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My favorite Pathfinder adventure

*****

I've bought multiple copies of this module over the years to give or trade away at gaming conventions. It is a proper "dungeon crawl"with a nice blend of puzzles, fighting, and role-playing. The theme is epic in scope and extra imaginative in its execution.

I find it difficult to challenge high-level players with a traditional "dungeon crawl" setting. This adventure pulls it off with pocket dimensions, puzzles based off of role-playing rather than mechanisms, and truly awesome encounters.

Personally, I'm a big horror fan and I'm always attracted to anything that takes place in a graveyard. But at 14th level, the thought of level draining undead almost becomes a cliche' and certainly nothing my players want to gamble on. This module turns that on it's head to the point where PCs are sometimes interacting with undead and, while there are still level draining baddies inside, every encounter feels very different and with unique adversaries to keep players on their toes. Plus, a super cool BBEG at the end.

Top marks all around!


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Subpar for a product from Monte Cook

***( )( )

Story - 3/10 (Not worthy of a level 10 adventure)
Maps - 3/10 (Not inspiring, mostly singular basic shapes)
Writing - 7/10 (Few, if any, errors. Some stats are incorrect)
Art - 7/10 (Artwork is nice but there's not much of it)


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The Perfect Module

*****

(First, please consider the source of this review: I've been playing and running RPG's since 1985. For this adventure the players consisted of three adults with similar experience as myself and two players age 14 & 17 with little or no RPG experience. The PC's making up the adventuring party were a fighter, thief, cleric#1, cleric#2 and sorcerer)

I rank The Dragon's Demand as one of the top five modules I've ever ran and place it alongside the TSR classic Ravenloft for its level of detail, immersive story, and balanced game-play approach of combat and role playing.

For me, Paizo's adventure paths feel too "railroady" for an entire campaign so having this module finish at 7th level is perfect. It allows for a group of PC's to switch their goals, fates, and interests halfway through their careers without seriously retooling your campaign. I would like to see more products like this "maxi-module" that have a clear beginning and then end in the mid-level range.

major spoilers sprinkled throughout:
The Dragon's Demand allows new players the opportunity to face a freaking dragon (!!!) at relatively low levels - something a grognard (like myself) normally had to wait 10 years in one’s gaming life to experience, if ever! This is done through temporarily boosting the PC's firepower with high level magic items and helpful NPCs. In any other adventure I would say that approach is fraught with unbalancing problems or cookie cutter tropes of OP...but the difference here is the writing.

Mike Shel has written a masterpiece. He includes a fully livable village flush with NPCs that (while most don’t come fully statted) make your PC's like them and want to do things for them. This can be done through side quests in the town (for newbie GM's) or through organic role play, for there is plenty of info provided for an experienced GM to work with. [In my game, cleric#1 ended up marrying the Baroness' daughter, closely tying himself to the fate of the village. This NPC is not included but very easy to conjure with the material provided]

The top notch writing continues throughout the module and is crafted so well that it seems completely natural for your heroes to be handed, if only temporarily, ridiculously powerful items to go kill a dragon. Each location in The Dragon's Demand is detailed with such thoroughness and wonder that, midway through investigating the abandoned monastery of Irori, one of the clerics decided to convert from her original deity, Sarenrae. [Having never dealt with something like this in game, as a GM I was lucky that an option for conversion is actually written into this adventure! I simply reactivated the Aspirants Path in the bottom of the monastery and let the cleric earn her new patron-ship with “help” from her fellow heroes]

All of this creates an unforgettable adventure that has your party encountering kobold tribes in their warren, a tomb of undead, traps galore, the extraplanar and finally the classic, narcissistic dragon (Pay attention to which elements your group enjoys or dislikes so you'll know what direction to take them later in your campaign). At this point, if they're brave, patient, and smart, your heroes will have picked up enough items and helpful NPC's to take on fantasy's most iconic baddie.

This module comes packed with full color maps for every encounter including a pull out, two-sided map. While I've read complaints that these encounters are cumbersome to draw out, I'd much rather prefer that than have little or no maps for reference.

By the end of The Dragon's Demand, your group will have established an excellent base of operations (the village) to launch future adventures with close enough ties to NPC's that you can easily craft your own stories. Alternately (if you don't like the main story and just can't come to grips with fighting a dragon at low level) the eight major adventures that comprise the main story of this "maxi-module" could be split up and inserted into any campaign of your choosing. The writing alone is worth the price of this product and I highly, highly recommend it to both new and experienced GM's alike.