We continue our Pathfinder Adventure Card Game homebrew series with a look at True Dragons of Absalom by David Jacobson (Theryon Stormrune) and newly crowned Pathfinder Society ACG Online Play venture-captain Tyler Beck (Cartmanbeck).
At PaizoCon 2016, with help of ACG organized play coordinator Tanis O'Connor, we debuted a series of adventures based on the incredibly popular We Be Goblins modules that Paizo has been releasing as part of Free RPG Day over the last few years. We had enjoyed playing the RPG versions of the scenarios so much, and had fallen in love with the tempestuous goblin characters detailed in the modules, so it was natural to try to convert them. We even convinced Tanis to create a special boon for the event (one coveted by many an ACG player since then). Then, before Gen Con 2016, we were honored to be asked to help adapt these into the official Pathfinder Adventure Card Guild Season of the Goblins!
We were thrilled by how well received our goblins content had been, so we decided to set to work on another set of adventures for PaizoCon 2017. There were more We Be Goblins modules we could use for inspiration, but one of our good friends, Elizabeth Corrigan (Eliandra Giltessan), has some sort of personal distaste for goblins—crazy, right??—so she asked us to consider kobolds instead. Coincidentally, one of our all-time favorite Pathfinder Society scenarios features kobolds: Thurston Hillman's (in)famous True Dragons of Absalom! Anytime Paizo provides pregen characters like the ones in that scenario, they beg to be adapted.
True Dragons of Absalom brings players into the slightly crazed mindset of Absalom's sewer-dwelling kobold tribe, the Sewer Dragons. These kobolds are given a field commission by Venture-Captain Drandle Dreng himself to serve the Pathfinder Society in tracking down the perpetrators of a plot involving the Sewer Dragons' turf and a shadowy group calling themselves the Onyx Alliance. Just as exciting as the story, however, is the chance to run through an organized play scenario as a kobold, a race not normally legal for Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild play… and the pregenerated kobolds that come with that scenario do not disappoint.
Engashez represents the most diplomatic of kobolds… a Dragon Yapper bard who, rather than buffing her allies, annoys her enemies into submission with her high-pitched screeching and drumming.
So, we set about adapting the pregens for our game. Everyone who's familiar with Pathfinder kobolds knows that if there's one thing that kobolds are renowned for, it's their traps. They LOVE setting traps. We obviously had to translate this deadly proclivity into character powers, so we came up with a brand-new mechanic for trap-setting.
The nice thing about the trap-setting mechanic is that it gives you the chance to get cards out of your hand while setting up for combat checks later on. You could even set a trap or two at your current location, then move away and let one of your less combat-oriented allies jump over and obliterate a monster.
Once we adapted all six characters, we had to decide on the rest of the storyline. We wanted to have more than a single ACG adventure, so we dove into the Pathfinder Modules archive and found the perfect solution: We would also adapt Crown of the Kobold King and Revenge of the Kobold King. This would give us inspiration for tons of excellent characters for our special adventure path, including Jeva the werewolf-child; the deadly forge-spurned; and Merlokrep, the kobold king himself.
As a bit of a tangent, a lot of the scenarios we were putting together were set in the sewers of Absalom. Did you ever realize how difficult it is to design an entire adventure based in a sewer system? We had to pull locations from several different base sets, as well as create a couple of new sewer locations which were reused throughout the entire Adventure Path. We playtested and modified these until we were satisfied, and it was a bit tougher than we'd imagined.
We designed a bunch of dragon-themed boons, and even commissioned art for a bunch of them by the gifted and talented Keera McNeill; check out more of her work at Vivid As Life Illustrations)! I shudder to think how many playful faerie dragons had to die for my favorite new armor…
We'd like to take a moment at this point to recognize that these cards ended up looking really nice, and we don't want to take all of the credit for that. Besides our awesome artist, we also had help from the one and only Andrew Warner (Hawkmoon269), who created a really excellent card creator database that we used to generate the majority of these new cards.
You'll notice a new Hat trait on that jester's cap. That's because adventure deck 2 of our We Are Dragons homebrew series includes a pleasant surprise for those who have played through True Dragons of Absalom:
Hats is a simple otyugh with simple tastes, and is by far our favorite otyugh of all time.
Hats likes hats. When Hats loses one of his hats, he gets mad. He has only a single role, the Master Collector, which helps him collect even more hats. I think you can see the pattern emerging here. When we sat down to play True Dragons at PaizoCon 2017, one of the first things a player asked was "Is Hats in this?” so we knew we'd made a good choice including him as an unlockable character.
Speaking of PaizoCon, Mike Selinker himself showed up and sat down to play with us, and really enjoyed the characters and scenarios. He also pointed out mistakes and suggested improvements in the scenarios and cards with such precision and care that it would have been impossible not to know that he does this for a living.
We've really enjoyed designing and running these special adventures for PaizoCon, and we're going to continue doing it. For PaizoCon 2018, we've got a very piratey, gobliny campaign planned; if you're planning to attend, we can't wait to see you there!
Tyler Beck and David Jacobson