Slumbering Tsar 1: The Desolation, Part 1—The Edge of Oblivion (PFRPG) (based on
Frog God Games
The Slumbering Tsar Saga
The Sleeper Awakes!
At last, after languishing in its crypt for an age, the secrets of the slumbering city of Tsar burst forth in all their macabre glory. Poured forth from the eldritch furnaces and crucibles of the Necromancer and Orcus himself comes Frog God Games bringing you at long last The Slumbering Tsar Saga.
Something Stirs in the City of Evil
Over the distant northern hills, beyond The Camp, and past the Desolation stand the pitted walls of Tsar. A hundred armies have crushed themselves against this bulwark in futile attempts to breach the city. Even the combined might of the Heavens and Earth were unable to break through in the final battle of Tsar. So why was the city suddenly abandoned on the verge of victory, and what waits for those foolish enough to enter the Temple-City of Orcus?
The Black Gates Await
Only the bravest and most powerful of heroes dare the depths of the Desolation and live to tell of it. But what happens when they penetrate that blasted landscape and look upon the gates of the very center of evil on the earth. Can even heroes of such renown breach the Walls of Death and live?
The Slumbering Tsar Saga began its journey years ago as a single mega-adventure for the masters of Third Edition rules and First Edition feel, then became a trilogy of adventures, then a trilogy of mega-adventures, and now finally comes to you as a monthly series culminating in a massive book with over a half million words of pure First Edition-style adventure. Updated to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to accommodate today’s audience of the classic fantasy roleplaying game, The Slumbering Tsar Saga brings you 14 chapters, released monthly in electronic format, each chapter the size of a full adventure in its own right (30–50 pages). Then when the final chapter has been released, the whole will be available in a classic edition, hardcover adventure book.
I generally prefer to wait until I've actually DM'ed or played an adventure before posting a review of it, but the Slumbering Tsar series has been so consistently excellent and innovative that I feel that it deserves some early praise.
So far, each installment of Slumbering Tsar has been top-notch with great writing and good maps. What has been most interesting to me is that while the overarching focus of the series remains strong and consistent, each installment also feels like a mini-adventure that distinguishes itself from the whole and screams out "play me now!" Whether it's protecting a dwarven outpost from waves of undead creatures, facing the Master of the Crooked Tower in the heart of a ruined city or battling a massively giant gibbering mouther in an other-worldly citadel; Slumbering Tsar has got it all!
I'm a huge fan of Dark Sun and The Desolation (ST1-3) is simply the best wasteland wilderness exploration adventure that I've ever come across. I think this is mostly due to the consistency in the tone of this adventure. The encounters are dark and deadly and take place in sandy wastes, rocky badlands or around bubbling tar pits. There are dust storms, acid rains and other environmental threats. The dead rise from ancient battlefields and bandits hide in winding canyons. The Camp, which serves as the home-base for the heroes, achieves a perfect blend of frontier corruption and desperation. All too often, desert adventures are shoehorned into an egyptian or arabian theme and The Desolation does well in avoiding that trap. It takes the road less travelled and comes up with something new.
The second adventure, The Temple City of Orcus, sees a change in focus and locale but not in quality. The sprawling ruined city is detailed with gorgeous maps and presents many diverse and interesting factions. Most ruined city adventures that I've come across tend to focus on a few important sites in the city and leave the rest of the ruins undetailed. I have to say that I'm amazed at the level of detail that went into the development of the Temple City of Orcus. Every section of the city gets its own unique treatment. This is a place where adventurers could lose themselves. It's also a place where they could lose their lives... quite easily. Which makes sense, after all, you don't want a place with a name like "The Temple City of Orcus" to feel like it's just another place to visit.
The third adventure, The Hidden Citadel, has not yet been completely released but it features a mega-dungeon complex. And what a dungeon it will be! It will contain 419 rooms on 9 levels of a Citadel shaped like a gigantic statue of Orcus. Perhaps most exciting is the fact that as heroes progress through the citadel, actions that they take in one area will trigger events that will impact other areas of the dungeon. I can't wait to see the looks on my players faces when they return to an area that they have previously explored in order to rest only to find a Abyssal Gibbering Orb Lich waiting for them!
Another great product from a 3rd party publisher. I am absolutely stunned by the awesomeness that is the first installment of the Slumbering Tsar. I read the module front to back and was amazed at how well the camp was brought to life. The detail of the denizens was outstanding. The background on the hows and whys people are motivated and how they would interact with the party was pure genius. I went and got the complete subscription from Frog God and look forward to receiving a signed hard copy of it. The writing and back ground is top notch. It is very easy to review such great work and suggest that others par take in the greatness. Reading the second module as I type this, well not at the same time.
This product details the background/history of Tsar, as well as the denizens and events of The Camp, the only permanent settlement in the area, and likely the home base for your group of adventurers, whether they like it or not. The writing here is fantastic, and it had me laughing throughout the description of The Camp, sometimes because of the entertaining NPCs, other times because of the dastardly tricks and traps laid out to put the PCs through, and often a combination of both.
I recommend this even if you don't plan on running the entire series, just to use as a particularly cruel town from which to launch your adventures. At $2 you can't beat it.
Slumbering Tsar The Desolation, Part 1: The Edge of Oblivion
This product is 33 pages long. The cover, credits take up 2 pages.
Introduction – (5 pages Most of the 5th page is blank)
This section gives a history of the adventure. A adventure summery, 6 plot hooks to get characters involved and a section for GM advice. It also has a warning this is a lethal and dangerous adventure, with advice to be ready to replace characters etc.
A rough overview of the history. The City of Tsar, which was a city of worshipers of Orcus. Eventually good nations rose up and marched on the city to destroy it. It takes about that, what happened during the war and how things ended. Then a bit about why people are still in the area.
There is also sections that talk about how this was meant to be a trilogy of adventures and not written for smaller chunks like this, it also talks a bit about what you can expect out of the series and how dangerous it is. Greg flat says in this section that characters will die and he's not lying. Odds are high some will.
Chapter 1 – The Camp (14 pages)
This is a camp(really a town but it is called The Camp) of people living on the edges of the Desolation (which is the area around the City of Temples aka Tsar City.) This section has a full two page map of the camp and a map of the local Inn. It lists and details 15 different locations and talks about the NPC's in the city. Several of them are very interesting, some a bit amusing. All of them should provide interesting interaction for the PC's. At least one could be a replacement PC or Cohort. I am not sure Greg meant for this or not, but The Camp has a very Mos Eisley Cantina feel to the whole town. The population is VERY varied with a colorful feel. Almost like a old west town, most people are content to live their lives as long as they are left alone.
Chapter 2 – Events in the Camp (6 pages)
This section has 5 event based encounters. The first one automatically happens when the PC's first arrive the rest happen either at certain times, or after the PC's do something etc. At least one of these event encounters is potentially very deadly, it could even maybe lead to a TPK if the PC's are careless and is very possible to lead to a PC death. Also the PC's have to take over a responsibility in the camp, if they choose not to. They are no longer welcome at The Camp till they agree(they can hire a local NPC to take care of it for them though). Some will hate this as it feels forced(you almost can't avoid it), while others will like it cause of the RPing aspect.
Chapter 3 – The Desolation (2 pages)
The area as a whole is known as The Desolation, it covers 70 miles by 50 miles. It give a brief over view of the whole are and has a section goes into more detail about the army of light and the war they waged against the city.
It finishes with 3 pages of maps of the camp and a OGL.
Closing thoughts, For those of you that read my first review of the the PDF of the 3.5 Slumber Tsar book earlier this year this will look familiar. Since this is the first third of that same book, only updated to Pathfinder rules and a few other changes. This time around it is much cleaner and easier to read. More art and they art work is better, plus fits the text better. I didn't notice any errors this time, so the editing is much better this time around.
The stats blocks are now in the relevant section instead of at the end of the book. Which I consider a plus. Also each monster is described so you know exactly what they look like, which is also a plus. There is also 4 spells in chapter 1, ones taken from other sources but laid out in complete detail and updated to Pathfinder RPG.
This is just the starter camp at the edge of the real adventure. So far there is only the 6 event encounters and a random encounter table. Still at least one of the event encounters as mentioned very possible can lead to a PC death or maybe even a TPK
So whats my rating? For this section of the updated book I am giving it a 5 star. No it is not a complete adventure but for what it is. I honestly couldn't find a single flaw. The worse thing I can say about the book is in same cases there is bad use of space. Two pages have a lot of unused space and another piece of artwork would have been nice to help fill it in.