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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,764 posts (6,061 including aliases). 525 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.



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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

Like many of the errands handed out by the Pathfinder Society, this one seems quite simple... at least to begin with. The party are dispatched to the home of Andrax d’Aponte, a previously well-respected member of the Pathfinder Society who recently retured to the Isle of Kortos after a major expedition to Osirion searching for the tomb of Razma the Sage, and has broken off all communications with the Society. The Society would really like to see his report.

For once, no long journey is required. D'Aponte lives in Flint Tower, a rather tumble-down siege castle a scant hour's journey from Absalom. Whilst the adventure is quite constrained in its objectives, the party has some leeway in how they go about their visit to Flint Tower as the events and encounters they will face are location-based - so let them roam as they will. The background information lays out what is actually behind d'Aponte's behaviour and some things even he is unaware of, and the resources provided about the various locations in the Tower enable you to provide atmospheric and clear descriptions to the players.

Whilst it is a straight combat-oriented delve, it is possible for those characters who want to engage in conversation to do so if they wish. This is handled neatly, but does require the DM to be fully conversant with the backstory. The Faction missions fit in well, and even interlock in places, a nice touch. Overall, the adventure hangs together well... and there's potential for further adventure returning to the Osirion dig site, for those who'd like such further development.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Opening with an Introduction that gives an overview of the adventure in which you are about to embark, the freedom and excitement of role-playing, taking control of your own character's destiny in a shared story, rather than watching or reading what others (writers, actors, directors...) have decided he should do; and explains the roles of Narrator (this game's term for the Game Master or GM) and players, then there's a brief overview of the contents of the book and we're off!

First up is an overview of the setting in Chapter 1: A Westeros Primer. If you are interested in this work you have probably read George R.R. Martins' novels or watched the TV show Game of Thrones already, but here's a fascinating account of the land and the people that dwell thereon from the pen of one Maester Jesiah - looking almost like an illuminated manuscript complete with the sigils of major houses. For this game is all about power struggles and intrigues - although there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to get more physical here as well - as the houses vie for power, position and perhaps the Iron Throne itself (which is said to be remarkably uncomfortable as a chair, whatever it might represent). The history is written from a standpoint of about the time the story in the novels begins... which may of course unfold quite differently in your hands.

The chapter continues with further notes. Knights are central to many of the stories told here, but they are by no means the only players in the Game of Thrones. Still, concepts of chivalry and the importance of rank and of bloodline run deep. There's an outline of how the land is governed and law works - mostly at the whim of whichever lordling is in control, by right of birth or of conquest, at that place. Details of technology, of religious beliefs, of the concept of knighthood as practised here, of maesters and more are also to be found in this chapter. Essential reading to give an overview of the setting.

Next, Chapter 2: Game Rules provides a look at the game mechanics underpinning A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. They are based around fists-full of d6s, with bonuses and modifiers as appropriate. Put simply, to attempt a task you decide which ability applies and use that to decide how many dice to roll - these are your Test Dice. If you qualify for a bonus, you get to add more dice to your roll, but then select the highest ones to the number of Test Dice you have. Modifiers are numerical additions or subtractions from the result achieved with the Test Dice. The aim is you test your abilities against a Narrator-set difficulty for the task you are trying to perform. That's the basics, and there are plenty of examples and special cases to show you how it all works. It's more straightforward than it looks at first glance, and soon becomes second nature.

We then dive straight in to characters, beginning with a series of archetypes for those who don't want to go through all the effort of creating one from scratch. These can of course be customised to suit your specific needs and desires. These come as Adults or Young Adults - youthful characters can be quite potent in the Game of Thrones, particularly if they are heirs to one of the houses. However, if you'd rather create your own character from the ground up, move on swiftly to Chapter 3: Character Creation and find out how it's done.

Now it gets interesting. The assumption is that the players get together and create members of a single noble house. Thus individual and group fortunes are tied together, success and failure affect everybody. So you start off by designing, as a group, your house and lands. Only then do you consider the role you wish to play in that house. In creating that character, first you decide his age (banded from youths under 9 to venerable people over the age of 80) and status (from 1-6). These can be chosen or rolled randomly as preferred, although it may be best if everyone uses the same method! Then you start fleshing out the character with things like the area of expertise you're after - Expert, Leader, Rogue, Schemer, or Warrior - backgrounds, goals, etc. Only then do you get to grips with determining abilities and other things that tie into the game mechanics directly. As everyone is affilitated to the same house, you'll need to ensure that all aspects you want are covered. High status comes at a price - rank is bought from the same pool of points as your other abilities! There is plenty of guidance - and lots of examples - to help you through the process.

The next couple of chapters - Chapter 4: Abilities and Specialities and Chapter 5: Destiny and Qualities - go into great depth about all the options available and how to use them to best effect once the game begins. Choose carefully, these are the building blocks upon which your character will stand or fall.

Then comes the fascinating Chapter 6: Houses and Lands. We've already touched on the notion that the default is a group of characters associated with the same house. Here we learn how to create, as a group, that house. It's recommended that you do this before you create individual characters, so that you'll already have an idea of the place into which each of them will have to fit - but others may prefer to create characters first and build a house around them, so do not feel constrained, pick whatever seems right for you as a group. You start by deciding where in the Realms you're based (or you can roll for it). The first time I did this, it was a cold day and we unanimously decided to build in the deserts of Dorne on account that it was warm there! There are lots of ideas and notes to help as the process continues, choosing resourcesm, determining the history of your house, and so on. Of course, some groups may choose to play individual characters without this common bond, others may prefer to represent a noble house apiece and vie with each other rather than with NPC nobles for power and status. It's up to you - but this is a good manual for designing houses, and indeed quantifying the existing ones too. And if you want to be the Starks or the Lannisters, go right ahead! There's even advice on choosing a motto (or 'Words' as they're known in Westeros) and a coat of arms for your house. Whilst in the books houses go for sigils and colours, here there's a primer on standard European heraldry to help you create a good-looking and effective coat of arms. The final step is to describe the household - some people will be your characters, but most will be NPCs, but you will know who they are and what they are like.

After Chapter 7: Equipment gets you all the stuff you need, there are separate chapters on the three ways your characters will interact with the world and everyone in it: Intrigue, Combat and Warfare. Each is a mix of ideas and concepts and the game mechanics you need to make them happen. Although it comes over as if you can reduce everything to rolls of the dice, these are the guidelines, the element of chance in an uncertain world - it's what your characters say and do that is important, and a good Narrator will focus on role-play, interactions and planning far more than the fall of dice.

Speaking of the Narrator, Chapter 11: The Narrator provides a wealth of material to aid him in designing and running adventures and campaigns. Ideas are presented in the way major characters in the novels embodied them, be it Lord Eddard Stark facing dilemmas, his wife Catelyn living up to expectations, Petyr Baylish's treachery or Ser Barristan Selmy showing the influence of history on the present... and there's more, of course. There's also detailed advice about making the rules work for your story.

Overall, it's a fine representation of the novels and TV show in game terms, with plenty to think about as you embark on the Game of Thrones! See if your house will become a power behind the Iron Throne or even see a member of it sitting there, or perhaps you will be safer but more obscure... but remember, Winter is coming!


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An RPG Resource Review

***( )( )

Sometimes experiments go horribly wrong, and this adventure concerns one such, as the party are summoned to the Pathfinder Society Lodge in Sothis, capital city of Osirion, to deal with the aftermath of one such that has left a horribly vile creature trapped under the very Lodge itself.

The introduction explains what really happened (and who was responsible), naturally as the adventure itself opens the briefing the characters get is somewhat less informative. All they are told is that they are going to have to play exterminator in the vaults under the Lodge - oh, and the only person who knew what was going on down there has since fallen prey to dementia, the creature having been trapped there decades ago. Apparently his assistant found something in his papers about it and went down there on his own to take a look, and of course has not come back.

Armed with this limited information, the party will have to explore the vaults and deal with whatever they find there. A clear floorplan is provided along with quite detailed notes of what's there to be found... and what will attack! The party should be kept quite busy. It does appear that untoward experiments were taking place down there, and captives held... not quite the sort of reputation that the Pathfinder Society would like to have... and in the best possible fashion, there's a Big Bad to be found at the very end of the vault, just itching for that climactic level-end 'boss-fight'.

It's a good straightforward delve with plenty of opposition to fight. The Faction missions seem implausible in the main, if it's such a dark secret what's down there (even according to the DM's background notes), how have the Faction leaders got the information to make the requests that they have made? The tasks themselves are fairly easy to accomplish, it's just the making of them that wrecks the realism of the situation. Parties who enjoy a good fight will be in for a treat, but that's it. More could have been made of the situation, how it came about and how it might be resolved.


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****( )

In this adventure, the party gets involved in the internal squabbles of a band called the Pirate Pact, a crew of ruffians who hang out beside the Sellen River, north of Daggermark, and generally help to make the River Kingdoms an unpleasant and dangerous place to live. The introduction presents a convoluted picture, which the DM would do well to get his head around before running it.

The adventure proper begins with the party on a ship sailing up the Sellen River having been sent by Daggerford's venture-captain to meet with the leader of the Pirate Pact, the Black Marquis, one Urdul Bazzak. He'd offered the Pathfinders a rare book - and you know what Pathfinders are like when books are dangled under their noses - in return for their help... and the party are the help that has been sent. The assumption is that the party was despatched all the way from Absalom, you may wish to play out that journey if you have time or there may be other reasons why they're in Daggermark anyway.

Dark treachery, river battles and monsters galore stand in the party's path as they seek to do the Black Marquis' bidding and gain their prize... It's an atmospheric and enjoyable adventure that will suit the more robust explorer-types. Faction missions are quite challenging but capable of being achieved, some have it easier than others. A good addition to the series.


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An RPG Resource Review

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Go and fetch the bones of some old mystic who lived in a cave high above the snowline... sounds simple enough (if a but chilly)? Don't you believe it, Pathfinders!

Sending the party so high that altitude sickness becomes an issue, the adventure is full of thrills from fighting off semi-sentient beast-men to wild sled chases that seem to have come from a fantasy version of James Bond. There's plenty of atmospheric description of the heights to which they have to ascend, and the added bonus of other parties who also have an interest in the bones they've been sent to fetch.

The journey itself is an adventure worthy of song or story, and those not constrained to a limited time like a convention slot might wish to make more of the thousands of miles between Absalom and the chilly mountain peak. It is an action-oriented adventure, but one in which the action is more than mere brawling (but never fear, there's plenty of that!). The terrain is challenge enough, and the dog sleds provide an interesting angle. The Faction missions fit in well, and as usual require Faction members to try and get things done without making too much of a show of what they are doing.

However, where it falls down is in character power. Characters of the suggested level ought to cope easily with - if not bypass - many dangers, lower level ones who will find the ascent a decent challenge risk being overwhelmed by the opposition. In particular, little attention is paid to the sort of things a half-decent mage can do. I'd recommend scaling back the opposition and enjoying the fight against the elements with a lower-level party.

Conceptually, it's got the potential for great fun. Take the time to hone it a bit, and have a blast!


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