Pathfinder Adventure Path #63: The Asylum Stone (Shattered Star 3 of 6) (based on
Paizo Publishing, LLC
Chapter 3: "The Asylum Stone"
by James L. Sutter
The search for the Shattered Star leads the PCs to Kaer Maga, the legendary cliff-top city of criminals, refugees, and anyone else seeking to vanish into its cluttered streets. Enlisted to rescue a troll prophet from a mad artificer’s hanging mansion, the PCs soon find themselves delving into the notorious Undercity. Here they must battle their way through a lost runelord laboratory before finally entering the mysterious cavern realm of the Dark Forest, where an ancient evil has guarded a lost shard for millennia. Can the PCs recover the shard from its unholy guardians and continue their quest, or will they simply be the latest souls lost to the City of Strangers?
This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path continues the Shattered Star Adventure Path and includes:
“The Asylum Stone,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 8th-level characters, by James L. Sutter
An overview of several prominent gangs in Kaer Maga, and how they can expand the adventure, by James L. Sutter
New missions and adventure hooks for PCs spending time in Magnimar, by Jim Groves
Pirates and wererats in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Bill Ward
Four new monsters, by Shaun Hocking, Jason Klimchok, and James L. Sutter
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.
I loved City of Strangers and, in general, all of what James Sutter writes but, sadly, this AP chapter didn't work for me and I don't think my group would have appreciated it. Without being my favorite part of Varisia, Kerr Maga is still fun and I was looking forward to The Asylum Stone. But even though some parts of it would probably be fun to play through (the Ardoc villa, the Troll Augurs, the Caulborns), most of the two main dungeons seem filled with somewhat random creatures that have little in common. Some of these encounters are really good, but I find the randomness undermines them. One or two odd creatures would have been fine, but many strange creatures in adjacent rooms would have broken my group's sense of verisimilitude.
Maybe Kerr Maga is just not for me/us?
I'm still looking forward to James's next AP chapter, when he can find the time to cram one in his busy schedule! And why not on another planet than Golarion. ;)
The Asylum Stone contains three different dungeons, each one with its own unique theme. All three of these are paced well, and the last two have a good mixture of mysterious and magical. The creatures found within the dungeons are varied, and quite a few of them can find themselves in rooms other than their starting locations, really giving the DM a number of options for challenging their PCs. Since the actual encounters are the majority of the adventure (and were done superbly), the flaws I'm about to list only took off a star from my overall rating
So the dungeons and enemies are all great, but the problem in this adventure comes with the number of assumptions it makes about what the PCs will do. It included two largely unnecesary encounters on the way to Kaer-Maga (If there's only going to be one encounter in a day, it isn't worth unless sufficiently challenging/epic), and assumes that the players are going to get a guide (isn't their mission kind of private?) and that it's going to be Gav, and that they'll tell him exactly what they're looking for. The only two ways to advance the story is to either inquire with the Augers, or check out the Therassic spare, and if the PCs do the latter first, they skip around the first third of the adventure.
The support articles aren't fantastic either. I was really hoping the Gangs of Kaer Maga article would talk about the groups that weren't already talked about in the adventure, and the Missions in Magnimar article didn't really add anything to the world, which is what I normally look for in the support articles. The bestiary, at least, was interesting, though there were only four monsters.
Sutter also makes a lot references to his own works, including City of Strangers (duh), Distant Worlds, and oddly enough his fiction in AP #3. The latter was extremely unnecesary, but I suppose it didn't really take anything away from the adventure.
So overall the adventure itself was fun and enjoyable, though I had a bit of problem with the details. My group enjoyed playing through it, but I had to adapt a bit to get them to actually go into the dungeons.
Disappointing adventure, but good support articles
Unfortunately, The Asylum Stone just doesn’t live up to the possibilities, primarily because it tries to present too many possibilities all in one go. Just as Kaer Maga itself is a hodgepodge of numerous races and organizations, the adventure is like a hodgepodge of disconnected set-pieces with only the thinnest thread linking them together. But while the city of Kaer Maga brilliantly ties all its disparate parts together into one working whole, The Asylum Stone unfortunately doesn’t. There’s simply too much in Kaer Maga to include in one adventure, especially one where the PCs are just passing through. What would work much better is to focus on one aspect of Kaer Maga (much like The Godsmouth Heresy does) with only hints of the rest. What we get instead is an adventure which takes the PCs from one Kaer Magan “gang” to the next with little to no opportunity to interact with each one, only to throw the PCs up against one of the setting’s major villains at the end without ever developing the threat of that villain or its impact on the setting. The adventure ends up feeling like a succession of random encounters and completely loses the magic of Kaer Maga.
This is a great example of how to do dungeon crawls right. It's split up enough to not get to be a slog and each dungeon has it's own roleplaying challenges and opportunities.
I would strongly suggest pairing this with the old City of Strangers book and extending it out a bit. The action is crammed in a bit too dense, but expanding it back out will let you give Kaer Maga the spotlight it deserves.
Overall: Great adventure, but grab City of Strangers before you run it.