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

****( ) (based on 9 ratings)
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.

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: 978-1-60125-725-3

"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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Product Reviews (9)
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****( ) (based on 9 ratings)

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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 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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