An adventure for 5th-level Pathfinder Roleplaying Game characters.
The Price of Greed
In the center of Lake Encarthan looms the dreaded Isle of Terror, accursed land of mystery and treachery. Hidden within the island's negative energy storms, the secret treasure city of the wizard-king Tar-Baphon has lain sealed for centuries. Now masked cultists have opened the golden city of Xin-Grafar to claim the wealth of the legendary city for the Living God Razmir. Can the PCs track the cultists through the poisoned swamps and blasted wastelands of the Isle of Terror to the City of Golden Death itself? And what forgotten dangers will oppose them as they struggle to prevent a dark faith from spreading across the world?
City of Golden Death is an adventure for 5th-level characters; it is written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world's oldest RPG. The adventure features a mix of wilderness and dungeon sites and includes a race through a ruined, golden city to stop evil cultists before the city floods with molten gold!
This adventure is set on the legendary Isle of Terror in the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting, but it can be easily adapted for any game world. It can be used as a stand-alone adventure or as the final chapter of the Price of Immortality trilogy, following the adventures Crypt of the Everflame and Masks of the Living God.
Written by Joshua J. Frost
Pathfinder Modules are 32-page, high-quality, full-color, adventures using the Open Game License to work with both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the standard 3.5 fantasy RPG rules set. This Pathfinder Module includes four pre-made characters so players can jump right into the action, and full-color maps to enhance play.
I ran this one as a player, the main tank. I still think of this dungeon a year later. I felt a real challenge here. Very grim and tactical. Several situations that can kill players, possibly this is giving it a lower rating. The only piece of advice I have is: take a tiefling!
For my group, this adventure was the weakest of the trilogy. The shortage of roleplaying encounters, the repetition with combat encounters and some illogical aspects of the storyline left a lot of work for the GM (me) to do before we could actually play. That’s not to say it was all bad, in fact parts were quite good and if your players are strictly hack-n-slash then you may not have as much rewrite time as I did.
For the details read on, but beware of spoilers. Do not read further if you plan to play in this adventure!
* Logic Errors
Iramine and her priests are several days (perhaps a week) ahead of the PCs, yet the PC’s are instructed to follow the same route she took. Instead the PCs should trek across the lake rather than around it. Unfortunately only random encounters are given for the long voyage, so the GM will need to flesh this out. I changed the described boat entirely, making it a fishing vessel.
* Deja Vous
Some of the encounters in this module closely resemble encounters in the first module of the trilogy, for example; wolves, skeletons and a crazy stranded NPC paralleled the first module too closely. If your group plays regularly, consider changing this up.
* Almost No Roleplaying
The semi-insane Dusan is the only hope of non-combat interaction (well maybe you could start something on the boat ride, but that feels forced). To rectify this, I made Dusan friends with the lizardfolk; had Aglanda’s group join with the PC’s and had Tar-Baphon’s Dragon ask riddles rather than attack. Dusan has a lot of island knowledge, so I had him give crazy-sounding advice that would actually help. For example, rolling around in dung was one recommendation. Any PC that did so gained concealment from the Bullette later on.
* Encounter Repetition
Too many of the same creatures are used (e.g. wolves, undead, fire elementals, etc.) As the GM you may want to switch these up. I used an Ettin for the wolves and Salamanders for the undead. I removed half of the fire elementals.
* Odd Pacing
The adventure starts off with sparse combat at the beginning but ends with one killer encounter after another. I couldn’t envision my PC’s completing the 3rd ring of the city, so I spaced it out a bit more. As mentioned, Aglanda’s group decided to side with the PC’s as long as they were allowed to get out alive. The Dragon delivered riddles rather than straight combat and I removed Naramoc and his two priests entirely. This gave the PC’s a fighting chance against Iramine in the final battle.
* No Big Ending
While the fight with Iramine was difficult, the end of this module came prematurely and without the big climatic ending I crave. Here are the PC’s, at the center of a flooding golden city, and they just have to saunter out? Instead I added a chase out of Xin-Grafar as it flooded and collapsed around them.
Here’s the chase I used for the escape (it gave the tension filled, dice rolling climax I was hoping for). Have each player roll once for each challenge and keep a running total of the results:
Escape Xin-Grafar The ancient underground city begins to rumble and shake as cracks appear in nearby floors and walls. Bits of the ceiling rain down, threatening to crush you, or worse, bury you alive. Time suddenly feels short and the city exit is dangerously distant; making a run for it seems to be your only hope of escaping alive.
1. The Naga's Pit
Jump Across, Acrobatics [long jump] DC15 (+1/-1 & 1d6 fall)
Drop down and Climb Up, Climb DC15 (0/-1)
2. Crumbling Bridge
Pick your way across, Knowledge [engineering] DC10 or [dungeoneering] DC20 (0/-1)
React as you go, Reflex DC18 (+1/-1 & 1d6 fire)
3. Closed Gate
Jimmy the lock, Disable Device DC20 (0/-1)
Burst through the gate, Bull Rush DC25 (+1/-1)
Disassemble the hinges, Craft DC15 (-2/-4)
4. Toppling Buildings
Risk it and dash under, Willpower DC15 (+1/-1 & 1d6 bludgeoning)
Wait and squeeze through, Escape Artist DC20 (0/-1)
Hold the heavy stones up, Strength DC25 (0/-2)
5. Iron Cobra Swarm
Tumble through, Acrobatics DC18 (+1/-1)
Fight your way through, Automatic success (-2 & 1d12 bite)
Sneak past, Stealth DC15 (0/-1)
6. Steam Geyser
Study the area to avoid geysers, Knowledge [nature] DC15 (0/-1)
Cross your fingers and go, Luck DC12 (+1/-1 & 1d6 scald)
A deep rumble ripples through the massive chamber as the jagged cavern ceiling plummets directly towards you. Only quick action will save your life...
The last PC (the one with the lowest final total) takes 8d6 points of damage (half, DC15 Reflex) and is buried. Characters in the slide zone take 3d6 points of damage (no damage, DC15 Reflex). Characters in the slide zone who fail their saves are buried. Characters take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per minute while buried. If such a character falls unconscious, he must make a DC 15 Constitution check each minute. If it fails, he takes 1d6 points of lethal damage each minute until freed or dead.
Characters who aren't buried can dig out their friends. In 1 minute, using only her hands, a character can clear rocks and debris equal to five times her heavy load limit. The amount of loose stone that fills a 5-foot-by-5-foot area weighs 1 ton (2,000 pounds). Armed with an appropriate tool, such as a pick, crowbar, or shovel, a digger can clear loose stone twice as quickly as by hand. A buried character can attempt to free himself with a DC 25 Strength check.
The Good Parts:
* Island Hazards
Hazards make for interesting encounters and the island has plenty of them, quicksand, poisoned rivers, negative energy storms and molten gold all make for tricky conditions that will keep players thinking.
* Tension Building
The looming storms and flooding canals kept my players moving. No stopping in a safe location to prepare spells or heal to 100%. The players felt like they had to keep moving or they would fail. This sense of urgency can be difficult to come by in other adventures.
* Cool New Baddies
The Golden Guardian was a favorite of the players. It was tough and memorable, and it felt unique. The terror template was also useful, adding a creepy twist to otherwise typical creatures. While not new, the summoned Babau demon was intelligently placed and had the players quite worried.
In the end, the adventure was a success, but I did have to make a lot of adjustments for my players. You may not experience the same issues we did, but if you do, the problems are not insurmountable. All the same, I had to give this module an average rating of 3 stars.
I have to wonder if maybe too much was squeezed into the 36 pages. Trying to describe a giant lake, a whole island and a huge underground city (with a complex history) is a lot in such a small space. Paring the scope down might have improved the final product.
The City of the Golden Death was not my favorite module but it was definitely not my least favorite. The module itself seemed like it had PC massacre potential---the skeletal dragon on the cover, negative energy storms, molten gold flooding through city streets, and the very names of places containing words like “terror” and “death”. In reality we waltzed through all but the last encounter.
The module had an interesting premise but after awhile the huge city/ruins we had to trek through and its puzzles and secret doors became tedious. Golden Death was also combat heavy though not oppressively so. My favorite combat was an interesting encounter with
a rude snake person
that my party particularly enjoyed.
The module was pretty good overall and other than a few dull moments was a good way to spend a Saturday. It provides plenty of connection to the current Rune Lords theme and was fun but challenging for all party members.
This final adventure tries for an Indiana Jones style conclusion to the trilogy with the players traveling to deadly Isle of Terror where Aroden defeated Tar- Baphon (in his mortal form). The adventure begins with another boat journey of random encounters before the characters begin their journey to the lost city and this is where the adventure falls short somewhat for me: The Isle of Terror is shown to be a vast nightmarish land mass teeming with savage monsters, evil trees and poisoned waters, plenty of opportunity for exploration and yet the adventure puts your players on a very linear track following the cultists to the city on a race for time. The character of Dusan was also an awkward addition as an almost useless companion; me and my players forgot about him completely by the time we reached the city. Once there however, the adventure becomes more contained and more focused, with the place threatening to flood with molten gold if your players aren't fast enough. The place is filled with deadly challenges and interesting monsters, though I found the naga encounter to be a little too deadly and tedious (with the creature re-spawning after the players defeat it) and ended up removing it. My players came up with a very amusing way of resolving the adventure and despite the module's faults, we ended up enjoying it (though not as much as the first two).
This one is all about the encounters, and history. Every encounter is memorable. Not much for roleplaying, but when your going to place called he Isle of Terror are you really expecting to talk to people?