Pathfinder Adventure Path #40: Vaults of Madness (Serpent's Skull 4 of 6) (PFRPG) (based on
Paizo Publishing, LLC
Chapter 4: "Vaults of Madness"
by Greg A. Vaughan
The PCs are now the masters of the lost city of Saventh-Yhi—or are they? For no sooner is the city won than the mighty Gorilla King and his simian followers come to take it for their own. At the same time, the PCs learn of a missing Pathfinder imprisoned in a subterranean city beneath their new holding. Before they can rescue him, however, the PCs must venture into seven ancient vaults to find the entrance to the hidden city. Can they survive the dangers of these strange constructions, or will they succumb to madness first?
This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path includes:
“Vaults of Madness,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 10th-level characters, by Greg A. Vaughan.
A dozen deadly new traps, by Gareth Hanrahan.
An ecology of the terrifying ape-men known as the charau-ka, by Gareth Hanrahan.
Demon birds and enraged apes in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Robin D. Laws.
Five new monsters of the jungle, by Jesse Benner and Jason Nelson.
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.
So I was thinking of running this adventure path as an extension of my Sargavan game. the first two seemed interesting, but then I got to three and four. Three has been strongly criticised and does have its serious weaknesses, but four takes the failure cake for me. I will explain why.
In this book, the players have secured a bit of space for themselves, battling many of the factions of the hidden city and emerging victorious. A king of the gorillas arrives before you can venture below the city and things start to go pear-shaped if you accept his forceful hospitality. There is awful food which can sicken the party and he imposes challenges which the players must complete before he will allow them to venture forth. Yes, this outsider will come in, block the adventure proceeding, impose tests and if the players win, he will move on and accept their authority (how quaint).
To the tests, a DC 25 strength check, which many players in games I've run or been in, would fail. Even a barb may not be able to pull it off if he isn't a typical massive strength build.
Next an oratory or similar check of DC 35. You are meant to impress the court, that is nice, but 35 isn't impressive, it is magnificent. Also many parties I know couldn't get 35 at around 11th level. Even a bard would fail on a low roll.
The last is combat. One party member against the king. He is a fourteenth level fighter and dire ape. He could be taken, but it would be rather hard.
If you fail two, you lose, the king blocks the tunnels that go deeper. If you win, he threatens the party and implies he will murder them in the jungle. Well that is just swell and honourable isn't it?
So I told a friend and dnd player why I wouldn't be running this adventure path and told him of the above scene. He said, the players should say fine, leave the ridiculous tests and tell the dm well the adventure path is a failure since we now can't proceed. If you refuse the very hard quests then the gorilla king becomes angry, offers them one more time (oh how generous) and may attack with his small army. A mid level party would have very little chance against this small army of ape-variants and nasty combatants.
There are some good monsters, but the necromancer hunt was stale years ago and the gorilla king encounter begins the book. It is worse than the imposed Shoanti quests in The Crimson throne, and they seemed out of place and very demanding then.
This module has the adventurers going into Saventh-Yhi's Vaults of Madness, seeking out a way to follow up on plot hooks discovered at the climax of the last book.
This book is definitely a step up in content from the last, with each mini-dungeon containing a number of interesting encounters. The problem comes when you finally have the hindsight to realize that each dungeon has about three encounters in it, and many of them aren't really hyped up a lot with story. The ecology also feels strange. You kind of go from one encounter to the next, hitting themed streaks, but a lot of the monsters don't feel like they really live in, or have a reason to live in, the vaults they're encountered in.
It's strongly written, the roleplaying is solid, and the trademark Paizo "information the party will never learn" is fascinating. If you're coming out of City of Seven Spears, this will be a breath of fresh air.
This module is filled with several solid, short crawls. I did not like modules 3 and 5 of this AP (6 is not out yet by the time this is written), but this one is a great addition to 1 and 2. It's not one of those "Man, I want to run this NOW and see the expression on my player's faces" adventures that Paizo so often comes up with... but it's obvious from reading this that there is lots of fun to this one.
Preliminary review on only a couple points - Grimtooth's traps & Mwangi