Pathfinder Adventure Path #38: Racing to Ruin (Serpent's Skull 2 of 6) (PFRPG) (based on
Paizo Publishing, LLC
Chapter 2: "Racing to Ruin"
by Tim Hitchcock
Finally reaching the port city of Eleder, the adventurers arrive with knowledge of the route to the lost city of Saventh-Yhi. But new rivals are also on the trail of the legendary metropolis, and soon the race is on to reach the fabled ruin and claim its unimaginable treasures. Will the adventurers ally with ambitious explorers like the treasure-seeking Pathfinder Society, the unscrupulous Aspis Consortium, the gold-hungry Shackles Pirates, or others on their quest into the jungle's depths? And what dangers will they face as they enter the Screaming Jungle, one of the deadliest wildernesses on all of Golarion?
This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path includes:
"Racing to Ruin," a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 4th-level characters, by Tim Hitchcock.
A tour of the exotic and tumultuous port city of Eleder,
by Tim Hitchcock.
A look into the calm and calamity of Gozreh, unpredictable god of nature, by Sean K Reynolds.
Bar brawls and noble quests in the Pathfinder's Journal, by Robin Laws.
Five new monsters, by Tim Hitchcock, Patrick Renie, Sean K Reynolds, and Neil Spicer.
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.
I see a lot of people here are complaining about how linear the whole campaign setting is, as well as a few problems with how boring a lot of the journey seemed to be. I played this as a player and we had a blast. While we did have a minor complaint about the linear path we were to take to get to the destination it didn't take long until we were simply having a blast journeying through Gorund.
The random encounters proved to be something that everyone hoped for since it boosted our XP bonuses, and allowed for us to feel like we were back in the turn based RPG days where we would farm for hours to get to the next level by walking in circles in one room. While few people enjoyed that portion of those games I loved it since it enabled myself to get to a much higher level without fighting higher level opponents.
The various NPCs that you meet and travel with are interesting and fairly unique. Add in some of the difficult weather encounters and it feels like you're looking into an actual epic journey instead of just fast traveling there. It gives you respect and perspective on what your asking your characters to do. With an interesting group and a good DM this can be a really great AP, but since it's a little hit and miss for those purposes I can't give it five stars. I guess my group just lucked out with a DM who has run this campaign before, and a group of fairly evil individuals who made the journey seem very strange compared to a lot of other APs we ran before.
Not a bad adventure, but it fails to deliver on it's premise
Racing to Ruin accomplishes what it sets out to do, to connect Souls for the Smuggler’s Shiv with the City of Seven Spears, and completing that task without strange unexpected jumps in the narrative is all that we really ask for in an adventure. I have two complaints though, and both involve the premises set up in the title. Review behind the spoilers:
First of all let me address the number one complaint: this adventure is a railroad. Yes it is, most travel adventures are, but getting around that simply involves presentation. The complaints that most GMs get about rail roads are there’s no options, and sadly, as written, this is the case with this adventure. The PCs don’t get to choose the guide, the travel route, even something as personal as a PCs spirit animal seems to be random rolling of the dice. This doesn’t need to be the case. You can use the adventure as written and still give the PCs the illusion of choice. If the PCs decided to go a different route many of the encounters could take place anywhere. Do yourself a favour and if you have picky players let them feel like they’re in control. It will make your life that much easier.
Also, for a railroad adventure this adventure has the potential for jumping the tracks pretty early. Two problems pop up straight away, first the adventure assumes that the player’s discovery of Saventh-Yhi becomes common knowledge, hence the factions organize to race to the ancient city. But what if the PCs are tight lipped about their discovery? What if they don’t share their discovery with any of the NPCs and are capable of doing the translating and planning for themselves? Forcing this angle onto the players might leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths. The second problem is a slave revolt that a rival faction harnesses and aims at the players. Now in my experience if you have a good or altruistic party this encounter could spiral into a full fledged side adventure as the PCs try to over through the corrupt government of Sargava.
As for encounters, I found them varied and interesting, albeit somewhat predictable. My PC, for example, was always rewarded with being completely untrusting of any and every friendly local she met. She had the suspicious trait but it’s hard to play a paranoid when every friendly villager is secretly out to get you.
My ultimate complaint though is that Racing to Ruin neither feels like a race, nor does it feel like you’re discovering ancient ruins. The problem with the race concept is that you seldom see your rivals at all, there’s no opportunity to turn the tables on them and slow them down, there’s no encounters where you strive to out pace your opponents. Supposedly they’re somewhere in the back ground but your never really made aware of them except for when your rivals are able to lay pitfalls and assassination attempts on you (without fear of retaliation I’ll add). This just doesn’t feel like a race.
The second problem is the idea of ruins, when I see the cover of this adventure, and think of classic adventure movies of this genre, I had imagined that the reward and capstone of this adventure would be exploring some ancient Azanti ruins filled with death traps and puzzles. This was never delivered. But what I got was a monkey village that had already been well explored and pilfered by the natives and the PCs were left to pick through the crumbs. Worse still, if the PCs had their eyes on the big picture and where thinking only of the campaign ark, assumed that the serpentfolk were the true villains you were racing against, well you were sorely disappointed as these slippery are already here.
In summery, no race, sad under whelming ruins. Still I can’t call this adventure a failure, I had fun, and there is potential for expansion. This adventure does what it needs to do and does add a bit of tension to the campaign. You could do a whole lot worse.
A good combination of city, overland, and ruins exploration. The overland part can seem railroady, as others have said, but it works, and some of these encounters establish themes for future creatures. Overall, a worthy transition from the previous module to the next.
The maps, on average, are pretty good. A couple of them are really nice.
The Kalabuto map is big and beautiful. Great for a sprawling battle.
The 'tree' map was hard to understand, but can work really well if you spend some time with it and understand the terrains and elevations, maybe marking the map up a bit. I established the terrain to be very advantageous to the residents, and it made for a good rolling fight.
Recently completed this while we had fun playing it the campaign was rife with WTF moments that were either annoying or discouraging.
As with the rest of the Serpents Skull Path The story line is something of a sand box albeit with a very specific point A to point B path that you have to follow.
The story line is predicated on the idea that your hired by a group in order to race to a curtain location before competing explorer groups... you would expect such a race to include several paths (short and dangerous vs long and safe), and reoccurring enemies (opposing groups hot on your heels and efforts made to confound each other),
The path has little to none of that. instead it is essentially a straight line from point A to point B with a spattering of random encounters every few days. a group of paladins walking in plate armor will travel at about the same speed as rangers on horse back and the path does not seem to provide any alternate routs or methods.
Granted all of the above are modifiable by the GM. I mean... a good GM can allow the players to take alternate routs and just build new encounters for the alternate routs... but isnt avoiding that work specifically why they buy these APs?
Lastly when you reach the end of the campaign you find that the people who hired you may actually beat you to the goal which makes you wonder why they hired you at all.
The campaign has loads of potential... but only if the GM knows how to enhance what the campaign gives and for this reason I give it only 2 stars because why buy it if I have to do all the work anyway.
This book has a ton of stuff a DM can use for the future: new monsters, background information for PCs to discover, plus allies and enemies to make galore. My Sunday table collects NPC followers like they're pokemon, and this whole AP is filled with chances to do just that. My only problem was the physical construction of the book. After just three sessions, pages began to fall out! Hopefully I can get a replacement copy.