We all expect to spend money on items that are valuable to us, and I had no problem shelling out for this piece, as it looked as if it could be awesome.
However, when I received it and read through it, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Not only is a huge swath of information contained here rehashed, but the new additions are generally underwhelming.
As icing on the cake of disappointment, the usual Paizo sexism is present, with all pronouns referring to players defaulting to the female for some reason. Are all of Paizo's players now female? Do they want only female players? As well, the vast majority of gendered art portrays female characters. Discriminating against men is just as bad as discriminating against women, Paizo. Shame.
About halfway through, and as of now, I see no reason to continue the Path, and will sell this module.
The premise is...fine...but provides no meaningful motivation for the PCs to stick around, instead of simply helping the refugees flee, and trekking the 100 miles to a safe town. Instead, the PCs are railroaded into making a home in the forest right outside the occupied town, and somehow not being obliterated by the 1000+ troops right next door.
As with nearly all recent Pathfinder adventures, editing errors riddle the pages, creating distractions. What's more, distraction continues and verisimilitude fails as character after character is female, including nearly the entire troglodyte tribe encountered. So much for Paizo's claims of gender equality. Instead, this is gender activism, and detracts from the story (-1 star).
This is possibly the greatest module Paizo has produced, and it's one of the oldest. This has nearly everything you could want, is challenging, and incredibly flavorful. It evokes the Elder Mythos feeling much better than Strange Aeons did.
Gallows of madness could be an excellent low-level module; however, certain issues undermine it.
First, the positives - the adventures are generally thematic, fun, and well-connected, with interesting players in the plot. Connecting the three short adventures is also seamless.
However, issues with gender activism (discrimination) and editing (a recurring issue for Paizo) prevent me from being able to recommend this module, or playing it without modification for my party.
Gender Discrimination - All of the positive hero-type characters are female, while the villain is a white male. Ugh. Very blatant and ham-handed gender discrimination, likely the work of the development lead. As well, Nixa and Nolaria are not major players in these adventures, yet get huge write-ups in the back of the module, with extensive and overdone backgrounds. By the way, these backgrounds also speak to the gender discrimination rampant in this module. For instance, Nixa's mother fought in the goblinblood wars, while her father stayed home to care for the kids.
Editing - Editing issues plague nearly ever Paizo product. They really do need to get better editors. Here are a few examples:
- In area K18, the secret door is said to be to area C19, which does not exist. Should read to area K9.
- In the same flooded cellar, K18, it's a DC10 swim check to swim under a barrel, yet in the Collapse challenges, doing exactly the same thing is listed as a DC12 CON check.
In short, if Paizo would simply focus on the story, and stop trying to make social statements with their products, they would likely appeal to a broader audience, and sell more products. As it stands, they are undermining their own otherwise worthwhile products.
Disappointing ending to a disappointing adventure path.
Major issues in this series continue with this installment. Again, the module start off strong with evocative, flavorful encounters upon the party's arrival in Carcosa, but again, as with its predecessors, it falls apart.
However, the highlight of this adventure, as with many installments of this Path, is the absolutely amazing Pathfinder Journal entry by Adam Daigle. Huzzah, good sir.
- Major issues with descriptions matching art: two "pureblood Azlantis" look like completely different ethnicities, Armel is described as being overweight, but is illustrated as quite thin, and with a revolver, despite one not appearing in his description.
- Potentially epic battles are not appropriately foreshadowed and built up, leaving them falling flat.
- The sudden and unnecessary inclusion of firearms into the campaign is jarring and off-putting.
- Not enough of the encounters are directly related to the main plot thread, and instead waste the party's time on errands and sidequests.
- The formulaic nature of these adventure paths is again a weakness, with an over-reliance on violence and battle forced upon the party.
- In what has become a recurring issue for Paizo, creature descriptions do not match illustrations (eg. a creature described as having crimson eyes is illustrated with green; a creature described as having a small mouth has an enormous maw in the illustration).
- Most importantly, the "feel" of the adventure is nothing like you would expect from an elder mythos module. If you aren't going to inject that dynamic and sense into the adventure, why even bother making this path?