I will say is that each class we’ve tested in my house has turned out to be a lot of fun. My favourites include Bard (who can use some of their performances an unlimited number of times per day!), Sorcerer (whose spell list and type of magic is determined by their bloodline), and Paladin (who are just plain awesome!). My children particularly enjoyed the druid.
Next up is Skills. This chapter goes over each of the skills, how to calculate their modifiers, and what they can be used for. This is also where you’ll find the rules for crafting, performing and lore. Even experienced players need to give this chapter a read, as there are some changes to the skills. For example, grabbing, grappling and shoving are all tied to your Athletics skill. Yeah. Neat. Skills definitely do more for you now, than they used to. Also, anyone can make attempt any skill check. Obviously, they won’t all be as good at it, but the potential is there, which is nice. That said, some skills have uses that can only be used by characters trained in that skill, which is a nice feature.
After skills we get to the chapter on feats. Now, this section doesn’t have all the feats available in the book. Ancestry feats can be found under ancestries. Instead, it contains all the general, and skill feats available. This chapter is particularly important, because you will gain a LOT of feats. Beginning characters start with two (at minimum!). One from your ancestry, and one from your background. Most classes grant at least one other feat (sometimes a class feat, sometimes a general or skill feat, and sometimes both). This is a wonderful surprise, which allows customization in a simple way.
After feats you’ll find Equipment. Pathfinder Playtest uses silver as the core coin (instead of gold) which means that the price of gear will be different than what you’re used to. There’s also been some changes to the armour, weapons, and weight systems — all for the better in my opinion! Definitely give the information at the start of this chapter a read before trying to spend your coin! Haha.
Past equipment you get into spells. This begins with a lot of important information about magic, spells, and how they work. Definitely don’t skip this part! Haha. There are four major spell lists: Arcane, Divine, Occult, and Primal. I’m fond of all of them. In addition, you’ll find tenth level spells. After the spell lists are spell descriptions. Amongst these spells you’ll also find a lot of class abilities that are cantrips, or run off of spell points. This includes domain powers, and bardic compositions (among others). Although I understand the purpose of including them here (in alphabetical order alongside the spells), it made it hard to make class choices. For example, if I’m looking for all the bardic compositions (which are a type of cantrip) I have to search through the entire chapter and read the spell traits to find them. There is no compiled list of bardic compositions and, as they are not class spells, they don’t appear on any of the Spell Lists. It’s a giant pain in the butt. Haha. I sincerely hope they find a better way to sort this in the future, cause all that sifting sucks. Not only that, it’s a drain on your time.
I also found (after a lot of jumping between chapters to hunt them down) that a lot of the domain powers weren’t as good as they used to be. Which is unfortunate. I’d gladly trade my cleric of Desna’s domain power from the Playtest with pretty much any other Domain power from First Edition. An unfortunate outcome! Still, it will take more playtesting to determine if it all balances out in the end.
Past this we come to a short chapter on how to level up your characters. In addition, you’ll find the rules for multiclassing and archetypes here. The system for this is very easy to understand, and allows for a lot of cool character concepts. Essentially, you can choose to take archetype or multiclass feats in place of your class feat at any given level — presuming you meet the feat requirements. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course, but not by much. It’s a simple, elegant way to handle multi classing and archetypes without causing characters to fall behind the powers of their peers. I really like it. Definitely give it a read!
Later in the chapter you’ll find the rules for animal companions, familiars, and gods. The rules in all of these categories were fun and easy to use, particularly the rules for familiars. We got ours created in only a few minutes! Wonderful! Of course, I did have questions. It’s specifically pointed out that you can only have one animal companion. But, this is not specified under familiars. Does this mean you can potentially have more than one? My son chose a gnome ancestry feat which granted him a familiar, and then later earned a vine leshy familiar from being a plant druid. Does this mean he gets both? I’ve yet to find a definitive answer, but if you’ve read an official answer somewhere, (or know the page its on that I’ve missed) let me know! I’d love to read the ruling. Another problem with familiars turned out to be damage. Although it mentions the attack rolls they can make, it doesn’t say how much damage one does if it tries to attack. This came up on one of our first combat rounds in our first playtest when my son sent his vine leshy to attack. He hit! And… we had no damage. Haha. I decided that it would do 1 damage unless I found an official ruling that says otherwise. Know of one? Let me know! We’d love to see it!
After this comes a very important chapter entitled ‘Playing the Game.’ Reading it is mandatory. Haha. It’s around 35 pages long and includes all the rules you need to play as a player, as well as the conditions found in the game. Important stuff.
After that is another very important chapter called ‘Game Mastering.’ This chapter includes everything you need to know to run the game as a GM (in addition to the content for players). This chapter is shorter — at only around twenty pages — but its also denser and more complicated. Admittedly, I had to go back and reread parts a few times, particularly regarding exploration mode, downtime mode, hazards, and DCs. I expect I’ll have to reference both this chapter and the ‘Playing the Game’ chapter plenty over the next year, as I get a handle on the rules. In my opinion, the game is easier to learn to play and GM that Pathfinder First Edition was, so I’m pleased, even if reading these chapters caused me a few headaches.
After this we come to (pretty much) the last chapter. Treasure. This is where you’ll find information on wealth, treasure distribution, special nonmagical gear, alchemical items, runes, trinkets, and magic items. There’s a lot of fun stuff in here that you’re going to love reading. I highly recommend discovering these on your own. I will say that I particularly enjoyed the addition of snares, and that I expect to make a character who utilizes them in the near future. I also really like the rune system for making magical weapons and armour. Its very similar to the fusion system in Starfinder.
Past this is the appendices and then the book is over.
That’s it, that’s all! But, that’s not all that I have to say. There are a few things I’d like to mention before wrapping up.
First: Hero Points. I loved them. Each character starts each session with one hero point, and can earn up to one extra each session as a player (for doing something awesome for the group like bringing snacks, tracking gear, or hosting the game) and one extra as a character (for doing something awesome in character like saving someone’s life, being generous, expert teamwork, or accomplishing an important task in game). These points can be used to save yourself from death, reroll a d20, or take an extra action. They’re useful, awesome, and add a great new element to the game. (My daughter’s determined to be the loot-tracker from now on in order to earn that extra point!).
Second: Dying. During our first play session, my husband’s character died. Quickly. All things considered, from the moment he fell unconscious at Dying 1, only a single full round occurred before he died. Two ill-aimed splash damage brought him to Dying 2, and then to Dying 3 with the second instance, and on his turn he failed his first and only fortitude save against death, which brought him to Dying 4: Dead. This was WAY too fast. Sure, he could’ve used Hero Points to save himself. If he had any. He had already fallen unconscious two other times that session, and had used up all his Hero Points. And he wasn’t the only one. My daughter also fell unconscious once during the session, and my son nearly did. Ouch! I found not only did we fall unconscious quite a bit, but we died too QUICK. For a lot of players, a dead character is an end to fun. Especially if your chances for recovery were so brief.
Third: Identifying Magical Items: After you realize something is magical (or alchemical), it takes an HOUR to identify the object. An HOUR. This means, that if you’re the kind of group who doesn’t rest unless its necessary, you can go an entire adventure without knowing what any of your treasure does. In fact, when we played Doomsday Dawn in my house, we went the entire first adventure without knowing what anything did. That means we didn’t get any use out of any treasure. At all. That’s absurd! Now, there are some ways for your characters to shorten this time to ten minutes (or evens shorter at higher levels), which is more manageable. Heck, I even understand the intent. If it takes more time and effort to identify magical objects, that makes them more special. They’ve got an air of mystery about them. That’s cool. But, if it takes so long to identify a healing potion, that without someone specialized in identifying magical or alchemical objects, the group can’t even figure out its a healing potion during their adventure, than what good is it? Now, I know plenty of players like to stop a LOT when they play. Maybe you’re even one of them. The group that gets loot or takes a few wounds and says, ‘We should head back and recover!’ or ‘We should go sell what we’ve found and come back!’ That’s fine. You won’t be hampered by this. But, I’m not that kind of player. Neither are my family or my friends. We very often take on entire missions until we HAVE to rest, due to our wounds. Or we HAVE to recover our spells. Or we’ve spent the whole day and our characters are actually sleepy. This is particularly true in Pathfinder Society missions, which very often occur in a single day on a timeline. This system strikes me as very problematic, unless you specifically ensure your groups always have a way to shorten it. But, why force a group to do so? That’s going to replace another skill or class feat they could have taken. It just… Reading the rules for identifying magical objects didn’t sit right with me. Then we made our characters, brought them to playtest, and it turned out to be both a problem and a handicap. An unfortunate occurrence which we’ve given feedback on.
Fourth: Resonance. This is your character’s natural ability to activate and utilize magical objects. You have a number of resonance equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier. You can invest resonance ahead of time in an object that grants a long-term effect, or spend resonance on the fly to activate a magical object upon use. It’s meant to help replace gear slots (head, hand, and so on). Kind of cool, right? Sure. Until you start counting it out. Want to wear a magical cloak? Cool, 1 point. Want to drink a potion? Cool one point! Wait! One point? What if you only start with one point? What if you’re dying and you have no points? A friend can’t even shove a potion in your mouth to save you?Sort of. When you’re out of points you can attempt to overspend resonance you don’t have in order to activate the magical object anyway. This is a flat check with a DC equal to 10 + the number of points you’ve overspent (including any times you’ve tried and failed). If you pass the magic works, and if you fail it doesn’t (and you can’t attempt to activate that item again until the next day). If you critically fail (roll a 1) you can’t attempt to invest any other magical items at all that day. Ouch! Resonance is of particular interest to alchemists, who need to infuse their alchemical items with resonance in order to craft them. Okay, I can see that, I guess. Particularly for potions and such. Luckily, alchemist’s get to base their resonance off of their Intelligence, instead of their Charisma. But why should the alchemist have to spend resonance to make an acid flask when a wizard can cast cantrip and deal comparable damage at will? Yeah, I get WHY. There’s plenty of justifications. It’s an item, they’re not spell casters, so on and such. But… I don’t know. Both resonance, and the alchemist’s reliance on it is one of those new rules that I read, and just didn’t sit right. So far in playtests around my house it’s been a bit of a problem. Our alchemist was out of resonance within the first fight and had to rely on overspending resonance the entire rest of the adventure. She didn’t critically fail, thank goodness, but if she had, her character would have been completely shut down. She literally would have had to punch people with her gauntlet (a bad idea with her low strength and poor AC) or throw a rock at them (another bad idea). And if a whole character can be shut down so easily (at low levels, at least), that’s probably a problem. Similarly, our dwarf started with no resonance at all. Feeding him a potion in order to save his life was a fifty-fifty chance the first time, with the odds getting worse from there. Considering how quickly he died when he fell unconscious, that’s brutal. Ugh. Now, that said, I haven’t play tested the game enough yet, to make a final decision on resonance. Maybe it’s better with other classes. Maybe it’s less trouble at higher levels. Maybe this is meant to show that magic items are rare and special, tying it into the length of time that it takes to identify them. Maybe we’re not meant to really use something like a healing potion at low level. Maybe other groups didn’t have trouble at all. But so far, it’s been trouble for our groups. I hope that’s not the case in the future. I’d be particularly interested to see how resonance has worked out for you. If you’ve got an experience to share let me know!
Fifth: Initiative. You don’t have one. Instead you initiative is based on your perception modifier. Occasionally, if your character is doing something specific, you can roll a different skill in its place. For example, if you’re swimming your GM might rule you can use Athletics as initiative this time, or stealth if you’re in hiding. And so on. I loved this.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Pathfinder Playtest so far. I like the changes they’ve made to the game system, character creation, and treasure. I like it a lot, actually. That said, I have some questions which need clarifying, and we did run into trouble. We felt it took too long to identify magical items. We felt resonance was too limiting — especially for alchemists. And we felt the that dying turned into dead way too fast. It’s a good game, and we’re going to play it a lot more over the next year so that we can turn our feedback in to Paizo and they can make this next edition the best that it can be.
At the moment, do I think it’s better than Pathfinder First Edition? …I don’t think I can answer that. It’s new, and going to take some getting used to. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing Pathfinder since before it was Pathfinder. It’s nostalgic and homey. You know? I think it would be unfair to compare the two in that manner until I completely get the hang of the new rules. That said, I can answer a similar question. When it comes down to it, I like Pathfinder better than Starfinder. But do I like Pathfinder Playtest better than Starfinder? …No. Not yet. Maybe one day. But, at the moment, the Drift’s got more sway over me.
For some of you this might be irrelevant. Others, a little scary.
I’m getting up first thing in the morning and heading over to Paizo’s website to download my free copy of everything Pathfinder Playtest. I’ll read it within a day or two, and soon be testing out the character creation process. I’ll be teaching it to my kids by the start of next week, and trying my hand at GMing an adventure for them shortly after. I’ll download the Playtest PFS scenarios as soon as they launch next week, and have reviews up on them within a day or two. When Gameday comes I’ll have a chance to try the game out as a player. Afterwards, I hope to have a chance to play again. Then there’s surveys to fill out and feedback to give, so that Paizo can make this next version of Pathfinder the best that it can be.
So what’s first?
Everything is be available on the Pathfinder Playtest landing page, so head there first and see what there is on offer. Want it all? Click ‘Download All.’ Easy!
But, what exactly is there to download?
The first thing you’ll want to download is the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook. This is a short version of the rules which give you all the information you need to know in order to play Pathfinder Playtest, GM it, create and level up characters. Now, as the Playtest, this is not a full Rulebook. It’s not what you’ll see when Pathfinder Second Edition launches next year. It’s a streamlined Rulebook with everything you need to know to try out the game. To try running the game. And to make a wide variety of characters. This is the major download. Read it. Enjoy it. Give it a shot. Make characters. Try new things. Share it with your family and friends. Help them make characters.
After this you should download Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn. This adventure is actually a series of short, multi-encounter adventures which are linked over a decade of time to tell one epic story. Ancient Osirion features a wide variety of magical clocks which have been counting down through millennia. Previously a mystery, these Countdown Clocks will soon reach 0, at a time when Golarion will line up with the foul planet of Aucturn and allow the horrifying and mysterious Dominion of Black to surge across the world. Your players will travel throughout Golarion over a decade in order to understand the Countdown Clocks, defeat the Dominion of Black, and save Golarion! These mini-adventures are designed to show off and test a wide variety of game mechanics and adventure styles.
I’m thrilled for the Doomsday Dawn, particularly because I first read about the Countdown Clocks back when the The Pact Stone Pyramid was released before Pathfinder had its own rules set. I found the clocks so intriguing I made a whole campaign around it (which was pretty awesome if I do say so myself!). Unfortunately, that was one of the games that fell apart through the years (multiple pregnancies from both a player and myself were the joyous reason that campaign never got played through to its conclusion). I’m thrilled to see what the Paizo team does with it!
Those of you who will be GMing also need to download the Pathfinder Playtest Bestiary (link not available at the time of posting) which contains all the monster rules you’ll need to run the Doomsday Dawn. You’ll likely also want to download the Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack. This contains digital downloads of four major encounter areas in the Doomsday Dawn Adventure. These maps are said to include a burnt-out crypt, a ruined temple, a wizard’s tower, and an astronomer’s underground laboratory. I have high hopes for these maps, so I can’t wait to see them.
On August 7th Paizo releases three Pathfinder Society Scenarios for the Pathfinder Playtest (all of which are free). The first, Pathfinder Society Playtest #1: The Rose Street Revenge, is a series of four tier 1 quests that task the PCs with investigating a series of murders perpetrated by the Rose Street Killer, who has been targeting recently freed slaves. They’ll get to ally with kobolds, explore the Puddles, and… do some other exciting stuff that I’m not yet privy to! Haha. This scenario is written by Leo Glass, Thurston Hillman, Joe Pasini, and Linda Zayas-Palmer, so you know it’s going to be awesome!
Pathfinder Playtest Scenario #2: Raiders of Shrieking Peak is a tier 5 scenario written by Luis Loza. Recently, the Pathfinders discovered an Iomedean artifact that was being shipped overland from Diobel to Absalom. Unfortunately the caravan transporting it was attacked and its up to your PCs to find the thieves, and retrieve the relic. It sounds like this scenario is intended to have multiple ways to achieve your goals, which should allow both combat heavy groups, and diplomatic groups to try out different aspects of the game. The only art I’ve seen for this scenario so far features a harpy, so I’m very intrigued! (Fans of my Legacy of Fire novelization will know I’m a huge fan of harpies as potentially dangerous NPCs. Undrella was awesome!)
Pathfinder Society Playtest #3: Arclord’s Envy is a tier 5 scenario written by Liz Lydell which I am most excited for. It takes place in NEX, which is a place I’ve never had a chance to play in before, and is a mystery investigation that I know pretty much nothing about! It said to reflect the location wonderfully, and have some flexibility, which ensures that the mystery is different each time you play. This is particularly important since all of the PFS scenarios are replayable.
Well, I’m off now. I’ve got to download the Playtest materials myself, after all. Here’s hoping the website doesn’t crash…