Pathfinder Module: Academy of Secrets (PFRPG)

***½( ) (based on 7 ratings)
Pathfinder Module: Academy of Secrets (PFRPG)
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A dungeon adventure for 13th-level characters

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!

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-343-9

Academy of Secrets is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional rules for running this module are a free download (232 KB zip/PDF).

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Modules Subscription.

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***½( ) (based on 7 ratings)

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very fun module!

****( )

I recently ran this for a table of 12th- and 13th-level PFS characters. We had a blast! Lots of good flavor and a few good challenges. Also, I quite like the art in this one.

I do have some small complaints, but I should note that most of these can't really "count against" the module, as they arise from running a module not written for PFS under organized play rules, and not being able to make adjustments to the adventure as written. For a home game, many of these complaints would not apply.

That being the case, I've enclosed the list in a spoiler tag. The list shouldn't distract from the overall assessment—that this was a very enjoyable module to run and to play!

I've also added a spoiler for my favorite "cruel GM tactics" for the boss fight. :-)

A Few Small Complaints:
A Few Small Complaints wrote:

* Table size! Running a module written for 4 characters for 6 PFS characters is just asking for a cakewalk. In the future, I think I may have to limit seats at modules I'm running to 5 players. Which is a shame!

* The skill and save DCs just seemed too low for characters of this level. Especially the numbers to spot and disable the very flavorful traps.

* Encounter size. Several encounters suffered from enemy numbers problems. Either by relying on a group of monsters with CRs at APL-5 or -6, for no challenge, or by relying on a single big monster with no way to keep up with the PCs' action economy advantage.

* The map of the main dungeon just seemed too straightforward. Long hallway with doors off of it? Boring! More twists and turns for more of a claustrophobic dungeon feel may have worked better.

* The final set of encounters didn't work too well in a PFS setting. In a home game it would work great, as the GM could throw whatever she felt like at her party. The module even says, "hey adjust these as needed!" But in PFS play, it just felt a bit rote. Oh look, another low-CR devil to smash...

Cruel GM Tactics:
Cruel GM Tactics wrote:

* Chyvvom had plenty of warning the party was on its way, so he scribed a symbol of pain in the summoning circle and covered it with a major image of the floor. The party opens the door and the devil is maintaining concentration on the major image while negotiating with the PCs telepathically. When combat commences, he stops concentrating and the 3-round countdown begins. So in the middle of combat, bam!, the illusion expires and the party is slammed with the symbol. It went perfectly. Bwahahaha!

* IMPORTANT! Make sure you have the boss use his summon ability *before* the party gets in the room. As a full-round action that can be interrupted by damage, there's no way he can get it off as his first round of actual combat. And without bodyguards the encounter is probably trivial. If you forget this, have him dimension door to a random other room, summon, cast silence on himself, and greater teleport himself and his bodyguards back into the middle of combat.


Twisted Harry Porter

****( )

It was very unique scenario for me.
NPCs seem to like as Harry Porter's those, but twisted with varisian styles.
The *true* mastermind, can foreshadow for continuing adventure.
(actually, PCs can't even reach to him in this module)

But otherwise as mentioned above, it was rather too literal.
There were no truly twinkle.
That makes me to rated 4 stars, not 5.


Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

****( )

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:

Spoiler:

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

Other characters
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:

Spoiler:

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.


Great Concept

***( )( )

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.


Long overdue goodness from Korvosa

****( )

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.


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Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Just announced for May! The cover is a mockup, and will change prior to publication.

The Exchange

This looks interesting.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

When my Curse of the Crimson Throne players decide to end their Hiatus I'm slotting this adventure right in there!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules Subscriber

Another nice looking module in the 10+ level range. I must admit I really like the module line, it is just full of good stuff.

Dark Archive

Nice, I love the concept for the adventure. I know the cover is only a mockup but I always did like that art.


this could be a fun adventure

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Oooooo! More Acadamae! Drool!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Wow, I've wanted this adventure since the Guide to Korvosa came out.

Nice.


Is it set after the events of Curse of the Crimson throne?

If so does it assume a non horrendous outcome?

my recollection from the Guide to Korvosa is that the prize for succeeding in the breaching festival is about 450,000gp worth of gold and magic- hopefully this was just wild speculation and rumor.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Cards, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber

Keep the cover who says it needs to be a mock up! this looks like it will be great. Hopefully it will be as well written as the Guide to Korvosa.


I realize this is a module, but would there be enough information on the school within to base a campaign around it? If not, might there be a Companion piece along the way that could? :)

Contributor

Werecorpse wrote:

Is it set after the events of Curse of the Crimson throne?

If so does it assume a non horrendous outcome?

my recollection from the Guide to Korvosa is that the prize for succeeding in the breaching festival is about 450,000gp worth of gold and magic- hopefully this was just wild speculation and rumor.

It's far too early for me to spill any details about the adventure, its setting, or the potential rewards, except to say that we're going to do our best to make this module be useful to the widest possible audience, and to meet the expectations of those that play through it.


Hey its Korvosa, its Varisia, What more could you want ;)


Hrmm. Seems a bit... ambitious... for just 32 pages.


This looks great! I loved the concept of the Acadamae when I read about it in Guide to Korvosa, so this is definitely going on the "to-buy" list. I hope it will be as good as it looks :)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Sweet!

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
ElyasRavenwood wrote:

Keep the cover who says it needs to be a mock up! this looks like it will be great. Hopefully it will be as well written as the Guide to Korvosa.

+1

You've got a lot to live up to, but also great material to start with.


Andrew Phillips wrote:
ElyasRavenwood wrote:

Keep the cover who says it needs to be a mock up! this looks like it will be great. Hopefully it will be as well written as the Guide to Korvosa.

+1

You've got a lot to live up to, but also great material to start with.

Make that +2 (or more appropriately, +1, evil-outsider-bane). :D

Hell, I don't even own Guide to Korvosa yet (/me glances up at shopping cart guiltily), and I'm on the verge of buying this module on the strength of the current cover! O.O

The Exchange

This cinches it, I'm running Curse of the Crimson Throne for my next campaign. Come out with a Laori Vaus mini next and I'll love you forever.

Scarab Sages

This looks very very cool!


I agree this would have to be much more than 32 pages to give me what I would want out of such a product, or as suggested, an kick butt companion type resource to go along with it.

Dark Archive

All the Pathfinder Modules I have are 32 pages, and they are all chock full of enough info and gaming goodness to always last more than one session (I would be hard-pressed to try to run any of them in under 8 hours). Somehow they always manage to give you everything you need and more in those 32 pages, often with NPC stat blocks, new templates, spells, magic items, and maps galore.

Page count does not a good adventure (or any type of RPG supplement) make. Quality always trumps quantity, and Paizo always delivers.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Just a thought, but is there anybody discussing the possibility of using this mod as part of the PFS Organized Play with characters that have completed a 12th-Level storyline? They would be 13th-level after completing the "Eyes of Ten" storyline.


Brian Cortijo wrote:
Werecorpse wrote:

Is it set after the events of Curse of the Crimson throne?

If so does it assume a non horrendous outcome?

my recollection from the Guide to Korvosa is that the prize for succeeding in the breaching festival is about 450,000gp worth of gold and magic- hopefully this was just wild speculation and rumor.

It's far too early for me to spill any details about the adventure, its setting, or the potential rewards, except to say that we're going to do our best to make this module be useful to the widest possible audience, and to meet the expectations of those that play through it.

How about now?

Dark Archive

Ian Eastmond wrote:

All the Pathfinder Modules I have are 32 pages, and they are all chock full of enough info and gaming goodness to always last more than one session (I would be hard-pressed to try to run any of them in under 8 hours). Somehow they always manage to give you everything you need and more in those 32 pages, often with NPC stat blocks, new templates, spells, magic items, and maps galore.

Page count does not a good adventure (or any type of RPG supplement) make. Quality always trumps quantity, and Paizo always delivers.

+1. It's amazing how much information -- in addition to a well-written adventure -- Paizo crams into those 32 pages!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

I will buy this one too.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Dragon78 wrote:
I will buy this one too.

If you buy them all, why not subscribe?

(Waves a free PDF under Dragon78's nose. "mmmm ... PDF")


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Most of the ones I own, I got from Amazon.com before I joined the forum and besides I don't like pdfs.

Dark Archive

gbonehead wrote:
Dragon78 wrote:
I will buy this one too.

If you buy them all, why not subscribe?

(Waves a free PDF under Dragon78's nose. "mmmm ... PDF")

I know it would be more beneficial for me to order my books directly from Amazon, or to subscribe, but I'm one of those people who want to support their FLGS. And, I also want to show them that there are local gamers interested in Paizo products. :)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

The product image and description have been updated to match the finished product.

Dark Archive

Hey, that's a very nice cover! :)

Dark Archive

Very nice cover

Dark Archive

Dark_Mistress wrote:
Very nice cover

Do not repeat my words, foul succubus! ;P

Dark Archive

Asgetrion wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Very nice cover
Do not repeat my words, foul succubus! ;P

How do you know I didn't implant those words in your mind? Whispered from the shadows at night while you sleep, like a lovers words.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Very nice cover
Do not repeat my words, foul succubus! ;P
How do you know I didn't implant those words in your mind? Whispered from the shadows at night while you sleep, like a lovers words.

Oh my! Does it count as corruption if I volunteer? hehe

Dark Archive

Dark_Mistress wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Very nice cover
Do not repeat my words, foul succubus! ;P
How do you know I didn't implant those words in your mind? Whispered from the shadows at night while you sleep, like a lovers words.

I have picked 'Improved Iron Will' just a few days ago, so that would be impossible! Besides, I don't have lovers; I only have slaves... ;)

Dark Archive

Asgetrion wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Very nice cover
Do not repeat my words, foul succubus! ;P
How do you know I didn't implant those words in your mind? Whispered from the shadows at night while you sleep, like a lovers words.
I have picked 'Improved Iron Will' just a few days ago, so that would be impossible! Besides, I don't have lovers; I only have slaves... ;)

Maybe that's what I want you to think. The best way to manipulate people is to get them to think it was their idea all along. :)

Contributor

Hee hee hee!

Oh, this is awesome. I am most pleased.

The Exchange

I hope this will be PFS legal. It will be nice to play this then head to Tomb of the Iron Medusa with my soon-to-be-retired character! :)

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Joseph Caubo wrote:
I hope this will be PFS legal. It will be nice to play this then head to Tomb of the Iron Medusa with my soon-to-be-retired character! :)

You and me both, Joseph. My primary PFS character is Level 10, and is 4 modules away from being retired. It's been a great run, but I certainly don't want to retire him for good once he's finished "Eyes of the Ten". If it works out, playing higher level PFS approved modules would be a great way to still break him out for further gaming.


This looks cool. I'm currently running CotCT (which has been awesome), I'm might have to sneak this in. Cool cover.

Contributor

HalcyonAndOn wrote:
This looks cool. I'm currently running CotCT (which has been awesome), I'm might have to sneak this in. Cool cover.

There is a neat little section about how to fit in this module into CotCT if it's something you would like to do. I found it very helpful.


donato wrote:
HalcyonAndOn wrote:
This looks cool. I'm currently running CotCT (which has been awesome), I'm might have to sneak this in. Cool cover.
There is a neat little section about how to fit in this module into CotCT if it's something you would like to do. I found it very helpful.

Ah, very nice - thanks for the info.

The Exchange

Joseph Caubo wrote:
I hope this will be PFS legal. It will be nice to play this then head to Tomb of the Iron Medusa with my soon-to-be-retired character! :)

I really do hope that they do keep to the plan of sanctioning new modules for society play. Given that it would be nice to do this one before Tomb of the Iron Medusa it would be appreciated that even if the chronicle isn't available immediately we get a heads up as to wether or not this mod will also be sanctioned.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

heretic wrote:
Joseph Caubo wrote:
I hope this will be PFS legal. It will be nice to play this then head to Tomb of the Iron Medusa with my soon-to-be-retired character! :)
I really do hope that they do keep to the plan of sanctioning new modules for society play. Given that it would be nice to do this one before Tomb of the Iron Medusa it would be appreciated that even if the chronicle isn't available immediately we get a heads up as to wether or not this mod will also be sanctioned.

We intend to provide sanctioning for all new Pathfinder Modules (and, over time, some of the older ones).

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

The Chronicle and rules for running this as a sanctioned PFS event may now be downloaded from the bottom of the product portion of this page.

Contributor

Christa Foster wrote:


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 ...
First off, I'm incredibly happy to hear that you enjoyed the adventure. I'll do what I can to address your concerns, but even if I can't, thanks for taking the time to read and review it!
Quote:
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.

This is a fair criticism, I think, but you may be asking for more than is feasible, given the current product constraints for the Map Packs and Pathfinder Modules. [Disclaimer: I don't speak for Paizo here. I'm just a freelancer.]

Academy of Secrets already uses 5 of the 6 maps possible from Magic Academy (the 6th, I'm afraid, isn't really appropriate for the plot). Of the 18 tiles, it utilizes 15 of them, and that still only covers about half the adventure. By comparison, the final map of the adventure would require 15 tiles all on its own to fit every square on it (and remember: Map Pack tiles are double-sided, so tile-flipping is just about guaranteed--a huge pain if the party foolishly decides to split up).

Product integration is a wonderful thing, but asking for the Map Packs, as currently designed, to cover a full 32-page adventure might be expecting too much. Map Pack tiles create discrete, rectangular spaces that are great for individual buildings or chambers within and adventure, but far less useful for larger, interconnected complexes. While you certainly could have an adventure that was composed entirely of Map Pack tiles, in order to make that adventure fit, we would either have to a) repeat the use of rooms (making for a less-exciting adventure), b) dramatically increase the number of tiles in a Map Pack (with a commensurate increase in price), or c) force GMs to constantly reshuffle tiles to make new rooms (meaning that the Map Pack would need to designed for modular room-building, not drop-and-play spaces). For AP adventures, which are significantly longer than Pathfinder Modules, these problems only get larger.

I'm thrilled to pieces that you like the adventure, Christa. And I think that a greater degree of integration with Map Packs might be possible. I don't know that an adventure composed entirely of 18 Map Pack tiles would be all that interesting to play through, though, and while it's important to make all those interconnected products useable together, the first job of a module is to provide an exciting gaming experience for the groups playing through it.

Thanks again. Game on!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4

I'm eager to run this adventure for my group once it arrives. I love low-level adventures, but they clammor for the higher tiers.

The Exchange

Played this as a society mod over the weekend and had a good time. The traps were very easy for our rogue (cleric1/wizard1/rogue11) to find and disable. He's also our primary healer! Our 2 Wizards were running low on spells by adventure's end. The Tanks (My Double Sword Barbarian2/Fighter11, and another AC monster Fighter13) had a good time with many opportunities for hacking and slashing.

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