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Razor Coast (PFRPG)

****( ) (based on 6 ratings)
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Under the heat of the salted sun, along a pirate-riddled coast bloated fat with forgotten riches and forbidden secrets, the subjugation of the native tribes awakens long banished horrors. Horrors whose deadly plans threaten not only Port Shaw—the corrupt fingerhold of a distant and decadent civilization—but existence, itself.

A sea of blood caresses the savage shore of the Razor. Rising from the abyssal depths, Harthagoa, the bastard spawn of a She-Kraken and Demogorgon drags whole fleets beneath the waves.

In the fetid Blacksink Marsh, unspeakable horrors lurk beneath the bog water, accursed cannibals pay gory obeisance to an ancient shark god of slaughter—begging its return.

A ghostly armada, murderous pirates, and balesharks prowl the waves—all threaten Port Shaw, the only bastion of "civilization" on the Razor. The city hosts foreign invaders chasing baleen, ambergris, and gold. They menace the native Tulita tribes and drive them from their ancestral home with smoke-belching cannonade.

Pele, The Goddess of Fire and Wrack, watches from her smoldering throne on Dreadsmoke Mountain. She stands ever ready to purge the people of Port Shaw from her domain in a torrent of ash and molten lava.

An adventure for 4 – 6 PCs. Character Levels 5 – 12 Pages: 544

Razor Coast is the long anticipated Caribe-Polynesian flavored, Age of Sail swashbuckling RPG campaign envisioned and designed by Nicolas Logue. It is applauded for its ambitious and original design, its epic flavor and its lurid, full-color art—including a cover by the award winning Wayne Reynolds. Logue tapped a team of veteran designers to help develop and write Razor Coast, including Lou Agresta, Adam Daigle, Tim Hitchcock, and John Ling.

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Product Reviews (6)
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Average product rating:

****( ) (based on 6 ratings)

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I wish I could get a refund for this

**( )( )( )

I had started a sea voyage campaign when I got the PDF for this, hoping to use its material. Unfortunately, I ended up regretting this. The PDF is so poorly optimized that loading it on my gamer desktop computer lags like crazy. It flat out crashes any PDF reader I use on my tablet. I wish I could say the material is worth the hardcover price, but this is not so. I find the book very difficult to follow and study as a GM. I still haven't figured out what the overall plot of some of the adventure paths are. The setting leaves much to be desired.

The only value I got out of Razor Coast was a two room dungeon that my players ended up bypassing anyway. This felt like $40 down the drain.


Surprising weaknesses

**( )( )( )

I had never been disappointed by any Frog God Games product, so I eagerly joined the kickstarter for this product for the pdf when it was announced. It took a while before I had time to read the whole thing, and now I'm torn about what to think about this book. It's not bad, but there are problems that should not be there.

Let's start with formal issues.
The worst is maps. They are so low resolution that I can't read room numbers on most of them.
Many stat blocks refer to the chapter of the full stat block, but never give a page number. Since several chapters are over a hundred pages, that makes for a lot of wasted time finding them.
The pdf bookmarks are basic at best and not always accurate.
The book presents some interesting feats and equipment, but some of the feats and the archetype appear to be very powerful.

But that's not what you would buy this book for. It's the AP that matters in the end. The AP is supposedly a very sandbox AP, but the problems start right at the beginning. There is no overview over the area and environs for the DM. No guidelines whatsoever. What is told about the area is told in the various adventure scenes and encounters, so it's very easy to miss and very difficult to look up without reading several hundred pages.

During the AP the characters have, according to the book, four paths they can walk. There isn't an absolute separation, but some are impossible to combine.
'The Individualists' is poorly supported and essentially ineffective. And with the abundance of high level NPCs about, very hard to walk.
'Powers That Be' is probably the default route as it is about working with the rather charismatic authorities of the port town. Sadly they are all about betrayal and work for the final boss. Worse, only three characters of this path are described in any detail. That's worse since everyone in authority is in a secret cult and we have no idea why they joined; and while you can turn the cult leader away from the cult, the book provides no guidelines about how this affects the cult as a whole, and what other members would defect. So while this is the default path, almost everything is for the GM to make up.
'Hero worshipping fan boys' is the third path. Well, it’s officially 'former heroes and their friends', but that's what it ends up being. A lot of space is dedicated to a late adventuring group who failed, including instructions about what NPC may have a romance with what other NPC, but nothing regarding romances with PCs. Oh, and if you don't care about them, don't rescue them from the consequences of the crimes they did commit (including stealing from the party), and so on, you will get victory point penalties. Thankfully in this adventure VP only decide how many encounters come before the big guy, so failing to worship the npcs won't mean you automatically loose.
'Worship the failed native culture' is the final option, actually called 'The Tulita'. Unlike the worship the npcs option above, not following this path makes the campaign an auto loss. Because if you don't aid them and their mad shaman to force their believes upon everyone the Tulita will turn to demon worship and cannibalism, turn themselves into scum and within a decade leave the whole area abandoned, regardless of what the PCs do. The VP penalties are just insult to injury since any victory at that point is utterly meaningless.

Who are the Tulita? It's a tribe based culture that has just recently tried to wage war against the local cities and after what sounds like a bloody war lost. Some of them are adapting and thriving, but most cling to old ways that have no place in modern society while the rest turns to crime, drugs, and demon worship.
Perhaps the most annoying part reading the AP was that the Tulita can do no wrong. Their racism was always justified as understandable xenophobia and when someone acted that way towards them it was condemned as vile racism. The double standard is a recurring theme and if you get easily annoyed by such things it would be best to avoid the book completely. Perhaps an example will best shown what I mean. The encounter: by accident a barrel falls from a crane and injures a Tulita. His friends immediately begin to verbally abuse the crew of the ship responsible, and when they answer in kind, the Tulita attack. And since they were once proud noble warriors now reduced to work like everyone else, the PCs are expected to help them beat up the helpless crew of the whaling vessel in a 'feel good' encounter. The whaling crew is CR ½, the Tulita that attack them CR2. The editor's note explicitly calls the beating up of innocent CR ½ sailors a way to feel heroic.

There are two main plotlines weaved through just about every encounter described in the book. The first is the plot of the demon Dajobas (well he's called a god, but acts more like a demon), lord of were-sharks and scum tries to 'recruit' from the city. The options given in the book for handling the plague are limited, and sometimes quite ridiculous. For example at one point the book says that the only option is for players to find a 12th level cleric to handle the curse, but the senior cleric in the book, explicitly called the last cleric remaining in the city, is level 9. As GM I'm now left scratching my head where the 12th level cleric is supposed to come from. And how the plot can proceed as described, if I introduce one.
Leaving that point and the Tulita worship aside, the plot is fairly interesting and disturbing. How can a lycanthropy outbreak be contained if there are many weres that willingly spread it. The book is silent on that topic and deals only with the first full-moon assault, but it gives many good hints in how to handle the spreading curse in game. How much you enjoy this plot line will depend on how much you like lycanthropy in general. If you dislike it, this AP probably is not for you.
Oh and Dajobas can only be contained by the Tulita gods, apparently all other gods are impotent when it comes to him. Why? Well, the author never gives a reason, so I guess it must be because the Tulita are awesome and therefore their gods are as well.

The second plot line is the Ring of the Kraken. The setup and conclusion are good, even most of the events are good, but the path leading to the conclusion is not only a monorail, but it rips the party completely out of the developments and forces them to go after an NPC they never met because he could have months old information that is probably worthless. Another problem is that while the two most important members of the cult are fleshed out and there's even hints how you can get the local leader to defect, there is no information about the other members and their motives, so you need to make them up, as mentioned above. That said, there are a lot of good hooks and scenes dealing with the Ring of the Kraken, and there is little doubt about what the real goals of the leader are.
But the conclusion remains: for a sandbox AP there's not enough sand in this plot.

Overall, there are lots of ideas for how to spice up sea adventures, some good conspiracies, plots, and even whole encounters and complex NPCs ready for use. But run the AP? Filling in the missing information and NPCs and then making sure they fit with everything else that's hidden among the hundreds of pages will probably be more time consuming than making your own campaign, using what you like form this book.

On the positive side, there are lots of high level NPCs in this book. Well, for those that are looking for stat blocks that is. Trying to explain why someone abhorring physical confrontation and commanding from home since childhood is level 14 in a PC class will be quite hard when trying to run the AP, if you care for stuff like that.

The ideas of how to organize sandbox APs are interesting, but not fully thought out. When fully implemented it will be a good way to put the information in pdfs, but since most information would need to be repeated at least three times (by NPC, by plot line, in the encounter, often by location), it would be a 'waste' of hundreds of pages in a print product, so I don't think this method will find much popularity.

At the end I'm struggling between two and three stars for this book. I do find a lot of it useful, but it just seems incomplete and lacking as sandbox AP. So for forty dollars it has to be two stars.


Glorious Sandbox Setting

*****

First of all, this book has beautiful art. The cover just leaps out at you and tells you “this is one badass, high-adventure, high-stakes, high-seas campaign world.” Before the first chapter there’s also a full-page color map of the Razor Coast.

This may be a strange comment, but the OGL License page is really good too. It’s nice to see a third-party publication really make use of open game content and pull monsters, classes, and spells from a half-dozen sources. It makes the material feel expansive and more applicable to a variety of games—plus it tells me the writers were free to use material they felt was cool and appropriate.

The book’s introduction defines Razor Coast as “a sandbox-style, mini-campaign setting and toolkit that guides GMs to create a high-fantasy, age of sail adventure path for a party of player characters ranger from 5th to approximately 12th level.” The book is divided into 7 chapters, plus appendices.

Chapter One: History and setting details of the Razor Coast.
Chapter Two: GM advice and plot points for creating an adventure path.
Chapter Three: Setting details for the main community of Port Shaw and prominent NPCs.
Chapter Four: Setting details for the area surrounding Port Shaw and the “dungeon” style sewers beneath the city.
Chapter Five: Ship and sea combat rules.
Chapter Six: Details on a main “plot arc” of Razor Coast and guidance for the GM on “designing and executing your unique conclusion” to the plot arc.
Chapter Seven: Details on a potential “finale” to the main Razor Coast plot arc and how the GM can design and execute the adventures.
Appendices: New magic items, new monsters, NPC stats, and gazetteer-style information on the campaign world.

There isn't much I can add to the other reviews save that this book exceeded my expectations. It has a ton of great content and take a really unique slant on adventure design by guiding the GM on how to use the presented components. Also one of the coolest, creepiest "end bosses" I've ever seen. Fantastic book all around.


Not Just a Campaign; It's a Sandboxer's Speed-Bag

****( )

I lost several thousand pages of my initial review due to connection boredom. Enjoy what's left.

I remember WAY back in 2008 or so listening to Ed Healy, Rone Barton, and Nick Logue talking about this bad boy on a podcast and immediately flying to my computer to throw piles of money at it. When I found out the project died, well, I've thrown money into plenty of dead projects back when I used to have it (anyone else subscribe to GameGO! but me?), and it seemed worthy enough to show my support and call it good.

This was well before KickstarterGoGo, kids, when we used to IM about our Compuserve BBS with updates to our Ultima MUD in the Angelfire webrings on Geocities. It was a dark time. But I digress.

Fast forward to, like, 2012, where Bill Webb's throwing bourbon down my throat and talking about Lou Agresta, He of the Many Tentacles, revitalizing the project with new content and putting our long-lost money where his gaming mouth is. They literally had to find me. I feel weird about that. But when gaming veterans are putting a flintlock under your nose and offering you cake or death, you take cake 'til there's none left.

Ahem. Review.
I love this book. Really. I do. Not because of all the above reasons (again, I counted that money as lost), but because it takes sandbox games to the level only found in Ed Greenwood's basement.

Not the one full of redheads. The other basement.

The one with every square inch of the Realms mapped, written about, codified, distilled, folded, spindled, and mutilated into thirty-thousand little flood-stained cardboard boxes.

We've all put together something akin to a sandbox game, whether we know it or not. When the PCs are s'posed to go right but they go left, BOOM. Into the sandbox they go. When the alcoholic artist offers a game at PaizoCon but makes the pregen PCs half at lunch and half at the table and everyone has a blast anyway, we all have to shake the sand out of our shoes. When we're thirteen and haven't even bothered to read the rules and we base it all off a console RPG we played last year, my god but the granules are up in our shorts. And it's about time someone with a lizard head and twelve feisty pseudopods helped us turn all that stuff into a campaign, dammit.

And Razor Coast delivers.

Not only do you get a massive pile of encounters to build into a campaign, but you get HOW to pick said encounters, WHERE to put them, and WHY to put them. And suggestions on how to do it yourself, for ANY campaign. That itself is worth Gary Gygax's weight in gold.

I should know. I dug him up for a special, unreleased Crystal Caste set.

On top of this, you get several easily portable locations for adventure, piles of stat blocks, maps, more maps, a new prostate (that's a lie), NPCs, villains, monsters... serious goodies for less than 19 cents per page.

An interesting concept with this book is something I'd like to call "more allies than you can handle." By this I mean that there's serious RP options with a load of characters, but chances are your group won't even know half of them are alive until they're not. Seriously. NPCs of note that the PCs don't get invested in will go bad, die, or go bad and THEN die. Which means even if a group decides to re-play Razor Coast (and like a handful of modules out there from days of yore, that's a serious possibility), even if they pick the same general alliance (did I mention those? No? Sowwy), they can go looking for those same dead bodies/former villains and team up with THEM instead. Or team up with them AND their old buddies.

It's like a Bethesda game. But with more replay value, built-in multiplayer, and literally unlimited expansions.

"But Ashton," you cry, "you're just a schill for the man, whose tentacle blorts from your mouth-parts even now!" Don't be fooled, dear reader. I gave it four stars for a reason. And Agresta hasn't even bought me a drink yet, so don't call me a sellout.

There's a handful of typos. Let's get that out of the way. It annoys me, it annoys you. We move on. Crap happens.

The occasional non-challenging NPC. That bugs me. Frog God essentially promises to stab my PCs in the aorta with the simplest of encounters, and after watching my group make a buffet of my tears, I see CR 12+ dudes doing 1d6+1 damage per attack and cry. Are they all gringo-salsa? Hardly. But enough of them are that I see some important villains getting chopped like gumbo just so's they can die spicy-like.

It's not enough to ruin a book that can seriously spawn a skrillion campaigns, though, believe me. Gygax put out a book of names well after Google came out and we could just search name lists for free, and people still bought it. YOU may have bought it. Hell, I looked at it, thought all the above, and I wanted to buy it. But this book, pennies per page, is damned impressive, even as a resource.

Hands up on who bought the 3.0 D&D Map Folios.

K.

This is worth WAY more than those. Trust me. I only fail 3 out of 5 times, and that's WAY worse than this book.


State of the Art in Adventure Design

*****

Razor Coast written by Nicholas Logue and edited heavily by Lou Agresta is the new state of the art in adventure design. Louis Agresta's use of modular design based heavily on how and what the players do brings Razor's Coast to a new level. With the use of worksheets and Session options it really gives the DM or GM a great deal of control over how he wants to run his game and adapt it to how the players behave.

It is an old adage that no matter now much you prepare the players with go on a completely different tangent that what you planned. These adventure options have so many different tangents already taken into account that you can almost sit back and watch it unfold. This doesn't mean there isn't plenty for the DM to prepare for each session, there is, lots of it. You have to have some idea of all the options that the players can take. But there is a lot there to help you prepare also.

And yet there is an overlying story arch to it that leads them to the end, hopefully a successful one. You have vignettes, whispers and rumors, and inciting incidents to move the players along.

The level of detail of the NPC's and the interaction with them is fantastic. It even outlines what happens to many of them based on what the PC's do or do not do.

As this ends with the players being 12th level when they start the final encounters, this begs for a sequel to allow the new found heroes to go on further adventures in Razor's Coast.

And there are lots of side adventures. I am still trying to read many of them in the other books. This is no run of a mill pirate campaign. it is an intriguing political, part land part sea based adventure where yes some pirates are involved.


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