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RPG Superstar 2015

Adventure Quarterly #1 (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 2 ratings)
RIP0232E

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Are you ready for adventure?

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Adventure Quarterly and the start of a tradition. Adventure Quarterly is dedicated to regularly bringing you fun adventures for your Pathfinder Roleplaying Game from new and established voices in the RPG industry! We hope you are along for the ride and know you will love what we have to offer.

In this issue, you will find desperate measures taken by cooks and charlatans, bloodthirsty vampires and conniving hags, desperate adventurers trying to save their companions and massive monuments dedicated to sleeping God-Kings. We have tapped three ENnie award winning veterans of the craft to create some great stories and hours of excitement—names you should know, Adam Daigle, Tim Connors, and Tim Hitchcock. Loaded with maps, NPC and monster stat blocks, a fully detailed sinister organization, a baker's dozen of tables from Creighton Broadhurst of Raging Swan Press to help you name your next savage tribe, and adventures for characters level 1, 5 or 12, there is sure to be something to spice up your next session!

Authors: Adam Daigle, Tim Connors, Tim Hitchcock, Creighton Broadhurst, Robert N. Emerson
Cover Artist: Emma Lazauski
Pages: 70

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Product Reviews (2)

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****½ (based on 2 ratings)

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Some bumps mar what is otherwise a good start

****( )

Some Game Masters take great pleasure in writing their own adventures; for them, it’s a joy, something they throw themselves into eagerly. Personally, I don’t know how they do it, as I’m always strapped for adventures. Given the sheer amount of work that goes into crafting an adventure, structuring the plot, making maps, constructing stat blocks, it seems like a truckload of work. Hence, I’m always on the lookout for a reliable source of adventures. Sometimes Adventure Paths are good, but other times I want stand-alone adventures that can be used as-is in my game, without worrying about how it plays if removed from a larger context.

Rite Publishing’s new periodical, Adventure Quarterly, seems right up that alley. Let’s take a closer look at the first issue and see what it’s like.

Adventure Quarterly #1 is a weighty affair. Not only is the main magazine just over seventy-five pages in length, but the main PDF file is accompanies by a series of separate map files. These color map files are a combination of JPGs and PNGs of the various maps, in various configurations, such as the maps and keys together, and the maps separately and the keys separately. The quality of these cannot be understated – the files are high resolution, and you can zoom in to a great degree on them. Altogether, the maps are a whopping two hundred megabytes!

The PDF of the magazine is similarly high-quality in its presentation. It has full copy and paste enabled, and full nested bookmarks are to be found. Unfortunately, there’s no printer-friendly version, though there is a printed copy available if you need this on paper. The interior artwork ranges in styles, from detailed black and white to a “washed out”-style full color. None of the pieces were particularly bad, and several of them were quite arresting.

Every publication goes through a few growing pains at first, and right away I noticed one for Adventure Quarterly: the table of contents, while it lists the adventures and their authors, doesn’t list the level it’s intended for. When you look at these adventures, there’s no way to tell whether they’re meant for 1st-level or 20th-level PCs. This alone wouldn’t be so bad, but this information is also not to be found in the adventures themselves. I consider this to be fairly critical information, and so marked off points for this.

The adventures themselves are three in number. The first one, “Too Many Cooks,” appears to be for first-level characters. Set in the city Somnal, for which a full city stat block is helpfully included, this deals with the problem of several chefs suddenly going missing. The author writes that this adventure will likely overwhelm PCs if they go from one encounter to the next in rapid order, and suggests that these scenarios can be broken up across a longer period, and even intermixed with another adventure if you remove the time pressure, something that I felt was good advice.

Structure-wise, Too Many Cooks is something of a mystery adventure, as the PCs are meant to follow a trail of clues from one encounter to the next, until they’re ultimately led to the culprit behind the disappearances. I had some initial misgivings about how this would work, as mysteries have their own problems. The adventure’s answer to this is two-fold – each of the encounters starts with combat, after which there’s a clue that is, in all honesty, too obvious to be missed. That may be a slight overstatement, but the clues are not that difficult to find, and are fairly obvious in where they point. There are still places where things could go off the rails, of course, but the adventure is not so subtle in its workings that getting things back on track would be hard.

I have to mention the final encounter for the adventure, which takes place in a kitchen. Author Adam Diagle did a great job here of playing up the unorthodox nature of how a kitchen can contribute to a battlefield. Between the villain having the feats necessary to use all sorts of improvised weaponry (and a helpful chart of what improvised weapons are available and what their damage is), your PCs will have to deal with everything from being attacked with hot skillets to exploding boilers and vicious meat grinders! I can easily say that this adventure was the highlight of the magazine.

The second adventure, unfortunately, was its polar opposite in terms of quality. “The Book of Promises” is an adventure that wants to be many different things, and in trying to achieve them all ends up completing very few of them.

The premise of the Book of Promises is that a werejackal cult of Asmodeus is trying to make people sign away their souls to the Devil God, which is done in the eponymous Book of Promises. To this end, they’ve created a natural disaster, a flood, in the town of Vestage, so that they can try force people to sign in exchange for being saved from the floodwaters. Rather oddly, the Book is stored in a place in town called the Counter’s Depository, which acts as a private bank – people pay to have them store their valuables. With the Depository also flooded by the town, several of its customers are planning to “steal” back their valuables from the location, and want the PCs to do it for them…which also puts them in position to find the Book of Promises.

The scenario, needless to say, has problems right from the outset. Why would the Asmodean werejackal cult (which sounds like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon) create a flood that would also hit the place where they keep their artifact? Why do the people who have their valuables stored in the Depository feel the need to have them stolen back instead of just going there and retrieving them normally?

It unfortunately doesn’t get any better. The adventure is much too fond of saying that certain effects just happen, giving little specification. When going to the meeting for the thieving job, for example, there’s a magic effect that detects all weapons on the PCs. What is this effect? I don’t know…there’s nothing that says. We don’t know what it is or how to beat it, save for the text saying gloves of storing will work. Similarly, the Depository has magic on it that only allows its customers, or their representatives, inside…something that seems forgotten when we have hags, doppelgangers, and other adventurers in it later. Note that characters that aren’t intended to be fought, such as the PCs competitors for the job and the other adventuring party inside, don’t have a stat block either, which I consider to be somewhat poor, since you never know how your PCs will cause things to go down.

The last adventure, which sadly has its first paragraph as the last paragraph of the previous adventure, is The Soul Siphon. Unlike the previous adventure, The Soul Siphon is fairly well constructed, but comes with some baggage. For one thing, it’s a psionic adventure – now, I personally enjoy psionics quite a bit, but I know there are plenty of Pathfinder gamers for whom that’s a deal-breaker (oddly, the author notes that this uses 3.5 OGL psionics…but from what I saw, the characters seem to use the Psionics Unbound rules). Moreover, the adventure, which is meant for 12th-level characters, comes with four pre-generated characters, and the initial adventure hook is built around those pre-existing ties. That’s just bad design, to me, as it essentially argues that the players shouldn’t have their own characters going into this, which most will. On the other hand, this is perfect if you want to make it as a psionic one-shot.

The Soul Siphon’s premise is that a tyrannical ruler, who lives in a tower that’s slowly sinking into a bog, is terrorizing the local populace, punishing them for a lone dissenter in their ranks. The PCs meet this dissenter (who is connected to one of them via their back-story), and give them the keys to enter a sunken level of the tower, wherein they can fight their way up and confront not only the tyrant, but also locate the artifact that has gifted him with apparent immortality, and put and end to both.

The adventure is fairly well-constructed, and seems to presume that the PCs will level up over the course of it. Two appendices provide both a new monster, and the four pregen PCs.

Following the final adventure, two short articles are given. The first, by Raging Swan Press mastermind Creighton Broadhurst, is a short set of tables to determine the name of a tribe. The article basically uses a series of combinations from different tables to come up with a colorful moniker (though a quick table at the beginning is available if you want to restrict things to one roll). Following this is an overview of the werejackal cult of Asmodeus, giving their structure, base of operations, allies and enemies, and other general information about them. As its own thing, this wasn’t bad, though I do wish that Paizo’s organization rules had been imported here. Still, the group does make a passable, if somewhat odd, villainous organization.

Overall, the first issue of Adventure Quarterly hits a few bumps in the road, but does show promise. The level listing for adventures is something that absolutely has to be fixed for the second issue, as at-a-glance information about what sort of PCs each adventure is intended for is an absolute must. Beyond that, the first adventure is clearly the cream of the crop, providing a fun little “mystery-lite” for low-level PCs. The second adventure, however, is as much a mess as the flooded town it takes place in, and a Game Master will likely need to give it a polish to make it workable as-is. The last adventure is good but carries several caveats for prospective GMs – if you take it as a trial run for psionics, it’s not bad, but if you want it to be more than a one-shot, or hate psionics, be prepared to start changing things.

Given that what’s good here outnumbers that which isn’t, my overall score for the debut issue of Adventure Quarterly is 3.5 stars, but I’m rounding it up to four since even the bad material can be saved or altered with a little elbow grease. What’s here is three-quarters good, and that’s not bad for the first Adventure Quarterly.


If KQ is the heir of Dragon, AQ can become the successor of Dungeon

*****

This new magazine is 76, one page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving a whopping 70 pages of content, so what exactly is this new magazine?

Well, first of all, it is a collection of 3 adventures by ADAM DAIGLE, TIM CONNORS and TIM HITCHCOCK. Yep. If those names don't ring any bells, I probably can't help you - they are stellar authors. Secondly, we get short supplemental articles. Sound familiar? The closest analogy I could think of is the following: If KQ is the spiritual successor of Dragon magazine, Adventure Quarterly could be considered the heir to Dungeon magazine and the very first module by Adam Daigle could have been released in that form in Dungeon, but before I go into that, be aware that from here on

SPOILERS reign. Potential players read on at their own risk and to the detriment of their fun! I'll clearly denote the end of the SPOILERS before the conclusion.

Still here? All right! Adam Daigle's "Too many Cooks" is a delightfully quirky short scenario for low-level characters that can easily be placed in just about any larger town/city/metropolis. In this scenario, a megalomaniacal cook has stroke a deal with some mites to provide psychotropic berries. In order to get rid of his competition, he essentially is abducting and drugging them. Whether you intersperse the module throughout another adventure or run it straight, the PCs investigation will slowly piece together what's going on and potentially be drugged themselves, at least temporarily. Once they have braved tengu-raiders, massive rat infestations and done their research, they're going to be in for a truly awesome showdown in a large kitchen, including a table of improvised weapons, complex potential hazards and the possibility to get hook-impaled and then dropped into a meat-grinder! For extra fun, add Adamant's "Cooking with lass" and you're in for an unconventional scenario with a fun tweak and some potential for memorable and hilarious scenes - develop the psychotropic hallucinations for extra fun. It should also be noted that the module comes with one page containing dundjinni-created maps of all the locations in the module with supreme details and in full color.

The second adventure is by Tim Connors and called the "Book of Promises" and has a basic premise that is most interesting - souls are at stake. A cabal of devil-worshipping never-do-wells has a deal with the great A to collect souls and all their infernal contracts are stored in the "Book of Promises", which is stored in a vault - the PC's task will be to reclaim the book and prevent thus the souls from going to hell. Add the recent torrential deluge that has resulted in massive floods in the city and everything just got complicated. even worse, the vault in which the book is stored is protected by an extremely potent magical defense that prohibits access - unless the supplicant has a special kind of permission. Which the PCs might obtain from their quest-giver in a midnight game of poker/cards that can be a frame or an actual game. Unfortunately for the PCs, they are not the only party sent to retrieve something from the vault - apart from the devil-worshipping, shapeshifting members of the forked legion, they'll have to contend (or even ally) with a duo of araneas and a coven of witches, which, in a nice twist, might offer the means to determine how to destroy the infamous book. The delve into the vault turns out to be a rather interesting one that takes the water and location into account and culminates in a final, epic free-for-all brawl between the different factions the PCs encounter during their heist. And then there's an option for a truly heroic sacrifice to end the threat of the artifact once and for all...

The final new adventure by Tim Hitchcock, at least to me, takes the awesome-cake. Set after a war that has just ended, the PCs are presumed to be the disillusioned survivors of grand war that now has them return to a backwater swampy area under the command of an immortal godking Xilomac VIII - megalomaniacal and ancient, the godking's spire rests on muddy ground, ensuring that each year numerous of his subjects are worked to death to prevent his own personal take on the tower of babel-trope falling to ruin. It is after a hunt for an insurgent that the PCs arrive in the eponymous festerbog, where, they meet a long-lost brother of one of the PCs, who has been cornered by the elite-assassins of the god-king. With his dying breath or thankful for his life, the insurgent imparts crucial information: The constant rebuilding of the spire has left a cistern sunken and unused, but still - a valid way into the otherwise impenetrable fortress of the tyrant. With the keys now in their hand, it is up to the PCs to brave the sludge and muck and defeat the strangely mishappen creatures below, the degenerate kin.
The revelation of where they come from, pronounced by the godking's now unbodied and forever cursed ancestors (which turn out to be floating brains and spines), sends the PCs on the right track - into the complex system and up to the top-most-levels of the mad king's ziggurat, where they will not only marvel at the beauty, but also find a more than deadly foe in the godking. The adventure ends not with his defeat, though: An artifact, the soul siphon, which has enabled him to live and created the despicable kin, must still be destroyed, lest it fall into other hands. In order to do so, though, the PCs will have to brave the deepest recesses of the ziggurat's system and finally find "A Thing called Us" - an advanced, extremely potent meld (those of you who read hyperconscious know what I'm talking about), updated to PFRPG (and by the way - the thing on the cover) awaits the PCs. In order to destroy the artifact, the meld has to consume it and a PC must hold it. Wrestling free the brave one before he is absorbed should be quite a challenge, especially with the being spawning foul flesh salves. Worse yet, the thing starts to mutate once the PCs have fed it and the escape through the system before the rapidly growing beast dies in a terrible shockwave. This escape is not only expertly presented in cinematic quality, but also timed IRL, making not only the PCs, but also the players sweat. It should be noted that this adventure comes with 4 sample 12th-level characters with extensive backgrounds that are intertwined with certain aspects of the module. If you want to run your own PCs through it, some setting the stage and planning is required.

Oh, and what I've forgotten to mention: This adventure is wholly compatible with Psionics Unleashed and not only makes for a stellar example of Sword & Sorcery-style adventure design with a sense of bronze-age-antiquity, but also for one of the finest psionic adventures I have yet read. You can definitely see that Tim Hitchcock has been influenced by Nicolas Logue and his stellar adventure-writing - the imagery, sense of dread secrets best left undiscovered, a general feeling of decline and decay, nomenclature and the expertly-created psionic foes make for a truly compelling scenario, whether with the pregens or your own group. If you like psionics, this alone justifies the fair asking price. if you're on the fence on whether you and your players enjoy them, however, this is definitely an awesome example on how to use them in your game. Tim Hitchcock not only proves that he is a stellar author of dark scenarios, but also gets the rules. Two thumbs up!
The pdf closes with a write-up of the secret society from the second adventure as well as a contribution by Raging Swan mastermind Creighton Broadhurst: The random tribal name generator! In 3 easy steps and over 4 pages, we get descriptor and words that can add a sense of wonder to even the most basic humanoids you fight as well as identity and detail to your world. Great little toolkit!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, as I've come to expect from RiP. I only noticed 3 minor glitches over the whole issue. Layout adheres to RiP's 2-column full-color standard and the artworks are mostly stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a MASSIVE map-pack that contains high-res versions of the maps as well as tifs, pngs and collated versions of the maps with legends etc. to print out. Unfortunately numbers and secret door indicators are included in them, but still: The beautifully-detailed dundjinni-made full-color maps for each adventure are a massive plus in my book. I've said it in the beginning of this review and I'll say it again: If KQ is the successor to Dragon, then AQ is the successor to Dungeon. Especially for a first issue (remember the humble beginnings), this magazine is VERY impressive. With the quality authors and their excellent modules, there is simply no reason not to get this - each adventure in itself has at least one or more original, unique ideas going for it and Creighton's generator is a neat bonus indeed. Psionic fans HAVE to get this anyway, but even if you're a die-hard hater of them, the other two adventures still justify the low asking-price. And reading "Soul Siphon" might actually change your mind. Ok, that was a bad pun. Before I start to ramble on, I'll give you my final verdict: 5 stars + Endzeitgeist seal of approval. These adventures rock!

Endzeitgeist out.



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