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Undead Painting

Mary Yamato's page

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 809 posts. 9 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 1 alias.

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Some high spots, some low spots--player review

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This is based on the first half. I'm not positive we'll see the rest and I really feel like writing a review.

Most of the reviews have come from GMs. Our GM seems to be enjoying running this. As a player, though, I liked the first few sessions and then ended up intensely disliking the Manor House arc. A couple of problems:

(1) This arc makes too-heavy use of "put in something the PCs can't handle and then give them the gimmick they need to handle it." I counted at least three of these in quick succession, and by the third I was sick of it. (I have been warned that this continues to the end.)

(2) The GM chose to play buying and selling strictly by the rules, meaning there was nothing useful we could buy. So the cash awards came across as a useless tease, and the well-equipped friendly NPC came across as an even worse one. I'm told that this reverses later, but short of the GM flatly telling them, the players won't know this.

Having "there's money but you can't buy anything," "there's treasure but you promised not to take it," and "there's treasure but it would offend a valuable ally if you took it" back to back in an arc where the PCs were missing very basic stuff...not that much fun. It might have been a good idea to tell the players "No resupply until much later" right away, as one would for _Serpent's Skull_ #1. I'd have made a different character if I'd known.

(3) I know it's standard for modules, but still, I hate going up a level every session, especially when the events are so crowded together. We went from 1st to 5th in 4-5 days, and the whole dynamic of interacting with the townsfolk became bizarre.

Rapid advancement with no downtime has a sort of cartoonish feel. Which could be okay, but the NPCs should be more broadly drawn, like cartoons, to support the flavor. Instead they were relatively realistically drawn, and this was jarring. (I acknowledge, though, that a lot of players like rapid advancement and for them this will not be a problem.)

So, a lot of griping. I did like the early parts quite a bit. GMs may want to carefully read through the Manor House and see if it's likely to be a bad fit for their group as it was for ours.

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Looked interesting but led to early TPK

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I liked the idea here, and the first encounter (settled purely by roleplaying) was a lot of fun. However the second encounter simply killed the entire party. With our mix of characters I think that was more or less a forgone conclusion: they couldn't do enough damage to stop it from killing all of them, and it's impossible to get away from it.

There were also a lot of small annoying logic issues. The McGuffin item is played up as being a big deal but it's only a big deal when it's hurting the PCs--it's not useful or impressive otherwise. The curse is annoying without being flavorful. The Venture-Captain's information is more than usually useless--she knows both too much and too little. A building gets referred to as a "cathedral" and a "chapel" in alternate sentences--those are not the same thing! And most of the faction missions are really one mission split into two parts, so there isn't much to do with them. (Once you can get a piece of such-and-such NPC, getting two pieces is hardly an additional challenge....) One faction mission should properly represent an extended investigation, not suitable for the pace of play here.

On the positive side, the NPCs are really colorful and I like the backstory. I just wish it had gotten more chance to shine. Five PCs, level 5, with one of them a summoner so effectively six PCs--we abandoned the fight after two rounds because it was clearly too onesided. The player was particularly angry that there was no warning or time to prepare.

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Great ideas, sketchy execution

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There are a lot of big, neat concepts here; it may be worth buying as an idea source. Some good description, too. But it reads more like an outline than a worked-out adventure. This is especially problematic in part I where I almost have the impression that the PCs are supposed to sit on their hands rather than attempting to complete their mission.

The only part that is really worked out is the large multi-faction battle at the end, which would be excruciatingly difficult to run; and even here, if you approach it as a political problem, there's not enough material on the factions. (If you approach it as a fight, frankly, it's probably best for the PCs if they nuke all three factions indiscriminately, at which point the complex situation hardly matters.)

The module also indulges itself in a lot of heavy-handed NPC pushing of the PCs. It is not really a good idea to say "This NPC is too powerful for the PCs to fight, therefore they won't even try, therefore no stats are needed." Players don't tend to like this, and sometimes the hapless GM *will* need some stats. While you could argue that the PCs should be more careful, frankly if I were a careful PC I would refuse this assignment, as it seems well above the pay grade of the 9th-10th level PCs it is supposed to be for. So the PCs must be bold enough to do this, but lose that boldness at key moments--a difficult line to walk for both players and GMs.

I'm not entirely sorry I bought it, but I can't run it. Parts II and III might work tucked into some other adventure, if I ever need a short scenario set on those planes.

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Highly populous ruins

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The PCs discover the ruined capital of their nemesis and confront him directly.

The scenery and settings of this module are incredible: the ruined city, the Runelord's spire high above the realms of breathable air, the Runewell itself.

The city has over 1000 inhabitants, though, and the module can barely hint at them. Unless the PCs stick perfectly to script, a lot of additional GM work will be required. (And at least one clue deliberately sends them off script.) The module also has (for Paizo) an unusual number of editing and logic errors.

The final defense of the Spire seems sketchy, and Karzoug himself is not as colorful as I would hope. Still, it's among the most playable high-level modules I've ever seen, and well worth the price just for the city itself.

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A classical dungeon with a few twists

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I've tried repeatedly to post this: here's one more, much shorter attempt.

This is a classical dungeon with very strong writeups for the central NPCs: detailed, technically accurate, with excellent tactical notes. It fails to shine fully, however, because there is not much scope for non-combat interaction. One faction is confined to its quarters, two consist of people who have been more or less reduced to automata, almost all are described as uninterested in negotiation. A group interested in intrigue will require considerable GM reworking. The sin theme, therefore, is underdeveloped.

The adventure is much shorter than it looks (my group finished in 4.5 sessions) because several of the promised 7 dungeons are only 1-2 traps or creatures. The traps are inspired by Tomb of Horrors and were not appropriate for my group, but are fairly easy to remove.

The background material contains the usual items plus a too-short section on Thassilonian magic with one spell and one rune per school, and an outstanding background article on Lamashtu. This is truly a model of excellence in cult writeups--it gives details not only on the goddess but on the role of her priesthood in different societies.

Overall, this should be fine for dungeon-crawling groups, but others may find it lacking in spots. My player was particularly disappointed in the Greed dungeon, which should have foreshadowed Xin-Shalast but was utterly flat in play.


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