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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,288 posts (5,585 including aliases). 461 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.



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An RPG Resource Review

*****

So, what's this? The Radical's Handbook is billed as being a sourcebook for both GMs and players, although the wise GM will make sure that he's read it first and has a chance to decide what, if any, parts the players will be allowed to read. (Ideally, that is: in the real world players can go to bookshops and may also be GMs themselves anyway!) Still, you will have to decide what is valid for your game. But I digress. Here is a wealth of character options - new origins, alternate career paths and all manner of goodies - to widen the choices available. The 'Radical' bit comes in because in fighting the evils that beset the Imperium, many Acolytes, however well-meaning, become corrupted by them or at least adopt the principle of 'fighting fire with fire' and stray somewhat from the straight and narrow path of pure devotion. There are plenty of options here for those who would model such heretical ideas in the development of their characters... and ideas, too, for the GM in laying snares for the unwary, devising NPCs and creating plots around such corruption. The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions, after all.

A brief Introduction is followed by a collection of flavour text pieces describing some of the dreadful things that can happen to Acolytes and others in the service of the Imperium. Perhaps this will inspire the GM, or maybe it's something the Acolytes will stumble across in some dusty archive... mysteries and discord where none should be, surely?

Next is Chapter 2: Falling From Grace. Here we find how Radicals are forged and twisted, the routes into such heresy and a whole collection of origins, background packages, alternate career ranks and elite advances for those who would follow such paths. For some it is a falling from grace, for others a gentle drift and some have always been this way, they've just proven adept at keeping their real opinions to themselves!

Chapter 3: Factions provides an array of different groups with a wealth of detail about what they believe and how they behave, whilst Chapter 4: The Shadow War is a primer on the tools and methodologies available to those who'd walk these shadowy paths and use the concepts of the enemy against them. Delve deep into the history of ideas, see how the factions evolved and decide which, if any, your character might choose. The process could provide for many an adventure in itself, so GMs may choose to limit access to this material until a given character has been seduced by a faction, then let them read more about what they have got themselves into...

Then Chapter 5: The Dark Arts provides information on sorcery and daemon weaponry - great powers indeed if you are prepared to risk your very soul by investigating and using them. All manner of dark technology here, discussed and provided with the necessary rule mechanics for those who dare to wield them. Again this is something that GMs may find useful, to use against the party or as lures to draw them astray. If that's not enough Chapter 6: The Lure of the Alien looks at the strange items and ideas that alien races bring, perhaps fledgling Radicals will find allies there even if it is just a little against the Imperial Creed to have dealings with them.

In the last part of the book, Chapter 7: The Radical Campaign looks at bringing Radical ideas into the game - perhaps the radicalisation process is one of the themes, or a bunch of Acolytes may find themselves serving a Radical Inquisitor - there's a whole host of ideas here that should set a GM's creative juices flowing. Finally, Chapter 8: Calixian Radicals presents some ready-made allies and adversaries, dangerous folk all who have crossed the line into heresy in some manner.

For the GM, Chapter 7 is essential reading if you have any thoughts about tempting your Acolytes into straying from the paths of righteousness. After all, in a game that is all about the evil that abounds in the setting, all characters should at least be at risk of being led astray - and some will want to stray without need of leading. An interesting read, plenty of food for thought as campaigns are devised - and providing the tools that you will need to put such machinations into action.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This is the final part of the Haarlock's Legacy campaign, and works best if you've already played through the preceeding two instalments. It can be run without, but you may find yourself doing an awful lot of explaining to get the Acolytes up to speed.

This adventure is quite different from the earlier ones, sending the Acolytes on a journey across the icy world Mara, delving deep into a derelict mining station and even deeper into the darkness that is Rogue Trader Haarlock's legacy with, of course, competing factions also after whatever there is to discover by those courageous (or foolhardy) enough to follow in his footsteps, and the future of the entire Calixis Sector hangs in the balance... Epic stuff indeed, a fitting climax to the entire campaign.

Fortunately, there's plenty of support to help you paint the sweeping images that will make the various places visited come alive in your players' minds as they battle in space, trek through icy wastes and steamy swamps and more in their quest: from suggestions and hints to 'read aloud' text, there are many resources at your fingertips. Like its predeeding adventures, this one will benefit from thorough study and preparation before you begin to play. It is also worth weaving in other material from the rest of your campaign, former enemies perhaps and other references to events in their past, thus making it more personal to the Acolytes.

The Introduction also provides a handy run-down of what the characters ought to already know about what is going on as well as providing other clues and lore about the Legacy that you may wish to provide to them. There's also advice on how to bring new characters in: the adventure is quite deadly and you may not finish it with the same cast that you began with! And of course, finally and for your eyes only, there is the explanation of what is really going on...

Next comes a succinct GM Briefing that lays out how the adventure should proceed. It comes in three main stages, but you will need to provide a suitable 'bridge' from whatever it is the Acolytes are doing immediately before the adventure begins (hints are provided to get things off to a flying start, however). This section also discusses the various rival factions and other adversaries that they will have to contend with... and other dangers, such as extreme cold, that they will encounter. Finally there is a detailed description of the ice station on Mara that they will have to explore.

The three sections of the adventure proper follow, each provided with copious detail to enable you to make it come alive for your players. Throughout, there is plenty going on to keep them occupied beginning with an unprecedentedly generous gift of equipment and a cinematic space battle before they even reach Mara. Once there, of course, things do not slacken off and there are artefacts to discover and secrets into which they must delve to find the answers that they seek. This is one adventure that will live on in memory far after the last die is rolled.

It is not an easy adventure to run or to play, there is so much going on, so much information to keep hold of, but it is this complexity that lends it a richness and vividness that makes it into something special... and throughout there are hints and tips to aid you in making it all happen in a coherent manner. Strange devices, warped realities, nothing will ever seem quite the same.

Those Acolytes who survive, never mind triumph - and both are possible if hard - will feel that they have really accomplished something, even if it is something they might find hard to recount to future generations. They will have earned their way to higher office, gained a formidable reputation... and their players will have enjoyed a game to remember!


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This, the second part of the Haarlock's Legacy trilogy of adventures (although it can be played on its own if preferred), is a murder-mystery set in the city of Sinophia Magma on the planet Sinophia. A decaying corrupt city, the format is designed to allow the Acolytes to investigate when and where they like with other intrigues unfolding about their ears - these may or may not be connected with the task in hand. To this end, there's a detailed gazetteer of Sinophia Magna and loads of detail about local personalities and the intrigues they are involved in as well as all the necessary information to run the murder investigation, thus providing a rich setting with a lot going on... oh, and if they fail to solve the murders, it's likely the whole city will erupt into bitter civil war. And there's a trapped demon trying to get out as well. No pressure then.

The adventure itself is made up of three stages. The first introduces them to the city and the trail of gruesome murders they are tasked with investigating. In the second part, events swirl about them as they are caught up in growing conflict between the underworld and local law enforcement (the State Enforcers) - each seem as bad as the other - and in the final part matters come to a head and there are difficult choices to be made. Throughout, there are scheduled events and encounters which you can use as appropriate in response to the Acolytes' investigations and movements around the city.

There's plenty of advice for the GM, both in a specific section on running murder mysteries and throughout the entire module, as well as copious detail on the city itself and the people to be found there. If you enjoy hectic city-based adventures with a myriad of intersecting plot threads, this is worth considering for that alone. Clues are well signposted with suggestions on how to make them obvious to the Acolytes whilst letting them feel that they are rooting them out for themselves (always a challenge in an investigative adventure. This is definitely an adventure where prior preparation and thorough knowledge of the plot and setting will stand the GM in good stead - you can then let your players loose and react to whatever they decide to do seamlessly.

The gazetteer is a wonderful resource which will support future visits to Sinophia and spawns plenty more plot ideas as you read through it - it's something you may well want to come back to after this adventure has been completed. It's very atmospheric and provides plenty of tools to enable you to set the scene well for your players. To add to this, there is in-depth background material on the various factions and other factors at play within Sinophia Magna - even if there were no murders to investigate, there is plenty for the Acolytes to get involved in! There's a real feel of a living - albeit decrepit, corrupt and decaying - place here, it is no mere backdrop for the adventure's core plotline.

It all makes for a fascinating and memorable adventure that brings home the real nature of the Warhammer 40K setting, the air of grandeur and decay is all-pervasive; whilst the adventure itself is replete with twists and turns to keep the most avid dectective happy. Thoroughly enjoyable from both sides of the GM screen (at least, I think it would be fun to play... it certainly is a delight to run).


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Designed to be the opener of the Haarlock's Legacy campaign (although it could be run as a stand-alone adventure), this adventure comes in three parts which begins in survival horror, then sweeps the party through investigation and intrigue to the need to fight for their lives. Faint-hearted Acolytes need not apply!

The adventure can be used to start off a new group of Acolytes, but notes are provided for those who wish to use existing characters. It's based on a planet called Quaddis and is based around long-held secrets of the Haarlock rogue trader family and the lengths some people will go to get their hands on them. There's plenty of background on Quaddis which is an unspoilt pastoral world given over to noble estates, a complete pervesion of the orderly colonisation process handled adroitly by an early Haarlock. Even the so-called city that is its capital, Xicarph, is more a collection of palaces and town-houses than a real city. It is home to many pleasures and host to plenty of intrigue... and dark secrets lie beneath. Xicarph is also home to a great carnival, the Festival of Tattered Fates, that occurs at the time of a bizarre astronomical conjunction in the home system. The central point of this, which fortunately only happens once every few decades, is a period of darkness during which what rule of law there is here is completely suspended, anything goes.

The action begins in media res, the Acolytes being thrust abruptly into a situation where their only objective is to survive... some players may be none too happy, but the very shock of the opening is best presented as is to get the full flavour both of the opening scene and the rest of the adventure. The Game Master is advised to read the adventure thoroughly in preparation for running it: there's lots going on and plenty of scope for allowing characters free reign in their reactions, to which the GM will then have to respond. Even if they feel railroaded by the opening, the Acolytes have plenty of options to find their own responses to the situation, and there's plenty of detail provided to enable the GM to deal with whatever they come up with.

Needless to say, once the Acolytes have escaped their fate, that dread carnival is in full swing, and they'll have to navigate Xicarph through its chaos as they seek the answers they need. This again is quite free-format, with a whole bunch of events and NPCs that they can encounter but no set sequence or timelimits imposed. Hopefully they'll find out where they need to be when darkness falls before it actually does! Amidst this swirl of events, it may be difficult for the Acolytes to figure out what is actually going on, the GM will need to be well-prepared and ready to gently steer them into finding the answers should they begin to flounder.

The climax of the adventure is, of course, the falling of darkness as the astronomcal conjunction reaches its height. In a weirdly-warped estate that has at its heart the mysterious Steel Clock, they should find their answers... but need to be prepared to fight for them as of course they are not the only people on that quest.

By its nature, this adventure can be sprung on existing Acolytes whenever you please, or can be used to start a new campaign in dramatic fashion. However it is approached, those who survive will appreciate the sheer heights - or depths - to which nobles can attain, and have glimpses of some of the stranger things underlying the most established. A fine cinematic caper with scope for plenty drama and excitement and, if played as part of the Haarlock's Legacy trilogy, one which leads to a growing realisation that even greater horrors might be unleashed.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Whilst this adventure starts in an inn, it's not the usual cliche of a bunch of adventurers being approached by a stranger with a job or a treasure map for them... well, not quite. For a start, it's the landlord and he needs help with a gremlin problem. Up for a spot of extermination?

The Great City, in which the adventure is set, has suffered a cataclysm, a giant sink hole has appeared. The adventures in The Sinking series are all in some way linked to this event, but can be played in any order or as stand-alone adventures, rather than as a true adventure path. This one is no different, with a plague of annoying events rapidly escalating into something quite dangerous. Gremlins are the least of the characters' worries.

The adventure is well-paced, with the initial contract to deal with gremlins developing into a mysterious event that leaves all manner of items, including street furniture, animated and causing trouble. Chaos erupts swiftly, and the party is on hand to deal with it - if they can but figure out what is going on. Interestingly, you are given two explanations: one to use if playing this as a one-off adventure and a variant if you are using as part of a linked sequence with other adventures in The Sinking series.

It's a neat short adventure, occupying but an evening in-character and likewise playable in a similar timescale. The chaos can prove entertaining as well as exciting, and ought to keep the characters on their toes. It is well supported with maps of the inn and surrounding area, and with good descriptions of encounters, and a couple of new things - a construct and a magical item - that may prove of use in your own adventures. This should provide for an amusing evening's play.


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