Pathfinder Adventure Path #37: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv (Serpent's Skull 1 of 6) (PFRPG) (based on
Paizo Publishing, LLC
Chapter 1: "Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv"
by James Jacobs
Only the Strong Survive
A deadly storm shipwrecks the passengers and crew of the Jenivere upon infamous Smuggler’s Shiv, an island off the coast of the jungle realm of Sargava. If they’re to have any hope of escaping the notorious pirates’ graveyard, the survivors will need to band together to outwit the isle’s strange beasts and legendary menaces. But can the PCs unite the swift-to-squabble castaways, especially when several seem to have mysterious goals of their own? And does Smuggler’s Shiv hide secrets even deadlier than its desperate denizens?
This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path launches the Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path and includes:
“Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 1st-level characters, by James Jacobs.
A detailed look at the personalities marooned on Smuggler’s Shiv, by James Jacobs.
Revelations into the history, ways, and world-spanning schemes of the serpentfolk, by Clinton Boomer.
An introduction to the wisdom and dangers of the jungle in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Robin Laws.
Five new monsters, by James Jacobs and F. Wesley Schneider.
Pathfinder Adventure Path is Paizo Publishing's monthly 96-page, perfect-bound, full-color softcover book printed on high-quality paper. It contains an in-depth Adventure Path scenario, stats for about a half-dozen new monsters, and several support articles meant to give Game Masters additional material to expand their campaign. Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes use the Open Game License and work with both the Pathfinder RPG and the standard 3.5 fantasy RPG rules set.
My players and I (the GM) loved this book. Having played through Kingmaker and experienced the sandbox style they presented there, I can safely say Souls for Smuggler's Shiv (SfSS) balances that sandbox exploration feel with what I think Kingmaker lacked - a good sense of progression. Certainly you can go around the island and kill off random encounters and animal lairs and explore shipwrecks, but you very quickly pick up on the hooks of a plot and an idea of how to progress it at the pace the players want. And trust me, they should pace themselves, because this AP is hard as hell.
The DCs are a bit too high here and there (Swim and Climb Checks of 20 at level 1? Knowledge DC 25s?? DC 30 Perception and Escape Artist checks???) but that's easily tweak-able. The Cannibal camp really ramps up the difficulty if they're not careful, and Mother Thrunefang was an almost TPK if you run her as it describes tactically. Also, 6 skeletons vs a level 1 party with minimal means of dealing bludgeoning damage is extremely deadly; proceed with caution. Endure Elements is a must have (luckily there's an NPC with the capability to cast it if the PCs can't), and I even threw in the rules about getting lost, which made for some desperate (and fun!) struggles in the island. All this, combined with the dangerous wildlife, gives a very visceral feel to the deadliness of the Shiv, and my players and I loved it.
The mystery as to how they got there and why is also a fun little game we had, and any GM worth his/her salt should take time to read up on each of the NPC castaways and play them according to their personalities. Gelik and Ishirou remain two of the more memorable NPCs they encountered, mostly because both of them gave them the most trouble. Jask was almost immediately helpful when the paladin convinced everyone that he was innocent, Aerys was also convinced to be more helpful especially after they got the berries, and Sasha got her animal companion but unfortunately contracted Red Ache early on and was mostly incapacitated for the adventure (I plan on detailing her further in the coming books).
The "Campmaker" rules were a little too gamey for my tastes, but it worked out after we assigned roles and started getting back into roleplaying. Trying to win over the favor of the NPCs was quite fun as well. Overall, a very fun AP, especially if they're looking for a challenge. I highly recommend it!
This AP has some cute ideas but falls very short of proveding any real entertanment. Dozens of high DC saves with horrible effects, and skill check DC's that are nearly impossible if not total min/max. Oh and several encounters that can only be described as blood baths. Darkness + paralysis= TPW. We played with experianced gamers (20+ yrs each) and suffered 2 TPW and a total of 10 PC deaths!
My group loved this one and I think it is one that we'll be talking about years later. I've never GM'd a module or AP before and this was easy and straight forward. Its packing with flavour and has the right balance between set structure and space for GM creativity to put in what your group likes.
As others have posted its got a great mix of encounters, story, resource management and the challenge of the environment. I think old school rpg'ers are going to love it like we did.
Some tips with this
* Check the forums with thread for this book as there are plenty of GM aids
* Openly explain to players that the characters are going to wake up on the beach and that the opening Fort save determines the order of waking up. Lets them know that its a story based thing and they haven't been cheated.
* Make the NPCs shipwrecked with the PCs more friendly and ready to help. To get your PCs to bond with them you'll want to make the NPCs relevant and useful by having them give minor bonuses to saves vs disease and the elements, giving the players safe food and water, and crafting ammunition. This ensures the PCs don't see the NPCs as additional hastle and gives the NPCs some value.
* Use equipment from the Core book as treasure for the shipwrecks
* Consider lowering some of the Climb, Swim and Jump DCs
The first module in the Serpent's Skull Adventure Path starts off with the players being shipwrecked and stranded on a jungle island. It's a massive sandbox for your players to explore while they attempt to escape. Think Mysterious Island meets Indiana Jones, with a little bit of Morrowind.
The island, Smuggler's Shiv, is filled with set-piece locales, monster lairs, and vile cannibals. Plus, there's a half-dozen fellow castaways to roleplay, each with their own... issues. Lots of wilderness survival and jungle encounters, but also several solid dungeons near the end of the Path, and some roleplay/story encounters thrown in. Also, if you want to ramp up the Survivor angle, there's disease, morale, and camp-building to deal with. Quite a lot of variety.
Really, there's a lot to do, and plenty of room for a GM to add more. The encounters are balanced; some are quite challenging, others are a lot of fun. The NPCs have a lot of flavor, plus some quests (and rewards!) of their own. The set adventure locales cover a wide spectrum, and they're all really interesting.
As a sandbox, though, the module has a lot for the GM to keep track of: the NPCs' morale and helpfulness, the camp, random encounters, weather, etc. If you're strapped for time, this is not the Path to get started on; if you like modifying and expanding pre-packaged modules, this Path has plenty of room for you to work with.
I found it a lot of fun to run, but also pretty labor-intensive for a canned adventure.
This is my first adventure path and I am running a group of new characters through this module now. It has seriously bought the gaming table alive and I am getting requests to fit multiple gaming sessions in a week. The way this module takes a seemingly random shipwreck and builds up a campaign the players feel they have a stake in is genius. I cannot wait to get into the next module :)