September New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! Today we’re taking a look at September’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons & Dragons

September is a huge month for Dungeons & Dragons, with the release of a new adventure, associated accessories, two new children’s novels, and a board game expansion!

Up first? Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus ! Releasing September 17th, Descent into Avernus is an adventure that will take players from levels 1–13 as they travel from the infamous Baldur’s Gate into Avernus, the first layer of Hell! Releasing alongside it is Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus: Dice & Miscellany , which contains a dice tray, a really nice looking set of dice, map, and a variety of player and DM handouts.

Earlier this month the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit finally hit game-store shelves. This collection includes quickstart rules, character sheets, a dice set, DM screen, maps, a new adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, and more.

Dungeon Mayhem Expansion: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is the first expansion for the easy to play card game, Dungeon Mayhem, which my kids absolutely adore. With art by Jake Parker, the expansion includes two new decks featuring the ranger Minsc (with his miniature giant space hamster, Boo), and the shapeshifting druid Jaheira. This expansion went right onto my kids’ wish list for Christmas. For more information on Dungeon Mayhem check out our review of the game here.

Finally, at the start of this month two new kids novels were added to the Endless Quest lineup. Written by Matt Forbeck, Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts readers into the role of a cleric trapped in Count Strahd’s castle, and Endless Quest: The Mad Mage’s Academy casts readers in the role of a foolhardy thief set on stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself. What could go wrong?! For full details on the newest Endless Quest books check out our review on them here.


Pathfinder

Last month marked the launch of Pathfinder Second Edition, so there were a ton of new releases meant to welcome gamers into the new game system, include Pathfinder Core Rulebook (also available in a Deluxe Edition), Pathfinder Bestiary (also available in a Deluxe Edition), Lost Omens World GuideThe Fall of PlaguestonePathfinder Flip-Mat: The Fall of PlaguestonePathfinder Adventure Path 145: Hellknight HillPathfinder Adventure Path 146: Cult of Cinders, a whopping five new Pathfinder Society Scenarios, two GM Screens (landscape or portrait), Pathfinder Character Sheet PackPathfinder Combat Pad, and Condition Cards. That’s a TON of product!

This month may be slower, but there’s still plenty for fans to explore. The Age of Ashes Adventure Path continues with Pathfinder Adventure Path 147: Tomorrow Must Burn, written by Ron Lundeen and Stephanie Lundeen. There’s also the Pathfinder 2e Critical Hit Deck and three new Pathfinder Society Scenarios. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-04: Bandits of Immenwood is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by a colleague and friend of mine, Scott D. Young, Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-05: Trailblazer’s Bounty is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Tineke Bolleman, and Pathfinder Society Quest #2: Unforgiving Fire is a Tier 1–4 mini adventure written by Leo Glass.

Finally, Paizo has released a mini-adventure meant to be an introduction to Pathfinder Second Edition for new players and new GMs alike. Written by Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Torment and Legacy: A Pathfinder Second Edition Demo Adventure is available as a FREE download on their blog, here. I highly suggest you pick it up!

Pathfinder First Edition wraps up this month with the Tyrant’s Grasp Pawn Collection, and two new Pocket Editions: Bestiary 6 (Pocket Edition) and Villain Codex (Pocket Edition).

For maps this month check out Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Ambush Sites Multi-Pack, which looks really useful.


Starfinder

Last month’s Starfinder releases included Starfinder Adventure Path #18: Assault on the Crucible (finale to the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path!), Starfinder Adventure Path #19: Fate of the Fifth (beginning of the Attack of the Swarm! Adventure Path!), Starfinder RPG: Alien Archive 3, which contains over 100 new aliens, and over a dozen playable races, Starfinder Pawns: Tech TerrainStarfinder Flip-Mat: Ice World, and two delightful Starfinder Society Scenarios.

This month fans can get their hands on Starfinder Adventure Path #20: The Last Refuge (Attack of the Swarm! book 2 of 6), written by Mara Lynn Butler, Starfinder Flip-Mat: Starliner, and two new Starfinder Society Scenarios. Starfinder Society Scenario #2-07: Four for the First is a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Thurston Hillman that introduces four potential candidates for First Seeker, while Starfinder Society Scenario #2-08: The Stumbling Society, Part 2: Sangoro’s Gifts is a Tier 5–8 scenario written by Kendra Leigh Speedling.


Third Party Publishers

Everybody Games

Everybody Games also added another entry into their popular and always entertaining ‘Pop Culture Catalog’ line of products for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Pop Culture Catalog: Infosphere Shows is written by George “Loki” Williams.

Monte Cook Games

Monte Cook Games released a free download that discusses how to include mature content in roleplaying games in a responsible manner, particularly in regards to content consent from your players. Consent in Gaming is written by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain.

Rogue Genius Games

Rogue Genius Games released the first of its Monster Omnicrons, a series of short one monster, two stat block, articles compatible with the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This month’s release is Monster Omnicron: Pyreborn, by Luis Loza!

Rusted Iron Games

Rusted Iron Games recently launched Tombstone, a gritty alternate history wild west setting compatible with Pathfinder Second Edition rules that pits PCs against monsters, magic, and The Blight, a terrifying infection from beyond the stars. A mixture of western, fantasy, and occult horror, it’s shaping up to be a fun and quirky twist on RPGs. This month adds another new ancestry to the line, with Ancestries of Tombstone: Centaur, by Andrew Mullen. Previous releases in this line include Ancestries of Tombstone: Chupacabra by Joshua Hennington, Ancestries of Tombstone: Jackalope by Jacob W. Michaels, and Ancestries of Tombstone: Rougarou by Dennis Muldoon, all of which are available on DriveThruRPG.


Root: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game


And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

August New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! August 2019 is a crazy month for d20 releases, so buckle up! We’re in for one exciting ride!


Dungeons & Dragons

Although there’s no big D&D releases this month, highlights from last month include the first two releases in the Young Adventurer’s Guide line: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons! Both of my kids are huge fans of these books. For more information check out our review on the Young Adventurer’s Guides here.


Pathfinder

Last month marked the finale of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path with Pathfinder Adventure Path 144: Midwives to Death by John Compton. This was the final Pathfinder First Edition adventure to be released. But, as First Edition comes to an end, Second Edition begins. And WOW, there is a LOT of Pathfinder Second Edition products coming out this month!

First and foremost: The Core Rulebook (also available in a Deluxe Edition). This massive 638 page tome contains (almost) everything you need to get started playing Pathfinder Second Edition. With a highly intuitive gameplay system, and incredibly varied character development choices that can be made at every level, Pathfinder Second Edition is shaping up to be absolutely awesome. We’ve just finished reading the rules and can’t wait to get started playing some mini-adventures. GMs, like myself, will also need one other book to play: Bestiary! The Bestiary (also available in a Deluxe Edition) is 357 pages long and contains over 400 creatures with dynamic and diverse abilities. Coming out later this month is another hardcover I’m particularly excited for, Pathfinder Lost Omens World Guide, which advances Golarion’s timeline ten years and shows us what’s happening throughout ten mega-regions of the Inner Sea Region. There’s plenty of changes coming, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.

The start of this month saw the launch of the first Pathfinder Second Edition Adventure Path: Age of Ashes! The first volume, Pathfinder Adventure Path 145: Hellknight Hill, is written by Amanda Hamon, while the second volume, Pathfinder Adventure Path 146: Cult of Cinders, is written by Eleanor Ferron. The first stand-alone Second Edition Adventure, The Fall of Plaguestone, is written by Jason Bulmahn.

Other Pathfinder Second Edition releases include Pathfinder GM Screens (available in landscape or portrait), Pathfinder Character Sheet PackPathfinder Combat Pad, and Pathfinder Condition Cards.

Maps this month include Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Urban Sewers Expansion, Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Hamlet, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: The Fall of Plaguestone. Fans looking for a deluxe gaming experience can check out Dwarven Forge’s Plague Stone series of terrain, which just went up for pre-sale.

Finally, this month brings us five Pathfinder Society Scenarios! Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-00: Origin of the Open Road, written by Ron Lundeen, is an introductory adventure that takes place in Quantium and is intended for level five pregenerated characters. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-01: The Absalom Initiation, written by Lyz Liddell, is a repeatable scenario designed for Tiers 1–4 that takes place in Absalom. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-02: The Mosquito Witch, written by Eleanor Ferron, is a Tier 1–4 scenario that tasks the PCs with tracking down a cryptid in the River Kingdoms. Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-03: Escaping the Grave, written by Adrian Ng, is a Tier 1–4 scenario that sends the PCs on a rescue mission to the Gravelands. Finally, Pathfinder Society Quest 1A: Sandstone Secret, written by Linda Zayas-Palmer, is a short, one-hour repeatable quest that takes place in Osirion.


Third Party (Pathfinder 2e) Releases

It may be new, but there’s already plenty of exciting Third Party Publisher releases for Pathfinder Second Edition. Although we haven’t had a chance to read many, below are a few we’re particularly excited for.

Everybody Games

Everybody Games has two issues of their ‘Files for Everybody’ line out. Issue 1: Nashi, by Alex Augunas, brings raccoon-folk to Second Edition, while Issue 2: Acrobatics Feats, by Dustin Knight, contains ten new General Acrobatics Skill feats.

Fat Goblin Games

Fat Goblin Games has two great looking products already out. Fellow Travellers: Animal Companions by Taylor Hubler contains over fifty new animal companions, while Game Changer: Alchemical Tools by Matt Roth contains over one hundred new or expanded alchemical tools from levels one through twenty.

Rusted Iron Games

Rusted Iron Games recently launched Tombstone, a gritty alternate history wild west setting compatible with Pathfinder Second Edition rules that pits PCs against monsters, magic, and The Blight, a terrifying infection from beyond the stars. A mixture of western, fantasy, and occult horror, it’s shaping up to be a fun and quirky twist on RPGs. Current releases in this line include Ancestries of Tombstone: Chupacabra by Joshua Hennington, Ancestries of Tombstone: Jackalope by Jacob W. Michaels, and Ancestries of Tombstone: Rougarou by Dennis Muldoon, all of which are available on DriveThruRPG. Upcoming releases include more ancestries, and class feats. My daughter has decided to make at least five jackalope characters — one for each heritage — so my PDF is proving well worth the money.


Starfinder

Although Pathfinder Second Edition is drawing a lot of attention, the Starfinder team is not to be outdone! This month’s releases include Starfinder Adventure Path 18: Assault on the Crucible (finale to the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path!), Starfinder Adventure Path 19: Fate of the Fifth (beginning of the Attack of the Swarm! Adventure Path!), and Starfinder RPG: Alien Archive 3, which contains over 100 new aliens, and over a dozen playable races.

Other Starfinder releases include Starfinder Pawns: Tech Terrain and Starfinder Flip-Mat: Ice World. Starfinder Society Scenarios include #2-05: Meeting of Queens, a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Kiel Howell that involves the formians of Castrovel, and Starfinder Society Scenario #2-06: The Stumbling Society, Part One: Sangoro’s Lament, a Tier 5–8 scenario written by Mike Kimmel that delves into abandoned Exo-Guardian’s fortress of Sangoro’s Bulwark.


WizKids

And finally, WizKids! This month saw the launch of the Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures Preview Pack, an 8 miniature sneak peak of the upcoming Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures miniatures. Later this month D&D: Icons of the Realms: Baldur’s Gate: Descent in Avernus is scheduled to launch! This set of random booster boxes features 45 different plastic pre-painted miniatures.


And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

July New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! Summer is here and a plethora of new gaming products are hitting shelves! Check out this month’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons & Dragons

Last month’s exciting releases include Dungeons & Dragons: Acquisitions Incorporated and Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! The Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit is scheduled to release at Target this month, but other retailers won’t be selling it until September.

A new series of Dungeons and Dragons books aimed at children is launching this month. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler, and published by Ten Speed Press (a part of the Crown Publishing Group). The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons. There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D. My kids and I are incredibly excited to be in possession of advance copies of both of these books, which we’ll be posting a full review on within the next few days. We can’t wait to share them with you!


Pathfinder

Highlights from last month’s releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 143: Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza and Pathfinder Pawns: Enemy Encounters Pawn Collection. This month’s most exciting Pathfinder release is Pathfinder Adventure Path 144: Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) by John Compton. This adventure wraps up the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path and is the final Pathfinder First Edition adventure to be released. Also out this month is  Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Druma: Profit and Prophecy.

This month’s Pathfinder Society Scenario is #10-23—Passing the Torch, Part 2: Who Speaks for the Ten, a Tier 12-18 scenario that is the sequel to last month’s  #10-22—Passing the Torch, Part 1: Who Wears the Mask. Together with Pathfinder Society Special #10-98: Siege of Gallowspire, these three scenarios are the grand finale to Pathfinder Society Organized Play for Pathfinder First Edition.


Starfinder

Last month’s Starfinder releases include Starfinder Adventure Path: Solar Strike (Dawn of Flame 5 of 6) by Mark Moreland and the Starfinder Rules Reference Cards Deck. Although I expected Starfinder Adventure Path: Assault on the Crucible (Dawn of Flame 6 of 6) to release this month, it’s been delayed until August.

Last month marked the start of the second season of the Starfinder Society, Year of a Thousand Bites, with #2-01: The Pact World Warriors and #2-02: Waking the Past. This month’s scenarios are #2-03: The Withering World and #2-04: Future’s Fall. #2-03: The Withering World is a series of five repeatable quests for Tier 1-4. The quests are written by Arc Riley, Jennifer Povey, Rigby Bendele, Shahreena Shahrani, and myself! This project was an absolute blast to be a part of and I can’t wait to see it hit game tables at the end of the month! #2-04: Future’s Fall is a Tier 7-10 scenario by Matt Duvall that takes players back to Salvation’s End!


And that’s it for this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

 

Review: Tyrant’s Grasp: Last Watch

Today we’re taking an in depth look at the third book in the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path! This survival horror campaign pits the players against the return of the Whispering Tyrant, the lich-king Tar-Baphon, who was defeated and sealed away long ago. Tyrant’s Grasp will be the final Pathfinder 1st Edition Adventure Path released before the switch is made over to Pathfinder 2nd Edition in August. Intended to take characters from levels 1 to 17, Tyrant’s Grasp is six volumes long.

Tyrant's Grasp - Player's GuideA wonderful Player’s Guide for Tyrant’s Grasp is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here. The Player’s Guide gives players a relatively spoiler-free way to properly prepare for and integrate their characters into the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. I highly recommend checking it out.

It should be noted that the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path is not for everyone. Terrible tragedies will occur and you won’t always be able to prevent them. These events are bound to have a lasting effect on your characters, so players should be prepared to consider and role-play the marks left by the trials you face. Depending on the generosity of your GM you could be in dire situations with limited resources, so players will need to be resourceful to survive. Plenty of the imagery and events in this adventure are dark, morbid, and sorrowful. Although I wouldn’t call all of the volumes in this series horror adventures,  some are — though not your typical horror. I’d call it… a morbid tragedy. There’s plenty of undead, necromancers, and disaster. It’s definitely not a campaign to play with kids or if you’re looking for a light-hearted game.

Tyrant's Grasp - Last Watch CoverLast Watch is the third volume of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. Written by Larry Wilhelm, this is an adventure intended for 8th-level characters, which should bring PCs up to level 11 by its conclusion. This adventure begins when the PCs arrive in Lastwall’s capital of Vigil, intent on telling the Knight of Ozem what’s happened in Roslar’s Coffer. Luckily, their arrival coincides with the Whiteblade festival, making it easy to gain an audience with a wide variety of government officials, military officers, and other important people. All that’s left it to tell them your tale.

Right?

Yeah, not so simple. Haha.

As with the other volumes in this adventure path, Last Watch looks great. From cover to cover it’s a high quality book filled with nice maps and beautiful, dark artwork. The cover depicts Yosiduin, an elven antipaladin, in the foreground. Behind him is an image of Yoon (the iconic kineticist) and Imrijka (the iconic inquisitor) battling a gnome and some thugs in the streets of Vigil. Both images are by Igor Grechanyi. There’s a nice map of The Gravelands (Lastwall and parts of Ustalav) on the inside cover again, as there has been with the previous volumes. There’s a lot of awesome artwork throughout the book — mostly of humanoid allies and enemies. Interior artists include Yanis Cardin, Hai Hoang, Joel Holtzman, Oksana Kerro, Valeria Lutfullina, Dave Melvin, and Firat Solhan. I particularly enjoyed the art for Cleverquill, pest drakes, and the many NPC portraits. The maps, all drawn by Matthias Rothenaicher, are really nice. They look great, of course, but they’re also well thought out and executed. unfortunately, some of the map rooms are too close to the binding, which makes them difficult to see. Also, one important room is partially cut off by the page’s decorative border. Unfortunate!

Kellen ShayleeIn terms of content, Last Watch is a diplomatic mission, investigation, and exploration.  PCs will need to convince the powers that be in Vigil that something horrible happened in Roslar’s Coffer and that Vigil needs to prepare for the worst. Of course, your PCs tale is rather far fetched… The PCs will need proof to go along with their words. The adventure is rather free form at the start but, as the PCs uncover clues that will lead them to further discoveries and encounters, the adventure becomes more linear.

Vigil is a great location to adventure in and this book did a good job of conveying atmosphere and populace through encounters and short descriptions. That said, the city isn’t fleshed out very much in this book, and I wish it was. I highly recommend GMs give Pathfinder Chronicles: Cities of Golarion a read if they own it, as it contains a ten-page gazetteer on Vigil which can be used to really make this place shine. Either way, this is a great time to let players explore, make friends, forge alliances, rest, properly equip themselves, and generally enjoy being among the living while they go about their duties.

Last Watch has a more balanced array of encounter types than it’s predecessor did. It begins heavy on the social encounters, then quickly transitions to heavy on combat encounters, before finishing with a welcome mix of both. Throughout the course of the book there’s chances for different skills and different character types to shine. The combats were interesting, but it’s those in the final chapter that I particularly enjoyed. I like the social encounters a lot, both in the beginning and end of the adventure, although I think some groups will flounder a bit with the beginning. GMs will need to pay close attention to their player’s behaviour to determine if more guidance is required. Personally, I think I’d have a lot of fun with it. But, again, it’s the social encounters in the final section of this adventure that really shine.


And now it’s time for a warning:

We’ve got more to say about this adventure, but it’ll come with spoilers! Don’t want to read them? Skip on past this next section until you see the large words ‘SPOILERS OVER.’ Got it? Good! See you on the other side!


SPOILERS

Last Watch is split into three major parts: Explosive Tidings, Into the Undercity, and Grim Dawn. The adventure is 53 pages in length with six pages afterwards dedicated to three NPCs: Ceto Malderra, a famous crusader who’s not what she seems (and has amazing artwork!); Kilibrandt Erstwhile, a gnome entrepreneur and criminal; and Yosiduin, an elven antipaladin and leader of the local Seal-Breaker cell.

Evark NoxPart One: Explosive Tidings begins with the PCs entering Vigil during a holiday with the intent of informing the Knights of Ozem what’s happened to Roslar’s Coffer. But no one believes them! Obviously. Their story sounds crazy. It’s awesome. Haha. PCs will have opportunities to approach a variety of different authority figures and try to convince them to believe their outlandish tales. In most cases the PCs will need more evidence, which could frustrate some players and groups. But, with work, PCs should be able to win over some of the dignitaries. Doing so can earn your PCs rewards, allies, and have an effect on the final chapter of this adventure.

Figuring out where to start your hunt for evidence is a bit more troublesome. Although many groups will know which clues they have of merit, make the right connections, and tug on the right threads, some won’t. Those groups will likely be lost and get a bit frustrated. GMs should be prepared to improvise and throw in a bit more clues or rumours at the start of the investigation process if needed. All in all, I like the places the investigation goes and what drives it.

CleverquillPart Two: Into the Undercity begins when the PCs investigation leads them into the sewers beneath Vigil, where they’ll take on the Seal-Breakers in their base of operations, an abandoned temple of Arazni. This location is dark and haunted, and there’s more than one way for the players to explore it, which is really nice. But, who are these Seal-Breakers, anyway? In short, they’re an evil cabal intent on freeing the Whispering Tyrant in order to acquire a really old book he had in his possession when he was sealed away. Yes, a book. And yes, the founder of this group is the person who borrowed the book to the Whispering Tyrant. Sure, it might seem a little weird, and yes, founding a cult and unleashing an undead tyrant is a rather drastic step to get your evil book back, but it’s a really special book. With it the Seal-Breakers hope to do even worse things, like unleash Rovagug and destroy Golarion. Fun stuff! All humour aside, I like this part of the adventure. The location is appropriately atmospheric, the battles are challenging, and the villains are properly… villainous! The PCs are going to figure out a lot in their time here, particularly in regards to what’s happened to Roslar’s Coffer, what’s driving this adventure path, and what’s at stake if they fail. They’re going to learn about the Whispering Way, the Whispering Tyrant, and how he destroyed Roslar’s Coffer. They’ll learn a bit about the Seal-Breakers, what this group was doing in Vigil, and that they intend to free the Whispering Tyrant, but they won’t learn enough to know their ultimate aims and goals of the Seal-Breakers. It’s likely the group will come off as a militant ally of the Whispering Way –– which is exactly how the Seal-Breakers like it! (More on Seal-Breakers later!)

But, what I like best about this section of the adventure is the twist ending… Your PCs have fought long and hard to find the evidence they need to convince the city’s officials to trust them. They’ve scoured the city for clues, tracked down a gang, descended into the stinky sewers, and fought of a cult of violent fanatics, and now –– finally! –– they have what they need.

Suddenly there’s a muffled sound echoing down from the city above…. Was that an explosion? The ceiling shakes…

Geist

Part Three: Grim Dawn begins when the PCs exit the sewers after taking on the Seal-Breakers. They emerge to find Vigil destroyed…

Which is awesome! Horrible! But, awesome! This is such a great gaming moment that will be much more meaningful if the players have had time to get to love Vigil, so be sure to play that up while you can!

Now, Vigil is a big city, and the death toll is absolutely devastating, but there are a few pockets of survivors. In this section of the adventure the PCs explore the ruins of Vigil –– which has clearly suffered the same fate as Roslar’s Coffer –– fight off undead abominations, and meet up with the survivors. They’ll see some familiar faces and be happy to realize that their efforts did do some good, even if it didn’t save the city. There’s a direct correlation between the number of survivors in Vigil and how much the PCs managed to convince the various authority figures in Part One that the threat to this city was real. Although it’s not mentioned until the end of the chapter, GMs should definitely take the time to highlight this the entire way through!

The PCs need to rally these survivors, hatch a plan, and bring this group to meet up with another group of survivors. Together they’ll have to attack a terrifying foe that’s intent on ensuring no one leaves Vigil alive. If they can accomplish this the PCs can escape Vigil with their fellow refugees and live to fight another day.

In addition to the Last Watch adventure, this volume contains three articles and a bestiary containing five new creatures. All three articles are intended for GMs, but only one needs to be kept secret from players: Seal-Breakers, by Greg A. Vaughan. This article takes an in-depth look at the history and goals of the Seal-Breakers, it’s founders, members, and structure. It also mentions some places the Seal-Breakers are active and what their goals are in those locations.

SPOILERS OVER


There are two other articles in the book’s backmatter that players can hear about without it affecting the adventure. The first article, Into the Void, is written by Patchen Mortimer. It details the Negative Energy Plane, exploring its locations, ecology, denizens, and threats. This has always been a plane that I’ve considered pretty hard to wrap my head around. How does one adventure in a place that’s the antithesis of life? But, this article did a great job of making it a potential adventure location. It’s still horribly dangerous, but as a player and GM it seems a lot more accessible now. Really great job!

Into the Void

The final article is Relics of the Shining Crusade by Alexander Augunas. As the name implies, this article details some relics –– magical objects that can improve under certain conditions when utilized by PCs. The included relics are all objects from Lastwall that were used in the wars against the Whispering Tyrant, and are great options for dropping into the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. Keep in mind that the triggering conditions that can cause these objects to improve should be kept hidden from players.

Relics of the Shining Crusade

The Bestiary is up next! It contains a random encounter chart and four special encounters, all suitable for use in the third part of Last Watch. There’s also eight new creatures written by Mike Headley, Isabella Lee, Meagan Maricle, Kendra Leigh Speedling, and Larry Wilhelm. Five of them are featured in the Last Watch adventure. Creatures include Lifeleecher mortic, a CR 8 mortic based off of orcs; pallid angel, a CR 12 evil outsider blessed by Urgathoa that’s a mockery of the angels they appear to be; pest drake swarm, a CR 9 swarm of colourful little dragons; sceazir, a CR 9 outsider from the Negative Energy Plane; sump steward, an intelligent plant that nurtures the growth of other plants (and my personal favourite of the new monsters); and finally, three swarms and troops of undead: the CR 10 clacking skull swarm, CR 7 barrier breaker troop, and the CR 9 sodden draugr troop.

Pest Drakes
Pest Drakes from the Last Watch Bestiary

Which brings us to the end of  Last Watch by Larry Wilhelm! I think this is an absolutely awesome adventure that packs an emotional punch. I enjoyed it start to finish, but it’s the entire final chapter and the ominous foreshadowing of terrible tragedies that really makes this adventure special. GMs willing to put in the work to make Vigil and it’s people shine will definitely be rewarded!

Tyrant’s Grasp continues with Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) by Crystal Frasier, Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza, and Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) by John Compton. You can also check out a previous blog post I wrote on Tyrant’s Grasp before its release here, or our review of The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6) and Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer (Tyrant’s Grasp 2 of 6).

Thanks for joining us today!

Jessica


 

Review: Tyrant’s Grasp: Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer

Today we’re taking an in depth look at the second book in the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path! This survival horror campaign pits the players against the return of the Whispering Tyrant, the lich-king Tar-Baphon, who was defeated and sealed away long ago. Tyrant’s Grasp will be the final Pathfinder 1st Edition Adventure Path released before the switch is made over to Pathfinder 2nd Edition in August. Intended to take characters from levels 1 to 17, Tyrant’s Grasp is six volumes long.

Tyrant's Grasp - Player's GuideA wonderful Player’s Guide for Tyrant’s Grasp is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here. The Player’s Guide gives players a relatively spoiler-free way to properly prepare for and integrate their characters into the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. I highly recommend checking it out.

It should be noted that the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path is not for everyone. Terrible tragedies will occur and you won’t always be able to prevent them. These events are bound to have a lasting effect on your characters, so players should be prepared to consider and role-play the marks left by the trials you face. Depending on the generosity of your GM you could be in dire situations with limited resources, so players will need to be resourceful to survive. Plenty of the imagery and events in this adventure are dark, morbid, and sorrowful. Although I wouldn’t call all of the volumes in this series horror adventures,  some are — though not your typical horror. I’d call it… a morbid tragedy. There’s plenty of undead, necromancers, and disaster. It’s definitely not a campaign to play with kids or if you’re looking for a light-hearted game.

Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer is the second volume of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. Written by Jason Keeley, this is an adventure intended for fifth level characters, which should bring PCs up to level eight by its conclusion. This adventure begins when the PCs return home to Roslar’s Coffer and find it greatly changed.

Eulogy for Roslars Coffer Cover 2Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer looks great. From cover to cover it’s a high quality book filled with nice maps and beautiful, dark artwork. The cover depicts Jando Parr, a half-orc ranger, in the foreground. Behind him is an image of Imrijka (the iconic inquisitor) and Kess (the iconic brawler) battling an undead moose. Both images are by Igor Grechanyi. There’s a nice map of The Gravelands (Lastwall and parts of Ustalav) on the inside cover. There’s a lot of artwork throughout the book — mostly of enemies. I particularly enjoyed the art for Chatar Esuri, Valthazar Quietus, an oracle from the backmatter, and the couatls in the Bestiary. The maps, all drawn by Matthias Rothenaicher, are really nice. They look great, of course, but they’re also well thought out and executed. All of the rooms are clearly labelled and visible, and I didn’t notice any discrepancies between the maps and the accompanying text.

In terms of content, Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer is a bit of mystery, a bit of exploration, a bit of problem solving, and a lot of combat. PCs will need to explore Roslar’s Coffer, figure out what happened, find a way to move forward, and defeat their enemies. There’s some nice connections between this volume, the ones before and after, and Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-04: Reaver’s Roar. I particularly enjoy how this adventure plays with feelings of familiarity, déjà vu, and player expectations.

The entire adventure takes place in Roslar’s Coffer and it’s immediate surroundings, as well as two major encounter areas. The town is a dark, tragic place to play in. There’s plenty of scripted danger and wandering encounters, as well as a few scripted non-combat encounters. Most of the social encounters in this adventure occur on the town’s streets, although there’s not that many of them. Outside of this most of the PCs interactions with others will be based around whatever information they manage to pry from their enemies lips. As much as I like what was done with Roslar’s Coffer, I wish there was more there. That said, Roslar’s Coffer is the perfect place for GMs to tie the surroundings closely to their player’s backstory and history. I highly recommend GMs do so as much as possible, as that’s what will really make this place special.

In and around Roslar’s Coffer there are two major locations to explore. Both are quite combat heavy and contain some memorable encounters and enemies.

Reaver Battle


And now it’s time for a warning:

We’ve got more to say about this adventure, but it’ll come with spoilers! Don’t want to read them? Skip on past this next section until you see the large words ‘SPOILERS OVER.’ Got it? Good! See you on the other side!


SPOILERS

Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer is split into three major parts: A Town Tormented, Restless are the Dead, and The Unclean Light. The adventure is 55 pages in length with six pages afterwards dedicated to three NPCs: Chatar Esuri, the coolest looking ghoul I’ve ever seen; Jando Parr, a half-orc ranger who could become an ally of the PCs, and Valthazar Quietus, the final enemy the PCs will need to overcome.

Through this adventure the PCs will primarily take on undead and agents of the Whispering Way. It’s quite combat heavy, although, as previously mentioned, many of the enemies are memorable and unique. From simple foes like a mutated bear and a stampede of zombie moose (the stats say elk but the image on the cover is a moose, so I’m going with that!), to cunning enemies like patrols of Whispering Way cultists, tricky nekomata, and juju zombies made from the corpses of your PCs, there’s a lot of fun combats packed into this book.

There’s few potential allies in this adventure, but that doesn’t mean there’s few social encounters. The PCs will have plenty of opportunity to interact with spirits and help put them to rest. They’ll also have chances to interact with and befriend Jando Parr. Finally, a number of enemies can be rather chatty, and clever PCs might be able to learn much from them.

Part One: A Town Tormented begins with the PCs arriving in Roslar’s Coffer to find it destroyed. The people are dead, corpses stalk the streets, and a toxic miasma surrounds the town which proves fatal to anything that attempts to leave. Arriving from the Dead Roads in an old stable outside town, the PCs get to explore Roslar’s Coffer and attempt to learn what they can. There’s some fun encounters here –– the previously mentioned zombie moose stampede is a memorable combat, while meeting (and hopefully allying with) Jando Parr allows the PCs to make a friend, learn about the recent happenings in town, and find a base of operations where they can rest in safety. The other major encounter is with a loci spirit formed from the souls of those who died in Roslar’s Coffer. The spirit bars entry to the cemetery.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to do in Roslar’s Coffer. PCs won’t find many clues in the buildings, the only people they can talk to are Jando Parr, patrols of Whispering Way cultists, and a few spirits of the dead. I really like these spirits, and I love the mundane ways you can put them to rest –– things like fixing up a garden, teaching the school-kids a lesson so they can be dismissed by a teacher, and helping a man remember what jewelry he was about to buy for his beloved. It’s great fun! But that’s all there really is to do in town. So why would your PCs bother putting some spirits to rest? Hopefully out of the goodness of their hearts but, even if that’s not the case, the PCs will soon discover they have to. There’s no way to escape Roslar’s Coffer and the only place they can viably reach that is unexplored is the cemetery –– a cemetery that a certain loci spirit bars entry to. To get inside the loci spirit insists the other spirits in town be calmed. Accomplishing this allows PCs access to the cemetery where they find a familiar tomb….

Part Two: Restless are the Dead begins when the PCs enter the tomb of Roslar. This is a location that will seem very familiar to the PCs, as Tyrant’s Grasp begins when the PCs wake up in a idealistic version of Roslar’s Tomb in the Boneyard. This version? Not so nice! It’s decrepit, vandalized, and plagued by undead. This section of the adventure does a great job of messing with player expectations by showing them a location they’ll feel like they know that isn’t the same. It’s going to be a lot of fun to play at the table. It’s very combat heavy, with only few enemies within the tomb capable of carrying on a conversation.

Part Three: The Unclean Light begins after the PCs have traversed Roslar’s tomb and discovered a secret tunnel that leads to the Bastion of Light, a Sarenite church with a storied history located within the toxic fog surrounding Roslar’s Coffer. This temple has been home to Sarenites, orc war bands, and a mythic red reaver over the years, before it was liberated by the Pathfinder Society in scenario #10-04: Reaver’s Roar. In the months since it has undergone some renovations. Now it’s home to the Whispering Way. The foul cultists are using it as a base of operations to explore the town and catalogue the effects of the weapon used to destroy Roslar’s Coffer. In some ways this backstory will shine through. PCs that are locals will know some of the history of this place through ghost stories and legends. Players who’ve played #10-04 will enjoy the references and tie-ins. Canny PCs might be able to cobble together clues from room descriptions. But, for the most part, this is just a cool building where the bad guys live. The PCs sneak in through the secret tunnel, discover who lives there, and attack. This is likely going to take more than one day as the place is densely populated and PCs are going to be already low on resources from traversing the tomb. There is a place you can rest inside the temple, but it’s more likely PCs sneak back out the secret tunnels and recuperate under the watchful eyes of Jando Parr.

Mutated BearThere are a lot of fun enemies in this temple. The Whispering Way cultists here (and throughout the whole book) have some really nice artwork. There’s a mutated bear that druids might be able to control or befriend, a zombie made from the red reaver that once lived here, and plenty of other traps and undead. My favourite encounters are a pair of tricky nekomata that try to separate and impersonate members of the party, and the final villain, Valthazar Quietus. Valthazar is an androgynous looking Ustalavic nobleman who is a pleasant conversationalist. He’s more than willing to chat with the PCs (as long as it suits him!). He’s accompanied by juju zombies created from the corpses of the PCs which is sure to be jarring and a ton of fun to play. It’s definitely a highlight of this adventure!

But, escaping Roslar’s Coffer isn’t as simple as killing your enemies. Valthazar used a powerful artifact to create a toxic fog around the destroyed town, then protected the artifact with an occult ritual. PCs will need to figure out how to access the artifact and shut it down. There’s plenty of clues laying around and a well-stocked library, but figuring this out could still be a bit frustrating for some players. This section also makes use of library and research rules.

Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer ends with a mysterious stranger suggesting the PCs travel to Vigil, capital of Lastwall, to tell them what has happened to Roslar’s Coffer.

In addition to the Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer adventure, this volume contains three articles and a bestiary containing five new creatures. All three articles are intended for GMs.

The first article, Merchants of the Road, is written by Eleanor Ferron. In it you’ll find details on a variety of very strange travelling merchants and caravans that could be added into the campaign. This is particularly useful at various points in the adventure path when shops are hard to come by. Each also comes with some potential plot hooks. The merchant groups are the Baramasco, Clockwork Caravan, Palanquin Trading, Taotake, and (my personal favourite) the Redclover Tribe of kobolds! Although I doubt I would add these groups into Tyrant’s Grasp when I run it, I would definitely enjoy using all of these groups in other adventures and campaigns.

The second article, Arazni, The Red Queen, is written by Lyz Liddell. As the name implies it contains information on Arazni, her history, and her fate. Arazni is such a tragic figure, and her personal story arc is incredibly important to this adventure path –– even though it does unfold primarily offscreen. She’s suffered through life, death, life as an undead, imprisonment, unwanted marriage, and so much more. She’s endured (and still endures) trauma that has shaped her into the person she is, and drives her actions throughout this adventure path. I particularly enjoyed seeing how her faith and focus has changed over the years. I think this article was very well handled.

The final article, Machinations of the Whispering Way, is written by Crystal Malarsky and details The Whispering Way, servants of the Whispering Tyrant and the primary villains of this adventure path. It also includes some stat blocks that are used in this adventure. It’s a very important article for GMs to read.

Mix CouatlThe Bestiary is up next! It contains a random encounter chart and five new creatures written by Sarah E. Hood, Luis Loza, Jen McTeague, and Mikhail Rekun. Oddly, none of them are featured in the Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer adventure. The first two monsters are couatls: auwaz, a CR 6 couatl found near oceans that helps the lost find their way home, and mix, a CR 8 couatl known to guide and watch over societies. Other creatures include gurgist, a CR 6 human mortic; melacage, a disturbing CR 5 incorporeal (usually) ball of undead souls; and pixie circle, a CR 7 plant creature capable of transporting enemies to other pixie circles.

SPOILERS OVER


Which brings us to the end of Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer (Tyrant’s Grasp 2 of 6) by Jason Keeley! Although I wish there was more to do and discover in Roslar’s Coffer, I really enjoyed this adventure. There’s some combat encounters in this book that are going to be unique and memorable for everyone at the table, and the adventure’s location and events are going to have a lot of emotional impact for PCs. As a GM that’s something I really appreciate.

Tyrant’s Grasp continues with Last Watch (Tyrant’s Grasp 3 of 6) by Larry Wilhelm, Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) by Crystal Frasier, Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza, and Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) by John Compton. You can also check out a previous blog post I wrote on Tyrant’s Grasp before its release here, or our review of The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6).

Thanks for joining us today!

Jessica


 

 

June New Releases

June is here and plethora of new gaming products are hitting shelves! Check out this month’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons & Dragons

Highlights from last month’s releases include the Stranger Things D&D Roleplaying Game Starter Set and Ghosts of Saltmarsh. This month Ghosts of Salmarsh gets the deluxe treatment with Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! The Sinister Silver Edition contains twelve high quality player handouts, a detailed ship map, a reusable ship map, two large scale battle maps, a map of the Styes, 30 encounter cards (which are designed to be hung over a DM screen so players can see images of the monsters they fight while the DM sees it’s statistics), custom DM screen, two objects, bonus encounters, and characters! Also coming out this month is Dungeons & Dragons: Acquisitions Incorporated, a perfect supplement for fans who like a bit of comedy in their RPGs.


Pathfinder

Highlights from last month’s releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 142: Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) by Crystal Frasier and Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends, which is the last Pathfinder Player Companion being released for Pathfinder First Edition. This month’s new releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 143: Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza and Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Druma: Profit and Prophecy.

This month’s Pathfinder Society Scenario is #10-22—Passing the Torch, Part 1: Who Wears the Mask, a Tier 12–18 scenario written by Cole Kronewitter that takes place at the same time as Pathfinder Society Special #10-98: Siege of Gallowspire. #10-22 is part of a two-part story arc that concludes with #10-23—Passing the Torch, Part 2: Who Speaks for the Ten next month. All three scenarios are the grand finale to Pathfinder Society Organized Play for Pathfinder First Edition.

Other Pathfinder releases include Pathfinder Pawns: Enemy Encounters Pawn Collection, Pathfinder Flip-Tiles: Forest Highlands Expansion, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Dragon’s Lair.


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Although it technically launched just at the end of May it’s worth noting that the new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game has been unveiled. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set is the base game, which include all the rules, the Dragons Demand adventure series, and a ton of cards. They’re also releasing Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path which is designed to be mixed into the Core Set to create a whole new series of adventures. Those of you who want to read the rules before investing can find the rulebook as a free download here.


Starfinder 

Highlights from last month’s Starfinder releases include Starfinder Adventure Path 16: The Blind City (Dawn of Flame 4 of 6). This month there’s Starfinder Adventure Path: Solar Strike (Dawn of Flame 5 of 6) by Mark Moreland and the Starfinder Rules Reference Cards Deck.

Starfinder Society Scenarios for this month include #2-01: The Pact World Warriors, a Tier 1–4 scenario written by Jenny Jarzabski which brings back Zo! and launches the Year of a Thousand Bites storyline. There’s also #2-02: Waking the Past, a Tier 3–6 scenario written by Tom Philips that sounds like it’s got a bit of a horror vibe to it. June is also when Starfinder Society Scenario #1-99: The Scoured Stars Invasion is available for sale.


Tails of Equestria

Riverhorse just released Filly Sized Follies, a Tails of Equestria book filled with three adventures for ponies between levels 2 and 5. My kids adore the Tails of Equestria RPG, so we’re thrilled to see this one hit shelves!

Filly Sized Follys
Filly Sized Follies

And finally, we’d like to mention some FREE releases that you may or may not have had a chance to pick up…

Wayfinder #19: Destination: Absalom Station, is a free Starfinder fanzine you can read more about here; and Abattoir 8, a fantastic free horror adventure for Grimmerspace, which is a Starfinder Compatible RPG currently on Kickstarter. This adventure is written by Richard Pett and is for mature audiences only. You can also read more about Grimmerspace here.

Finally, Free RPG Day is just around the corner. On Saturday, June 15th be sure to swing by your local game store and pick up a free copy of some RPGs! My family’s most anticipated releases are We Be Heroes? and Skitter Crash, both from Paizo Inc. For more information on Free RPG Day 2019 you can head to their website or read this blog post.


And that’s it for this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

Review: Tyrant’s Grasp: The Dead Roads!

Today we’re taking an in depth look at the first book in the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path! This survival horror campaign pits the players against the return of the Whispering Tyrant, the lich-king Tar-Baphon, who was defeated and sealed away long ago. Tyrant’s Grasp will be the final Pathfinder 1st Edition Adventure Path released, before the switch is made over to Pathfinder 2nd Edition in August. Intended to take characters from levels 1 to 17, Tyrant’s Grasp is six volumes long.

Tyrant's Grasp - Player's GuideA wonderful Player’s Guide for Tyrant’s Grasp is available as a free download on Paizo’s website here. The Player’s Guide gives players a relatively spoiler-free way to properly prepare for and integrate their characters into the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path. I highly recommend checking it out!

The Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path: The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6). Written by Ron Lundeen, The Dead Roads is an adventure intended for first level characters, which should bring PCs up to level five by its conclusion. This adventure begins when the PCs awaken already defeated in the Boneyard, a land where the dead go to be judged. There’s just one problem… They’re not quite dead. Trapped inside a tomb that doesn’t belong to them, they’ll need to escape, figure out what happened to them, and find a way to return home. But, how could one possibly escape the land of the dead?

Let me start by saying that The Dead Roads — and the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path — is not for everyone. Terrible tragedies will occur, and you won’t always be able to prevent them. These events are bound to have a lasting effect on your characters, so players should be prepared to consider and role-play the marks left by the trials you face. Often you’ll be in dire situations with limited resources, so players will need to be resourceful to survive. Plenty of the imagery and events in this adventure are dark, morbid, and sorrowful. It’s definitely a horror campaign — though not your typical horror. It’s suspenseful survival horror, with a good deal of body horror in the first book, as well.  The Dead Roads contains imagery that is inappropriate for children and some adult gamers will even consider an image or two disturbing. It’s definitely not a campaign I could play with my family.

That said, I loved The Dead Roads. Absolutely, positively, adored it.

The Dead Roads Cover

For starters, it looks great. From cover to cover it’s a wonderful, high quality book filled with nice maps, and beautiful, dark artwork. The cover depicts Mictena (a catrina psychopomp the PCs are destined to interact with) in the foreground. Behind her is an image of Seelah (the Iconic paladin) and Yoon (the iconic kineticist) battling ostovites. Both images are by Igor Grechanyi. There’s a lovely map of The Gravelands (Lastwall and parts of Ustalav) on the inside cover. There’s a ton of artwork throughout the book — of enemies, allies, and characters who could become either. I particularly enjoyed the art for Prince Uspid and Mictena. Colulus was the most disconcerting image in the book. If any image is going to bug a squeamish player it’ll be that one. There’s a few characters that I wish had art but don’t (which is expected! Art’s not cheap and there’s only so much space!). Ayuki, in particular, would have been nice to see, as well as the jitterbone creature in the bestiary. The maps, all drawn by Matthias Rothenaicher, are really nice. They look great, of course, but they’re also well thought out, executed, and each has a unique feel to it. I particularly enjoyed ‘Roslar’s Tomb’ and ‘Deathbower.’ I wish that the maps of the various Dead Roads locations were given a bit more space, though. Squishing three multi-floor maps for three different locations onto one page is good for page count, but makes some of the maps difficult to read. Part of the eastern end of the ‘Palace of Teeth’ is nearly lost in the creases of the binding, while the entrance to ‘Salishara’s Scriptorium’ is hidden in the creases. If both of those maps were a few grid squares further to the left that would have been less of a problem. Finally, flipping back and forth  between the map page and the various locations depicted in it (which is spread out over 28 pages) is a bit irritating. Have a bookmark or post-it note handy and try not to tear your pages. Much to my surprise there was also two player handouts which represent puzzles the group comes across. I’m really glad they’re depicted instead of just described. They’re necessary and a really nice touch.

Maps in the Crease
Part of the maps lost in the creases.

The Dead Roads starts with a bang (HA!) and doesn’t let up. The entire opening has the feel of an ominous, suspenseful mystery. Your PCs don’t know where they are, how they got there, or what’s going on. Their locations hide clues to both their situation and the history of wider events, which the PCs may or may not be able to uncover. In time they will discover the answers to some of their questions, just as they realize it’s tied to an even bigger mystery.

There’s a lot of wonderful social encounters and NPCs in this adventure. Number Three, Barple Stonebreaker, Prince Uspid, Queen Carnassial, Kishokish and his portrait, Ayuki, Salighara, Berthold, the wyrwoods, Mrs. Pedipalp, Aydie, Reedreaper, Mictena — there’s just so many great interactions in this adventure! Among them, three particularly stand out amongst the crowd: interacting with the townsfolk of Roslar’s Coffer is poignant and amazing; speaking with Barzahk the Passage; and — my personal favourite characters — Umble and Thoot! This pair of friendly psychopomps are the best!

Many of the creatures and NPCs you come across don’t look friendly — which doesn’t mean they aren’t friendly. Of course, it doesn’t mean they are friendly, either. Which I love! Appearances have no bearing on what a creature acts like and I appreciate that this adventure used that so effectively. It’s bound to throw players for a bit of a loop and make them feel… off-kilter. Which is great!

There’s a lot of challenging encounters in this adventure and plenty of unique monsters to face off against. I particularly enjoyed that so many can end in ways other than violence. But, don’t let that last sentence lull you into a false sense of security! There’s a lot of combat encounters in this book that cannot be avoided.

And the ending! Oh, the ending! I love it! I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in this Adventure Path! I have a feeling Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer is going to be just as good.


And now it’s time for a warning:

We’ve got more to say about this adventure, but it’ll come with spoilers! Don’t want to read them? Skip on past this next section until you see the large words ‘SPOILERS OVER.’ Got it? Good! See you on the other side where we’ll talk about the extra content in this book!


SPOILERS

The Dead Roads adventure is split into four major parts: Awake in Roslar’s Tomb, Among the Dead, Walking the Dead Roads, and Deathbower. One of these parts Walking the Dead Roads is particularly dense and is made up of three major locations: The Palace of Teeth, Nine-Eaves, and Salighara’s Scriptorium. All told The Dead Roads adventure is 52 pages in length with six pages afterwards dedicated to three NPCs: Mictena, Mrs. Pedipalp, and Reedreaper. All three of these are enemies the PCs will come across, but only one of them has to stay that way. The PCs have a chance to convince the other two to step aside without violence (although it’s extremely hard to accomplish for one of those two!).

Through this adventure the PCs will get to interact with psychopomps, a type of outsider native to the Boneyard who work to ensure that the processing of souls is done accurately and efficiently. Typically functioning as guides for the souls of the deceased, the psychopomps are confused over what to do about the mysterious PCs. Some will help them along their way (especially the delightful Umble and Thoot!) , and others with hinder them — particularly Mictena, a catrina psychopomp obsessed with putting the PCs spirits properly to rest. Through a good thorough death, of course! Psychopomps aren’t the only enemies and NPCs the players will interact with. The Boneyard is a huge realm, and there’s plenty of creatures living/stranded/invading there. Other major groups of enemies include fey, vermin, sakhil, and nightmarish beings from the Dimension of Dreams.

Fittingly, The Dead Roads begins with death. Lots of it. The entire town of Roslar’s Coffer has been destroyed in one terrifying instant. Including the PCs. I’ll leave the details out of this article, but suffice to say this will have a lasting effect on your players and their characters. Any family, friends, and companions — pets included — that lived in Roslar’s Coffer are dead. Although it might be tempting to warn some players about this in advance, that also will ruin some of the surprise and likely result in players purposely making no personal connections to the town of Roslar’s Coffer — which would be a mistake in my opinion. Every GM will need to judge their players accordingly, and perhaps provide them with some hints and warnings while they build their characters and backstories. In my opinion this event is handled incredibly well throughout this adventure, and I highly recommend allowing players to make a character with personal connections to Roslar’s Coffer. It adds so much to the story. However, it is important to inform PCs that if they have animal companions, mounts, or they are a wizard with a familiar, they will not have access to their pet at the start of the campaign. Player’s who have read the Tyrant’s Grasp Player’s Guide will already be aware of this, although they won’t (accurately) know why.

Happily, the player’s experience doesn’t begin with the death of Roslar’s Coffer. Instead, Part One: Awake in Roslar’s Tomb begins with the PCs waking up in a stone coffin. Literally entombed they need to push their way out of the stone box and into a cold, dark, mausoleum. It’s a great opening. Players and characters alike are bound to be curious what has happened and where they are. Players begin with any gear they had that could reasonably fit in a coffin with them. Any familiars who share a soul with your PCs (a shaman or witch familiar) will be in a coffin of their own, while all other companions are not present (as they are dead). Eidolons and phantoms can be summoned back normally, although all other familiars and companions will need to be replaced at a later time.

Soon, the PCs will discover they’re in someone else’s tomb — Ervin Roslar, Knight of Ozem and hero of the Shining Crusade. The same man that Roslar’s Coffer is named after, in fact. Interesting! As they navigate the tomb they’ll find strange creatures, animated bones (sort of…), a trapped spirit, and a tribe of mites. They’ll also discover that Ervin Roslar may have had a few secrets of his own, although it’s unlikely they’ll unravel his history completely. This section of the adventure is a suspenseful series of explorations, mysteries, tantalizing clues, and challenging combats. It’s going to be a ton of fun to both run and play.

Part Two: Among the Dead begins when the PCs exit Roslar’s Tomb to find themselves face to face with a pair of spooky looking (and absolutely delightful) psychopomps: Umble and Thoot! Seriously, they’re awesome. This quirky pair give the PCs some answers to their most pressing questions and explains that not only are the PCs dead and not dead at the same time — weird! — the rest of Roslar’s Coffer is well and truly dead. They ask the PCs to lend them a hand in convincing the spirits of the dead of Roslar’s Coffer that they are, in fact, dead. These poor fellows need a hand moving everyone on to the afterlife in a calm and orderly fashion! The PCs get to travel to a phantom version of Roslar’s Coffer where they interact with all the people in town — now dead. This is an amazing section of the adventure. Short and poignant, the GM has a chance to show the PCs what has happened to all their family and friends. They’ll need to convince loved ones to move on, and will have a chance to say goodbye. If they have any pets they’ll find them here as well. The adventure itself provides rules for interacting with these spirits, how to convince them to move on, and some tactics that will let them do it in a timely fashion — namely convincing the town leaders of their death. Some PCs will want to stay behind and die along with their family, others won’t have personal connections to the townsfolk, and others still will want to ‘save’ some of these spirits and attempt to return them back to life. There’s plenty of guidance in this book for handling PCs of every kind. After accepting their death the people of Roslar’s Coffer — even familial loved ones — want answers for what happened to them. The PCs are uniquely positioned to uncover this. And, of course, any spirits who can’t be convinced to move on (including those your PCs may want to bring back) will deteriorate in time until they become undead ghosts and other malevolent entities. Umble and Thoot can explain this to the group and ensure no PCs attempt anything so foolhardy. Also in this section the PCs are first introduced to the antagonist of this adventure, Mictena. Overall, this section of the book is among my very favourites. It’s exceptionally well handled and sure to be an emotional experience for players and characters alike. It’s a truly unique roleplaying opportunity. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I’m quite certain that if I was playing this with any character who had even a modest amount of family or friends in Roslar’s Coffer, under an even remotely talented GM, I would cry — in a good way! It has the potential to really tug at the heartstrings.

Part Three: Walking the Dead Roads begins after the PCs have helped the people of Roslar’s Coffer accept their death. Umble and Thoot, who are grateful and believe that since the PCs are only slightly dead they’re not truly dead at all, offer the PCs a way out of the Boneyard. The Dead Roads. They explain that this secret path is only ever trod by psychopomps and gatekeepers, the beings who watch over what amounts to traveller’s checkpoints along the road. Capable of leading anywhere, the PCs can use the Dead Roads to get home to Roslar’s Coffer (so they can figure out what’s happened) by taking a certain path. They’ll need to stop at the three checkpoints along the way and get stamped by that location’s master. Convincing them to grant the stamp should be the hardest part of the journey. Unbeknownst to Umble and Thoot, politics and turmoil have overtaken the three waystations, making each location more dangerous than expected. These locations may be visited in any order, although they are presented in order of difficulty (which is also how I recommend playing them).

The Palace of Teeth is a small castle ruled over Queen Carnassial and her court of tooth fairies. Not long ago her son, Prince Uspid, led a coup against her, and the two factions have been locked in a stalemate ever since. Although Queen Carnassial is the only one with the authority to stamp the PCs (at least until her death) it’s Prince Uspid the PCs are destined to meet first. They’ll need to navigate, bargain, and battle their way through bickering fey factions. They might even get to keep all their teeth…. This location is simultaneously goofy in a crazed sort of way and disconcerting. Although the Palace of Teeth was once a beautiful castle it’s undergone a rather morbid makeover since the fey moved in. The place is creepy and it’s denizens literally want to yank your teeth out. That can make bargaining… weird. Haha. I love the art for both the tooth fairy monarchs (particularly Prince Uspid!) and the stained glass angel. But, in my opinion, the creepiest encounter involves a pair of soulbound dolls in the midst of acting out a rather bloody play about dentistry. They attempt to make the PCs their next patients, using deep slumber and some particularly creepy statements. It’s awesome! Haha. The Palace of Teeth is my favourite location on in part three.

Nine-Eaves is a three storey manor owned by an old shoki psychopomp with a fondness for games and puzzles. Unfortunately, Kishokish’s manor has been invaded by sahkil and he’s now a prisoner in his own home. They PCs will need to free him if they want to get his stamp. Luckily they’re not without allies. An animated portrait created to pose riddles to visitors can lend the PCs a hand — if they can solve his puzzles! There are three puzzles total, and each one solved can earn the PCs information and advice. They’ll need to traverse the house as they seek answers, battling vermin, sahkil, and an unfettered phantom named Ayuki. I really enjoyed the puzzle aspects of this location.

Salighara’s Scriptorium was created by Salighara, a reclusive viduus psychopomp who is studying the Dimension of Dreams and oversees a crew of wyrwood scribes. Mictena attempted to convince Salighara to kill the PCs on her behalf, but was rebuffed. Mictena then offered the same deal to Salighara’s assistant, a plump woman named Mrs. Pedipalp (actually an aranea from a nightmarish section of the Dimension of Dreams). Happy to take the powerful psychopomp up on her offer, Mrs. Pedipalp has ousted Salighara from her own scriptorium and remade the building in her own image. Now a dark place of nightmares and horror, the PCs will need to set things right. This is definitely the most horror-themed location in The Dead Roads, with traps, haunts, and horrifying enemies. Colulus, a flayed ettercap and long-time minion of Mrs. Pedipalp is by far the most horrifying. But, even the Scriptorium is not without potential allies. PCs get to meet Salighara, some upset wyrwoods, and a ratling named Berthold. Mrs. Pedipalp herself is a great opponent — a capable liar, powerful spellcaster, and nightmarish foe all wrapped up in a kindly looking package. I particularly like her tactics. That said, it’s likely Colulus who will give parties the most trouble.

After receiving their stamps the PCs can finally traverse the rest of the Dead Roads and return to the land of the living — not! Mictena refuses to let them go! She magically relocated her domain, Deathbower, right onto the Dead Roads so that she and her dangerous shabti gardeners can kill your PCs properly. Which brings us to the final section of the Dead Roads adventure, Part Four: Deathbower. I love this location and its map. I love the inhabitants — gardeners, friends, and foes. And I love Mictena herself. Despite being an enemy of your PCs she’s not a bad being. She’s a psychopomp just doing what she thinks is right. Which is cool! Although some of the hazards and enemies in this glorious garden must be confronted head on, some characters can be swayed and may even join you for a while. Reedreaper is a particularly interesting character, although it’s unlikely he sticks around long enough to play much of a role. Even Mictena can be talked down — theoretically. The chances your PCs will be able to roll high enough are incredibly slim, but it could happen. Which I really like.

After leaving Deathbower behind the PCs find themselves back on the Dead Roads and greeted by an incredibly powerful psychopomp, Barzahk the Passage, a demigod and master of the Dead Roads. This enigmatic figure whisks the PCs off to their home in a matter of moments, giving them a bit of time to ask him any questions they might have. I thought this was a great moment and a wonderful way to end the adventure.

SPOILERS OVER


In addition to The Dead Roads adventure, this volume contains two articles intended for both GMs and players, one article solely for the GM, a campaign outline, and a bestiary containing five new creatures.

Tools of the BoneyardThe first article, Tools of the Boneyard, is written by Matt Morris. In it you’ll find new gear and character options aimed at dealing with the dead. There is one alchemical remedy, one alchemical tool, and two alchemical weapons — bone burn is my favourite, so be sure to check it out! There are two new special materials useful for crafting — cryptstone can be used for ammunition and weapons, while spiresteel can be used for ammunition, weapons, and armour. Finally, there are five new magic items: crypt rod, grim helm, harbinger’s scythe, Lady’s Mercy, and Momument’s Truth. Although I enjoyed a lot of the items, it’s the character options that I found were most exciting. Graveslinger is a gunslinger archetype that specializes in combatting incorporeal undead. Soul Shepherd is a monk archetype that calm incorporeal undead and haunts with a touch. They also gain some otherworldly resistances and interesting ways to use their ki. Reaper is a new oracle mystery which I really enjoyed. Tightly themed and flavourful it’s capable of both killing the living and destroying undead. There are also six new barbarian rage powers including the psychopomp totem powers.

shabti-1.jpg
Thrilled to see shabti get some attention!

The second player friendly article is written by Mikhail Rekun and entitled The Half-Dead. This section talks about four races that have a strong connection to death and the undead. In addition to providing details and character options for dhampir, duskwalkers, and shabti, it also talks about the new subtype of creatures, mortics. Dhampir appear alongside two magical items, duswalkers have access to five new feats, and shabti have access to five new feats. I was particularly excited to see shabti included.

The next article, To Exceed Their Grasp, is written by Crystal Frasier and intended for GMs only. This article discusses some of the important concepts, characters, and events of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path and the role they play in the overarching story. It also contains a timeline. This is incredibly useful for GMs an will likely be referenced throughout the entire Adventure Path.

Tyrant's Grasp -Shining Crusade - Death of Arazni
The Death of Arazni (Herald of Aroden) during the Shining Crusade. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The Bestiary is up next! It contains a random encounter chart, two interesting social encounters, and five new creatures written by Ron Lundeen, Kyle T. Raes, and Mike Welham. All of the monsters in this book have ties to death and the Boneyard and two of them are featured in The Dead Roads adventure. Bonewrought Willow is an ominous looking intelligent plant capable of growing in Boneyard. Attracted to light and more benevolent than it appears this is a great CR 3 creature I can’t wait to confront my players with. Kaicherak are nasty little fanged worm beasts with ties to Achaekek and a fondness for messily gorging themselves on blood. At CR 4 they are among the most powerful new creatures in the bestiary. Mortics are living beings with strong connections to negative energy which makes them sort of like living undead. There are two mortic stat blocks included in the bestiary — the ghoulish elf-like angheuvore (CR 2) and the incredibly flexible halfling-like jitterbone (CR 4). As previously mentioned, more information on mortics is also included in The Half-Dead article. The final creature is the tooth fairy monarch, a CR 3 version of the lowly tooth fairy.

The last article is a campaign outline, written by Crystal Frasier and Ron Lundeen, that briefly details the events of the upcoming volumes of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path.  Not the sort of thing you want your players peeking at! The campaign outline is incredibly useful for GMs.

Which brings us to the end of  Pathfinder Adventure Path: The Dead Roads (Tyrant’s Grasp 1 of 6). Want more? So do I! Tyrant’s Grasp continues with Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer (Tyrant’s Grasp 2 of 6) by Jason Keeley, Last Watch (Tyrant’s Grasp 3 of 6) by Larry Wilhelm, Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) by Crystal Frasier, Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza, and Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) by John Compton. You can also check out a previous blog post I wrote on the upcoming Tyrant’s Grasp volumes here.

Thanks for joining us today!

Jessica


EDIT: Check out the Tyrant’s Grasp trailer!