Nidal is an intriguing nation and one of the most unique to Golarion, in my view.
This first part of the book does a brilliant job of portraying the thorough depravity of the place and what it’s like to live under the oppressive, slightly insane theocracy. The following chapter on adventure sites is full of adventure hooks and places/reasons to visit. The book finishes off with half a dozen well chosen, nidalese themed monsters.
I think it’s hard to portray a truly evil place without descending into parody and this book has avoided that trap with great skill. It was exquisitely written and a joy to read (albeit with the occasional shiver).
As with all good sourcebooks, I ended up with half a dozen campaign/adventure ideas rolling around in my head. That’s the point of these kinds of supplements and I can’t give it anything other than five stars.
I have received legal advice (from Poland no less) that I should post a review, so here it is (note I haven’t yet run this, it is based purely on reading it):
This instalment has immediately become one of my top modules of all time. As all first instalments of an AP, it serves two purposes – first it introduces the next epic adventure path and second it is an adventure in its own right. As far as the first goes, it is terrific. It makes it clear that the players in this AP will be agents of a political leader/faction and not vying for the throne themselves. It also demonstrates that combat will take a less important role in this AP than many others. Finally, it embeds the story in the Empire of Taldor – there are hints of the vast history of the nation and how that will tie-in later, plus introductions to many of the political factions at work in the Empire during this adventure path.
As an adventure in its own right, I think it is exquisitely crafted. First thing to note is that it is definitely an intrigue/roleplay scenario over a combat-focussed scenario. The first several encounters have incidental combat opportunities at best – rather there is a whole bunch of investigation/research and diplomacy opportunities. When things DO get ‘tactical’ even the dungeon featuring the first few bad guys begins with an intricate puzzle spread over a few rooms before there’s any opportunity to kill things and take their stuff (although those opportunities come up later).
The factions are interesting, the initial patron (likely to continue in that role for the campaign, by the looks) is engaging, likable and has a deep background. She is portrayed as ambitious plus competent and yet still sympathetic. There is a good reason for her involving the PCs (often a matter requiring suspension of disbelief in Aps).
My biggest pleasant surprise of this module is that despite being heavily roleplay focussed in the early stages, I feel like I would be able to run it with anyone – whether they were comfortable acting it out or if they preferred to roll dice and consult DCs. As such, I think it would be a good intrigue/diplomacy adventure for a group lacking confidence in that regard (assuming they wanted to stretch their legs somewhat).
My only criticism is that it takes a long time before the PCs get to really flex their combat muscles. At least for my group, they LOVE getting into combats early so they can see how they gel as a group tactically and can try out whatever tactic/approach they’ve decided to pursue with their new, shiny characters. I think I would definitely run the PCs through a ‘meet the team’ adventure first – complete with lots of stealth/combat/etcetera. That would be easily motivated as a ‘testing ground’ for the patron before she entrusts them with the missions in this module. My worry is that, without that introduction, they’ll spend the whole first half (which is supposed to be subtle investigation/diplomacy) sabotaging the plot by getting into fights they really shouldn’t be starting.
As ever – that’s the kind of thing that depends heavily on your group’s idiosyncracies.
If you’re looking for an intrigue/political macinations module, I can’t think of a better one (in any system or any decade from the 70s through to now). There’s some work on the part of the DM, of course, but that’s the nature of the beast when adventures step outside the ‘usual’ fare of kicking in doors and killing clearly identified baddies.
It’s a thoroughly excellent adventure – hats off to everyone who worked on it!
This is a great first instalment in the Starfinder AP line. There's no doubt that there are far fewer Science Fantasy adventures around than pure fantasy so, for me at least, I have very little to compare it to and find myself with only nebulous, ill-formed expectations. I expect this will become my 'first level Starfinder adventure' measuring stick for a good few years.
I generally prefer to run adventures before reviewing them and will not be running this until I've read all six instalments. In this case, I wanted to make some comments about the backmatter, so have broken that rule. As such, the impression of the first section (the adventure part) is based purely on a read through, not on how it survived contact with the players.
The adventure is shorter than a Pathfinder AP instalment which suits me down to the ground. It provides a good showcase of the new rules - some combats, some skill based investigation, starship combat, and so forth. It's also a nice introduction to the universe of Starfinder - introducing some parts of Absalom Station, the Starfinder Society and one feels is setting the scene for further explorations of the Pact Worlds and some of the factions vying for influence.
The second section is a gazetteer of Absalom Station and is a good introduction to some of the neighbourhoods and sites of interest. It's no doubt a difficult problem. but I find myself struggling to really picture the place without a map and none is provided here - rather we get a picture of the station overall and a handful of illustrations of differing places within. It's clearly a problem to come up with a meaningful map, but I think it's a problem that needs to be solved. I'm very much hoping the upcoming Pact Worlds book provides a lot in the way of maps.
The third section is my least favorite. A whole bunch of magical items from pre Gap Golarion. It is inevitable that Paizo utilise the fact that this universe is the same as the one Pathfinder is set in (there's some valuable IP there that has clearly caught the fans' attention, so it would be silly to leave it behind). Nonetheless, I find myself pondering why they bothered having the Gap at all, given so much of the Starfinder material coming out seems to me to be tying in to "how things were" anyhow (from several of the factions, to the pantheon, and now a whole bunch of relics from Golarion which could have been new themes, starship enhancements, or an exploration of some new-world mysteries.
I really, really hope Section Three doesn't become "bringing stuff from Pre-Gap Golarion into space" in every AP issue.
The fourth section is aliens and the selection was a nice mix of pretty low level threats - ideal for now, especially given it will be a little while until the Alien Archive is available. Paizo do monsters well so I tend to take their bestiaries for granted - it's hard to remember how well they do it when it's always such high quality. Based on this selection, I expect the Alien Archives to continue with equal quality.
The final section is the first in a Codex of Worlds series - a one page write up of a new planet. This was my favorite - I love lore above mechanics and this page was pretty much pure flavor. I can't wait to begin collecting these and can imagine this developing into a fully fledged, standalone product line (perhaps adding a couple of pages of aliens/technology/etcetera).
Finally, there was the back and front inside covers - this was also my favorite (thanks to Tacticslion for the revelation that one can have multiple favorites). The front cover is a picture, some flavor material and then stats for a tier 3 ship which the players "earn" through the adventure. The back cover is a floorplan. I can't fault the execution of this in any way.
Overall, I'd like to give it four and a half stars - the lack of a decent map of Absalom Station Gazetteer, although understandable, is still a noticable ommission. The "Relics of Golarion" section was the only true disappointment. I've rated it four merely so I have room to improve.
I find this book very hard to rank in the usual one to five star way.
I enjoyed the first forty pages immensely. They give a really good survey of the oceans and seas of Golarion including plenty of adventure hooks, details of who lives where and everything you'd want from an introductory 'gazetteer' of such large areas.
My main complaint is that each section is too short and further that there's no discussion of the bodies of water to be found in the Darklands. Given the importance of underworld regions to a fantasy world, the latter in particular feels like a glaring omission.
The reason for that is no doubt the perceived need to include the mechanics in the latter part of the book. I suspect that these rules elements are well done and probably even necessary (I don't buy the campaign books for rules, so I haven't done more than flick through the later parts of the book) - nonetheless, I wish they'd been provided in some other way. It feels to me that this isn't really a campaign setting book, but rather two thirds of a campaign book plus some rules stuff.
Given all of that, I still consider this good value and it's a welcome entry in the line. I'd just personally prefer that the flavor proportion of these books be given greater weight.
In my opinion, this is the best opening to a Pathfinder comics story arc yet.
I am a big fan of Red Sonja, Valeros and Erik Mona, so I went in with high expectations - all of which were met. I don't think it would matter if you are unfamiliar with either Red Sonja or the world of Golarion. I think this series is going to be an excellent introduction to both.
There was always a risk that the "transported to another place" element was going to be too obviously just an excuse for a crossover. For me, I barely gave it a second thought - the comic begins with a bang and immediately opens up questions and mysteries for the hero to solve. I found myself wondering along with him, rather than being pulled from the story. I started curious about how it was going to work and ended up thinking only about the story, with a dozen questions, theories and guesses - eagerly waiting for the next issue.
There is lots of action, lots of story and lots of personalities introduced. Exciting battle scenes, genuine humor and a cliffhanger ending - what else could one want from a Pathfinder comic?
The only minuscule issue I had was with the opening - I felt like I'd just missed out on another cool story....Then again, I'm always happy when the sole complaint I can find with a product is that there wasn't enough of it.
Erik, Red Sonja and Valeros remain solidly as a few of my favorite things. If you're even mildly curious - buy this comic. It's awesome. :)