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Mad Scientist

Jhaeman's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 166 posts. 51 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.



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Fantastic Writing

*****

The idea behind Classic Horrors Revisited is to take ten classic "horror" monsters from D&D's past and expand and update them for Pathfinder. This is the sort of book that could be a bit "blah" in lesser hands, but Paizo put their A-list writing talent on the project: James Jacobs, Rob McCreary, and Wes Scheider. The result is a really good book that adds depth and detail to these monsters while sticking fairly closely to the common understanding of how they operate. In other words, this book isn't a crazy-cool re-imagining of the monsters, but a well-written, cohesive elaboration.

Classic Horrors Revisited is a 64-page, full colour book. I would label the interior artwork as "okay". Better than most other companies', but not as good as Paizo has done in other books. The interior front cover lists books and films that can serve as inspiration for using each of the monsters, while the interior back cover is a reprint of the front cover art (which is a bit too-obviously Dracula to interest me).

The ten monsters covered are: Derro, Flesh Golems, Gargoyles, Ghosts, Ghouls, Hags, Mummies, Vampires, "Walking Dead" (zombies and skeletons), and Werewolves. Each monster receives six pages of coverage, and each entry is broken down into a "flavour" page (a half-page illustration and a half-page in-universe bit of prose), a couple of pages of overview and ecology/society, a few paragraphs on their role in a campaign (which I really liked), a paragraph on two or three known monsters of that kind in Golarion, and then a named NPC example with full stat block and picture. Most monster entries also contain at least a little rules-option "crunch," such as variants, new feats, etc. Here's a little more info about each of the entries:

1. Derro: I really love the Pathfinder approach to Derro--they are creepy, malevolent, and almost alien abductors of people on the surface so that they can perform strange experiments and then return them with no or fragmented memory of what happened. This book introduces four new Derro weapons (Aklys, Crystal Chakram, Fauchard, and Injection Spear) and a new poison (Cytillesh Extract). The sample is Evehxa, a derro magister (enclave leader) and 6th-level sorcerer.

2. Flesh Golem: This will sound stupid, but I never really made the connection between flesh golems and Frankenstein's monster before reading this book! The section has a good discussion of different types of flesh golems, and the writing and world lore is superb. Rules are provided for awakened (sentient) flesh golems, as well as for electrified and unholy variants. The sample is the Beast of Lepidstadt, an awakened flesh golem that haunts Ustalav (written up with 6 levels of barbarian).

3. Gargoyle: I've never found anything particularly interesting about gargoyles in the past, but this book has changed my mind. It's made them scary! Their love of sadism and perverse games gives them an interesting role as capable of inflicting both physical and mental pain. Six variant gargoyles are discussed (arctic, forest, gemstone, obsidian, sandstone, and waterspout), making them useful in far more than just urban environments. The sample is "Ajekrith, the Nightwing Snatcher", a gargoyle with 4 levels of rogue who preys on lone wanderers in Magnimar's Underbridge District.

4. Ghost: There's an insightful discussion here about the differences between ghosts and other undead: not only are they usually bound to a fixed location, but they exist for a particular purpose. I've panned the artwork in this book, but the picture on page 22 of a ghost carrying its own head is fantastic. This entry provides new abilities for ghosts depending on why they're materializing; it's a great way to better tie a ghost's powers to its story, and I highly recommend using it. The sample ghost is Maven Mosslight, a ghost with 9 levels of sorcerer who seeks her lost love in the Boarwood in Galt.

5. Ghouls: I've been running an adventure path that happens to features ghouls quite prominently in one chapter, so I've had a lot of time to think about them. This entry offers some surprisingly deep insights into them. And, I managed to incorporate the symptoms of ghoul fever into the game when a PC got infected. So . . . bonus! This entry includes rules for making ghouls of larger and smaller races, as well as specific mention of what happens if other creatures (like lycanthropes or fire giants) get transformed. Three new feats are added for ghouls, but they have *really* high prerequisites and only exceptional ghouls would be able to qualify. Still, I like them in the abstract: one gives a ghoul bonuses for eating brains, one allows ghouls to pass as humans (and ghasts to suppress their stench), and one gives a ghoul a burrow speed. The sample ghoul is Ehrimun, a 14th level necromancer exiled from the ghoul city of Nemret Noktoria.

6. Hags: I've never really used these in a game, but the entry does provide a useful discussion of the relationship between the three most common types of hags (Annis, green, and sea hags) as well as night hags. There's some discussion of the powers that hag covens (as opposed to individual hags) could possess. The sample is Ulla Jarnrygg, a formidable hag with 9 levels of sorcerer and ice giant ancestry.

7. Mummies: There's an excellent discussion here of the role of mummies in a campaign: as (un)living transmitters and reminders of the game world's history. Mummies are often focussed on recreating the society and time period from when they died, and this allows GMs to incorporate otherwise dry historical information as an important part of a story arc. The entry gives four different ways to re-flavour mummy rot, and the sample mummy is very cool: Shielseis, Queen of Asps in Osirion. The artwork for her is great.

8. Vampires: I'm one of those annoying people who think vampires have been overused in pop culture, and frankly there wasn't anything in this entry that I found new or exciting. The entry offers five new variant vampire abilities, including everything from changing into a swarm to being able to survive longer in daylight. The sample vampire is Audbrey Aldamori, a pretend "aristocratic fop" who travels the Inner Sea feasting on those of noble blood.

9. Walking Dead: We're talking zombies and skeletons here, and Pathfinder sticks with the traditional concept of them being mindless, low-level threats. The artwork in this entry is pretty bad. There's 13 variants, however, which really spice things up. Throw some "Exploding Skeletons" or "Gasburst Zombies" at your players and watch them recoil in surprise! The sample is a "Gillamoor Plague Zombie", which (unlike all the other samples in the book) is not a named NPC.

10. Werewolves: This entry has a good, clear summary of what it means to be a werewolf in Pathfinder (different forms, means of transmission, etc.). I was intrigued by a passing mention of good werewolves inspired by the dead god Curchanus. The sample NPC is Ruxandra Katranjiev, a werewolf with levels in ranger who is also a cleric of the goddess Jezelda and wants to purge the Varisian town of Wolf's Ear of all non-werewolf lycanthropes.

Classic Horrors Revisited is an older book (2009), and some of the monsters here have also been revisited in more recent Pathfinder products (such as ghouls and vampires in the Monster Codex and derro in the Inner Sea Monster Codex). That being said, there's great value for the money here if a GM is hoping to gain better understanding of these monsters and to add more depth to running them in a storyline. Bestiaries can give a basic stat block, but usually don't have room for much description, making books like this one quite useful. As I said at the beginning, the writing is top-notch even if the artwork is of varying quality. I'd definitely recommend this one for a GM who is interested in any of the monsters covered.


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Interesting look at non-traditional heroes

***( )( )

NO SPOILERS

Well, you know from the title that this book involves the Worldwound, which in the official Pathfinder campaign setting of Golarion is a massive tear in the fabric of reality through which demonic armies of the Abyss have invaded and established a foothold. With such a setting, you could expect, and wouldn't be disappointed, to find gore, horror, and demons aplenty. The novel is extremely effective in its depiction of demon-scarred lands, but it's not relentlessly dark. The protagonists, although in a terrible situation, hold enough personality and interest to keep the story flowing. This is one of those books where the reader isn't guaranteed a happy ending--and that makes it all the more exciting to get to the end and see what happens! I think my only real criticism is that the author tries too hard to subvert expectations by having traditional heroes turn out to be foolish, weak, or evil and traditional rogues end up showing all of the virtues of courage, friendship, etc. All in all, this is a good, well-written fantasy story of especial interest to readers who a) like demons or b) like non-traditional heroes.

SPOILERS

The elevator pitch for this book would be "The gang from Ocean's 11 have a heist planned in Sauron's tower from Lord of the Rings." After a demon attack on Mendev kills a long-time accomplice, a skilled con man named Gad vows revenge. He assembles a diverse group of criminal types for a potentially deadly mission: he wants to infiltrate the Tower of Yath, a major new presence in the Worldwound, and steal the mystical orb that allows it to exist, thus dealing a heavy blow to the demons' plans. One of the strong points of the book is characterization, as each of the team members have distinct personalities and skills. In addition, Robin Laws does a fantastic job with the setting: the Worldwound definitely feels like no place else on Golarion, and is definitely not the place an adventuring party wants to visit! A surprisingly long chunk of the book takes place within the tower itself, and those scenes are fraught with tension and surprises. The weaknesses of the book, in my mind, are twofold and relate to what I wrote about above. First, the author really goes out of his way to make the paladins and crusaders fighting against the tide of demons seem like arrogant, simple-minded idiots destined to fail. Second, there's not enough motivation provided for why Gad (and especially the others) decide to undertake this mission when there is almost no chance of profit. I get that revenge can be a powerful motivator, but we don't even get any backstory to explain why/if Gad and his dead friend were so close, or why all of the team members that Gad recruits would undertake what is portrayed as a near suicidal mission to help him get revenge against a fairly abstract enemy. In general, I think the idea of subverting fantasy tropes by having a group of rogues sneak and bluff their way into the tower instead of knights fighting their way in is great; it just seemed like some depth to the story was missing to make the character's actions plausible.


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Everyone GM Should Own One

*****

Monster Codex is a fantastic 256-page hardcover collection of new rules, variants, and background on twenty classic monstrous races for Pathfinder. The full-colour artwork inside is excellent and the book is laid out quite well. I'm not a particularly big "monster guy", but I found this book quite interesting and readable, and enjoyed finishing an entry every night before bed, often drifting off to sleep with fun (and nefarious) new ideas.

Each entry is twelve pages long and includes a half-page picture and a half-page of in-universe flavour text, followed by a really well-written page of description and background that goes far beyond what's available in a Bestiary. Each monster then receives about two pages of new rules, the exact content of which varies--it could be new archetypes, magic items, spells, feats, favored class options, and more. Some of these options could be taken by anyone, but most are limited to members of the particular race. Next, each entry has six pages of full stat-blocks for variant or specialized members of the race, many of which span a range of Challenge Ratings (CRs) (often through the addition of class levels) so that particular monstrous races don't become obsolete once the PCs reach a certain level. GMs might be surprised how useful this is in expanding the options they have when designing storylines, and the entries include a good mix of martial and caster variants. After that, a new creature associated with the race is presented in a one-page stat block--these are often some sort of animal (or animal-like) companion or pet often present. Last, there's a one-page summary of a few different types of encounters (of varying CRs) in which the PCs might come into conflict with the race--note that these are not true encounters detailed in the sense of maps, terrain, etc., but more like common ways the monsters might be encountered and the number and types that they'll bring to the occasion.

Since there's twenty entries, I can't go into full detail on each, so what follows is more like a list with some very brief comments of things that caught my particular attention added in.

1. Boggards. It was interesting to learn that they have a much more complex society than they might seem to at first glance. [3 new alternate racial traits, 4 new favored class options, 5 new feats, one new spell, 2 new magic items.]

2. Bugbears. The flavour text for this is fantastic (and chilling!). I've always thought of Bugbears and just larger orcs before, but this really helps to distinguish them (and make them scary). There's a really clever spell introduced (Isolate) that renders a creature invisible and silent, but only to their own allies! The artwork for the Bugbear Tyrant (a CR 13 antipaladin) is simply fantastic! [1 new Antipaladin archetype, 7 new feats, 1 new spell, 2 new magic items]

3. Drow. [2 new alchemist discoveries, 3 new feats, 2 new pieces of equipment, 2 new magic items]

4. Duergar. The picture of the Duergar Monk makes me laugh because of that huge pot belly! [2 new alternate racial traits, 3 new feats, 2 new weapons, 3 new spells, 1 new magic item]

5. Fire Giants. There's a new Oracle Mystery introduced here (Apocalypse) that one of the PCs in my Rise of the Runelords game has taken. So you never know what will prove useful in a game. I also like the new creature, a Steam Hog--a huge, tusked boar; a mounted Fire Giant cavalier would be terrifying! [1 new Oracle mystery, 1 new feat, 2 new spells]

6. Frost Giants. [7 new feats, 2 new spells, 4 new magic items]

7. Ghouls. I've been reading Classic Horrors Revisited at the same time as this book, so I was mildly surprised to see the race again here. But I like ghouls, so that's okay. The artwork here is great, and I really like the variant ghoul--the Masked Marauder (a CR 8 ghoul bard), who would be a great mastermind villain for an urban campaign. [1 new sorcerer bloodline, 5 new feats, 2 new spells]

8. Gnolls. [1 new Witch archetype, 1 new Barbarian archetype, 5 new feats (4 of them Teamwork, which makes perfect sense for hyena-like Gnolls), 1 new weapon, and 3 new magic items]

9. Goblins. I *really* want to play a Goblin Winged Marauder! I also liked (and was mildly disgusted by) the explanation of what a Goblin Alchemist formula book looks like. [1 new Alchemist archetype, 1 new Oracle curse, 1 new Witch hex, 1 new piece of equipment, and 2 new spells]

10. Hobgoblins. Perfect for anyone planning to run the Ironfang Invasion adventure path. The Hobgoblin Commander (a CR 12 Samurai) is really cool. [1 new Alchemist archetype, 6 new feats, 4 new pieces of equipment]

11. Kobolds. I liked the Dragon Yapper archetype for bards--instead of inspiring your allies, you annoy and distract your enemies! [1 new Alchemist archetype, 1 new Bard archetype, 2 new animal companions, 7 new traps, 2 new feats]

12. Lizardfolk. I have a new appreciation for lizardfolk after reading this entry, which means the writers did their job well. [1 new Druid archetype, 1 new Oracle curse, 3 new feats, 3 new spells]

13. Ogres. The focus here is on the degenerations and mutations that plague the race. The artwork is a bit tame considering how much fun the artist could have had. [4 new templates; 8 new feats]

14. Orcs. This entry would be particularly useful to players since Half-Orc is a Core race. [4 new feats, 2 new pieces of equipment, 6 new magic items]

15. Ratfolk. They seem like a lot of fun, and I'll have to make time to play one. The Cheek Pouch alternate racial trait is a classic. [4 new alternate racial traits, 4 new feats, 1 new piece of equipment, 1 new animal companion, 2 new magic items]

16. Sahuagin. [6 new mutant variants, 3 new feats, 3 new spells]

17. Serpentfolk. Such a fascinating race and mysterious race! [5 new feats, 2 new spells, 3 new magic items]

18. Troglodytes. I still find the race rather bland and forgettable after reading this entry--one of the book's only failures in that department. [3 new variants, 3 new spells, 2 new magic items]

19. Trolls. The Troll Fury archetype (for druids) presents an interesting take on trolls. I love (and fear) the Cooperative Rend teamwork feat--if a troll and its ally have the feat and are threatening the same creature, only one claw attack has to land for rend to kick in! I'm not a big fan, however, of Paizo's artistic take on trolls. The new monster, a CR 2 Sewer Troll, is a great way to help low-level PCs get acquainted with the regeneration monster ability before they fight the real thing. [1 new Druid archetype, 6 new feats, 1 new piece of equipment, 2 new spells, 2 new magic items]

20. Vampires. A GM will appreciate the new templates for creatures that have been repeatedly drained or dominated by vampires. Alchemical Blood is a logical thing to introduce in the game as well. [3 new templates, 2 new simple templates for minions, 2 new feats, 1 new piece of equipment, 2 new magic items]

An appendix introduces the concept of "Simple Class Templates". The idea here is to allow a GM to quickly modify a monster by adding class levels without having to laboriously rebuild a stat block from the ground up. Thus, each of the Core Rulebook classes are given quick template rules and simplified spellcasting. I haven't tried this method out, so I don't know how well it works.

As I said, I'm not a monster guy, so the fact that I enjoyed this book so much is telling. It really does freshen up monsters with the options presented. Long-time players, even those that do their very best not to metagame, may not be able to avoid sighing when yet another orc or troll appears in a game--but with the material presented here, the GM can add a surprising twist to every encounter. In addition, the stat blocks for higher CR versions of every monster makes many of these monsters viable opponents throughout a campaign instead of the old "goblins at Level 1, trolls at Level 5, and neither ever seen again afterwards" problem. I also liked how the addition of class levels can help turn common PC strengths against themselves--an alchemist monster hurling touch-attack area of effect bombs definitely changes up the battlefield! Although this book isn't literally indispensable for GMs, it would be among the first recommendations I would make. And, perhaps surprisingly, there's enough race-neutral options here that players will surely find something useful for their PCs as well (if they're cheeky enough to buy a copy). And you gotta love that cover!


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Poorly Developed and Poorly Balanced

*( )( )( )( )

NO SPOILERS

The Hydra's Fang Incident was the second of the very first batch of Pathfinder Society "Season 0" scenarios to debut at GenCon '08. I was going to say that it hasn't aged well, but really the problems with the scenario aren't due to evolutions in Pathfinder or scenario-design generally: the flaws in it must have been as visible then as they are now. First, the overall plot and backstory just aren't very creative or interesting. Second, it's incredibly linear--every encounter has to be hit in order and there's no way to bypass any of them. Third, the encounter design is pedestrian and (apart from the next point) forgettable. Fourth, the encounters (at least in the low tier version) basically consist of two types: almost trivially easy ones and possible/probable (depending on the level/optimization of the PCs) TPK generators. I don't want to make it sound like an absolute disaster--it is playable. But given the (literally) hundreds of Pathfinder Society scenarios available, this one can be safely avoided unless, like me, you're trying to work through them in publication order. My review is based on running the scenario this past weekend as a home game for four Level 1 Iconics (one of them optimized, the other three stock).

SPOILERS

The premise is a relatively straightforward one. A young, spoiled Chelaxian noble named Darsielle Du Moire has turned from privateering to true piracy, rampaging up and down the Andoren coast burning ships and towns alike. His reign of terror has nearly led Andoran and Cheliax to war, but the countries have negotiated a temporary truce on the condition that the latter solve the "Du Moire problem" quickly. Du Moire's ship, The Hydra's Fang, has found refuge in one of the few ports open to it: the smuggler's city of Diobel on the Isle of Kortos. The Pathfinder Society is interested in Du Moire not for reasons of justice or avoiding war, but because he's stolen (from a slain sage) a quartet of tablets dating to the days of Old Azlant. The PCs are charged with recovering the tablets, though some of the Faction missions want Du Moire taken care of as well.

The PCs receive their missing briefing from Osprey in a ramshackle tavern on the docks of Diobel. The scenario does a good job of describing the tavern and the longshoremen inside, and an enterprising GM should be able to get some good role-playing out of the PCs before Osprey reveals himself. The scenario has sidebars on Diobel itself and the organization that runs it, the Kortos Consortium. I'd suggest asking for relevant Knowledge checks in order to determine how much the PCs know about the city and the Consortium. In order to achieve their goals, the PCs must overcome five encounters.

Encounter # 1: The PCs are ambushed at the warehouse of a merchant that they think Du Moire might have been in contact with. Two of Du Moire's thugs and a wizard in his employ are looting the place when the PCs arrive (as Du Moire has already killed the merchant and left). When they hear noise, the wizard magically disguises herself as a teenage girl sobbing her over "father's" body while the two thugs conceal themselves in the shadows to get the drop on the PCs. It's a reasonably clever idea, but the way the encounter is set up the ambush doesn't really accomplish much in game terms: the thugs fire once the PCs move into the room and after that's done, any advantage from the disguised wizard is lost. This encounter would have been better as an attempt by the disguised wizard to mislead the PCs (calling for role-playing and Sense Motive checks) while her thugs stayed hidden in the next room in case the deception failed. As it was, the PCs in the group I ran it for made short work of the villains (though, to be fair, more damage was inflicted on them than I expected). Now's a good time to remind GMs that the Season 0 scenarios are D&D 3.5, not Pathfinder, so updating is necessary in terms of things like CMB, CMD, and wizard class abilities (with the last one being particularly relevant). An easy Perception check after the fight shows the PCs a trap door that Du Moire presumably fled through.

Encounter # 2: Directly below the warehouse is a part of Diobel's Underdocks. The idea of the Underdocks is that they're, quite literally, a set of docks underneath the city's main docks. Clothed in shadows, they allow for smuggling in and out of the city. As several reviewers have noted, it's hard to conceptually wrap one's head around the layout of Diobel--there's not just the Underdocks to imagine, but there's an "inner harbor maze", locks, and an outer harbor. This is one of those times where an artist's rendering of what the city looks like, from 3/4 perspective, would do wonders for helping a GM. Anyway, a trail of footprints in the muck lead the PCs to a pier where a couple of rowboats are tied up (though a third is obviously gone) and two Enforcers from the Kortos Consortium are on duty. The Enforcers have strict orders not to let anyone through unless they have a "Harbormaster's Pass," which the PCs don't have. Apart from a sizable bribe (100 gp at the low tier), the only real way through this encounter is violence. Depending on alignment and class, PCs could legitimately bristle at this, as the Enforcers are the lawful authority of Diobel's government, and their actions (stopping trespassers from stealing boats) is also lawful. My PCs handled it adroitly at first (casting sleep) on the Enforcers, and then completely bungled the matter by murdering them! Anyway, inside the Enforcers' bunker are the items the PCs need to unlock the rowboats and determine what mooring the Hydra's Fang is tied up at.

Encounter # 3: There's a description of what the inner harbor maze is like, but (oddly) the PCs don't have to do anything to successfully navigate it before finding themselves in open water in the harbor. Once they're several hundred yards into the harbor, an encounter starts that is the most controversial of the scenario. Simply put, they're attacked from out of nowhere by two sahuagin (on a rather labored pretext) who try to flip the boat over with a simple DC 15 Strength check. Two sahuagin against 4-6 PCs might not seem like that big of a deal, but if that boat flips, any Level 1 PC wearing armor probably has a negative Swim modifier and is in big trouble of sinking and drowning. This encounter has caused TPKs for several groups. The scenario's writer, Tim Hitchcock, has said conflicting things about how deep the water is supposed to be in the harbor but, suffice it to say, if it's deep enough for the drafts of large-masted ships, it's deep enough for PCs to drown in. This didn't happen to be a problem when I ran it because the sahuagin failed their Strength checks and were promptly dispatched by the PCs. As a general rule, I think it's great when scenarios make use of skills that are often neglected by PCs, like Swim, but this encounter is a particularly lethal way to do it!

Encounter # 4: The PCs have to board The Hydra's Fang while under fire from two of Du Moire's men. Du Moire himself is on board as well, though the scenario has him make a run for it if seriously hurt. One of the hilarious things about this scenario is that Du Moire, "scourge of the Andoren and Chelaxian navies," has no particular feats, class abilities, or skills relevant to sailing or piracy, and, as far as we can tell, his "crew" consists of five people (the three from the first encounter and two more here) and a vessel that (apparently) has no weaponry. Anyway, I like how the scenario explains the different ways (and Climb DCs) that the ship can be boarded, though it would be helpful to have a better understanding of how tall the sides of the ship are above the water line. Perhaps the biggest problem with this encounter is that there's a tripwire trap running across the rear of the ship; a PC who sets it off is covered in chum and knocked into the water, wherein a shark or a sea cat arrives to attack in just 1d4 rounds. This trap is consistent across tiers, meaning that an unlucky Level 1 PC who sets off this trap could be all alone in the water fighting a shark. That's pretty close to certain death! Obviously, more thought needed to be given to the trap. In addition, Du Moire himself is simply not satisfying as the villain for the scenario--he'll be easily dispatched and has nothing memorable about him. I gave him a bad Monty Python French accent because, hey, why not? (oddly, he has an oil of invisibility in his equipment list but his tactics make no mention of it) The layout given for the ship is also pretty bad (there's no placement of ladders/stairs, and something (a cabin?) completely blocks access to the bow of the main deck. I was lucky enough to have the Ship flip-mat on hand, which helped immensely.

Encounter # 5: The PCs probably assume the scenario is pretty much over as they search the hold of the ship for the tablets. What they don't realize (because how could they?) is that they're in near-TPK territory again. Three lacedons are waiting behind the door the PCs have to open in order to recover the tablets. Lacedons (aquatic ghouls) are just like their land-bound cousins when it comes to "much higher than CR would indicate" lethality. Each one gets three attacks a round, and any hit requires a saving throw to avoid paralysis. Paralysis then results in a coup de grace unless a GM is being particularly merciful. Ghouls can be real threats even to mid-level parties, but throwing three of them up against a Level 1 group is a recipe for disaster and frankly unfair. When I ran it, three of the players essentially metagamed (as they failed their in-character Knowledge checks to know what the lacedons were) and retreated, while the fourth player (playing a tabletop RPG for the first time ever) was unceremoniously left behind and promptly murdered. Even the three retreating PCs barely survived, as two of them were paralyzed and the third was lucky to kill the last lacedon before succumbing herself. And to think the author originally wanted to include *four* lacedons in the encounter! I wouldn't inflict this encounter on your players unless they really like you!

One thing I should note is that the Cheliax Faction mission requires Du Moire be killed and his body "disappeared." This can create major role-playing and potential PvP issues, since the scenario tells GMs that Du Moire will be keen to surrender. There was a major discussion of this problem in the forums, so just be aware.

In sum, this is a lethal, linear, RP-lite, forgettable scenario filled with minor errors and problems for GMs. I'd suggest giving it a pass unless you have nothing else to run.


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Well-detailed and Useful

*****

My players would never proclaim artistry as my strong-suit when it comes to running games, so I've been happy to gradually build up a small collection of Pathfinder Flip-Mats. Ship is my newest purchase, and on the main side it features four decks of a fairly large (110 feet long) vessel armed with six cannons and featuring plenty of cargo space, while the the flip side is blank but for a watery background.

I'm not sure if the ship should be classified as a light warship or a heavily-armed merchant ship, but the flexibility is an asset for GMs. The lowest deck (the hold) is well-detailed with barrels, crates, bags, oil lamps, and even a straw-filled pen for animals. The next deck (moving from low to high) features the six cannons (with little piles of cannonballs!), sleeping quarters at the bow with six bunks, and an officer's cabin in the stern with a desk, chairs, a bookcase, and more. It's all drawn with great detail, with my favourite touch being the "grid" of light coming from the hatches above. The main deck has a storage room in the bow and another officer's cabin in the stern. I really like the added touch of a rowboat as well. I think it would have been better to have a galley, a brig, or something else instead of two officer's cabins that are essentially the same. I also found it difficult to distinguish the stairs going up from the stairs going down. The fourth and final deck is a bit odd as the center part is actually the same as the center part of the main deck, but the bow and stern are the raised levels above the storage room and officer's quarters, respectively. When I used this flip-mat during a recent session, it was hard to decide on which of the two upper decks to have the tokens on, since they're quite literally showing the same place. Still, despite the minor confusion of the stairs and the same/different decks, having the Ship flip-mat was a major improvement on what I could do on my own with a marker.

The other side, with the water background, seems dull but I actually really like it. It's not just a flat blue, but instead has different lighting and "texture" effects so it looks like the surface of the ocean. I'll definitely use it anytime I have an encounter on a lake, ocean, or even wide river.

So, quibbles aside, this is one of the best of the Pathfinder Flip-Mats I've purchased. Admittedly, I haven't had a lot of water encounters in the games I've run, but when I do, this will come out of storage.


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