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Meepo

Jeffzilla's page

21 posts. 7 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.



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An amazing conclusion to a great AP!

*****

This sixth installment of the 'Ironfang Invasion' wraps up an excellent Adventure Path with a suitably heroic ending. In my previous reviews, I've been able to discuss the narrative arc of the Adventure Path in general terms, without revealing any major spoilers, but those spoilers all lead somewhere in "Vault of the Onyx Citadel," making it exceedingly difficult to discuss the twists and turns in this part of the story. Suffice it to say that players begin this leg of the Adventure Path at 16th level and should be 18th level at its conclusion. Having organized and led a small group of resistance fighters against an invading hobgoblin army, and having learned a great deal about the arcane magics that these enemy forces are using to great tactical effect on the battlefield, the players' previous adventures have earned them seats at a major war council. This opening encounter has a very "Council of Elrond" feel to it and is a fantastic roleplaying opportunity-- literally one of the best pure roleplaying encounters that Paizo has ever written. Many of the allied parties who attend this meeting were likely brought into the alliance as a result of the player characters' actions, giving them credibility and status at a council which is also attended by some of Nirmathas' greatest, most legendary heroes. This is great stuff, truly epic! Anyway, at the council, a dramatic course of action is decided upon, sending the players to a dangerous, hobgoblin-occupied location which will be very familiar to them from previous events-- a location which several of the players likely called 'home' prior to the invasion-- giving this combat-heavy encounter added emotional heft and further intensifying what should already be another powerful roleplaying experience. From there-- and this is where I have to begin obfuscating a bit to avoid major spoilers-- the player characters should be able to appropriate some of the magical power which the invading hobgoblin army been using, allowing them to finally confront the enemy on its own terms. Once all of the dust has settled and the AP plot-line has reached its conclusion, this resolution presents the player characters with a new strange, unknown realm to explore, setting the stage for the next chapter of the players' mighty adventures.

All in all, the "Ironfang Invasion" Adventure Path begins with three top-shelf installments which are literally among the best things that Paizo has produced, which are then followed up by two quite-good chapters, and then the AP strikes gold with this finale. This series stands toe-to-toe with classic Paizo Adventure Paths like Rise of the Runelords or Kingmaker. I highly recommend this AP to anyone looking for a great Pathfinder campaign.


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The weakest length in an incredibly strong chain

****( )

"Prisoners of the Blight," the fifth installment of 'The Ironfang Invasion' Adventure Path, is the weakest link in one of the best Paizo Adventure Paths in recent memory. This leg of the adventure picks up an indeterminate length of time ("a few days or weeks") after the events of Siege of Stone, with the player characters still recuperating at the dwarven sky citadel of Kraggodan. The players are approached by a dwarven scholar that they befriended during the previous adventure, who offers a suggestion that the fey folk of blighted Fangwood Forest-- sworn allies of Kraggodan-- might also make suitable allies against the invading hobgoblin marauders who have plagued the characters' homelands thus far. This leads the characters into a cursed (perhaps haunted?) wood, seeking to locate a mythical fey ruler, deliver a sound defeat to the blighted evil which infesting the forest, and hopefully lead the fey of Fangwood to join the alliance against the titular Ironfang Invasion. The resulting adventures, intended to take player characters from 14th to 16th levels, are interesting and well-written, but they also lead the players into side quests which feel like a further diversion from the primary hobgoblin threat; straying even farther away from the hobgoblin menace almost makes these encounters feel like they've been "tacked on" to the campaign's primary story arc. The beginning of "Prisoners of the Blight" also feels like it wraps up details which would have been better interwoven into previous NPC interactions in Kraggodan, only reinforcing my perception that the page count for "Siege of Stone" had probably run a bit long, requiring it to be trimmed a bit prior to publication-- and perhaps pushing some of the character interaction from that book to become text-box exposition material at the start of this book. That's a real shame, because the player characters should have developed genuine relationships with the dwarves of Kraggodan by this stage of the campaign, and the setup for "Prisoners of the Blight" could have been presented much more effectively as a two-way interaction (perhaps between the players and Kraggodan's entire Evenhanded Synod!) rather than being reduced to a bit of text-box background information. If the adventures in this book didn't present so much potential for fun roleplaying, that might be a problem, but "Prisoners of the Blight" somehow manages to pull it off-- yes, this installment still delivers the goods. For all of these reasons I docked "Prisoners of the Blight" one star, but I still consider it a decent enough installment in a truly great adventure path. Most of the encounters in this book take place in wooded rural wilderness, with a fair bit of exploring abandoned ruins-- and the blighted, decayed quality of the woods gives both locales a twisted, malignant ambiance, adding a lot of flavor to your game. In short, "Prisoners of the Blight" demonstrates that the weakest link in an incredibly strong chain can still be pretty darned solid.


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Another good solid entry

****( )

AP # 118, "Siege of Stone," is a good solid continuation of what may be the best Paizo Adventure Path in recent memory. Taking a slight change of tact, this leg of the campaign takes players out of the wilderness frontier and plunges them deep into the Darklands, possibly creating a bit of a 'fish out of water' element for your player characters. Needless to say, the underground setting in "Siege of Stone" is chock full of adventure set-pieces hearkening back to old-school tunnel crawls and dungeon runs. A copy of Paizo's 'Monster Codex' might be useful when running this part of the story, since several of the fixed encounters in this part of the campaign are lifted from that book, but full stat blocks are provided, so not having a copy of the Codex shouldn't be a deal-breaker. About two-thirds of the way in, players have a terrific roleplaying opportunity-- something which later plot elements will hinge upon-- so the hardcore roleplayers in your gaming group will have a blast with this part of the story. This roleplaying encounter is incredibly well-written, with clear objectives and outcomes, so that DM's will have no problem staging the encounter or determining the party's degrees of success/failure. Finally, the story culminates with another dungeon exploration scenario, and this time the stakes are raised so that it's an unusually high-risk, high-reward proposition. This is a really nasty scenario, offering the very real prospect of a character death or two, but it's not an automatic TPK by any means. My only major criticism of this volume, and the reason that I docked AP # 118 one star when writing this review, is that the first leg of the adventure feels like it ought to be longer, with more preplanned encounters, as if perhaps it had been trimmed a bit out of page count concerns-- but that isn't anything that can't be fixed with a little DM creativity and elbow grease! The "Heroes of the Darklands" Pathfinder Player's Companion and the "Darklands Revisited" Pathfinder Campaign Setting will probably come in handy for DM's wishing to flesh this part of the adventure out a bit. Of the first four installments in the "Ironfang Invasion" Adventure Path (# 115-118), "Siege of Stone" is definitely the one which will benefit most from a little additional DM planning and prep time. On the plus side, the gazetteer for Kraggodan, the ancient dwarven sky citadel, is really interesting, painting one of the clearest portraits yet of what dwarven civilization and daily life are like in Golarion. Four out of five stars.


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Wow. Just wow.

*****

I'm starting to feel like Paizo has really outdone themselves with this Adventure Path. It's becoming obvious that each installment in the series strives for a different theme-- and that these thematic elements flow logically from one volume to the next, taking players on a journey which is as emotional as it is glorious. While AP # 115 was about fleeing for survival in the face of brutal, overwhelming savagery, for example, and while AP # 116 was about securing a place of refuge and creating a sense of community and home in the untamed frontier, "Assault on Longshadow" is about finally going on the offensive-- even if the players are only taking their first few cautious, tentative steps along those lines. In terms of adventure content, "Assault on Longshadow" has a fair amount of wilderness exploration, a couple of roleplaying opportunities (one of them is pivotal, in terms of story arc), and a series of hit-and-run engagements against the enemy-- culminating in the Adventure Path's first major battle. What else can I say? I don't know if the quality of this Adventure Path can be sustained over another three volumes, but halfway in, it's off to a more than impressive start. Five stars.


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Sets the stage

*****

The Ironfang Invasion Player's Guide does exactly what all AP player guides ought to do: it gives players some idea about what to expect during the AP, it spells out which races, classes, and other character options would make the most sense in the campaign (both from a backstory perspective and in terms of usefulness during gameplay), and it provides a quick overview of the territory where the characters will be adventuring. It also gives players a basic explanation of how the new militia rules described in this AP will work. Some of the previous AP players guides offer little more than cinematic or thematic flavoring, along with a few broad suggestions, as opposed to the recommendations in this book, which are useful, detailed, and specific. This is a great player's guide, possibly the best one yet, and I hope it sets the standard for all future AP player's guides-- five out of five.


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