The Pathfinder Online MMO will put YOU in command of your very own kingdom in the treacherous River Kingdoms of the Pathfinder world. Get an early start on conquest with Pathfinder Online: Thornkeep, a complete gazetteer of one of the upcoming game’s starting towns and the deadly dungeons that sprawl beneath it!
A co-production of video game developers Goblinworks and Paizo Publishing, this fully illustrated adventure sourcebook slots easily into any Pathfinder RPG campaign, and provides a tantalizing glimpse at the early production of the Pathfinder Online MMO, with behind-the-scenes accounts, sneak peeks at characters and environment images, and new details about the upcoming game.
This 96-page book also includes complete original dungeon levels designed by a who’s-who of adventure design: Richard Baker, Jason Bulmahn, Ed Greenwood, James Jacobs, and Erik Mona! With enough gaming material to advance a character from 1st to 8th level, Thornkeep brings the action and excitement of the Pathfinder Online MMO to your tabletop!
Thornkeep contains the following complete dungeon levels:
The Accursed Halls (by veteran RPG designer Richard Baker): Buried beneath the castle of Thornkeep lie strange passages and chambers that once belonged to a cruel Azlanti wizard of eons past. Goblins have begun excavating the so-called Accursed Halls in hopes of finding a lost goblin artifact, though their constant battles with the undead that haunt these corridors has left them blind to the dungeon’s other myriad wonders.
The Forgotten Laboratory (by Pathfinder RPG Lead Designer Jason Bulmahn): The goblins of the dungeon's upper level took more than one trinket from the ancient laboratory that dwells beneath them. The wizard that created these items also performed dangerous experiments, many of which have gone out of control over the years. Stranger still, someone appears to be using the ancient equipment with sinister results.
The Enigma Vaults (by Paizo Creative Director James Jacobs): In ages past, the mad wizard who dwelt in these halls collected many strange items in his travels—and the strangest of those he put on display here, in a museum-like complex he called the Enigma Vaults. When a group of thieves made their way into the vaults in hopes of a huge payday, they released something far beyond their capacity to control, and now they serve as the thralls of a sinister influence from a dark and distant world.
Sanctum of a Lost Age (by Paizo Publisher Erik Mona): Scholars claim the dungeons below Thornkeep were built by the Ancient Azlanti, but how do they know, really? If Rozimus of Tymon speaks true, one level of Thornkeep’s dungeon holds survivors of that long-dead empire eager to return to the world and share the lore of their glorious age. They’re not undead, Rozimus claims, or illusory phantoms, but true living and breathing High Azlanti! But why does Rozimus know so much about them, and why is he so eager to return to the dungeon he claims almost killed him 5 years ago?
Dark Menagerie (by RPG legend Ed Greenwood): In life, the wizard who ruled this realm kept many trophies, mementos, and even captured pets from his journeys, both to entertain his dark sensibilities and to cow his business associates and coerced allies. Now, kept alive all these years via stasis-inducing magic that's recently failed, the unfettered beasts of his magical menagerie run amok.
Let me start off by saying I don't want to dislike a product this much, especially a Paizo or Pathfinder product. However when you have this many game designers (Richard Baker, Jason Bulmahn, Ed Greenwood, James Jacobs, Erik Mona, and the Goblinworks Staff) work together to create a module you get a 50 pound turd in a 5 pound bag. This many game designers does not equal a 5-star product. It instead creates a phenomenal headache for whoever had to try and edit this into a working module.
I love the occasional dungeon crawl or hack 'n' slash game session.
However, we have been grinding through this module for 6 game sessions and I'm ready to intentionally get my character killed so I can get out of this adventure.
Someone probably said in a staff meeting, a staff game session, over lunch or more likely one to many beers "Hey wouldn't it be super cool if we all created one dungeon level for this adventure and loosely tied them together with Erik Mona's Sanctum of a Lost Age idea!!!"
This is not a module for anyone seeking role-play, character development or skill challenges. This is a module for players who like to kill creatures, lots of creatures, and all kinds of different creatures.
Role-playing there is some. The first game session when you arrive in the town outside Thornkeep you can interact with the townfolk and possibly the baron. Then you grind your way through 4 levels of dungeons before you arrive in the Sanctum of a Lost Age where you are overjoyed to speak to anyone that has a reason for being in this dungeon. Who's cares that its the villains. By this point I am willing to join them, or just have them slay my character.
CR, CR, CR. Apparently none of the game designers bothered to consult one another about appropriate Challenge Ratings for this module. We started out with goblins and appropriate underground creatures and ended up facing CR 7 and CR 8 creatures who seemed to be placed in the dungeon for no reason other than someone thought it would be cool if adventurers had to fight them. Creatures with no reason to be in a dungeon, and no way to survive and subsist in a dungeon. The worst offender so far is Erik Mona and his room of monster banners. When one or more banners are torn anything from a Frost Giant to a Chimera can be instantly unleashed for a Total Party Kill. The only reason there wasn't a total party kill was the GM took pity on us. There is no logical reason to me as a GM or player why you would put this in a module where the average level of the party members is 4th or 5th level at the point you reach this death chamber.
If you are a Killer GM this is the module for you!!!
If you are player who loves, loves, loves to kill creatures and roll-play this module is for you.
If you are a power gamer this module is for you.
If you are a player who loves dungeon crawls where you don't have to think this module is for you.
If you are a GM or player who likes to role-play an adventure with a good hook and storyline THIS MODULE IS DEFINITELY NOT FOR YOU.
A few days ago I played an online game of Thornkeep - The Dark Menagerie using the Rolld20 website. My judgement of this particular module is that this is a rather mediocre dungeon crawl with little in the way of role playing opportunities or need to plan. Ill expand upon these points with spoilers:
First of all each room of this dungeon is just one encounter after another. Each encounter is made up of odd random monsters, with certain environmental themes to them, such as a water room with weird fish men in it and another with a forest theme with a slime and a weird snake thing in it. There is no way to predict whats in the next room without the use of spells such as scrying and therefore you cant plan for the room ahead, this is a good thing and a bad thing. The main reason its bad is it comes off a bit video gamey, I mean where do they get their food from? I know they've been in hibernation up til now but considering our mission is to clean the monsters out before they become a threat I feel this is a weakness. Cant we just lock them in and wait for them to starve? There was no sign of an internal ecology, in development or existing. In fact most of the plants and such are illusory.
The good thing about it is that its been so long since I've seen this sort of thing it almost came as a bit of a relief.
The only opportunity you have to talk to any npc that is scripted into the module is the Sphinx at the end, who is integral to the plot. She begs for freedom and such but thats about it! She really had nothing else to say of note, not that our GM played anyways. She really should be knowledgeable and wise but that's not how she was played at the time, she could have offered her knowledge in trade for freedom but all she offered was treasure. Still that was enough for our group so we freed her.
At one stage we were wandering along through the dungeon when we decided to do what so many adventurer do, we went left instead of right and left a room unexplored until we had finished exploring the rest of the dungeon and then came back to it. The problem with this is that when we did come back I noticed that we had passed within thirty feet of the baddies without them reacting. They sat placidly and waited for us to come back, enter the room AND THEN sprang into action, rolling initiative and attacking. This reeks of a poorly written encounter and indeed a badly written module altogether. Are the monster blind? do they not hear the half dozen or so adventurers, none of which were using the stealth skill?
Our GM really should have taken it upon himself to have the baddies act, follow us using stealth and then launch an attack when our backs were turned. But he didnt. I am really trying to say that since these modules are to be run as written in PFS rules, they should be written to encourage gms to run their baddies like they have a brain rather than being computer game baddies sitting around in their respective rooms waiting for the players...
In conclusion this is an average dungeon crawl, only really enjoyable when you have been doing a lot of other stuff. It's like plain porridge or bread and butter... good when the rest of your diet is rich (or you're really hungry), boring and flavourless when that's all you get.
Now I understand The Dark Menagerie is only part of the whole adventure path but to paraphrase Melisandre from Game of Throne "If part of an onion is rotten, its a rotten onion..."
Hello again all,
I recently had the misfortune to encounter Thornkeep: The Accursed Halls during VirtuaCon 2013. I have to say that despite the GMs attempts to make this module enjoyable I did not find it to be a good adventure.
There was some excellent use of terrain in many of the fights, with many of the fights featuring raised areas, difficult terrain and stealthy enemies to good effect but this was all spoiled by the mods continued insistence on pressing the idea of 'Challenging the pcs'
In my opinion this module didn't challenge us. It frustrated us. The mod set out to kill us. Several times over. It almost succeeded. Ill use spoilers to go into a little more detail shortly but first I would like to talk about the reasons why 'challenges' in PFS are so frustrating to me.
The First reason 'Challenges' are frustrating to me is that usually to achieve this the designer/GM uses cheesey overpowered bad guys. This mod is no exception. I can usually tell when a baddy has been min/maxed, Ive been at this a long time.
The Second reason is that Ive been role playing for over 20 years, Ive done all that power gaming stuff before and it doesnt interest me. Im interested in actually role playing my characters, interacting with npcs and other pcs and I like to make thematic, balanced character that are rooted deeply in the setting. I dont like being punished for not making a min/maxed character just to keep up with the power gamers.
The Third reason is that the rewards often dont match the level of 'challenge'. When you put me through hell I expect a big pay check at the end. When I dont see a reward equal to my suffering I get really annoyed.
The first spoiler I will use will discuss the details of the more horrible encounters:
There were really 3 fights that I would call very overpowered and chosen to try to TPK us.
The Wight and its zombie friends, the Shadow and the 2 Fungal Crawlers.
We were a mix of 1st and 2nd level characters, there were 6 of us for some of the adventure but one of us had to go half way through and it became 5.
The Fungal Crawlers almost killed us since that is a CR 5 encounter and there were only 5 pcs by that stage. We struggled through by using wands of infernal healing and we got a bit lucky.
The Wight could have TPKed us if it didnt pick on a level 2 PC first. Against a party of level 1 PCs this fight is quite deadly since the Wight can one-hit-kill people, turn them into Wights and then exponentially escalate the problem.
The Shadow is horrible because it is immune to non-magical weapons, and magical weapons are a rare commodity at 1st or 2nd level, and its attacks drain strength. Also When a Shadow kills you, you become a Shadow... And of course this encounter came right after the Wight!
This next spoiler will contain details of the reward for the Module as well as more detail on why it is such a poor reward:
The rewards for the Module are: 3 xp, 4 pp, 1398 gp and your choice of 2 boons. The pp and gold rewards are a bit low when you consider that 3 scenarios would get you jut as much xp but more pp and I think more gold.
If the Boons were good enough then they may have made up for that but since both of the possible boons are only going to be useful if you do more of Thornkeep, dont get me wrong they are both quite useful if you do more of Thornkeep, this is a very specialized boon. To the point of being useless. Consider that my Gunslinger has done Dark Menagerie and my Sorcerer has done Accursed Halls, so neither may ever get to use these kinds of boons...Especially since I tend to play pick-up games online or Convention games rather than a regular weekly game that could be relied on to methodically go through an entire AP.
At least Dark Menagerie had a boon I could trade in for Gold! That was useful!!
So like I said earlier, if you're going to put me through the wringer then you'd better pay me really well and this module very much fails to do that in any way, shape or form.
So why should I continue to play Thornkeep? Or any of these other 'Challenging' PFS scenarios/mods? For the fun? well its not fun, its frustrating. For the role playing? well thats few and far between. For the social interaction? I could play a regular, less 'Challenging' PFS game and get that... or better yet a tabletop non-PFS Pathfinder game! For the Phat Lewts? well obviously not since the simpler/easier mods and scenarios offer as much if not more than these.
I think that special events or especially diffecult scenarios/mods should be designed to be especially rewarding, but not necessarily in gold or PP. A decent Boon would be the ticket but something that can be taken from table to table (regardless of the table you end up at) and something that's actually going to be useful (Eg targeting a common foe or something that doesnt require a specialized circumstance to activate - even if it is a rather minor benefit or a one time only benefit)
In conclusion my experience of the Thornkeep Adventure Path is not positive. This is old skool role playing at its worst, this is min maxed power gaming and GM versus player mentality. Avoid this Adventure Path if at all possible. I certainly intend too, if i do play more it will be to gather more review material (Or maybe because Im a role playing addict and Ive gotta get my fix from somewhere).
I didn’t get this book as part of the Kickstarter nor do I imagine I’ll ever play the online game (it’s just not my cup of tea), this book is a super read and looks to be a great place to set a campaign!
Having five levels of dungeons each being so dynamic and well conceived and playing to the strengths of their writers is good enough (even if it leaves you wanting more) but the town and surrounding lands lends itself to some superb storytelling opportunities.
The whole setting and town reeks of the grittiness of the frontier in the River Kingdoms. It’s a great mix of urban struggle, ancient ruins, competing gangs and factions, and a plot woven so thick throughout the locales and NPCs it could take dozens of gaming sessions for the players to pull them all together.
Like the Dungeon/Supporting Land combos of Thunder Rift, The Night Below, Shattered Gates of Slaughtergard or even Keep on the Borderlands, Thornkeep stands to become a time-honored classic of adventure locales players will love to explore and interact with.
Also, for folks looking just for good gaming books to read, it’s like a novel you can’t put down. Fantastic.
Please read Jim Rudnick's review. I echo his sentiments entirely.
This purchase is great value and will keep a GM and his unsuspecting players occupied with deadly and intriguing dungeon delving in a fascinating locale for hours. Just buy it - this is one of those releases that should live on in players minds for years.
EDIT: "The Dark Menagerie" is a stinking pile of crap. But even this glistening turd can't besmirch the +5 Mithril Fullplate that is... THORNKEEP!
Jim's review mentions the Village of Hommlet. I can also think of Monte Cook's Brinderford, or Waterdeep, or Greyhawk: established communities with mysterious dungeons underneath. This product continues a proud tradition, and it holds up that weighty responsibility.
My one concern: the levels are, well, too small, too briefly described. I understand about page-count, and I have read that a lot of material was cut. That's a shame. As this product stands, it's a great little campaign. As it could have been, with more generous resources, it would have been legendary.