Pathfinder Adventure Path #92: The Hill Giant's Pledge (Giantslayer 2 of 6) (PFRPG)

***½( ) (based on 6 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #92: The Hill Giant's Pledge (Giantslayer 2 of 6) (PFRPG)

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A Giant Spurned

The orcs attacking Trunau have been defeated, but the danger remains—the hill giant chieftain Grenseldek still wants the treasures of the tomb beneath Trunau. In order to protect their chosen community, the heroes must leave it and travel by riverboat through the orc-ruled Hold of Belkzen to the abandoned border fort that the giant has claimed as her lair. Yet even putting down Grenseldek and her squabbling monstrous minions may not be enough to save Trunau. For the hill giant has sent a fateful letter, and a storm is brewing on the horizon...

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

  • "The Hill Giant's Pledge," a Pathfinder adventure for 4th-level characters, by Larry Wilhelm.
  • A detailed look at the various drakes that soar throughout the Inner Sea, by Russ Taylor.
  • A collection of exciting additional encounters set in the Mindspin Mountains, by David Schwartz.
  • A perfect ambush goes awry in the Pathfinder's Journal, by Michael Kortes.
  • A host of new monsters, by Benjamin Bruck, Thurston Hillman, Mikko Kallio, and Larry Wilhelm.

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: 978-1-60125-726-0

"The Hill Giant's Pledge" 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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***½( ) (based on 6 ratings)

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The Hill Giant's Pledge Review

***( )( )

Warning: This review contains spoilers
Written from a GM's perspective
I ran this for 4 PCs

My gaming group has completed book 2 of the Giantslayer adventure path and my overall impression is that this adventure had many of the same strengths and weaknesses as the first book. It is full of content which is thematically interesting and contains plenty of opportunity for roleplaying, perhaps more than one might expect from a clearly combat focused Adventure Path. However, I found the overall enjoyment of the table was somewhat diminished by how frustrating and deadly the adventure often became.

First I will talk about the good aspects of the adventure path. Like with the first book, I felt that the encounters were designed to be interesting. The Vault of Thorns was packed with variety of different creatures that offered a welcome break from the hordes of orcs in the first book. The final section of the book was a little more repetitive as far as creature type, but there was still enough variety and opportunities to interact in ways other than straight combat that the game didn't feel stale. One of the things that worked really well was the variety of ways that were offered to interact with NPCs. Ewigga the hag, keeps up an ruse, pretending to assist the PCs until her inevitable betrayal. The enemies in the fortress are split into factions, some of which are more than happy to ally with the PCs if it means getting a leg up on the other factions. These additions made the game far more memorable that if those same enemies were only set to attack.

Another strength of this chapter, and an area where is improved upon its predecessor, is dungeon design. The Vault of Thorns, a druid demi-plane forgotten by time, was a thoroughly memorable location. It had interesting environmental challenges, such as the floating lily pads that dropped if too much weight was put upon them and the bridge that hovered over the ominous jungle below. I was also impressed with the design of the fortress. Infiltrating a fortress is a bit of a "been there, done that" type of task for my players, based on some of the other adventures we have played. However, the dark backstory of the cannibalistic former castellan, the horrifying haunts that manifested as a result and the corrosive effect that this was having on the fortress's current occupants, did a great job of adding a new twist to an old mission.

As for weaknesses, I personally found the first part of the adventure, where the PCs travel to the Ghostlight Marsh on the keelboat to be a bit lackluster. The jobs on the boat provided some possibilities for roleplaying, but the daily rolls to resolve them became a bit tedious, so I phased them out over time. Still, my biggest complaint with the section is that it felt like a string of random encounters, instead of a cohesive part of the story. So, while there were a few interesting NPCs and encounters, it overall felt like filler.

The other major issue I had with this book, like with the first book, was how deadly it was. I killed three PC in this chapter, as well as one allied NPC (which would have almost certainly been a PC death had the NPC not been there). There were several near TPKs, as well as a few encounter the PC had to outright run from. On the one hand, there is interesting RP to be had in a game where every mission feels genuinely dangerous and are only completed with high cost. However, the constant turnover of character does put a strain on the game. Currently we only have one character left from the original party, which means we have to work hard every time there is a new character to explain why anyone is still doing this mission. The game has had to be halted to introduce new characters whenever someone dies, because they have no hope they can survive any encounters with less than their intended numbers. Also, it is harder for the PCs to get attached to characters that seem likely to perish. This is unfortunate for my table where the players explicitly chose an adventure path over modules because they prefer developing their characters over a long period of time.

The final issue that I had was with the third part of the adventure. As the GM, the fortress seems very well written. It has a lot of exploitable weakness and there is more than one way that a party can get inside without too much trouble. However, I realized while running that from the player's perspective, sending four people to take out the leader of a fortress seems like a suicide mission. None of the weaknesses are immediately obvious without doing some scouting. Unfortunately, the first scout our party sent swam up the river and got killed within two round by the Giant Gar. My PCs spent a lot of time outside of the fortress getting increasingly frustrated with how impossible it seemed. The adventure path sort of expects you to jump in and find all the secrets. However, the overall deadliness of the previous encounters didn't encourage a level of trust in my players that approaching wouldn't just result in a TPK. Eventually, with a lot of nudging and reassuring they got to the information they needed, but this roadblock came dangerously close to making them give up.

Overall, my attitude to The Hill Giant's Pledge is very similar to the first book. There is some great material in there and it certainly isn't so bad that I would recommend people not play it. Players who enjoy high lethality will probably love it. However, I would hesitate to recommend it to a party of beginners or anyone who prefers less lethality in their game.

Good adventure

****( )

Read my full review on Of Dice and Pen.

The second part of the Giantslayer Adventure Path, The Hill Giant’s Pledge by Larry Wilhelm contains a wide assortment of interesting NPCs (both villains and allies), each with fairly detailed back-stories and motivations. It makes for a wonderfully dynamic adventure that can play out in a multitude of different ways depending on what the PCs do. There are a couple of inconsistencies here and there that don’t work quite so well, but on the whole, it’s a very good continuation of the adventure path.

A mix of different things

***( )( )

The second book continues quite well from the first book even though it's kind of a mixed bag why they would send a small group to take over an entire fort.

I liked the march and the Vault of Thorns as locations and there's a diverse mix of encounters in this part of the AP. The boat ride can depend a lot on the group but for us it was kinda neutral thing. There's a few NPC:s you can get to help your party which is a nice plus.

For negatives I kinda expected something more out of the Vault of Thorns loot. The Fort was an alright locale but if the PC:s head straight to the top it can be very brutal. Also starting from the end of this book the hook points towards the next place just use the same idea to get you to move forward.

Much more than giant slaying

****( )

As a quick summary, the three parts of the adventure are diverse and well-thought. The last part is rather difficult to prepare, but it's worth the hassle. There are some giants of different types, although we faced enough other opponents to don't get bored. It's not just hack'n'slay, the group meets a few interesting neutral / friendly NPCs in each part. Some encounters feel a bit tacked on or dull, so I give 4 of 5 stars.

It starts well, with some hints how to deal with enchanted giants and oversized weapons and armor. The first third of the adventure consists of a boat journey with very diverse challenges (probably too diverse for some tastes) and much roleplay potential with the crew. My group learned to like the grumpy captain and enjoyed roleplaying their work on the ship.

The marsh and vault were ok. I am not a big fan of fey (anklebiters, don't feel like worthy foes), so I spiced it up with a succubus causing havoc all over the vault. Some of the original encounters were still good though, especially the rough fight against a big plant creature. The reward was disappointing, so I replaced it with custom weapon upgrades (giant bane makes a difference).

Phew, the fort. I had quite some trouble to prepare it, given the many rooms and especially the connections between them. The room numbering is quite confusing, and I am not so fond of the risk that the party encounters the boss very early. After printing the map and putting notes on it I finally got it handled. The feuding factions are an awesome concept, the friendly NPCs are good and the fort has potential for several good battles.

Can't say much about the additional content (missions in the area, drake ecology, pathfinder journal, bestiary) - it was an ok read, but didn't find its way into the actual play.

I have some general issues with the format of the AP books:

First, the adventure could have used more distinct markers for its three sections. Second, new sections and subsections simply begin wherever the last unit ended. So it's easy to miss them, and you have to flip pages more than necessary. I really prefer the Bestiary format here, even if it needs heavy use of extra text, images and sidebars to start new content at a new page. Finally (and most importantly), some information is scattered all over the book. Major information about the boss can be found at page 7, 34, 39, 55 and 60 - that's quite annoying, especially when reading the PDF.

Good adventure but ulnae cover art

****( )

I enjoyed this adventure. The story arc has three distinct and interesting parts that allow for the characters to gather some experience and find their way to the hill giant fort. I think the fort itself is a real challenge as it involves a lot of moving parts, yet that can be managed with a good GM. I felt a little overwhelmed, but was able to make it work once the characters found an approach to it that made sense.

My only complaint is the cover art. As I said in my review of the first installment of this path, the art is over the top. Why hill giants need be deformed and so ugly I do not understand. They are humanoids not inbred freaks. Ogres already have the honor of being freakish on Galorian and the giantess on the front of this book is so bizarre looking that it makes it utterly improbable that she was leading anyone in some great vision of hers. I do not get why it needs to be this way. It is not inspiring, nor scary, just sort of freak show sad. It made for a far more pathetic looking enemy than my players thought they were dealing with. So I did to show it to them.

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