Horror dwells in the Lands 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 this gift bore a powerful curse and now, unless you can reclaim the golden spear, you will be forever trapped in Kaidan. A dark path lies before you, full of wicked undead, vicious demons and unnatural warriors. To survive The Curse of the Golden Spear, you will need all of your skill, cunning and bravery.
The third of a three part campaign, "The Dark Path" is an adventure set in the cursed land of Kaidan and is suitable for a group of 7th 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" and "Dim Spirit", introducing players and game masters alike to the cursed realm of Kaidan.
Curse of the Golden Spear 3: Dark Path by Rite Publishing
This product is 62 pages long. It starts with a cover, credits, and ToC. (3 pages)
Introduction (5 pages)
This has background about the adventure, a overview, setting information, and information on starting the adventure with some bits about adjusting it on what has taken place in the first two.
Part One: The Daimayo's Treasure (16 pages)
At this point the PC's know they are cursed and know they need the golden spear back. It starts with a little RPing and possible a minor encounter, following by plotting to get back into the city and the vaults they was at in the early adventures. The rest of the adventure is taken up with a mini dungeon crawl that is the vault. With the final page devoted to escaping the vault and city. There is stats for the Golden Spear magic item and two spells from the 101 3rd level spells book.
Part Two: Along the Dark Path (11 pages)
At this point the PC's should be wanting to head back to the port city they came in at and escape. The have 3 ways to do that, the dark path under the mountains is the best way but the book does give advice on how to handle things if the PC's decided to take one of the other ways. It also has a random monster and weather chart as well. Eventually the PC's are likely to decided to take the Dark Path. That section has 3 random tables, monsters, events and window dressing. The final is just things that make the passage seem more alive and don't hinder or help the PC's along. It also has a magic item in this section.
Part Three: Returning to Gaijinoshima and the Scarlet Harlot (6 pages)
Once threw the Dark Path, the PC's can head to the port city on the island. First they have to get from the port town to the island where they ship awaits. The adventure gives three ways the PC's might try this and how to handle it. Then there is the final climax fight at their ship. It ends with a page on advice on what to do after the adventure is over.
Appendix New Monsters (3 pages)
There is 3 monsters fully stated out in this section.
Appendix The Danmatsumabatsu (6 pages)
This is a group of assassins the PC's fight during the adventure. There is five of them fully stated out with background etc.
Appendix Pregenerated Characters (4 pages
There is 4 stated out pregenerated characters, the same ones as in the previous adventures only leveled up to this adventures levels.
Glossary of Words (2 pages)
A list of words and their meaning.
It ends with a OGL, ads, and back cover. (5 pages)
Closing thoughts. The art work is mix of black and white and color. It ranges from meh to pretty good. Editing and format are good, I didn't notice any errors. The adventure is well done and I especially liked the window dressing random table for the dark path. While this adventure likely has the least options for RPing of the three there is still several options. It does deliver a very nice Asian horror feel and characters hunted in a foreign and scary new world. I thought this one was better than the 2nd in the series and in some ways better than the first. Either way the series is worth picking up and this was a nice crowning adventure to top the series off in style. So what's my rating? Well other than some of the art I really don't have anything bad to say, beyond a couple of minor nitpicks. So I suppose that means I have to give it a 5 star review.
Trust me, I'm a Succubus.
Stellar finale of a stellar trilogy. Can I haz moar plz?
The final part of the epic Japanese horror saga by Jonathan McAnulty and Micheal Tumey is 62 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages SRD, 3 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 53 pages of content for your perusal, so let's check them out!
After the lurking estrangement and the despair-ridden darkness of the second installment, the PCs, cursed and on the run, finally have allies and will reap the seeds they have sown in the two predecessors on their way to the climax.
And boy, the introduction already serves as an epic lead-in to the things to come, first offering a brief bit of creepy IC-plotting and then moving on to elaborate the legend of Oni, Yurei and Kaidan and how it came to be the way the players find it. As a nice nod to people versed in Japanese folklore and history, the story does draw heavy inspiration and even shares the names form the conflicts between the Taira nd the Minamoto clan. This review is based on V.4.0 of the pdf, in v.3.0 there was a formatting glitch here that has been taken care of.
This being an adventure review, the following contains massive SPOILERS. If you're planning on ever playing this excellent saga, please refrain from reading on.
Still here? Do you want to SPOIL the awesome climax?
Ok, here we go!
As the PCs are still suffering from the curse of the golden spear, they'll have to find a way to infiltrate the daimyo's palace, retrieve the artifact and then get as far away as possible from the dread lord. After a brief respite from their ordeals in Part II in the Hengeyokai village they hopefully saved from an almost-insane kami and the depredations of a fiend in disguise. The allies the Hengeyokai promised, though, turn out to be up for a challenge: 4 Tengu (be sure to check out RiP's excellent In the Company of Tengu, if you haven't already - while not necessary to run this adventure, it is still an awesome file to have to customize further the avian allies.)are on the side of the PCs in this foray, or rather, they might be: First the PCs will have to prove their mettle in battle or otherwise leave an impression on them in order to lead them into the lion's den.
The planning of the infiltration of the daimyo's treasury might be a bit challenging for the DM, but thankfully the Tengu know of some underwater tunnels, which might provide an access to the palace that does not initially involve alerting the vast amount of guards to their presence. The infiltration via the river proves to be not as easy as the PCs might hope, but it is better than the otherwise extremely well-defended Shiro (that gets its own map) - after entering the palace via this secret route, the PCs will have to contend with a short 3 level-mini-dungeon. Braving the disease-ridden sewage-system, the PCs can stumble upon a potential ally among the prisoners (though they'll have to heal the poor sod first). Among the horrible experiments they'll have to brave are necromantically-infused wax-cocoons containing dread samurai zombies, barracks full of corpses that are the hunting ground of a terrible swarm of apocalypse spiders to undead hung from hooks that serve as a macabre sort of alarm as well as a silent-hill-style door that is held shut by a crucified corpse that is torn asunder by opening the doors and instantly regenerates when they are closed, serving as a kind of promethean punishment for the poor creature as well as having an unpleasant surprise in store for the PCs.
Once they have finally braved the treasure vault's guardian, the PCs can reap the plentiful rewards within the treasure chamber, among which new spells (2 from 101 3rd level spells) and the reason for their infiltration can be found: The golden spear is once again theirs! If the PCs have managed to trip the alarm, their escape will not be too easy as they'll be hounded by the daimyo's killers.
Spear in hand, the PCs will have to make the trek through the mountains, preferably via the name-giving Dark Path. Should the PCs choose to take another road, easy modifications are presented to avoid creating the notion of undue railroading. Commendable design! The daimyo's hounds this time are nothing to be trifled with and a duo of deadly killers seeks to intercept them. To add another complication to the already quite oppressive situation of the PCs, the oni will try to eliminate the threat of the spear once and for all, confronting them with a deadly snare by a Jorogume, a spider-like fiend with illusion-based abilities. The encounter comes with a beautiful map and features the STUNNING cover-art as a nice full-page illustration, perfect as a handout once the mask falls. Braving this trap, the PCs hopefully reach the entrance to the Dark Path, where another duo of the daimyo's deadly killers lies in wait to prematurely end their exodus from the lands of Kaidan.
The navigation of the lava-tubes that lead through the mountains proves to be perilous and oppressive in atmosphere, symbolizing the path to damnation and serving as a dread echoing amplifier for the things that stalk the tunnels. The plethora of wandering monsters (and their dread frequency) as well as the array of complications and mood-enhancing elements perpetuate and drive home the sense of danger and panic the PC should gradually become more and more convinced that they have stumbled into their smooth, black stone-encased grave. The blind, eyeless ghouls that will menace and attack the PCs are far from being the worst creature to hound the PCs - that honor belongs to a dread snake-oni (whose b/w-artwork is awesome!) which not only is a tough adversary, but also is rebirthed when slain, thus necessitating the hasty departure of the PCs. If they manage to find its lair, they can at least take its little hoard, which contains, among other things, a magic Kaidanese longbow. Even the sunlight that might greet the PCs once they have traversed the Dark Path offers no respite from their ordeals, though, as Jadoko, the hebi-no-onna that has hounded them since the first module, makes her final stand.
If the first two parts of the trilogy were any indicator, this would mean the end of the tribulations of the PCs, but those who would think so are in for quite a shock once they reach the deceptive tranquility of Gaijinoshima. Tranquility, oh yeah, there was something I forgot to mention: Of course, the PCs first have to procure a means to enter Uesaki and take the ferry or otherwise take a boat to their harbor of destination. Several possible courses of action are provided for the PCs to follow, ranging from the theft of a boat to disguising and sneaking abroad the ferry. Once in Gaijinoshima, the scarlet harlot awaits the PCs to ferry them out of Kaidan. Well. It awaits them. Along three of the daimyo's elite Danmastumabatsu-killers cleverly disguised and a squad of undead. The fight (featuring a nice map of the vessel) among the massacred remains of the erstwhile crew that will strive to include the PCs in their undead ranks serves as the furious finale of this rather breathtaking climax of the Kaidan-saga. Hopefully the PCs have the means to acquire a crew...fast.
In tradition of the first two parts, we get several appendices. While the reincarnation mechanic is not reprinted, you should probably already know all about it from the two sequels. More interesting, at least to me, is the appendix featuring the new beasts: From the poison-spitting bachi-hebi snakes and their big oni brothers to the supremely creepy Jorogumo (spider women), we get 3 cool new critters that fulfill my personal desire for unique monstrous abilities.
The third appendix details the Danmatsumabatsu, the dread Daimyo's cadre of elite assassins, each possessing a set of unique and distinct abilities that set them apart from regular NPCs - I love them! They are efficient, deadly, creepy and just about all I expect from elite foes like them. If all NPC-write ups were like this, I'd never have to complain about bland NPCs ever again. These necrotic warriors are indeed fine specimen, though I admit to wanting MORE.
I am updating my review of Dark Path to show that the repeated text was removed from the pdf, the layout redone and the space replaced with art. While not new art, it was highly appropriate to the surrounding text and doesn't detract too much from the appearance of the whole.
-- My original review is below.--
First off, I have to state the bad before talking about the good. There is a troubling layout/editing gaff in this last part of the Kaidan series. It will downgrade my score because it is large and annoying enough to make me want to point it out to purchasers. Hopefully no vital text is missing, but a section of the second column of page 5 of the pdf is repeated on the second column of page 6 below the grey box text on Kaidan: A Land of Oriental Horror. The same text is repeated again on page 7 second column. Since quite a bit of text was duplicated twice I am now wondering if anything was accidentally left out. It doesn’t appear obvious that there should be more to the introductory sections than there is. So perhaps no content was lost. I am, however, disappointed in the lack of layout review done on this third part of an excellent campaign trilogy.
As with the first two parts of this series, Dark Path is well-written. Since it is rather plot driven, there is an element of railroading. However there are plenty of options if players refuse to take the expected route and some thought given to what the likely results are for a number of alternative actions. It is more necessary that the players have played through at least the second part of this series. What drives the PCs is a result of occurrences in the second part.
Part one of the Dark Path assumes the PCs either want to or must (due to circumstances in Dim Spirit) either sneak or fight their way into the daimyo’s treasury. If events at the end of Dim Spirit occurred per script then the PCs have access to allies who can help. Otherwise the PCs are on their own. Although I wouldn’t stop PCs from attempting a frontal assault, with sufficient preparation on the part of the GM, it should become obvious this tactic is too dangerous. Certainly any allies would refuse a frontal assault as they would see it as suicide. Negotiations and discussions with the potential allies on how to break into the treasury provide ample opportunity for role play.
The second portion of the Dark Path assumes the PCs are eager to get away with their prize, should they linger there are numerous encounters suggestions to convince them it is a bad idea. Again it is assumed that the PCs will choose to take the Dark Path. Once the PCs have their prize from the treasury it is just as difficult to get out of the place as it was to get into it. It could be even more harrowing if an alarm has been sounded. I appreciate the notes for the DM on how to proceed if the PC’s choose not to head straight for the route advised by their allies, the Dark Path for which this adventure was named. And suggested encounters the PCs will encounter should they choose any other method of returning back to Gaijinoshima and a ship to take them away from Kaidan (assuming this is where they wish to go). Again there is a grey box of text detailing weather conditions and a wandering encounter table, useful whether the GM is running the particular adventure detailed within or one of his or her own devising in Kaidan. This last part of the adventure seems fairly flexible. The GM could order the encounters in any way as long as the PCs meet suitable resistance and encounter those who are eager to take the prize from them. The Dark Path being essentially a series of lava tubes, the branches of the path could pop out anywhere along the PCs chosen path back (or wherever) if they do not choose to travel the direct route.
The final conclusion of this adventure occurs back at Gaijinoshima and the ship the PCs used to travel to Kaidan. It seems the PCs enemies are not interested in allowing them to leave Kaidan.
Several appendices include a note on PC reincarnation in Kaidan. There are two new monsters. Next are notes on the Danmatsumabatsu, a group of specialized assassins, who attack the PCs in the treasury and after as well as a grey box text on the necrotic warrior class abililties. Also there is a set of pregenerated characters should the players loose a PC due to the fact that raise dead and resurrection do not work in Kaidan. Alternatively they may be used if new players join or as NPCs for the GM’s use. Finally there is the glossary of words, names and a pronunciation guide.
As is typical throughout this series the art gives a good feel for the setting and the maps are fantastic. There is even a map of one encounter scaled at 1 inch = 5 feet for use with miniatures should the GM wish to print it out in color for such use.
Once the error mentioned above is removed, the pdf of this product is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to run adventures in this well and lovingly researched Japanese Horror story style campaign. And despite the errors, they don’t detract from the excellent story. When fixed I will happily upgrade my score accordingly. But for now, this gets a 4 out of 5 stars from me.
--My updated rating is 5 of 5 stars.--
Dark Path makes a thrilling conclusion to the Curse of the Golden Spear as well as providing new information for those who wish to run their own campaigns set in Kaidan.