Savage battlecries and screams of pain echo through the streets and off the raw sheer walls that make up the carved stronghold of Forstor Nagar. The cannibalistic troops of The Hungering Legion have breached the gates, and the defenders have been routed.
Trapped in the heart of Forstor Nagar, the ambassador from Ithulandis, the City of Adventure, must be rescued. But the redoubt is cut from the living ice of the Forstorheim glacier, and enemies rip the very life from the inhabitants. Only scant hours remain before the alleys are slick with a crimson slush.
Adventurers must cross the invaders' lines to infiltrate the fortress, locate the diplomatic compound and escape with the ambassador before filed teeth sink into their flesh and the fate of the city is sealed forever. Will they succeed, or just become more corpses for the conquerers' larder? Welcome to the Breaking of Forstor Nagar!
Author: Ben McFarland Cover Image: Tyler Bartley Cartography: Jonathan Roberts Editor: Mark Moreland 64 pages full-color
The Breaking of Forstor Nagar, is an adventure written for a playgroup of 8th level characters for the Pathfinder rules system. Weighing in with 48 pages, losing only 4 pages to non material (front and back covers, OGL and ToC), the remaining 44 pages are formatted to a dual column layout, with the occasional embedded artwork. The PDF is fully bookmarked for separate sections, which is always a good thing. Maps are interspersed throughout relevant sections as appropriate. Crested with a stylized white dragon head and wings, each page is adorned with the thematic graphics one would associate with an adventure in a frozen environment. Across the bottom of the page in the background one can see the skyline of what I assume is the city of Forstor Nagar, framed with what can only be assumed to be the herald standards of the invading legion this adventure presents as the adversary the group has to overcome. So, right off the bat, this PDF is very visually graphic heavy, and would be a nightmare on a home printer. Luckily, the product is available in print, so there is an option to see these pages as they are meant to be seen in print.
Giving us a mercenary legion of cannibals as our main antagonists, this adventure steps away from the classic creature killing adventures that flood the marketplace. The idea that your enemy is in fact human, and still wants to eat you, adds a level of creepiness to the entire product that really takes the story to a new level.
But why are these cannibals attacking Forstor Nagar in the first place? Because of the oracle, an adult white dragon. They want to feast upon his heart, assuming that they will gain his precognitive powers if they do. The fact that their stocking up on supplies, loot and enough to eat for days while working their way through the city of Forstor Nagar is simply icing upon the dragon heart cake for the invaders.
As the city is under siege, the PC's have many obstacles to deal with to even get into the city in the first place, as well as traversing the environment once in. The adventure supplies a few options for why the group would enter this killing field, but they all boil down to one basic concept, its a snatch and grab, they are there on a rescue attempt of one person of importance. Of course, as always happens, the important person in the adventure refuses to leave without dragging as many other people as possible, making what could be handled quickly and easily into an ordeal for the PC's.
Looking over the maps within the PDF, I find that I am really torn. On the one hand, the cartography itself is clear, colorful, and all around excellent. However, nothing ruins a gorgeous map faster than covering it with little circles full of letters and predetermined location markers for a playgroup. These maps are all but useless when it comes to being able to use them for players, as there is no way to hide the icons, short of removing the maps from the PDF and breaking out ones photoshop skills. I understand the adventure comes with Maptools support, but it occurs to me that for groups not using this program, perhaps setting the PDF to have hide-able layers for the maps would have really helped a lot. And in regards to several of the predetermined and marked areas for the PC's on multiple maps, as well as the written assumptions within the adventure of player choices for approach and movement. It feels very much like the PC's are expected to do only what was thought of by the author of this adventure, I know my own playgroup found several variable answers to how to enter the city that fell well outside what was expected of them by the adventure. Now, I will admit, as a GM I have always encouraged non linear thinking from my playgroups, but I can not help but think that marking a map with a white box stating PC's is presumptive, as is stating that only this roof can be landed upon, or this alley walked through. I am fully aware any GM can work around the text on the fly, but a marking on the map becomes an issue all unto itself.
Several times throughout the PDF, NPC's and combatants are graphically represented with top down illustrations, not only can you not see any true detail in an illustration of this nature, the ones chosen are graphically very reminiscent of a cartoonish style and feel. To clarify, there are pieces of artwork throughout the PDF that are amazingly good, the illustration of the remorhaz is amazing. Unfortunately the very next page has a top down, Saturday morning cartoon version remorhaz, which is jarring in how different of an art style is it from the previous piece.
Those using the Maptools program and tools will find the support package an excellent addition, and I have no doubt those with more skill at the program than I will truly appreciate all of the tokens included with the full encounter maps. I, while obviously not being a fan of the art style of these top down tokens, could not help but take note that everything a GM would need to run these encounters token wise was included. And yes, those same maps from the PDF, once covered with tokens as opposed to letters, look a lot better. I'm still not a fan of the white boxes stating PC on them on the maps, but that's a personal choice.
Ending thoughts.....An interesting setting, with a unique situation in that the PC's find themselves with a task to achieve in the middle of a siege. Maps that I want to love, I do, but I am having a hard time getting past the letters all over them....artwork that goes from truly beautiful, to the topdown map tokens. And, I want to be clear, in regards to the top down tokens, where as I am not a fan of them myself, it is not because they are not well drawn, it is simply a personal taste issue in regards to the style they are done in. As far as, is the storyline a decent challenge, and a good story for a group to play through? Yes, there is a story here that is well thought out and very playable. I would like to have seen more attention paid to how the Oracle is imprisoned, and how it managed to get free. It felt like there was in the end, more attention paid to various options pertaining to the Hungering Legion's history and motivations, than to details of the Oracle's that would of helped make the encounter with the dragon much more detailed.
So...all things taken into account, art, maps, the absolutely flawless formatting (I couldn't find a single formatting or grammatical error), story and playability I am going to go with a four star rating of this adventure. The feel in sections of “forcing” a group into a predetermined set of circumstances (the white box location markers), and the travesty of marring the maps with large white circles filled with letters (a layered PDF with the option to hide layers would of easily solved this) kept me from giving this a five star.
When I first bought and read this, I had a lot of questions and some quibbles -- see the discussion thread for details. But when I actually ran it, the result was a bunch of guys saying "wow" and "best session ever". This module had my players alternately awed, cowed, and doing high-fives over the table.
I ran it as a disaster movie -- can the PCs rescue the civilians? WHO WILL SURVIVE?!? And it worked really well.
Congrats to Ben McFarland and Cubicle 7 -- well done.
This product is 48 pages long. It starts with a cover, credits, and ToC. (2 pages)
Adventure Introduction (2 ½ pages)
This is a adventure for 8th level PC's. This section starts off with a background, summery and general information about the adventure.
Part 1: A Bridge Over... (6 ½ pages)
The first scene is when the PC's first arrive it is a action packed encounter with a serious time pressure. There is also notes on how to handle some spells being used that can dramatically change the encounter as well as if the PC's decided to do something unexpected like look for another way into the city.
Part 2: Into the City (4 ½ pages)
A small encounter that gives a feel for what's happening in the besieged city. This encounter is likely to be a RP encounter but can turn into a combat one.
Part 3: A Fleeting Paradise (4 pages)
This a encounter as the PC's make their way threw the city to their destination. There is a interesting encounter, but one some PC's might find annoying. It introduces a NPC's that is very hard to keep alive, which might frustrate the PC's with the reason why.
Part 4: Knock Knock (6 pages)
Arriving at their location the PC's will have a encounter, how they get there and exactly how things might turn out are slightly effected by previous encounters.
Part 5: The Diplomatic Compound (3 ½ pages)
This encounter is purely a RP one. Once in with the defenders left in the city, they have to convince the man they came to see to leave and likely have to agree to escort the rest out as well. There is notes to handle things like if the PC's use charm and diplomacy checks etc.
Part 6: Flight into Ruin (3 ½ pages)
This encounter is about the PC's fighting their way out of the compound with the NPC's in the direction they need to go in the city to escape. Since the NPC's inform them of a better way to escape the city if they can get to it.
Part 7: Safe Passage (3 pages)
As the PC's travel threw the city they run across more survivors but not everything is as it seems. This encounter can go a few ways, from pure RP to a fight and the PC's might end up with a lot more NPC's to protect and lead out of the city.
Part 8: The Oracle of Forstor Nagar (5 pages)
The PC's arrive at the temple with the secret way to escape the city. After dealing with one encounter and meeting a oracle which is sure to surprise the PC's. They can then engage in some RPing in this section before more combat encounters take place.
Part 9: Escape from the Grinding Ice (3 ½ pages)
The PC's head under the temple and have to make their way to the escape point in the city. While fending off pursuit and likely protecting NPC's.
Appendix (3 pages)
This has a conclusion for the adventure a what happens next wrap up. 5 new magic items, 1 new template, and 4 pregen characters.
It ends with a OGL and back cover. (2 pages)
Closing thoughts. The art work is color and good. Editing and layout was good, I didn't notice any obvious errors. This product also uses maptools, extensively bookmarked as well. The adventure set up and concept are top notch and very cool. There is a real feeling of urgency and for any good aligned PC group there will be added pressure of trying to save as many people as possible. The encounters are well done, the encounter maps show you everything you need an there is a few twists and turns in the adventure to keep you on your toes. I really liked the adventure.
But I didn't think it was perfect I do have two nitpicks about it. One is one of the encounters it is very hard to save a NPC and some players I think will be annoyed with how it happens as they can do almost nothing to stop it. The other nitpick is I wish there had been a overview map of the city. I wouldn't have had to have been a detailed one just a vague one to give the GM a sense of the size of the city and help give a better sense of describing the flight threw the city. Second one is a bigger issue, while the adventure is great. It could have been one of the all time great 3pp adventures for Pathfinder, it still might be. But having the map would have helped. So what's my rating? Well despite the two issues I mentioned it is still a outstanding adventure so I am going it a 5 star review.
First up, it's a cracking adventure in its own right. The Adventure Background opens with an evocative account of a dying city, detailing how it has come under vicious attack from the Hungering Legion, a bunch of mercenaries that you really don't want to meet on a dark night. But meet them the characters must, them and those who defend the city so desperately, if they are to complete their quest. Even here, though, are the chances to make this adventure your own, a living breathing part of your campaign world, not just something plonked down because you fancy running it and it's the right level for your players... a series of questions about fundemental motivations and underlying facts, replete with ideas. You could even take this as a starting point to build a campaign around, this adventure could be a culmination or just a waypoint in your plot. Or just run it as is, with as much or as little of the wider background as suits your style. A few 'hooks' to suggest why your characters might get involved and we're off.
Off indeed, in an in media res first encounter that has the characters already having struggled through snow and ice and tunnels to reach the very gates of the beseiged city. Descriptions and advice to the GM help create vivid images - and this is if you are presenting the game conventionally, rather than using the extensive resources provided for users of the MapTools virtual table top system. Attention must be paid to the hostile environment, the cold is at least as much of an enemy as the... well, enemy is! They are, however, very active on their own account.
Being at least partially a 'location-based' adventure, there are lots of options available at every point, all laid out clearly so that the well-prepared GM can cope with whatever decisions the characters make. There's even advice on how to handle some more exotic ideas for spell use that devious wizards might come up with! The action continues as the characters (hopefully) manage to enter the city and find their way - using combat or guile or negotiation - to where the person they have been sent to find might be. Clever use is made of difficult terrain and fog - both the meteorological sort and the 'fog of war' - to ensure that the party will end up passing through certain locations (where of course encounters will happen) without feeling that they are being led by the nose to get there, the sense of being free to explore the city, a city in the dying throes of a bitter siege, is strong. Despite the confusion, everyone and every creature has a reason for being where they are encountered, and their motivations and likely reactions are provided in such a way that whatever the characters do, you should be able to work out an appropriate response to their actions.
The adventure culminates in a dramatic escape attempt, replete with thorny moral questions to challenge the characters as they pick their way through difficulties that transcend the physical, causing them to question what they are doing as well. Or at least, that dimension is available for groups who seek more than the exercise of sword-arm and spellbook against a defined enemy. Those who prefer it kept simple can be challenged as much or as little as you see fit without deminishing the adventure - but if you seek a truly epic tale, make them think about the choices that they make!
Now to the extra twist to this tale: if you use MapTools you get (along with the download if you have bought the PDF or via the Bits-and-Mortar program if you bought it in print) a customised set of maps and tokens that are both spectacular and practical. Even better, if you are new to MapTools, tutorials are available on the Rite Publishing website to show you how to use the resources provided to best advantage. The visual effect is such that if there is any way to run your game where you can access the Internet, consider whether you might use them even if everyone is in the same room!
Be that as it may, here is a good, tough and challenging adventure, with plenty of material to enable you to run it effectively no matter what the characters do; moreover one which will make them think about more than just how to overcome the next obstacle.
This adventure is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial and ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 44 pages of content, so let's check it out!
Disclaimer: I'm a latecomer patron this project.
The first thing you'll notice when taking a look at this adventure is its layout - Jonathan Roberts, cartographer extraordinaire, has also provided the stunningly beautiful layout for this pdf, which actually surpasses most rpg-books I've seen. It's really worth a mentioning if the layout appears like some kind of extra piece of art. Oh yeah, art. Cover and interior artist Tyler Bartley along his co-illustrators Jonathan Roberts (again, what can't the guy do?) and James "DevinNight" Hazelett provide some of the most eye-boggling, stunning pieces of artwork I've ever seen in any 3pp-product: The 5 pieces of original artwork are so beautiful it almost hurts and rank on the same level as Paizo and similar first party publishers, if not even surpassing them. James Hazelett provides a plethora of easy to use paper-counter-like mini-artworks like the ones you might e.g. know from his Dark Forest pack. Have I mentioned that each and every locale featured in the adventure gets its own map by Jonathan Roberts? If there ever was a beautiful rpg-book that screamed "I'm a high-quality" premium product when looking at it, this is it.
The Breaking of Forstor Nagar is an 8th level adventure, but that is about all I can say prior to going into details, so from here on to the conclusion,
If you intend to participate as a player, stop reading and jump to the conclusion NOW!
Still here? All right!
Forstor Nagar not only sounds like an awesome place (or a black/death metal band) but rather is - the city is carved into a glacier and subsequently consists mostly of ice, a beautiful and cool backdrop if there ever was one. But what exactly are the PCs supposed to do there? Well, the city is under siege by the dread Hungering legion, an army of devil-driven cannibalistic barbarians set to consume the heart of the city's legendary oracle to attain its foresight. Meanwhile, via one of the 4 sample hooks provided, the PCs will have to infiltrate the city and convince a certain Mathinder to escape with them - before the Breaking of Forstor Nagar is complete and the last defenders fall to the terrible cannibals. Who are a great looming force - somewhat reminiscent of Fierfly's reavers, several origins to customize them are included, adding to their mystery and making their implementation into any given campaign world a rather easy feat to accomplish.
The adventure drops the PCs almost in medias res, beginning their assault/chase through Forstor Nagar via their descent from an ice bridge to a fireboat's deck manned by legionnaires - it's up to the PCs to take the boat by force, prevent its crashing into the city walls or follow some other, clever plan. A surefire way to tell good design from bad is when an encounter can easily be modified and acknowledge different PC-strategies like using water elementals etc - all in all one of the most memorable first encounters in any given adventure I've had the pleasure of reading.
It is here I'd like to add that extensive information on the locale, temperatures, terrain etc. is included throughout the whole adventure, significantly facilitating play. The second encounter has the PCs, via the rooftops, open or disguised, get behind the line of defense of Forstor Nagar's defenders and their cool lightning-ballista siege weapons. Whether social, stealthy, smart or slaying, a plethora of options is encouraged by the 3 starting positions, Jonathan Robert's beautiful map and Ben McFarland's smart design. the terrain is used to full effect in this encounter, guaranteeing a memorable encounter that is followed up by a cool part where the PCs find the now shattered green houses of the ice city along the intruding remorhazes - after all, what better source to generate sufficient heat in these dread climates? They can even prevent further attacks by these dread creatures and might also meet a multitude of monkeys throwing stinking fruit, a nice nod to one of my favorite 2nd edition adventures of old.
Depending on their actions, the upcoming assault on a barricade of the legion will be one hellish battle with the legion and its infernal hunger devils to offer enough time to evacuate the diplomatic compound, saving further citizens (with sample personalities given, offering the extra mile of information that makes running adventures a joy and easy) and finally making contact with Mathinder...who wants the whole refugees be saved as well.
Thankfully, Mathinder is not lawful stupid and after the nice change of pace the social encounter provides, has a plan. The plethora of refugee-characters make for as many or as few additional complications as the DM desires, and the next encounter has the hungering legion fight more than dirty as the PCs try to take out one of the legion's pitch-casting siege weapons, finally reaching the temple of the oracle, where magical escape is waiting if they rescue more hostages and best some rhino cavalry, that is. Yes. I just wrote "rhino cavalry" as an afterthought - the adventure is that good. Sometimes, life as a reviewer is good to me.
Unfortunately, the oracle is an adult white dragon and the ensuing three-way battle between oracle, legion and PCs makes for an iconic & awesome climax - just to have the main forces of the legion arrive and the characters, hopefully, barricading the temple to flee through collapsing ice tunnels, braving stray, final legionnaires, collapsing sections and seeking to reach the saving teleport circle and escape from the collapsing weight of the city coming down upon the catacombs.
The sequence also comes with complicating factors, a lot of sample DCs and a skill-challenge-style optional encounter to repair the circle.
The pdf also offers 5 new magic items: From the skin-rending "flensing" quality, to arachnid bolas and ghoul nets, we get a nice set of disturbing tools. The pdf closes with the CR+1 hungering creature template as well as 4 pregens.
That's not where the content stops, though: The Breaking of Forstor Nagar was created with full support for virtual table tops, enabling you to play this pdf via the internet and all your friends, wherever in the world they may be via the free maptool (including a youtube tutorial by the guys from RiP), Fantasy Grounds, and TTopRPG - seeing the quality of the artworks and Jonathan Robert's cartography, this experience is sure to not only be pleasing on a content-level, but also to the eye.
Edit: I was just informed that the stationary background trade dress was actually created by James "Devin Night" Hazelett not Jonathan Roberts - credit where credit is due, great work!