Way of the Wicked—Book #3: Tears of the Blessed (PFRPG) PDF

****½ (based on 7 ratings)

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Lead an Army of Darkness into Battle!

Inside the Vale of Valtaerna is found the most sacred site to the benevolent god Mitra in all of Talingarde. From this holy site, your enemies draw power and comfort. This is the story of how you raised an army of wickedness and stormed that stronghold of light slaughtering all who stood in your way!

No longer are you a petty servant of darkness. Here is your chance to become a master of evil. But beware! This will not be easy. There are more than just priests in the vale. This is the lair of countless good celestials who will do all in their power to stop your rise. Can you defeat them? Will you be destroyed or will you emerge triumphant amidst the tears of the blessed?

Welcome to the third chapter of the “Way of the Wicked”—the only evil adventure path for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!

Inside you’ll find:

  • “Tears of the Blessed,” an adventure compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game for 10th-level villains by Gary McBride
  • Full color art and maps by Michael Clarke
  • A gazetteer of the city of Ghastenhall
  • Detailed information about the Church of Mitra, your most determined foes.
  • All you need to run a vicious narrative battle with your PCs in command.
  • 102 pages of full color!
  • And More!

Raise your army, dark lord, and march to war. There will be no one to stop you this time!

Product Availability

Will be added to your My Downloads Page immediately upon purchase of PDF.

Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at store@paizo.com.

FRM1003E


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****½ (based on 7 ratings)

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Clerics, Angels and Phoenix, oh my

*****

Your horrid villains are tasked with sacking a wintered-in valley of nauseatingly Lawful Good types. Recruit foot soldiers, bust the gate open and sack the place!

This chapter continues to demonstrate the villainous virtues of infiltration, sabotage, skulduggery and raw Evil firepower. The big nasties are all challenging icons of Things that are Good. Some groups will mop the floor with their foes, others will have a more difficult time.

As is the established pattern in earlier chapters, the villains can nova some encounters while carefully husbanding resources in other parts.

Plan carefully Ladies and Lords for failure to pay attention may send your damned souls to Hell far earlier than you wish...


Tears of the Blessed Review

****( )

Warning: Potential spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for 6 PCs.

In the third installment of the Way of the Wicked, the players are given the task of recruiting and army to sack the holy city of Valtaerna. Having played through this book, I must continue to give my compliments to creators. The world and the story is still holding the players attention and offering them creative ways to play their dark lords.

A particularly excellent part of this book was the appropriately epic Battle for Valtaerna. While this long fight spanned at least two full sessions and used almost every resource the party had, it never became tedious or felt like the players were just going through the motions.

However, if I had a criticism of this chapter of Way of the Wicked, it would be that the excitement is a little bit frontloaded. The Big Battle, while excellent, happens fairly early in the book. There is also the matter of a the Phoenix, who is fought relatively early in the book, but is actually a far more dangerous and memorable than the final boss.

Two words of caution to GM planning to run Tears of the Blessed:
1. Be careful with the Phoenix. My players were not well prepared heading in to that fight. Thankfully they had Protection From Energy or we may have had a TPK. However, our party mage had too few non-fire spells and the martial characters didn't have a way of getting through the Phoenix's DR 15/Evil. With the Phoenix's healing capabilities, the fight ended up being a slog where they could barely do more damage than the Phoenix could heal in a round.
2. Be careful with Holy Word. While, most encounters in the latter half of the book have access to this devastating spell, I highly suggest limiting your usage of it. This is a really powerful spell, that does a great job incapacitating players and making the encounter feel dangerous. Unfortunately, when you are a player, being incapacitated isn't very fun. Not only will your players hate it, but they will actively prepare ways to counter it. Considering that Holy Word is probably the best tactic of an otherwise rather weak final boss, you really don't want to wear it out.

However, minor complaints and warnings aside, I would still highly recommend this book. It runs far quicker and easier than Call Forth Darkness and maintains the series excellent quality in story and characters.


*****

I've reviewed this on RPGGeek.com.

You can read it here.


***( )( )

Tears of the Blessed is a very cool concept module with a lot of neat flavor. The book itself is written with style and the general outline of the adventure itself is very promising. Here's my review:

1. Mechanics
While the fluff and circumstance in the module is fantastic at times (and drudging at others) it suffers from a lot of fidgety mechanics issues that belie a fair bit of annoyance.
A lot of the stat blocks in Way of the Wicked are streamlined. These are made for best use, which is, in thought, very kind, but in practice for the experienced DM very agitating. Baking power attack into most enemies attack rolls seems smart until they're also baking abilities in as well, making unraveling bonuses difficult. Some creatures have deflection against evil opponents in their stat blocks, making their CMD and AC jump up from what's written down. If you have a neutral character in the party, they're very powerful in this module.
Many opponents are not as dangerous as their CR entails. This leads to a kind of boredom syndrome-- a lot of battles are versus foes who, in writing, are CR 10, but in longevity are not-- AC tends to teeter around 20, and attack rolls around +13. Many battles are the opposite-- the creatures aren't very dangerous, but are extremely long-lived. Later on in the Vale itself, DR 5-15/evil is on every single monster you encounter until you begin to encounter incorporeal foes. From the middle of the Battle of Saintsbridge, almost every single foe you face has spell resistance. That is immensely painful. Many encounters are able to cast holy word, which is very punishing to melee. Many encounters are layered in personal or group protection from evil effects, making almost all mind-affecting abilities wasted. Protective aura is unbelievably irritating. Many encounters are slogs that the NPCs can never be victorious in, making the entire conflict unnecessary. A lot of encounters are just soldiers, or later, angelic soldiers, throwing themselves at you to die with little fanfare. Not a lot of encounters enhance the mood-- they just serve as filler.
The humdrum is broken up by several lynchpin encounters that are both exciting, interesting and incredibly iconic. Suchandra the Phoenix is an extremely worthy foe, as is The-Flame-That-Sings. Ara Mathra and She-Forever-Silent are intimidating, as are Taranea and the ghostly paladins (though three encounters of three is far too much in my opinion). These encounters are not only interesting, but some of the only encounters that are plot-worthy (see below).
As a warning, The-Flame-That-Sings is a full-on TPK encounter if your group does not have protection from energy and resist energy. By the time the group killed The-Flame and Suchandra got busy, everyone but the wizard was out of their 120 fire absorption and almost all of them but the monk and bard were on fire. In an adventure that is all-but guaranteed to have an evil-aligned cleric, this can be very devastating.

2. Impetus
In this book, the PCs finish their quest from the last adventure and then are thrust into the next. This has the same kind of problem as the first two books: Cardinal Thorn says jump, so you jump, get tortured and jump minus a stat point, or the book permanently kills you. Not a lot of illusion of choice. You must meet with Sakkarot, that scenario is successful if the PCs try at all, you must go into the Vale, you must douse the three flames, you must kill everyone there, you must slay Ara Mathra. The PCs wants or character motivations don't come into it. There aren't any compelling characters to want to work for, like in other modules (unless you're still riding on the fumes of Thorn from book 1) or people who need saving. It's the opposite-- your character sees there are people who need killing and goes to kill them for the sake of killing. There's no characters to really hate or want to kill, either. Unlike the other books, evil doesn't turn on evil, nor is good annoying, self-righteous or antagonistic. It makes the module extremely bleak. You go around killing great people who don't deserve it and who can't fight back... for fun.

3. Plot
The plot is that the PCs go to a place that is good and nice, kill everyone there and then kill the angels there because their boss said so. There's really nothing beyond that besides plot seeds for the next books. An interesting character is introduced-- Dessiter-- and then disappears. None of the antagonists are really fleshed out beyond the room they're in, and thusly feel very flat. Many, despite there being a huge amount of reasons for them to, do not leave their encounter rooms. My favorite is Taranea-- a CG azata-- who follows orders to not intervene in the Battle of Saintsbridge until the PCs are (presumably) high enough level to fight her. An elementally chaotic creature and elementally good creature not only follows orders but lets people die because of them.
You spend almost the entire module knowing about Ara Mathra but he never interacts with the party-- not even a word from the sky, a showing, an angry prophecy. Strangely, the party is on a timer-- the leader of the Vale is summoning an army of ghostly paladins to fight the PCs-- but the PCs don't know it, so they kind of lackidaisically take their time through the module without much urgency.

Still not liking some of the organization, and definitely disliking many parts-- To enter 2-9, you must go through 2-9a, which is detailed after the contents of 2-9-- a half-page of exposition. Stat blocks still break the page. Maps are square with almost no exception, making drawing them uninspiring.

3 stars simply for the concept alone, though the execution was lacking. This module is, despite everything I just said, still worth a read. Really don't miss it-- it has some of the coolest ideas, scenarios, areas, monsters and concepts in it, surrounded by a lot of hit-or-miss basic D&D setpieces (mass combat) that the module could have abandoned without losing anything.


And the Heavens will weep

*****

This one will have to be short. Suffice to say that in this one, after your villains got the Tears of Achlys at the climax of the last adventure, they first get some downtime (and plenty of side quests to get into trouble and grab some loot), and then they get their next assignment. Simply stated, destroy the most sacred and well-protected temple in the kingdom and defile it past any use. Oh, and no survivors.

You get all the easy jobs.

Anyway, there's considerable role-playing in here as you recruit allies, some of them characters you met before. You'll also meet a devil who's taken a close interest in your careers, which can lead to even further trouble. Not to mention enough battle and mayhem to satisfy the most bloody-minded player as you smash your way into the Vale of Valtaerna, going through everything from warriors to fanatic good clerics to celestials until you (hopefully) achieve victory. And after that you'll find yourself dealing with some very powerful good beings in the Vale -- you'll need sharp wits as well as ready blades to deal with them unless you want to be overwhelmed.

And then the REAL difficulty begins when you enter the Temple of Saint Macarius, deal with the opposition you find there, maybe find some very useful treasures, and finally confront the true master of the temple and leader of your foes. And you WILL need to be both fortunate AND tough to beat Ara Mathra!

It's rounded out with a Gazetteer of the city of Ghastenhall as well as a guide to the religion of Mitra, the Triune God, that should be very helpful for DMs (and maybe players in a more conventional campaign).

There are a few typos here and there, but this is every bit as amazing as the prior adventures in the series. Five stars!


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Contributor

You've been waiting for it, and part three of "Way of the Wicked" is now available here at Paizo!

Silver Crusade

I WANTS NOW!!

Silver Crusade

And now I haz it!! Cannot wait to read it.


Thanks, Liz!

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


*yoink*


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Grab! Rub hands together. Evil laugh.

Grand Lodge

Fire Mountain Games wrote:

Thanks, Liz!

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Is this out on DriveThruRPG too? I made sure to get the subscription.

Dark Archive

Can't wait to get my hands on this!!


kevin_video wrote:
Fire Mountain Games wrote:

Thanks, Liz!

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Is this out on DriveThruRPG too? I made sure to get the subscription.

It is submitted and ... waiting for them to get back to me. And soon as they approve it, I will add it to all the subscriptions.

So real soon.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Grand Lodge

Gary,

I'm looking forward to talking to you about WotW over a Scotch at PaizoCon.

Cheers!


When's the print coming online? I'm sorely tempted and can just barely keep my fingers from hitting the purchase-button - After all, I actually bought Knot of Thorns twice - once pdf only and once in the bundle...


EZ,

Thank you very much for supporting a small start-up and buying our first product twice. Those first few sales were really important to me convincing investors to take a chance on us. So, there is more Way of the Wicked because of people like you.

That said, there is no reason to buy this one twice. The print version is already submitted and as soon as I see the proof copy and all is well, it will be available.

There is much that is out of my hands so all I can say right now is soon. I will post here immediately as it is available.

And thank you.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


Azmyth,

Hmmm....scotch. You know, its funny, before too long I have a Fire Mountain Games announcement that is scotch related.

Gary "If you meet me and I don't have scotch, you met someone else" McBride


And I am so looking forward to getting the print bundle! Yay for more madcap evil escapades in poor doomed Talingarde.

And I just ordered Blood of Fiends too so I can get some Pitborn devilspawn in on everything.

And hmm, does anyone else notice4 the oddness of this book/PDF coming out on Walpurgisnacht, of all nights?


I did, Eric! It's the reason I'm still awake. :D


Endzeitgeist wrote:
I did, Eric! It's the reason I'm still awake. :D

If you go and dance on the Brocken, say Hi to the ladies for me. ;)


Coming out on Walpurgisnacht is completely an accident of scheduling. Being done with "Way of the Wicked" by Halloween, that was done more or less on purpose.

Regardless, enjoy some sample art. This is the phoenix who dwells in the Vale of Valtaerna.

It is difficult to kill that which cannot die, but I'm sure you'll manage.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Grand Lodge

Fire Mountain Games wrote:

Coming out on Walpurgisnacht is completely an accident of scheduling. Being done with "Way of the Wicked" by Halloween, that was done more or less on purpose.

Regardless, enjoy some sample art. This is the phoenix who dwells in the Vale of Valtaerna.

It is difficult to kill that which cannot die, but I'm sure you'll manage.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Oh, it can die. It just takes multiple times to do it, and the right kind of spell casters in the party. I can't help but wonder how quickly my PCs will take this down, or if they'll actually have trouble against it. Two of them will be immune to fire by the time they get to this point. It's going to be interesting to see.


Got this! Loving it so far.


Got it, read it, love it!


Thanks for the positive feedback.

More is on the way.

We are deep into work on Book 4 which should be out by the end of June.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


Fire Mountain Games wrote:

Coming out on Walpurgisnacht is completely an accident of scheduling. Being done with "Way of the Wicked" by Halloween, that was done more or less on purpose.

Regardless, enjoy some sample art. This is the phoenix who dwells in the Vale of Valtaerna.

It is difficult to kill that which cannot die, but I'm sure you'll manage.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Looking at it reminds me of the insane and evil phoenix from Paizo's Mythic Monsters Revisited, which went mad when one of its resurrections was corrupted by hellfire.

Hmmm! I'm getting an idea...


Purchased!!!

I absolutely love the attention to background detail you are giving, by the way. Learning that...

Spoiler:
Cardinal Thorn really does still have a heart, and that is his downfall

... is just priceless

Sadly, my group is still in book one, so it will be some time before I get to play at this level. I expect they will have some fun running a dungeon though


DSRMT,

Glad you are enjoying that particular plot arc through the course of the adventure path. It features prominently throughout.

No need to worry, there is plenty of time to traverse your own Wicked Way. "Tears" will be there when you need it.

Now, on to Book Four. You've broken Balentyne. You've held the Horn. You've even vandalized Valtaerna. But can you deal with the dragon?

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


DSRMT wrote:

Purchased!!!

I absolutely love the attention to background detail you are giving, by the way. Learning that...

** spoiler omitted **

... is just priceless

Sadly, my group is still in book one, so it will be some time before I get to play at this level. I expect they will have some fun running a dungeon though

Well, of course he has a heart. He keeps it in a jar on his table.


Gary I can't wait for the print edition. I wish it were available here but at least it is available (soon).

Dark Archive

Gary, just skimmed over it and all I can say is that the Way of the Wicked keeps running on the epic side of amazement.

The whole concept of the

Spoiler:
siege, sacking and razing of a sacred vale filled with devoted priest, angels and holy creatures

is the stuff of legends. Nothing less.
I love the phoenix part, easily one of the most cinematic scenes ever.

Can't wait for an evening of reading.

Luca

Grand Lodge

Got my copy. Thanks Gary.

Already got to the part of the side quests...

spoiler:
Looking it up and doing reference checks on circus adventures, 99% of all ring masters are a type of wizard or wizard/fighter. I'll probably stick with that for Vex, and straight up cleric for Lao. Unless you had better suggestions in mind.

Also, already found something that needs to be errated. Aasimars are native outsiders, not humanoids.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I loooooove this AP... but there are some formating and orthographic errors, the blink dog sorcerer stat block has a weird heading and I think there shouldn't be references to vampire PCs because the only vampire they may know can't make true vampires until they end this adventure and give him the magical chalice. Other than that, I like it very, very much.


Amaranthine Witch,

I am glad you are enjoying "Way of the Wicked".

Please send me any errors you find and we will correct them in the errata.

I'll review Sirius' stat block as soon as I get a chance.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Dark Archive

this is fun. make more.


I cannot say enough good things about this series, or the guys responsible for it. This may be one of the best Third Party Products I've ever seen, for any game system.

Shadow Lodge

Hmmm. I did the 4 PDF subscription on DriveThruRPG, but this hasn't been added to that yet. Might want to look into that, Gary.


Kthulhu,

We take this very seriously. I have a call into One Book Shelf and as a stop gap measure have sent you a complimentary copy. Let me know if you have any further difficulties.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


Incredibelly,

Your wish is our command. More is on the way.

Antimony,

Thank you for the kind words and for supporting "Way of the Wicked".

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


I have a question about reactions to the NPC our villains encounter in Act 2, Event 4.

Spoiler:
Dessiter asks the players to pass on his greetings to Tiadora if they mention her.

How would Thorn and Tiadora react if the players are foolish enough to tell them, or they otherwise find out such as if the Nessian Warhounds come up in conversation. I can't imagine them being comfortable knowing that another of Hell's agents is visiting their minions without permission, the Pact with the players notwithstanding.

How would Thorn react to Asmodeus transforming his brother's armor to show the characters his pleasure? I can see him being happy with the sign, but would it also disquiet him? Especially after the 7th Knot turns on him?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Tobias,

I really love these sort of deep background questions. They show real interest in the material.

Regardless...

Spoiler:

Thorn knows of Dessiter's presence on the island and right now (as of Book 3) thinks of him as a servant of HIM. He will be surprised that Dessiter acted without orders and sought out the Ninth Knot.

Thorn will probably act nonchalant about it. "Ah, I've see you've met Dessiter. A whiny little braggart and a liar. Be wary of him."

But what he's thinking is... "Crap! What else do they know that I've missed?" Thorn is paranoid. Always always paranoid and by the end of book three, he's beginning to become afraid of his Ninth Knot. They aren't merely doing his bidding anymore. They're building their own army. And now, Dessiter is having private conversations with them?

Things are going off the rails for Thorn.

This is only going to get worse in Book 4.

Hope that helps,
Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


What can Dessiter contract with the PCs for? They're already going to Hell so many times over that they make the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune look like pikers.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:
What can Dessiter contract with the PCs for? They're already going to Hell so many times over that they make the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune look like pikers.

My read on this was...

Spoiler:
...that it doesn't really matter. He'll cut them an incredible deal (e.g. "I'll upgrade your hellhounds if you promise to kill celestials" - which they were going to do anyway) just so he can use the clause in the contract that lets him scry on the PCs. At this point, he just wants to observe their progress.


Thanks for the quick response Gary. It helps that the material is so good that you just can't help but try to connect some extra dots.

Spoiler:
One of my players has a legal background, and I can imagine that they may become over paranoid about the Pact they have to strike with Thorn. I may have Dessiter present at Thorn's request to answer a few questions about the contract; after making the necessary statements to assure them that no one has told him to give any particular explanation, of course.

Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:
What can Dessiter contract with the PCs for? They're already going to Hell so many times over that they make the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune look like pikers.

Infernal contracts don't have to be for souls. He can contract them for Specific Performance.

Spoiler:
He specifically wants them to kill Ara Mathra or at least drive him out of the Vale.

So he gives them Nessian Warhounds, they get rid of the angel. He also finds it far easier to watch them and judge their abilities for himself.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Evil Midnight Lurker,

I think the right answer has already been written here, but let me just reiterate it and maybe clarify.

Spoiler:

Dessiter acts like he's here to ensure that Ara Mathra is destroyed and indeed he wants the angel destroyed so he's not lying.

But really, he could less about Ara Mathra. He's confident that the PCs are already going to try to kill the angel. So, why is he here?

If he gets them under an incredibly generous contract, he gets to scry on them all day long. And that's what he's really after.

What he really wants to know -- are these the guys I need to take down Thorn? After the battle of Saintsbridge, killing a phoenix and slaying Ara Mathra, he'll have his answer. He's found Thorn's replacements.

And so, he'll pick the right moment to return in Book Four.

Hope that helps,
Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Sovereign Court

I am really enjoying the third book after picking it up last night. As usual, the story is top notch, with epic encounters and a real build on the PC's villainous path.

While production values are good in that the layout is nice and the artwork fantastic, quality control seems to have suffered. There are a lot of grammatical mistakes and the bookmark to Mitra: Lord of Light is broken for me. Of course, the great thing about the electronic format is those things can be fixed.

An example of an important mistake:
Page 91, under Priests of Mitra both the Shining Lord and the Fire Undying are listed as LG alignment.

I'm not saying anyone needs to stay away from this book, but it appears you guys are having a harder time keeping up, and it's bleeding through some. I'm just glad book 3 still stands strong, despite those.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Darn it Fire Mountain Games, just take my money! Take it all!


Zape,

First and foremost, thanks for supporting "Way of the Wicked". I'm glad you are enjoying the read.

We spend a lot of time editing and playtesting the adventure and do our absolute best to deliver to you the best product we can. That said, we're only human.

However, to comment on one thing -- The Fire Undying being LG is not a mistake. I'll admit I vassilated. LG or LN? But in the end, I decided that while the Shining Lord is lawful GOOD, the inquisitors of the Fire Undying are LAWFUL good (though many of them slip and in their zealotry become LAWFUL neutral).

Mitra's divine law is all that matters. Burn out evil and anything that opposes that divine law. That is the code of the Undying Fire. It may seem callous and but it is a code -- hence Lawful. And they do it because they believe it is for the greater good.

You know, if you want to change it to Lawful Neutral, it wouldn't hurt my feelings. But in a world where infernal forces actively fight to destroy Talingarde, its difficult to say that Undying Fire isn't right to resort to any means necessary to defeat those forces.

Regardless, if you have a moment please email any errors you find to me at gary|at|firemountaingames|dot|com. We will review them and see about including them in the next errata release which will probably be out later this month.

And thanks again for your interest and support in Fire Mountain Games and "Way of the Wicked".

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

Sovereign Court

Wow, I completely thought you were going for LG/NG/CG aspects. I really thought Fire Undying was CG, with statements like "cares nothing for civilization or serenity". My mistake in jumping to conclusions, there.

Thanks for the quick feedback!

Zape


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Gary,

First, I have to say that I'm quite enjoying Tears of the Blessed! Look for my review in the next few days.

That said, when you make the errata update, you might want to consider adding a line of inquisitions (inquisitor class-specific "domains") to each of Mitra's deity information. The inquisitions can be found in Ultimate Magic (with two more in Ultimate Combat). While I imagine most inquisitors belong to The Fire Undying, technically any deity can have inquisitors, so each entry should have some.

Of course, since there's apparently no rhyme or reason to how many inquisitions a deity has (Paizo's range from three to six, depending on the god), The Fire Undying likely has more than the others.


Alzrius,

Glad you are enjoying the book and I look forward to your review.

That's a good suggestion for inquisitions. Perhaps I'll manage to wedge it in somewhere.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


Bought, read.

I would say this is the weakest of the series so far. I would also say that just means it has failed to clear a very, very high bar. The first module was an A; the second, an A+. This is in B+/A- territory IMO. What's interesting is that it doesn't fall short through mediocrity. It's an action-packed, incredibly cinematic adventure that's full of WOW and potential Crowning Moments of Awesome. What pulls it down a bit is that there are a number of flaws and problems.

Spoiler:

Here's the first and biggest one: the module wants the PCs to slaughter everyone in the valley and make it look like the bugbears did it. This is -- no offense, Gary -- kind of dumb.

-- It forces the PCs to become mass murderers, killing thousands (!) of perfectly nice and completely defenseless villagers purely to preserve their secret. Gary wisely instructs us to move quickly past this part and back to pulp villainy. But then why put it in there in the first place?

-- The point of the secrecy is so that nobody yet knows that Asmodeus is back in Talingarde. Really? After the events of the last two modules, nobody will have figured this out yet? Nobody from Balentyre? Nobody from the Horn -- including Sir Richard, who is guaranteed to have survived? No Mitran cleric has cast a simple Commune spell? It stretches the imagination to think that nobody is at least suspecting Asmodean intervention by this time. But it's frankly ridiculous to think they won't figure it out after the events of this module.

-- Framing the bugbears. A bunch of bugbears climbed that mountain and killed a CR 14 phoenix, then took down iron golems, ghost paladins, some 14th level NPCs and a powerful celestial? That's like my ten year old trying to convince me that his three year old sister cut down the old apple tree. It's just not going to fly. Obviously some greater, darker power is at work here, and the good guys are going to devote the resources of a kingdom to figuring out what it is.

-- Keeping the secret. Gary does make a decent attempt to deal with this by noting that the PCs probably /can't/ keep the secret -- unless they've taken fairly harsh and careful measures, someone will get out. And he covers many of the bases, though he misses a couple. All those celestials with teleport at will: nobody blips away to warn the world? The Shield Archons, the Legion Archons? The Flame-that-Sings doesn't use her Flame Jump? And what about that storm giant -- the dude has two rocs and fifty frickin' hippogriffs at his disposal, and he can't send a simple message that Timmy is in trouble, if I'm not back by Tuesday call the Feds?

But that doesn't even cover it. Even if nobody gets out or sends a warning -- nobody in the outside world is going to notice a thing for three months? Nobody ever scrys the Vale, or tries to communicate magically with anyone there? Nobody ever uses Fly or Wind Walk to pay a visit? No hardy ranger or druid ever crosses the snowbound pass to deliver welcome news from the outside? A town of 3,700 people and the kingdom's holiest shrine can just go offline for three months and nobody will notice? Really?

The thing is, all this seems really unnecessary. Thorn could run this as a false-flag operation if he wanted to, for one thing -- Asmodeus is a deity of trickery, after all. Have all the PCs kitted out as cultists of Demogorgon or something. Or he could just say, the hell with it -- time to let our feindish freak fly, proud and high. What's more effective (and, from a gaming POV cooler) -- "bugbears did it", or the red and black banner of Asmodeus, waving from a standard in the town square, atop a pyramid of skulls, decorated with the torn wings of angels?

I guess you could handwave it by saying that Thorn is both paranoid and a cryptomaniacal control freak. Which is totally true and consistent with his character. But then you've missed an opportunity to make it about the PCs' evolving relationship with Thorn. "Our boss wants us to do this, which is totally overkill and is not going to work anyway. Do we obey orders to the letter, or do things our own way?"

From a meta POV, I'm guessing that Gary wanted to delay the Big Reveal for a subsequent module. I'm sure that he has something neat in mind. But I think that the desire to do that distorted the plot of this module in a not-good way.

Okay, there are a number of other things that made me go "hm" -- the Dessiter one has already been mentioned; how could anyone recognize them from Branderscar if they're wearing the circlets; what's the point of that army showing up on the last page if they didn't keep the secret (yes, I know it will affect the next module, but the consequences of failure should be clear in /this/ module)... but let those bide for now; I'm interested in hearing what others think about the whole "frame the bugbears, keep our involvement secret" thing.

Having said all that, let me repeat again that I found this a fun, engaging adventure, full of action, innovation and cool ideas. It's still as good as most of the modules and AP installments that Paizo puts out (and I like most of Paizo's stuff just fine.) I'd be delighted to run it sometime.

cheers,

Doug M.


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Doug,

Thanks for buying and supporting "Way of the Wicked"! I'm glad you've enjoyed it and I'm glad you want to run it.

Spoiler:

Obviously I've done a bad job of explaining this plot point so let me first try to make it a little clearer and then suggest an alternative if you still don't like it.

Secrecy is not important. Everyone will soon know about the slaughter at Valtaerna. What is important to keep secret is that Asmodeans are behind it. Yes, the higher ups have already figured this out, intuitively if nothing else. The King as much as says so in the little scene at the end of the adventure. We suggest a "let's hunt Asmodeans" craze in Ghastenhall started by the duke. And so forth.

But the people -- the common clay -- they aren't so sure. The Darian regime has always been quick to blame Asmodeus for every trouble (see the Asmodean purges of Markadian IV) but where's the proof? The real villain that everyone knows about is Sakkarot Fire-Axe.

The Fire-Axe has already done what no bugbear has ever done. He's sacked two fortresses of the Watch Wall, raids unopposed in the north and even threatens the third largest city in Talingarde. The fact that the Fire-Axe was clever enough to strike against and destroy Valtaerna...I think the people of Talingarde will buy that.

This plot point is important in Book VI when an army of Asmodeans "saves" Talingarde from the Fire-Axe and wins the hearts and minds of the people. That is why Thorn wants to keep evidence of their involvement to a minimum. Who cares what a paladin, king or priests of Mitra think. Of course they think Asmodeus is behind it. They think Asmodeus is behind everything. Hopefully soon, they'll all be dead. Thorn is concerned with the common people.

Can the vale go offline for three months? In the dead of winter -- yes. Virtually no one visits in winter. It is an isolated mountain vale far from the front of the war. Still, every once and a while someone desperate does visit. We cover that in the section entitled "Manning the Watchtower". But powerful spellcasters? No. There are few of those in Talingarde and people do not randomly "wind walk" around. Actually, having a "hardy ranger" or two visit over the mountains is a good idea for an encounter. The PCs have to deal with these interlopers fast or their true nature will be revealed.

No, the celestials will not leave (save for the ghaele Taranea as mentioned in her description and she only leaves when she's sure things are lost). All the celestials if you read their descriptions are tasked to defend this vale and in its darkest hour they will not abandon it. Many of them like the peri actually can't abandon it. It mentions in her description how is she bound to the phoenix's mount. She longs to aid the army at Saintsbridge but cannot.

The Storm Giant Anteus is a creature from the clouds. He leads an assualt upon the vale in fulfillment of an ancient pact. He knows nothing of Talirean politics and frankly couldn't care less. If he isn't defeated, then yes, he will likely raise the alarm. And the rocs and hippogriffs are beasts (Int 2). They cannot raise the alarm.

Ara Mathra is doing his absolute best to summon aid. But he will not abandon the Cathedral of Mitra Made Manifest. If he abandons the Cathedral he abandons the Flame Undying and I hope the book makes clear why that is a Very Bad Thing.

So, its important the PCs keep Asmodean involvement in the raid a secret and it is difficult (but not impossible) for them to do so. That is one of the objectives for this adventure.

Wow, this has gotten long. Next post I will talk about alternatives.

Regardless, thanks for taking the time to read this adventure and comment on it.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


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Doug,

And part two...

Spoiler:

And if you still don't like secrecy being important, I say "ditch it." Seriously, just have Thorn not mention that objective.

At the end of the day, even if the people of Talingarde do think the Asmodeans are behind it, what does that matter?

So the Asmodeans and the Mitran are fighting? They always fight. What matters in the end is who saved their lives. Thorn works diligently right now to ensure that the answer is "The servants of Asmodeus". His plan will likely outlive him.

And I do apologize for not fully detailing what happens after winter. The adventure does end on something of a cliffhanger.

There simply was not room in this adventure (we were already two pages over our target of one hundred). This adventure is about slaying the celestials that guard Valtaerna and it ends with their defeat. It doesn't fully detail all the reprecussions of that defeat. Not quite yet. But all that is coming.

We do discuss how to end the adventure if it's run as a stand-alone or if you make this the end of a shortened campaign, so I think we cover everyone.

We start up in Book IV detailing what happens come spring...

Anyways, I hope that helps and again I really want to emphasize -- thanks for supporting "Way of the Wicked". I really do appreciate such honest, heart-felt criticism from someone who has obviously read the book and thought a lot about it.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games

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