An urban and dungeon adventure for 1st-level characters.
Deep below the anarchic city of Kaer Maga, someone—or some thing—has begun stealing corpses from the city’s most prestigious tomb, the Godsmouth Ossuary. Fearing the worst, the clerics of Pharasma in charge of maintaining the crypts quietly call for aid, not wanting to risk their own members in combating whatever horrors may have crept in from the tunnels and hidden chambers of the legendary Undercity. Yet when the PCs venture below the closed-off sections of the crypt, what they find may be more than they bargained for. For beneath the infamous crypt lies a temple from an ancient empire devoted to sin, and a former Pharasmin cleric who’s weathered his goddess’s wrath to create an army of undead minions, their dead flesh standing ready to support his heretical plans.
The Godsmouth Heresy is an adventure for 1st-level characters, written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest RPG. It takes place beneath the cliff-top city of Kaer Maga, an ancient prison colony turned den of thieves and refugees, fully detailed in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: City of Strangers. In addition to the adventure, which features ancient tombs, horrifying sin magic, and a crazed alchemist, this module also contains statistics for the new rune guardian constructs and a map and overview of the Godsmouth Cathedral, the city’s primary temple devoted to the Lady of Graves. Though this adventure is set in the frontier region of Varisia in the Pathfinder campaign setting, it can easily be adapted for any game world.
Written by Rob McCreary
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 new monsters, treasure, and a fully detailed bonus location that can be used as part of the adventure or in any other game!
Hello again all, been awhile. Before I begin this review properly let me say that the purpose of it is to expand on some of the topics that some of the other reviews have already given here. Some of what I am about to say is similar to what has already been said and often when I see that that is the case I don't do a review at all, since it would be a waste of words. In this case though I think its good to give some greater detail and discuss some of the pros and cons. I will of course use spoilers.
Let me begin by saying this module is basically a dungeon crawl and that isnt everyone bag, certainly isnt mine. I dont hate dungeon crawls but I feel that most dungeon crawls have little to no real role playing, by that I mean no real npc to pc interaction. Many end up feeling forced or random, like a randomly generated computer game. The dungeon in Godmouth isnt so bad for a few reasons:
Theres plenty of Lore spread out through the module. Mostly information regarding the Runelords and the Thassilonian Empire. This made it feel like a thematic adventure, something I very much appreciated. Unfortunately it didnt work out to its fullest because no one in our group had any of the skills that were required to get the info. This I think is a problem through out PFS in general, because you can never rely on a group to have a synergetic mixture of skills you can never rely on a story being fully explored or even fully told! I think one way this could be tackled is to make boons available on chronicle sheets that allow a pc to roll on skills that they dont have to get information, even at higher DCs than 10 or 20. Perhaps even give the pc a bonus to the roll as part of it.
By the way part of the reason this annoyed me a little was that I have a Sorcerer thats very much into Thassilonian lore, has all the skills used for this and knows the Thassilonian language. But I wasnt playing her and couldnt play her. Shes too high level.
There are npcs to talk to and interact with in a noncombat sense of the term 'interact'. At one stage my group met up with a clever little Goblinsnake that's running a scam on unwitting adventurers, which we fell for. Sort of. Being clever we traded some treasure we found in the dungeon, treasure we didnt need, rather than give it our own gold. Still it was an interesting little bit of role playing because I knew we were being conned but since no one could tell in character all I could do was chuckle and go along with it.
There is also an intelligent Zombie named Esme (i think it was Esme) that is even willing to help you out if you help her. Some groups might have missed this opportunity because they simply attacked her or chose not to help her. I think that's a missed opportunity, not everything needs to be bashed after all.
In the end what I think the problem is is that sometimes you have to make your own role playing opportunities or look for them a bit harder than usual. It certainly helps when the game designers and GMs get into the role playing spirit too though.
Now while I think this module is above average in many way, such as thematics and role playing, it does have some balance issues in the combats as well as a lack of planning and strategy aspects of the game. It is difficult to give 1st level characters a chance to strategise, there's not much a 1st level character is capable of in the way of resources. However, that being said, one could say that its even more important for weaker characters to stop and think before they pick a fight and one flaw of this module is that you dont often get a chance to plan due to enemies being hidden, unpredictable or simply beyond your ability to counteract. To explain what i mean in more detail ill use spoilers again:
There are several encounters placed randomly around the dungeon or hidden behind secret doors and several that are simply very difficult. The ones I will talk about are the Bone snake, the Iron cobra, the Skeletal warrior, the Alchemist BBEG and the exploading Zombie.
First the Bone snake, which is a tough fight but not beyond the means of a group of first level characters. It has DR of course, just like a skeleton, and that's rough on a group of 1st levels especially when not all of them are veterans that are aware of the benefits of carrying backup weapons of different damage types.
I feel the real problem with this fight is not only is the enemy tough to begin with but its lurking, hiding in the bottom of a pit. That could easily give it the advantage of surprise, which is cruel when used on 1st level pcs. Why not use stealth tactics for weaker enemies against first level characters? let the pcs see the more powerful foes right away so they have a chance to plan? i think that would be much fairer.
Next theres the Iron cobra. This was a boring fight. With its high AC, damage reduction, spell resistance and low damage potential this is a long drawn out fight with lots of missing and frustration.
In the end we started aiding each others attack rolls to get the cobra down, which I dont think every group of pcs would think of doing. This is a poorly thought out encounter simply because its boring and frustrating. In a 3-4 level module it probably would have been fun because we would be able to hit it consistently.
The Skeletal warrior is hiding behind a secret door. Its dressed in half plate so its pretty hard to hit, again making the fight rather tedious, but unlike the Iron cobra which doesn't do much damage, the Skeletal warrior has high strength and is armed with a longspear so it can do huge damage.
Our group got inside its reach but then it just dropped its spear and started doing two claw attacks, just as bad! That combined with the lack of room in the area makes this fight very hard, your only chance is that the GM rolls poorly and that's not a good feeling. That's not skill winning you the fight, that's pure luck and that not something I enjoy. I feel this fight could have been toned down quite a bit simply by changing what armour the Skeletal warrior is wearing and what weapon its using, where exactly it is and how accessible it is.
Next Ill talk about the BBEG, an Alchemist. This guy is BS. We beat him but I noticed he had a +8 attack bonus with his bombs, which being touch based means that its actually difficult to miss with them against first level characters.
He uses frost bombs so that not only does he do damage but he limits your ability to fight back and that combined with his zombie minions makes life difficult, I dont remember him doing all that much damage so maybe he was only second level but if so how did be get such a high attack bonus? Im guessing he had a few buffs up before the fight even starts... always BS when you consider some of them probably only lasted a few minutes and I was using stealth to scout him out! (He saw me but not until I was about 30-50 feet away, so how would he have known to buff up or get several buffs up? let alone without me noticing?)
I have noticed that Alchemists are often used like this in lower level PFS scenarios and Im getting sick of it, for us this fight was relatively easy due to bad luck on the part of the GM. But I'm getting so sick of seeing classes, feats and templates being abused to make an encounter hard for no more reason than because 'it has to be hard'.
Lastly of all lets talk about the exploding Zombie found in one of the rooms, more or less at random. This is actually a weak enemy but that's not the problem.
The problem is the cost involved. When you kill it the zombie explodes and this poison gas comes out, a poison that not only damages but drains your charisma if you fail the save. This is harsh on first level character because it costs 100 gold to fix up charisma drain plus the cost of casting a restoration spell (+380 gp).
It sucks being first level and having a significant portion of your carefully controlled and hard earned cash taken away BEFORE YOU CAN EVEN EARN IT! Why couldn't you just use something else?
One of the things I really like about this module and indeed Pathfinder and Golarion in general though is the weird freaky things you stumble across every so often. Everything from Ancient forgotten Empires built on Sin, to flying zombie heads, to talking intelligent zombies, to flesh walls with wounds for doors... there is definitely a part of me that likes being creeped out.
In conclusion this is a really good game that unfortunately buys into the power gaming challenge race just a bit too much. It could have used a little more attention being paid to Kaer Maga as well but maybe thats something that couldnt be done due to the time constraint of online gaming and PFS in general. I think if this module were taken by a skilled GM, modified to add in more role playing encounters in the city of Kaer Maga and the Church of Pharasma and if the encounters were modified to make them more balanced and fair itd be a truly great story. But I dont think it could be done in PFS, this is really a tabletop house game trying to break free of the constraints of PFS.
The dungeon itself reminded me of Lets make a deal - pick a door! Except there are about 100, so you tediously sreach for traps and open doors for 8 hours. no clue (to my knowledge) are given other than 'randomly open everything'.
I personally thought the story was rather lame. I don't know, the villain just did nothing for me, even though I did like how they were playing with Pharasma lore with his backstory. The map also has a difficult swarm monster, which even a 2nd level party would have no answer. While running away is a viable option, it feels odd that a swarm of cockroaches is the most dangerous creature in a dungeon full of demons and undead.
The real gem of the module is the map. It's a pretty fantastic map with lots of colorful background flavor surrounding Thassilon lore. This makes the map an excellent adventure for any Varisian campaign or any campaign that plays with Thassilon and the runelords. My players were completely oblivious to Pathfinder lore, but after this module, they wouldn't stop talking about the runelords.
The map, though, does have a few problems of its own. There are several areas my players absolutely refused to explore simply because they smelled like a trap but gave no incentive to look into it. The best example is one pair of rooms that do a neat, terrifying, and yet relatively harmless effect to any that linger in it. However, no sane player would ever go into the room. There's no incentive to enter it and it just screams "THIS IS A TRAP."
There's also several staircases that lead to other areas not featured in the module. It's great if you have the supplements or another dungeon in mind. For me, this module took three or four sessions to finish. Neither I nor my players wanted to use up more time there. It was extra work to make sure every "hole" was plugged in. Even having a collapsed stairway was enough to make my players waste resources getting to an area that wasn't there. It's rather annoying and comes off as a shameless plug for other materials.
Over all, Godsmouth Heresy is decent. It has a good map that touches on Thassilon lore that makes the whole module worth getting. And while I did not like the story, your players may think differently.
I'm not normally a fan of dungeon crawls but this one was pretty good. Interest in solving the mystery will propel you through the zombie and sin infested crypts below Kaer Maga. The module was simple, didn't feel tedious after nearly a day of playing, and though the fights weren't too challenging for us it was a lot of fun.