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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 5 posts. 4 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 2 Pathfinder Society characters.



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Holy S%*#

*****

I'm going to preface this by saying I haven't run the adventure yet, at least not fully. My party have gotten their gear and brought back a few softened skulls for a place to sleep, but then it was 1am and ain't nobody got time for that. I'm writing this after that session with a few beers in me, so my profanity might not be on point.

Let me start off with the two worst things in this book. James Jacobs cites the book in the book(I’M ONTO YOU M$+@@*$+*#!@! I'LL ONLY FORGIVE YOU IF WE GET 5 MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS!) in the cheekiest use of notation since House of Leaves. That's number one. The second thing is the short fiction has a sleepless detective who isn't playing like a paranoid schizophrenic in a factory working on the development of invisible mouse traps and landmines. Everyone who knows a Sleepless Detective knows they can't go ten feet without rolling two perception and one sense motive on a neighborhood cat. The fiction is still great though.

I love everything in this book. I love that nyarlathotep gets a floating fifth domain for every one of his different aspects. I love that even though the book says something is outside the scope of the adventure, it tells you exactly what's there, what spell it has on it, how far down it is, and what bestiary to find it in. Beyond the scope of the adventure, my entire A*#. I love how this book uses haunts to put together crazy encounters that can actually threaten a pc even if they're armed for bear and expecting a half-illithid choker behind every door. I love that the boss fight isn't spoiled by the cover, and when it comes, it has two, very different stages that are teased throughout the entire story. I love that one of the gnarlier fights is an enemy who has had one of its attacks removed, rather than just sticking some class levels on a humanoid monster. I love that it's the right combination of elements from Amnesia:The Dark Descent and Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money.

2/10, the player's guide doesn't know the definition of nonplussed, refund, cancel subscription, and start buying up 4e minis.


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Still better than Inferno Gate

***( )( )

At this point, I'm figuring it went something like this:
"Hey man, I noticed in the warehouse we have like ten boxes of paladins, and they're still unloading more, what's up?"
"Dude, it's going to be radical. I ordered up like 500 identical paladins for the big battle at the end of Wrath of the Righteous! You can't have an epic battle without hundreds of identical paladins, pretty sure gygax said that."
"We cancelled that battle bro! Oh man, we're so fired when the Golem finds out!"
"What? No dude, hold on, I have an idea. We pitch an evil adventure path! Every encounter in the last two books can just be a s%%# load of paladins, problem solved!"
"Man, I don't know about you, but I don't know how to write an evil adventure path!"
"I got that covered too! We just make the party a bunch of government agents for the legitimate authority! They won't actually do much evil s@$# at all, but they can still be hellknights or whatever."

So you set off the artifact bomb you spent a whole book building, only to find it's two or three delayed blast fireballs with a ridiculous summoning caveat that the game encourages you to let the party play as some ridiculous undead, which sort of defeats the purpose of role-playing? The head of an adult gold dragon, blood of a bunch of peasants, the desecration of a holy spring, and the destruction of an ancient monastery of evil for roughly as much power as the level 14 sorcerer's 6th level spell slots. Once the tiny warhead has been dropped, you sneak into the city, conduct some more silly rituals while fighting a whole bunch of paladins. Your old friends from Castle Dinyar are back: An endless fountain of paladins, minibosses that can be summoned by the final boss, and making knowledge checks to identify which devil is best at standing on a bridge. Okay, that last one is new, but it's absurd enough to fit it with the Scourge of the Godclaw, or even The Inferno Gate. You identify some other devils to delegate to, because there are no Chelaxian troops or Hellknights anywhere on the planet. Then you fight the biggest paladin of them all(or make a reasonable diplomacy check), and you're done!

This book answers one of the great mysteries of the adventure path. We finally discover why Iomedae left Heart's Edge behind when she ascended: It wasn't very good. This is a good book for mediocre artifacts. The quest to corrupt it is pretty extraordinary, if you choose to follow it, in that it's way harder than just leaving it with the court of Zon-Kuthon to torture evil s&@* for a thousand years.

All of this is not to say this book is without redeeming value. There's a sequence I haven't mentioned with some awesome, thematic monsters in a sensical sequence, and the Solar form of the Angel Knight is going in my folder for all eternity as a 'Melee Solar.' The combat maps are pretty great, all the non-paladin fights are solid, and most of the art is awesome. While I would rather have had more evil s&!@ to do, perhaps actually invading heaven with an Archon who was uncomfortable with the unlawful actions of the Glorious Reclamation and their indifference to the pain caused by their actions, perhaps destroying a major good city as vengeance for them taking Westcrown, the book works, and is far better than The Inferno Gate.


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Look, I'm not Dave Meltzer

*****

Okay, I absolutely savaged the previous book in the Path, so I feel like I have to write another review. A big part of the reason I was so very angry at The Inferno Gate was one of the party was excited to continue playing his new favorite class, the Vigilante, and was chapped in extremis when he found out he would have to wander around all the time in his Luchador mask. When they had gotten to the point at which the party is accosted by a tired paladin, I had ask for a redo, as the Glorious Reclamation still managed to recognize him, despite him being in his secret identity for that day, which was literally too dumb to comprehend. I improvised, and they ended up killing the group through magic and grapples, laundering their uniforms, and hiding their corpses. All of this might be unnecessary background, but I felt like preceeding the following with my last drop of anger at the previous book:
For Queen and Empire is GREAT.
The social interactions all work well, showing off different flavors of evil, and really working the selfish manipulation aspect that had been totally missing in Inferno Gate. The allies in the first half of the book are so unambiguously vile, from their willingness to believe the worst in everyone around them, to their highly evocative jargon when talking about halfling slavery, that they act as great counterpoints to the PC’s, who are probably somewhere between out and out psycho killer and religious fascists at this point in the Path. Through the course of this book, the PC’s have the listed option to A. Spread lies about people who offered to help them. B. Murder someone completely unprovoked C. Steal rightly bartered for and purchased valuables from someone who very much needs them D. Butcher a bunch of someone’s herd animals in their pen E. Participate in a massive NE party F. Betray every damn thing
All of these are exclusively for personal gain. This book fulfills every single thing I wanted at the start of the path, and haven't really found. What's more, all of the social activities of the first half pay off in a big way at then end, with three massively interesting and difficult encounters back to back. I'm not totally satisfied that they went with a similar “good character on a good aircraft” solution for one fight, but they swapped the formula by making the F-16 the real threat this time around.
I do have some complaints. Once again, paizo plugs the npc codex every third page, which remains a useless waste of dead trees and electron movement. Despite the ultra-dense social encounters, we never get to use the social combat rules presented in Ultimate Intrigue. The art is also a little bit silly, because at two points, it talks about striking features on NPCs, height and facial similarity to another character, but the art very much does not back it up. These are very much nitpicks, as this book is my current favorite in the Path, and would honestly have made a pretty excellent conclusion.


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Fails to live up to the premise of the Path

**( )( )( )

After two solid books, the third breaks down into a slog through a videogamey map, with the players having to wander at random at times to fill the fetch quest. Literally, the whole book is a fetch quest, and an extremely convenient one at that. I hate missions that describe themselves as sandboxes, especially when the book reminds the GM to throw the accuser devil at the party every time they do the reasonable thing and try to figure out where the hell you are going to find an azata in the middle of the LAWFUL good enemy forces, only to find there is just one hanging out, awkwardly making smalltalk with some archon.

Furthermore, there is wierd railroading at times. More than once, the book says "the [enemy] recognizes you as an agent of thrune immediately," despite the fact that the previous book heavily encouraged subterfuge, and, at least for my party, we're casting undetectable alignment like it was going out of style. Any betrayal feats you might have invested in, any Bluff or stealth skills, all gone in the face of the Glorious Reclamation's magical ultrasight. Another strange moment occurs deeper in the path, when the party is given a powerful option, but are told that they are just not smart enough to pull it off.

Finally, there is one moment that I reread twice to believe. A random encounter has the party run into one of said Glorious Reclamation intelligence agents whose detect evil and keen wit cuts through Bluff checks, disguise, polymorph, and undetectable alignment like a hot knife through butter. He is a Paladin of Iomedae, and is accompanied by a group of s$!#ty fighters, made s%$&tier by the fact that all of them are Fatigued. This Paladin of Iomedae hails you(!), acknowledges you as agents of thrune(!!!), and offers surrender, because his troops are so tired. In exchange for leading them back to the path, he promises the contents of a chest his idiot buddies are carrying ten feet behind him, as well as his solemn vow that he will go back and tell the other Glorious Dudes to back off, Thrune has this whole Gate situation handled. What casts this into the realm of complete and total insanity is that he is LYING. In this course of this adventure path, you will be lied to by a paladin of iomedae, with the game noting that he will seek atonement later. They do not say this causes him to fall.
Okay, what. First, the whole premise is bent from the very beginning, since the book assumes that the Lawful Evil, Bad guy, Puppy Punter, Back Stabbing maniacs in the party will EVER accept surrender. If the situation was reversed, and you were a posse of paladins who ran into an Antipaladin who had run out of underlings to cannibalize, you would be expected to murder him! What's more, paladins of Iomedae have specific tenets in Inner Sea Gods, two of which are "I will suffer death before dishonor," and "I will not be taken prisoner by my free will. I will not surrender those under my command." According to paizo, this particular example should have fallen THREE TIMES, once for lying, once for surrendering, and once for surrendering for his troops! Really, this path assumes the players are more LN than LE, and presents bonus exp for letting most of your potential victims live. Other than the most basic pathfinder evil act of all(killing a good creature/outsider), there isn't much wiggle room to work in anything else.

The book reclaims one star for having good production values, and solid work in the bonus section. I hope to God the next part significantly more evil, (Oh God, it's called For Queen and Country) or this path might be remembered as the one where you had to collect 4 boar asses to progress to an actual enemy.



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