Every year the Acadamae—Korvosa’s prestigious school of the arcane arts—opens its gates to the city to host the Breaching Festival, where the most skilled infiltrators are invited to enter the magically guarded Hall of Wards or die trying. Testing their luck against the university’s strongest defenses, the competitors pull out all the stops as they vie for a chance at a fortune in gold and magical treasure. This year, the school’s headmaster has invited the heroes to participate, against the contest’s longstanding traditions. While the Breaching Festival has not seen a champion in over a century and a half, this year’s festival promises to be the deadliest trial the school has ever known. Should the heroes reign victorious, the secrets they may uncover promise more than gold and glory—they may rock the very foundation of the Acadamae, and even the entire city!
Academy of Secrets is an adventure for 13th-level characters, written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest RPG. It features a massive magical university, compatible with GameMastery Map Pack: Magic Academy and teeming with sorcerous traps, weird puzzles, diabolical monsters, and countless students and professors trapped in a web of arcane deceit. Also within, you’ll find a brand-new monster and details on one of Golarion’s most famous schools of magic, as mentioned in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Guide to Korvosa and the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path. While Academy of Secrets takes place in the metropolitan city of Korvosa, the magic academy within is suitable for use in any fantasy campaign setting.
Written by Brian Cortijo
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!
This is definitely an adventure for all Harry Potter fans. I know that Paizo probably wants their product to be seen on its own merit but I couldn’t help convert the Breaching Festival into the Triwizard Tournament. I encourage GMs out there to go ahead and take creative license with this module.
When I read this module, it was divided clearly into 3 acts. The author seems to me to have written the middle act first – and then discovered that it was such an incredible piece of work that he split it into two. As such the first and middle acts were creative and diabolically fun. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that he was probably then told that he needed more material – after all, modules are supposed to represent 12 hours of play. So rather than cutting back on the word count and losing the content in the first two acts, he threw together the results from a random encounter roll-off. As such, the third act was a waste of time – fortunately, it only encompasses about 2 pages of the final product and can easily be ignored.
Below – if you’re interested in my cast of characters for converting this module into Hogwarts:
Cast of characters
Faculty at Hogwarts
Headmaster Toff Arnelos = Headmaster Albus Dumbledore
Dean of Abjuration Julaei Cangi = Professor McGonagall
Dean of Conjuration Messida Vost = Professor Umbridge
Dean of Divination Norva Allesain = Professor Trelawney
Dean of Enchantment Heresta Tarlan = Rita Skeeter
Dean of Evocation Salgar Irevotnin = Professor Snape
Dean of Illusion Rombastle Falgeringer = Professor Flitwick
Dean of Necromancy Orianna Delmore = Bellatrix Lestrange
Dean of Transmutation Elgin Remorri = Argus Filch
Jandar Lilswin = Percy Weasley
Seska Imintar = Ginny Weasley
Fatmire = Wormtail aka Peter Pettigrew
Illia Ean = couldn’t figure out a good match for her
Knur = Hagrid
Maganrad = Cedric Diggory
Terentius = Roldophus Lestrange
Below – my thoughts regarding running the module:
Act 1 – Hogwarts
For the most part this portion of the adventure is setting up the module and I allowed my players to explore the campus and meet the faculty. Also, if they don’t chose to explore the campus on their own, they will be given an opportunity during the first round of the Triwizard Tournament since they each need to get a Golden Snitch (aka keylights). I gave them an opportunity to learn about the “student life” at Hogwarts through talking with Percy and Ginny Weasley. Also, they get to meet the other “contestants” – and I had fun playing Wormtail, Hagrid and Cedric (dead) Diggory.
Act 2 – Deal with the Devil
I know Paizo’s been criticized for over-using demi-planes. However, I felt as though Belzeragna was well-planned and structured. This is probably the “tightest” of all three acts since it demonstrates the author’s mastery of developing a structured dungeon crawl. I especially liked Nagxiv and Valshune’s little debate along with Marijkal’s relationship with Chyvvomn. These little touches help create a cohesive story. However, I think the mobs were a little underpowered for dealing with modern Pathfinder players.
Act 3 – Random Devil Encounters and wrapup
Not much to know – if your players are into Hackfest 2000 then this is a great way to allow them to do battle with various denizens. There is a potential the players will choose to confront Dumbledore – however, I think it would be highly unlikely that his entire faculty and student body would simply stand-by and allow them to do so. As such, I simply used this time to wrap up the adventure.
I found the adventure both imaginative and consistent within its theme. There are surprises for the players, there is a touch of the comedic at certain points, and the flow of the adventure is paced well. There are some memorable NPCs in here.
On a less positive note, I ran this for (6) 13th level characters, all experienced players, and this was nowhere near the challenge that the author intended. The consensus of the group, as we rehashed the course of the module, was that this was appropriately challenging for these characters when they were all 9th level. I would advise any judge who knows the players who are going to be at the table well enough to consider carefully if the encounters are challenging enough for those players, and act accordingly.
We played this for PFS credit - if you are considering running this as part of a home campaign or as part of an adventure path, I recommend bringing this out before your players reach 11th level.
I have not run this adventure but am planning to do so at some point. While the maps leave something to be desired (only one original map), the adventure itself and background make up for the four stars.
This adventure comes a bit late as Curse of the Crimson Throne and the focus on Korvosa has been behind us for a while, but it made me pick-up one of the first Paizo books on what used to be called the Pathfinder Chronicles Setting. The adventure fits nicely with the “secrets” mentioned in the Korvosa book. The background information may require some inquisitive players for it to be dished out during a game session, but there is a lot there that makes it more than a mere succession of encounters.
This seems to be a solid adventure for mid- to high-level PCs and steps away from pedestrian dungeons.
Bleh. I didn't like this adventure because of the map packs (and maps - or lack thereof - in general).
The maps are boring, and very... square. No variation, not very pretty, and wholly bland. (The one map that was new and not part of the Gamemastery map pack was excellent, as usual.) I was also disappointed that the Academae was not mapped. Probably too much for a 32-page adventure, but that just means that the adventure was too big for its britches (something I've always found aggravating).
I did appreciate the attempt at an interesting location (magic academy), and I also appreciated the section inside discussing how one might incorporate it with Curse of the Crimson Throne. Nice touch.
I got this since I was stuck with a subscription, but having read the back (thankfully the info was there, and the use of the map packs are not a surprise - very good, Paizo!), I would have otherwise stayed far, far away. After going through it, I was right. My players would never accept the lack of detail found in this adventure and would require me to do ridiculous amounts of work to make it acceptable for them.
Really enjoyable adventure. I would say that this is definitely one of my favorite single shot adventures to date. Nothing bad to say about the adventure itself, but i do have one problem ...
While i think it is great that they put out a map pack for this adventure, the map pack only covers pretty much half of the adventure. The rest of the adventure uses a map that is not covered in the map pack. I personally think that Paizo should utilize more of the map packs inside the adventure and AP's, but to do so i think that the map packs should cover the whole adventure, not just part.