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


 

Pathfinder Battles: Ruins of Lastwall

Ruins of Lastwall Booster
Pathfinder Battles – Ruins of Lastwall Booster Box

The latest Pathfinder Battles set from WizKids is finally out! Packed full of pre-painted miniatures that are a great accompaniment to the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path, this set has a whole lot of knights, cultists, undead, and outsiders. Classics! Plus, there’s quite a few gods in this set, which is awesome!

Pathfinder Battles: Ruins of Lastwall comes in blind booster boxes that contain four minis each — one large figure and three small or medium figures. In addition to buying a single standard booster box you can order a brick of boosters (which contains eight booster boxes) or a case of boosters (four bricks for a total of 32 booster boxes). Anyone who orders an entire case of boosters may also order Pathfinder Battles: Ruins of Lastwall: Cemetery of the Fallen Set which is a collection of graveyard themed set dressing.

 

There’s been a ton of awesome renderings of the miniatures in this set shared by Paizo, which we’re happy to share with the world. Curious what’s inside? Read on!

Pathfinder Battles - Ruins of Lastwall
Pathfinder Battles – Ruins of Lastwall Miniatures

Commons:
01 – Caligni Creeper (small)
02 – Caligni Caller (small)
03 – Formian Worker (small)
04 – Caligni Stalker
05 – Draugr
06 – Hyena
07 – Lastwall Soldier
08 – Leng Ghoul
09 – Poltergeist
10 – Razmir Cultist
11 – Skeletal Soldier
12 – Velstrac Evangelist
13 – Whispering Way Cultist

 

Uncommons:
14 – Nosoi Psychopomp
15 – Formian Warrior
16 – Jyoti
17 – Lastwall Knight
18 – Lastwall Paladin
19 – Mohrg
20 – Razmir Priest
21 – Sceaduinar
22 – Skeletal Samurai
23 – Skeletal Speaker
24 – Vanth Psychopomp
25 – Androsphinx (large)
26 – Gold Dragon (large)
27 – Lastwall General (large)
28 – Nuckelavee (large)
29 – Roiling Oil (large)
30 – Scorpionfolk (large)
31 – Tomb Giant (large)
32 – Warmonger Devil (large)

 

Rares:
33 – Arazni
34 – Iomedae
35 – Morrigna
36 – Razmir
37 – Thanadaemon
38 – Urgathoa
39 – Whispering Tyrant
40 – Worm that walks
41 – Empyrean Angel (large)
42 – Formian Queen (large)
43 – Time Dragon (large)
44 – Pharasma (large)

 

Dungeon Dressing:
D1 – Crypt Wall (large)
D2 – Torture Rack (large)
D3 – Funerary Bed (large)
D4 – Afterlife Scale
D5 – Stone Cairn
D6 – Canopic Jars (small)

 

We can’t wait to get our hands on a box of Pathfinder Battles: Ruins of Lastwall! Got some of your own? We’d love to hear what you’ve got! Got a favourite mini? Let us know which one! I’m a huge fan of all the Lastwall knights, soldiers, paladin, and warriors. They look great and they’re easy to use in a wide array of adventures.

Jessica

Ruins of Lastwall - Joel Holtzman
Illustrated by Joel Holtzman. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Pathfinder Society Scenarios: The Daughters’ Due and Corpses in Kalsgard

Today we’re going to take a look at two of the most recent Pathfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers then I recommend clicking on a different article.  Whether you intend to use these scenarios in home games of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Pathfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So let’s get cracking!

10-18 - The Daughters' DuePathfinder Society Scenario #10-18: The Daughters’ Due is a Tier 5-9 adventure written by Thurston Hillman. It begins in the Blakros Museum and quickly moves to Shadow Absalom. In addition to the Core Rulebook it includes content from the Advanced Player’s GuideUltimate Equipment, and Ultimate WildernessIt features creatures from BestiaryBestiary 2, and Bestiary 5 (although all of the necessary stat blocks are included within the scenario). It utilizes Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Carnival, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Slum Quarter, and a half-page custom map that will look very familiar to some players. For more information on the Shadow Plane check out The Inner Sea World Guide and Planar Adventures, and for more information on Shadow Absalom check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Distant Realms.

Daughter's Due - Chalos Visanda - Illustration by Leonardo Santanna
Chalos Visanda from #10-18: The Daughters’ Due. Illustration by Leonardo Santanna. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

This adventure tasks the PCs with investigating four missing relics from the Blakros Museum which it’s curator, Nigel Aldain, insists were destroyed or stolen by Pathfinders during their many missions within the Blakros Museum over the years. His boss, Lady Hamaria Blakros, has invited the PCs to her museum to investigate or refute these claims. After this quick mystery the PCs can give their report to Hamaria and even pass judgement on Nigel himself — a turn of events that I’m sure many players will take a perverse joy in. Haha. From there the PCs head into Shadow Absalom, to track down the missing relics and retrieve them from the true thieves. PCs who have played in any of the Blakros-themed Pathfinder Society Scenarios over the years (there’s lots!) will find this mission more relevant and entertaining than those who haven’t. It’s particularly closely tied to the events of Pathfinder Society Scenario #2–11: The Penumbral AccordsPCs who have the “Acquainted with Aslynn” boon from Pathfinder Society #5-09: The Traitor’s Lodge and #7-09: The Blakros Connection have a chance to have a slightly different experience than players who haven’t, although its minor.

Start to finish, this scenario was an absolute joy! The investigations in the beginning of the scenario are interesting. There’s a wide variety of fun social encounters and quirky characters to interact with. The battles were challenging and dynamic, with one of them having the potential to be avoided with clever skill use. Best of all, this scenario includes multiple ways in which the PCs can make important decisions which will come to influence the Pathfinder Society in the future. Overall, I thought this was an excellent scenario that’s going to be a ton of fun to play. It brings the Blakros/Onyx Alliance storyline to a nice ‘conclusion’ for First Edition, which is clearly going to be picked up again in Second Edition. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!

10-19 - Corpses in KalsgardPathfinder Society Scenario #10-19: Corpses in Kalsgard is a Tier 5-9 Adventure written by Alex Riggs. It begins in Iceferry but primarily takes place in Kalsgard, a major city in the Land of the Linnorm Kings. For more information on these locations check out The Inner Sea World GuidePathfinder Campaign Setting: Lands of the Linnorm Kings and Pathfinder Adventure Path 50: Night of Frozen Shadows (Jade Regent 2 of 6). In addition to the Core RulebookCorpses in Kalsgard includes content from the Advanced Class Guide and Advanced Player’s Guide. It features creatures and monster templates from BestiaryHorror Adventures, and Pathfinder Adventure Path 81: Shifting Sands (Mummy’s Mask 3 of 6) (although all of the necessary stat blocks are included within the scenario). It utilizes the Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: City Streets, Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Necropolis, Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Thieves’ Guild, and a custom full-page map. This mission is of particular importance to gnomes, followers of Nivi Rhombodazzle, and any characters who have an interest ensuring the dead are treated with respect, and deaths are properly investigated.

Corpses in Kalsgard - ElluxShost - Illustration by Hannah Boving
Ellux Shost, one of the gnomes PCs will have a chance to interact with during their investigation. Illustration by Hannah Boving. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

This adventure tasks the PCs with investigating a series of deaths in Kalsgard, all of which occurred in gnomes and were attributed to the Bleaching. Of course, the local priestess of Nivi Rhombodazzle, Quil Tabberdash refutes these claims. Venture-Captain Bjersig Torrsen and his husky Mahki dispatch the PCs to Kalsgard to meet up with Quil and get to the bottom of this mystery! PCs will have a chance to quickly check out a series of crime scenes, dead bodies, and petition neighbours and witnesses for information. As the mystery unravels the PCs will have a chance to follow two different avenues of inquiry with each resulting in a different encounter and event. To make matters even more exciting this is all happening on a backdrop of political turmoil in Kalsgard, and canny PCs can even pick up clues that this mission has a connection to an organization and Adventure Path I’ll leave unnamed. This scenario is a great little mystery that should move at a rapid pace. There’s lots of fun NPCs to interact with. Most are brief witness statements, but Quil is an absolute delight. I’ll leave the other NPCs and villains unmentioned to help prevent too many spoilers, but I will say I enjoyed them all. There’s quite a few fights in this one (although one will be excluded depending on your PCs actions), but it’s the final encounter that will likely prove most challenging.  Particularly as the composition of the fight depends upon your PCs actions throughout the scenario. This means that some groups will find it difficult and others… less so. Although this could prove problematic, I think it’s a nice change of pace. I’d be interested to see how this plays out at game tables throughout the Organized Play Community. Overall I thought this was a fun and quirky murder mystery that made an effort to shake things up a bit. I particularly enjoyed that the PCs actions can alter the events and battles in this scenario. I give it four out of five stars.

Thanks for joining us today! We’ll see you again soon!

Jessica

Pathfinder Society Scenarios: The Shattered Shield and The Hao Jin Hierophant!

Today we’re going to take a look at two of the most recent Pathfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers I recommend you check out a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Pathfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So let’s get cracking!

10-10 Shattered Shield
Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-10: The Shattered Shield by Leo Glass

Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-10: The Shattered Shield is a Tier 1-5 adventure written by Leo Glass. It takes place in Rahadoum, a nation where religion is outlawed. It features creatures from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: BestiaryBestiary 3, and Bestiary 4 (although all of the necessary stat blocks are included within the scenario). It makes use of the Pathfinder Core RulebookAdvanced Player’s GuideUltimate Equipment, and Ultimate Magic. This scenario utilizes Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Noble EstatePathfinder Flip-Mat: Museum, and a morbid custom map that looks pretty rockin’. This mission is of particularly importance to members of the Dark Archives Faction, and is very likely going to lead to other Pathfinder Society Scenarios (and tie in with the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path, I’d wager).

On the surface, because religion is outlawed in Rahadoum, bringing a cleric, paladin, or other divine caster on this mission is a really bad idea, but actually… that’s only half true. Yes, religion is outlawed in Rahadoum, and playing a divine caster will be a challenge. There will be social repercussions, and you’re likely to run into trouble with the law. However, these interactions are very well-handled in this scenario with the addition of ‘Legion Points,’ which are a measure of how many legal infractions the Pure Legion has caught you committing. The punishments are clear, and you have plenty of opportunities to lower these totals throughout the scenario. You’re not going to be executed, or immediately kicked out of the scenario or something equally drastic. As long as you play your divine character with some subtlety and caution, you should come out alright. As a nice bonus, there are quite a few obvious benefits to bringing that divine caster along. Players who take the time and try their best to navigate this difficult political landscape will find their efforts were worth it. It’s a gamble. Although I don’t recommend you bring a divine-heavy party to this scenario, I don’t condemn their use either. If you’re up for the challenge, go for it!

The Shattered Shield tasks the PCs with heading into Rahadoum and attending an illegal auction that deals in religious relics. There they’ll need to obtain a shard of the Shield of Arnisant, which was once known as the Shield of Aroden, and was used to battle the Whispering Tyrant. This shield is supposed to be safe in Vigil, but all signs seem to show that the shard up for auction is legitimate. Of course, as with any good scenario, acquiring the shard will be harder than it sounds.

Zaashakar Tom Ventre
Zaashakar and Vaultkeeper from Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-10: The Shattered Shield. Illustration by Tom Ventre

There’s a lot to like in this scenario. It has a lot of interesting social and skill-based encounters. There’s one very weird illness going around that’s used to great effect. The mission briefing with Venture Captain Obo was very detailed, with plenty for roleplay-oriented players to riff off of. I particularly enjoyed how the Pure Legion was portrayed. This scenario did a great job of humanizing them, which was nice to see. The adventure allowed for some deviation from the assumed path, with alternate allies and differing methods accounted for. I really, REALLY liked that. It’s rare to see in published products, particularly of this length. I also really enjoyed some behind the scenes bits with Nulalla, which most players will be curious about but aren’t likely to discover completely. I loved the situation that Torvad Shalzadin and Inusi Mendalari find themselves in. In addition to being dynamic and a little suspenseful, clever PCs will be able to glean a bit of information about this scenario’s main villain from the witnesses. The final location PCs visit in this scenario was super morbid and different. I really, really liked it. And the map for it looks great! Finally, I adored the main villain’s… pal. It’s both horrible and adorable. Just awesome.

That said, there are some downsides. The auction itself was a bit of a let-down. Although there’s some interesting people to interact with, and some cool things to bid on it’s unscripted, and the notes are scattered over a few pages. This is inconvenient for GMs, and means that the auction is unlikely to be a showstopper. Which is a shame! I LOVE a good auction in my Pathfinder. Events are also a bit overly convenient. Not a trait unique to this scenario, but it is more obvious and heavy-handed than is typical. Particularly with regards to the connections between the estate and the auction guests.

Finally, villain tactics. This scenario’s villain is an odd one. Don’t get me wrong, I love her. Seriously. She has flaws, hang-ups, quirks, obsessions, and goals which both haunt and drive her. They affect her tactics and reactions. Unfortunately, it’s not depicted in a way that everyone — GMs and players alike — will necessarily notice. And if you don’t notice? She comes off seeming rather stupid. Which is… unfortunate. And as cool as the final location is, the ending has the potential to be incredibly anticlimactic. I like the premise, and it works for the character, but if certain events occur a lot of players will just be left shaking their heads and asking: ‘That’s it?’ Not really the reaction you want at the end of a successful mission.

10-11 Hao Jin Hierophant
Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-11: The Hao Jin Hierophant by Jessica Redekop.

There’s one other quibble I have with this scenario: penalties. As with any Society Scenario, there’s many opportunities where not discovering ‘X’ or accomplishing ‘X’ can cause your PCs to lose out on some of the gold rewards on their chronicles. Usually accomplishing those tasks is easy, and it just sort of happens as you play. In this scenario that is not necessarily the case. Some are harder to get than is typical. Most groups won’t get full gold. In fact, some groups will miss out on gold two or three times. Now, on the one hand, I like that it’s not a given you’ll get all the rewards this scenario has to offer. It’s refreshing. But, this scenario might have gone too far in the other direction. If too many players miss out on too much of the rewards, they might even feel like they’ve been unjustly penalized.

Overall, I ended up torn on this mission. I love how Rahadoum and the Pure Legion was handled. I also enjoyed the large number of social and skill based encounters. The villain was flavourful, different, and had some serious quirks — all things I adore. Heck, I even liked her doorman. On the other hand, players are likely to come away from this scenario feeling confused over enemy tactics and behaviour, and the ending has the potential to be a let down. In the end I decided to give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Hao Jin Tapestry by Robert Lazzaretti
The Hao Jin Tapestry. Art by Robert Lazzaretti.

Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-11: The Hao Jin Hierophant is a Tier 5-9 adventure written by Jessica Redekop. It takes place in the Hao Jin Tapestry, an artifact that acts as a gateway to a demiplane that the sorceress Hao Jin created to store her greatest treasures. Things like magical objects, temples, places, and even people. The Pathfinder Society won the Hao Jin Tapestry seven years ago at the Ruby Pheonix Tournament, and have made heavy use of it since. This scenario features creatures from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 5, although all of the necessary stat blocks are included within the scenario. In addition to the Pathfinder Core Rulebook it makes use of  content from Occult AdventuresPlanar AdventuresUltimate Equipment, and Ultimate Magic. It utilizes the Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Forbidden JunglePathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Swamp, and a custom map.

The Hao Jin Tapestry is unstable. Unravelling, one could say. This scenario tasks the PCs with heading into the demiplane, checking out an ancient Tian site, and getting out with whatever lore and treasures they can before it’s too late. It’s a sequel to this year’s interactive special Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-00: The Hao Jin Cataclysm. In the new year this story will continue with Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-13: Fragments of Antiquity, and Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-15: Tapestry’s Trial. If you’ve got characters who have had a hand in acquiring, exploring, or protecting the Hao Jin Tapestry in the past, now is definitely the time to bring them out! Also, if you’ve got characters with knowledge of Tian Xia, who can speak Hwan, or who can magically communicate in other languages, they’ll be used to great effect in this scenario.

Lin Fen Hai by Michele Giorgi
Lin Fen Hai from Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-11: The Hao Jin Hierophant. Illustration by Michele Giorgi.

This scenario begins in Absalom with an announcement from two members of the Decemvirate! This is followed by a more typical mission briefing with the oread Master of Spells Sorrina Westyr. From there it quickly moves into the Hao Jin Tapestry’s demiplane. There the PCs will get to explore the ancient Tian village of Onhae, which would once have been found in the jungles of Chang Liao. The PCs main goals are to collect a sample of a rare flower from the area, and to learn all that they can about the traditional religion and culture of the people of Onhae, the Sunsu Godae. Happily, there’s still people in Onhae. This should be a cinch! …But, it turns out they’re not practising their traditional religion anymore. They have a new leader, Lin Fen Hai the Hao Jin Hierophant, and a new god who we’ll just call the Ruby Pheonix. Interesting! Your players will get to navigate this newly changed political environment in order to accomplish their missions, all while the Hao Jin Tapestry frays around them, causing unnatural events, magical malfunctions, and planar breaches. It’s an interesting mission to say the least. Similar in form and tone to some previous adventures like… #3-21: The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment and #9-12: Shrine of the Sacred Tempest.

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The Ruby Phoenix.

Onhae was an interesting, rich little village with both and ancient past, recent history, and current changes. Sussing out this places many secrets looks like an enjoyable challenge. Their new religion was awesome! Haha. So good! Although a lot of this scenario was social encounters and skill checks, there are some battles to be fought. Each of these encounters is well written and has interesting flavour and tactics. There’s also some neat planar malfunctions going on you get to interact with. Overall, I really liked this scenario! I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Thanks for taking the time to join us today! I hope you stop by later this week when we take a look at the newest Starfinder Society Scenarios!

All the best,

Jessica

 

Mummy’s Mask: The Tail of the Asp

Another week, another game night! Today on d20 diaries we’re heading back to Wati for more of the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path. So, sharpen your khopesh, pull out your holy water, and let’s get ready to take on the dead!

Mummy’s Mask is a six part adventure path for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, intended to bring your characters from level one to around level seventeen. This campaign takes place in the deserts of Osirion, and involves trap-filled pyramids, haunted tombs, scorching deserts, bustling bazaars and more undead than you can shake an ankh at! The Mummy’s Mask Player’s Guide is a free download on Paizo’s website, and contains a ton of useful information for players looking to make characters that have lasting ties to the campaign. For more information on Osirion, you can pick up Osirion, Legacy of Pharoahs. Players looking for desert-themed character options can also check out People of the Sands.

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Mummy’s Mask: Book One: The Half-Dead City, by Jim Groves.

My home group has recently completed Mummy’s Mask: Book One: The Half-Dead City, and have moved on to Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves, both of which take place in the desert city of Wati. For those of you looking to run the game as a GM I highly recommend picking up the Mummys Mask Pawn Collection, which has a over a hundred unique pawns for use in this campaign. You’ll also get a TON of use from the Mummy’s Mask Poster Map Folio. The campaign is also available in other formats, including The Pathfinder Card Game: Mummy’s Mask Base Set, and as a series of audio stories beginning with Pathfinder Legends: Mummy’s Mask 1: The Half-Dead City. If you’ve ever listened to the audio stories, let me know what you think! I haven’t had a chance to check them out myself.

If you’re interested in my previous posts about Mummy’s Mask, check out Mummy’s Mask: Game AidsMummy’s Mask: The Shrine of Wadjet,  Mummy’s Mask: The Canny JackalMummy’s Mask: The Dead Come Knocking…, Mummy’s Mask: Death in the Streets, or learn more about our characters in Character Focus: Mummy’s Mask: Fateway Five.


The Fateway Five left the Precinct of Left Eyes behind, and set off for their friend Manaat‘s house, deep in the slums of the Asp District. As they travelled, the streets got tighter, the homes smaller, and soon neither doors nor shutters protected the cowering inhabitants from the horrors outside. Only tattered curtains offered a barrier between the families hiding in their overcrowded homes from the zombies and skeletons stalking the streets.

“We need to get these people out of here…” Arc remarked. He was an awkward, red-headed herb witch from Thuvia. He wore little in the way of clothes and held a staff in his hands. On his back he wore a bag of dirt in which he grew a tiny garden and carried his pet rabbit.

“All of them.” Kasmet added. She was a fiesty catfolk dressed in ancient Osiriani finery with a pelt like that of a cloud leopard and an unhealthy fondness for shiny jewels.

Nazim Salahadine, a portly catfolk cleric of Pharasma who looked like an overgrown Persian housecat, spent no time in conversation. Instead, he let out a loud ululation and leapt into battle with his khopesh and shield against every undead he laid eyes on. Arc and Kasmet followed him a moment later.

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Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves by Crystal Frasier.

It took them a long time to fight their way through the streets to Manaat’s house. Although the wandering, weak undead posed no challenge to them, there were plenty to fight off. To make matters worse, most of the dead were relatives and pets of the residents, who had been buried under the floors of their homes due to an inability to afford burial in the Necropolis. This meant that families didn’t just have to fight off a roaming zombie, they fought off grandma, or a cousin or their previous pet cats. They also faced freshly risen zombies — residents of the Asp who were killed recently and reanimated by the necromantic pulses that had been washing over the city.

Arcs little pet rabbit looked around at the chaos with a sad look and a twitching nose. A silvanshee named Kal sat beside her, mocking every move Arc made.

“This is it!” Kasmet suddenly exclaimed.

The group hurried into the tiny house to find it under attack. Undead had literally crawled out of the tiny home’s back wall. The house was no more than ten feet by fifteen feet, and was packed with a bed, table, and cupboards, not to mention Manaat’s husband, twelve children and three zombies.

In between attempting to maneuver through the house, combat the undead, and protect the children, this turned out to be the groups hardest battle yet! Thankfully they pulled through without any of the family being injured. As Arc and Kasmet ushered the family out into the streets and explained to the father who they were, Nazim inspected the walls. The house was built right up against the Necropolis, so he was worried that the undead had broken through the Necropolis walls and into the home. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. It looked like the undead were purposefully interred within the walls, although he wasn’t sure if they had been honoured ancestors unable to pay for a proper resting place, or murder victims buried in the sly. Whatever the case, he was certain the Necropolis walls were still holding strong.

The group filed out into the streets and started to make their way back towards the Grand Mausoleum.

“Wait,” Kasmet exclaimed. “The people in these homes have no protection. We need to get them out of here.”

“Agreed!” Nazim declared. “But we cannot take them all. If the group is too large we will not be able to protect them.”

Arc nodded. “This neighbourhood, then. We’ll gather whoever will come with us from this block.”

“And the others?” Kasmet asked. “We can’t leave them.”

“We will come back for them!” Nazim purred loudly. “For now we announce our intent to return and tell them to ready themselves! Now, hurry! Let’s be off!”

The group took to the streets shouting that there was safety at the Grand Mausoleum and that evacuations were under way. They banged on the walls of those homes who they could escort now — some of whom joined them — and shouted their intent to return in another hour for another group. As they left the neighbourhood behind with nearly forty other citizens in their care, they prayed that the people of Asp could last that long…

Arc ordered Kal ahead to scout for danger. Surprisingly he offered no quips or arguments. Despite his frivolous demeanour, Kal cared for protecting innocents, particularly from his hated foe: undead. With their guide hopping between rooftops as a lookout and the Fateway Five armed and ready for battle, they managed to get back to the Grand Mausoleum without any casualties.

The Fateway Five were tired and sore. Battered and bruised. Though they still has magical resources at their disposal, it had been a long night. Fatigue would set in soon.

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Zombies, skeletons and many other undead menaces can be found in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary.

But as the residents of the poorest sections of Wati fell upon the steps of the Grand Mausoleum and wept in relief to find sanctuary; as Manaat’s family rushed into her arms crying “Mommy;” they decided it had all been worth it. It would all be worth it… For they were far from done. The slums were large, and there were many other families who needed help.

The group beckoned over some healers to tend to their wounds, then headed off to speak with  High Priestess Sebti. They found her in the sanctum making up sleeping pallets for the refugees. The group told her all they had learned so far, and informed her of the weakening of the wall wards, the rising of the recently deceased, the plans of the Voices of the Spire, and the Voices intent to summon psychopomps to supplement their numbers.

Sebti was grateful, but also worried. She thanked the group for aid and sent for the clergy’s resident expert in holy wards. While they waited for him to arrive so they could escort him to the Necropolis gates, Nazim explained their plan to protect the poor of the Asp district. Sebti was both shocked and pleased.

“A wise decision,” she told them with a smile.

Just then a regal looking man with pale skin, a bald head, and long blue robes strode into the room. With a very imperious look he assessed the Fateway Five. He sighed in disdain.

“You called for me, High Priestess.”

Sebti smiled at the scholarly priest and quickly introduced everyone. “This is Ahrutep Mahetree, our foremost expert on religious blessings and defensive wards.”

Ahrutep smiled.

You’ll be escorting him to the Necropolis gates.” Sebti finished.

Ahrutep frowned. “I… uh… that is… High Priestess!” he stammered. “I am a scholar.”

Sebti smiled. “I wish you the best of luck. May the Lady of Graves watch over you.”

With their reluctant scholar in tow the group left the safety of the Grand Mausoleum and headed out into the abandoned streets. Kal hopped off to scout ahead. Not long after he shouted down from the rooftops,

“Hey! Losers! There’s some dead-heads over here.”

The Fateway Five took a slight detour over a block, heading towards the undead.

“What? No! Go the other way, you fools!” Ahrutep exclaimed in a panic.

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Pawns for Osirion-themed undead (and NPCs!) can be found in the Pathfinder Pawns: Mummys Mask Pawn Collection.

Nazim let out a loud ululation, drowning out the man’s complaints, and leapt into battle. It was a trio of zombies, so combat was quick. During the fight Kal hopped down into Arc’s dirt-bag  and cuddled up next to Arc’s rabbit. Arc offered some ranged support, and Kasmet attacked with her claws.

Ahrutep panicked, shrieked, and hid behind Arc.

Kal laughed at the top of his lungs. “A-HA-HA! THIS POMPOUS FOOL IS THE BIGGEST COWARD!”

Ahrutep was too scared to care.

As the battle came to an end he cleared his throat and smoothed out his robes. “Ahem… Yes, well… A fair job…”

Kal scoffed. “I’ve seen braver babies at Insula Mater!”

As Ahrutep stammered in embarrassment Kal rubbed his side against the rabbit, then hopped back up to a nearby rooftop and disappeared.

Only a handful of steps later and there was a strange glow emanating from the space behind the Ahrutep! He turned slowly so see a human-shaped figure made of glowing light.

“AHHH!” he shrieked. He hurried to hide behind Kasmet and cowered in terror.

The Fateway Five looked at the glowing figure. Kasmet bared her claws, while Arc and Nazim tried to determine if it was undead. Suddenly both of the men relaxed and rolled their eyes. Nazim held out a hand to prevent Kasmet from wasting her energy.

“It is but a trick!” Nazim explained.

“Not funny, Kal,” Arc remarked aloud. “We’ve got important things to do.”

From above they could hear the silvanshee laugh. “AHAHAHAHAHAHA! Did you SEE that? Get that guy a change of shorts!”

Ahrutep fumed angrily and sputtered out a rebuttal.

Kal laughed and turned, showing off his backside to the scholarly priest. “Ha! Okay, I’m really leaving now.”

And with that, he was gone. Again.

The short trip to the Necropolis gates took far longer than expected, but in time the massive gates loomed large. They could see Bal Themm and her reinforcements holding the gate against the hordes of undead who banged against the gates from the other side. The howls of the undead made a loud cacophony that gave chills to even the bravest of souls.

“Greetings, Bal! Here is your holy water,” Nazim said, handing over the vials. “And here is your priest.”

They pushed forth Ahrutep.

The scholar cleared his throat and stepped forward. “Lead the way, Voice.”

As the pair walked away, Kal laughed. “We should call that guy ‘yellow.’ And why was he wearing a dress?”

Arc, whose elaborate loincloth was more akin to a skirt than shorts, blushed. “Get a move on, Kal! We need to hurry.”

“Sure, sure,” Kal groaned as he scampered ahead.

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My wonderful, heavily used, much beloved map of Wati! I cannot express how helpful it is for my player’s during Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves. This map can be found in the Mummy’s Mask Poster Map Folio

The journey to the tail end of the Asp continued with Kal making a mockery of the Fateway Five, and pointing out all the undead in their vicinity. The PCs made quick work against all of the undead in their path. They battled zombie cats, skeletal members of the Silver Chain gang who were looting nearby homes at the behest of their skeletal champion gang leaders, sun-baked dead who had died of dehydration out in the desert and slums, and even an attic whisperer who stole Nazim’s voice.

Much to my amusement Nazim’s player, my brother, played the rest of the session only acting and mouthing out Nazim’s words. We all had one heck of a fun time guessing and replying in character. I particularly enjoyed playing Kal, who assured everyone that he could read lips, and then proceeded to translate everything Nazim attempted to say horribly wrong, and thoroughly insulting. It was a complete and total blast! So much fun! We probably spent more time laughing than we did playing. Haha.

The Fateway Five pushed themselves hard, and made a total of six trips to and from the Asp district, escorting the residents to the safety of the Grand Mausoleum. They were surprised to see a few familiar faces among the residents. Senja Messeniah, a dancer who occasionally performed at the Tooth and Hookah was  among the citizens. As was Tais (a half-orc who had befriended Kasmet a few days earlier), Frida Bylo (a partying dwarven lass who had tried seduced Arc in the hopes of robbing him blind. Her flirting stopped abruptly when she realized all he had in his room was plants). They also met the Pahnet, the wife of a dead man they had discovered in the Necropolis on their second day of the lottery.

Unfortunately, undead weren’t the only ones to cause trouble. Kal tricked Arc into an embarrassing encounter with a thief girl that Arc had a massive crush on. While Arc blushed, Kal threw his voice and gave his best Arc impersonation, then proceeded to make chauvinistic comments at the young woman. She was less than unimpressed.

On another trip the group discovered that they were missing a handful of refugees! They backtracked and found the missing citizens trying to rob a local shop. Outside the battered and bruised teenaged girl who worked there sobbed in the street. To make matters worse, one of the refugees was a kid. The Fateway Five ended up beating the robbers into unconsciousness, then dragged them through the streets to the Grand Mausoleum and handed them over to High Priestess Sebti. The shopgirl refused to come with them, knowing that her father had told her not to leave the shop unattended.

On their last journey, right at the end of Mender’s Row, where the slums transition to the lower class section of the Asp (as opposed to the destitute section) they heard screams and some strange growls. The Fateway Five called a halt, left Kal in charge of the refugees (which he loved), and hurried over a street. There they reached a fabric and dyer’s shop called Rising Pheonix Textiles, which happens to be the place that Manaat worked as a dyer. Out front they saw the owners — Ohmun Kotem and Shamihn Hep — being attacked by zombies while two massive beasts tore the zombies apart. The creatures looked like wide, panthers with ruffled black feathers around their necks, and skeletal crocodile heads.

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Esoboks are a psychopomp originally published in Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves and reprinted in Bestiary 6. It’s mini is available in the Mummys Mask Pawn Collection as well as the Bestiary 6 Pawn Box. These guys are a blast!

“Esoboks!” Nazim exclaimed. “Psychopomps who devour all in their path!”

“You mean the Voices of the Spire summoned those things even though you told them not to?” Kasmet shrieked. “Fools!”

The esoboks finished devouring the zombies and approached the women with open, bloody jaws. Ohmun and Shamihn shrieked in panic.

“Ah!” Arc exclaimed. Then he waved his arms and starting yelling at the beast. “Hey! Over here! You’re ugly and… you look like the undead! HA!”

The esoboks turned at the word undead, pinning Arc with their baleful gaze. The Fateway Five dashed into battle intent on not only destroying the esoboks, but protecting the women. It was a fun battle, that really showcased some of the esobok’s cool abilities (wrench spirit, anyone?) which was made extra challenging due to the maidens in danger. In time the esoboks were defeated, and vanished in a puff of gravedust, confirming that they were summoned creatures brought to Wati on purpose. Although they had combatted the undead, as the Voices of the Spire intended, they also were a threat to the living, as Nazim had warned. Nazim took a quick look around for the caster, but couldn’t find him (or her), while Arc and Kasmet tried to calm the women. They offered to escort the ladies to the Grand Mausoleum, which Shamihn accepted, and Ohmun complained about. After some fine diplomacy checks the Fateway Five convinced them to join the refugees.

“Oh!” Kasmet suddenly remarked. “And Manaat sent us to check on you, you know.” she lied. “You owe her your lives. You should probably give her a raise or something.”

When they finally reached the Grand Mausoleum the sun was rising.  The Fateway Five reported to Sebti, ensured the citizens were well cared for, and then headed off to their rooms down the road at the Tooth and Hookah to fall asleep. They hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours.

Undead still stalked the streets. Citizens were still in danger. And there was a group of impatient nobles waiting at the Grand Mausoleum to be escorted to their homes. But, the Fateway Five had saved a lot of lives. They had held the Necropolis gates, coordinated the major religious organizations, evacuated the most at risk neighbourhood in Wati, and slayed dozens of undead.

They had done an amazing job. But, there was much left to do.

Wati needed heroes.

So heroes they would be.


Thanks for joining us on another trip to Wati! I hope you enjoyed your time with the dead as much as we did.

Until next time,

Watch out for esoboks!

Jessica


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Mummy’s Mask: Death in the Streets

Today on d20 diaries we’re heading back to Wati for more of the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path! That’s right! It’s game night! So while all of our kids settled in for a night of movies and popcorn, we adults cracked out our dice, scrambled around for our character sheets and settled in to play!

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Mummy’s Mask: Book One: The Half-Dead City. Written by Jim Grovesand intended for level one characters.

Mummy’s Mask is a six part adventure path for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, intended to bring your characters from level one to around level seventeen. This campaign takes place in the deserts of Osirion, and involves trap-filled pyramids, haunted tombs, scorching deserts, bustling bazaars and more undead than you can shake an ankh at! The Mummy’s Mask Player’s Guide is a free download on Paizo’s website, and contains a ton of useful information for players looking to make characters that have lasting ties to the campaign. For more information on Osirion, you can pick up Osirion, Legacy of Pharoahs. Players looking for desert-themed character options can also check out People of the Sands.

My home group has recently completed Mummy’s Mask: Book One: The Half-Dead City, and have moved on to Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves, both of which take place in the desert city of Wati. For those of you looking to run the game as a GM I highly recommend picking up the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path Pawn Collection, which has a over a hundred unique pawns for use in this campaign. You’ll also get a TON of use from the Mummy’s Mask Poster Map Folio. Trust me, by the end of Empty Graves your map of Wati will have had one hell of a workout. Mine’s already covered in a ton of numbers and labels I’ve added in permanent marker, to help my players keep track of the many locations in this quirky city. The campaign is also available in other formats, including The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s Mask Base Set, and as a series of audio stories beginning with Pathfinder Legends: Mummy’s Mask 1: The Half-Dead City.

If you’re interested in my previous posts about Mummy’s Mask, check out Mummy’s Mask: Game AidsMummy’s Mask: The Shrine of Wadjet,  Mummy’s Mask: The Canny JackalMummy’s Mask: The Dead Come Knocking…, or learn more about our characters  in Character Focus: Mummy’s Mask: Fateway Five.


When we last left our quirky crew of heroes, commonly known as the Fateway Five, they were standing in the Sunburst Market surrounded by the dead. Or, rather, the recently destroyed undead. The team had been present at an auction which had been rudely (and violently) interrupted by a pack of roving zombies and a particularly angry crawling hand. After saving the other attendees and laying the smack down on some undead, they headed out into the city to find Wati under attack by walking corpses. Without hesitation they waded into battle, saving more than a few familiar faces. But on the wind they could hear the screams of the living, and the rasping groans of the dead. The battle was far from over.

Wati was under attack. But from where? And why were the dead rising?

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Pathfinder Adventure Path: Mummy’s Mask: Book Two: Empty Graves.
Written by Crystal Frasier and intended for level four characters.

The Fateway Five paid a quick visit to the three local churches in order to coordinate a plan to save Wati and then set their sights on the town. But first? Gear. Having just come from a fancy auction with the nobles of Wati, they were more than a little under-equipped for battle. Or rather, some of them were. Arc had shown up half naked with a bag of dirt on his back, like always. But Nazim and Kasmet had attended in finery and jewels! Jewels would not win a battle. And finery? It would get torn and stained! They needed their gear, which was tucked away safely in their rooms at the Tooth and Hookah.

As they turned to leave the Sunburst Market they heard some loud screams. Women! Lots of them! And infants….

Immediately my players looked at each other and nodded. They all agreed without argument that paying a visit to Insula Mater (the local hospital dedicated to the care of pregnant women and infants) far outweighed their need for gear. And so, dressed in their finery and under equipped, the Fateway Five rushed off in the opposite direction, to Insula Mater.

Insula Mater is a large, multi-level building with easily locked and shuttered windows and lockable doors. The grounds are surrounded by manicured bushes in order to offer the women and infants on the grounds privacy. Insula Mater is run by a learned and weathered cleric of Pharasma known as Auntie Jehuti, staffed by a team of six other Pharasmin midwives known as the Mother’s Handmaidens, and guarded by a small contingent of holy guards. As the group arrived on the scene they found the windows shuttered, and doors locked. Two guards stood in front of the building’s doors, fighting off two zombies, with two other guards flanking the zombies from the other side. The zombies would not live long. But from the upper windows came panicked cries and the wailing of infants. Another voice rang out above the din, shouting: “We’re missing one! We’re missing a mother!”

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Learn more about Lamashtu, Pharasma, and the other gods of Golarion, in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Gods.

Knowing that the two residents of Insula Mater with whom the Fateway Five had shared an evening with had signed themselves out for the evening and were currently safe at the Grand Mausoleum, the group all knew that their companions were not the mother in question. With worry, they left the guards to deal with the zombies and scoured the grounds for the missing woman. They found her easily, engaged in an argument with a guard on the corner of the grounds. It was Keera, a confident pregnant woman they had met earlier in the day, with nasty scars across her face from some kind of clawed creature.

The guard was urging Keera inside, proclaiming: “It’s not safe.”

Only for Keera to reply. “You’re right. It’s not.”

Suddenly, from behind the bushes burst a quartet of zombies, all of whom moved to attack the poor guard. He howled in pain and moved to protect Keera, while Nazim let out a loud ululation and charged into battle with his khopesh raised high. Kasmet dashed into the fight right behind him, while Arc moved to help Keera. Much to their surprise, Keera began to cast a spell, proving herself much more capable than they expected.

The zombies began to fall under the player’s attacks, while the guard was heavily wounded. Kasmet tore into the zombies with her claws, Nazim swung his khopesh, and Arc pulled out a dagger and cut up the zombie’s arms. Suddenly there was a flickering of magic, and some grotesque-looking wild dogs appeared on the battlefield. Keera’s spell was complete! Her dogs let out a growl and attacked the guard. Keera stepped back away from the fight, let out a series of manic laughs and began to cast another spell.

Needless to say the Fateway Five was confused! Arc tried to get through to Keera (because clearly she was delusional! Right…?), while the rest of the team put an end to the zombies and slaughtered the magical dogs. The guard fell during the battle, while Keera laughed and danced away from the group with a dagger in her hand. She intoned a prayer in a foul language and sent a pulse of evil energy out at the PCs. The only discernible word the PCs had understood was a name: Lamashtu. Goddess of monsters, madness, pregnancy and  deformity.

In a rage, Nazim charged at the woman and cut her down, ending her life with a slash across the throat. As she gurgled in surprise, Nazim and Arc got to work on attempting to save her baby. With one of them a trained midwife, and the other a gifted healer, the odds of the child surviving were pretty high. Confident in their abilities, and well aware that she was near term, they performed an emergency cesarian, cutting the infant out of her mother’s womb, only to discover the baby was a hideously deformed monster with crooked hoofed feet, horns on its head, and a scaled tail. While Kasmet raised an eyebrow at the proceedings, Arc and Nazim were unphased by the child’s appearance, caring only for it’s health. During the operation a guard came upon them.

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Many of the enemies mentioned today can be found in Pathfinder’s Bestiary,including skeletons, zombies, and shadows! This book is available in hardcover, and a small, softcover edition.

Covered in blood, with a nearby guard killed by the teeth of a dog (which could be easily confused with those of say… Kasmet), and a dead pregnant woman at their feet, a guard commanded them to stop. Nazim and Arc refused. Instead they finished delivering the baby, and ensured it was hale and healthy. Then they passed it off to the guards, explained what happened and moved to leave. The guard didn’t believe them at all. Perhaps due to the unbelievability of their tale, the evidence that seemed to point to their guilt, or their HORRIBLE social skills. But, in the end, he let them go anyway, clearly deciding that bringing an infant into battle against three warriors was a horrible plan.

After that emotionally draining experience, the Fateway Five hurried off to the Tooth and Hookah to pick up their gear. On the way they ran into a pair of clearly wealthy people, who were battling a group of six zombies in the road. They seemed experienced with their weapons, and unworried about the entire ordeal. Nazim let out another ululation and rushed into battle, with Kasmet and Arc following close behind. The battle was over quickly, and the moment it was, one of the unknown warriors, a dashing middle-aged man with a charming grin, gave Kasmet’s hand a kiss and began to flirt with her. The other unknown warrior, an imperious woman in her late twenties, rolled her eyes.

“You’re an embarrassment,” she told the man.

The man laughed, and introduced himself to the group as Ahben. He continued to flirt, which Kasmet accepted with a swish of her tail and a purr.

“We need to go home,” the woman pressed.

“Nonsense, Hakor! We have business in Bargetown.” He then proceeded to ignore the other woman’s complaints and explained to Kasmet, “I have a friend I need to visit before they leave. Perhaps we can see each other again, in a more intimate setting.”

Kasmet agreed, then was left in a bit of a daze as Ahben and Hakor turned to leave.

Hakor shook her head in disgust. “You’re the worst father.”

“Oh, don’t be silly.” Ahben remarked as they left. “It’s well known I’m a wonderful father. Just ask your siblings.”

The woman didn’t seem amused.

As the Fateway Five watched the wealthy pair walk away, Kasmet’s heartbeat returned to normal and she finally realized where she had heard the names Ahben and Hakor before… Ahben was the Patriarch of House Okhenti, one of the most powerful families in Wati. He was a member of the city council, and well known for taking care of his many children by giving them government jobs, and seeing to their martial training. His many, many, MANY children. For Ahben was notorious for having hordes of lovers. His legitimate children were known as the ‘Scions’ of House Okhenti, while his bastards were simply his children. All of whom he took to live with him on his vast estate. Much to the displeasure of his wife. In fact, the Fateway Five had met two of Ahben’s son at the auction earlier that night: the pompous Scion of House Okhenti, Khammayid Okhenti, and the irreverent  Teos Okhenti. And Hakor? She was Ahben’s eldest child, a Scion of her line, and set to inherit her family’s wealth and estate.

Kasmet shared what she knew of the man with her companions as they made their way to the Tooth and Hookah. There were a few zombies out front which they dealt with quickly, before being ushered into the building by its owner, Farhaan. The Fateway Five had little time to rest. They quickly re-equipped themselves, ensured the Tooth and Hookah was secure, bid their patron farewell, and headed back out into the night. They headed right for the front gate, but as they passed by the many courthouses along the way they came upon a grotesque sight: fresh corpses lined the road. The PCs approached closer, to discover that many of the bodies were Voices of the Spire, and all of them were missing both of their eyes.

“Oh, gods,” Kasmet gasped while Nazim intoned a Pharasmin blessing over the corpses. “Back in the time of Wati’s first occupation, a common punishment for lawbreakers was enucleation: the removal of the eyes. It’s still practised in some places today, but not here. Once though… Hmm… There was a judge who was known for plucking the eyes out of people for even the simplest offences. A task he would carry out with his own bare hands. They called him ‘Old Eye-Taker.’ And he operated out of that courthouse.” Kasmet pointed to the ancient looking court one building over.

“That’s horrible!” Arc exclaimed.

Kal appeared out of nowhere and let out a laugh. “Hey, sometimes losing an eye is a blessing! Like if they had to look at your ugly face every day!”

Nazim clanged his khopesh onto his shield. “Enough bickering! We must find the culprit.”

And with that the group raced down the road to the courthouse.

Inside they found an undead trial in session. Four skeletal bailiffs presided over a criminal kept on trial against her will. It was Ankhet, a young dwarven member of the Voices of the Spire, whom they were acquainted with. She was unarmed and bruised, with a look of terror on her face. Presiding over the courtroom was a bloody skeleton wearing a judge’s robes with a black fez on his head. It was Old Eye-Taker, himself! Back from the grave!

He slammed his gavel on the wooden podium. “And the verdict has been rendered! You have been judged guilty!” the skeleton announced. “Those who sin against the pharaoh should forfeit the souls their eyes house. Therefore, your punishment is enucleation, to be carried out IMMEDIATELY!”

Ankhet let out a scream.

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Old-Eye Taker, as well as Osiriani styled zombies, and many other pawns can be found in the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path Pawn Collection

Nazim burst into the room with a shrill ululation and raced down the aisle towards the front. Arc hurried around the sides, hugging the wall in an effort to get to Ankhet before she lost an eye. Kasmet dashed over pews and benches, tumbling up and around to the other side, in the hopes of flanking the skeletons with Nazim.

“ORDER IN THE COURT!” Old-Eye Taker howled. “GET THEM!” After ordering his bailiffs to attack the PCs he moved down from his podium to attack Kasmet. He gave her a shove and tried to pin her down, in an effort to take her eyes.

Kasmet shrieked and squirmed, and managed to evade his grasp.

Meanwhile, Kal let out a series of ‘eye’ jokes. Then came one of the most enjoyable parts of the session: I challenged my players to come up with eye jokes while we played. Every turn Kal would shout out a new joke or pun and whoever called a new one out first would get to choose it. Everyone took to the challenge with glee, shouting out puns that ranged from obvious to witty. In the end, my sister-in-law ended up giving Kal the most lines, a victory worth celebrating!

Back in Wati, Arc readied his quarterstaff and waded into battle with the skeletons who held  Ankhet prisoner. He urged her to help, but she was too scared, leaving Arc one heck of a challenge! The bailiffs all moved to try to capture and pin down Kasmet, which proved very difficult. Nazim smashed them to pieces with his shield, while Kasmet tumbled around, flanking with Nazim in order to get her sneak attack damage on the skeletons, all while evading their efforts.

Soon, Ankhet was free, and only Old-Eye Taker was left standing among the enemies. United, the group made quick work of him, and promptly stole his wonderful fez. Even better? No one lost an eye.

Arc quickly tried to get Ankhet ready to move, a task made extra difficult by the rude cat making eye jokes from Arc’s plant-bag. With the dwarven woman ready to move, Arc healed everyone and they set out for the gates to the Necropolis. There they hoped to discern if the undead were escaping from inside the Necropolis, or were coming from somewhere else. But, as they reached the road they felt a sudden pulse of foul energy roll through them. A moment later, the eyeless dead shuddered and twitched, and climbed up onto their feet. They had become freshly risen zombies! This wasn’t the first time they group had felt such a feeling, or seen freshly killed dead rise…

“Necromancy!” Nazim shouted. “An affront to the Lady of Graves! We must find the source of this evil!”

“Less talking, more killing!” Kasmet shouted back. She dashed into battle as the zombies tried to gain their footing. Meanwhile, Arc drew his dagger and Nazim let out an ear splitting ululation before charging at the undead with his khopesh. Ankhet stood there in stunned terror.

Kal waved his paws in front of her face and laughed. “HA! Look at her! She looks half-dead herself!” he told Arc’s rabbit familiar.

The little rabbit twitched her nose, wiggled her ears and then shook her head once.

“What? It’s FUNNY!” Kal replied. “You’re too kind!”

By the time the silvanshee was done making his jokes at poor Ankhet’s expense, the battle was over. Eight weak undead stood little chance against the Fateway Five.

Arc sheathed his dagger and turned to face Ankhet. “I’m sorry about your friends. But we have no time to mourn. Wati needs us.”

The group hurried the rest of the way to the Necropolis without further trouble. There they found the gates shut and barred, with a great wailing and banging on the other side.  The voices of dozens of undead moaned and screamed on the other side of the gate, their fists pounding against the doors and the walls. Bal Themm stood at the gate, bracing it shut with her body alongside two other guards from the Voices of the Spire. They strained with all their might, but with each bang from the other side the entire gate shuddered.

“Fateway Five!” Bal shouted at the sight of them. “Come here! I need you to deliver a message to the Precinct of Left Eyes! It’s the base for the Voices of the Spire. Tell them we need reinforcements! And we’re out of holy water!”

The group urged Ankhet to join the other Voices before turning away, when they suddenly noticed a strange sort of shifting ripple across the gate. Two undead shadows emerged from the Necropolis and into the road, passing right through Bal Themm and the other guards.

They gasped in pain.

“Hold your… post…” Bal groaned, but the other two guards broke ranks and ran. Weakened and surrounded by undead spirits, Bal held her ground alone. She did not flee.

BANG!

Behind her, the door shuddered.

BANG!

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You can find pawns for skeletons, zombies and shadows, in the Pathfinder Pawns: Bestiary Box

Nazim let out another ululating cry and held his holy dagger, the Fate Blade, to the sky. He prayed to Pharasma, causing a burst of holy energy to surge out of his dagger. The shadows howled in pain. Kasmet quickly pulled out a few vials of holy water and began tossing, while Arc grabbed Ankhet and dragged her to the gate.

The shadows surged forward at Nazim, who combatted them alongside Kasmet with holy water and divine power, giving Arc the opportunity he needed to help Bal hold they gate.

BANG! BANG!

The gate shuddered, and the undead moaned. Finally, Ankhet seemed to realize that if she didn’t help, the gate would fall, and she would die. Together, she and Arc helped Bal Themm. A few moments later, Kasmet joined them. Nazim struggled against the incorporeal horrors, but he never lost his faith, and soon he defeated them with the powers of his goddess. Tired and weak, he let out a victory cry. Then he pulled out his portable ram and helped use it to brace the gate. Kasmet and Nazim moved over a wagon, then some heavy crates and other heavy objects scavenged from the nearby roads and buildings.

The undead continued to wail and bang loudly against the gate, but it held firm. They had secured the Necropolis Gates.

Arc did his best to treat Bal Themm’s wounds and heal some of her strength damage, then did the same for Nazim.

“Go on,” Bal urged them. “Get the reinforcements.”

Ankhet took a deep breath and nodded. “I’ll stay here.”

And so the Fateway Five headed off down the street and over a few blocks to the Precinct of Left Eyes, home to the Voices of the Spire, and the city’s prison. They could tell there was trouble even before they neared. The wails of the dead mingled with the cries of the living. The clash of steel, and the thudding of flesh on shields thumped below the din, like the drum beat of a wild, savage song.

They quickened their pace and emerged to a great battle. A large group of the Voices of the Spire’s holy warriors stood on the building’s front steps, locked in mortal combat against a thong of undead. Their Commander, Nakht Shepses, stood among them, with his second in command, Shenanda by his side, battling like any other soldier. On the other side of the undead, surrounding them, were other Voices of the Spire warriors. Although the undead were many, the Voices fought with skill and determination. Many of them fought undead on a daily basis, and let neither fatigue nor panic interfere with their duties. Clearly, the skeletons and zombies in the throng stood no chance.

With a cry, the Fateway Five charged into battle, fighting alongside the Voices to bring an end to the undead assaulting this part of the city. Upon the defeat of the final undead, Commander Shepses began giving orders to his troops. He was organizing them to reequip and begin patrols of the Necropolis walls. As expected, they were going to use their resources to keep the undead within the Necropolis, instead of helping the living survive.

The Fateway Five tried to push their way through the Voices in order to reach the Commander, but had no luck. Fortunately, they had fought alongside Shenanda on multiple occasions. When she saw them she made her way through the crowds to them.

“What is it?” she asked without preamble. “Have you come to help?”

“Undead are trying to batter down the Necropolis gates. There’s only two guards there. They need reinforcements.” Kasmet explained.

“And holy water!” Arc added.

Nazim locked eyes with Shenanda. “That’s not the worst of it. Shadows slipped right through the gates. If we would not have been there, the gate would have fallen, and Bal Themm would be dead.

Shenanda looked shocked. “Shadows slipped through the door? You’re sure?” As the others nodded, Shenanda shook her head. “That should be impossible…. The gates and walls are warded to prevent undead of any kind–even incorporeal spirits–from passing through. How did… What is…” She shook her head. “I’ll inform the Commander immediately. Thank you.”

Shenanda slipped back through the crowd and the Fateway Five took the opportunity to follow her. The Commander was shocked at her news. “Send word to the Grand Mausoleum. We’ll need their clerics to assist in reconsecration.”

“We can do that!” Nazim suddenly blurt out. “We need to return there shortly, to inform High Priestess Sebti of your plans.”

Commander Shepses eyed the group with a mix of suspicion and disdain. “Very well. Be gone then. Ensure you don’t lapse in your duties.”

Nazim nodded, and the group turned to leave.

Kal chose this moment to begin speaking again. “MAN! This jerk has a huge stick up his butt! You think he’d give us a thank you or something!”

The Commander glared at the cat (and it’s presumed owners) before ignoring them completely.

Arc blushed brightly and stammered out an apology, but the Commander was already in conversation with a priest. They spoke about summoning psychopomps to combat the undead.

Nazim’s furry jaw dropped. Unable to resist, he pointed out that psychopomps were dangerous creatures. Although they did hunt and destroy undead, many had little care for the living. Such creatures could be incredibly dangerous to the populous!

Unfortunately, The Commander ignored his warnings, and returned to his conversation with the priest.

Nazim frowned. Turning to his companions he growled, “We need to tell High Priestess Sebti. NOW.”

“We promised Manaat we would fetch her family before returning to the Grand Mausoleum.” Arc pointed out.

Kasmet nodded. “They live right against the Necropolis walls, Nazim. They could be in trouble.”

Nazim considered this, then nodded. “You’re right.” He pointed off towards the slums of the Asp District. “Let’s go!”


That’s all for our adventures in Wati today! I appreciate you coming along for the ride. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post, wherein the Fateway Five battle their way through the slums of the Asp!

Jessica