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One Night Stands 2: Death in the Painted Canyons (PFRPG)

***** (based on 2 ratings)
FGGONS2PFE

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"Death in the Painted Canyons" is an adventure for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game for 4-6 characters levels 5-6. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GameMastery Guide is helpful for the use of this adventure as many of the NPC stat blocks appear in it, though other stats can be substituted as necessary. The party should includes a mix of abilities, especially characters with investigative and survival skills. It would be helpful, but not necessary, if at least one PC has some knowledge of the Painted Canyons, or at least some experience with desert survival.

Also, a PC or companion with the scent ability (or who has an item or spell that grants it) would be helpful, but is not needed. If your party lacks investigative skills, there are clues as to the criminal conspiracy in the gnoll encampment, or you can just drop that aspect of the adventure and run it as a stand up fight. Parties lacking survival skills or desert experience can hire a guide at Salt Springs for 3 silver shekels (gp) a day. There is a hidden secret behind all the events of Death in the Painted Canyons; a great deal of combat can be expected, and those attempting this adventure should be prepared for a vicious battle before resolving the plot.

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Product Reviews (2)

Average product rating:

***** (based on 2 ratings)

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4.5 stars - very intresting investigation/mystery in an oriental setting

*****

This adventure is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving 20 pages of adventure, so let's check it out!

My by now obligatory disclaimer accompanies this product - this being an adventure review, the following text contains SPOILERS, thus potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right!

This adventure takes place in the Satrapy of Salt Springs, a generic, albeit quite specific and easily insertable sub-section of the world inspired by Scheherazade's tales or settings like Al-Qadim. More recent examples in gaming history would be OD's Six Arabian Nights or (to some extent) the Legacy of Fire AP. That out of the way, we get a neat map of the overall region before we're introduced to the Satrapy of Salt Springs and its denizens. The settlement bears special mentioning, as this adventure can be seen as half investigation/half wilderness and is presented in a very sandboxy style. Befitting any sandbox, however small it may be, we are introduced to a neat array of local flavor that starts with local currency and continues on with conversational rules. While not necessary obligatory, these tidbits serve to enforce the feeling of the Satrapy and definitively show author Kenneth Spencer's grasp on unfamiliar cultures, cementing him further as an author to watch, at least in my opinion.

The adventure begins with the adventurers meeting up with the Pascha of the city and striking a deal with him. Gnolls under the leadership of two particularly notorious war-leaders have been extraordinarily successful with their raids on the satrapy's traders. The Pascha wants these individuals dead and their tribe disbanded. While it's perfectly possible for the PCs to do just that, set out and destroy the gnolls, there is more to this adventure: Conspirators against the Pascha have supplied the information to the gnolls via some rather clever tactics - the merchant prince Hiram Parth, who also provides for the PC's quarters, is playing a dangerous double-cross and to put all the pieces together, the PCs might actually have to infiltrate the Pascha's dungeon and save a captive doomed to die - without becoming outlaws themselves. the gnolls and their tactics are rather smart, including a fully mapped ambush and a settlement at the top of two pillars, where dingy rope-bridges make for all between the PCs and a deadly fall to the bottom of the canyon. When and how the PCs tackle the gnolls, conspirators etc. remains up to the PCs, as is how they deal with the mastermind behind this heist.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice more than 5 glitches. It's a bit of a pity that 3/4 of the final page is empty, though - I would have loved for the space to be filled with additional content. Layout adheres to the classic 2-column b/w-standard. The Arabian Nights-themed maps are gorgeous and the b/w-artworks rock. The adventure comes with extensive bookmarks and the canyons make for a rather cool wilderness. The satrapy is culturally interesting and hearkens back to positive reminiscences to Robert E. Howards works . replace the antagonistic humanoids with savage cultists and there you go. That's also where I'm a bit disappointed in the adventure - there are no puzzles and e.g. 3/4 of a page on cultural information on the oppositional tribes would have made them more unique. Via their interesting leadership NPCs, the tribes could have easily made for truly unique foes, perhaps with a nod to their unique and iconic home. In the end, this lost potential prevents me from going all-out on this adventure and thus, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


*****

I bought this module (print version) on the recommendation from Mr. Greg Vaughan and I was not disappointed. I normally don't like reviewing a module without having played it, but after reading through it, I want to generate some buzz about it. I'm going to keep this review as spoiler free as possible.
The adventure itself can be broken into three parts-
Part 1: The City
The author does an excellent job of setting up a small caravan city. There is a small investigation that the PCs do not even necessarily have to complete. The author excels at establishing enough plot hooks and detail to let the PCs tackle this first part in whatever way they want, including what happens if they land themselves in jail! What could be a very rail road set of encounters is done in a more sandbox style approach.
Part 2: The Search
Part 2 can be played as long or quick as the PCs/DM wants. Depending on how the PCs explore the Painted Canyons and what random encounters they stumble into will take them eventually to Part 3. Again, this is done in a very sandbox style, allowing the PCs to navigate the story.
Part 3: The Bandit Camp
I'm spoilering this part as I go into a little more detail with the only real criticism I had for the module.

Spoiler:
I really like the size and attention to detail of the layout of the gnoll camp. I would have liked to see a little more detail like in Part 1 of the various outcomes of the PCs actions and how the gnolls would respond. For example, the Gnoll leader is just described as basically partying it up in his house. Is he still doing that at 3 in the morning as the PCs sneak in? I guess what I'm saying is this part felt more static than the organic flow of the first two parts. But on the plus side, everything else is well detailed out in this section.

This module definitely achieves the old school feel that Frog God Games goes for- the world is dangerous and stupid PCs who rush into everything will die. It appears to be a fun module that has a great deal of flexibility to deal with PC actions. It strikes a nice balance of investigation and battles that should appeal to a wide type of players (and player classes).
My only other quibble with this module is that having read "The Jungles of Madaro-Shanti," another equally awesome FGG mod, I'm torn as to which one to run first!



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