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Curse of the Golden Spear, Part 2: The Dim Spirit (PFRPG)

***** (based on 4 ratings)
PSICB6803

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Danger lurks with the Forests of Kaidan ...

Traveler Beware!

You came to Kaidan, escorting a merchant and the gift he carried, a gift meant for a powerful Kaidanese lord. Yet with the gift delivered, and the merchant's daughter rescued, your troubles are only just beginning. Kaidan is cursed, and now that you are within its borders you discover that not even death will release you from the Islands' powerful grip. As new horrors continue to present themselves, you must ask, do you have what it takes to survive theCurse of the Golden Spear?

The second of a three part campaign, Dim Spirit is an adventure set in the cursed land of Kaidan and is suitable for a group of 6th level characters. Drawing inspiration from Japanese folklore, and fully compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Kaidan is a land of horror and mystery. In Kaidan, demons stalk the land in human form, the dead seldom rest easy, and life is cheap. This adventure continues the story which began in The Gift, introducing players and game masters alike to the cursed realm of Kaidan.

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PSICB76803


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Product Reviews (4)

Average product rating:

***** (based on 4 ratings)

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Curse of the Golden Spear Continues

*****

Dim Spirit continues the Curse of the Golden Spear campaign across the lands of Kaiden, an island fraught with horror and asian folklore influence. The storyline picks up exactly where it left off with the underlying plot of part 1 coming to fruition. The player characters are thrown deeper into the lands of Kaiden as they learn more and more about what lurks across the island. However, I do not want to spoil anything.

OVERALL

Part of what makes Curse of the Golden Spear so enticing is the uniqueness of the Kaiden setting. Dim Spirit accentuates that setting by expanding upon those living across the land, friendly and unfriendly. The campaign turns more into survival than just fantasy and the players will have to think quickly and stay on their toes.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Rite Publishing has an excellent track record at publishing high-quality products. There are several little things (and a couple obvious ones) in Dim Spirit that stray from that track record. For example, I find two of the stat blocks within the Appendix to be much easier to read than those in the main content and a couple of the illustrations overlap the page’s frame. However, do not let these little things detract you from the content and beautiful illustrations found in Dim Spirit. There are five maps that I absolutely love, especially the 3-d rendered map of a small village in the woods. The bestiary illustrations are even more beautiful than the maps and really bring the appeal of this horrific setting to life. The main content is easy to read with a simple and solid layout and presentation.

Storyline: 9 out of 10
The Curse of the Golden Spear storyline becomes the overarching storyline within Dim Spirit rather than the direct storyline. Dim Spirit brings out more of the setting as the player characters move along in that overarching storyline. You get a new look at what’s possible in Kaiden including a new race and playable class archetype (found in the appendix). The storyline continues to move forward as expected, but this deeper connection with the setting gives the setting itself more depth adds new value (and potential) to the campaign (outside of the given storyline). It essentially becomes part sourcebook as well.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
For those looking to continue the Curse of the Golden Spear campaign, Dim Spirit is essential. Additionally, those looking to expand on the content they have surrounding the Kaiden setting would benefit from Dim Spirit as well. What could be considered as side-adventures really play into the setting’s design, regardless of the campaign storyline, which I see as the true motivator for those wanting to play Dim Spirit.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Dim Spirit is not only an excellent addition to the Curse of the Golden Spear campaign but is also a great book for GMs looking to use the Kaiden setting for adventures and campaigns of their own. There is lots of source content embedded in the campaign module; not just bestiary but also maps and locations of interest.


Good follow up to the series

*****

Curse of the Golden Spear: Dim Spirit by Rite Publishing

This product is 59 pages long. It starts with a cover, credits, and ToC. (3 pages)

Adventure Intro (4 pages)
This section has background on the adventure, overview, a bit about Kaidan the land the adventure is set in, which is a Oriental Horror setting.

Part 1: Flight from Tsue-jo (14 pages)
This picks up right where the first part left off. Which was escorting a man to exchange a spear for his daughter. Now the PC's hang out in the city for awhile while the employer works out the deal for his daughter. A few twists and turns happen including finding out more about their employer forcing the PCs to flee and get side tracked. This section also has stats for 4 magic items and information on the city.

Part 2: Towards Kitsumura (7 pages)
Next the travel to another town, this section focuses on the travel to the other town. There is 6 encounters, a random encounter table and a random weather table.

Part 3: Kitsumura and the Shrine of the Spring (9 pages)
This part focuses on the city of Kitsumura, what they did in a previous town in the first adventure has profound effect on how things go in this town. By now the PC's find out they have been cursed or something along those lines. This town eventually offers to help if they fix a problem of poisoned river for them.

Appendix 1: Reincarnation (2 pages)
Some rules for karma and reincarnation for the setting.

Appendix 2: Monsters (9 pages)
There is 5 monsters, 2 templates and one NPC fully stated out. The NPC for some reason is stated out twice. The stat blocks look the same as does the flavor text so I am guessing this is a C&P error.

Appendix 3: Archetype (2 pages)
A archetype for a ranger with a samurai feel to it.

Appendix 4: Samurai Honor (1 page)
This section deals with the complex honor good for the samurai in this setting and two honor based feats.

Appendix 5: Pregenerated Characters (3 pages)
There is 4 pregen characters in this section. I did notice one error, the header for one of the NPC's is not bolded like the rest. Minor issue but I noticed it.

Glossary of Words (2 pages)
List of words and what they mean and or of locations etc in the adventure series.

It ends with a OGL and back cover. (3 pages)

Closing thoughts. The art work is a mix of color and black and white, it ranges from meh to pretty good. Editing and layout where pretty good. The adventure is interesting, while there is a number of encounters and fights there is also lots of chances for RPing, wilderness survival and other things. Which I personally like in adventures. There is a few twists and turns and surprises to keep your PC's on your toes, I don't want to get into them as I don't want to spoil the adventure. So what's my rating? Well this one is good and perhaps as a adventure better than the first, maybe. But I also noticed more errors in this one. So I am going to give it a 4.5 star review. Fix the errors and I would raise it to a 5 as the content is worth it.

Trust me, I'm a Succubus.


A Sequel that is better than the first

*****

This is the second part of the Curse of the Golden Spear adventure trilogy set in the Kaidan campaign setting. First off, like the previous adventure, the art and layout are very good. I frankly love that some of the art is taken from public domain sources and is traditional Japanese. This does an excellent job at setting the scenery and mood of this adventure, just as in the first part. Of course the maps are all stunning. I love good maps.

The adventure continues at the Diamyo’s palace. Here we get to meet this creepy guy and the foreign adventurers should now have their hackles raised after meeting him. He is more than a little creepy, though perhaps the PCs won’t identify just exactly how or in what way, yet. At any rate, it seems half their job is done. All that remains is to escort their employer back to Gaijinoshima. This should be fairly easy, except there are a few obstacles along the way, a few detours, and the rest of the adventure.

There is a certain element of railroading that the GM must perform to get the PCs to the second encounter location. I do love the fact that the author has taken this into account that some parties will not be forced to remain with their employer as he deviates from the obvious path back. As an experienced GM I love the fact that some consideration is given for the recalcitrant party so I don’t have to come up with situations to steer the PCs back onto the path. Even so, you may have to allow a few PCs to die if they refuse. I love the fact that the method used to keep PCs from going off on their own and out of the adventure isn’t a contrivance but that it fits very nicely into the plot as a whole. This isn’t called the Curse of the Golden Spear for no reason.

The scene at the Garden Shrine and the encounters associated with are optional in the sense that the party may choose not to go this way with their employer. If they don’t there are serious consequences and a missed opportunity to earn a very nice magic item. But I would let this play out. There have to be consequences for not following through and at least making an effort to keep their employer safe.

Then there are a few encounters designed to help motivate the PCs onwards to the conclusion of this adventure. Some may balk at the herding, but it is entirely in keeping with the plot and the Diamyo’s decisions on what to do with this group of gaijin. There are a few encounters in the forest and some notes on the weather that are both useful for this adventure and useful for one’s own campaign set in Kaidan.

Part three of this adventure has some ties to the first adventure. There are consequences, good or bad, for how the PCs dealt with the situation in the village of Agoya. Consequences are key elements to help immerse PCs into a particular world and show them that their actions matter. Located in the rural forest village of Kitsumura, the PCs are introduced to the villagers and if they played their cards right in the first adventure should have no trouble locating where to go next to cure their curse. Of course it is never that simple and there is adventure to be found here as well.

What follows is an amazing set of appendices that the GM can use either for this adventure alone or for an extended campaign set in Kaidan. Appendix 1 is on PC reincarnation in Kaidan, important whether you are just going to run this adventure trilogy or an entire campaign in Kaidan. Appendix 2 includes the new monsters found in this adventure as well as a few monster templates. Appendix three details the new class of the samurai ranger called Yojimbo. Appendix four explains samurai honor for those who are not students of Japanese culture, very important if you intend to run a campaign set in Kaidan, or any other Japanese-like setting. Appendix five includes five pregenerated characters, useful for those who loose PCs or for other use, even use as NPCs by the GM. Lastly is a glossary of words and names which comes in handy for the GM.

Dim Spirit is perhaps even better than its predecessor at getting the characters to know the campaign world of Kaidan as they begin to discover just how different this place is. There is such depth in culture, setting details, characterization, plot, as well as the visual elements of maps and pictures that you really do feel the authors' familiarity and appreciation for this pseudo-Japanese style campaign. There is no fake American media drivel here, this is honest and so well researched that one can’t help but feel immersed in the culture. Granted this is a fantasy adventure and there are things here that really don’t exist, but we know this and expect it. The fantasy elements all belong here, none are incongruous. A Japanese Ghost story indeed, to the folks at Rite Publishing, Jonathan McAnulty and Michael Tumey, well done; this is well worth a five star rating.


Excellent, yet very different second part of the saga

*****

The second part of the three-part Japanese horror saga set in Kaidan, "Dim Spirit" clocks in at a whopping 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page list of contributors, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 6 pages of advertisement and 2 pages SRD, leaving 51 pages for the second part of the epic, so let's check out whether it stands up to the excellent quality we had in the first part!

First of all you’ll notice the, once again, excellent quality of the layout: The Bamboo-lined pages and the artworks serve greatly to enhance the overall, unique feel that made me appreciate the first Kaidan-adventure so much. The adventure is also bookmarked extensively for your convenience. After being introduced to the new country and its rules and subjected to some of the dark things lurking in the shadows of this place, the plotline now evolves: From a journey into the night and towards ever more sordid revelations of Kaidan I, the pace now changes into another direction and the fighting-spirit of both your PCs and players will be tested by this second part and its bleak, sorrowful narrative. Unfortunately, that’s as far as I can go on about this adventure without spoiling anything, so potential players beware, from here on reign the

SPOILERS

That could destroy an experience you would hate to see…well…spoilt.

….
Still here? All right! We left the PC’s trail when they entered Tsue-Jo to finally deliver Marl’s “Gift” and free his daughter from the clutches of the daimyo. Subsequently, the first act of the PCs will be to explore the town and settle in a Gaijin-friendly Inn the daimyo provides for unwelcome (or rather unimportant) visitors. Not all is expected to go well by the enigmatic merchant, though, as he sends the PCs to buy horses (they will smell the necessary fast getaway) and more importantly, to let them spread gifts among the populace – red silken handkerchiefs. For what purpose, though, only becomes evident later. It is here that I want to comment on something that is unfortunately rather rarely seen in adventures – social encounters. Both the handkerchief-dispersing and the horse-shopping (quite difficult with the xenophobic populace) as well as the resulting scene in the daimyo’s palace can be seen as prime examples for good “normal” encounters, which make the resurgence of the horrific aspects later all the more important. Even the visit at the daimyo’s palace, while disturbing, goes quite well and Marl can reclaim his daughter and even get a present. Nothing is as it seems in Kaidan, though, and I refrain from spelling out exactly what happens, but after the scene at the palace and the PC’s departure from there, they are marked and their escape will prove to be one laden with a severe handicap that will continue to be both problem and motivation for the PCs. Extensive advice for the Dm to deal with some of the potential problems is also offered in this section – nice!

The first station on the way is an abandoned village including a garden shrine, where a terrible tragedy of star-crossed lovers (yes, it’s the kill by accident trope, but with a twist) occurred, but before you start to yawn and move on, let me tell you that both the location are iconic, detailed and creepy, that the people in question are interesting and that, most importantly, they serve as a side-quest, a backdrop to a rather personal tragedy the PCs will have to face. If successfully united, though, the PCs might claim a katana that greatly improves similar to the wielder’s honor – a great concept and mechanic, one step beyond RiP’s excellent take on legacy items and one I hope to see expanded upon in future releases!

Again, this is a massive SPOILER, please players, jump to the conclusion.

Marl’s daughter, who seemed all fine, albeit traumatized, seems to recover from her ordeal at the hands of the daimyo, only to turn out to have been changed into an essentially hapless and tragic form of undead that can’t remember her deeds by day and reforms if slain – another burden, though one the PCs might, via a good DM, grow very fond of her and even pity her to the extent that they’ll try to find salvation for her. Presuming the PCs draw the right conclusions, that is. Otherwise one of them will be in for a nasty surprise indeed! Add to that Marl coming clear and telling the PCs about his handkerchief-scheme, which enraged the daimyo and they’re in for fun.
Bereft of the guide that acted as a mediator for the PCs until now, they are now hunted by a powerful force in this foreign land, handicapped by a growing weakness and a deadly killer that makes sleeping a gamble and encourages competent and creative problem-solving. Remember me telling you about despair? There you go, a perilous journey is ahead of them and let’s hope the PCs will be smart and stick to the bushes to evade the enemies hot on their heels!

Now, if you’re thinking about the wilds being the place for random encounters, you’d of course be right, but the encounters provided go beyond what you’d expect from individual short monster-bouts, being less random and rather exciting, from bakeneko to shadow stalkers and giant dragonflies, the PC will hope for solace at their destination. If your DM-alarm-bells are ringing again, don’t fret, once again extensive information is provided to ensure you’ll keep the plot going in spite of potential player-detours to the story.

Kitsumura, once again with a beautiful map, is a rather interesting place to visit – after all, it’s a hengeyokai village! (Look forward to the ITC-installment!) In the village, the PCs can find some kind of help if they play their cards right with the non-humans, i.e. by the PCs helping the henge in their troubles – their water-supply has been compromised and to add insult to injury, Snow-falling-on-the-blood, the mastermind behind one of the most disturbing encounters in Kaidan I, is now in the village, albeit disguised. While the PCs hopefully can put the beast to justice, they’ll also have to deal with a supernatural death squad as well as the now corrupted spring that has been tainted by a dread oni, its kami enraged and mad and probably a dread foe the PCs can overcome by being smart. The main antagonist of part I makes a return from the dead after that and it’s time to conclude this installment with the PCs learning (at the latest now), the way to end their undead companion as well as finally know what prompted their sickness – the PCs will want to get the source of their ailment. Which is, of course, in the lion’s den - the daimyo’s place. However, now the PCs have made friends with the hengeyokai and thus have a connection with their Tengu allies.

After that, we’ll get to the appendices, the first dealing with reincarnation, or rather KAidan’s twisted version of it. The second offers us new beasties, two great templates and some critters, all of which have some unique, cool fluff and some of which, once again are rendered in stunningly beautiful b/w-images, though not all. Rangers also get a new archetype, and a rather complex one at that as the yojimbo is spanning two pages – it is balanced, nice and makes for an interesting choice for eastern rangers. In another appendix, the concept of samurai honor is explained and its mechanics are expanded upon via two new feats. The pdf concludes with 4 pregens as well as an extensive-two-page glossary to help the DM run the saga and enhance the fluff.

Conclusion in the product discussion.



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