Pathfinder Adventure Path #54: The Empty Throne (Jade Regent 6 of 6) (PFRPG) (based on
Paizo Publishing, LLC
Chapter 6: "The Empty Throne"
by Neil Spicer
Revolution brews in the empire of Minkai as the people take up arms to throw off
the yoke of their unnatural oni masters. With the populace rising, the heroes
lay siege to the capital of the empire, the ancient city of Kasai. There, they
must discover the secrets of emperors past and seek the aid of ageless beings,
gathering all the allies they can for a final assault on the bastion of the
murderous Jade Regent. Will the heroes and their companions be able
to bring an end to the warlord’s tyranny? Or will Minkai remain locked
in the grip of true evil? Confront the powers of destiny and shape the fate of a
nation in this, the exciting final chapter of the Jade Regent Adventure Path.
This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path includes:
“The Empty Throne,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 13th-level characters,
by Neil Spicer.
A gazetteer of the city of Kasai, capital of the mysterious nation of
Minkai, by Frank Carr and Michael Tumey.
Plots and high-level threats to continue your Jade Regent campaign,
by Patrick Renie.
Deceit and revelation in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by
Four new monsters, by Jesse Benner, Tork Shaw, and
Owen K.C. Stephens.
Each monthly full-color softcover Pathfinder Adventure Path volume contains an in-depth adventure scenario, stats for several new monsters, and support articles meant to give Game Masters additional material to expand their campaign. Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes use the Open Game License and work with both the Pathfinder RPG and the world's oldest fantasy RPG.
In Jade Regent, the PCs have set out from their home in Sandpoint, a small town in southern Varisia, trekked north with their caravan to Kalsgard in the Linnorm Kingdoms, then ventured across the frozen Crown of the World to the continent of Tian Xia, crossed through the Forest of Spirits, and arrived in Minkai, the homeland of Ameiko Kaijitsu’s family. Now, having gathered allies, they must set out for the capital city, Kasai, to overthrow the Jade Regent and place Ameiko, the rightful heir, on the throne, in The Empty Throne, the sixth and final instalment of the Jade Regent Adventure Path. Written by Neil Spicer, the adventure has the unenviable task of wrapping up an entire campaign with a suitably epic conclusion, whilst simultaneously allowing for the possibility of more should individual gaming groups wish to continue with their characters. Overall, it manages this pretty well, especially given the difficulties high-level adventures can present to designers. Gaming groups who have played through the entire adventure path will likely find this conclusion exciting, thrilling, and most importantly, satisfying. While the adventure isn’t perfect, few things are, and players aren’t likely to notice its imperfections, especially in the hands of a skilled GM.
I've enjoyed the Jade Regent Adventure path so far; it had the right mix of story, combat, roleplay, and new mechanics to keep my players in check.
By the time we reached the Empty Throne, the adventure itself facilitated the campaign's close with a sense of urgency and triumph. My favorite part was how the nature of the campaign leads up to not only Ameiko's development, but also the power increase of the PCs. It has been a very long time since an adventure path has done this in such a novel, marked fashion.
I highly recommend this adventure and the Jade Regent adventure path as a whole.
This review contains spoilers. And it is way too long.
I really enjoyed the first 2/3rds of this book, but felt like the last part-- the final showdown and storming the castle-- wasn't even half the quality of the earlier portion. Like all high-level Paizo modules, you get introduced to your bread and butter encounter at the start and then your PCs get to face this encounter six or eight (or even more!) times by the end of the book. Not to say that this book doesn't have some really interesting encounters-- the entirety of the central portion, the Well of Demons and the Imperial Shrine, were exceptional. At the end, however, I couldn't believe that the adventure was ending that soon. It felt like there should have been a second finale, the way the module was headed.
The final encounter is really cool, design wise, but story-wise a lot of that encounter comes out of left field, many elements only introduced in this book and not at all mentioned beforehand in the series, some completely untelegraphed except for a name drop. If you've ever had a fear of running several very different high-level NPC spellcasters all in one encounter, well, be afraid of the epic conclusion of The Empty Throne.
The revelation that the Jade Regent isn't even the big bad guy-- he's just his grandson-- and the fact that this isn't even a spoiler because the first person you ask about it in Kasai can just plainly tell you this-- was extremely off-putting to me. More so was that I didn't catch onto this hint when I read #4 and #5 again over the weekend, so it really feels like a last-minute retcon. On a quick read of the stats, in book #1's flashback sequence, the Jade Regent becomes extremely large as he cuts down the old emperor-- an ability Anumurumon has, with his change shape ability, but that the Jade Regent does not. So, why the retcon, and what does it gain?
The article on Kasai and the continuing the campaign articles had some cool stuff in them, and the bestiary was pretty nice. The art in this book had some of the best and worst-- some of the character portraits look very confused and smudged. The art of the tombstone golem with it's "really evil bad guy glowy eyes" looks very silly. And then some of the half-page pieces are amazing (the opening art of the imperial shrine and a late-book picture of Feiya's fox barking at a dragon come to mind). Jared Blando delivers his very high quality maps again.
I noticed Neil Spicer had several moments written into this book where the module advises the DM on what actions Ameiko may take at this point. I felt like this was pretty cool, and wonder if there were others written in but removed during the editing process, as The Empty Throne's adventure runs a few pages long.
The final thing to mention about this book is that it was written with the goal of getting to level 16 from 13 in mind-- a goal that makes every single encounter up to 2 CRs higher than suggested for a party of four. My group has an out-- as I began to run the game after playing in it for two modules, I'll just DMPC my old PC in the last stretch-- but many groups, and especially groups where the DM, for lack of a better term, "skims it on the go", expect to see angry posts on the Paizo website ranging from "I'm supposed to make and run a whole high level NPC in this book what is this" to "The paizo writers made this module super powerful and too hard for a party of 2 monks and a sorcerer my DM showed me the book and I hate you neil spicer for TPKing us!"
TL;DR: I loved the first 2/3rds, the last 1/3rd is a let down, the support articles are great, the art is pretty good, the maps are clear, encounter design is strong but has weak points and the final encounter is going to be a nightmare to run. 3/5!