Pathfinder Adventure Path #91: Battle of Bloodmarch Hill (Giantslayer 1 of 6) (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #91: Battle of Bloodmarch Hill (Giantslayer 1 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Enemy at the Gates!

The Giantslayer Adventure Path begins! In the human town of Trunau, a beleaguered settlement surrounded by the brutal orcs of the Hold of Belkzen, the heroes must investigate a mysterious death. Before they uncover the truth, however, Trunau comes under attack by an orc army, and the heroes must help defend it—only to discover that the situation is worse than anyone realizes. For even the fearsome orc raid is just a distraction allowing a giant chieftain to recover the relics of an ancient giant hero from a tomb long forgotten beneath the town.

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path begins the Giantslayer Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Battle of Bloodmarch Hill," a Pathfinder adventure for 1st-level characters, by Patrick Renie.
  • A collection of lore on the behavior of giants, Golarion's largest humanoids, by David Schwartz.
  • A giant bag of feats, spells, equipment, and other rules tailored specifically for giants, by Stephen Radney-MacFarland.
  • An unfortunate gnome's encounter with an ogre family in the Pathfinder's Journal, by Richard Pett.
  • A pack of dangerous monsters, by Tyler Beck, Adam Daigle, and Patrick Renie.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-725-3

"Battle of Bloodmarch Hill" 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 (1.1 MB zip/PDF).

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

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The Battle for Bloodmarch Review

***( )( )

Warning: Potential spoilers.
Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this with four PCs.

I've written reviews for several adventure paths and modules now. This one unfortunately may be the first one where I have criticisms that amount to more than just nitpicks. A general summary of my opinion of this adventure would be that it thematically worked well. However, the balance and the pacing were off enough to be noticeable for the players and for me to have to be very careful as the GM.

First I will start with the positive aspects of the adventure. I liked the setting for this adventure a lot. There is a lot of information that the GM is given for Trunua that really fleshes out their culture in ways that were easy to portray to the players. The general ride or die attitude of the Trunuans was able to lead to interesting RP encounters between PCs whose backstory had them raised in Trunua and those who had just recently arrived. The story also felt well put together. The hook was designed to get the players invested and everything felt like it flowed naturally. Finally, the author did a good job designing fluff for encounters so that they would be memorable where they might not have been otherwise. For example, the final act is almost nothing but back to back fights with orcs. However, the way the scenes are described stops them from feeling too repetitive.

Now for the negative aspects. By far the biggest problem with this adventure is the difficulty level. The players I ran this for tend to be fairly invested in their characters and prefer games to that are not high lethality. However, this book almost seems designed to kill players. Despite leveling the party early for act III and desperately pulling punches in a few places, I nearly TPKed the group three times and I did end up killing a PC with the final boss. There are two places in this book that have the potential to be extremely lethal.

The first is the assassins that attack the PCs in the middle of the night. If this encounter is run word for word and the perception penalties for sleeping are applied as per the rules, this is almost guaranteed to kill your entire party before they can even act. I made this fight a lot easier by automatically waking up the highest roller, giving them a chance to warn the others, removing the enemy's poison and having the assassins avoid killing blows probably to an almost implausible degree considering they were...well...assassins. The PCs still barely made it out alive.

The second deadly area pretty much the entirety of acts III and IV. There are around 17 encounters between these two acts combined. Most of these encounters cannot be avoided and the PCs do not get a chance to recover resources via rest at any point during them. As a positive side note, this did give the battle a real feeling of life and death urgency that is often lacking during tabletop encounters. But it ultimately went too far with this. Towards the end it was clear that the PCs were just slogging their way through, especially the casters who were all out of resources and stuck just slinging at things for several encounters. Honestly, I thought this was a shame, because as I mentioned above in the positives, some of the battle encounters were really well designed. Unfortunately, many of these fights fell short of their potential due to the PCs not having the resources to fight them in equally interesting ways.

A more minor issue I had with this adventure was the pacing. I use story based leveling for my games and the recommended times for leveling all seemed to be at times where the PCs had to deal with something before resting and would therefore not truly be up to the CR of the encounters. The books seems to imply that the opening investigation would take several days (thus the assassin encounter during the night time). However, my group figured everything out quite fast. Likewise, the story implies that the battle happens during the funeral, the night that the players deal with the plague house. Personally, I moved those events to the next days (the PCs have enough to fight through with no rest, without tacking the Plague House at the beginning). But this put me in a precarious situation where the players essentially figured out that the ambush was coming and very nearly got the town on high alert, mitigating the final act. Also story based leveling recommends leveling the PCs to level 3 right before facing the waves at the barricades. For the love of all that is good and kind, don't listen to that advice! I let my PCs reach 3rd level before the battle and gave them a full nights rest to get all their new stuff. I still nearly TPKed the PCs twice during the battle.

There is one other thing that I will note. For a campaign entitled Giantslayer, the opening mission is probably not you would expect. It has very little combat and requires several skills that your giantslaying PCs might not have built for. This isn't a criticism, the murder mystery is actually reasonably well done. However, it is something that gaming groups considering the campaign might want to know.

Overall, this book was still worth playing. The setting and the story are still fun for players looking for this kind of theme in their gaming. Player's who enjoy challenging meat grinder type game would probably love it. However, GMs running this should be cautious and consider modifying the pace and some of the encounters.


Good introduction to the AP with a compelling mystery

****( )

Read my full review on Of Dice and Pen.

Once the battle begins in Battle of Bloodmarch Hill, the adventure takes on a rather epic quality, which makes it quite an exciting introduction to an adventure path. But even before that, the murder mystery provides a great draw into the world in which Giantslayer takes place. I will admit that, based on just brief descriptions, Giantslayer doesn’t seem the most engaging of adventure paths. However, this first adventure definitely shows how wrong that is. I am looking forward to reading the remaining instalments.


A good start with a few hazards

****( )

This book has a good start for the campaign and I'd probably give some more things to do for the players at the beginning festival to get a better feeling for the NPC:s.

Pros:
- Lots of different encounters and some can be very dangerous
- Trunau is introduced quite well and there's useful information about the city
- Investigation is kinda easy but it's a refreshing start
- The siege shows how chaotic a fight like this could be

CONS:
- A few encounters need some adjustments to not kill the PC:s
- The siege can be brutal and the PC:s need a lot of resources to get through it and after that they should go straight to the final (I recommend that you give some kind of a way for them to gain resources back)


A promising beginning

****( )

This is a good way to begin an adventure path. The light-hearted start gives everyone a chance to feel for Trunau even if not a native. (Side Note: make sure AT LEAST 1, preferably two or three of you players a re natives - in my five person party only one was and it was a struggle to really get the others hooked). Following on is a murder mystery and then an excellent running battle which takes place through the whole town including chances to rescue various NPC's, which gives the whole thing a nice sense of urgency without being an excessively drawn-out combat.

The book ends with a much more standard miniature dungeon crawl which is still fun a flavorsome with some very nice treasure at the end! Consider changing the armor to suit your party best.

Pros: A good AP, lots of different things to do during the adventure.

Cons: Relies on players having an attachment to Trunau - otherwise, none.

Tips: Can be finished very quickly (my group took about two in game days to finish the book) but the story seems to assume at least a week. As a GM be wary of that.
Also - make sure your players are crystal clear about the fate of the final boss and the timing involved, it becomes important in book 2.


Who done the deed or there's war on the doorstep

****( )

A rather interesting start to this campaign. You start off in a murder mystery that seems to depart what appears to be the theme of the game but it is brought around enjoyably to reconnect with the main theme again.

The mystery is an enjoyable one without too many dead ends and confusing twists. One of the better murder starts I’ve seen them do.

The battle that comes next, while yes does sound odd for a murder to lead into a battle but they do it fairly smoothly, is an enjoyable mix of sandbox and scripted events. They manage to keep the size of the area you are working small but it still feels large and imposing with the battles going on around. It also allows players to charge straight ahead or be methodical in their approach.

The end battle is managed nicely leaving a player feeling they are pushed just to the edge of using all their resources but not in emergency mode.

I rather enjoyed this one.

Written from the POV of a player.


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Dark Archive

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

Oh, I cannot wait to run this AP!!


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

Oooo

Grand Lodge

Awesome. It looks like we're back to basics with this one. Can't wait.


Yep. Sounds like some good old classic 80's faire!

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Meh.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Sounds great!

Where is Trunau?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Callous Jack wrote:

Sounds great!

Where is Trunau?

Here

Paizo Employee Developer

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Gorbacz wrote:
Meh.

Shush, you! ;)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Whereas some were considering cancelling for Mummy's Mask and/or Iron Gods, I am at that point now. Both Giantslayer and Hell's Rebels seem a bit too vanilla for my tastes, it might be time to pause my subscription for 2015. We'll see.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

As someone who absolutely loves Iron Gods and everything about throwing sci-fi into fantasy, I am stoked for Giantslayer! Bring on classic, heroic, orc-bashing fantasy!

And besides that I'm confident that Paizo is not done with the science fiction undercurrents that course through the Pathfinder setting.


Woo!! Let's do this! I am honestly pumped for this AP.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Samy wrote:
Whereas some were considering cancelling for Mummy's Mask and/or Iron Gods, I am at that point now. Both Giantslayer and Hell's Rebels seem a bit too vanilla for my tastes, it might be time to pause my subscription for 2015. We'll see.

Well, I am sure, Paizo will be able to do great things even with a seemingly "vanilla" premise.


Hoping this installment will be Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes blended with Against the Giants :)

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Adam Daigle wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Meh.
Shush, you! ;)

Iron Gods and Rasputin Must Die taught me how to bareback jump from an exploding spaceship in to a sky filled with Doomrazor Drones and Plasma Falcons.

Now you're offering me a backseat in a glider through Cloud Cuckoo Land.

I'm way too high for that, I'm afraid ;-)


Okay, this looks like one I can actually sell my group on. Can't wait! :D

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Black Dow wrote:

Hoping this installment will be Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes blended with Against the Giants :)

Oh my, that would be...awesome!


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Poor Gorbacz. They're getting peanut butter in his chocolate.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Gorbacz wrote:
Adam Daigle wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Meh.
Shush, you! ;)

Iron Gods and Rasputin Must Die taught me how to bareback jump from an exploding spaceship in to a sky filled with Doomrazor Drones and Plasma Falcons.

Now you're offering me a backseat in a glider through Cloud Cuckoo Land.

I'm way too high for that, I'm afraid ;-)

Not even a little excited about the fact that Mr. Pett is providing the fiction? ;-)

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Zaister wrote:
Samy wrote:
Whereas some were considering cancelling for Mummy's Mask and/or Iron Gods, I am at that point now. Both Giantslayer and Hell's Rebels seem a bit too vanilla for my tastes, it might be time to pause my subscription for 2015. We'll see.
Well, I am sure, Paizo will be able to do great things even with a seemingly "vanilla" premise.

Great? Yeah, but as interesting? I really, really doubt it. I'm afraid it'll end up being like the last AP... Mummy's Mask? Was that even an AP? Not a month after it finished and I can't even remember anything about it other than "Osirion".

Reign of Winter was weird and experimental in its settings. Wrath of the Righteous was weird and experimental in its mechanics, and its power level. Iron Gods is full of robots and technology and, well, Iron Gods. Giantslayer has... rehashes of adventures we saw thirty years ago? Wake me up in 2016. The 2015 APs look boring as heck.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Well not everybody will want weird and experimental all the time, and I'm not even talking about myself.

I don't think calling it "rehash" is being entirely fair. Or you'll have to apply that to Fires of Creation as well., Rehash of a 30-year-old module, how boring!

What are you even expecting?


Iron Gods is nothing like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. It may be a homage, but that is about it.

I don't expect Giantslayer to be a rehash of G1-3.

But I guess I'm with Gorbacz and Kvantum - I'm not amped by Giantslayer. Hell's Rebels is a mystery to me, but it seems Cheliax has some fierce fans. Good!

The rich tapestry of human interest is still being woven. And I for one am glad that the homages continue, even if I'm not particularly interested in them. I love G1-3, but Giantslayer seems ho-hum.

On the other hand I also love Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and love what I've seen of Iron Gods.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

I can't wait for this one.

Silver Crusade

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

For the record, Hells Rebels looks cool. Classic Golarion themes, canon heavy, so many loose lore threads to tie up. Also, a ball.

Giantslayer, on the other hands, sounds like a forced effort to placate all those ultra-conservatives who are throwing their arms up because Iron Gods. I fully expect stuff like "this 10 by 20 room has 3d6 frost giants and 1d6 t-rexes".

And I am and will be a vehement enemy of fiction in APs. ;)


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I'm not really "amped" either, but I wasn't for Jade Regent, or Carrion Crown, or Wrath of the Righteous, and I'm not sure about Iron Gods. Hell's Rebels however does intrigue me.

Fact is Paizo has to cater to all kinds of fans, and the last "traditional style" AP was probably Shattered Star, which ended two years before Giantslayer will begin. They can't just go and increase the "over-the-top-ness" for each adventure path.


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Gorbacz wrote:
And I am and will be a vehement enemy of fiction in APs. ;)

Pssst! The entire AP is actually fiction.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I like variety, so I'll take whatever I can get. Do I like some things better than others? Sure, but I don't jump up on my high-horse and say my preferences are the only ones that matter. Either way, I love giants as enemies, so bring it on! Also, toolbox of mechanics for giant foes? Interesting...


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Or, if everything is weird and experimental, it becomes the new normal, and stops being special.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
MMCJawa wrote:

Or, if everything is weird and experimental, it becomes the new normal, and stops being special.

There is no requirement that weird and experimental be special. I don't like Iron Gods because it is special. I like it because I like it. Specialization is for insects. (apologies to Heinlein). ;)


Valantrix1 wrote:
I like variety, so I'll take whatever I can get. Do I like some things better than others? Sure, but I don't jump up on my high-horse and say my preferences are the only ones that matter. Either way, I love giants as enemies, so bring it on! Also, toolbox of mechanics for giant foes? Interesting...

For another record, I'm not seeing an high horses in this thread. But giant horses would be cool, and those giant centaurian thingies.

And yes, Giant-mechanics would be cool.

(Also agree with Gorbacz that I would prefer no fiction in my APs.)


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Actually a Paizo adventure path featuring orcs in more than a single encounter can easily be taken as weird, experimental and/or special, given what we've seen so far.


MMCJawa wrote:
Or, if everything is weird and experimental, it becomes the new normal, and stops being special.

I fail to see a problem with that.

Neither normal nor special is an indicator of quality.


Then bring them on!!!

Grand Lodge Contributor

WANT WANT WANT


My group and I are very stoked for this AP. We're wrapping up Carrion Crown (it has only taken us 3 years come January, which is about when we will wrap it up most likely) and can probably jump right into Giantslayer!


God, if only Paizo would answer my wishes and feature more and more ORCS!!!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

That bit about "a toolbox of new mechanics for use with giant foes" has me really interested. Giants Revisited was okay, but what I really wanted was something(s) to help giants against PCs.

The shift from 3.x to Pathfinder really made giants more vulnerable, as they lost their own monster type and got rolled into the Humanoid type. For example, Charm Person now works on giants (and they normally don't have great Will saves). Their main advantages currently seem to be only reach, high Strength, and lots of hit points. And they seem ridiculously easy to hit with touch attacks, due to their size penalties to AC and over-dependence on natural armour bonuses.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

As far as I can tell, they've been alternating between "slightly experimental" and "more conventional" adventure paths for several years now. This just seems like a continuation of that pattern. *shrug*


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I'm interested to see where they go with this.


Gorbacz wrote:
And I am and will be a vehement enemy of fiction in APs. ;)

I have some bad news for you.

Spoiler:
Golarion is a fictional place.

I'm down for some straight fantasy. Especially if I get to play rather than GM, and play as a dwarf with a giant axe and orange mohawk.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I'm really looking forward to this AP. I'm mainly keen to see golarion giant lore being fleshed out, so I hope that's an ongoing feature of the adventures and not just the article in this instalment.

I've always been against the inclusion of fiction in APs, but if I must see it, having it written by Richard Pett is a good way to placate me. :)

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Golarion may be your fiction, but it's my reality two evenings in a week.


My only problem with this AP is that giants have "not so great" will saves, as I discovered in RotRL, so if I get an optimizing group, assuming I run it, I will have to help them out.

No, I won't be giving every giant a +5 to their will saves, but the bosses will get some help.


Gorbacz wrote:

For the record, Hells Rebels looks cool. Classic Golarion themes, canon heavy, so many loose lore threads to tie up. Also, a ball.

Giantslayer, on the other hands, sounds like a forced effort to placate all those ultra-conservatives who are throwing their arms up because Iron Gods. I fully expect stuff like "this 10 by 20 room has 3d6 frost giants and 1d6 t-rexes".

And I am and will be a vehement enemy of fiction in APs. ;)

Really? That seems like a stretch to me.

Maybe the writers want to do something different? Maybe not every AP has to have a gimmick or something? What's wrong with an epic adventure stopping an army of monstrous creatures from taking over Avistan?

I love Iron Gods so far, and I don't see why I can't love this too.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Always interesting to see other opinions about the adventure paths. I must be exactly the target audience for this one because I am more excited to run Giantslayer than any AP since Shattered Star.

In a related story, vanilla ice cream once again came in first place for favorite ice cream flavor. :)

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Mechalibur wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:

For the record, Hells Rebels looks cool. Classic Golarion themes, canon heavy, so many loose lore threads to tie up. Also, a ball.

Giantslayer, on the other hands, sounds like a forced effort to placate all those ultra-conservatives who are throwing their arms up because Iron Gods. I fully expect stuff like "this 10 by 20 room has 3d6 frost giants and 1d6 t-rexes".

And I am and will be a vehement enemy of fiction in APs. ;)

Really? That seems like a stretch to me.

Maybe the writers want to do something? Maybe not every AP has to have a gimmick or something? What's wrong with an epic adventure stopping an army of monstrous creatures from taking over Avistan?

I love Iron Gods so far, and I don't see why I can't love this too.

Well, that would be only the 53829th campaign about stopping an army of monstrous creatures published so far for D&D. Not counting other fantasy RPG games. I mean, maybe if this campaign was about playing an orc tribe and getting to pillage, burn and rape innocent villagers, I could get interested. Otherwise, not much.

Of course, I won't cancel my sub because I can always scavenge the AP for statblocks, maps, monsters and support articles. The beauty of Paizo APs is that you can always use the content even if the AP itself is not to your tastes.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Man, sure are a lot of people channeling Sincubus in here :p

AP seems like it'll be interesting but I'd like to know more about it.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Oh I forgot ... Thumbs Up to the AP fiction!!! =)

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Odraude wrote:

Man, sure are a lot of people channeling Sincubus in here :p

AP seems like it'll be interesting but I'd like to know more about it.

ORCS WITH AXES! DESTROYING MY PRECIOUS ROBOTZ WITH LAZORS!!! I'M ABOUT TO FAINT, YOU BRUTAL TOLKIENISTS!!!


More Orks!
Sorry... Orcs.

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