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

****½ (based on 6 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!

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Product Reviews (6)
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****½ (based on 6 ratings)

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Tears of the Blessed Review

****( )

Warning: Potential spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective.

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!


4.5 stars + seal of approval - almost on par with its predecessors

****( )

The third installment of Fire Mountain Games' evil AP is 102 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 97 pages of content, so let's check it out!

This being an adventure review, Asmodeus watches over these lines. If you're a player and don't want to be dragged to hell due to knowing about the massive
SPOILERS, I'd suggest you skip ahead to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! The adventure kicks off where "Call forth Darkness" left off - with the legendary Tears of Achlys now in the PC's possession, Thorn's plans grow closer to fruition. After receiving their rewards the PCs are sent off to Ghastenhall, where they meet up with an Asmodean scholar in disguise who has infiltrated the church of Mitra and happens to know Thorn from when he still was a mortal man. said man will ensure that the Tears of Achlys do their utmost damage. Their circlets also get an upgrade and by now, finding out that Thorn scries them via these items as well as some information on their benefactor's motivations can be coaxed from the man. Even better, the PCs have a whole month to spend on side-quests, some of which, like pit fighting, are detailed. Better yet, the organization (or what's left of it) of the PCs can be established in the town as well, giving them ample things to do while the Fire-axe continues his rampage through Talingarde. Winter is approaching and in the spring and summer, the hordes the villains unleashed upon the land will face off against the true power of the kingdom.

But between this war and now lies a winter, one the PCs are not supposed to sit idly by - they are called to the Fire-axe and there will have to negotiate for some squads of elite troops for their upcoming task: Burn down the most sacred vale of the Mitran faith, extinguish the holy flames and let none escape. While the basic negotiation is simple, the PCs can do so much more: E.g. ally themselves with the local vampire lord, recruit an unruly ogre-mage and a small army of reclusive Duergar and gain a valuable ally in a beauty-priestess turned mad medusa that first has to be pummeled into submission (and yes, her ruined temple gets its own map). Depending on how they fared until now, they will still have allies from previous adventures as well and some guidelines on managing the minions is provided, as is a suggestion on how to handle the potential wish of a PC to turn into a vampire. Oh, and it seems the PCs have come to the attention of the dark overlord and thus get their very own Nessian hellhounds and make the acquaintance of an infernal lawyer who will prove to be useful indeed in the future...
Gathering these allies is the first way to accumulate victory points for the vast battle to come - as soon as snow is falling the vale must burn! If the PCs are smart, they have done some reconnaissance, which means you could show them the beautiful full-color player-friendly map. They might also know that hiding alignment and infiltrating the tower at the vale's entrance will have to be the first step for success - killing the Lammasu-watchers another. It should be noted that the tower is fully mapped and while clearly a task for the PCs, they can send in minions - who fail. UNLESS the PCs act smart and send the right minion for the task, in which case the tower is not taken, but their task does become easier.

Once their army has passed the wall, the defenders will scramble to keep your dark hordes out and here the narrative battle begins - essentially, your army crashes into the vale and over the course of the battles, your villains will have to intervene and make decisions that influence your VP - an example would e.g. an elite cadre of archers (warp their bows!), a charge by good knights (take their horses away!) and then there are the elite dwarves - deadly, stout and another task for the PCs - or a great way to use their disposable Duergar allies. Fireballs and catapult stones may hit the PCs and the acolytes of the serene order, a unit of monks is next up and may make for yet another hard fight - or, if they're wise, a nice way to use their vampire spawn. The greater bridge is held by shield archons and here, the PCs must intervene - three battles await them until the bridge is taken - the shield archons, Aasimar paladins riding on celestial griffons and finally, holy warriors under the command of high level priests of Mitra. This is the first grindstone and after this, the victory points are counted - Your PCs have probably been taxed to their limits and beyond and it might be possible that they failed - the adventure advises the DM on the consequences and, depending on what the villains achieved, they'll have different outcomes and quite a bit of trouble-shooting advice is included in the pdf. Most probably, the town of Sanctum is theirs. They can man the tower. Make them scarce pilgrims lambs to the slaughter for their minions. Start a genocide in sanctum and gain information via torture. And of course, the 3 months of winter make for an excellent time to have people try to escape the vale and warn Talingarde - something that must be avoided, especially if the PCs have been seen.

The vale is not in the PC's hands, though: There still are 3 sacred flames burning bright for Mitra's glory and they must be extinguished. First lies atop a mountain guarded from flight, guarded by a Peri and a Phoenix. Yes. A phoenix. And the villains can steal its eggs while fighting the legendary beast. Very cool! The second location is the garden of serenity, where not only a vast labyrinth, but also an Agathion huntress, legion archons and a pack of advanced blink dog guard the entrance to the labyrinth. Have I mentioned the herd of Kirin the PCs may slaughter and use for their crafting? At the center of the aforementioned labyrinth, the second flame burns bright, guarded by the head of the local monastic order and an almost legendary oracle.

And then, once the second flame has failed and a red sky looks down upon the villains, it's time to get into the cathedral of Mitra and face the last resistance: Devas. Hippogriffs. A storm giant with tame rocs. Ghost Paladin Martyrs. And then there are three trails of Mitra for the PCs to outwit in order to find high priest Earnan MacCaithlan and stop him from unleashing his ghost martyrs via the bones of a saint. There also is a deadly Chalkydri angel and iron golems, which guard the vault where infernal artifacts await the villains - among which is the legendary blade Hellbrand, yet uncompleted, but eagerly awaiting the PC's command...
Hopefully, the PCs find a way to pierce an holy shield of fire (hints are provided), crush an Azata-emissary and finally, meet the true head of the order, the final guardian of the flames: Ara Mathra, He-who-stands-in-Light - advanced monadic Deva, CR 16. OUCH! With that and several possible conclusions, this adventure ends and provides quite a bit of trouble-shooting for beleaguered GMs.
The book also includes an extensive gazetteer of the trade town of Ghastenhall and I wholly expected to be bored by the write-up. Instead we get an interesting and unique town with some neat local peculiarities in food, street-names and goods available that makes the place exciting indeed. The excellent beautiful map does its best to add to the town's appeal and while I don't mind the respective quarter's names, I don't like the numbers and letters on it. A player-friendly map would be much appreciated here. This section also ties up a possible side-quest with a duke's missing daughter started in Book 2.

After that, we finally get a write-up of the faith that is the opposition of the PCs - Mitra's doctrine is revealed in all his soon-to-be-tarnished glory and the organization his church and its 7 tiers as well as holy symbols, ceremonies etc. are depicted in compelling and well-written detail. Fans of good inquisitors should note that the faith comes with a neat write-up of the Mitran Inquisition, but no crunchy inquisitions.

Conclusion:
As much as I'm loathe to say it - editing can no longer be considered good. This installment of the WotW has more editing glitches than the first two books combined - from Mitran Priests that don't include the information on how many there are in the statblock to typos and minor punctuation errors, I encountered quite a few of them. Another pass at editing would have been great and I hope that future installments of the WotW devote a bit more care to the process. Layout adheres to the stellar, beautiful standard set by the series and the original full-color maps and artworks rock hard. However, I would have loved to see player-friendly versions of the maps for all locations, not just for some. The pdf is bookmarked, though the final one links to the introduction instead of the Mitra-article as it's supposed to do - another glitch that could have easily been avoided. The printer-friendly version is b/w, but still features all artworks and maps.

The Way of the Wicked has provided us with two of the best adventures out there for PFRPG, period. And now, in the "Tears of the Blessed", we finally get to battle celestials, those creatures mostly left untouched in adventures and rip them a new one. That's great.

However, I feel that the overt celestial massacre to be instigated in this module suffers from some points that could have used clarification: Number 1: After the initial battle (which is awesome and cinematic), the occupation feels a bit rushed and as if it leaves quite some potential untouched. The town of Sanctum needs a kind of gazetteer with detailed NPCs, perhaps collaborators and everyday heroes trying to escape, because 2: The PCs should have a way to corrupt the vale's magic in order to keep the celestials from calling reinforcements/teleporting outside. It would have been rather easy - make their patron devise a ritual that corrupts the detect evil-sight of the watchers in the vale to a kind of dimensional anchor/communication blockade. 3: After the epic invasion, there's not much for the villains to do in the vale but kill the static opponents. Apart from off-screen genocide/torture, there's just not much to be done in sanctum. Why not make the villains unearth foes/information? Prevent incursions? Corrupt Aasimar-populations and/or make them undead? I get the rationale for the powerful celestials/heroes to guard the flames, but I don't get why there's no plan for counterattacks/guerilla-warfare. Apart from a certain ritual, the remaining defenders don't make a smart stand - barricade the final flame, amass forces, strike back, anything but waiting for the heroes to kill them. Usually I wouldn't mind, but in contrast to the epic battle that lets the PCs sack Sanctum, the extinguishing of the holy flames, while cool and iconic, pales in comparison. Note that all these problems are easily remedied by just about any DM, but they still remain and detract from what otherwise would be a stellar module.

In the end, the editing glitches and minor story/pacing-problems conspire to make this not own up to the almost unbeatable standard set by the adventure path so far. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good adventure, but it falls a bit short of what I've come to expect from the saga. My final verdict, due to these unrealized potentials and glitches, will be "only" a 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform with a definite recommendation and, in spite of the lower review, my seal of approval. If you can see past the glitches, it's a stellar module - Those walking the Way of the Wicked need to have this anyway.

Endzeitgeist out.


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