First, I want to highlight this adventure for all of the positive reasons mentioned in the reviews by Navior and Lucent. However, I would like to add this review as both a response to their comments, and to take the discussion back to a DM and PC centered perspective. I think the previous reviewers’ emphases on the last section/encounter of the module as being “railroady,” or as “uninspired,” misses the main points of the adventure. I’ve listed them below in no particular order:
1. The organic feeling and background of the adventure provides an amazing flow for the story arc.
2. The PCs end the adventure in control of Baba Yaga’s Hut!
3. This adventure is oozing with a classic, dark, fairy tale aesthetic that goes a long way towards putting the fear of fey back into jaded RPGamers.
4. Players will be very excited about gaining one of the most famous artifacts in both Earth and Pathfinder legend as their new home.
5. Not all BBEGs need to be completely memorable battles.
6. Both DM and PCs will look forward to new configurations of the hut once they travel to another location. I can’t wait to see the layout in the next adventure! And I can’t wait to see the players reactions when they realize, “Oh, this place changes when we travel.”
7. If you think the last section of the four in this volume is too much of a railroad, see the author’s (Jim Groves) extensive comments in the Product Discussion.
8. The players end up in control of an amazing – and very fun – artifact by 7th level!
9. The adventure can be altered so the railroad of the last section isn’t such a “dungeon.” Use your DM's prerogative. There is a lot being said about this already online, so find whichever idea inspires you the most, and tailor the adventure to your campaign.
10. Baba Yaga’s hut as loot for the players!
11. This volume could easily be mined as a “heist adventure” for a home-grown campaign (great idea Jim, and great AP debut!).
12. Did anyone mention that the players will be world- and plane-hopping in their new spoils after killing the BBEG? Woohoo, Baba Yaga’s Hut!
If you haven’t bought this yet, get it! And on that note, subscribe—because all the adventures for this path are going to EPIC!
I was worried that this gazetteer would be a rehash of bad stereotypes about Africa, but was pleasantly surprised to see that Paizo drew upon all the complexity of that continent, providing a robust sourcebook. Not having read the Serpant’s Skull Adventure Path to which this ties, I got this book without that campaign to see if the setting would appeal to me. I found within the pages of this sourcebook an excellent balance of fluff and crunch; from the descriptions of lost kingdoms, to stats for diseases and quicksand – plus a nice selection of jungle monsters.
The book also includes random encounter tables divided by terrain (with monsters and events, such as flash floods) in the appendix. Even if you are not a DM that rolls encounters during the game, the random generator for each terrain provides a robust pool of ideas for building an outdoor adventure. One critique I have is that some of the illustrations for the cities and lost kingdoms were neither Paizo’s quality maps nor a drawing showing the location. Instead there are eight rough sketches of locations, covering nearly ¼ to ½ a page each, which did not add any extra detail to the description of these places.
Additionally, using Senghor as the name of a city was a big misfire. To those familiar with Africa, it is the equivalent of naming an NPC Paris (it jars the suspension of disbelief). Despite these last two critiques, the Heart of the Jungle provides an amazing amount of detail, and rich ideas for a sandbox-style campaign set off the beaten path. Although I highly recommend this guidebook for the wealth of fluff and crunch, I have rated it 4 stars for the approximately 2-3 pages that should have been used for more useful material, rather than being taken up by the rough sketches of locations.
Trying not to replicate the other reviews, this campaign setting is exactly that - a sketch of many different cities and city-states within a loosely defined country. The locations are creatively detailed, with the intent to provide a HUGE variety of rulers to parlay with as players build their own domain during the Kingmaker campaign. For that it works brilliantly! There are regions to trade with, city-states to provide problems for the new PC rulers, leaders to ally with, and locations to be explored. As I read through this sourcebook cover to cover (despite often finding it difficult to stay engaged with other PDFs), I couldn't help but think about the possibilities for many of the areas.
Admittedly, as many of the other reviewers stated, this is light on crunch. If you are interested in stats, stay away from this product as there are only two gods with basic worshipper info, 5 new poisons, 1 spell, 1 alternate bard class ability, 1 region affinity, and 1 magic salve in the 32 pages. However, the nature of the sandbox campaign compliments Paizo's approach with this product: giving a huge range of idea-generating options for the GM to flesh out. The only thing I found wanting is the region to the east, immediately abutting the Stolen Lands, was not detailed as much as the other areas surrounding the campaign. However, that being said, if you are going to play Kingmaker I think the number and variety of kernels of adventure-generating encounters far outweighs that gripe.