Review: Construct Handbook

Today on d20 Diaries we’re taking a peek between the covers of one of the wonderful new products that came out at the end of last year: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. If you’re a follower of this blog you’ll know this was a book I was thrilled to get my hands on this past holiday season, and I was not disappointed.

Pathfinder Campaign Setting Construct Handbook
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook is a thick softcover book that is 64 pages long. Although the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line typically contains world lore (for all players) and some extra material for GMs, this book is a bit different. Equally geared at both players and GMs, it contains detailed rules on creating constructs, class archetypes, magic items, and a lot of new golems and golem templates. The cover features some atmospheric artwork by Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, which depicts the iconic arcanist Enora giving commands to her adamantine golem, as it battles a quantium golem. (Talk about epic career goals! Haha).

The front inside cover shines a light on some famous construct innovators, providing an image and a paragraph of information on each. The crafters showcased are Sidrah Imeruss, founder of the Technic League and an expert in the robots of Numeria; Toth Bhreacher, founder of the prestigious Golemworks in Magnimar; and Hadia Al-Dannah, a world renowned Qadiran mathematician, former scholar of the Clockwork Cathedral in Absalom, and expert on clockwork construction. The information is brief but lends a face to the construct trade, which is really nice. It also serves to give any characters interested in crafting golems a famous mentor or role model to live up to. A nice bit of fluff and backstory for any characters interested in seizing it.

construct handbook - icons of construct history
Icons of Construct History: Sidrah Imeruss, Toth Bhreacher, and Hadia Al-Dannah.

After that we have the table of contents, and then we hop right into the introduction. In addition to touching on what’s going to be in this lovely little tome, the introduction also discusses how the general populace of Golarion views golems and their crafters (both positives and negatives), and the difficulty in obtaining appropriate raw materials to craft a golem (which can often become an adventure in and of itself!). The Construct Handbook primarily focuses on clockworks, golems, and robots, but explains that there are may other kinds of constructs. For each of these major kinds of contracts it doesn’t touch upon, it contains a paragraph of information that lets you know where those constructs were first introduced, how compatible they are with the templates in this book, and where you can look for further information on them (if applicable). Constructs mentioned in this way are animated objects, colossi, and homunculi.

Leaving behind the introduction we hop right into the first chapter: ‘Crafting Constructs.’ This section of the book is six pages long and is really, really useful for anyone who wants to make a construct. Not sure I can stress that enough! Haha. It starts by taking a look at every step in the construct crafting process and explaining it fully and clearly. That includes everything from the requirements, cost, and finding materials, to time, and skill checks. It then details other methods that you could use to craft a construct, such as the use of the infamous golem manuals, purchase, and theft. After that it talks about construct modifications, which were first introduced in Pathfinder RPG: Ultimate Magic. It offers four new basic modifications (I particularly liked the movement and resistances modifications) and six really cool new complex modifications (be sure to check out construct shelter, mind link, and self-repair).

construct handbook - making a construct

The next chapter is six pages in length and contains eleven new archetypes. Some of these archetypes fell into expected themes: those that create or destroy constructs, but others I found quite surprising. My favourite archetype was definitely the clocksmith, a wizard archetype that falls solidly in the ‘create construct’ category. This delightful archetype lets you create a magical clockwork familiar in place of your regular familiar, and gives you craft construct as a bonus feat at level one instead of scribe scroll. In place their arcane school powers, clocksmiths gain a bonus on saving throws against effects created by constructs, and increase their effective spell level when casting spells that target constructs. At later levels they can tinker with their clockwork familiars, granting them eidolon evolutions. Super cool and thematic! I love it!

Other archetypes that fall solidly in the ‘create construct’ category include the construct caller, an unchained summoner archetype that allows your eidolon to be a construct; the cruorchymist, an alchemist archetype that gives up its poison abilities and mutagen to have a homunculus familiar which he can heal or alter on the fly with his own blood. Although I enjoy the construct caller, I find the cruorchymist is really rough on your CON score, with one ability dealing CON drain and another dealing CON damage to your character. Ouch!

arcanotheurge - construct handbook - alyssa mccarthy
A construct caller. Illustrated by Alyssa McCarthy. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Of the archetypes that focus on destroying constructs, I found that I liked the construct saboteur best. This rogue archetype swaps out knowledge (dungeoneering) and knowledge (local) as class skills in exchange for knowledge (arcana) and knowledge (engineering). They gain arcane strike at first level instead of trap finding, and gain a special kind of ability called an arcane sabotage, which is essentially construct hindering rogue talents accessible only though this archetype. My favourite of the arcane sabotage options are diminish senses (which can blind a construct for a turn) and magic vulnerability (which replaces a construct’s magic immunity with spell resistance instead). Most of the arcane sabotage options also allow you to extend of bolster their effects by giving up any sneak attack damage that you would deal. Super cool!

I was pleasantly surprised by the Forgefather’s seeker paladin archetype that enables pious worshippers of Torag to destroy dangerous artificial creations. They can smite constructs, cut through their DR with ease, and, at level 20, they even have a chance to automatically destroy a construct with a single blow. Not only was this archetype really solid and thematic, it was not something I expected to see. Construct killing paladins? I like it! The final ‘construct killing’ themed archetype was an arcanist archetype called the arcane tinkerer.

After reading the archetypes in this chapter, another theme became apparent: archetypes that can hijack or otherwise assume control of enemy constructs. Here you’ll find the construct collector occultist archetype, and the voice of Brigh bard archetype. The voice of Brigh was an interesting archetype. They have the ability to effect constructs with their bardic performances, which is very cool. But, most of it’s offensive performances have changed so that they only effect constructs. Essentially this means that you can use your bolstering music on allies of all kinds, including constructs, but that your hindering ones, like dirge of doom, fascinate, and frightening tune can only affect constructs. It’s a balanced trade if you’re going to be facing off against or allying with constructs on a regular basis, but otherwise is a rather large negative. However, their new bardic performance, Brigh’s Spark, allows them to reanimate a destroyed construct and force it to fight on your behalf. Each round they use this performance the construct regains more hp, and if it ever reaches full hp before they stop performing, it remains animated and under their control for 24 hours. So worth it!

I rather enjoyed the construct collector, as well, particularly because it gives up my least used of the occultist abilities for some cool new powers. They sacrifice magic circles, outside contact, binding circles, and fast circles, for the ability to temporarily halt a constructs destruction and control it for a turn (at the cost of some mental focus). At higher levels this ability’s duration is extended to a few rounds, and then a few minutes. They also gain the ability to harvest parts from broken constructs, which hold a point of generic focus. They can use the generic mental focus stored in these parts to fuel their focus powers on a one-for-one basis, which renders the parts useless. A nice touch!

The last few archetypes are much less focused and more easily used in a wide variety of games. The engineer is an investigator archetype that creates mechanisms that can aid them in a specific task for a few minutes. These mechanisms cost an inspiration point to create, grant the inspiration dice to the check it was made for throughout its duration, and can be shared with allies. They also gain a bonus on identifying constructs and on engineering checks. The scrapper is a fighter archetype that scavenges the parts from armour or broken constructs and uses them to augment their own armour. How much the makeshift modifications help and last depend on how powerful their source was. I found that archetype one of the most surprising I read! Really wasn’t expecting it, but I like it! Finally, there’s the wild effigy, a shifter archetype whose aspects and wild shape take on the appearance and consistency of stone instead of flesh and blood.

Chapter three is four pages of magic items, all with a very strong construct theme. It’s mostly golem manuals, but eight other magic items exist as well. I particularly like the chirurgeon cube and the oculus of magnetic fury.

Construct Handbook - Dragonhide Golem.JPG

Which brings us to our last and largest chapter: the bestiary. This thing is a forty three pages long, making it well over half the length of the book. In this chapter you’ll find fifteen new constructs and nine construct templates (each of which includes one sample stat block). Five of these constructs are a new intelligent kind of construct with ties to the Jistka Imperium, called an automaton. There’s also four new clockworks, three new robots, and three new golems. My favourite new constructs were the champion automatons (who can grab an enemy in their pincers and then whack another enemy with them! Hahaha! I love it!), clockwork songbird, dragonhide golem, and sand golem. My favourite construct templates include the energized golem, haunted construct, and recycled construct.

steam powered -clockwork dragon - construct handbook - graey erb
A steam powered clockwork dragon created using the new steam powered template with a clockwork dragon as the base creature. Illustrated by Graey Erb. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to the end of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s got some cool archetypes and a lot of awesome new enemies. New beasties for your players to battle against is always a great investment as a GM, so it was worth my money based on creatures alone. It’s an invaluable book for anyone who want to get into construct crafting. That said, it is very tight on its theme. Chances are if you’re a player who isn’t planning on crafting constructs or playing in a construct heavy campaign, you won’t find much of use in this book. It should be noted that although I’ll get the most use out of this book (as a GM), all of my family — my husband and my two young children — read this book and got inspired by the class archetypes. The three of them are now begging me to make them a construct themed campaign. (Do we not have enough campaigns?! Pretty sure we do!). I suppose it’s more use for players than I thought! Haha.

All in all, we’re happy to have this lovely little book on our shelf!

Do you own the Construct Handbook? Got some favourite creatures from it or stories about construct crafting you want to share? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!

Jessica

 

Relics and Rarities a True Treasure!

Last night marked the first episode of the exciting new fantasy role-playing game series: Relics and Rarities! Hosted and DMed by the delightful Deborah Ann Woll who you might (should!) recognize from the shows True Blood, Daredevil, Defenders, and Punisher, or the new movie Escape Room, this show features the talents of Julia Dennis, Tommy Walker, Xander Jeanneret, and Jasmine Bhullar. In addition, each episode features a special celebrity guest which includes Sam Richardson, Janina Gavankah, Simone Missick, Kevin Smith, Matthew Lillard, and Charlie Cox. Relics and Rarities is presented by Geek & Sundry and streams weekly on Alpha (ProjectAlpha.com). They’ll be playing Dungeons & Dragons, set in a world created by Deborah Ann Woll.

Honestly? I’ve been excited about this show since it was announced! And with the recent reveal of the special guest line-up? Well, how could I resist?

“I’m so excited to finally announce my new show, Relics and Rarities,” Woll said in a statement. “We’ve assembled a stellar creative team, along with amazingly intricate set design, props and puzzles, a hilarious and surprising cast – and an original world and campaign of my own creation.” She added, “You’ll have to watch to see what tricks I have up my sleeve.”

“Welcoming fans who have not yet experienced collaborative storytelling is an established mission of Geek & Sundry,” said Legendary Digital Networks (LDN) SVP of Production and Programming, Jason Corey in a statement. Corey added, “Partnering with Deborah Ann Woll has been a dream come true for us. We’re thrilled to be able to elevate and broaden the platform for a female Dungeon Master and to expand the fandom for this unique and exciting genre.”

Relics and Rarities begins in the town of Bellbrook when four adventurers receive a mysterious letter and are summoned to an unassuming curio shop, Relics and Rarities, by Professor Roundland. The good professor informs the team that strange occurrences have been plaguing Bellbrook, and she’d like to hire them to investigate. The first stop? Professor Roundland contacted a seer who has recently helped the R&R (Relics and Rarities) Brigade before only to discover that she was plagued by something… supernatural. The team is dispatched to visit the seer at her home, Benthem Manor, and hopefully put things right. But, the mystery behind this manor is just the beginning. By the end of the episode it’s clear that our heroes will need to foil an unholy prophecy before it can come to fruition. They have their work cut out for them!

The first episode, Haunting at Bentham Manor, was absolutely amazing! The set was spectacular, the adventure was both enthralling and suspenseful, and the props were above and beyond what I imagined they would be. Deborah was a wonderful Dungeon Master, full of enthusiasm and a love of the game. She was an absolute joy to watch. The cast is great. They’ve got enjoyable characters, great chemistry, and every single one of them was hilarious. Guest star, Matthew Lillard, was a wonderful choice for the first episode. As the owner of Beadle & Grimm’s Pandemonium warehouse he’s no stranger to role-playing game, of course, but honestly, he was also just… amazing. Engaging, amusing, the whole deal.

Relics and Rarities was well-planned, inventive, and atmospheric. There was mystery, suspense, problem solving, and some delightful puzzles (my young kids and I particularly loved the puzzle door). The props made my kids gasp in jealousy at every single one (and there were a lot!). The cast was entertaining, and the set was very rich in detail. Best of all, the story was engaging —  we laughed a lot, shed some tears (yes, I cried), and my daughter ran away in terror during the first battle. Oh, that creative ghost sound use. Way to give her nightmares, guys! Poor thing. Haha. As for my son, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so amazed with anything he’s watched before. He was amazed and literally captivated the entire time. We were absolutely blown away! Not sure I can stress that enough, actually.

But, in summary: it’s awesome. I honestly can’t think of a single thing to complain about.

Want to check out Relics and Rarities yourself? You really, really should! Episodes air Mondays at 6pm PT on Alpha, but its also available on demand. Not a member of Alpha? Neither was I! New members can sign up for a free seven day trial with the code RELICS. After that Alpha membership costs $4.99 American per month, or $49.99 every 12 months.

I cannot wait to see where it goes from here!

Jessica

Dawn of Flame Adventure Path

Today we’re leaving our chilly Manitoba winter behind and turning up the heat! Gaze into the future with us as we check out the upcoming Starfinder Adventure Path: Dawn of Flame!

Dawn of Flame is a six part Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game which is currently available for pre-order. The first volume, Starfinder Adventure Path 13: Fire Starters (Dawn of Flame 1 of 6), comes out in February and is written by James L. Sutter. The entire campaign takes place around, on, and IN the Pact World’s sun, with a focus on the Burning Archipelago and the sun’s interior. The campaign should take characters from levels 1 all the way through to levels 12 or 13. In a recent interview on Starfinder Wednesday, Chris Simms explained that this Adventure Path is not as dark as the previous ones — putting it in direct contrast to the previous Starfinder Adventure Path, Signal of Screams (which begins with The Diaspora Strain). Much lighter in tone, Dawn of Flame is intended to get back to the heart of Starfinder — that space opera science fantasy mix of fun. This adventure path is full of mystery, surprises, and interesting discoveries. The further you delve into the mystery, the deeper into the sun you’ll travel, making your physical journey a mirror of your intellectual discoveries.

Which is awesome! As a mother of mystery-loving kids, I’m thrilled that this is a campaign my whole family can get excited about.

The Sun? How can I adventure there?!

A-ha! Good question! In a lot of ways the sun of the Pact Worlds is just like ours. It’s an incandescent ball of burning gas and plasma, with intense pressure and heat. Not very hospitable! But, because Starfinder is a science fantasy game, magic has allowed the folks over at Paizo to do a lot of cool things! The Pact Worlds sun has mystical connections (and magical portals) to both the Plane of Fire and the Positive Energy Plane. Plenty of strange beings live within the depths of the sun, such as the starship-sized flame whales that can be seen swimming and breaching through the sun’s plasma. Outsiders from the Elemental Plane of Fire are also known to live within the sun, including sentient beings such as efreet, and azers.

Upon the surface of the sun floats a settlement called the Burning Archipelago. Multiple districts make up this Pact Worlds Protectorate, each of which is contained within it’s own magical ‘bubble’ of unknown origin. These mysterious bubbles keep the neighbourhoods within protected from the harmful effects of the sun, and provide artificial environments that allow many forms of life to thrive. Although all of these bubbles are connected to one another via magical tunnels, only one bubble allows access from outside the Burning Archipelago. This entrance was originally discovered by devotees of Sarenrae (goddess of the sun) who noticed the mysteriously abandoned bubble settlements and attempted to fly as close to them as they could. Miraculously, they stumbled upon the entrance and claimed the settlement for their own. To this day the Church of Sarenrae has influence over most of the Burning Archipelago, including the only entrance. In the time since its founding, many people have come to the Burning Archipelago, including corporations, scientists, beings from the Plane of Fire, and citizens of the Pact Worlds. Each district has become home to different groups, communities, and industries, and serves different purposes. Each has its own security force, with the Sarenite Dawn Patrol, and the Pact Worlds Stewards acting as other over-arching police forces. Neighbourhoods of the Burning Archipelago include Asanatown, Chroma, Corona, Dawnshore, Fireside, Stellacuna, and Verdeon. The sun has many structures and life forms for its citizens to marvel over and study, and plenty of mysteries to unravel. For more information on the Pact Worlds Sun and its many secrets you can check out Starfinder: Pact Worlds.

the sun - burning archipelago - entrance - dawnshore
Entrance to the Burning Archipelago, as seen in Starfinder: Pact Worlds

Dawn of Flame

At its core, Dawn of Flame is about mystery and discovery. About unravelling secrets, and going places no one has gone before. Your characters will discover new settlements and people, strange creatures, and powerful enemies. After uncovering the machinations of a semi-divine being they’ll need to work fast to protect the sun from extraplanar conquest! The fate of the Pact Worlds Sun in is their hands!

Fire Starters

starfinder dawn of flame adventure path fire starters
Starfinder Adventure Path 13: Fire Starters (Dawn of Flame 1 of 6)

The Dawn of Flame Adventure Path begins in the Burning Archipelago, and involves Far Portal — a structure that, like the Burning Archipelago itself, is far older and more technologically advanced than anything in the Pact Worlds. It’s creator and purpose is a mystery, but it’s function is not. Far Portal is a magical portal to a particularly inhospitable region of the Plane of Fire. It hovers nearby, within sight of the Burning Archipelago, but rarely sees use. Although intrepid and foolhardy explorers sometimes enter it, none have ever returned. What’s more, nothing has come out of it. Ever. Until now! A ship flies out of Far Portal, chased by an astoundingly big flame whale. The portal soon disappears INTO the sun, and a massive psychic disturbance wracks the populace. These life-changing events lead our PCs to accept work for a local scientist, in an effort to help her figure out what’s going on. PCs will need to travel into Asanatown, a lashunta enclave in the Burning Archipelago, to contact another scientist who can help. Unfortunately, the psychic burst has hit the telepathic citizens of Asanatown hard. Tensions boil over, and chaos erupts in the district. Finding that scientist? Yeah, that’s the easy part…

Starfinder Adventure Path 13: Fire Starters (Dawn of Flame 1 of 6) is written by James L. Sutter and is intended for 1st-level characters. In addition to the adventure itself, this volume contains detailed information on the district of Asanatown (written by Jason Tondro) and the Church of Sarenrae and its worshippers (written by Patrick Brennan), including some new equipment common to her worshippers. The Alien Archive entries focus on extraplanar creatures, including ifrits and proteans, and is written by Leo Glass, Owen K.C. Stephens, and James L. Sutter. The Codex of Worlds introduces us to a “beautiful resort planet” with connections to the Plane of Water, and is written by Lacy Pellazar. Finally, the ship that will be showcased is a Sarenite vessel designed by Jason Keeley.

Soldiers of Brass

starfinder sadventure path dawn of flame soldiers of brass
Starfinder Adventure Path 14: Soldiers of Brass (Dawn of Flame 2 of 6)

Starfinder Adventure Path 14: Soldiers of Brass (Dawn of Flame 2 of 6) is written by Crystal Frasier and is intended for characters around level 3. By now your PCs work for the Deep Cultures Institute, which is a scientific corporation of dubious reputation that believes there are not only ancient archeological sites to discover within the sun, but living breathing people and cultures. Intent on unraveling the mysterious psychic burst that came from the Sun’s depths, they’ve turned to outside help to aid them. But, when important data is stolen from DCI your PCs will have to track down the thieves, retrieve the data, and figure out why they wanted it in the first place.

This adventure will take your players through Stellacuna, the district that is home to the Deep Cultures institute and other centres of learning, and Corona, a dangerous district that is home to many denizens of the Plane of Fire, and the infamous market known as the Brass Bazaar. Although no further information is currently available as to the other articles in this book, I imagine we’ll be treated to an in depth article on the district of Corona.

Brass Bazaar
The Brass Bazaar

Sun Divers

Sun Divers
Starfinder Adventure Path 15: Sun Divers (Dawn of Flame 3 of 6)

Starfinder Adventure Path #15: Sun Divers (Dawn of Flame 3 of 6) is written by Joe Pasini and is intended for 5th-level characters. During this part of the adventure path your characters will have discovered proof of a settlement within the sun’s depths, and have the coordinates to get there. The problem? A ship! Your PCs will need to track down the creators of an experimental ship known as a Sun Diver, and retrieve it from the shady folks who have it now. In addition to getting to explore the Verdeon district of the Burning Archipelago, they’ll get to take their  awesome new ship (that looks a lot like a pinecone!) beneath the surface of the sun, and explore an undiscovered city!

Further content in this volume includes an article on Noma (the newly discovered bubble-city) and on organized crime. Alien Archive entries are said to include creatures that live within the sun. Although the planet examined in the Codex of Worlds is still a mystery, the ship that will be detailed is going to be the Sun Diver.

The Blind City

Starfinder Adventure Path #16: The Blind City (Dawn of Flame 4 of 6) is written by Ron Lundeen and is intended for 7th-level characters. Your PCs time in the bubble-city of Noma has led to further discoveries, including an ancient magical tablet. Bringing the tablet back to the Burning Archipelago for translation causes a clash with the cult of Azathoth. If they’re lucky, your players will beat back the cultists and discover the coordinates to another mysterious location within the sun, known as Ezorod. The discoveries they make in this lightless (yes, you read that right: LIGHTLESS), foul dungeon will change their lives forever, and finally place the PCs on the trail of Dawn of Flame’s major villain.

Further content in this volume includes an article on various cults found in the Pact Worlds, and a bunch of new and weird techonological and magical equipment. The Alien Archives include new creatures from throughout the multiverse. Information on the Codex of Worlds and ship details have yet to be revealed.

Solar Strike

Starfinder Adventure Path #17: Solar Strike (Dawn of Flame 5 of 6) is written by Mark Moreland and intended for 9th-level characters. It begins with the PCs receiving a distress call from the peaceful citizens of settlement deep within the sun who are under attack by efreet invaders from the Plane of Fire. Your PCs will need to dive back below the surface of the sun to liberate the city of Kahlannal from their conquerers! Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s the start of an invasion…

Further content in this volume includes an article on the bubble-city of Kahlannal, and an article on the cultures of the Pact Worlds sun and other stars throughout the galaxy. Content of the Alien Archives, Codex of Worlds, and ships has yet to be announced.

Assault on the Crucible 

Starfinder Adventure Path #18: Assault on the Crucible (Dawn of Flame 6 of 6) is written by Jason Tondro and is intended for 11th-level characters. It is the final volume in the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path and should bring your PCs to level 12 or 13. In it, the efreet army, acting at the behest of a semi-divine being from the Plane of Fire known as Malikah, launches an assault on the Burning Archipelago from the depths of the Sun! Aware of this coming attack your PCs will have have to defend the city, bring the fight to the enemy at their hidden base, close the portals to the Plane of Fire, and return Far Portal to its home on the surface of the sun! Epic stuff!

Further content in this volume includes an article on continuing the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path past the story’s conclusion, and an article on Starfinder’s version of the Plane of Fire. The Alien Archive is said to contain creatures from the sun, the Plane of Fire, and elsewhere in the galaxy. Details on the Codex of Worlds and ship details have yet to be revealed.

An Ending

And with that we come to the end of the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path. Or rather, we come to the beginning. Next month the first volume of Dawn of Flame will be in our hands and we’ll get to create characters that can embark on this epic quest of discovery. Turns out the fate of the entire Pact Worlds hangs the in balance. No pressure! When asked if he had any further thoughts and themes that he wants Starfinder fans to come away from Dawn of Flame with, Chris Simms had this to say:

“There’s no place you can’t go.”

And he’s right! Starfinder is a game that allows us to go anywhere, explore anything, and become something greater than ourselves. It’s a world of advanced technology, alien species, and powerful magic. This fusion of big, bold ideas has led to a truly wonderful game. If you haven’t given it a try, I highly suggest you do!

Want more information on the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path, or to see awesome artwork from Fire Starters? Check out this past week’s episode of Starfinder Wednesday, featuring host Dan Tharp and special guest Chris Simms!

Enjoy!

Jessica


UPDATE: Check out the recently released Dawn of Flame Trailer!

Starfinder Alien Archive 3 Announced

Starfinder recently announced Alien Archive 3!

Like previous Alien Archives this book is going to contain over a hundred aliens for allying with or fighting against, as well as over a dozen which can be used as player races. Starmetal dragons, living holograms, ‘body-snatching flayer leeches’ and irokirois from Osoro have all been confirmed to be in the book. Playable alien races include an intelligent swarm of tiny insects and a bioluminescent cephalopod.

alien archive 3 temp coverAs an added bonus Alien Archive 3 is going to contain some other player options and gear, which is a nice change of pace. Best of all? Rule for pets, mounts, and combatant creature companions! My daughters dreams have just come true. Haha.

Pre-order for Alien Archive 3 is scheduled to begin in August 2019.

Other exciting upcoming Starfinder products include the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path which is scheduled to begin with Starfinder Adventure Path 13: Fire Starters in February, followed by #14: Soldiers of Brass (Dawn of Flame 2 of 6) in March, #15: Sun Divers in April, #16: The Blind City in May, #17: Solar Strike in June, and finally #18: Assault on the Crucible in July. The highly anticipated Starfinder Beginner Box is coming out in April 2019. Finally, the newly announced Attack of the Swarm Adventure Path is scheduled to begin with Adventure Path #19: Fate of the Fifth in August. There’s some awesome pawn collections coming out as well, with the Against the Aeon Throne Pawn Collection coming out this month, the Alien Archive 2 Pawn Box out in February, the Signal of Screams Pawn Collection out in April, and the Tech Terrain Pawn Collection coming out in August.

This is going to be one exciting year!

Jessica

 

Enter the Darklands

Another Friday has come and gone which means another episode of Pathfinder Friday! This week host Dan Tharp welcomed James Jacobs to the show to chat about the Darklands.

“We’re going to kick of 2019 and just blow the doors off the whole show,” Dan insisted James said.

James has been hard at work lately creating monsters for the upcoming Bestiary, and seemed happy to take a break to chat. The episode passed in a flash and, as always happens when James is on the show, I learned something new. (Multiple somethings, if I’m being honest! Haha).

So what are the Darklands?

“The Darklands are basically the underworld of our setting,” James Jacobs explained. “A new campaign setting that basically  lives downstairs from the one that we do most of our settings in.”

The Darklands are separated into three main sections. Nar’Voth, the region closest to the surface, is home to duergar, troglodytes, and derro (among others). Below that is Sekamina, home to the drow. Orv, the deepest layer, consists of massive magical caverns called Vaults, which were created long ago by the Vault Keepers. James explained that these Vault Keepers were actually a type of earth elemental called a xiomorn. Each of the Vaults of Orv is home to its own ecosystems and some are even large enough to hold entire nations. Orv is the perhaps the most mysterious of the layers of the Darklands, and a personal favourite of mine.

James took us on a tour of the Darklands, describing many important locations and their inhabitants. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the aboleths of the Sightless Sea and the spiralling current known as the Braid that they use to travel to the oceans on Golarion’s surface, the drow of Zirnakaynin, and the ancient serpentfolk empire that once stretched across all of Sekamina. James also talked about the origins of the drow and the derro, common themes among Darklands cultures, the caligni, and some of the more benevolent creatures you can find underground. He discussed some of the works that inspired and influenced his underground creations. Much to my surprise, James shared some wonderful information about Rovagug with viewers, and taught us a lesson about the Elemental Planes. It was awesome!

Perhaps my favourite quote of the episode happened near the end, when James summed up the Darklands in one sentence, calling it…

“The giantest of giant dungeons.”

I love it.

Want to learn more about the Darklands? Most of the published information on the Darklands can be found in Pathfinder Chronicles: Into the Darklands by James Jacobs and Greg Vaughan and Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Darklands Revisited by Thurston Hillman. Pathfinder Adventure Path 16: Endless Night (Second Darkness book 4 of 6)Pathfinder Adventure Path 18: Descent into Midnight (Second Darkness book 6 of 6), and the new module Pathfinder Module: Cradle of Night, are also great resources, while Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of the Darklands can help players from the surface world survive the Darklands.

Pathfinder Friday streams live on Paizo’s twitch channel every Friday at 4 p.m. PST. You can also watch already aired episodes on their Twitch stream, or watch partial episodes on their youtube channel. Be sure to tune in next week when James Jacobs discusses the Varisian city of Magnimar, and the week after when the iconic rogue Merisiel will (tentatively) take centre stage.

I can’t wait!

Jessica

 

Starfinder Wednesday Tackles the Vanguard!

Wednesday night on Starfinder Wednesday Dan and the gang over at Paizo talked about the Character Operations Manual Playtest, where you can take three new Starfinder classes for a test drive. This week was the final of three episodes streaming over the past month that took an in depth look at these three classes: the biohacker, the witchwarper, and the vanguard. So which was up last?

The vanguard!

Host Dan Tharp welcomed special guests Owen K.C. Stephens and Joe Pasini to the show. Joe wrote the vanguard. Although this was his first time on the show he seemed comfortable and did a great job! Really enjoyable to watch!

StarfinderCover
Want to get in on the game? All you need is the Starfinder Core Rulebook! Want more races or enemies? Pick up Starfinder Alien Archive and Alien Archive 2. Want more gear? Check out Starfinder Armory. Want to learn more about the worlds of Starfinder? Pick up Starfinder Pact Worlds.

To kick things off Dan asked Owen and Joe about the Starfinder Operations Manual Playtest. How has it been going? What sort of feedback have they been getting? What’s good and bad and so on. Owen admitted that it is both productive and frustrating. Obviously when you put creative content out there that you think is great and ask people to find it’s flaws and problem areas, they’re going to do that. And find flaws the playtesters have! Haha. But, in a good way. All these problems that have been identified are areas the team is excited to tackle and improve upon. Most exciting, Owen said that even the negative feedback has still been positive. Turns out fans really like the concepts of the three character classes — the biohacker, the witchwarper, and the vanguard — and are excited to see them in play. All in all, the folks at Paizo appreciate the time everyone has spent on this playtest and look forward to hearing more from us.

As an outsider, it sounds like they have some polishing and tweaking to do, but nothing too major.

For those of you who haven’t provided feedback to Paizo’s messageboards or surveys yet, you’ve still got time. The Starfinder Operations Manual Playtest closes on January 16th. Be sure to get your responses in by then!

From there the conversation shifted onto the vanguard. This was Joe Pasini’s first time developing a class, and I think he did a really great job. But, when asked his thoughts on writing classes he laughed and replied “Can’t say I recommend it.”

Hahaha! Awesome.

The gang clarified that writing classes is among the hardest things you can do in a d20 game, as this is the primary way in which the players are going to interact with your game. They have to be great, so your game can shine. Writing and developing them can be stressful.

The vanguard is mechanically different than anything they’ve done before, so they want it to play differently. It should feel different than a soldier and a solarian (which are the two nearest comparable classes), but it should still be as effective. Vanguard’s don’t do as much damage as those other full BAB combatants, but they target EAC, so they nearly always hit their enemies. But, at its core, its the vanguards resilience that makes them special.

Joe explained that when they were creating ideas for new classes, very early on they decided they wanted a constitution based tank type of character. It was Joe who suggested tying that to the idea of entropy. Further meetings helped focus the class down to its inspirations and final concept. And that’s when Joe got to step in, stare at some blank paper, and try to make it work.

In the end, vanguards became a class that stand strong on the front lines, protect their companions, take hits and become empowered because of them. They don’t mind getting hit, because it lets them use their abilities more effectively. They’re a class that’s just really cool and different. Both tactically and mechanically.

During the interview, Joe explained that one of the things he’s most excited for about the vanguard is how it can create a lot of different kinds of characters. It’s inspiration was very broad — including Captain America, the Juggernaut, the Terminator, David Dunn (from the film Unbreakable), and many more. All these kinds of characters and more can be expressed as vanguards. Later in the episode, spurred on by viewer questions, they even chatted about barathu and contemplative vanguards. (Which are awesome!)

Now, like the other playtest classes, vanguard is not without its flaws. Owen has pointed out that from playtest feedback they’ve discovered that vanguards sometimes have trouble getting into combat and could use a method to speed themselves up. In addition, they have nothing to spend their entropy points on at first level. Owen and Joe mused about creating a way to use entropy points to gain a speed burst (either short or long term) in order to fill both design gaps.

Yes, please!

Much to my surprise and excitement, a creation of my daughter’s was mentioned in the episode, as well as her desire for animal companions. While we were watching she squealed in glee so loud we had to rewatch the mention just to hear what they said about her. And then she asked us to rewatch it some more. Haha. It made her night! Scratch that. It made her month. Probably longer.

“I was reading through [Starfinder Wednesday Fan Club message board] and saw someone posted that their daughter has a rabbit companion that they have strapped to their hoverdrone that follows them around. I thought that was so cool,” said Joe Pasini.

“That’s so awesome,” Dan Tharp agreed.

“And they’re asking about animal companion rules and I think that that would be cool. Some kind of alien companion rules.”

Surprisingly, Owen lavished praise on the idea in a way that insinuated they might already have such a thing in the works — or at least planned for the future. Here’s hoping it comes out with the Player Operations Manual! Haha. But, alas! Owen would offer no further spoilers!

Right near the end Joe brought up my daughter’s drone-wearing rabbit again, saying he’d like to hear more about it. Not just the rabbit, but cool concepts and ideas that are different. He explained that he loves that all the new classes are Starfinder classes. They’re not Pathfinder classes ported over to the new game. They’re different and unique, and they allow players to tell new kinds of stories.

And he’s right.

They’re varied and wonderful, and adaptable. They allow us to make something cool, while forcing us to think a little deeper. Not just the new classes. All of the Starfinder classes.

I really enjoyed last night’s episode. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend you do. Joe and Owen were great guests, and they offered wonderful insight into making not only the vanguard, but classes as a whole. Just wonderful stuff! Starfinder Wednesday streams live on Paizo’s twitch channel every Wednesday at 4 p.m. PST. You can also watch already aired episodes on their Twitch stream, or watch partial episodes on their youtube channel. For more information on the Character Operations Manual Playest and to download the new classes check out StarfinderPlaytest.com.


critical hit deck skittermander taylor fischer
Skittermanders are a delightful race that love to help! You can find statistics for playing skittermanders in Starfinder: Alien Archive, play as a crew of skittermanders in the free adventure Skitter Shot, and see plenty of skittermander artwork in the new Starfinder Critical Hit Deck, featuring art by Taylor Fischer.

Before we sign off, my seven year old daughter would like to share some information about her now famous (at least in her opinion) drone-wearing rabbit.

“Hugs is a skittermander with fluffy pink and brown fur and a happy smile. She loves people and animals, even if they are ugly or maybe mean bad guys. And she loves making friends. She’s a mechanic, and an ace pilot, and she has a pet rabbit named Bun-Bun. To keep Bun-Bun safe Hugs made a hoverdrone which Bun-Bun wears like a backpack! It looks like Bun-Bun is a tiny pilot flying the hoverdrone and firing its weapons! Haha! But, Hugs controls the hover drone with her own AI, like all drones, and Bun-Bun is just along for the ride. Luckily, Bun-Bun really likes flying. Right now Hugs is teaching Bun-Bun to be her co-pilot! She has trained her to click a button on command. Hugs shouts:

“Bun-Bun! Do the thing!”

And Bun-Bun clicks a button. But, Bun-Bun can’t tell the buttons apart or anything, so he never clicks the right one! He always messes it up and its always very funny! But, Hugs thinks he is a great co-pilot. He just needs some more practise!”

Thanks for joining us today!

All the best,

Jessica (and family!)

 

Starfinder Wednesday Dissects the Biohacker!

Last week on Starfinder Wednesday Dan and the gang over at Paizo talked about the Character Operations Manual Playtest, where you can take three new Starfinder classes for a test drive. This week was the first of three episodes streaming over the next month that will take an in depth look at these three classes: the biohacker, the witchwarper, and the vanguard. So which is up first?

The biohacker!

Host Dan Tharp welcomed special guests Jason Keeley and Owen K.C. Stephens. Jason wrote the first draft of the biohacker and, although it was a team effort, this class is his baby. In fact, the biohacker is the first class that Jason has ever written. Yes, ever. For anything.

Congrats, Jason! I love it!

Know what else I love? Jason even wore a bloody lab coat  to get into character. Honestly? I think Jason’s always a delight to see on the show. He’s a sort of… understated hilarious.

So what did Jason have to say about the biohacker?

“Biohacker is a science based class that works with a lot of our injections (a weapon special property) and can aid his allies and hinder his foes with science. WITH SCIENCE!”

And yes, everyone should say ‘with science’ with great enthusiasm!

WITH SCIENCE!!!

Yeah!

Have I mentioned I really like the biohacker?

…Well, I do. And I’m not the only one! When asked why he wanted to make the biohacker, Jason had this to say:

“So when we decided the three classes that we were going to do I was very excited to jump in and get to write the first pass on the biohacker because I used to want to be a scientist. In high school I had some really great science teachers. I actually had a teacher whose last name was — I kid you not — ‘panic,’ spelt a little differently […] and he taught us all sorts of fun science experiments and I was like ‘Yeah, science is cool! I’m going to go to college for science.’ And I went to the University of Delaware for two years […] with a biochemistry major.”

Unfortunately for Jason, and very fortunately for Paizo and all of use at home, science didn’t really work out for Mr. Keeley. He shared some hilarious stories about his misadventures working in a science lab, which sound like they could have been showcased in the classic Disney ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’ In short, it ended with Jason accidentally flooding the entire science lab on his way home for the night. Luckily for all of us, Jason later realized he liked theatre a lot more, and got an English degree instead.

“And that eventually led me here. And that’s my backstory, everybody.”

Thanks for sharing, Jason!

But, back to business. When asked how he used his experiences to help him create the biohacker, Jason replied:

“So I was excited to take what I remembered from science, and chemistry, and biochemistry, and biology, and try to […] apply that to a fun class.” […] “Thinking about all the aspects of biochemistry […] going into the generalities of genetics, and neurotransmitters, and enzymology and that sort of thing, were words that I definitely wanted to use. Right? And figure out how it would work in the game.”

Owen K.C. Stephens went further, saying:

“I think an important part of where his experience came into this draft is that Jason discovered the very important difference between the fun ‘imagining what science would be like that is exciting and interesting’ and what real science is like.” […] “The biohacker is not designed to be any kind of real world statement about genetics, or biochemistry, […] we don’t want you to have to pick up a thesaurus or have two years of biological chemistry in order to play this class, so its, its very much a fun idea catchphrase driven class.”

So what is a biohacker? What cool goodies do they get and what roles are they meant to fill? Well, as we mentioned in a previous blog post on the Starfinder Playtest classes, the biohacker can do a lot. They have a custom scanner which they can use to identify creatures and heal their allies. They can fire injection weapons at their allies without causing them harm — an ability that lets them fire a healing serum or other beneficial medicinal without hurting their pals. They have some balancing abilities — buffs and debuffs — that let them influence the battle, and a large list of theorems that they can choose to learn which allow them new abilities. Some of these are toolbox-y, others alter how you might use injections or what your injections can do, and others force mutation. High level theorems can even stop peoples hearts and lower an enemy’s cognitive abilities. Basically, they inject people with things to solve problems.

StarfinderCover
Want to give Starfinder a whirl? Pick up the Starfinder Core Rulebook!

Owen explained that they have three main categories of classes: combatants, spellcasters, and classes that are neither. Instead, these classes have a unique array of abilities that are good in and out of combat. Its these classes — like the biohacker — that are the most difficult to design. Which is also why it needs playtesting!

So if we want to help make the biohacker the best it can be, what kind of information should we be giving in our feedback surveys and on the message boards? For starters, they want to know how the class works mechanically. Did you like it? Was it easy to understand? What works well and what doesn’t? How does it work on its own, in a group, and at high-level play? Did you come across any odd situations or combinations what caused problems. Also, they want to know if the class fits in with the world of Starfinder, and if you liked it. Was it fun? Exciting? Boring? Tell them!

Following the episode was a great Q&A segment where fans can ask questions live on Paizo’s twitch stream through the chat function, or by posting a question online ahead of time here. There were a lot of good topics discussed, including clarifications to mechanics and rules. My favourite question? “Can a biohacker build an injection ship weapon to target living ships?” Answer? No! Not right now. But clearly Owen and Jason loved the idea, so it’s likely we’ll see something like that one day down the road. Owen said he was going to add it to his list of ‘things that are too cool to forget.’

All in all, it was an awesome episode. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend you do! Starfinder Wednesday airs on Paizo’s Twitch stream on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. PST. You can also watch already aired episodes on their Twitch stream, or watch partial episodes on their youtube channel. Curious what’s on the agenda for upcoming shows? Next Wednesday Amanda Hamon Kunz and Owen K.C. Stephens discuss the Witchwarper. On Boxing Day Paizo will be airing a pre-recorded show about the beginnings of Starfinder.  And on January 2nd Joe Pasini and Owen K.C. Stephens discuss the Vanguard.

Exciting!

For more information on the Character Operations Manual Playest and to download the new classes check out StarfinderPlaytest.com.

Happy gaming!

Jessica

 

A Continuing Partnership: Paizo Inc. and The Glass Cannon Network

Fans of Pathfinder and the Glass Cannon can rejoice! Paizo Inc. and the Glass Cannon Network recently announced that their licensing partnership will continue for another three years. This includes both The Glass Cannon podcast for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and Androids & Aliens for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

Huzzah!

“Our whole enterprise began out of a love bordering on obsession for Pathfinder and the adventures that Paizo puts out. We are thrilled to be extending this partnership at an exciting time in the industry as tabletop RPGs continue to explode into the mainstream and technology allows people worldwide to take part in a shared gaming experience with us on an almost daily basis,” said Troy Lavallee, CEO of The Glass Cannon Network.

“We’re excited to continue adventuring through GCP’s imagination as they bring our Pathfinder and Starfinder Adventure Paths to life through their gifted storytelling,” said Jim Butler, Vice President of Marketing & Licensing at Paizo. “We look forward to working with Troy, Joe, Matthew, Skid, and Grant as they continue their foray into the Pathfinder and Starfinder universes.”

For those of you who don’t know, The Glass Cannon Network is a super popular weekly podcast where the GM and players work their way through Pathfinder and Starfinder adventure paths. Their shows began airing back in 2015, and have been going strong over the last few years. GMed by Troy Lavallee with players Skid Maher, Matthew Capodicasa, Joe O’Brien, and Grant Berger, the gang over at Glass Cannon are captivating, funny, and just a joy to listen to. If you haven’t given them a shot you really should. They’re just top notch.

The Glass Cannon Network includes The Glass Cannon Podcast, where they are currently playing through Pathfinder’s Giantslayer Adventure Path; Androids & Aliens, where they are currently playing through Starfinder’s Dead Suns Adventure Path; the behind the scenes Cannon Fodder Podcast, and their Glass Cannon Live! Tour which will be touring the USA this year. For more information on The Glass Cannon Network, to listen to their podcasts, or to see them live, head on over to their website or support them on Patreon!


Want to get in on Gianstlayer or Dead Suns yourself? Good! You should! They’re awesome.

Giantslayer is a six-part Adventure Path for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game that sees your PCs defend the town of Trunau from orc raiders, only to learn that the orcs were just the start of something much, much worse… The giants are coming! Your PCs will need to work fast to bring down the giant army and foil their plans, before the giants march off to war! Giantslayer and its supplementary products include:


Dead Suns is a six-part Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that sees your PCs join the Starfinder Society, and race to gain control of an ancient super weapon before the undead Corpse Fleet, and the terrifying Cult of the Devourer get their hands on it and lay waste to the galaxy! Dead Suns and its supplementary products include:


You can also check out the awesome trailer for Dead Suns below!

Enjoy!

Jessica

 

Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire!

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire! So hop aboard and get ready to visit the Vast!

Against the Aeon Throne is a three part Starfinder Adventure Path that begins with Part One: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen, continues with Part Two: Escape from Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron, and concludes with Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm. All together these three adventures should take your characters from level one through to level six. You can check out our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne here: Against the Aeon Throne and Preparing to Rebel.

StarfinderCover
Against the Aeon Throne is an Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. To play you’ll need a copy of the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign that most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. I think it’s a great change that will allow the folks at Starfinder to tell shorter, more personal stories. In addition, this three part length makes it easier to purchase and play through an entire adventure path. Also? It’s awesome for gift giving and the budget conscious! Six books is a huge investment, but three? Well, that’s a lot more manageable for those of us without much extra cash laying around.

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire all about? In short, your characters will play as a team of allies or coworkers who run a ship together. The how and why of your meeting, and what kind of crew you are is entirely up to your players. Want to be a bunch of socialites on vacation? Go for it! A grizzled team of mercenaries? Sure! A ship of colonists ready to set down roots in a new home? Perfect! Or perhaps some criminals on the lam? Sounds good! Whatever you and your fellow players decide, your ship has been contracted by AbadarCorp to make a delivery of supplies to the fledgling colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet Nakondis way out in the Vast. Upon making the delivery they’ll receive 4,000 credits as payment from the leader of the colony, a lashunta priest of Abadar by the name of Madelon Kesi. For GMs who want to go off script a bit, it’s incredibly easy to change the hiring organization from AbadarCorp to any other corporation or group you desire. Irrelevant of who hires you, your contact for payment will remain the same.

Of course, cash isn’t the only reason your ship is heading to Nakondis. In addition, all of your characters are friends (or at least had passing contact in the past) with an android known as Cedona who recently retired to the colony of Madelon’s Landing. How and why they each know Cedona is up to your players, but there’s also an awesome list of eleven different suggestions related to the different themes that are provided in the book.

As for your ship? Your players get to make it themselves before play. Awesome! For groups who don’t want to spend the time crafting their own ship, they’re welcome to select any premade tier 1 starship. Whatever ship they choose to create, this bad boy will be with your players throughout the campaign and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve it as they progress.

Like any good adventure, stuff happens! And The Reach of Empire is no different! When they reach Nakondis they discover something has gone terribly wrong on Madelon’s Landing! It’s clearly been taken over by some invading force! (Spoiler Alert: It’s the Azlanti Star Empire). But, before the group has a chance to investigate they’re attacked by drones! They’ll have to fight off the drones, find a safe place to land, and make their way on foot to Madelon’s Landing to figure out what’s going on, save the colonists, and oust the invaders!

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself.

Against the Aeon Throne Reach of the Empire Ron Lundeen
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book One: The Reach of Empire

Starfinder Adventure Path 7: Against the Aeon Throne: Part 1: The Reach of Empire is a softcover adventure written by Ron Lundeen that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level 1 to level 3. The adventure itself is around 35 pages long, and split into three main parts: Nakondis Under Siege, in which the players fight or sneak their way through the wilds of Nakondis to Madelon’s Landing; Rebels of Madelon’s Landing, in which the players liberate Madelon’s Landing; and History Unearthed, in which the players head out to explore an ancient crashed starship where the remaining invaders are holed up. After the adventure there’s a seven page primer on Madelon’s Landing and the surrounding region, which is incredibly important for GMs. There’s also a new theme: the colonist. Past this there are four pages of information on new ship upgrades, systems, and weapons common to the Azlanti Star Empire, and four further pages of ship statistics and details. The Alien Archives are eight pages in length, followed by the Codex of Worlds, which is one page of information on the planet of Nakondis. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier two starship: the Vanguard Voidsweeper!

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS. Not huge ones. But spoilers none the less.

You have been warned.

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read (which isn’t always the case in an Adventure Path). The cover art is wonderful. It showcases a major enemy in this book, Lieutenant Sharu of the Aeon Guard, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind her is an awesome image of Iseph (the iconic android operative) and Raia (the iconic lashunta technomancer) running through the streets of Madelon’s Landing as they fight off drones from the Azlanti Star Empire. Super cool!

The ship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Voidsweeper. This tier two medium explorer starship is destined to be the final enemy the PCs face in this adventure. All in all, it’s a fast, maneuverable little ship, that packs some serious firepower. The art for the exterior looks a lot more generic than I expected — particularly when you take into account all the other awesome Azlanti ship artwork found later in this book. That said, it is a mass produced ship, so it’s not surprising. The map layout is simple, but useful. Much more streamlined than a lot of the ship layouts I’ve seen. I rather like it.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts with a bang, and doesn’t let up. It’s action packed and exciting the whole way through. I really, truly, loved it.

As previously mentioned, The Reach of Empire begins when the players reach Nakondis only to be attacked by automated drones! The resulting starship battle should lead to your players defeating the drones, only to have them explode! Unfortunately this leaves very little information that the PCs can salvage from the wreck. What can they learn? That the drones were automated and belongs to the Azlanti Star Empire. For those of you who don’t know: that’s BAD news. In short, the Azlanti Star Empire is a massive militarized Star Empire that has a whopping three solar systems under their thumb. They think they’re the greatest beings in the galaxy, and everyone else is fit only to be their slaves. And all those planets out there? Well, clearly they should belong to the Azlanti Star Empire. Cause they’re the best and all.

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

After defeating the drones your players will need to attempt to contact Madelon’s Landing, only to find that it’s under occupation by the Azlanti Star Empire! Soldiers patrol the streets, the landing zone is occupied by a strange building, and there’s a massive space cannon mounted on one of the buildings that could clearly shoot your ship down if you went too close. With no idea what’s going on, the players need to find and select a new landing site. Once they’re safely on the ground they need to set out for Madelon’s Landing on foot to find out what’s actually going on. Along the way they’ll travel through the permanently misty jungles of Nakondis, deal with hazardous wildlife (the delightful hobgar!), battle enemy soldiers from the Aeon Guard, and save a colonist who managed to escape. From this man, Jellik Fulson, they’ll finally get an understanding of just how bad things have gotten in Madelon’s Landing and what’s going on. Jellik begs the PCs for aid and happens to know a secret way back into the colony. If they’ll go with him he’ll bring them to a woman who he thinks will give them a place to hide. From there they’ll be able to gather information on the troop movements, make targeted strikes against the Aeon Guard, and do what they can to give the invaders a hard time, and the colonists more freedom.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Rebels of Madelon’s Landing. This is both the longest and the most fluid section of the adventure. In addition to the adventure text, GMs will need to make heavy use of the primer on Madelon’s Landing found later in the book. Basically, Jellik and the woman he brought them to — a junker named Aibretta Fulson (Jellik’s ex-wife) — can give the PCs information on the enemy forces, and ideas for what sorts of secret missions they could accomplish to weaken their hold on the colony, and give the colonists more freedom. These ideas run the gamut from freeing trapped hobgars and unleashing them upon the town, to ensuring everyone has enough water to survive, and ambushing patrols. As the PCs sneak around Madelon’s Landing and subtly strike back they’ll meet other colonists, who can in turn become allies and give the PCs more support, intel, and suggestions. However, their actions don’t go unnoticed. Depending how much of a splash they make the Aeon Guard takes notice and retaliates. This also leads to other events that the PCs will have to intervene in — or not. It’s a great, dynamic part of the adventure, which is filled with enough mini-missions and events to keep the game exciting and interesting. As an added bonus, such missions are short enough you can accomplish one or two each play session (at least). Of course, the Aeon Guard is incredibly powerful, so stomping through the town centre and having a giant throw down is a tactic sure to get your players killed. However, that shouldn’t be a problem. The adventure itself does an excellent job of setting this up as a time to use guerrilla tactics, and subtly. Blatantly calling out the villains all at once is unlikely to be a plan your players seriously consider. Only after the town itself is secure will they be able to enter the Aeon Guard’s base of operations, take down the remaining soldiers, and free the prisoners. Finally, Madelon’s Landing is free!

Against the Aeon Throne Escape from the Prison Moon Eleanor Ferron
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon

Or are they?

Within the Azlanti base it becomes clear that they didn’t come to Nakondis just to annex some tiny colony. They came for something else. Something hidden in the nearby jungle…  To truly free Nakondis your PCs need to travel to the mysterious site and ambush the remaining Aeon Guard!

Which brings us to part three: History Unearthed. The PCs travel to the mysterious site through the jungle (there’s multiple modes of transportation to choose from), and discover that the Azlanti are exploring an ancient crashed starship. An AZLANTI ship. As they explore the wreck they’ll come to realize that the starship was in possession of an experimental starship drive theoretically much, much faster than Drift Travel. If the Azlanti Star Empire got their hands on this ancient engine and found out how to reverse engineer it the entirely of existence would be at their fingertips. They could conquer the Veskarium or the Pact Worlds! Heck, they could conquer both. Also, they’ll come to realize that their friend, Cedona, was one of the first colonists to explore this wreck and discover the experimental engine. To make matters worse? Not only is the engine already gone, but so is Cedona. The Aeon Guard has already moved them both off world for further examination and interrogation.

Final Battle Mark Molnar
Illustrated by Mark Molnar. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

By the end of this chapter the PCs will defeat the rest of the Aeon Guard on Nakondis, and know that they need to get back the experimental drive, and their friend, before its too late. Unfortunately, there’s one last obstacle to face before the PCs can zip off into the stars after the Aeon Guard. An enemy ship is approaching Madelon’s Landing! And it’s about to open fire! The PCs need to race back to the colony and take on the Azlanti ship, Barazad (the Vanguard Voidsweeper featuring on the inner covers), before it blows the colony sky high!

Hopefully they succeed…

Robot David Melvin Against Aeon Throne
Illustrated by David Melvin. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to the end of The Reach of the Empire! It’s an exciting, fun adventure, which I thoroughly enjoyed. EXTREMELY enjoyed. It’s just… a ton of fun.

But, that’s not the end of Against the Aeon Throne, or the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is the super useful primer on Madelon’s Landing. GMs will need to make extensive use of this primer to flesh out the rest of the town, and run the entire middle segment of the adventure. In addition, PCs who go off exploring on foot to get to the crashed starship will also make use of the information on the surrounding regions, which the GM will need to brush up on. Overall it’s an interesting, fun little town to adventure in. I rather enjoyed it. Plus it’s got lovely maps!

The colonist theme included in this book is pretty nifty. It grants a bonus to Constitution, while the theme knowledge makes survival a class skill and reduces the DC to identify average creatures using Life Sciences. Super useful. Later abilities allow you to protect more people than normal when finding shelter from weather, or feed more people than normal when living off the land. My favourite ability allows you to reroll a Fortitude saving throw made against disease, poison, or severe weather once a day.

Up next is a rather long chapter on the ships of the Azlanti Star Empire and their abilities. Now, I enjoy a good starship battle, but the ships themselves aren’t exactly the most interesting part of the game for me. I’m just not a person who’s into vehicles of any kind. That said, even I think this chapter was COOL. There’s a lot of neat abilities, systems, and weapons introduced, including stasis tubes, aeon stone based technology, drones (which give the undervalued Science Officer something cool to do!), autodestruct mechanisms, and — my personal favourite — hybrid starship weapons that allow you to control them with Mysticism. AWESOME. As for the ships themselves? They’ve got gorgeous artwork. I particularly like the Vanguard Comet, and the absurdly large Sovereign Vindicator.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, one of which is a playable race. and three of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: Carrion Dreg, a CR 4 undead monstrosity which has never looked grosser; Endiffian, which is a playable race of shapeshifters; Hobgar, a CR 1/3 blue monkey-like creature capable of shooting electricity that the PCs will come to know VERY well in this adventure (they’re awesome!); Mucilaginous Cloud, a huge CR 5 ooze; Azlanti Adjutant Robot, a CR 3 enemy they’ll face in the crashed starship; Synapse Worm, a small CR 2 vermin that tries to stun you before devouring you alive; and Thermatrod, a CR 3 creature that looks like a mix between a gorilla and an earth elemental, and vomits up lava. Cool! Personally, I like the hobgar and the synapse worm best.

Against the Aeon Throne The Rune Drive Gambit
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book Three: The Rune Drive Gambit

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on the planet of Nakondis. Despite its short length, the information contained therein is incredibly important to this adventure. It’s a must read for GMs.

And that’s it!

Against the Aeon Throne: Part One: The Reach of Empire has come to an end. I LOVED it. Seriously. Without a doubt I give it five out of five stars.

So where does it go from here?

Against the Aeon Throne: Part Two: Escape from the Prison Moon is written by Eleanor Ferron and intended for level three characters. In it, the PCs are deputized by the Steward (a galactic police force of the Pact Worlds) to secretly travel to the Azlanti Star Empire, rescue Cedona, retrieve the experimental Rune Drive, and get the heck out! They travel to the Azlanti Star Empire, visit an independent space station called Outpost Zed, and learn all they can of the prison moon Gulta that Cedona’s being held on. Then they’ll need to get there, get inside, free Cedona (and likely other prisoners), and flee the area. Awesome!
EDIT: You can read our review: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon.

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

I can’t wait to get a chance to play Against the Aeon Throne with my family!

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the first volume as much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Starfinder: Armory

Hello and welcome to d20 diaries! Today we’re taking a look at Starfinder: Armory! This is one of the few Starfinder sourcebooks that’s available for purchase. It’s a hardcover book that focuses on new gear and equipment for use in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

This article isn’t meant to be a thorough review or critique of Starfinder: Armory. It won’t replace the book (nor would I want it to!). It’s a quick breakdown of what’s found inside, and what I liked best in each chapter. It’s a collection of my favourites parts of the book, and some highlights. It’s here so that fellow gamers and fans can take a look and get a real a feel for what they’ll get out of the book. Hopefully it helps you decide whether this product is right for you.

Starfinder: Armory is a hardcover sourcebook 159 pages in length. Nearly all of that is dedicated to gear, with the remaining pages offering new character options for each of the seven Starfinder core classes. It features delightful cover art by Remko Troost which depicts Obozaya (the iconic vesk soldier) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) shopping. The inside covers feature a nice image of the Pact World System (which is not to scale). Following that is the table of contents and the ‘Overview.’ Basically, the two page introduction just lets you know what kinds of gear you’ll find in this book, and explains the difference between the different types of equipment categories. Perhaps the most useful tidbit? A tiny sidebar about minor equipment. Basically, any random technological item you want to invest in that’s not a weapon — things like cameras, clocks, headphones, so on and so on. Each of those items is available if GM approval for a price of 5 credits. Easy. Done. Love it. My daughter tends to try to purchase a lot of frivolous gear like this, so it’s nice to have a proper baseline for it.

PZO7108
Starfinder: Armory

After this its on to Chapter 1: Equipment. At a whopping 130 pages long, this chapter is by far the bulk of the book. These pages are filled with all new gear (not reprints) sorted by category. Equipment categories include: weapons, weapon accessories, weapon fusions, special materials, armour, powered armour, armour upgrades, augmentations, technological items, magic items, hybrid items, personal items, drugs, medicinals, poisons, other purchases, and vehicles.

Up first? Weapons. In general this book provides a wider array of weapons for each damage type at various levels, and some new abilities. And the number of choices? Huge! Just looking at the weapon charts there are six pages of melee weapons, four pages of small arms, three of long arms, three of heavy weapons, one of sniper weapons, a quarter page of untyped weapons, a quarter page of ammunition, a half page of solarian crystals, and a half page of grenades. That’s hundreds of new weapons up for sale — not even counting the new modifications and weapon fusions. There’s some awesome artwork in this section, with the art for the Bravado Handcannon (a small arm projectile with critical knockdown), the Exhorter Shout Projector (a sonic heavy weapon with critical demoralize), the Grave-Class Void Rifle (a cryo longarm with critical suffocate), the Matrix Resonant Pistol (a sonic small arm with critical deafen), the traditional battle ribbon (an uncategorized advanced melee weapon), and the warfan (and uncategorized advanced melee weapon), all numbering among my favourites. There are 46 new weapon special properties (breach, drain charge, free hands, and gravitation are my favourites), and sixteen new critical hit effects (blind and stifle are my favourites). There’s also an array of weapons manufacturers, each of which can add special abilities to your gun (for an extra fee, of course!). I’d be sure to buy from AbadarCorp and Ringworks Arsenal Group’s lovely weapon selection.

Kent Hamilton-Armory Spread
Some of the many weapons available in Starfinder Armory. Illustrated by Kent Hamilton.

But that’s not all! There’s also new weapon accessories, weapon fusions, and special materials up for offer. For accessories be sure to check out the bayonet bracket and collapsing weapon. I like a lot of the new weapon fusions, but my favourites probably turned out to be accurate, conserving, guarded, obscuring, rebounding, and soulfire. For special materials I was surprised to find I enjoyed horacalcum and inubrix the most.

 

After leaving behind sixty pages of weapons and weapon-related products we’re heading out into the wide world of armour. There’s six pages dedicated to light and heavy armour (with two of those being full-page art), followed by six pages dedicated to powered armour (with two of those being full-page art), and finally six more pages of armour upgrades. The upgrades are a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed adaptive energy shield, agility enhancer, auto injector, easy access kit, glamour projector, long strider module, medical interface, stabilizer springs (a nice low-level option), and (my personal favourite) the computer interface, which essentially lets you make a ‘Jarvis’ for your ‘Iron Man’ suit.

Up next? Augmentations. Biotech has two pages dedicated to it (be sure to check out the mighty vocal chords and regenerative blood), Cybernetics has two pages (I like the optical laser), Magitech has four pages of options (check out antimagic skin and arcane lenses), and finally Necrografts fill the last four pages (I like the bore blade and the healing larynx).

Armory - Power Armor Spread Leonardo Borazio
Some of the Powered Armour found in Starfinder Armory. Illustrated by Leonardo Borazio.

Then we move right on to Technological items. This section fills up a whopping twelve pages! Some of it is new, while others are pleasantly familiar, either because you can find them in our world, or because they were introduced in Pathfinder’s Technology Guide (such as ion tape and zipsticks). I particularly enjoyed the auto cartographer, datapad, domestic drive, emergency raft, evenfire unit, holographic sashimono, hoverskates, ion tape, nanite hypopen, and the many new tool kits. There’s lots of useful stuff!

Magic Items are up next, where you’ll find ten more pages of new equipment to spend your credits on. To start with there’s some cool aeon stones, my favourite of which is the kaleidoscopic icosahedron. The very expensive containment tesseract is also pretty nifty. I also enjoyed the cover seed, darksight goggles, dented kasa, diffraction cloak, figurine of wondrous power (which summon creatures to fight for you), ofuscated journal, plasma beads (pretty much a necklace of fireballs), Starfinder backpack, and the tangle burst seed. This is followed by three new artifacts: Atrocite Sphere, Trafodi Paradox, and, my personal favourite, the Book of Unwritten Truths.

Fusing Technological Items and Magic Items are the delightful Hybrid Items, which take up eight pages. I enjoyed the captive-star amulet and various vital seeds most, although I’m sure there’ll be lots of fans of the new hybrid grenades (of which there are many). I got a great laugh out of computer idols, and the software imp! Be sure to give them a read.

Ysoki Gear - RatAfter this is four pages of Personal Items. Although not the most exciting category of items, it’s certainly useful. My favourites are staples! The gear maintenance kit, mess kit, and books. (I know, I know. I’m really stepping out of my comfort zone there! Haha!).

Drugs, Medicinals, and Poisons all share the next two pages (which aren’t really my cup of tea), followed by two pages of ‘Other Purchases.’ This section is mostly flavour, but I found I really enjoyed reading about the types of cuisine created and favoured by the core races of the Pact Worlds. The ysoki were hilarious! (Don’t eat their food. In fact, I’d stay away from Shirren cuisine, as well!).

Finally, there’s two pages of new vehicles, the cheapest of which is the level two motorcycle for 1,900 credits. And that brings us to the end of the new equipment. 140 pages have flown by just like *snaps* that! But, that’s not the end of the book. That simply brings us to the next chapter.

Armoury Android Envoy Alexander Nanitchkov
Android Envoy by Alexander Nanitchkov.

Chapter 2: Character Options. Here you’ll find one new archetype, plus two pages of new class options for each of the core classes. All of these options are focused on equipment —- typically using your equipment to the best of its ability (or beyond its normal capabilities). The archetype comes first and is called Augmented. These guys are great with — you guessed it — augmentations! They get more, pay less for them, and can make their augmentations do more than they’re built to. The Augmented grants alternate class features at 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 9th levels. I really enjoyed it (and know at least one character created by my family who’ll be using it!).

The Envoy’s class options include four new low level improvisations, two sixth level improvisations, and two eighth level improvisations, followed by seven new expertise talents. Be sure to check out fire support, brace yourselves, improved brace yourselves, terrifying blast, and improved terrifying blast for improvisations, and expert advice for talents.

The Mechanic’s class options include four new level two tricks, three more level eight tricks, two more level fourteen tricks, and four new drone modifications. My favourite tricks were provisional repair and recalibrate engine, both of which are available at level two. My favourite drone mods were barricade, and grease.

The Mystic class options were both the least adaptable, and my favourite! They introduced a new mystic connection, and two new spells granted by that connection. So what is it? The Geneturge! These guys are capable of altering their genetic code (and even those of others). In application their abilities mostly involve biotech, and sudden evolution. I particularly enjoyed their Personal Modification third level ability, their Warping Strain ninth level ability, and their Instant Evolution fifteenth level ability. The two new spells are detect augmentation, and reject augmentation (which sounds awesome! Haha).

Armoury Human Mystic Alexander Nanitchkov
Human Mystic Genethurge by Alexander Nanitchkov.

The Operative class options include sixteen new exploits (six at level 2, five at level six, four at level ten, and one at level fourteen). and one new operative specialization. Of the exploits, I particularly enjoyed armour optimization, fast aim, pistol whip, trap spotter, and ricochet shot. The new Specialization is the Gadgeteer, a very cool inventor which makes use of two new exploits: utility belt, and quick deployment. His trick attacks involve using a custom device to distract the enemy. Such fun!

The Solarian class options include one new stellar revelation and one new graviton revelation for each level (level two, six, ten, and fourteen), and for zenith revelations. That makes for ten cool new options total. I had a hard time picking my favourites, but in the end I decided I liked constructive interference, stellar equilibrium, attractive force, debris field, particle field, and particle wave, which turned out to be an even split between stellar and graviton powers. Awesome!

The Soldier class options include ten new gear boosts and a new fighting style called ‘Shock and Awe.’ The fighting style is supposed to focus on making a real spectacle of yourself. I like it in theory, but in execution I wasn’t that impressed. Still, it’s different. Fighters who take this style will want to make use of sonic weapons and weapons with the bright special quality. As for gear boosts, there’s a ton of useful options. My favourites were steady sniper, twinned threat, and unstoppable strike.

StarfinderCover
Starfinder Core Rulebook

Finally we come to the Technomancer’s class options which include five new magic hacks of varying levels, and three new spells. My favourite magic hacks were recode gem (which is available at level two), and enchanted fusion (which is available at fifth level). As for spells, I rather enjoyed animate armour, and incompetence. The third spell, electroplating, is also quite useful.

And that’s it! All that’s left is the index and the end. 160 pages of awesome.

Honestly, I think that Starfinder: Armory is one of those books you’ve got to invest in. It’s not a frivolous extra purchase. You’ll reference it ALL the time. Every time you need to spend your credits you’ll crack out the Starfinder Core Rulebook and the Armory. For players, I’d say its more important than the Alien Archive (and Alien Archive 2) and Pact Worlds. For GMs? Well, hard to say. If you only GM it’s going to be less useful for you than the Alien Archives and Pact Worlds. But you’ll still get your use out of it. I adore this book and think it’s well worth the money.

I hope you enjoyed taking a peek inside Starfinder: Armory with us!

See you in the Drift!

Jessica

 

%d bloggers like this: