Pathfinder Playtest Scenarios: Reviews

Pathfinder Playtest RulebookToday we’re going to look at Pathfinder PLAYTEST Society Scenarios and tell you what we thought. Currently, there are three of them available as a free download on Paizo’s website, so if you don’t have them yet you might as well pick them up! Each scenario is replayable. You may create your own characters for the intended tier (either created as level one for a tier one scenario, or created as level five for a tier five scenario). Unlike regular Pathfinder Society Scenarios, you do not need to earn enough XP to reach higher levels for the Playtest. If you don’t want to make your own characters, you can also head over to Paizo’s website and download the Pregenerated Pathfinder Playtest characters. All you’ll need to run these three scenarios (other than your characters) is the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook and the scenarios themselves. Each scenario is intended for groups of FOUR players (unlike regular PFS Scenarios which are intended for six) although each contains easy ways to scale up encounters for larger groups. 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. Once you’re done playing or GMing any one of these scenarios, be sure to head over to Paizo’s website and fill out a survey about your experiences. This will be used by the Paizo team to make the Pathfinder Playtest the best that it can be.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Pathfinder Playetst Society Scenario 1 Rose Street RevengePathfinder Playtest Scenario #1: Rose Street Revenge is a Tier 1 adventure written by Leo Glass, Thurston Hillman, Joe Pasini, and Linda Zayas-Palmer. It includes three short quests which can be played in any order, followed by a fourth quest which can only be played after completing at least one of the first three quests. Each quest should run between 40-60 minutes in length. Each quest you complete before heading onto the final quest will give you an advantage in the final encounter, so I highly recommend completing all three before heading to the final quest. Plus, it’s just more fun that way. The entire adventure takes place Absalom, although each quest is set in a different neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods featured include the Docks, Puddles, Precipice and the Sewers. For more information on Absalom you can check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to Absalom and the Inner Sea World Guide. Venture-Captain Ambrus Valsin begins the adventure by explaining that there’s serial killer on the prowl stalking the recently liberated slaves of Absalom! The killer’s actions have been sensationalized by locals and they’re now known as the ‘Rose Street Killer.’ The latest victim is a Pathfinder, and so Ambrus is sending your PCs out to investigate. He gives the group some fun player hand-outs, each of which contains a different lead. Then he sends you on your way. There’s time to rest between investigating each lead, which is nice for a change. Also, it should be noted that this entire scenario makes excellent use of sidebars to relay important aspects of the rules in a way that’s helpful, easy to understand, and is NOT overwhelming. It’s wonderfully done.

The first quest in Rose Street Revenge is entitled ‘Snippets‘ and is written by Joe Pasini. In this quest you’re tasked with investigating the Bloody Barbers, a thieve’s guild known for robbery, smuggling and murder. If they’re not guilty, they’re likely to know details about the murders, as they’re very well-informed. If you can find them, of course. This quest utilizes Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: City Streets and takes place in the Docks district. It was enjoyable, and had an interesting surprise which I’ll refrain from mentioning. It allows players to make use of a wide array of skills in order to obtain information on the Bloody Barbers (WAY more than I imagined would be helpful) which is really nice to see. Surprisingly, this quest can be accomplished without violence (although most groups are likely to get into a fight). I quite enjoyed it.

The second quest in Rose Street Revenge is entitled ‘Dragons‘ and is written by Thurston Hillman. In it you are to meet with a liaison from the ‘Sewer Dragons’ kobold tribe (longstanding allies of the Pathfinder Society). Your job is to find out if the killer has been utilizing the sewer systems — which is the territory of the Sewer Dragons. The liaison offers to give you whatever help they can as long as you help them oust a rival kobold tribe (the Dragon Sharks) that is encroaching upon their territory! You get to head into the sewers and fight alongside your kobold allies against the enemy. This scenario is a LOT of fun. It is filled with wonderful social interactions (particularly with Fazgyn!). I adored Fazgyn’s lessons on trapfinding which are not only funny and entertaining, but also serve double duty as teaching players how traps work in the Pathfinder Playtest. It also gives a nice introduction to Exploration mode, and helps showcase the importance of the Sneak and Search exploration methods. This quest makes use of the Pathfinder Map Pack: Sewer System. It was my favourite of the four quests.

The third quest in Rose Street Revenge is entitled ‘Puddles‘ and is written by Linda Zayas-Palmer. It takes place in the Puddles District and tasks your PCs with asking the Muckruckers (volunteer guards for the Puddles) for information, and following up on what they tell you. This quest has some fun social interactions, and wonderful artwork for a Muckrucker named Ziraya Al-Shurati. It has by far the most clues to the true murderer’s identity and involves the most ‘crime scene’ investigation, which is great fun. However, in an effort not to spoil the mystery’s details, I won’t be saying much more than that. It utilizes Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Haunted House.

The fourth quest in Rose Street Revenge is entitled ‘Haven‘ and is written by Leo Glass. It takes place in the Precipice Quarter (which was previously known as Beldrin’s Bluff). This is the finale of the adventure, and tasks the PCs with investigating an old safe house that the victims all used at one time or another. I’ll refrain from mentioning much more than that so that I don’t spoil the mystery’s end, but I will say that it was great fun, and certainly not what I expected! This quest utilizes Pathfinder: Map Pack: Ruined Village.

Overall, I really enjoyed Rose Street Revenge. It’s a great introduction to the Pathfinder Playest system and was a lot of fun. I give it four out of five stars and highly recommend it as the first Pathfinder Playtest adventure that groups should give a try (yes, I recommend it over Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn).

Pathfinder Playtest Society Scenario 2 Raiders of Shrieking PeakPathfinder Playtest Scenario #2: Raiders of Shrieking Peak is a Tier 5 adventure written by Luis Loza. As previously mentioned, you do not need to earn enough XP to reach level five. Instead, you need only create your characters at level five. This scenario takes place on the Isle of Kortos. It begins in Absalom, moves quickly to Diobel, and from there heads out into the wilderness. For more information on Absalom, Diobel and the Isle of Kortos check out Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to Absalom, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Towns of the Inner Sea, and the Inner Sea World Guide. This scenario utilizes the Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Classics: Battlefield, Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Classics: Woodlands (twice) and a custom map.

A Pathfinder Agent by the name of Inisa Araali was secretly carrying an Iomedean relic by caravan from Diobel to Absalom when she was attacked. She sent Venture-Captain Ambrus Valsin a very cryptic note about the encounter, and then went off to find the relic herself. Knowing that she’ll need help he sends you to find the survivors of the caravan in Diobel, who are shacked up in a Pathfinder safe house (although he doesn’t know which one). You’ll need to find the safe house, check on the people, find out all you can about the caravan’s intended route and the attack, track down the robbers (and hopefully Inisa), retrieve the relic and get it back to Absalom. This scenario introduces secret rolls, which is necessary for knowledge and gather information checks because a critical fail on the check will result in your players uncovering false information. It’s best, of course, if your players don’t know whether the information they’ve received is false or not. That said, secret rolls can easily bog down a game (particularly if it’s heavy on the knowledge checks like this one is at the start), so proceed with this method of rolling with caution. As mentioned, this scenario begins with a bit of investigation. I really like how thorough the Recall Knowledge and Gather Information results are set up (especially the false information for a critical fail). That said, there are no pre-made PCs to interact with during this part of the investigation (which is something I always enjoy), so that’s a bit of a let down. Such embellishments will have to be up to the GM. Social encounters with the caravan survivors are helpful, but not particularly memorable. Overall, I felt that the events in Diobel fell flat. From there the mission moves on and becomes quite combat and exploration heavy. It pits you against some nice classic enemies, inculding harpies, minotaurs, and ghouls, which I really enjoyed. I particularly liked the ghoul statistics. I also really enjoyed the interactions with the minotaurs. Overall, this is the Pathfinder Playtest Scenario I liked least. I give it three out of five stars.

Pathfinder Playtest Society Scenario 3 Arclord's EnvyPathfinder Playtest Scenario #3: Arclord’s Envy is a Tier 5 adventure written by Liz Liddell. It takes place in Quantium, capital of Nex. For more information on Nex be sure to check out the Inner Sea World Guide. This scenario utilizes the Pathfinder Map-Pack: Village Sites, Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Bigger Village, and a custom map. It features gnomish Venture-Captain Sebnet Sanserkoht who is officially my favourite V.C. EVER. She’s awesome. In this scenario you’re tasked with investigating the murder of an Arclord of Nex, and determining who should be given a recently discovered book written by Nex himself, which the Arclord was likely killed for.

Sebnet Sanserkoht gnome
Venture-Captain Sebnet Sanserkoht of Quantium’s Pathfinder Lodge.

This scenario did a really nice job of showcasing little bits of life in Quantium right from the start, with the many overly magical effects present in the local Pathfinder Lodge, right through to the golems walking the streets, and the strange politics of the city. It made use of a ton of rare races including ifrits, oreads, shabti, mercane, and even an invisible stalker you get to chat up at a party. It was awesome. The scenario itself begins with an interesting investigation. I particularly enjoyed retrieving the victim’s corpse from the foot of a massive patrol golem — without drawing the golem’s attention! I think this part would be a lot of fun at a table. That said, I do have one issue with the investigation. At one part you notice scorch marks on a wall which the scenario says you can identify as coming from a certain spell with the ‘Identify Magic’ use of Arcana. Except Identify Magic takes an HOUR (unless you have a special ability that shortens it to ten minutes). Now, that’s not to say that it’s not doable. I suppose some groups might spend an hour looking at a few scorch marks on a wall when there’s a lot of other stuff to go check out, but I wouldn’t. It’s just another use of the ‘Identify Magic’ skill use that feels way too long and time consuming. It’s one of my pet peeves of the Pathfinder Playtest rules, and I sincerely hope they shorten the time it requires by the time Pathfinder Second Edition comes around next year. Of course, this is a nitpick of mine regarding the rules, not the scenario itself. Moving on from the investigation there’s some fun social encounters, and some awesome character art (particularly for Ngasi!). The culprit you’re supposed to unmask is variable, which changes the clues that can lead you to them. That’s a nice option for a scenario that’s supposed to be repayable. I wouldn’t say there’s a LOT of potential culprits, but it’s certainly not static. The final encounter is quite complex, and includes different tactics and available spells depending on which Arclord ends up being your enemy, It’s going to be quite a climatic battle, I think. Overall, I thought the scenario was fresh, fun, and in a great location. I give it four out of five stars.

And that’s all for today! I hope you enjoyed checking out these scenarios with me. I know I enjoyed reading them. I’m quite excited to run my kids through the ‘Rose Street Revenge’ when we have a chance.

Until next time,

Jessica

SaveSave

SaveSave

Crown of the Kobold King: Part One

A few days ago my son decided he wanted to make a villain to join me and my daughter’s evil characters on their dark and shady adventures. We spent some time together, and Professor McMaan was born! But where, oh where, would a bunch of villains hang their hat? And what kind of adventures would they go on?

A good question!

When my daughter first told me she wanted to make an evil girl, instead of another hero, I thought long and hard about where she would live, and what she could do. Would she live in a large city and try to hide her misdeeds amongst the masses? Would she live on the outskirts of a secluded village and hide her evil under a cover life of lies and deception? Would she live someplace where no one cared what she did, and shady dealings were considered normal? For answers, I turned to my daughter.

“Who are you?” I asked her. “What kind of evil girl are you going to be? What does she like to do that’s so bad?”

“Oh, Mom!” she exclaimed happily. “I was a nice doctor lady, who lived near the woods and made medicine and stuff.” Suddenly she switched to her ‘spooky voice.’ “And one day I was out in the woods and I found a rabbit! Oooooo! But it was not a normal rabbit, it had wings like a fairy and it looked very… very… adorable!” She wiggled her fingers in an ominous fashion and make more spooooooky sounds. “Oooooo! So I took the little rabbit home and it made whispers in my head! It taught me magic! But ya’ know what?! It was a demon rabbit! And the demon rabbit told me to do mean things like make zombies! And I liked it! And now I am a necra– necROmancer!”

“Oh! I almost forgot!” she exclaimed. “I am also very nice and pretty, and that is a LIE! I am pretty and very mean! But I act nice because the demon rabbit taught me how to lie really good. Oh! And I can shoot fire at people.” She made some expert fire blasting sounds for emphasis: “WHOOOOOOSH! Burny burn!”

Absorbing this for a few moments, I concluded. “Dear… That’s awesome.”

We ended up making her character an aasimar witch with the grave walker archetype and a flying rabbit familiar tied to the elemental patron. Witches have a variety of spells that let them create undead, including zombies, skeletons, and (later) more powerful undead like ghouls and ghosts. The elemental patron would add some damage dealing spells to her list including the level one spell: burning hands, which will let her shoot a cone of flames at her enemies. The gravewalker archetype, found in Pathfinder’s  awesome hardcover: Ultimate Magic, would allow her some nifty death themed spells in addition to the elemental spells granted to her by her patron and two awesome abilities: aura of desecration, which empowers negative channeled energy and makes undead harder to harm with positive energy, and bonethrall, which lets her take control of any undead within her aura of desecration that isn’t hers. The only downside: gravewalkers have creepy dolls made of skin for familiars instead of animals.

Farris
Artwork chosen by my daughter to represent Farris, her demon rabbit familiar. Artist unknown. (If you know who created this let me know in the comments below so proper credit can be given).

With big teary eyes (my daughter can cry at will), and her bottom lip stuck out sadly, my then four year old daughter tried her best to convince me it would be alright if she had a demon rabbit instead of a demon rabbit doll. Knowing it was only us playing–and mostly verbally on walks to and from kindergarten–I caved. Besides, she’d already found some artwork she wanted to use as her familiar (pictured on the sidebar) and decided on a name: Farris.

With her class decided, my daughter chose an alternate racial trait for aasimars, which grants them sharp nails or claws. She chose the cauldron hex, granting her a witches cauldron and the ability to brew magical potions. She finalized her spells, feats and traits, chose her gear and named her: Lorelei.

Then it was my turn. But before I made a best friend for the good doctor, I needed to know where we lived.

Lorelei
Artwork chosen to represent Lorelei, a gravewalker witch. Artist unknown. If you recognize the signature let me know in the credits below so proper credit can be given.

Taking into account her backstory, we decided Lorelei and Farris lived on the outskirts of a secluded village. She hides her evil deeds and necromancy behind a public life as a doctor, midwife and herbalist. Her maxed out ranks in bluff and diplomacy should keep her ‘friendly’ cover intact at low levels, and as long as she didn’t do anything too absurd she should be able to successfully lead a convincing double life–for a while at least. But where, exactly would this small village be?

Since Pathfinder’s my favourite RPG and Campaign Setting, it would be in Golarion, of course. But Golarion’s a large place and there are plenty of little villages that could fit the bill. I ended up choosing one that has a special place in my heart: Falcon’s Hollow. As the old Dungeon magazines published by Paizo came to an end back in 2007, Paizo launched a series of modules and variant rules for Dungeons and Dragons which would eventually become their own ruleset, Pathfinder, while Dungeons and Dragons branched off into 4th edition. With no desires to relearn the rules to 4th when I had only recently accomplished mastering 3.5, I decided to give the budding Pathfinder campaign setting a try. The first adventure I got my hands on was the very first one they printed: Crown of the Kobold King. This dark little adventure took place in the awful, horrible town of Falcon’s Hollow, and its surrounding forest, the Darkmoon Vale. With a free prequel adventure, Hollow’s Last Hope available for download online (STILL a free download, give it a try!), a sequel, Return of the Kobold King, due out shortly thereafter (ALSO a free download), and a supplement book (Guide To Darkmoon Vale) available for purchase, I had plenty of time to grow to love the little town and its dreary desperation.

Falcon’s Hollow is better understood as a lumber camp run by a greedy, amoral lumber company known as the Lumber Consortium. The lumberjacks work long hours in the dangerous, fey-filled forest and live in dismal shacks provided by their employers. All the shops that sell gear and food are controlled by the Lumber Consortium–who charge massive fees for basic necessities–as are the law courts, and the town guards. Even the hardest working and thriftiest lumberjacks soon fall so deep into debt to the Consortium they have no chance of getting out of it. These people work non-stop just to get by in this hopeless, dreary town. Their families find what work they can, either working as lumberjacks or in the few shops and bars around town. The Consortium in Falcon’s Hollow is run by a corrupt, mean fellow named Thuldrin Kreed, and his right hand man is Boss ‘Payday’ Teedum, a pug-nosed man as vile as his employer. The only source of justice is the sheriff–who refuses to bow to the Lumber Consortium despite threats of violence and worse.

Against this backdrop I placed Lorelei’s herbalist shop, replacing the town’s original herbalist with her (for now…). And her first adventure? Hollow’s Last Hope. It was perfect! So when a mysterious sickness made more than half the town ill, and Boss Teedum came knocking on her door to bully her into curing this plague–or else!–even my daughter’s evil girl was moved to finally find a cure.

It’s been quite a few short adventures since then, and Lorelei and Farris have had a blast. With burning hands and grasping corpse her go-to level one spells, and boneshaker her level two spell of choice, she’s had a lot of fun shooting fire, making dead bodies trip and grapple her enemies, and painfully grabbing peoples skeletons and dragging their bodies around the battlefield. She keeps a collection of corpses, carried around in a cauldron by her skeletal minions, for the inevitable time when her current undead minions are destroyed (always keep some raw materials laying around!).

In addition to saving her town from illness, she’s gone grave robbing, treasure hunting, and visited cursed locations in the hopes that more powerful undead can be researched there–and that she can learn the secrets to crafting them (or at least mind control some!). As for undead under her control, she’s had zombie crows, human skeletons, kobold zombies and her current favourite: the ghost of a cannibalistic druid.

Blood Kineticist
The wonderful art that inspired Kilarra Bloodborn, a blood kineticist with more than a few disturbing habits. (If you know the artist let me know so proper credit can be given)

She’s made friends along the way (and killed others!), including her best friend, Kilarra Bloodborn. A tiefling kineticist (blood kineticist archetype (from Occult Adventures, one of my favourite d20 books of all time) and dark elementalist archetype (from Horror Adventures)) who sacrifices humanoids to her demonic patron, Shax, in order to gain dark powers. When she shoots blasts of blood at her enemies the howling faces of her sacrifices can be seen in its depths, bound to her in their torment. With a skeletal hand that loses flesh the more she uses her powers, and regains flesh each time she rests, shrunken heads woven into her hair, and the habit of painting cards with the images of the people she’s sacrificed, Kilarra’s one disturbing room mate. She was heavily inspired by this amazing art shown in the sidebar.

The first time I described the very creepy Kilarra with her skeletal hand walking through Falcon’s Hollow, my daughter smiled.

“Oh, Mom! My girl runs right up to her and looks at her hand. She takes it and she tells the scary lady: ‘You’re beautiful!’ Because I think her IS beautiful. My girl wants a skeleton hand! But, I don’t think people would like doctors with skeleton hands much.”

It was a friendship forged in blood and corpses.

463e6d75d9d255bf69ee4ea181d1267d
Beautiful art by Redreev George that inspired the creation of Kiyla, a young ranger who loves to dance. And hunt. And combine the two.

There’s other’s she met along the way. Kiyla, a little girl who fights with a unicorn’s horn as a sword and loves to dance. The only problem? The music she loves best is the cries of tortured, wounded animals. I swear I didn’t make that up. It was my daughter. And let me tell you, it is creepy as heck when this pretty little girl starts to dance ballet whenever an animal’s in pain.

And now, Professor McMaan, my son’s mad scientist who likes to trap souls inside the bodies of the dead or dolls that he’s created. His piece de resistance is his pig familiar, within which he trapped the soul of his rival, Professor Piggs.

But on what adventure would the newly expanded four person party embark upon?

An old favourite: Crown of the Kobold King.

Having made a name for herself saving Falcon’s Hollow, Lorelei, Kilarra and Kiyla recently returned from an extended vacation where they visited haunted locales in the area. Coming back to Falcon’s Hollow to find a new herbalist has moved into town in her absence–Laurel (that witch!)–Lorelei decides she needs to make this backwater town remember why they need her!

Meanwhile, another new face recently arrived in the area: Professor McMaan, a foul scientist from Sandpoint who was forced to abandon his research and flee before the law caught up with him. Newly arrived to Falcon’s Hollow he spent the last of his savings on building a new secret laboratory, underneath an old hut in the woods outside town. After settling in he went to check on his nearest neighbours, expecting lumberjacks or thugs, he was surprised to discover a herbalist’s shop–with strange moaning sounds coming from it’s basement. After sneaking into Lorelei’s home and discovering the necromantic experiments hidden in her secret lair, Professor McMaan has been biding his time, anxiously awaiting the moment his delightful new neighbours return home from their trip!

As soon as Lorelei, Kilarra and Kiyla get back home, Professor McMaan’s at their door, knocking happily and introducing himself as “a fellow bad guy and professor of dead things!”

Lorelei was intrigued and insisted Kilarra NOT sacrifice him. Yet.

My kids had a blast introducing themselves to each other, sharing dinner at Lorelei’s home, and giving each other tours of their secret labs. By far, the majority of our session was spent on them talking and play acting as their characters, showing off drawings they’d made of their homes and pictures they’d discovered on Pinterest of their furnishings. Professor McMaan had a particularly dashing shelf of pickled eyeballs and brains to share that my son found on a halloween board.

51-tp0DAuzL._SX382_BO1,204,203,200_
Crown of the Kobold King,a 3.5 adventure easily adaptable to the Pathfinder rules set. Written by Nicolas Logue. Printed by Paizo Publishing in 2007.

Unfortunately, their dinner party was interrupted by a rude knocking. Boss Teedum was back, demanding that Lorelei get her things together. Five kids in town–Mister Kreed’s son included–have gone missing, and they’re sending guards to get him back (him, not them, because all Mister Kreed really cares about is his own son). They’re expecting the kids to be hurt–the stupid brats!–and they’re going to need a doctor in case Kreed’s boy is hurt.

Realizing this is her chance to make the folks of Falcon’s Hollow remember why they need her, Lorelei graciously accepts the Boss Teedum’s ‘offer’ (orders) on one condition: her friends accompany her.

Not caring whether or not Lorelei’s weirdo friends die, Boss Teedum accepts, telling Lorelei that the guards set out in only a few hours. Then he stomps off.

Lorelei is thrilled. She quickly hurries to her necromancy lab to pick some of her weaker, more lively-looking undead. She selects two zombie rabbits and two zombie crows from her collection, each kept in cages (they’re not under her control right now, and are very dangerous) she picks them up carefully and puts them in her cauldron (it’s an animated object now, and can walk around on its own. Usually she rides inside it). With some backup undead ready to go, and her handy ghost cannibal creepily haunting her every step, Lorelei’s excited to set off for the Darkmoon Vale.

The guards are creeped out by their new travelling companions, but it matters little. The cannibal ghost kills them in their sleep, and soon the four heroes villains are by themselves.

They follow the trail of the children (Kiyla’s a magnificent tracker) to a burnt down orphanage long thought to be haunted. It seems the children dared each other to spend the night camping nearby. After exploring the campsite they decide to check out the ruins in case any delightful new undead are lurking in its halls. They’re not, but they do find signs that whatever fire claimed the orphanage was not what it seems. They find a secret torture chamber made to contain and harm a werewolf. A werewolf that seems particularly small sized… The werewolf is nowhere to be seen–burnt in the fire, perhaps, but the orphanage matron is there, long dead with her throat torn out.

Lorelei decides she doesn’t want that body, and uncharacteristically leaves it behind. Why? We’ve accidentally stumbled upon one of my daughter’s recent fears: lycanthropes.

Jeva
Jeva, a werewolf from Crown of the Kobold King, by Nicholas Logue.

Nervous and jumpy, my daughter expressed fear. Now, this might seem normal, but my daughter’s encountered lycanthropes in D&D before, and never had a problem with it. The last one she met was a wereshark by the name of ‘Bloody Frennick’ who she made friends with and insisted join her pirate crew.  In all honesty, I thought she’d welcome a little werewolf girl into the group as a friend! Deciding it was best to let my children fight the mysterious werewolf and put an end to the suspense rather than leave it out and have them nervous and paranoid the rest of the adventure, we took a short snack break. When we continued they met a young girl, who tried to trick them into the deep, dark forest, with promises of how she and her friends were ambushed and dragged into the woods. She gestured to the trail that… yes, it did seem to belong to the five children, but Lorelei knew better. This girl was NOT a child from Falcon’s Hollow! She was a werewolf!

A battle ensued with Lorelei hatefully exclaiming: “She’s lying! I think she’s a werewolf! Kill her just in case!”

Although it should have been a tough fight, Lorelei’s cannibal ghost made quick work of her, and she was unable to escape. Lucky for my daughter’s conscience, it was a werewolf, as she proved when she transformed during the fight.

With the terrifying werewolf dealt with we wrapped up for the night.

But not before Professor McMaan scooped up the girl’s body for his experiments.

Concluding our first session of Crown of the Kobold King, we packed up our dice and minis and put our villains aside for a while. Even undead need a rest sometimes. The children of Falcon’s Hollow would have to wait for rescue for another day.

Soon it was dinner, and my kids moved on to play Pokemon in the other room while I cooked.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Werewolves are terrifying. Weresharks are not.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be WAY more scared of the shark.

Character Focus: Professor McMaan

Today I got to use some content from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness. That’s right! And what content, you might be asking? A nifty little archetype for familiars. And why? My son.

My kids are young, only five and six, but they play a lot of Pathfinder. Usually, we play verbally, on the half hour walks to and from school. But on the weekends or the holidays, we have a chance to pull out the battle mat and play a proper game. Quite a while ago, my daughter decided she wanted to play a campaign for only the two of us. Something to play on the walks home from kindergarten, when my son’s still at school. Girl’s only.

“That’s great.” I told her. “What kind of characters should we make this time?”

“Oh, Mom,” she told me. “I do NOT want to be a hero this time. I have a lot of heroes. I want to be… a villain! A really, REALLY evil girl!”

So we created two horribly evil females. And my son’s been jealous ever since.

Today, as my daughter was trying to convince me to play a session of ‘evil girls’ with her, my son decided he’s finally had enough. He too would make a villain, and join us on an adventure.

But what kind of villain? Who would really want to hang out with a blood kineticist who feeds on the souls of others, and a doctor who’s more fond of the undead than the living? A mad scientist of course!

“Mom, I want to make a scientist, who is really good at making things, and knows about peoples bodies and things. And he likes to take things souls and stick them in special bodies. Maybe dead ones, or live ones, or ones he made! And he has a secret lab! Oh! And he’s nice and friendly!”

A nice and and friendly mad scientist who meddles with souls? Sure, why not! And so Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan was born. Why the nickname ‘Bigpants’? He was inspired by this amazing artwork we discovered on Pinterest. He even made himself old and sucked up the age penalties in order to be true to the image.

My son decided he would make an investigator. And, after some time spent glancing through archetypes he decided upon a bonded investigator. Giving up all of their poison capabilities for a familiar which gets better over time, my son was thrilled to find this little gem in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Intrigue. And what’s the perfect familiar for our soul-meddling Frankenstein-inspired investigator? A pig with the soulbound familiar archetype! Thank you Ultimate Wilderness! By giving up the familiar ability alertness, his adorable little pig gets a soul gem stored inside it with the spirit of a humanoid trapped within. This grants his pig skill focus in any one skill his soul excelled at in life. Choosing skill focus (craft constructs), my son decided Professor McMaan’s pig was enhanced with the soul of his rival, Professor Piggs, making his familiar capable of helping him out in the laboratory with his many experiments.

To make his quirky little pig even more thematic, he chose to take evolved familiar as a feat, allowing him to scientifically enhance his pig’s body — in this case, to give it a swim speed, “cause pigs are real good swimmers, Mom!”

With his familiar ready we settled in to finalize the rest of Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan himself. With an old, frail body, but a powerful brain, my son decided to equip the good professor with a nifty sword cane (topped with a silver skull!) and a host of acid and alchemist’s fire. But, starting as he was at level three, he had a lot more wealth to go around. He insisted we check into crafting constructs, despite that I promised him that required being level five, only to discover ‘craft poppet’ on d20pfsrd. Apparently, poppets are tiny and small, weak constructs which you can make right off the hop, at level one, and are relatively affordable. In addition, each poppet can be modified with enhancements. Recently published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Adventurer’s Armory 2, a sourcebook which I do not own, but seriously wish I did, these poppets made his day. He happily spent the rest of his three thousand gold coins on building a combat poppet, modifying the small sized wooden doll with armour, extra health and strength improvements; and a sneaky poppet, modifying the tiny doll with enhanced agility, stealth, and a faster move speed.

Thrilled to pieces, Professor ‘Bigpants’ McMaan and little Professor Piggs are ready to take their miniature poppet minions out on an adventure with some seriously bad girls. Now, if only I could decide what that adventure would entail…

Have a great night, everyone! I hope you enjoyed reading about my sons new character as much as he enjoyed making it.

Jessica

Ultimate Wilderness

Well, Christmas has come and gone, along with a variety of other holidays you might be celebrating, and while I wait for my shiny new copies of Starfinder and the Alien Achieve to arrive in the mail, I’ve been entertaining myself by delving into another great new d20 product, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness.

For those of you who don’t know, Ultimate Wilderness is a new hardcover release from Paizo Publishing, put out for Pathfinder. Pathfinder, as previously noted, is my favourite d20 game by far, and I recently received a copy of Ultimate Wilderness for my birthday (thanks, Kris and Crystal!). Like most of Pathfinder’s hardcover releases, Ultimate Wilderness comes with new class options and some new mechanics for GMs to add to their games, all themed around, you got it, the wilderness. This book introduces one new base class, tons of new archetypes, some new feats and spells, and quite a few rules subsets. Unlike most hardcover releases, this book also drops three new player races, and a ton of new options for familiars and animal companions.

Now, this book’s not cheap. None of the hardcovers for Pathfinder are, so I thought it might be worthwhile to share my two cents about the book, what you’re getting, and whether it’s worth it.

Ultimate Wilderness starts by introducing us to three new race options for players, two of which were previously released in other books. The gathlain, a lovely little fey creature with wooden wings who first was released in the very back of another one of Pathfinder’s hardcovers, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide. Found in the race builder section, gathlain originally had no details provided about their race other than the race entry itself. Now, these delightful little tricksters are given pages worth of information, including some special gear, feats and spells. There’s also a trio of archetypes, including one of my favourites from the entire book, the Season Sage, a druid archetype that got me desperately wanting to play a gathlain. Definitely a favourite of mine, you know you’re going to be producing some quirky characters with this race when the entry points out that ‘gnomes often find gathlains too flighty, foolish and undisciplined for their tastes’ (Ultimate Wilderness, page 9). Seriously. Gnomes think these guys are flighty. As a fan of the absurdity of Pathfinder’s gnomes, I’m going to have a blast with these little guys. I love it!

The second race to get some love in Ultimate Wilderness are the ghorans. Ghorans first appeared in one of Pathfinder’s skinny, softcover books, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Bestiary. They entered the scene with a bang, tempting us with tales of the ghoran’s origins. Magically created as an fast-adapting food source, ghorans achieved sentience and became a race all their own. Now the secret of their creation has been lost, and ghorans have shaped their bodies into a humanoid form, in the hopes that people will be less inclined to consume them, despite how delicious they taste, if the ghoran’s look more like them. Yup. Delicious. Like the gathlain, ghoran’s also come with an array of options, including a few feats, a magic item and a spell. They introduce a new bloodrager bloodline and two new archetypes, including the delightful aromaphile–a mesmerist archetype.

This third and final race introduced in Ultimate Wilderness is brand new. At least as a player race. Although leshy’s were first introduced in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 3, they have only now entered the game as a player race. Vine leshy’s are what you’d come to expect from these adorable little plant spirits. Hardy and clever, with some quirky camouflage capabilities and the ability to speak with plants, vine leshy’s are a fun, colourful addition to the game.   Like the gathlain, vine leshy’s have a lot of character options offered alongside them, including some new feats, spells, magical and mundane gear, three archetypes and the addition of the leshy subdomain for all those clerics and druids out there who wish they could summon these little fellows.

Following the races, Ultimate Wilderness gets into what I was most excited for: the Shifter. This new base class is a shapeshifter who can transform parts of their body–and later their entire body–into animal features. It has a full base attack bonus, but suffers from the same armour restrictions as the druid class does–a small price to pay for a chance to make yourself a chimera of animal parts. They gain a nice array of wilderness abilities that are familiar, in addition to unique abilities, including wild empathy, woodland stride, track, trackless step and wild shape–although their wild shape is a weaker version of the druids, allowing them to only transform into animals they have a connection with (you start with one, and can have four by the higher levels of the class progression). As far as new abilities go, it’s the shifter’s claws and shifter aspects abilities which are going to see the most use. Shifter’s claws gives you a claw attack with each hand, dealing 1d4 damage each to start, these claws increase in power as you level up. With an unlimited uses and the ability to extend them as a swift action, these claws are an awesome combat option for the shifter, making it unlikely you’ll need to invest in a melee weapon at low levels. The second major ability of the shifter is shifter aspects. Usable in one minute increments for a number of minutes per day equal to three plus your level, shifter aspects allow you to gain a physical benefit which changes depending upon which animals your shifter is spiritually attuned to. As with wild shape, you only start with one animal aspect, so you’ll need to choose wisely, but you gain more aspects as you level up and can later manifest more than one aspect at a time, making you a chimera of sorts. My personal favourite aspect is the bear, a sturdy choice which can improve your constitution at low levels and lets you transform into a dire bear with wild shape. Other gems include the bat, which grant you darkvision out to great distances and later blind sense, and the mouse, which grants you evasion and allows you to transform into a tiny mouse with wild shape–letting you sneak into tight spaces and the ability to climb, swim and sniff your way around the environment. All in all I really like the shifter class and I’m positively desperate to play one. Now if only I could convince my husband to play a few sessions with me…

After the new classes comes the archetypes, of which there are a TON. Now, not all of the archetypes presented in Ultimate Wilderness are brand new. Some are reprints from their line of softcover books, including the bold Thundercaller bard (originally published in Pathfinder Player Companion: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends) and my favourite witch archetype, the green-thumbed Herb Witch (originally published in one of my favourite player companions, Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of the Wild). Now, admittedly I was a little miffed at first, to discover some archetypes here that I’ve already been playing for a while, but after reflection, I’ve changed my tune. I like having the archetypes related to the wilderness that came from the skinny, softcovers collected in Ultimate Wilderness–presuming there are a lot of new archetypes alongside them. Which there are. Tons. Sixty pages of them, and at more than one archetype per page, that’s a lot of archetypes. I had quite a long list of favourites, but I’ll share a few with you.

Topping that list is the already mentioned gathlain archetype, the Season Sage which, thankfully, can be taken by other races with GM permission. Season Sage is a druid which gains the ability to change the seasons of the world around him, using his powers to make plants bloom, animal’s get their warm winter coats, and the weather to change. They can bring their companions the growth of spring (making them grow to twice their size), the might of summer (making them robust and healthy), and harm their enemies with the decay of autumn, and the icy cold of winter. They can literally change the world and the weather around them. And who doesn’t want to travel with a guy who can make it nice and warm in the middle of winter, or hide you in a blanket of fog? Far from over-powered, but filled with cool visuals and some neat new powers, Season Sage is my favourite archetype in the entire book.

My second favourite is a shifter archetype. Now, being a new class, shifter has quite a few cool archetypes going for it, including the elementalist shifter (which lets you harness different elements and fusions of them), the fiendflesh shifter (which lets you harness the power of evil outsiders), and the verdant shifter (which lets you take on the aspects of different plants). But, my personal favourite? The oozemorph. A shifter archetype that lets you become like the T-1000 from ‘Terminator 2’.  Seriously. It’s awesome. You want to be made of shiny goo? Check! You want to transform your arms into different weapons? Check! You want to squeeze through tiny holes and compress your body? Check! You want to take on the appearances of different people? Check! How about a climb speed or damage resistance? Check and check! This archetype is awesome, super nostalgic, and has great visual potential. As long as you don’t mind being a protoplasmic blob…

There’s a ton of other awesome archetypes in the pages of this book, and if you pick it up be sure to give some of my favourites a read, including the horticulturist alchemist (who can create seeds that rapidly grow into summoned animals and plants, and who can alter his bombs to affect everything, only plants, or only things that aren’t plants), the saurian champion cavalier (who can ride gigantic dinosaurs: cause who doesn’t want to be a knight that rides a t-rex?), the viking fighter (it’s about time!), the star watcher investigator (who uses horoscopes and astrology to tell the future for his companions and make magical effects), the wood kineticist (blast away with vines, tree limbs and stinging leaves or flower petals), the geomancer occultist (who can use the terrain he’s in as an implement), the flamewarden ranger (who explodes in a burst of fire upon his death, damaging his enemies and healing his allies, and can rise from the ashes a round later), and the avenging beast vigilante (cause the only thing better than being a batman, is being a bat man who can also turn into a dire bat!).

Like all Pathfinder hardcovers, there’s a chapter for new feats and spells. These parts of the book aren’t as vast as some of the others. It’s certainly no Ultimate Combat where feats are concerned, nor does it have the spells of Ultimate Magic. Still, there’s some good options for both sections contained inside. Lots of the feats are very thematic, or specific. For shifters there’s extended aspects and extended animal focus, both of which are going to be staples for most shifters. There’s a new combat style that caught my fancy: beastmaster style, which lets you make handle animal checks to negate attacks that hit your animal companion–presuming you’re beside your beloved pet–much like mounted combat works for mounts. Continuing in this feat progression also lets you substitute your handle animal check in place of your companion’s saving throws. My choice for the best feat in here (that’s more universally useful) adds onto the Spring Attack feat progression. Yes, spring attack’s already an investment, but improved spring attack and greater spring attack add great value to this build by letting users gain an extra attack, or two, with each spring attack, as long as they target different enemies with each subsequent attack.

As for spells, there were a good array of nature based spells spread out among lots of classes. You won’t just find new spells for rangers and druids here, you’ll also find some neat new spell choices for arcane and psychic casters. A few of my favourites include tamer’s lash, a level one bard, bloodrager, magus and ranger spell that creates a sonic whip that damages your enemy and can cause animals to back down for a few rounds in fear. Explosion of rot is a nice level four damage dealing druid spell that makes everything around you rot and decay (living or otherwise!). Rounding out my favourite spells from this book are the various polymorph spells: magical beast shape, ooze form (one through three) and fey form (one through four), all of which allow a wide variety of classes to take on all kinds of new forms.

There are a lot of new mechanics and rules subsets introduced in Ultimate Wilderness, some of which will find more use than others. The new discovery and exploration rules are sure to find  home in many exploration games, the new hazards are sure to trip up more than a few characters (look out for spellgorging plants!), and information on the Green Faith and the First World are always welcome. But, it’s the rules for foraging, harvesting poisons, harvesting trophies, herbalism, and wilderness traps that made me the most excited. Finally, a way to make a snare trap in the wild without a weeks worth of work and a sack of gold! (And there was much rejoicing).

The last section I want to touch on in Ultimate Wilderness is a huge part of the book and, in my opinion, a massive draw: familiars and animal companions. Taking up over forty pages of the book, this section collects stats for some of the more obscure animal options you may have missed in the many softcover releases they’ve been spread across, as well as new choices (including the anglerfish, archaeopteryx, dodo, koala, panda, sabre-toothed cat, plenty of plants and vermin, and my daughter’s personal favourite: the rabbit). It also provides a huge host of archetypes, tricks and feats for them to make use of. Most important for me? A nice concise listing of which animal forms have access to which magical item slots. Now, it’s worth noting, some of the information in this section was previously printed in some other softcover releases from Paizo, including Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio and Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive. But, much of the content is new and, in all honesty, I like having it compiled into an easier to access source.

For my money, Ultimate Wilderness is worth it. It provides a lot of fun new options for players and some decent new mechanics for GMs to enrich their games. One of the biggest draws for this release is going to be the many new options for our furry (or scaly or feathered) friends, the familiars and animal companions. If you don’t have this book yet you can pick it up at the link below, and if you do, let me know in the comments what you’re most excited for from Ultimate Wilderness!

Until next time, get those dice rolling!

Jessica

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness