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Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves (Mummy’s Mask 2 of 6) (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 8 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves (Mummy’s Mask 2 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Chapter 2: "Empty Graves"
By Crystal Frasier

Following the opening of its necropolis, the city of Wati is overrun by hordes of the unquiet dead. The heroes must once more brave the abandoned streets and dusty tombs of Wati’s necropolis in search of the powerful artifact called the Mask of the Forgotten Pharaoh, as well as the necromancer who is using it to create the undead uprising. But mysterious masked cultists also seek the artifact so they can bring a pharaoh from the ancient past back to life. Can the heroes defeat the evil necromancer and return the deceased to their graves, or will Wati truly become a city of the dead?

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path continues the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Empty Graves,” a Pathfinder adventure for 4th-level characters, by Crystal Frasier.
  • A double-sized article that peers into the gods and faiths of Ancient Osirion, by Rob McCreary.
  • A terror-filled night in a family tomb in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Amber E. Scott.
  • Four desert-dwelling monsters, by Crystal Frasier, Thurston Hillman, and Will McCardell.

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: 978-1-60125-589-1

Empty Graves 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 (595 KB zip/PDF).

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

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

PZO9080


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Product Reviews (8)
1 to 5 of 8 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

Average product rating:

****½ (based on 8 ratings)

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Decent but ultimately unexciting

***( )( )

As is clear from the title of my previous review I was not impressed by The Half-Dead City. However, being a fan of Egyptian-themed adventures, I thought I would see what the rest of the AP had to offer.

Likes
1) It's a nicely laid out urban sandbox that showcases the different locales of the city of Wati in an organic way.
2) "Save the city and solve the mystery of the undead plague before it's too late" is a cool premise for an adventure (but, as mentioned below, there are potential issues related to this hook in this particular adventure path).
3) The set-up of the opening scene at the auction and the event that signals the start of the undead plague is done in a memorable and dramatic fashion
4) This adventure provides more opportunities than most for resolving conflicts in a non-violent way. I'm especially intrigued by the possibility of the PCs talking their way through the final encounter of part 1.
5) I was pleasantly surprised by the encounter of the crystal dragon in part 2. The fact that she can serve as "a sort of shopkeeper in the heart of the Necropolis" is the icing on the cake. Very creative!
6) I also liked the inclusion of the crypt thing in the final dungeon crawl, as its teleporting burst ability really adds some unpredictability to the dungeon and has the potential to spice things up quite a bit by splitting the party.

Dislikes
1) Awkward Transition: In part 1 the PCs are supposed to be tomb raiders who are more or less in it for themselves. In part 2 they are all of a sudden expected to save the city from hordes of undead. A PC whose personality and motivation works well in part 1 will not necessarily fit in well in part 2. If the PCs actions in part 1 had somehow triggered an ancient curse that unleashed the undead horde upon Wati, it would make sense that they would feel responsible for what's going on and would want to take action. As it is though, there's no justification given that works with the assumed PC motivations in part 1.

2) Challenging Issues: This adventure seems to be under the illusion that a group of six to eight CR 1/2 enemies is able to challenge a group of 4th to 7th level adventurers. Take for instance the first combat encounter which features a horde of six Zombies, all CR 1/2 (EL 4) followed 6 rounds later by another six CR 1/2 creatures (EL 4) and then 10 rounds later by a CR 5 undead creature. Now do you really think that six zombies are going to last 6 rounds and then another six CR 1/2 undead creatures are going to last another 4 rounds against a group of 4th level PCs? By the time that CR 5 creature shows up the PCs will not even have broken a sweat and may have been waiting around for a few rounds doing nothing. Things get even worse if the group features a cleric who could potentially destroy six CR 1/2 undead creatures in one standard action by channeling energy.

And that's not the end of it, consider the following three stand-alone encounters:
page 14 - eight CR 1/2 creatures
page 16 - six CR 1/2 zombies
page 19 - one CR 3 undead with four CR 1/2 undead
This is not going to challenge a group of four 4th level players.

In fact, this challenge issue seems to be present throughout the adventure:
-In part 1 of the adventure, where the characters are assumed to be level 4, not counting the Psychopomp duel which is optional (see below), I count a total of only two enemies with a CR greater than 4.
-In part 2, where the PCs are assumed to be level 5, not counting the good dragon and a neutral NPC, I count only three enemies with a CR greater than 5.
-In part 3, where the PCs are assumed to be level 6, I count only three enemies with a CR greater than 6.

3) Psychopomp Duel: One of the Events in the adventure has the PCs battling a monster for the sole benefit of convincing one NPC that it's worth giving the PCs a chance to save his miserable city. I'm not a fan of this encounter and from the perspective of the PCs, I imagine it might come across like a big waste of time and resources.

4) Red Herrings: The adventure introduces a lot of red herrings as the players attempt to find the source of the undead uprising. I think there are too many red herrings and not enough real clues to what is actually going on and that players will get frustrated feel like they are running in circles. I think a good mystery adventure needs to have the players feel like they are making progress on solving the mystery most of the time and throw in a red herring once in a while, not the other way around.

Overall Impression

Despite my concerns above, I can tell that a lot of effort went into writing this adventure and I do like it more than I did the previous adventure. Unfortunately, while there is a lot to like, at no point while I was reading Empty Graves did I feel excited enough to want to run it so I can't give it more than three stars.


Review

*****

Empty Graves is a very exciting, very intriguing game. The characters have to defeat the rising tide of panic in the city, while unravelling the mystery of who is actually behind it at the same time. A colorful cast of characters and monsters - there is even a dragon, when we came so early across a dragon in the overall campaign we were surprised to say the least - rounds up the game and improves it further. Curiously, most of our opponents were mentioned in the Wati gazeteer in the THDC - it isn't good or bad in itself, I just wanted to mention it...


Empty Graves

****( )

Empty Graves was a good adventure. The Mummy’s Mask Campaign really picks up on a better start then where it did with the previous adventure.

The main mission continues as the PCs still search for the Mummy’s Mask; a plus as this is a continuation from the previous adventure, and I enjoy any quest or goal that is set up in one adventure and doesn’t get paid off until later in the AP. However all around things have gone awry as undead are rising and the PCs must try and keep the panic level low (a city wide mechanic that is a lot of fun), through multiple side quests (including red herrings once they get into the necropolis). I really enjoyed the politics of psychopomps vs. undead as the psychopomps are summoned to deal with the undead however their indifference toward the living doesn’t help keep panic down. The whole city is open the PCs and they can go any which way, searching for the mask without care for the people, they can pick and choose who to help and who not to help, or help everyone they see. Along the same vein they can explore every place along the way or just dissect the problem and head straight for the end goal.

Over all Empty Graves, I think has lots of options for player choice (high priority), fun encounters, and the final pay off to the set up from the previous chapter. Only four stars because I have super high standards and this one, while a lot of fun, still doesn't have that little something extra, story wise, to make it miraculous.

Although, the Egyptian Gods Pantheon makes this a must buy, just for that.


Unexciting

***( )( )

I was set up to like Empty Graves, since the concept seemed cool, but I was disappointed to find out this adventure is just not exciting enough for me.

First, it has some serious issues. The biggest issue I can see is that the AP is not structured well to make the plot of this adventure work. Many PC parties that went through the first adventure could be a bunch of greedy adventurer types, or maybe archaeologists, or many other things - most of which are not the kind of people to stick around in a city where hordes of undead threaten to devour the population.
Worse than that, the adventure assumes that the PCs will help. But - why would an archaeologist who's only in the city for the dig sites be willing to stand in the front lines of defense for what is to him a foreign city he's not attached to? And it gets worse, too, when authority figures in the city go as far as insisting that the PCs face terrifying outsiders summoned by the good guys - just to prove they are worthy of helping. I'm sorry, but any well roleplayed adventurer would just shrug and say goodbye at that point.

A second glaring issue in this adventure is that it's going to be the easiest cakewalk most players ever experienced. As a GM, I learned the hard way that swarms of weak creatures can not hope to challenge even a suboptimized group of PCs - I tried shoving 7 CR 2 creatures at my 5th level party, and didn't even manage to make them break a sweat. The designers of this adventure, though, appear to disregard that - most encounters consist of numerous VERY weak foes. Groups of CR 2 critters are just not going to impress 4th - 7th level characters.

Other than those flaws (which I consider to be very serious flaws), there's just not much in the adventure that grabs me. The previous adventure in the AP was well executed but ultimately aimless - this one feels the same (but getting one less star because that's a bigger issue in the 2nd adventure in the campaign). There's simply stuff that's happening, and the PCs react.

Compare this to Curse of the Crimson Throne. In that AP, while the players also knew very little of the plot of the campaign by the end of the 2nd adventure, they were deeply integrated with current events and had things to keep track of and care about. They were denizens of Korvosa so they cared about the city. Something was clearly up with the political situations, what with the shocking events at the end of part 1. Thus when something really serious is discovered by the end of part 2, the PCs and the players are in a position to care and get invested. Here, it's just doing random mini delves and solving a problem for a city most characters might not even care about, and the hook that's set by the ending to pull you into the rest of the AP is almost nonexistent.

So far I consider this campaign to be the weakest Iv'e seen in years from Paizo. It lacks any sense of direction and the story telling is very loose. While both the first adventures are truly solid, and could be fun to play, they fail to be part of a larger story, and thus fail to excite.

The support article on the gods was O.K - some cool new art and a nice list of deities, however space constraints result in very bare minimum amounts of info on the gods, so all in all it's not as good as the usual good articles I'd say. The bestiary is really good - every single monster is a hit this time around, and I'm excited to find spots for those monsters in my game.


Excellent open-ended adventure

*****

Read my full review on Of Dice and Pen.

Empty Graves is an excellent adventure. It combines an interesting premise and mystery with a very open-ended structure, giving the PCs a great deal of control over what they do, and how and when they do it. Groups will likely find it a lot of fun to play through.


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