Pathfinder Adventure Path #66: The Dead Heart of Xin (Shattered Star 6 of 6) (PFRPG)

***½( ) (based on 6 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #66: The Dead Heart of Xin (Shattered Star 6 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Chapter 6: "The Dead Heart of Xin"
by Brandon Hodge

The seven shards of the Shattered Star have been recovered, and the Pathfinders prepare a grand festival on Magnimar's Irespan to celebrate this incredible achievement. The culmination of this celebration is to be the reassembly of the seven shards into the legendary Sihedron itself, rebuilt for the first time in over ten thousand years. But a lot can change in that amount of time, and as the ritual to reforge the artifact finishes, ancient contingencies rumble to life, and as the dead heart of Thassilon begins to beat again, all of Magnimar is put in terrible danger. With the power of the Sihedron on their side, the heroes take a stance against this risen evil—but will the aid of an ancient artifact be enough to save them all?

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path concludes the Shattered Star Adventure Path and includes:

  • “The Dead Heart of Xin,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 15th-level characters, by Brandon Hodge.
  • Explorations of lost cities and confrontations with ancient evils to continue your Shattered Star campaign, by Adam Daigle.
  • A survey of the ancient rulers of Thassilon—all seven runelords detailed in one place, by Rob McCreary.
  • The madness-inducing conclusion of “Light of a Distant Star” in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Bill Ward.
  • Four new monsters, by Dennis Baker, Adam Daigle, and Brandon Hodge.

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.

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-491-7

The Dead Heart of Xin is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. The rules for running this Adventure Path and Chronicle sheet are available as a free download (512 KB zip/PDF).

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscription.

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***½( ) (based on 6 ratings)

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Epic conclusion to the Shattered Star AP

****( )

I had a longer review typed out but the website ate it...

The gist of it was that this is a great adventure with a fantastic opening scene where high-level PCs really get to show off their abilities. The main dungeon is a fun crawl and the way the history of the place is revealed was very-well received by my group. Through that neat trick, the final villain, which would otherwise be a little lifeless (pun intended), became much more interesting to the players.

However, there is only a section in the adventure that is a series of literally teleporting into a room with a monster, killing it, and teleporting to the next. While I get the flavor idea behind this series of rooms, in play, they are a bit of a drag. Make sure to adjust this to your players' preferences.

All in all, we enjoyed the Shattered Star immensely and felt like this epic conclusion was well worth the long journey.


Construct-themed dungeon crawl

***( )( )

This module is a huge dungeon. There is no way around that. If your group loves dungeon-crawling, they might enjoy playing through this material. Otherwise, choose a different adventure. This is heavy-duty high-level combat most of the time without a lot of social interaction and little in the way of traps.

From the story perspective, at certain times during their exploration, the PCs will be subjected to visions from the emperor's past which will gradually let them put the whole backstory together. On top of that, on the fourth level there is a small lantern artifact that while it illuminates the rooms of the palace, it shows a different reality in that same room: the past, the original intent of the room, etc. It's not a bad storytelling trick to pull, I like that.

From the game mechanics perspective, the palace is haunted by the undead spirit of the emperor. This means that the GM needs to keep track of how many "spirit" points the enemy has and spend them on unleashing stuff to the players, like traps - yes, traps. The spirit starts with 20 points and spends them on things to bother the players. This is unnecessarily complex. By the way, it's the same two traps all over the palace. By the third time trap A or trap B have appeared, the players will be sick of them. I didn't think that was a particularly fun way of setting traps but on the other hand, your group might enjoy recognizing them after the second time.

Another quirk of the palace and its inhabitants is that they are haunted in a peculiar way. They all have greater dispel magic, chain lightning, +4 to AC and a lot more abilities in a new "xin-haunted" template. In practical terms, this means that every other creature needs to have its bestiary stats adjusted. A lot of them are also "advanced" so good luck trying to figure out the stats for that "Xin-haunted advanced retriever" from room C3, with two crystal sliver traps - that's Trap B - right next to it. You're going to be flipping between four separate page locations in two different books. That doesn't sound like fun.

As for the dungeon, it's got four levels and it's very construct-themed. Lots of golems and stuff. It's not bad, although I don't like the fact that the rooms in level 4 are not physically connected; the PCs teleport between one room and the next. As a result, the map of each room is located in the map for levels 1, 3 or 5. What was the need for that? The DM will need to flip pages back and forth to see where the next room is. I don't understand that design decision.

Overall, the module is just a large dungeon site with few opportunities for role-playing. It is a solid dungeon-crawl, though, so if your group loves that style of playing, they'll probably enjoy this. Just do yourself a favor and pre-calculate those template-stacked stats or look for them online.

My rating: 3 stars. It's good for an old-style dungeon. It didn't wow me but it's solid. The needless complexity of some of the mechanics detracts from it, though.

Read my whole review here


high level dungeon crawling done right

*****

Don't wanna sound like a broken record, but the "Shattered Star" AP really delivered on the dungeons, and "Dead Heart of Xin" really is worthy as the latest of them.

After reading the previous adventure in the AP, I really thought it would be impossible to top it, but this adventure takes the "crazy" lever and turns it up a further notch. PCs will get to Save The City, in a truly epic, high level scene, and then will hustle off to a strange and magnificant dungeon that is sure to give any party a run for their money. This adventure is NOT a cake walk.

And the flavour is wonderful. Xin is the most evocative villain Iv'e seen in an AP in recent years (the stat block does him justice, too!), and he is given enough of a spotlight to make the final fight memorable. In too many APs the villain is encountered the very first time in the very last combat of the last module, not really giving the PCs time to grow to love to hate him/her. No trouble of that sort here, as the PCs wonder through Xin's sick mind as well as through his haunted palace risen from the deeps in this module, and get to know him and the tragedy of his death.

All in all just a wonderful adventure - probably the best high level adventure Iv'e seen since the climax of Kingmaker.

I know many people feel that yet another dungeon crawl was a lackluster way to finish the AP, due to probable exhuastion from dungeons the party might have after going through the previous 5 adventures, but given that this was the stated format of the AP I can't see how this would be held as a negative for the adventure.


Epic Finale

*****

It's hard to fully introduce an Adventure Path's "final boss" in the last module, although they've done a really bang-up job here. It will be challenging running it, trying to hit the right balance between sympathy and necessity, but I'm excited to try.

I think my favorite part about this module are the tools provided to show off Xin and Thassilon's past.

Getting to actually use the Sihedron definitely comes in a close second, however. No fading to black after you get the MacGuffin together or making it useless.

Overall: Hitting the right notes might be challenging, but I think the result if you do will be awesome.


Didn't feel Xin as a villain

**( )( )( )

Like this AP, I'm sticking to my bullet point format.

The Good: -Stats for a clockwork dragon, sweet that was worth the money.
-Ok the artifact reward is frakin awesome and deserves a nod as perhaps the best reward in any AP I've read thus far.
-Opening disaster makes the story more compelling.

The Bad: -6 dungeons is a little much

The Ugly: -I hate Xin as a villain. For one he was the good guy this is just a machine trap, kind of lame.
-Not tech no, didn't see that coming not something I like in my setting.

Overall: An AP's apex villain needs to close the AP strong, I can't love this because I con't love Xin as a villain, I might take pieces from is but I will NEVER run it.


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Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Announced! The cover is a mockup, and will change prior to publication.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Okay Going to take a guess that Xin comes back wrong (possibly as a Lich)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You can read about what happens when the Sihedron Rune is reassembled in Lost Kingdoms. Specifically:

spoiler:
The sunken city of Xin rises and Xin is resurrected. Xin's a good guy (or at least a neutral guy), so I doubt he's the BBEG. But who knows.

I'm pumped that the other Runelords are getting their due. Alas I doubt they'll be statted up - at least the ones who are higher than 20th level.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Generic Villain wrote:

You can read about what happens when the Sihedron Rune is reassembled in Lost Kingdoms. Specifically: ** spoiler omitted **

I'm pumped that the other Runelords are getting their due. Alas I doubt they'll be statted up - at least the ones who are higher than 20th level.

Well... in his day...

Spoiler:
... Xin was actually lawful neutral. He was hardly a "good" guy. And a lot can change over the course of hundreds of centuries... AKA there's a big difference between what is supposed to happen and what actually plays out after so much time has passed.
Dark Archive

Sounds neat.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If the main big bad of this AP is another undead(particularlly a Lich) I will be very disapointed.

When are we going to see an AP were the final big bad is a dragon?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Dragon78 wrote:

If the main big bad of this AP is another undead(particularlly a Lich) I will be very disapointed.

When are we going to see an AP were the final big bad is a dragon?

We've only done an undead big bad for an Adventure Path once, as far as I know (including the Dungeon Adventure Paths), so that would hardly be repetitive. That's not saying that the big bad of Shattered Star is undead... but it's not saying that it's not.

As for an Adventure Path where the final boss is a dragon... that'll still be a while.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
As for an Adventure Path where the final boss is a dragon... that'll still be a while.

Didn't that one just recently finish? The spunky band of adventurers taking on and slaying the dragon? You know when 5E was announced.

Couldn't help it. :)

Silver Crusade

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Dragons make for a great mid-level boss in the final adventure. I love when the PCs fight an epic dragon battle only to discover that there's something even worse waiting for them.


I can't wait for this to come out!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Dragon78 wrote:

If the main big bad of this AP is another undead(particularlly a Lich) I will be very disapointed.

When are we going to see an AP were the final big bad is a dragon?

As for an Adventure Path where the final boss is a dragon... that'll still be a while.

Spoiler:
Curse of the Crimson Throne?

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Kajehase wrote:


** spoiler omitted **

spoiler:
The Curse of the Crimson Throne BBEG is Illeosa. Unless you know something I don't, she's definitely not a dragon.

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Generic Villain wrote:
Kajehase wrote:


** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

Correction:
Your both have right, as Queen Illeosa is the only known the Problem, she unknowningly interacted with and is resurrecting Kazavon, a Dragon.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Azure_Zero wrote:


** spoiler omitted **

spoiler:
A BBEG is the driving antagonist and the one who is ultimately defeated at the conclusion of an AP. In this case that is Ileosa. If you read the section on Kazavon's artifacts, you'll find that, while his essence has aided Ileosa and perhaps corrupted her, he is not actively controlling her. Kazavon is, at best, a plot hook - just like the Archdevil Lotharct. Also Ileosa never planned on resurrecting Kazavon, and it would take a ton of effort on her part to do so (again, read the Relics of Kazavon section). Calling Kazavon the BBEG of Curse of the Crimson Throne would be like calling Abraxus the BBEG of Second Darkness, or Tar-Baphon the BBEG of Carrion Crown.

In short, if Paizo does an AP with a draconic BBEG, you can bet the climactic battle will be with a dragon.

This thread's become too clogged with spoiler tags. Done.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Generic Villain wrote:
Azure_Zero wrote:


** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

Correction:
Is Kazavon, not resurrected by the Everdawn Pool?

Crown of Fangs, Pages 58->59.
Well, looks like the answer is yes.


Spoiler:
Kazavon sorta counts as the BBEG but not really. After the PCs deal with Ileosa they suffer this Oh S@#*! moment as they realize that something really bad is happening. If Kazazon successfully resurects it is pretty much game over for the PCs or the AP goes into overtime as the PCs retreat. In either case case it falls outside the bounds of the AP as published therefore I'd say that Ileosa is the final BBEG

Contributor

I also can't wait to see this one, I love Brandon's work, and it sounds like he has some nasty things in store:)

Hoorah!


I'm thrilled. The idea of the heroes being led by the nose and helping in bringing back EVIL while thinking they're doing GOOD - ah, the hybris of mankind.

Also, it's got a nice little Troy-touch with the fragments being brought right into the heart of Magnimar, where their true nature is revealed.

Concerning dragon as BBEG:
What about Kingmaker where a nice little CR 25 red dragon is presented in the section on how to continue after the as-written-down part is finished?

Ruyan.


Quote:
When are we going to see an AP were the final big bad is a dragon?

Synn from Shadows over Mystara Anyone? ^_~


"This volume also includes an essay on the ancient Runelords of Thassilon, complete with threads that reach to the modern day."

What new Runelord information is going to be presented, and what do you mean by "threads that reach to the modern day?"


James Jacobs wrote:


As for an Adventure Path where the final boss is a dragon... that'll still be a while.

Good! Dragons for main villians is so overdone!


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Sincubus wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:


As for an Adventure Path where the final boss is a dragon... that'll still be a while.
Good! Dragons for main villians is so overdone!

Is it? How many recent examples can you name?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

None, because none of APs have had a dragon as the final boss. In fact almost all of them have been humans, undead, or at least human like in form.


I'm not talking about pathfinder AP's, just in general.

I like it that the AP doesn't copy this dragon-is-all-popular-and-should-be-endboss thingy.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber

I dunno, the right dragon could be a pretty cool end boss. I'm looking at you Mengkare.

Liberty's Edge

Since this AP has an old school feel, a dragon end boss would feel just right.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Sincubus wrote:

I'm not talking about pathfinder AP's, just in general.

I like it that the AP doesn't copy this dragon-is-all-popular-and-should-be-endboss thingy.

Copy from where? I'm actually curious what you are referring to.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

None of the Paizo's APs, even from the Dragon/Dungeon times, featured dragons as final bosses. In fact, Paizo has a long standing tradition of making dragons mid-level bosses of sorts

Spoiler:
Dragotha, Lashonna, the black dragon in CotCT, the jabberwocky in Kingmaker and the dracoli...sorry, ravener in Carrion Crown.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber
Gorbacz wrote:

None of the Paizo's APs, even from the Dragon/Dungeon times, featured dragons as final bosses. In fact, Paizo has a long standing tradition of making dragons mid-level bosses of sorts

** spoiler omitted **

That's not... strictly true anymore.

Spoiler:
Even leaving off Kazavon, in the new RotRL Anniversary Edition, the final battle added the Blue Dragon from Karzoug's Portrait on the Gamemastery Guide.


I'm talking about cartoons, movies and especially games, where dragons are always on top.


I heard there'll be clockwork in here. Are they in the bestiary? Is Brighd a part of it?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

We're intentionally vague on what's going on in here because we're trying to minimize some significant adventure path spoilers.

But yes... clockworks will be involved. And no, Brighd isn't a part of it.

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

We're intentionally vague on what's going on in here because we're trying to minimize some significant adventure path spoilers.

But yes... clockworks will be involved. And no, Brighd isn't a part of it.

Sounds like you mean Xin's going to be a brain-in-a-jar robot, like Matai Shang in barsoomcore's barsoom tales story hour at enworld? Looking forward to it!


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Am I correct in thinking that Xin was a universalist wizard? considering he was a master of all Thessalonian fields of magic.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Prediction:

Horrifying clockwork body containing Xin's dead heart, fueled by hatred and his freshly awakened soul.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

And then the heroes have to convince Vivec to give them Wraithguard so they can strike at Xin's rotting heart with Keening and Sunder?

Silver Crusade

It's revealed that the PCs were Xin all along! :O

Paizo Employee Creative Director

zergtitan wrote:
Am I correct in thinking that Xin was a universalist wizard? considering he was a master of all Thessalonian fields of magic.

You are indeed correct.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Lucent wrote:

Prediction:

Horrifying clockwork body containing Xin's dead heart, fueled by hatred and his freshly awakened soul.

Oh, how eager I am to see Cogitor Xin. Not that the post-Frank Dune books were much good. And look, James Jacobs studiously neither confirms nor denies!


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

No, he is a clockwork horror with his soul in a beating red jade heart.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

He is probably a runecarved clockwork construct with some arcane gem or device for his heart. Remember when he was first killed his body was utterly obliterated. aka his heart was never put in the machine, just his soul.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber

He's probably an Abberation. Though he could be some sort of hideous undead horror, given that he had what amounts to a Phylactery.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Or.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Brandon Hodge wrote:
Or.

Yeah, I don't think Xin became a bard and went into show business.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Dismiss it if you like. But the biggest spoiler yet could be buried in that link. Or not. =-P

Silver Crusade

First, let me say... you have excellent taste in music.

Second, if there is a spoiler, it would most definitely be in the lyrics.

Spoiler:

'We follow in the steps of our ancestry, and that cannot be broken...'
Something about that line in regard to Xin just leaps out at me when I hear it. And that is worrisome, considering how little we know of Azlant.

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how this plays out. I've been curious to see how Old Xin is statted out, as it has implications for a campaign I'll be running after my group is done with Skull and Shackles.

Can't wait until January!

Dark Archive

If, at some point in this AP, I don't get to operate one of those giant evocation-rune-towers that Alaznist made to set fire to an army of foes, my disappointment will be mighty!

I mean, Chekhov's gun, people! Chekhov's gun!

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber
Set wrote:

If, at some point in this AP, I don't get to operate one of those giant evocation-rune-towers that Alaznist made to set fire to an army of foes, my disappointment will be mighty!

I mean, Chekhov's gun, people! Chekhov's gun!

But it's been stated that the Old light is the only one remaining, and it's completely ruined. Also, that was introduced in a completely different play.

Dark Archive

Stratagemini wrote:
But it's been stated that the Old light is the only one remaining, and it's completely ruined. Also, that was introduced in a completely different play.

Either the players will have to repair it (at least make it serviceable for one last shot, while other forces seek to stop them from doing so...), or they may discover that the 'only one remaining' was actually the 'only *known* one remaining.'

Either way, pew pew, lazors!

The image is too pretty to die.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

8 people marked this as a favorite.

The seeds planted in Burnt Offerings about the Hellstorm Flumes is not yet ripe for the harvest.

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