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FullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 118 posts. 2 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 8 Pathfinder Society characters.



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Frankenstein meets Phoenix Wright

*****

There is much to love in the second book of the Carrion Crown Adventure Path, but it’s impossible to convey just how goofy the whole experience is. I suppose I can attempt it, though.

Richard Pett and the other writers appeared to have two goals in mind when writing Trial of the Beast. The first was to create a lawyer simulation adventure, pretty much beat for beat a copy of the Nintendo DS game series Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, while the second was to create a horror scenario about Frankenstein’s monster. I’m not sure if these two disparate elements were ever meant to be placed together in the same adventure, but just like Frankenstein created life out of random strips of body tissue, Pett cobbled a game that is both fascinating and fun (if not really all that scary).

I’m a huge believer that the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system is best suited for two different types of game sessions: investigations and dungeon crawls, and Trial of the Beast offers up both in spades. The first half of the book was the attorney simulation portion, where the PCs play the role of a detective determining what crimes that a hulking golem has committed and defending his role in court. It’s strange that Pett decided to turn the story of Frankenstein into a courtroom drama, but hey, it works. The second half of the game involves a pretty epic dungeon crawl, viciously deadly and likely to kill characters, with lots of traps and terrain challenges. Both halves of the game almost felt like its own adventure and took about 8 sessions to complete (16 sessions overall)

Time is of the essence in all books of Carrion Crown, which adds quite a bit of suspense to the festivities here. Unless your group plays really regularly, though, this momentum can easily be forgotten, as first the group will experience many, many sessions of mostly roleplay and investigations, and then many, many sessions of only combat and exploration. When asking my group what they did and didn’t like about the adventure, the biggest comment was that the game would have felt more satisfying if it was written in a way so that both parts (the dungeon-delving and investigating) could be more throughout the entire book, balancing it out so players don’t get bored. Also, there was one battle about halfway through the book that turned out to be perhaps the most frustrating combat session anyone had ever experienced. The terrain in this battle consisted of a three story room and creatures that could create darkness and had climb speeds, and the whole experience left the group frustrated and exhausted. I played it out about how it was written, but I felt like I should have simplified the tactics a bit for player enjoyment.

Despite these complaints, I felt like this book was something unique, and overall I think this gamble paid off and created an extremely memorable and fascinating experience. I also prefer this game over The Haunting of Harrowstone, as that one had a lot less humor and surprises to it. If your players would love to play through just a good, old-fashioned murder mystery with a twist, Trial of the Beast may very well be the perfect backbone for your adventure experience. I’m excited to begin book 3.


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A Good Read For New GM's, A Little Dull for Players

***( )( )

Crypt of the Everflame is the default adventure module for those new to Pathfinder. It’s a simple, straightforward scenario, complete with full monster stat blocks and every specific rule detailed out so other Pathfinder sourcebooks are unnecessary to reference while running the adventure. This was the first Adventure Module I bought, and I am glad that I picked it up, as it is a great read and I learned quite a bit from it. However, after running through the module four times (twice as a player and twice as a GM), I don’t think that it is entirely successful in practice. Something about it doesn’t quite gel into a memorable, engaging experience.

The general premise of the module consists of each player being one of several young adventurers sent out on a jokey, rights-of-passage-ish holiday tradition, embarking on what essentially consists of a haunted house adventure. As a player, the best quality in the Crypt of the Everflame is its sense of mystery. What is this strange tradition? What are the townspeople exactly up to? Trying to answer these questions is a lot of fun. Once the players get to the Crypt, something seems a little askew, and the sense of mystery only deepens as the players go deeper in the tomb, finding more dead bodies than there probably should be inside.

The problem is…you find out quickly exactly what happened here. The players will run into an NPC pretty early on in the quest who, although quite crazy, can easily explain everything that happened before the PCs got to the Crypt. This completely destroys the sense of mystery, and was a missed opportunity on the writer’s part. The rest of the scenario consists of what essentially feel like “random encounters”, as each room has some sort of mindless creature trying to attack you for no complex reason. Yes, there is a backstory to all of these enemies written out for the GM, which are again quite fun to read, but those backstories don’t translate well to the players.

The encounters are varied in terms of enemy types and each battle has its own style and flavor. However, certain PC builds will feel quite useless in this: ranged fighters will find the claustrophobic map (built around one of Paizo’s gorgeous flip mats) thwarting their talents, while anyone specializing in mind affecting spells or effects finding themselves unable to do anything. Clerics are kings from beginning to end here, with a party with multiple clerics likely to have an easier time than a balanced party (although a trap or two will utilize a rogue’s talents, and one battle requires some sort of area of effect spells). I would consider the encounters to be varied but unbalanced.

There are a number of occasions when the players and GM can role play a bit, most notably in town before the PCs go out on their adventure, and again when they meet the NPC in the Crypt. It’s definitely not role play heavy, but it’s there for players that want to explore it. For those that like to think and solve puzzles, there are a few opportunities here (most notably some traps, as well as a few enemies that are quite tricky at first level, such as incorporeal undead). Exploration in the module is also moderately strong, as finding keys and ways to open new areas that aren’t immediately obvious, making the game not feel so railroaded.

I have also run the sequel to Crypt of the Everflame (Masks of the Living God) twice, which is, in my estimation, a lot more clever and fun to run through. If you are planning on GM’ing the sequels, you should probably start with this in order to connect the plot all the way through.

For new players and people that like to own and read modules, I highly recommend Crypt of the Everflame. Every encounter is detailed with backstory that is fun to read and makes you feel like you inhibit the world, even if most of those details will be completely lost to the players running through the module. A lot of the general enemy types are laid out, and new GM’s can run it without referencing other sourcebooks. It makes a great standalone piece that is very streamlined and easy to run. However, be warned that the module falls quite short of classic status, with early momentum stalling at the halfway point, and a sense that most of the battles are fairly generic without tying together to any larger story.

STORY 5/10
The backstory of the town, the crypt, and the yearly trek that connects the two is quite interesting. However, the story stalls as the PCs learn before the halfway mark what exactly went wrong, making the second half severely lag until the final encounter.
EXPLORATION 7/10
The maps, including the journey to the Crypt from Kassen as well as the GameMastery flip-mat map “Dungeon”, allow for some interesting exploration options. Learning how to unlock new areas is half of the fun.
PUZZLE-SOLVING 8/10
The module makes the most of turning Pathfinder's rules systems into fun games of puzzle-solving. Various traps and puzzles are in store, which tease the mind a bit in between battles.
COMBAT 6/10
Most of the combats here aren’t all that memorable, but chances are, every possible party makeup will find one of the encounters challenging, depending on what they are lacking. The final encounter is quite strong, and potentially deadly.

Overall: 6.5/10

Most recommended for: New GM’s, as well as those looking to upgrade to a larger adventure from the Beginner’s Box. Also recommended for someone that wants to run the sequels, Masks of the Living God and City of Golden Death, for a larger overall adventure.



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