“The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience.” – Gary Gygax
I hope everyone takes that to heart no matter what game they are playing. Maybe you enjoy the tactical side more than the roleplaying. Maybe you want the story more than the battles. No matter what, you’re doing something together as a group and experiencing something relatively unscripted even if maybe some lines of dialogue or next events are planned like in an Adventure Path. It likely comes as no surprise that I favor the roleplaying and the story elements. It’s why what matters to me is a truly great set of characters to meet and learn about and a world to explore. It’s why I love Golarion and the Age of Lost Omens and the line of books coming out as part of Pathfinder2E so much. But what about those other worlds, some custom but also those framed for another ruleset?
Well before I decided to try D&D 5E, my brother Corey was talking about running a Waterdeep-focused game. My group had never played in a game that stayed primarily in one area, especially a specific city. We’d been tempted to play Hell’s Rebels – an amazing path – and focus on Kintargo, but ultimately we chose to play through Strange Aeons. My brother’s first campaign that ended years ago now was focused on what could have been for Mystra and the other gods if the timeline 4E created had gone a bit differently; of course we didn’t know that at first but soon discovered we were within the Forgotten Realms or at least a pocket dimension bordering it. It’d been a Pathfinder1E game without much specific Forgotten Realms mechanics, NPCs, etc. except the gods. Thus I was now wondering if he was intending to bring us into Waterdeep: Dragon Heist or some 5E derivative.
The City of Splendors
Pathfinder he told us, not 5E. It was the campaign, the stories he loved, he wanted to explore and adventure in together like Gary Gygax said. I was excited and he wanted to start in 2020 with concerns of jumping to Pathfinder2E as the launch had just happened the previous summer. He wanted to see more options first and thought it may take too long. Well, we all know COVID shut down much of the world and changed how we worked, lived, and certainly played games. Waterdeep went on hold but this past summer, it was back on! Some of the limited magic compared to earlier editions (like flight) was a concern, but the value in the 3 action economy and other changes were too good to ignore with more and more options available at every turn. What I appreciate and respect is that my brother has chosen not to try and tackle turning everything into Pathfinder2E rules, only what he needs at the moment and letting that library grow.
For example, I had originally thought about playing a Pathfinder1E Spiritualist and while 2E’s summoner had the possibility of a ghostly or spirit-like summon, I didn’t want that. My point had been to play a spiritualist that called on the city of Waterdeep. Thus Cleric seemed right, especially with some added psychic free archetype that I flavored as my connection to the city. Rather than build out details for every Forgotten Realms deity with Pathfinder2E’s write-ups on domains, weapons, etc. my brother merely focused on what was needed to answer my and the other players’ questions. I needed to know what domains I could take and he answered with cities, magic, and protection. What about favored weapon? Oh that’s the Battleaxe. Easy to answer. We have an elf in our party and I’m intrigued to discover if he’s a moon elf, sun elf, or perhaps another. Considering all the elven heritages like Ancient Elf or Woodland Elf, it’s less about the ancestry line you came from and a bit more about your background but still all are possible. Ancient Elf seems right for Sun Elf after all.
Maybe in time he’ll prep them all, but right now he just wanted to ensure our group could tell their stories as well as have the details he needed to run the story he had in mind, or at least the tales and adventures that would add up to such. Cue countless novels, Forgotten Realms campaign and rule books, as well as an expedia-like amount of information on various wikis. It’s not so much about the 5E (or even 4E or 3E) rules translating into Pathfinder2E, but about capturing the right flavor and using the detailed material of Toril to create the City of Splendors.
Fancy A Game?
While I haven’t seen them, I know he’s created Pathfinder2E statistics for monsters like the Beholder, the Mindflayer, the Malaugrym, and the Ghaunadan. He’s got Elminster, Khelben, Danilo Thann (we met!), PIergeiron Paladinson, Drizzt Do’Urden (of course), and then there’s the one I was hoping to meet. Elaith Craulnober, and it didn’t take too long. My brother crafted up a bit of adventure at the straight from the lore Tymora’s Fancy, the gambling hall owned by Elaith. While we had a run in with him and a few other NPCs while exploring the hall, it was the rules he crafted for the games that he’s given me to share. You could of course use these at any gambling hall or casino like the Gold Goblin in Riddleport! And if you want to ask him for stats that I can’t see, you can reach my brother here.
The name itself is seductive, but it’s merely a card game… unless he’s watching?
How to Play
- All players contribute 1 Silver Shard to the pot
- Dealer – public d20 | Others – secret d20, then bets/bluffs/folds
- Dealer – public d10| Others – secret d10, then bets/bluffs/folds
- Dealer – secret d6| Others – secret d6, then bets/bluffs/folds
- Everyone reveals their dice
How to Win
Objective is for a player’s dice to be closest to the dealer’s, however, if three rolls of the number 6 are present in the game, the Fancy wins.
In the event of a tie, players may do one of the following:
- Agree to split the winnings evenly with the Fancy.
- Reroll, where each player publicly identifies the die they’re rerolling.
This game is not named, but is briefly described as “gem-colored lizards who race” so I named it and made a version of horse-racing suited for a fantasy campaign.
This game is mentioned in various texts, but few details exist outside of a short description. I took the foundation provided and ran with it.
Overseen by a Cleric of Gond, two Clockwork Knights fight “to the death” using different weapons every round. It has the violence of true dueling, but through machinery and a bit of magic no one gets hurt.
Cost to Play
2 Golden Dragons, with the option to pay an additional Golden Dragon for a single “pass”.
How to Play
Requires at least 5 people to play a round. Roll a die and follow the directions below:
- 1 – remove a piece of clothing
- 2 – ask a truth of a member of the game
- 3 – take a drink, rolled at random
- 4 – reveal something personal about yourself
- 5 – give a drink to a member of the game
- 6 – flip a coin and guess correctly to ask a question of Elaith
- 7 – direct a member of the game to remove a piece of clothing
- 8 – wild
How to Win
Successfully complete all 7 die rolls, plus 1 additional.
How to Lose
Any of the following will eject you from the game:
- No longer wearing any clothing
- Too drunk to continue
- Refuse to do part of the game
We actually played Die-spectives with Elaith to learn a bit of information about the city and a recent attack at a wedding…
More To Explore
You see, Tymora’s Fancy was not the only location he brought to life for us. There’s been incredible immersion in the city and experiencing life. Using Dwarven Forge and some other accessories, our initial session started at a wedding in the City of the Dead. He created handouts on language and the calendar so we could quickly get into character as we sought out our way to be present at this wedding. I got myself invited in by way of working for two different guilds, but eventually I was just officiating. The Church of Oghma didn’t show up. Tsk tsk. A priest later told me it was on purpose because of some sign from Oghma but I’m not so sure about that. It was a tremendous first session and you can check out a glimpse of that below.
This development of campaign worlds to other rule sets – using the worlds you love to tell the stories you want – is entirely possible. I ran Dragonlance with 3.5 and then Pathfinder1E, and it wouldn’t be hard with 2E either. You could run kender as halflings for example. You want to play Eberron? There’s Automatons if you want to play a Warforged. Book of the Dead makes it easy to play monsterous and horror like Curse of Strahd. If you’re looking for a magical college like Strixhaven, then you have to attend the Magaambya. The Strength of Thousands adventure path and the Mwangi Expanse setting book are all ya need to explore a rich tutelage of magic. Of course there’s so many ways to build a character, I know I could run another all Wizards of High Sorcery Dragonlance game with 2E. It can honestly go the other way too. The diverse, rich, and exciting cultures and history of Golarion make for an amazing campaign setting. You could easily utilize it for a 5E game, a Powered by the Apocalypse game, FATE, or more.
I want you to have the best group, cooperative gaming experiences possible. Invest in the games and rulesets that help you have fun with your friends and family. You can find all manner of possibilities at your fingertips with Pathfinder2E as you seek to bring your world and campaign to life away from Dungeons & Dragons. If you’ve translated your game to Pathfinder2E or another rule set, join us on Discord and let us know! Maybe Dark Sun’s Athas should be next. If you’ve any concept you need help translating for ancestry, class, and archetype, then I bet Vanessa could help you as she recently offered on twitter!
I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!
I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!
Banner – City of Splendors: Waterdeep, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro
- Waterdeep Nights, Creative Commons Attribution, Deusuum
- City of the Dead area, Dwarven Forge build, Corey Pontious designed