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I submitted an article to Wayfinder #15, but it didn't make it into the final product. I was disappointed at first, but when I read the installment I realized why my entry didn't make the cut: the quality of this issue's content is some of the best I've seen in the series to date.
Although it's difficult to capture the diversity of the River Kingdoms in fewer than 80 pages, Wayfinder #15 avoids falling into the trap of becoming a fanzine focused exclusively on Daggermark, Tymon, or any of the area's noteworthy locales. Most of the material within applies to the entire region, ranging from the flora and fauna of the Sellen River to the Kingdoms' two unique faiths. Low-cost consumables, particularly poisons and alchemical equipment, make up most of the new items available, though PCs will also find archetypes and feats to help them survive in the rough-and-tumble province. Tons of descriptive content provides GMs with tools to make the River Kingdoms come alive, from anthems of the river folk to NPCs and destinations to flesh out the local way of life. The fiction within is engaging and heartbreaking, with many short-stories reminding readers why life in the lawless riverlands tends to be brutal and short.
Perhaps the best material, however, supplements the Kingmaker Adventure Path and other kingdom-building campaigns. One archetype will easily appeal to players hoping to conquer the Stolen Lands, and every side trek and sample encounter provides GMs with ways to freshen up the AP's exploration components. This issue is a must-have for anyone playing Kingmaker with experienced gamers, or for GMs re-running the campaign and hoping to shake things up.
I look forward to every installment of Wayfinder because the quality and ingenuity of Paizo's fan base never ceases to amaze me. Whether you already own issues 1-14 or you're just learning about the fanzine now, Wayfinder #15 will remind you just how much talent and brilliance the Pathfinder community can muster.
Perspective: GMed this for a brawler 5, inquisitor 5, swashbuckler 2, warpriest 4, and witch 2. The group earned both prestige points as well as the bonus boon.
Excellent use of maps: Not only did the author provide an original, easily drawn map brimming with flavor and interesting mechanics, but he used the pre-published flip-mat to its maximum capacity. Our group used the flip-mat for a cat-and-mouse stealth encounter, but the setup possessed all the necessary features to make combat and/or roleplaying-based approaches exciting as well.
Numerous roleplaying opportunities: The author provided PCs with opportunities to interact with law-bound administrators, vulnerable allies, disillusioned agents, hostile guards, defensive refugees, and even monsters that wouldn’t normally play nice with adventurers. The NPCs and their motives are well-described, making the cast of characters a valuable asset for GMs attempting to breathe life into the Chelish atmosphere.
Interesting rewards: All of the items that the PCs can find during the earlier parts of the scenario play into the final dungeon, expanding the PCs’ repertoire against some potentially dangerous foes. The chronicle sheet has some interesting options without being too pricey, and the heavy use of Ultimate Equipment (at least at high tier) makes this a valuable scenario for Core Campaign players. The bonus boon is quite flavorful and useful for low level PCs.
Spoiler-free: This adventure goes to great lengths to keep the events in “Faithless and Forgotten” part 2 and part 3 secret, which is nice for PCs who want to play out the mystery but problematic for GMs who don’t necessarily understand the continuity for NPC motivations, political undercurrents, etc. If possible, I highly recommend that GMs read through the other parts of this trilogy before playing this scenario, since they can help solidify the more mysterious workings within the narrative and guide answers to PC questions.
Few required combats: Diplomatic and observant PCs can talk their way through almost every encounter. While this may feel rewarding to the roleplay-heavy classes, combat-focused players may feel unfulfilled. Also, PCs who use nonviolent approaches can easily avoid spending any resources up until the final encounter, which allows the PCs to unload all of their tricks on the final boss (we had no trouble with this because the higher subtier boss is quite threatening, but the lower subtier may seem underwhelming under these circumstances).
Disconnected encounters: The scenario essentially plays out at two separate halves (an urban bureaucracy/subterfuge and a standard dungeon crawl), and the first half can be further subdivided into a scene spent recruiting a Society asset and a scene spent following up on some suspicious activity. Although all the sections retain some ties to the overarching narrative, each one plays out essentially independently, which gives the whole scenario a jerky, fragmented feel. GMs can somewhat offset this with some background reading about Cheliax, major players within the Society, overarching plotlines, etc., but it still feels like this extra work is necessary to shore up holes rather than enhance the game experience.
Wasted words: A lot of the scenario reads like a novel instead of a game. The scenario contains a surplus of read-aloud text, even in locations with little mechanical relevance and encounters where the PCs are just passive observers. I expect that much of this text is devoted to setting the scene for the trilogy’s overarching themes, but it still felt like those words could have been used to build ambience in a manner that involved the PCs as active participants.
Overall: This scenario was a treat to run, and I expect even new GMs would not find it terribly difficult to make this adventure come alive. Encounter mechanics worked well and each individual piece of the scenario excelled at accomplishing its self-contained goals. However, the strained connections between scenes left us feeling that this scenario was juggling a few too many balls at one time. This is somewhat expected for the intro to a 3-part series. Trying to set the stage for a prolonged narrative while simultaneously creating an impactful, self-contained adventure is a tall order, and several first installments of 3-part scenarios suffer from the same problems I’ve outlined above. Still, the scenario was an enjoyable opportunity to explore unfamiliar territory.
Final verdict is 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 because I know—and love—the overarching plot. I recommend saving this scenario until you can play all three parts in order; the trilogy is definitely greater than the sum of its parts (which are still pretty darn solid individually).