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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Casey Brown

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****½ (based on 2 ratings)

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Into the sewers…

The city of Riverton is home to beggars, goblinoids, humanoids, liars, merchants, soldiers, and thieves. It is also home to Ahren, Page of the Plar’s Court. When Ahren asks for your help retrieving a scroll from a vicious tribe of sewer-dwelling goblins, who are you to say “No?"

"A Page of Scrolls: is the first part of the Shadows of Riverton adventure path and is designed to be played during the course of two four-hour sessions. The scenario can also be run as a standalone adventure in your sandbox campaign as it can easily be adapted for use with any campaign setting.

"A Page of Scrolls" is a module designed for four to six 1st-level characters and uses the medium XP advancement track. Each encounter includes optional scaling suggestions for more powerful parties. Successful completion of the adventure will take brand new 1st-level characters to 2nd level.

The scenario also includes a settlement stat block for the large city of Riverton as well as information about the city’s places of interest and notable NPCs. In addition, each of the city’s districts is detailed with its own settlement stat block to help bring the different parts of the city to life.

This module is compliant with the Open Game License (OGL) and is suitable for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest fantasy roleplaying game. The OGL can be found on page 30 of this product.

Author of numerous RPGA adventures for the Living Greyhawk campaign (Bandit Kingdoms Triad member 2005–2008) and BDKR1: The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdom Summary, Casey has bachelor’s degrees in both History (Texas A&M University) and Creative Writing (University of Houston), a master’s degree in Publishing & Writing (Emerson College), is an army veteran (E-4, 13B, 3HWB/2ACR), has worked as a production editor for Callaloo, a prestigious literary journal, and is editor of Strangelet, a new journal of speculative prose.

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Product Reviews (2)

Average product rating:

****½ (based on 2 ratings)

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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This first module in the Shadows over Riverton AP clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This adventure was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a critical and unbiased review.

Wait: Before we do dive into the SPOILERS, let me make something very clear. Are you interested in Greyhawk's bandit kingdoms? Well, if you've been following my homepage, you'll notice how last Friday, I reviewed basically the unofficial chronicles of the Bandit Kingdoms, right? Right. Note how I enjoyed the sentiments there, the style and everything? How I wished that this institution was still around, that I could play in it? Well, the Living Greyhawk campaign may be gone, but this module, in themes and presentation, very much breathes the spirit of the bandit kingdoms, if not, obviously, the IP. This does mean a couple of things: For one, there is a more than pronounced level of detail available here, with footnotes helping with less common rules, concise use of skills and DCs - the presentation does show the experience of author Casey Brown in the harsh realities of living campaigns - and yes, this includes notes to scale challenges to higher APLs. This level of detail, and this is very important for the potential buyer to know, extends to the eponymous town of Riverton as depicted herein: Apart from the map and the handout, the pdf has no less than 7 pages devoted to Riverton -and the city's details are truly captivating.

Without spoiling anything, here's basically the gist: 18 years ago, The Bastard, a powerful cambion, gathered an army of humanoids and, via the support of shadow demons as assassins, managed to take Riverton and subject it to his brutal yoke. The people did not let that stand, however - they slowly, but surely eliminated the powerful abyssal assassins and then, civil war erupted and Riverton's champions managed to drive The Bastard and his servants from the town. However, a significant population of humanoids remained, which is probably one of the reasons Riverton, to this day, is governed by a Plar - "Someone who rules over a motley group." Beyond the racial tensions between the more monstrous humanoids and the general populace, recent weeks have brought dire warnings and refugees from the North streaming to Riverton, further adding tinder to the explosive cocktail brewing. If that does sound interesting, you'll be happy to hear that Riverton's depiction in its details goes one step beyond what just about every sourcebook does: We get full-blown settlement statblocks and write-ups for not only Riverton, but also beggartown, the somewhat remote harbor town-quarter and the respective districts (!!!), overall generating a truly compelling backdrop, which, in style, presentation and theme would work perfectly with just about every Frog God Games or Raging Swan Press-supplement in theme and style.

So yes, this, theme-wise, pretty much represents the best of Greyhawk-aesthetics. This does extend to creatures though: Goblins are e.g. not illiterate here and the revised background stories and flavor assumed for Golarion does not necessarily hold true within these pages. Which brings me full circle around to the unofficial bandit kingdom summary I mentioned before. In case you haven't noticed: This pdf, in its spirit, detail and style, very much can be considered the heir to the Bandit Kingdoms aesthetics and flavor. Having read the guide, it is very hard to divorce the module's premise from this heritage; you see, the section that amounts to a mini campaign setting with Riverton and its environments reverberates with the stories of the bandit kingdoms to an exceedingly pronounced degree - it feels like the sequel the narrative was always supposed to have.

Okay, this is as far as I can go without resorting to SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs here? We begin with an establishing shot, as the PCs make their way towards the gates of Riverton, towards Flaneur's gate, where access to the city can be gained; against a backdrop of refugees and yes, slavers, the PCs will have a taste of the frontier spirit and rough and tumble mindset beyond the borders, as they can save Stafania Wunderlich Homeagain, a halfling associated with the prominent Homeagain family, from slavers. The level of detail employed here is stunning and something you usually only see in modules by Raging Swan Press or 4 Dollar Dungeons - whether via combat or Intimidation, the pdf is not content in simply resolving the task with a skill check, but takes roleplaying and decisions as well as circumstances into account, extending this care to the consequences of the encounter as well. Beyond this intermezzo, the PCs will also have an easy means of bypassing the notorious anti-elven orc-captain Llerdnirg, who far exceeds the PCs in capability - probably with the help of one Ahren, a clumsy diviner in the employ of the local wizard's college. Pcs that understand Orcish may actually be rewarded with additional read-aloud text, to give you another example for the commendable level of care employed here.

Having entered the city, it is also Ahren that tries to recruit the PCs for a specific task: You see, the clumsy diviner has lost a scroll, which has fallen into the canalization under Riverton, a place that is the home of quite a few unpleasant folks. It is here that the brief mini-dungeon episode begins, as the PCs climb down into the canals to retrieve the scroll. The canals as such extend the level of detail employed for the social encounters above ground to the terrain and encounter with both intelligent and nonintelligent adversaries, providing a diverse set of challenges and including means for nonviolent conflict resolution, tough as those may be.

So yeah, while you may well roll your eyes at a sewer level, it actually is a well-crafted one, with a handy GM-reference for underwater combat being included in the deal. Beyond that, it should be mentioned that, while CR-appropriate, this is no hand-holding exercise: There are ample harder modules out there, but PCs unwilling to act and fight smart will be tested to their limits if Fortuna does not favor them. The brief sojourn into the stinking and infectious depths does end with some interesting loose ends: Hints towards a conspiracy/slaver-ring and the very nature of the scroll - blood biography - render the potential for future developments more than pronounced, particularly since the PCs will have had their first taste of the sunken remnants of former ages of Riverton below the surface...and since they may have made a tenuous alliance with goblins...or eradicated them completely. The overall sense with which this pdf leaves you is one of baited anticipation - much like a good establishing shot/first module, this seeds a lot of hooks and potential and provides a fascinating vista for further developments and already points towards a serious array of potential consequences for the actions of the PCs. The pdf also sports a new spell that lets you detect hidden writing and the scroll case in question is actually a new magic item.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are superb - I noticed not a single glitch. Layout adheres to a clean two-column full-color standard with the pages sporting a yellowish used parchment look. The artworks are serviceable and the full-color map is neat as well, though we do not get a player-friendly map to cut up and present to the players. I hope that future installments of the series will sport a map of Riverton, but for the purpose of this module, it is not (yet) required and therefore absent. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a nasty comfort detriment. The print version is thus preferable and can be considered to be a nice, solid softcover.

Casey Brown's "A Page of Scrolls" is an establishing shot of a module: It establishes a tone, connections and challenges, a specific design approach and does so with flying colors. The flair and atmosphere evoked are superb and captivating, particularly for those of us even remotely familiar with the bandit kingdoms, to which this is a predecessor in anything but closed IP. That being said, as much as I adore the flavor and design approach, the level of detail and care, this module ultimately remains just that - the establishing shot. If you take the level of detail, the atmosphere and the setting up away and look at this on its own, it loses some of its appeal due to the overall brevity of the module. The easiest means of understanding what this is would be to simply picture this as an excellent first part in a multi-part organized play saga, with some excellent gazetteer-style information added. As such, the module feels a bit lacking in its resolution, but does so by design. In the end, this made me exceedingly excited to see where the saga will go from here, but also left me somewhat dissatisfied regarding cliffhangers or first, pronounced consequence, instead just hinting at the things to come.

It is thus, that I arrive at a final verdict of 4 stars, with the explicit note that I can't wait to see where this series will go.

Endzeitgeist out.


*****

A Page of Scrolls is an adventure that serves an adventure that serves as part one for more to come. As an adventure product I'll try to get by without any spoilers to players while still giving a general impression of what it's like.

The backstory of this book is such: Big evil guy takes over the city and the citizens spend almost two decades ousting him in an insurgency campaign. However now the city is getting an influx of refugees fleeing from some threat in a nearby civilization. The PCs are there for reasons looking for adventure.

The first bit is probably the most difficult of the adventure to manage. It starts off with the PCs helping to free a pickpocket but its in a way that the PCs have to be altruistic enough to step into things that's not their own business. With a bunch of typical adventurer types the scene plays out to make at least one party member want to get involved. but I've had plenty of tables where the party would just avoid something like this. Overall this is the fault of not having any real assumptions that the PCs have to fill in. They don't start off with an inherent direction and aren't in any direct danger so the pieces that kick off the entire story is somewhat avoidable. On the flip side the PCs have to definitely not be Lawful Stupid or they're liable to burn the whole town to the ground.

Other than that the adventure is fairly basic. As the first instance of an adventure path it is lacking a few things. Mostly more locations to interact with and a guide to leveling for those of us who don't do leveling by XP. It also feels much more like a module over the beginning of an adventure path. I would say that with a normal party this all will take three sessions to complete the adventure even if they blow a lot of time roleplaying. Its basically a go in the dungeon and find a thing quest that's more complicated than it seems but still simple for the adventurers. I can definitely see it as a good generic thing for first time adventurers to get into without being overwhelmed by a bunch of story things that don't matter. This is still while giving enough details to know that the area is a lot more complicated and is capable of delivering more adventure and more complexities as time goes on.

The adventure gives you quite a bit to set the mood and flesh out details, particularly at the beginning. It also leaves room for expansion. The appendix gives you enough to work with to liven up the experience for the players. Despite needing to hit the rails hard at the beginning the city is expanded enough where you can sandbox a bit once the adventure proper is started. Once you get to dealing with the dungeon at hand the whole thing is pretty dense. I'm sure you're going to retreat to level and rest at least once. If you're running with a bunch of optimized characters the whole thing isn't terribly challenging but whenever a whole group of monsters show up there are variable amounts that the book lists so that you can up the challenge. If they get to level three though it will be a cake walk either way. Normal adventurers will be challenged a bit but nothing too stressful.

The artwork is charming for what it is. It feels very old school and more evocative than detailed. The dungeon maps definitely feel home made but not in a way that really detracts from the whole experience. There's definitely roleplaying opportunities outside for the dungeon.

Overall I like it. Its simple but can lead to a lot which is what one would expect of a 'part one' adventure. I cannot see it as the first book of an adventure path because really not much happens but it is a pretty decent module that can be used as an intro to your own adventures. You have what serves as a home base with lots of opportunities and problems which serves as great 'blank space' for more story. It has some rough edges but covers a lot of bases and gives you what you need to run a decent adventure that leads to greater things. I want to give it four out of five stars but I'll knock it up to five because really whatever adventures are further down the line makes or breaks it. Its decent and does it's job well but isn't particularly memorable, except for that it's hinting at more exciting thing and leaving threads to go there easily, whether it's further adventures from Casey Brown or something that you make up yourself.


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