Showing posts with label pathfinder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pathfinder. Show all posts

Friday, June 24, 2022

Skylla: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

I thought it might be nice to break up the reviews here and see if I can build one of my favorite characters for Pathfinder Second Edition.  And that means I am building a witch.

My girl Skylla here has gotten a lot more popular since I started this series almost 10 years ago. Since then she has gotten new official D&D 5 stats, a mini, and a new action figure release. All of that in the last year alone.  I'd love to take credit for it, but it is really just part of the same thing I was doing 10 years ago; discovering a cool, but under-used character.

A foot in two worlds

What is great about this is I can compare and contrast the official D&D5 Warlock Skylla to a possible Pathfinder 2e Skylla.  I can also compare and contrast her with the Pathfinder 1st edition witch I did years ago.   

In this case, I cleaved a little closer to her Base stats found in module XL1 Quest for the Heartstone and her warlock stats found in The Wild Beyond The Witchlight.

For this build I kept her at 6th level to correspond base stats and the D&D5 stats and not the 7th level I have typically been using.  I have not seen a lot of Pathfinder 2e statblocks online, so I am going with my own format here.

Custom Skylla figure

Skylla
6th level Witch, Human (Wintertouched)
CE Medium Humanoid

Background:  Student of Magic

Ability Scores
Strength: -1 (8)
Dexterity: 0 (10)
Constitution: +2 (14)
Intellignece: +4 (19)
Wisdom: +3 (16)
Charisma: +3 (16) 

AC: 18 (+8 prof)
HP: 62
Perception: +11

Saving Throws
Fortitude: +12
Reflex: +8
Will: +13

Resistances and Immunities: Cold 3

Speed: 25

Melee Strikes
Staff +7, 1d4 (1d8 two-handed) +1d6 electricity

Skills
Acrobatics +0, Arcana +12, Athletics -1, Crafting +4, Deception +13, Diplomacy +11, Intimidation +13, Lore (Academia +12), Medicine +3, Nature +11, Occultism +12, Performance +3, Religion +11, Society +4, Stealth +8, Survival +11, Thivery +0

Feats

Ancestry Feats and Abilities
Wintertouched Human, Adapted Cantrip, Adaptive Adept

Skill Feats
Recognize Spell, Arcane Sense, Charming Liar, Intimidating Glare

General Feats
Toughness

Class (Witch) Feats and Abilities
Hexes, Familiar, Basic Lesson, Rites of Convocation, Magical Fortitude, Steady Spellcasting

Spells

Spell Attack Roll: +12
Spell DC: 22
Traditions: Occult
Focus Points: 2

Inante Spells: Detect Magic
Focus Spells: Blood Ward, Phase Familiar, Spirit Object

Cantrips: Chill Touch, Daze, Detect Magic, Light, Mage Hand, Prestidigitation, Protect Companion
1st Level: Charm, Chilling Spray, Floating Disk, Mage Armor, Magic Missile
2nd Level: Dispel Magic, Invisibility, Knock
3rd Level: Enthrall, Lightning Bolt

--

I like this. She compares well to her D&D5 counterpart. Lots of spells all over the place and LOTS of feats, but that's Pathfinder Second Edition.  

Skylla vs. Skylla

In both cases her Patron is Baba Yaga. So that's really nice. I thought about taking a magical tatoo to cover her mark from Baba Yaga, but I am still reading through the Secrets of Magic book so I am not sure that works just yet.

I feel she might have more magical might than her D&D5 counterpart. I thought this would happen which is why I wanted to set her at the same level (6th level) for a better comparison.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd ed Advanced Player's Guide

Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide
Continuing my exploration of the Pathfinder Second Edition I am going to examine the book you all knew I was going to get to sooner or later. 

Like the previous edition of Pathfinder the Advanced Player's Guide introduces some new classes to the Pathfinder game, and like the previous edition, one of those classes introduced is the Witch.

Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide 

As before I am considering the hardcover Special Edition version of this book. The book is 272 pages and has full-color interior art.

This book is Player focused and shares a lot in common with its predecessor. It also follows the format of the Second Edition Core rules.

Introduction

This introduces us to the book and gives us an overview of what we can expect.

Ancestries & Backgrounds

Now here are some neat ideas. We get five new Ancestries here. They are Catfolk, Kobolds, Orcs, Ratfolk, and Tengus.  

The Catfolk are fun and comparable to the D&D Tabaxi and Rakasta (not Rakasha).  Likewise, the Tengus are like the D&D Kenku.  Orcs are orcs, but I like what they are doing with them. Orcs has always been the "Klingons" of D&D. Someone to fight in the TOS ("The Original Series" or "The Old School") but that changed later on. We have Klingons in Starfleet in TNG and beyond and now we can have Orcs as a player race.  Orcs are still described as being mostly chaotic (which I like) and even, maybe just a little bit evil. Player Character Orcs don't have to be.  Also like Klingons, these Orcs seem to see their gods as something they should strive to kill. A little John Wick influence here? (The game designer, not the character).  These orcs would be interesting to play.  We also get Ratfolk (anthropomorphic rats) and Kobolds.  Now I will admit, I really don't like Pathfinder's ultra-reptilian Kobolds.  I am certain they have their fans, but if I am going to play a small annoying creature why would I choose anything but a goblin? 

Each ancestry gets a set of ancestry feats to choose at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels.  

There are new heritages as well including the new versatile heritage which gives you lineage feats as well. I know the "feat haters" are already screaming. Yeah, that might be justified. The lineages are Changeling, Dhampir, and Planar Scions which include Aasimar, Duskwalker, and Tiefling.  These feats are also taken at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels.  

More feats are given for the Core Rules ancestries as well. I think the next goblin I play is going to need the "Extra Squishy" feat.

There are more backgrounds as well including Common and Rare backgrounds. 

Classes

Ah. The real reason I bought this book!

In addition to the four new classes, Investigator, Oracle, Swashbuckler, and Witch, there are new features for the twelve Core Rules classes.

The Investigator is an interesting class and one I can see working well in an FRPG.  Basically is Sherlock Holme could fit into your game then this class has a place too.  The Oracle is a staple of classic mythology and is a divine-powered class. A nice alternative to the cleric.  The Swashbuckler is neat and all but I didn't "get it" until I started thinking of them as a DEX-based fighter as opposed to the normal STR-based one. That leaves just one more class.

The Witch

The Witch has been a great addition to Pathfinder since 1st Edition and I rather like this one too.  This witch is an Intelligence-based spellcaster. Like many interpretations of the witch she gets a Patron and Familiar.  This is how she learns her spells. Now for me this points more to Charisma, but there are a lot of Charisma-based casters in Pathfinder. Wisdom would have also been a good choice.  These witches also get Hexes which are powers they can use that are not spells but spell-like. 

While clerics are clearly divine spellcasters and wizards are arcane, witches as a class can move about these distinctions. So depending on their Patron Theme, they can be Arcane, Divine, Occult, or Primal.  A Rune Witch is arcane, but a Winter Witch is primal. This time also grants a skill, a cantrip and a spell.

In addition to spells, hexes, patrons, and loads of feats, witches also get Lessons, each lesson gives the witch a hex and their familiar a spell. Witches don't use spell books here, just their familiars.  There is so much customization I could make 1000s of witches and no two would be the same. 

Witches in Pathfinder fill the same ecological niche that Warlocks do in D&D 5.

Following the witch we get new feats for the twelve core rules classes. Typically a two- or four-page spread continues with PF2e's design aesthetic. Sorcerers, I should note get new bloodlines as well. 

There is also a section on animal companions (largely stats) and familiars. 

Archetypes
Archetypes

Like the Core Rules of PF2e this has several archetypes that can be applied to classes via the applications of various feats and skills. I do see where some of the 3.x Prestige Classes are now living on here as archetypes. There are also the multi-class archetypes for all the new classes. One of these new archetypes is the Cavalier. I can complete my "Dragon 114" duo with a human witch and an elven cavalier!  Some of these archetypes can be be taken as early as 2nd level, others (typically the former Prestige Classes) need more requirements and have to be taken at higher levels.  I would need to compare and contrast the archetypes to the old Prestige Classes to see how they work out.  I can see where you can build your own Batman now with the monk class, the investigator multi-class feat, and vigilante archetype. 

One thing though. I can see these archetype being adapted to D&D5 or even OSR D&D with some care and attention. 

Feats

Feats are either the boon or bane of Pathfinder. This chapter has more of them.

Spells

New spell casting classes mean a need for new spells. 

Items

New magic items.

All in all this book is a lot of fun. The art is great, and the layout and design is fantastic. There are a lot of great ideas here and I would love to try them out.  Hell. I would be content in making a different PF2e witch a day just to see how many I could do.  But don't worry, I am not going to that except maybe for myself.

There is a lot here I would love to see find a home in some way for D&D, maybe for D&D6.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary

Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary
Spend any time here and you know there is one thing that is always true. I LOVE monster books. I can fairly say that monster books, bestiaries, and the like are not just my first love of RPGs but are largely why I am into RPGs, to begin with.

So I knew that even if I never bought anything else for the Pathfinder Second Edition game I was going to buy the Bestiary.  And much like it's Great-Grandfather AD&D, I picked up the Bestiary first. I grabbed the Core Rules (that I discussed yesterday) based entirely off of what I read in this book.

I guess I really should have done this one on Monday instead of a monster, but I wanted to do the core rules first.

So what does this book have and why did I like it so much?  Well, it has a lot going for it.

Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover version I purchased at my FLGS.  For Pathfinder 2e I have been going with the Special Edition covers. My oldest gets the Special Ed covers of the D&D 5 books and I get the regular ones since D&D 5 is "His" game.  I normally like to get the Special Ed covers since I am a sucker for a book with a ribbon in it.  Plus he has no plans to play PF2e and we even combined our PF1e books into one collection and sold off the rest (which is how I can buy these!)

The book is 360 pages with full-color art. You know when you walk into the floor of the Gen Con trader hall and the smell of new books hits you?  That's how this book smells. Like Gen Con, but in a good way.

This book contains about 415 different monster stat blocks.  Before I get into those blocks I want to speak about the layout.  The PF1e Bestiary worked hard to get monsters down to one page per monster. Sometimes there were variations, but it was obvious the Paizo crew (and many others of the d20 boom) liked the presentation of one monster per page as in the AD&D 2nd days.  PF2e takes this design strategy and extends it to the next level.  Sometimes we get one monster per page. Many times we get a monster type (for example the Alghollthu) that extends across 2-, 4- or more pages (always an even number) that are facing each other. So in this case the Skum and Faceless Stalker.

Alghollthu

This continues throughout the book. The practical implications here are 1.) finding something is easy IF you know the group it might be under. 2.) you can lay your book flat and have access to everything you need for the monster.  There is of course one other.  While I love my special editions, if I went to the Paizo website and got all of these as PDFs I could do the exact same thing I have done with the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums and the various S&W Monster books, I can print them all out and organize them all into one large folder.  Note you can do the same things with the D&D 4e Monster books too.  Maybe this is something I should consider when doing my Basic Bestiary. 

Continuing on.  The stat blocks are easy to read and honestly understand if you have played any form of D&D form the last 20 years.  There is the Name, it's level (which replaces HD and CR).  Under that there are the descriptor tags, this includes Alignment, Size, and Traits.  So our faceless stalker is a Chaotic Evil medium-sized aberration and it is level 4.  There are some basic "monster stats" such as skills, perception and abilities mods, and what items if any it has. It's Defence block is next with AC, saves, HP and resistances, immunities, or vulnerabilities.  It's attack block follows.  The feel is very much like that of D&D 5e.

The block is smaller than that of PF1e (thank goodness!) and all the important bits are readily visible,

Like the Core Book this features sidebars with more details. This often includes rumors, mentions of other types, and more.

About the Monsters

Most monster books take a LOT of cues from the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual. Many feature the same set of monsters. Enough that I often refer to the Demons Type I to VI and the Succubus as "The Usual Suspects."   Does this Bestiary follow suit? Almost, the Hezrou (Type II) and Nalfeshnee (Type IV) are missing but the others are here.  

Either due to space or to make the the stat blocks come out right there are a lot of creatures here that you do not normally see in a "core" monster book and some that I expected are missing. Nothing game-breaking mind you.  In fact it gives a great flavor to the book. There are many you expect, all the dragons for example, and some I didn't, like the gug and lillend. 

One of the neatest things about this book is reading over what are classical monsters too many of us and seeing how they are different not just through the lens of PF2e, but from different creators and a different world.  I have already talked about how much I enjoy Pathfinder's goblins, but they really do feel different here. This change is then reflected in other creatures like the barghest. Some are quite different, like the kobolds, and others are largely still the same, like orcs.

Speaking of orcs. A while back I did a post discussing what should be part of a universal stat-block and I used orcs as my example. The reasoning was that orcs are one creature that has appeared in all versions of D&D (yes there are others, but they are ubiquitous) and they are a good typical foe for 1st level adventurers.  How do the Pathfinder (PF1e and PF2e) orcs stack up?

More Orcs!

Orcs in D&D 3.x were (are) CR ½.  This meant they were a good, but not necessarily deadly, challenge to a party of 1st-level characters. In Pathfinder 1e they are now CR ⅓, so even easier really.   Pathfinder has the Orc Brute at Creature 0 and Orc Warrior at Creature 1 with 15 and 23 hp respectively.  Still something a group of first levels could take on, but maybe slightly harder. 

How does this book stack up to my Monster Manual test?

My Monster Manual Test is how I feel when I first open a game book. While this book can't reasonably live up to the hype of when I first picked up the AD&D Monster Manual it does do the exact same thing; It made me want to buy the system so I could know more about it.  Like PF2e Core this book is gorgeous and just wonderful to read through. The designers have made me invested in their world and I want to know more.

 Enough that I have more books to cover!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Pathfinder Second Edition
All month long I have been talking about, but more appropriately around, D&D. For the rest of this week I want to talk about D&D's, now adult, younger cousin. Pathfinder 2nd Edition.

This won't be a full review. The Pathfinder Core book is massive and absolutely packed. Plus there are plenty of reviews out there.  Instead, I am going to look at some of the changes, updates, and innovations of the game and compare and contrast it to Pathfinder 1e, D&D4, and D&D5.

A bit of history first. Pathfinder 1st Edition was published by Paizo Publishing in 2009.  It was an immediate success with the core book selling out at it's appearance at Gen Con.  Don't quote me, but I think it was some sort of record.  Since then Paizo has always had a huge presence at Gen Con.  Paizo had been one of the 3rd party publishers of choice back in the 3.x days 2000-2008. It had a license to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines and its support products for 3e were some of the best on the market. When Wizards of the Coast shifted direction and released D&D 4th Edition with no OGL backing, Paizo saw their opening.  They released Pathfinder to a huge public beta testing and took in all sorts of feedback. The Core Rules, which combined what had normally been the Player's book and the Game Masters' book into one massive tome.

It is hard to appreciate just how successful Pathfinder was.  When sales of D&D 4 spiked, but then dropped suddenly, Pathfinder took over the throne of best-selling fantasy RPG from D&D.  D&D didn't just sit on that throne, they built it, often from the bones of vanquished enemies like DragonQuest. So successful that many people began to call it D&D 3.75 and even the rightful progression of D&D 3.x.  

Pathfinder was a success and really would have been a success even without D&D4 underperforming (make no mistake D&D 4 still sold better than pretty much everything else combined). 

Fast Forward to 2012-13. Wizards announce they are holding public playtests for what they are calling D&D Next. The playtests are similar to Pathfinder's.  In 2014 D&D 5e is released to critical and commercial acclaim.  D&D retakes its throne and stays there.  Meanwhile by 2014 Pathfinder is moving along with a 14-year-old system (the 3.0 OGC). It survived the d20 boom and glut and still is the game of choice for many.  But sales are low and the true money maker of any RPG are the core books.  So in 2018 Pathfinder releases their 2nd Edition Playtest book.

Pathfinder 2e Playtest and Special Editions

It does not go over as well as the first playtest, this is the third time the market has seen this from the Big 2, but it is enough that Paizo releases Pathfinder 2nd Edition at Gen Con 2019.  That brings me to today, Pathfinder 2nd Ed in 2022.

Pathfinder Second Edition

Pathfinder 2nd Edition (PF2e here on) is the update to the best-selling, award-winning Pathfinder RPG. For this review/overview I am considering the Special Edition hardcover from my FLGS.  The book is 640 pages with full-color art.

Let's just start from the top. This book is gorgeous. The art is what you have come to expect from Pathfinder and this one does not skimp on it. 

PF2e interior art

There is an evolution here that is very interesting. It is something I call my "Modula-2 Experience."  Back in my undergrad days, I learned to program in Pascal. Not uncommon really, lots of people did that then. But later on I picked up other languages. I had already learned BASIC and Fortran so I picked up C and Modula-2.  C is very different than Pascal so keeping the syntax straight was an issue at first but then became easier. Modula-2 is almost identical to Pascal with some odd bits here and there. Picking up the syntax was a lot easier, but became harder to keep them separate as I went on.

Pathfinder follows the Modula-2 path from D&D's Pascal.  To extend the metaphor more, D&D 3 is Pascal, Pathfinder 1 is Modula-2, D&D 5 is Object Pascal/Delphi and Pathfinder 2e is Oberon. To extend my metaphor to breaking Original D&D is ALGOL.

Exploring PF2e is fascinating. There is a game here that I easily recognize and yet looks new at the same time.  All of the same abilities are here, many of the same races (now called "Ancestries & Backgrounds), and classes.  In fact, the first 240 or so pages read like D&D 3 or 5 or Pathfinder. It's when you delve into the details that differences become apparent.  

1 Introduction

This chapter introduces us to RPGs in general and the Pathfinder 2nd Edition in particular. It (and the rest of the book) features the main text and sidebars to explain the text or put it into context. For example, the text on page 7 mentions dice and the sidebar shows a picture of dice with the standard die nomenclature. 

This covers the basics of character creation such as deciding on your concept, rolling or assigning your six abilities (the classic six), figuring out your character details, and more.  We have six ancestries and twelve character classes.

Ancestries and Classes

Now I will say this. While I appreciate a good character sheet breakdown, the PF2e sheet is ugly as hell. For all the great art in this book that is one garish sheet. Wow. I'll stick with the black & white one.

2 Ancestries & Backgrounds

Modern RPGs are moving away from the concept of "race" and instead are going with Ancestries. I rather like this approach, to be honest. While "race" might be a good term, there are enough negative connotations to it (see my discussions of 19th Century Race Theory) to make it less than desirable. Plus Ancestries and Background help parse out what you get via your parents (eyes, pointy ears, and more) and what you get growing up in a culture.  

Ancestries are what older games call "race" it helps determine your ability score bonuses and sometimes penalty, your size, your speed, and what languages you might know. It also gives you "traits" and who well you see in the dark.  Heritages are sub-specialties of the Ancestries.  My favorite ancestry for PF2e right now is Goblin. Yes, you can play a Goblin in this game! The heritage I like the most is the Ironguy Goblin. You can eat anything.  I love Pathfinder goblins. 

Each ancestry gets an ancestry feat (PF2e is crazy with feats) at the first level. This helps define your character. For example, one feat is Goblin Song where you sing annoying goblin songs to distract your enemies.  You can get additional ancestry feats at 5th, 9th, and 13th levels. Some have pre-requisites. So you can't take "Very, Very Sneaky" at 13th level unless you took "Very Sneaky" before.

An interesting note here. Half-elves and Half-orcs are not an Ancestry. You take Human as your ancestry and then half-elf or half-orc as your heritage. The rule implication here is clear.  You can have mixed ancestry and heritage as the rules allow, you just need your GM to be ok with it. 

Backgrounds are chosen like a feat but are akin to the Backgrounds of 5e.  Akin, not the same.  These usually give some sort of skill, skill boost, or feat. 

Languages come from your Ancestry, heritage (sometimes) and background (sometimes).  

Your HP at level 1 is based on your Ancestry and not your class.  This is a good change since it can also apply to monsters and level-0 NPCs.

3 Classes

Here we get the classes we know from 3.x, more or less. There is the new Champion class, which replaces the Paladin (a Paladin is a type of Champion) and the new Alchemist. 

Alchemist

Each class has an ability boost, HD for leveling up, saves, attacks, and what skills they have access to. They are constructed very similarly to D&D 3.x/PF1e classes. Each class also has a series of feats they can take at various levels. These include Class Feats (specific to class) and General Feats (used by all). You take a Class Feat at 2nd level and every even level after. General feats are taken at 3rd level and every four levels after. There are also skill increases, ability boosts and other powers/abilities so that there is something happening at every level for all classes.   There are also sample variations on each class; these are done with the choices you make in powers, skills, and feats.  For example a Paladin is a Lawful Good Champion and Dancer is a Bard that takes ranks in Acrobatics and Perform (among others).  So customization is through the roof and no two characters of the same class need to look or feel the same. 

Seoni the Sorceress

To add to this there are even Archetypes to define your character or at 2nd level you can take a multiclass feat to add some abilities of another class to your current one. Much like D&D 4e used to do.  There is just so much to do with these classes.   No surprise then that classes take up almost a quarter to a third of this book.

I do miss the Prestige Classes from 3.x/PF1e though. Though with this level of customization they can be "thematically" folded into the existing rules here with no issues.  Want to be an Arcane Archer? I am sure there is a good skill/feat options that allow you to do that. 

4 Skills

There are 17 skills for PF2e. They are well described and include things you can do untrained and things you can do trained. There are also specific examples of things you can do with each skill and whether or not these are move actions, require concentration or other modifiers. For example, Climbing is a type of Athletics check and it is a Move action. 

5 Feats

Pathfinder isn't Pathfinder without Feats. Love them or hate them they are baked into the system here more than D&D or PF1e. And there is a lot of them. Again though great for character customization, bad for GMs needing to keep track of everything.

6 Equipment

Covers the shopping list. But also has premade Class Kits you can buy which have all the basic gear a class is likely to take. 

7 Spells

The next largest section (about 120 pages) is Spells.  All the same, schools are here, but now magic is divided into Arcane (Wizards), Divine (Clerics), Occult (Bards), and Primal (Druids) Spells.  So seeing a bit of PF1e's later material and D&D4e DNA here.  There are Spell Slots from 0 to 10 (yes 10th-level spell slots) and spells of level 0 (Cantrips) to 9. So you can heighten a spell to higher slots or sometimes a spell might need a higher slot depending on a feat. Similar to 3.x certainly but also a little feel of 5e's spell slot system.  So for example there is no Monster Summoning I to IX. There is only Summon Animal (or Construct or Fiend or Fey etc.) and you can heighten the spell at higher spell slots. So taking Summon Animal at a 7th level Spell Slot lets you summon a level 9 or lower animal. 

Spells are all listed alphabetically and tagged with various descriptors like "Cantrip," "Divination," or "Mental" and more. The description also lists what tradition(s) they belong too, Arcanes, Divine, Occult and/or Primal. 

There are also "Focus" spells that are unique to a particular Class.  Bards, Champions, Clerics, Druids, Monks, Sorcerers, and Wizards all get their own lists unique to them. Yes monks get "Ki" spells.  

Like past versions, but mostly like D&D 4e there are also Rituals. these take longer and have certain requirements that need to be met. 

8 Age of Lost Omens

This covers the very basics of Golarion, Pathfinder's game world. It includes a little history, the lands, and the gods. 

9 Playing the Game 

This is mostly the Game Master's section but there is still plenty here for players.  Covers all the rules needed to play with an emphasis on the basic d20 roll and checks. Note there is no "Natural 20 = critical hit" here, BUT score 10 higher than their DC/AC then you do have a crit! So that is kinda cool. 

10 Game Mastering

This is the Game Master's chapter. Lots of advice here on how to run PF2e games (and some of it applies to any d20-based game.)  There is a lot here yes, but obviously more could be said since there is a Game Mastery guide out as well. 

11 Crafting & Treasure

Modern gamers love to make things. I blame Minecraft. This chapter covers making things (great for the alchemists) and treasure. This is also a fairly large chapter.

Treasure

We end with the Appendicies. 

--

This book is huge and it is packed with information.  The index is great and very useful. In fact, the entire design of the game allows ease of access to all information. This is one of the things that made 4e a well-designed game (not the same as "playable") and we see it live on in OSE as well. 

Who Should Play Pathfinder Second Edition?

Anyone who loves to play D&D in its myriad forms and also loves deep character customization.  In fact, if you love building characters and don't have a game going at the moment then Pathfinder has a lot to keep your character-building hobby very busy.

It is not a lite game. It is very, very crunchy.  While the differences between PF1e vs D&D4 were very pronounced there is less obvious differences between PF2e and D&D5 at least in terms of the types of games you can play.  I will say that if you were to play something like "Keep on the Borderlands" the differences in play between D&D5e and PF2e would be minimal and all resting on the mechanics of the game. Still, you are going to roll initiative, roll to attack an orc, roll a d20 to see if you hit, and then roll damage as indicated by your weapon type. At higher levels, these mechanical differences will become further apart, but essentially they both still have the same DNA linking them back to D&D 3 and before.

There is a lot to like about this game. There is a lot of game here too and that might not be to everyone's taste.

I can something like the Ancestries, Heritages, and Backgrounds making their way to D&D proper. It is so useful and gives so much more customization that looking back it seems like a no-brainer.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Tea with the Witches

Been crazy busy at work. That time of year.  But one big project is done and I am down to the last few courses in this contact hour audit I have been doing for weeks.  

I have been neglecting things here so here is a quick one.  I got some art made of a scene crucial to the "War of the Witch Queens"  back story.  The scene is called "Tea With the Witches" and it takes place in The Simbul's castle in the Forgotten Realms.

Tea with the Witches

I want to send out a hearty thank you to Brian Brinlee for doing such a great job with this. Here are the witches pictured. Left to right (clockwise, never widdershins when dealing with witches):

Sagarassi the Sea Witch (Krynn/Dragonlance), Iggwilv the Witch Queen (Oerth/Greyhawk), The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond (Toril/The Forgotten Realms and where this is taking place), Larina (my OC), Feiya the Pathfinder iconic witch (Golarion/Pathfinder).

They are playing Pentacles, a game played with five people using Tarroka cards.

Hopefully regular posting will resume next week!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

These are the Soul Cages

I know I am running behind on this one.  Super busy at work and the last few posts here have been ones I have been sitting on for just this time.  But I am going to pause on today's scheduled post to do this one instead.  Plus the Internet is down in the Chicagoland area as of this writing, so I might as well do this.

Back on Halloween, the news came out that Pathfinder Drops Phylactery From In-Game Terminology. Instead of using "phylactery", It is a Greek word to describe the Hebrew word "Tefillin" which Jewish people will keep small scrolls of the Torah.  They have decided to go with the term "Soul Cage."

Maybe not these Soul Cages exactly.

As you can imagine the RPG folks on the internet freaked out.  Especially it seemed to me people that at the same time claimed they don't or no longer play Pathfinder, let alone Pathfinder Second Edition, the game, and the only game, this effects.

Personally, I find it confusing that so many roleplayers out there have so little imagination.

Nor do I even see what the trouble is.  So a company, Paizo, drops a term they are uncomfortable with.  THEY feel it is disrespectful.  At no point have I heard they changed due to a complaint. They did it as a creative choice.  Are some gamers now suggesting that a company can't change the terms they use to better suit their products/games?

No. This is fake outrage from the same lot that gets mad any time anyone decides to deviate from the holy writ of Gygax. 

Personally. I have been using Soul Cages for years. I was even talking about it with liches and succubi over a decade ago and as recently as this past year. I am likely to keep using them too. 

Don't like the term? Fine. Don't use it.  Want to keep phylactery? Fine, keep it. It likely isn't going to change in the game you are playing now anyway. But honestly, unless you are playing Pathfinder Second Edition, why do you even care?

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Pathfinder (2007)

Pathfinder (2007)
I have been wanting to see this one for some time now.  My wife and I have been on a Vikings and Norse Mythology kick for a while now and we both like Karl Urban. So I thought tonight was a good night for it.

I mean I had heard it was not great, but I wanted to see it for myself.

So from the start, there are some issues here.  There were no horses in America during the Viking era and the Vikings certainly didn't use them.  Nor was chain mail as depicted here used.  So yeah, this 

Karl Urban stars as "Ghost" a Viking boy, left behind after a raid. He is raised by the locals and has built a life for himself.    Fifteen years later the Vikings return and kill everyone except for Ghost, who is out hunting. Ghost watches them kill his father, and he attacks, killing many of the Northmen, called "The Dragonmen" by the Native Americans.

Ghost finds the other tribe, the one with Pathfinder and his daughter Starfire and warns them of the Vikings. 

The villagers leave and Ghost prepares to fight the Vikings.  There is a battle and Ghost kills a lot, but the braves from the village come back and they are slaughtered. 

The Vikings capture Ghost, Starfire, and Pathfinder.  They draw and quarter Pathfinder and force Ghost to show them where the next village is. He does so to protect Starfire.

All the Vikings are killed. Starfire becomes the new Pathfinder and Ghost guards the coast, watching for more invaders.

So yeah. It was not great.  My wife called it "Dances with Vikings."  I think that is being overly generous.  Clancy Brown is in it, but you can hardly tell. 

Gaming Content

This movie came out in 2007 around the same time as the Pathfinder RPG (2009).  I always conflated the two even though I was aware of the differences.  Though part of me would still like stat up the Pathfinder movie with the Pathfinder rules. 

The Vikings in this are more like Orcs than they are like Ragnarr Loðbrók. With their centuries too early arms and armor, this actually has more in common with Pathfinder the RPG than it does with the historical Vikings.  Their armor looks like they got from a GWAR yard sale.

--

Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 4. Do You Wanna Build a Darklord II?

Nothing exists in a vacuum. RPGs are no exception to this rule. While Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft is a great tool for a DM wanting to add horror to a D&D game and it is the tool to use to run a D&D 5e Ravenloft game, it is by no means the only tool.  

I have so many horror RPGs that I have tools for just about any type of horror game I ever want to run.  I have not even gotten into doing things like adding WitchCraft's Book of Hod to Ravenloft (and I have been doing it for years) or even getting into the material from World of Darkness or Call of Cthulhu RPGs.  

WitchCraft, World of Darkness, and Call of Cthulhu are all fantastic games.  Each one has a different approach to their own types of horror.  If I am fighting against the cosmic horrors then CoC is my game.  If I want to explore the horrors of existence within myself as a monster tr something that is no longer truly human then WoD.  If I want a mixture of the two with a grounding in philosophies of the world as all being true then WitchCraft/Armageddon is my game of choice.  This is only three games. I can grab from Chill, Kult, Little Fears, and more.   All are great. All are fun. Not every one of them is great for a Ravenloft game.

So. Let's build another Darklord like I did last week with Darlessa. I am not going to go into the same level of detail as I did with her.  Instead, I am going to use some other horror sources to do my heavy lifting.  NOW to be sure, I don't NEED to add anything to Ravenloft for me to use it.  Everything I am doing here I could do from scratch from the material in Chapter 2 of VRGtR. I happen to also have all these other books with great ideas. 

I have this thing that happens with all my campaigns.  I collect a lot of data, materials, products whatever for a campaign. I pick, I choose, I write, I rewrite and in the end, I get something that is often not at all exactly like what I wanted, but that is great really. But I also have this stack of other "Stuff" that I didn't use but is still compelling to me.  My campaign "Ogre Battle" grew out of my old "Shadow War" for example.  I ran this huge war that worked as a prequel to this big AD&D campaign.  The Second Campaign grew right out of Come Endless Darkness.  Right now my big campaign taking a lot of my creative energy is War of the Witch Queens.  I have barely got into it (characters are 3rd level) and I already have leftovers and plot threads that have grown larger than the campaign can handle.

Before I pull that into this conversation let me shift gears and talk about Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is the biggest alternative to D&D out there.  They gained a lot of traction in the 3e days and boomed in the 4e days as the go-to choice for D&D-like games.  I have a lot of really cool, really well-written Pathfinder books. None of them are currently in use because I am not currently playing Pathfinder.

For Ravenloft, the best Pathfinder book you can get is Pathfinder Horror Adventures.  I reviewed this book a while back and there is a lot overlap between what this book does and what Ravenloft does. The Pathfinder book is more "Domain agnostic" so it has more room for things like new classes and spells.  The Pathfinder book also covers sanity, fear, and madness.  I mentioned in my overview of Ravenloft that I usually don't like how most games do "madness." What they do here works well, for Pathfinder, I am not sure how it would work for D&D 5.   I do like Pathfinder's approach to Darklords in their Dread Lords. I am going to keep this in mind for the next bit.

Note: The Horrific Inspirations on pages 252 to 253 in Horror Adventures covers movies, television, and print for the same types of Horror Genres found in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. 

Land of the Ice and Snow

Pathfinder forever gets a special place in my heart because it gave me Irrisen, the land of the Witch Queens. Home to the Daughters of Baba Yaga and has included such notables as Tasha/Tashana/Iggwilv. I have a bunch of material from the Winter Witch Queen adventure path from Pathfinder and other books.   I love the idea of Winter Witches, both in fiction and history.   If I am going to pull in some Pathfinder bits from various books then why not build a Dark Domain that is Pathfinder based.

So. Let's do this.  Irrisen is a land ruled by a Witch Queen and she gets 100 years to rule until Baba Yaga comes in a pulls her out. There have been a few that rebelled and try to go longer and there is always a rivalry between the various Daughters of Baba Yaga over who will get to rule. Queen Elvanna is a good example. There is a lot of potential her then for someone to be a little more pissed off and try to kill her rivals. Now. That in of itself is not a good enough reason to drag someone into the mists. In fact, Baba Yaga encourages such machinations to guarantee the strongest one will rule. It's hard to imagine then what a Witch Queen would need to do to get the mists' attention.  One would have to assume a crime or act so vile that mists have to take notice.

Building a Pathfinder / Ravenloft Domain

Let's take an easy example.  I'll start with Elvanna, but I don't have to.  Let's just say any Winter Witch Queen.  We don't know what happens to these queens when Baba Yaga is done with them.  Tashanna is the only we do know about, but she has been banned from returning to Golarion.  We can assume that Grandmother Bony Legs doesn't let them retire to a beach home in Florida.

When Elvanna was defeated let's say she came up with a plan, if she could not rule Irrisen then no one could.  She whips up a ritual to destroy the whole land in a winter that even the inhabitants of Irrisen would fear.  She started her ritual managed to wipe out a village or two, the key here is that people important to Baba Yaga have been killed. Either the mists open up to grab her OR maybe Baba Yaga has the power to summon them. One thing is for certain.  She killed her own sister, who was going to be the next Queen. Her name likely ends in "-anna."

I would steal some ideas from the 4e adventure Winter of the Witch.  I could even use Koliada the Winter Witch. I did 5e stats for her, but I really don't need stats.  I also have access to the Snow Queen a Winter Fey creature from Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts for 5e.

Snow Queen

If it looks like I am going for evil Elsa, then you would be right. Well. Elsa actually was evil before Disney got to her.

The idea with this Domain is to use the rules presented in Pathfinder Horror Adventures to get my ideas and then the rules from Ravenloft Chapter 2  to detail them. 

I do admit, I am likely to steal some ideas from the old Domain of Vorostokov from the 2nd Ed Darklords book.  The Darklord of that land, Zolnik, was not all that interesting as a Darklord, but the land was.

Think of a landlocked in an endless deadly winter.  Everyone is poor, miserable, cold and the only source of food is what the hunters can bring in.  I would call it Ikkesen.  Combining the Norwegian word for "not" (Ikke) and Irrisen. 

The Dark Domain (5e) / Realm (Pathfinder) is one of Dark Fantasy, but it is also really Survival Horror and just enough Folk Horror to keep you on your toes. Ikkesen rarely gets above sub-zero temps and never above freezing.  It is a dark land of endless winter.  Wolves of the worst sort roam the woods. There are skinwalkers, wendigos, undead and worst things. It is what happens if Ragnarök occurred and the Frost Giants won. 

I will detail this one some more, but I am also waiting to see what I have leftover from War of the Witch Queens.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Of all the RPGs I have looked at so far it is this one I know the least.  Part of the issue is that Pathfinder 2nd Edition is so new, only published in 2019, and I have not had the chance to play it really at all.  Indeed I wasn't even going to pick up but my oldest expressed an interest in playing it so we got it.   He would later return to his true love, D&D 5, but I found I rather liked the books myself.

The problem I am running into here, for today, is I do have so little knowledge about it.  So little in fact that my plan for today was to update a character I had played in PF1 but I only now discovered that the class I wanted, Cavalier, has not been updated to PF2 yet! Though other options are open to me.

The Game: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

As I mentioned Pathfinder 2nd Edition was released back in 2019.  I recall the Paizo "booth" (more like "block") staked full of shiny new Pathfinder books.  I am sure they expected them all to sell out, but I get the feeling that the sales were not as high as they wanted.  Not a huge surprise really.  Pathfinder 1st Edition's success was built on their success with the D&D 3.5 products they had made and no small amount due to the failures of D&D 4th Edition.  Today, or at least in 2019, D&D 5 is a huge success and some gamers have gone from Pathfinder back to D&D.   

Also as I said I was not originally going to pick this game up, but I changed my mind after going over the playtest materials and my son wanting to get it.  There are a lot of really cool ideas here and some I think would work well in D&D 5. For example, Ancestry would be better in D&D 5 over the very outmoded "race" or even the awkward "species."

Much like a software development fork, Pathfinder represents one development off of the D&D 3.x line where D&D 5e is a different fork.  To be fair, Pathfinder is closer to its OGC roots than D&D 5 is, but looking at the games in 2021 you see similar parentage and DNA.  This means that someone could in theory bring the best of both worlds back together into one game.  An interesting thought experiment to say the least.  

One thing I will say for Pathfinder 2nd Edition.  It is designed from the ground up to show new players how to play and give them enough to keep them for a long time.  I think it would be fun to play a character in this from 1st to 20th level in a well-crafted adventure path.  I can see how that would be great.

The Character: Oisín

Character creation in Pathfinder 2 is a more modern process than the games in its, well, ancestry.  While you could easily roll up a character here just like you did in AD&D or D&D 3.x, it behooves me to follow the process here.

Oisín was a character I played in Pathfinder 1st Edition. In the game he was the youngest son of this powerful lord and a witch.  In reality, I decided he was the son of a Paladin/Warrior named Fionn and my witch Labhraín.  In the game, he was searching for who killed his mother and who his true father was. 

In Pathfinder 2nd Ed. we have a variety of character customization options that recreating that character is no longer as interesting as rebuilding him from the ground up.

For this character, I am going to use the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rules and the Advanced Player's Guide which features the witch class.  Also for this character, I am going to start him at 1st level, but advance him to 2nd.  Also, just because, I am going to limit my 1st level choices to the Core Rules, and then 2nd level choices to the Advanced Player's Guide. I have my reasons.

Oisín

Niamh and Oisín

Lawful Neutral half-elf*
Bard 1

Ability Scores
Strength +0 (10)
Dexterity +1 (12)
Constitution +0 (10)
Intelligence +3 (16)
Wisdom +1 (12)
Charisma +4 (18)

Reserves
Hit Points 16/16
Hero Points 1/3
Focus Points 1/1

Defenses
AC 15 (Leather)
Fort +3
Ref +4
Will +6

Senses
Perception (Wis) +6 (E)
Low-light Vision

Tactical
Speed 25ft
Size Medium
Space 5 ft.
Reach 5 ft.

Other
Wealth 2 gp; 80 sp
Bulk 4/10

Attacks (1st/2nd/3rd Strike)

Dagger
Melee +4 / +0 / -4 1d4 Pier
Ranged +4 / +0 / -4 1d4 Pier

Fist
Melee +4 / +0 / -4 1d4 Blud

Longsword
Melee +3 / -2 / -7 1d8 Slsh

Hand crossbow
Ranged +4 / -1 / -6 1d6 Pier

Sling
Ranged +4 / -1 / -6 1d6 Blud

Skills
+6 Academia Lore T
+1 Acrobatics U
+6 Arcana T
+0 Athletics U
+6 Bardic Lore T
+6 Crafting T
+7 Deception T
+7 Diplomacy T
+4 Intimidation U
+4 Medicine T
+4 Nature T
+6 Occultism T
+7 Performance T
+4 Religion T
+6 Society T
+1 Stealth U
+4 Survival T
+1 Thievery U

Feats
Half-elf (Heritage)
Otherworldly magic (Elf, Ancestry)
Assurance - Arcana (Background)
Bardic Lore - Egnima (Bardic Feature)
Composition Spell (Bardic Feature)

Spells

Bard Cantrips
Chill Touch (DC 17) Unlimited +7
Daze (DC 17) Unlimited +7
Light Unlimited +7
Mage Hand Unlimited +7
Shield Unlimited +7

Bard 1st-level Spells
Magic Missile 2/2 +7
Magic Weapon 2/2 +7
True Strike 2/2 +7

I will be honest, this one took me a lot longer to do than expected.

I choose "Half-elf" as both a nod to the original myths of Oisín and to reflect there is something otherworldly about him.  He would not really be a traditional "AD&D Half-elf" more of a human with fey or sidhe blood in him from his father.

At 2nd Level instead of a Bard class feat I am going to take a multi-classed witch feat, Witch Dedication.    Multiclassing in Pathfinder 2nd Ed is a little bit like multiclassing in D&D 4 where you take a feat to gain some of the abilities of that class. This feat gives Oisín access to witch spells and feats as well as a Patron (including skills), and a familiar. 

Since Oisín has Engima as part of his Bard training I am going to choose a Fate Patron. Though there is some overlap here. He would get training in Occultism skill and the True Strike spell, both of which he already has.  I am going to leave this since the Egnima he is following is Fate; they are the same.

This is of course not optimized, but it fits better with my concept of the character, so I'll take the hit. In building this I realized I had unintentionally built the Pathfinder version of the Ghosts of Albion Occult Poet.  I am not unhappy with that.

Again, this is a good character idea, I might try to replicate it in D&D5 with a Bard/Warlock mix, I think it might actually work out a little better there.

Maybe I can even work out his Niamh one day.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Pathfinder 1st Edition

Pathfinder Core Rulebook
Paizo's Pathfinder was a bit of a revolution in the RPG market.  Paizo had been a solid d20/3e publisher in the heyday of the d20/OGL boom, with the zenith of this time actually publishing Dragon and Dungeon Magazines for a time. When WotC opted to move on to 4e, Paizo began their work on an update to the 3.5 OGC ruleset for their own game.  In 2009 the Pathfinder RPG was released and soon there became two "Big names" in the RPG biz; Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. 

The Game: Pathfinder, 1st Edition

Pathfinder quickly took on players that played D&D 3.x but who did not want to go on to D&D 4. Pathfinder was informally called "D&D 3.75" and moving between Pathfinder and D&D 3.x was fairly trivial compared to D&D 3.x and 4e.  Additionally, Paizo gave Pathfinder robust support both in terms of online presence and their Pathfinder Organized Play.  Releasing the rules as an open playtest was deemed so successful that many other companies, including WotC for D&D5, adopted it.

Paizo also released a number of high-quality sourcebooks, many of which are backward compatible with D&D 3.x. I am particularly fond of the Advanced Player's Guide, Book of the Damned, Bestiary 4 (for the mythos monsters), Occult Adventures, and Horror Adventures. I consider these part of my "core" for Pathfinder.  The witch-centric "Regin of Winter" Adventure Path is a must-have for me.

I have posted a lot about Pathfinder here. I enjoy the game but I don't play it all that much anymore. Still, I enjoy reading over the material.

My "Core" Pathfinder books

The Character: Labhraín

I played in a Pathfinder game that I treated as an alt-Universe version of my 3e/4e game universe. I held the idea that the two universes I was playing (4e vs. Pathfinder) had a similar start (3e) and then diverted.  The Pathfinder universe had devils as their "big bad" while 4e (running the Orcus-themed HPE series) had demons. Some characters were the same in each world.  Labhraín was the Pathfinder version of Larina. 

Here, because of the influence of various devil cults from the former Chelaxian Empire, Labhraín hid her status as a witch.  I took a page from "Prime World" Larina, who faked being a wizard to hide as a witch, to Labhraín faking being a priestess to hide being a witch.  I did not do much with the character but use her as a backstory to my cavalier character that I was playing at the time.  The belief was that Labhraín was dead.  I detail my other character tomorrow.

ePic Character Generator portrait of a witch
ePic Character Generator
Labhraín

Human (Ulfen) witch 1 (Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide 65)
LN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +0; Senses Perception +1

Defense

AC 10, touch 10, flat-footed 10
hp 7 (1d6+1)
Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +3; +1 trait bonus vs. divine spells

Offense

Speed 30 ft.
Special Attacks hex (charmAPG)
Witch Spells Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +4)
   1st—charm person (DC 14), cure light wounds
   0 (at will)—daze (DC 13), light, read magic
   Patron Fate

Statistics

Str 9, Dex 11, Con 11, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 16
Base Atk +0; CMB -1; CMD 9
Feats ScholarISWG, Silent Spell
Traits classically schooled, history of heresy
Skills Bluff +4, Diplomacy +4, Disguise +4, Knowledge (arcana) +9, Knowledge (religion) +6, Spellcraft +8
Languages Common, Elven, Infernal, Jistka, Skald
SQ witch's familiar (cat named Scamall)

Special Abilities

Charm +1 (3 rounds, DC 13) (Su) Improve attitude of humanoid or animal in 30 ft. by 1 step(s).
Empathic Link with Familiar (Su) You have an empathic link with your Arcane Familiar.
Familiar Bonus: +3 to Stealth checks You gain the Alertness feat while your familiar is within arm's reach.
Scholar (Knowledge [arcana], Knowledge [religion]) +2 bonus on two Knowledge skills.
Share Spells with Familiar Can cast spells with a target of "You" on the familiar with a range of touch.
Silent Spell Cast a spell with no verbal components. +1 Level.
Witch's Familiar (Ex) Gain the services of a special familiar that stores spells.

Hero Lab and the Hero Lab logo are Registered Trademarks of LWD Technology, Inc. Free download at https://www.wolflair.com Pathfinder® and associated marks and logos are trademarks of Paizo Inc.®, and are used under license.

I like the way she turned out to be honest.  It's a shame that I think she might be dead! 

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Shadow Week: Courts (and Realms) of the Shadow Fey

What is your favorite edition of D&D? Doesn't matter. This is the adventure you need to try.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let's start at the end, go back to the beginning and work our way back to now.

Shadow Fey

Kobold Press has been around now for a bit and has put out some really quality products for various version of the D&D/Pathfinder game via the various open licenses available to them.  

The Shadow Fey are a race of elves known as the scáthsidhe, or shadow fey. Great name. I wish I had come up with it.  These fey are an elitist, snooty bunch, the worse qualities of Elf to be honest and that is what makes them so great.  They are not really related at all to the Shadow Elves of Mystara nor the Shadar-Kai of the Shadowfell and not even the Drow of many worlds.   But it is easy to see they all live in the same sort of world.  If we are to use D&D 4 & 5 terminologies they live in the area where the Shadowfell intersects the Feywild.  Or the darkest areas of the Land of Faerie.

The shadow fey are present in a number of books from Kobold Press, most notably their two large monster tomes for 5e, The Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition and the Creature Codex for 5th Edition.  Even without knowing much of their background, they are a very interesting race.  They look a bit like a cross between an elf and tiefling. So members are elven, but many also have horns.  I suppose that a satyr is a better comparison.  But it is a reminder, visually, that these are not your Grognards' elves. They can be medium or small creatures. 

Kobold Press has gone all-in on the Shadow Fey. Here are a few products that they have published to support these beings and their courts.

Pathfinder

Dark Fey

This is a 22-page bestiary and guide to the creatures found in the realms of the Shadow Fey.  Based on the Courts of the Shadow Fey this really is a must-have if you plan to play any part of the Shadow Fey adventure or even just want some less-that light fey to encounter.

Advanced Races 11: Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)

This 19 page PDF gives us the Shadow Fey as a playable race. There is some history of the Shado Fey here and even a few more creatures. Additionally, there are some new class archetypes, racial powers, and some new feats.  While it says Pathfinder on the cover there is enough here to use in any game. 

This book in particular makes them more than "drow with horns" or "bad tempered elves."


Dungeons & Dragons 5e

Shadows of the Dusk Queen for 5th Edition

This is a short-ish adventure for 8th level characters in a fairy tale romp. Not a "Disney" fairy tale, but a Brother's Grimm one. A shadowy evil, but sad Queen, needs to reconstitute her broken magic mirror that contains her life force. Doing so will make her powerful again. The PCs have found the five magical shards.

A great little adventure full of dark fairy tale tropes. Easy to run in a session or two and makes for a nice side quest after running the Courts of the Shadow Fey. The Dusk Queen herself is an interesting character that might work well in my War of the Witch Queens Campaign.  In that of course she would need to win at the end of this adventure.

Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition

This 12 page PDF is part of Kobold Press' Deep Magic series. It presents a new Sorcerous Bloodline (Shadow Bloodline), a new Warlock Patron (The Light Eater), and a new Rouge Archetype (The Whisper).  There are also, as expected, new Shadow themed spells. Not explicitly tied in with their Courts of the Shadow Fey, but certainly 100% compatible and thematically appropriate.


These books are all fantastic additions, but the place where they got their start was an adventure for the 4th edition of D&D, Courts of the Shadow Fey.

Courts of the Shadow Fey

This adventure began as a 4th edition adventure for Paragon Tier characters designed to take them from 12th to 15th level.  So remember what I was saying yesterday about an entire 4th edition campaign taking place in the Plane of Shadow?  Well, this can be a significant part of that.

The adventure was then converted over to Pathfinder (with some little oddities here and there) for characters of 7th level to 10th.

Sometime later the adventure was rewritten for 5th edition D&D, with new art and layout. Still for characters level 7th to 10th.

All three were written by Wolfgang Baur.  Ben McFarland aided in the Pathfinder conversion, Dan Dillon helped with the D&D5 rewrite.  The first two versions featured fantastic art by Stephanie Law (which makes me want to convert it to Blue Rose!) and the 5e version features art from Marcel Marcado, who captures our two shadow fey sovereigns. 

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition version, 101 pages. 
Pathfinder version, 130 pages
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition version, 150 pages

This is part adventure and part sandbox, which is really fantastic because there is so much potential here. Much in the same way the D series introduced us to the drow via an adventure, this introduces us to the Shadow Fey.  We meet their sovereigns, the Queen of Night and Magic of the Summer Court and the Moonlit King of the Winter Court.  These are NOT the Seelie and Unseelie of Earth's Faerie Realm, although there are comparisons.  We begin the adventure with the town of Zobek against a backdrop of the King and Queen in their exchange of power.  The adventure kicks in when a Priest of the Sun God is nearly assassinated.  This has my attention already.  Zobek is occupied by Shadow Fey and to find the culprit(s) (who soon make an assassination attempt at the PCs!) the party will need to not only navigate the treachery of the Shadow Lands (Shadow Plane, Shaowfell...) they must also navigate the treachery on the Fey Courts!

One of the key features of this adventure/product is the number of NPCs.  This is not a list of names with professions, these are fully stated out NPCs and each version of the adventure takes advantage of the rules being used.


Ok. Pause. At this point, there are several good reasons to get this. There is a mystery. There is the Shadow Plane deal. There are Fey Courts. Plus there are plenty of mechanics involved to aid the GM and Players in navigating the labyrinth that can be high court intrigue.  In some ways, it makes me happy to have all three versions since I can get different points of view on how to handle different things.  Granted the 4e and Pathfinder versions are similar enough to make the differences be system-specific, but the 5e rewrite really gives me a newer point of view.  Yes, in each case I am seeing a lot of repeated text. That is what I am supposed to see. What idiot is going to buy all three versions except for me?

So we have all that, and we have not gotten into duels of honor (there is a dueling system!), various factions jockeying for control, and how the PCs fit into all that. New creatures. New demons! New magic. Survive a duel? Dude...you are not going to survive diner! 

The Pathfinder/4e versions are a little basic to look at since the was the start of Open Design/Kobold Press.  But Stephanie Law's art is so great to look at that I don't care.  The 5e version is several orders of magnitude better in terms of design. The art is still wonderful but I miss Stephanie Law's vision.


This is one of those adventures where I always find something new with each reading.  I have been pouring over this for the last three weeks and each time I am blown away by the shear potential that lays before me. I feel like I need to reread my history of the Tudors to get my courtly machinations down correctly, but this book certainly helps.  

The party's climax comes with gaining an audience with the Moonlit King himself! What happens? There are many potential outcomes and possibilities. 

If I ever run a Shadow themed campaign then this is at the top of my list. 
If I ever run a pure 4e game, then this is at the top of my list.

I plan to steal ideas from this for other adventures even if I run it as is. 

I purchased all three of the PDFs just have them. It is that much fun.  Also whenever I feel the need to run it I am likely to grab the Print version of the 5e rules. Though I might instead print out the PDFs and collate them so that the material I need/want is where I want it.  Use colored sticky tabs for various plot points.

For example, if I were to merge these with other fey related products then maybe I would consider Autumn and Spring courts here instead of Winter and Summer.  Why?  The shadow fey are creatures of well, shadow. Half-light and half-darkness. I am reviewing this on the Autumn Equinox, half-light, half dark. I did this on purpose.  If I use the Summer and Winter courts for the Seelie and the Unseelie then these could be the Spring (Queen of Magic) and Autumn (Moonlit King) courts and little it lost.  In fact, much is gained. Most of my players, thanks to years of Ghosts of Albion, have come to expect certain things out of the Fey courts as I run them. Dangerous to assume really, but still, they do.  By renaming these into Spring and Autumn I can change those expectations. And it gives me four equal and competing courts.

Regardless of which edition you choose, there is a great adventure/sandbox/resource to be had here.