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Pathfinder Adventure Path #81: Shifting Sands (Mummy’s Mask 3 of 6) (PFRPG)

***½( ) (based on 7 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #81: Shifting Sands (Mummy’s Mask 3 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Chapter 3: "Shifting Sands"
By Richard Pett

To learn more about the ancient Pharaoh Hakotep I and the secretive cult that wants to revive him, the heroes travel to the city of Tephu to explore the vast archives in its Great Library. This is no small task, as they must contend with those who wish such knowledge to remain forgotten. With the clues they discover, the heroes venture deep into Osirion’s uncharted deserts in search of the tomb of Hakotep’s master pyramid-builder. There they face not only dangerous denizens of the desert, but the cult of the Forgotten Pharaoh—cultists who will stop at nothing to ensure their god-king remains undisturbed.

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

  • “Shifting Sands,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 7th-level characters, by Richard Pett.
  • A gazetteer of the city of Tephu, the City of the Reed People, by Richard Pett.
  • A study of the rituals of mummification, by Russ Taylor.
  • Ancient secrets and deadly kidnappers in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Amber E. Scott.
  • Five new monsters, by Benjamin Bruck, Adam Daigle, Thurston Hillman, Michael McCarthy, and Patrick Renie.

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: 978-1-60125-590-7

Shifting Sands 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.

PZO9081


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Product Reviews (7)
1 to 5 of 7 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

Average product rating:

***½( ) (based on 7 ratings)

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Uneven

***( )( )

Ever the innovator, Richard Pett gives us an adventure centered around the PCs doing research in old libraries, a concept which fits perfectly within the Ancient Egyptian theme. So let's see how Shifting Sands measures up.

Likes
1) As I mentioned above, the idea of an adventure focusing on scouring libraries trying to find clues about an ancient mystery fits really well into this adventure path. I like the Research Rules that are presented here and think that they are a clever way to resolve things in a way that avoids giving the players a massive information dump. Unfortunately, I do have concerns that the overall design of this adventure will detract from the excitement of the Research Rules. (see below)

2) This is the first Mummy's Mask adventure that deals directly with the main storyline of the AP and this elevates the adventure in my view.

3) The main NPC introduced in this adventure, "Her Excellency Muminofrah of Sothis" is a very memorable character and I imagine some great roleplaying moments are going to come out of the PCs trying to get into her good books. The reason that the players need to be nice to Muminofrah is that she represents the only legal option available to the PCs to gain access to the ancient libraries of Tephu.

4) I was also intrigued by Udjebet, a medusa who is encountered in one of the libraries. She is obsessed by rings, magical or otherwise, and is looking for an artifact called the Uraeus Ring. Things could become interesting if the PCs don't just treat this as a combat encounter.

5) We also get a chase scene reminiscent of Ben-Hur and Indiana Jones when the PCs are ambushed by enemies during a chariot race.

6) The player handout called "Excerpt from the Scrolls of Inquiry" is very well done and really sets the tone. Unfortunately, it also points the players in a direction that the adventure is not ready to explore. (see below)

7) My favorite part of the adventure has to do with finding the entrance to a hidden library. Without giving too much away, let me just say that the Tower of Ra's Glory presents the players with an interesting problem which cannot simply be resolved by rolling dice but forces them to think creatively. Personally, I find puzzles that are designed to challenge players and not characters more rewarding and I would like to see more of them in future adventures.

Dislikes
1) The transition between part 2 and 3 assumes that the PCs tell a specific NPC that they have acquired the Mask of the Forgotten Pharaoh and that they should travel to Tephu to do research. Though not terrible, I think this is a weak hook. For instance, what happens if the players decide to keep it a secret that they have the mask?

2) NPCs: The adventure only has one NPC (Muminofrah) that the PCs can interact with in a meaningful way, and while she is a great NPC, the adventure overuses her. I suspect that most groups will grow tired of her before the end of part 1 due to her incessant need to be appeased. Her ending is also somewhat unsatisfactory as she is just whisked away on her barge. What if the PCs suspect that something is wrong and take it upon themselves to rescue her? It also isn't clear whether or not she is meant to play a greater role at some later point in the campaign.

The adventure introduces another important NPC who can provide access to the libraries but interactions with her are likely to be extremely frustrating to the players as the adventure states that all non-magical attempts to convince with her automatically fail. Her only role in this adventure seems to be to block the PCs progress. In a different adventure that might not be such a big deal, but when the only other NPC that the PCs can interact with is a pampered prima donna the potential is there for things to quickly go sour.

3) As I mentioned above, I like the new Research Rules. However, a big problem that I see with the adventure is that whether the party handles the research well or poorly makes little difference to the outcome of the adventure. There is no race against time or against rivals to make the players want to do their research more quickly. There is no irrevocable cost for doing poorly on a research roll except that it takes longer and the PCs might have to appease Muminofrah for more time. The risk then is for the Research Rules to become a mere formality or a dice-rolling chore rather than a subsystem where success and failure are truly meaningful.

4) The "Excerpt from the Scrolls of Inquiry" which is obtained in the second of three libraries that the PC will visit in Tephu mentions the exact location where the Heart of Hakotep was hidden in the city of Sothis. This is a problem because the adventure provides no guidance at all for what to do if the PCs decide to go searching for this artifact. The adventure assumes that the PCs will put this vital piece of information on the back-burner and keep looking for further clues in Tephu. It is hard to imagine that a group of PCs would not be tempted to immediately go looking for the Heart of Hakotep given that they already have the Mask of Hakotep.

5) I found the encounters for the Hex Crawl in part two to be the least interesting of the adventure because of their lack of connectedness to the overall plot and to each other. Also, the sole encounter map in part two (the hive) was sort of bland.

6) Although most of part 3, the Tomb of Chisisek, is ok, I didn't like the final encounters of the adventure which involve the PCs fighting two different types of golems in back-to-back rooms.

Other Comments
I meant to touch on these things in my earlier reviews:
-I love the new fiction format that provides more adventure content and maps.
-Kudos to the team who designed the inside covers for this adventure path as they are very nicely done. The front inside covers usually provide a short narrative and piece of artwork relevant to the adventure in question while the back inside covers is an ongoing narrative in 6 parts about how an ancient pharaoh's tomb would have been built.

Overall Impression

Because it deals more closely with the main storyline of the AP, I enjoyed reading Shifting Sands more than the first two parts of Mummy's Mask. As I mentioned, the theme appeals to me and some of the encounters make very strong set pieces. However, the adventure does suffer from having too few NPCs to interact with in the first part and from unconnected sandbox encounters in part 2. While there are quite a few ideas that I could see myself using in another campaign, I would not run the adventure from start to finish so I give it three stars.


Osirian Gold

*****

This is an interesting and well-written adventure. Even though there is a linearity to the plot, it allows for a lot of player decision and choice. In fact, one of the sections is a kingmaker-style hex exploration. Original, small dungeons with cool enemies, and a huge potential for role-playing make this one a winner. In my opinion, one of the best works from Richard Pett.

This is to me the quintessential RPG adventure: light dungeons with interesting combats, lots of role-playing, investigations and plenty of decision-making and choices. You can't ask any more than this. Outstanding, Richard.

Overall, a fun adventure with lots of player choices in an interesting locale. The only negative I can see is the same as kingmaker. The exploration part can be tedious for some groups that need to be led a bit more clearly. In this case, there is a clear objective - To find the tomb - so this is less of an issue but it could be a tad repetitive.

My rating: 5 stars. I loved the setting, the role-playing, the story and the possibilities that this adventure has to offer. Good job.

Read my whole review here


****( )

Not unlike THDC, this game has some connection problems. The first part, when we were set in the city of Tephu had a distinctly different feel from the other parts. We constantly had to go in and out of various libraries, while constantly keeping track of which of our opponents (and allies) did what; as players, we had to balance between making the game too hard and too simple; but anyways...
The other two parts had a distinctly different feeling to them - they were more like the more ordinary varieties of RPG. We had to go through the Parching Sands to find the tracks of the cultists, and if you don't mind that this section covered a really big section of the desert and we constantly tried to go in different directions, it was good.
The same can be said about the last part. Sadly, it felt more connected to the part 2 than part 1; this is an improvement over THDC, where all three parts were almost separate from each other, but otherwise, this is the same problem.
Beyond that, however, SS was still a fun game and a good installment in the exciting saga of MM.


A bit of a mixed bag

***( )( )

Read my full review on Of Dice and Pen.

There’s a lot to like in Shifting Sands, but I must admit, it’s left me with something of a mixed opinion. I absolutely love certain aspects - in particular, its ingenious new method for handling research, which makes the research far more interesting than just a few Knowledge checks. It also has some great opportunities for roleplay, as the PCs must secure for themselves permission to use the library in the first place. Unfortunately, much of that roleplay is with a rather one-dimensional NPC whose actions vary little regardless of what the PCs do. The concluding part of the adventure allows the PCs to do some exploration of the desert, and works pretty well, but does feel a touch tacked on.


Spectacular Shifting Sands

*****

The 3rd part of the Mummy's Mask adventure was excellent! Thankfully this AP is climbing rather than dropping by the third adventure, which is typical for an adventure path, but not this one! Slightly Spoilerific.

The adventure starts off with a variant research mechanic which points the spotlight on everyone's favored class: the bard, who can do whopping amounts of research if you have one.

Next, the PCs are introduced to the RP element of the adventure and a part that I think is very memorable. Part of this RP includes a variant chase scene, which is actually a race (Why haven't we thought of this sooner!). Awesome fun for all. They must also RP their way into more time to research.

Third, they must search and find all the libraries to do more research (might seem tedious at this point but I think it flows smoothly and puts the spotlight on the bookworms rather than hack and slash-ers [so break out them reading glasses]).

After all research is done, the PCs are sent to a desert to search from the tomb. They are placed on a hex-map and must search (like the kingmaker rules) for the lost catacombs. This allows for some awesome encounters that are quite memorable.

This adventure has everything skill checks, RP, and awesome fights. Everything of which is memorable and unique. All these put together makes this one of my favorite APs of late.


1 to 5 of 7 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

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