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Pathfinder Tales: King of Chaos

****½ (based on 10 ratings)
Pathfinder Tales: King of Chaos
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by Dave Gross

After a century of imprisonment, demons have broken free of the wardstones surrounding the Worldwound. As fiends flood south into civilized lands, Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn bodyguard Radovan must search through the ruins of a fallen nation for the blasphemous text that opened the gate to the Abyss in the first place—and which might hold the key to closing it. In order to succeed, however, the heroes will need to join forces with pious crusaders, barbaric local warriors, and even one of the legendary god callers. It’s a race against time as the companions fight their way across a broken land, facing off against fiends, monsters, and a vampire intent on becoming the god of blood—but will unearthing the dangerous book save the world, or destroy it completely?

From best-selling author Dave Gross comes a new adventure set against the backdrop of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Download a free sample chapter by clicking here! (61 KB zip/PDF)

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-558-7
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-559-4

King of Chaos is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet is available as a free download (397 KB zip/PDF).

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Tales Subscription.

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Product Reviews (10)
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Average product rating:

****½ (based on 10 ratings)

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The pair continues to evolve

*****

A huge fan of all the earlier novels, I thought to myself as I started reading this - how will the lads grow closer in this one? The pair always soaks up their local flavor when doing so, and I frankly wondered if the Worldwound backdrop would provide as much interest as exotic Tien Xia or gothic Ustalav had.

Wow, it did, but in a way that didn't shy away from stark terror, brutal horrors, and at times, grim, bleak, almost pessimistic futures.

Its a great read every page. The minor characters continue to get a lot of love without seeming to take away from the main story, a real treat, because the list of "lovables" keeps growing.

I cant count how many times I spoke "Yikes!" or "Sheesh" out loud as I read - the humorous situations inspired by Kung Fu movies from Master of Devils are not here. The natural beauty and courtly intrigue of Queen of Thorns are not here. The gothic mystery and old-school detective work of Price of Wolves are not here. This is exactly what a book about the Mendevian Crusade should be - a gore-drenched war at the Gates of the Abyss. Mr Gross did not shy away from taking his beloved characters into a rough scenario and writing it to be believable; the witty banter and playful tete a tete is seamlessly replaced with all-out brutal war, and it works.


If you plan to DM or play the "Wrath of the Righteous" AP read this first!

*****

THE GOOD:
The mood of the war against the demons of the worldwound is captured perfectly. A character introduced in the novel "The Worldwound Gambit" by Robin D. Laws is used by Mr. Gross and it makes the shared world of Golarion more realistic. Also events from that book are acknowledeged.
There is a showdown with a previous villain. Also certain developments from the three previous books are continued.

THE BAD:
Not enough time for Varian and Radovans usual detective deductions even though this is the novel with the highest page count yet.

THE UGLY:
War is always ugly. Lots of characters die.


Radovan and Jeggare go to Hell

*****

Well, not Hell so much as the Worldwound, but the differences are academic. As ever, the adventures of everyone's favorite half elf and tiefling do not disappoint. If you read no other Pathfinder Tales books, read the David Gross ones. You will not be sorry.


Demons, Danger, Destruction, Deviltry, Deception, and the Divine!

*****

After my less-than-enthused completion of Queen of Thorns, I was eagerly looking forward to King of Chaos for two reasons - one to get away from Kyonin and the elves, which as stated in my prior review I don't much care for and I think much of their culture hurt the actual story of QoT; and two, to get a look inside Oparal's head. I wanted to like the paladin so much in the prior story, but she came off too much like the Lawful Angry stick-up-the-anatomy paladins you hear so much complaining about on forums like these. I wanted Hinjo and got Miko Miyazaki, in other words.

King of Chaos remedied so much of that. Since the weak point of Queen of Thorns was, in my opinion, the cast, I'll begin there with this one then discuss the plot. The characters in this story are so much more interesting, more well-rounded, and above all much less frustrating, irritating, or plot-derailing.

Radovan is his usual awesome self, and we get a nice view into the nature of his fiendish heritage and the strange bond he has with his progenitors in this story. The one-liners and smart-aleck commentary never cease to amuse.

Varian plays up the best and the worst of the scholarly mage archetype, delving into magical theory with and against a Sorcerer and a Summoner and showing the ins and outs of research into dangerous heretical texts. We also get a little more of his Pathfinder background, an examination of his divided loyalties, and lo and behold, some great character development, both story-wise and mechanically.

Oparal returns, this time as a perspective character, and she has GREATLY improved as a cast member. While she's still stern, taciturn, and overly formal, it's far less frustrating and inflexible compared to how she was portrayed in Queen of Thorns. She even attempts to crack a joke with her soldiers in the first chapter - admittedly it's not a very good one, and she herself says so, but the fact that she tried is itself a testament to the character's improved presentation from the prior story. Tensions between her and Radovan still run high, but on more than one occasion it's Oparal speaking in his defense, something I thoroughly appreciate and approve of, and would have sadly never expected out of her as she was portrayed in Queen of Thorns.

Then there are the new, non-perspective characters. In addition to Radovan and Varian's hired mercenaries and Oparal's elite crusaders, each of which are fairly unique and get their own moments of awesome screen-time, even if small, there are two that particularly stand out: Jelani, a crusader sorceress, and Alase, a Sarkoran Summ... err, I mean "God-Caller" and Varian's hired guide, along with her eidolon Tonbarse. Both of these women were extremely entertaining and interesting to add to the cast, providing unique new perspectives on magic and the locales of the Worldwound, and interesting reactions to the main protagonists.

And now for the plot. VERY excellently written, and a thoroughly fitting successor to the prior three stories. This one hits my high points up there with Master of Devils in so many ways. I love the descriptions of the Worldwound, the nature of the fiendishly-tainted countryside, the broken culture, the demonic cults, and the sinister dealings going on as the cast - protagonists and antagonists alike - vie for advantage. I would almost go as far as to say that King of Chaos should be required reading for anyone planning to run, or maybe even play in, Wrath of the Righteous, as it introduces the Worldwound and its component organizations in such a thorough, descriptive way.

And the MAGIC!! There is so much magic in this book, and it's beautifully and thoroughly described. Wizards, clerics, paladins, sorcerers, summoners! All of them doing what they do best, and doing it well. I would recommend this book for just that on its own - an excellent literary description of how magic works from a first- and second-hand point of view in the Pathfinder/Golarion reality.

I highly recommend this book. Immensely so. If you, like me, were troubled or bothered by the presentations of the characters in Queen of Thorns, especially Oparal, fear not - this book makes up for it and then some. And if you weren't, it's a great story on its own, regardless. Very worth the five stars.


Not as good this time around

***( )( )

I went out on a limb and got Queen of Thorns a few months ago, not expecting much, and was blown away by how tight Gross's writing is. The characters felt like they actually LIKED each other, the mechanics made sense, and the party felt actually competent, rather than the usual bunglers that only make it to the end of the book by virtue of the fact that they were simply the ones that didn't die.

King of Chaos, simply put, isn't as good as Queen of Thorns. I think it's a testament to Gross's writing that his characters still felt like they actually cared for and liked each other, but everything else feels like it was just slapped together and given the go-ahead. Like another review mentioned, the conclusion is pretty anticlimactic, with numerous loose ends all getting tied up in just a few pages, the party itself generally fails every dice roll, spot check, and the body count soars in an unfortunately meaningless way. For instance, the book ends on a hopeful note that the survivors might rescue one remaining companion; that would be great, if like eighteen other people hadn't gotten offed so quickly that I was actually able to form some sort of attachment to any of them, much less the captured adventurer.

Even the mechanics fall way short; at one point, a sorceress who at the start of the book says she casts wind and ice spells later on claims she's useless for the task because she casts fire and sand spells. She leveled and traded all her old spells away without saying anything I guess? I don't know, it just felt sloppy. I like Gross's characters, I love what he does to flesh out the world, and I respect his ability to tell a great story. This one just doesn't measure up to what he's done before, I'm afraid.


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